Today, March 25th, is recognised as Bangladesh Genocide Memorial Day in that country, and by the Bengali diaspora around the world.
On March 26th 1971, the military forces of west Pakistan began a ruthless crackdown on the Bengali movement for self-determination. This was to be the beginning of a nine-month war during which the Pakistani military, aided by the Islamist Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh party, killed up to 3 million civilians.
A fatwa issued in Pakistan had declared that the Bengali freedom fighters were Hindus and that their women could be taken as the “booty of war”: as a result, up to 400,000 women were subjected to rape.
The events of 1971 are largely unknown in the west: however there is a wide and growing consensus of opinion that said events constitute a Genocide.
Pakistan refutes this.
However, the Hamoodur Rahman Commission, set up by the Pakistani government in December 1971 delivered “a very lengthy and critical” report of the behaviour of Pakistan’s military forces.
The report, most copies of which were destroyed, told of “widespread arson and killings in the countryside, killing of intellectuals and professionals, killing of Bengali military officers and soldiers on the pretence of mutiny, killing Bengali civilian officials, businessmen and industrialists, raping numerous Bengali women as a deliberate act of revenge, retaliation and torture, deliberate killing of members of the Bengali Hindu minority and the creation of mass graves.”
The one surviving copy of the report, which was held by the government, was leaked in part to the press in 2000.
Indiscriminate killing and looting could only serve the cause of the enemies of Pakistan. In the harshness, we lost the support of the silent majority of the people of East Pakistan…. The Comilla Cantonment massacre (on 27th/28th of March, 1971) under the orders of CO 53 Field Regiment, Lt. Gen. Yakub Malik, in which 17 Bengali Officers and 915 men were just slain by a flick of one Officer’s fingers should suffice as an example.
-Hamoodur Rahman Commission
On the very day of the 50th anniversary of Bangladesh Genocide, the Belgian parliament will be debating the recognition of the Chinese treatment of the Uyghur people as Genocide. In this they will be following the lead of the Netherlands, the United States, and Canada, who have already taken this step.
In Belgium, members of the Bengali diaspora, along with human rights activists, have chosen to mark the anniversary with events including a manifestation, with participants joining hands in a “circle of peace”, and the delivery by hand of a letter to the European External Action Service calling upon the EU to formally acknowledge the tragic events of 1971 as Genocide.
Main image: By Kabir Hossain, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/…