And how a dream became reality
First Published in the Dhaka Tribune 16 December 2019
Saleem Samad, is an independent journalist, media rights defender, also recipient of Ashoka Fellow and Hellman-Hammett Award.
|Postal stamp in memory of martyred intellectuals. (From top left) Dr Harinath Dey, Dr Lt Col A F Z Rahman, Mamum Mahmud, Mohsin Ali Dewan; (from bottom left) Dr Lt Col N A M Jahangir, Shah Abdul Majid, Muhammad Akhter and Meherunnesa. PHOTO: COURTESY|
To this day the nation does not have a list of intellectuals abducted and murdered by the marauding Pakistan army and their local henchmen who joined in the plunder, genocide, and rape during the brutal birth of Bangladesh in 1971.
Last week Faruq Faisel, son of martyred journalist Mohsin Ali Dewan approached Mohammad Jahangir Hossain, director general of Jatiya Muktijuddho Council (Jamuka) under the Ministry of Liberation War Affairs.
He described that his father was abducted by the Pakistan army accompanied by armed militia, the Razakars, from his home in Bogura on June 3, 1971. He was the editor of weekly Uttar Bongo Bulletin, published from Bogura and was first elected president of Bogura Press Club. He was also principal of Sherpur Degree College and also established Bogura Law College, Shah Sultan College, and Joypurhat College. His body was never found.
Faruq sought the Jamuka chief’s advice regarding formalities to enlist Mohsin Ali Dewan’s name in the official document of martyred intellectuals. He was surprised to hear that the government does not have any policy to list murdered intellectuals.
Faruq Faisel, presently the regional director for Bangladesh and South Asia of international media rights organisation Article 19, was shocked to learn this from the DG of Jamuka. The government has not published a gazette notification regarding the documentation and compilation of a list of intellectuals who were singled out by the Pakistan army and killed.
Earlier, in a statement in the parliament on February 6, 2014, Liberation War Affairs Minister AKM Mozammel Huq informed that a complete list would be published by June 2014. The list has not seen the light of the day.
The intellectuals were abducted, tortured and killed by Pakistan army and their henchmen Al Badr, the secret death squad who were recruited from among the hardcore members of Islami Chhatra Sangha. The student outfit was rechristened as Islami Chhatra Shibir in 1977, with a similar ideology of Islami Chhatra Sangha.
Most of the senior level Al Badr commanders were indicted for crimes against humanity and tried at the International Crimes Tribunal. The tribunal handed down the death penalty to the leaders of Islami Chhatra Sangha held responsible for the death of intellectuals.
Thousands of intellectuals mostly university, college and school teachers, academics, politicians, filmmakers, physicians, poets, writers, journalists, engineers, sportsmen, lawyers, lyricists, singers, eminent personalities who had been deemed threats by the Pakistan army were abducted, tortured and executed.
The Bangladesh Post Office has issued dozens of commemorative stamps valued at Taka 2 in the memory of the martyred intellectuals.
It is widely speculated that the killings of intellectuals were orchestrated by Major General Rao Farman Ali. After the liberation of Bangladesh, a list of Bengali intellectuals (most of whom were executed on December 14) were found in pages of his diary, left behind at the Governor’s House (now Bangabhaban).
Various names of martyrs often appear in the media quoting different sources including Banglapedia, which listed 1,111 martyred intellectuals. Filmmaker Zahir Raihan, after going through General Ali’s diary, documents, and daily newspapers, claimed to have found 20,000 names. Unfortunately, he was abducted and went missing without a trace since January 1972.
The killing of the intellectuals virtually began following the army crackdown in Dhaka on the night of March 25. The Pakistan army during Operation Searchlight targeted victims and killed them systematically.
An initiative was undertaken by the Ministry of Liberation War Affairs to prepare a countrywide list of the Razakars, Al Badrs, Al Shams and other henchmen of Pakistan military, which we highly appreciate.
Besides preparing a complete list of the collaborators of the Pakistan army for crimes against humanity during the birth of Bangladesh, the concerned authorities should have also taken the initiative to document the names of our martyred intellectuals as a national priority.
First published in The Daily Star, 14 December 2019
Saleem Samad is an independent journalist, media rights defender, recipient of Ashoka Fellow (USA) and Hellman-Hammett Award. He could reached at <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Twitter @saleemsamad