Vol. 5 Num 551 Wed. December 14, 2005  

The loss continues to haunt us

Just two days before the victory, the most heinous, cruel and sinister crime was

committed by the occupation army and their collaborators, the Al Shams, Al Badr and Razakars. These were deliberate, calculated, and cold-blooded assassinations aimed at crippling the very backbone of the nation struggling for freedom from the clutches of the Pakistani hordes. The Pakistani army and its collaborators systematically rounded up the country's top intellectuals at the time including doctors, engineers, lawyers, litterateurs, academicians, journalists, also top bureaucrats and business elites, and killed them in cold blood.

After being subjected to more than two decades of exploitation and humiliation and with the ultimate brutality inflicted on a sleeping nation in the night of March 25, 1971, the people, although unarmed, rose in rebellion against the brute perpetrators. The founding premise of Pakistan ideology as also the objective of keeping the two parts of Pakistan intact through the jargon of religion even when the exploitation was at its worst was shattered. Islam cannot countenance the practice of Muslims brutalising and annihilating other Muslims. But the stark reality of the demons of radical religious forces raising ugly faces surfaced in the form of torture and killing of the people in the then East Pakistan. The way the whole country meaning the then East Pakistan inhabited by Bengali speaking people suffered and witnessed torture, rape and massacre nothing could stop its 75 million people from going the separate way after that fateful night of March 25, 1971.

Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the fiery leader, was rounded up from his house that night and flown to West Pakistan. The ambition of Pakistan's then President and Martial Law Administrator Gen Yahya Khan to preserve his own position and supremacy of Pakistan led him to order his army commanders in the eastern wing to start the cleansing process. Major Gen. Tikka Khan, Governor and Martial Law Administrator of East Pakistan, ordered his army commanders to start the cleansing process, wiping out the Bengali intelligentsia and valiant Bangalee nationals demanding equitable share in business, finance, and educational opportunities. The victims had been listed during the days from March 7 to March 25 and now the so-called patriotic army of Pakistan was extracting a terrible vengeance. It is pertinent to recall what some top brass in the Army in the 16th Division headquarters at Comilla said at that time: "We are determined to cleanse East Pakistan once and for all of the threat of secession even if it means killing two million people and keeping the province as colony for 30 years."

People in the country still recount those dark days with shock and trepidation as the marauding Pak Army carried on its "kill and burn" missions. The horrifying acts of killing, rape, and destruction continued with little let up.

If blood is the price of independence, then the people of Bangladesh have paid it fully during the nine months long war against the tyrannical occupation forces of Pakistan. At the cost of three million lives the nation got its cherished freedom. But just prior to the victory the nation's invaluable intellectuals, academicians, and men of letters in the field of science, literature, even physicians were picked up, shot or stabbed to death, and thrown into the marshes at Rayerbazar and Mirpur by the death squads comprising local operatives like Al Badr, Al Shams, and Razakars.

The victims' mutilated bodies were later discovered from these marshes. Similar heinous acts were carried out in other places as well outside Dhaka. Their crime was that they were Bangalee and enlightened. They after all represented the main driving force of the nation. They were also ardent patriots who believed that some day the nation would be free. They advocated the creation of an independent secular state as Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman articulated in his historic address at Race Course Maidan on March 7, 1971. By all reckoning, the nation became poorer at the loss of those best sons of the soil who were our pride.

Only days before the Pakistan Army faced defeat, the Al Badr, Al Shams and Razakars with their faces masked, broke into the houses of famed personalities in the country and picked them up and killed them in cold blood. These operatives including their mentors apprehended that their days were numbered and a humiliating defeat imminent. In such a precarious moment of their existence, they resorted to the last heinous attack on the nation's intelligentsia. As the freedom fighters were advancing to the capital city destroying every form of resistance the Pak Army put in, the capital city was virtually coming under the control of guerillas. Finding all their grand ambition falling into pieces, the vile murderers made the most cowardly design to rob the nation of the best brains so that a big void in the field of education, science, journalism, medicine, etc. would remain for a long time.

Quite realistically the occupation forces reasoned that intellectuals were a major threat to them. It was here that the seeds of rebellion had been sown. It was from here that the voices of protest got the loudest and from here that the courage to defy authority stemmed. So if the source of strength could be cut off, the remaining task of keeping them under subjugation would be easier. With such a diabolical plan, the assassins worked and to a great extent succeeded. Now after 34 years since that terrible day, we not only mourn the loss of those brilliant minds, but also the intellectual and psychological void created by their untimely deaths.

According to documents released after the liberation war, more than 100 intellectuals belonging to different levels of the society were murdered. The plot to eliminate the intellectuals was drawn by Gen. Rao Forman Ali who was assisted by Brig. Bashir and Captain Qaiyum along with Bangalee masterminds like Ghulam Azam and Moulana Mannan, to name a few. Around November, 1971, it was knowledgeably learnt, the occupation forces with its sub-zonal Martial Law Administrator headed by Brigadier Bashir began briefing the Al-Badr, Al-Shams about their plan. From December 4 curfew and blackouts were imposed to facilitate the plan. From December 10 the operations were in full swing.

The Al-Badr during the blackouts went from house to house capturing the listed intellectuals and taking them away, never to be seen again by their loved ones.

The Al-Badr group led by Chaudhury Mainuddin, a Bangalee clandestine character along with his criminal associates did the most nefarious job. Dressed in black, they captured the intellectuals, put them in concentration camps in Mohammadpur Physical Training Centre, Dhanmondi High School and MLA Hostel. After inflicting merciless torture these people were taken to a brick field at Rayerbazar and a killing field at Mirpur to be brutally executed.

Occasions like Victory Day and Martyred Intellectuals Day, despite being recurring annual events, are far from a repetitive experiences, and each year they carry an emotional load. Not only did we win the freedom, we paid an enormously high price for it and proved to the world that we are capable of exacting our freedom from an absolutely tyrannical regime.

Thirty-four years since that day now the hour of reckoning for this nation has arrived once again. Unhappily, the saga written in blood and enormous sacrifice has not been faithfully commemorated. Distortions were made, falsifications introduced and myths and false heroes were invented with every passing year. And this doctoring of history has been going on till date.

Through half-hearted homage paid to the liberation heroes and fallen martyrs, the significance of the liberation is not properly maintained, but rather greatly minimised. Official insincerity is flagrantly demonstrated when it comes to recognising and honouring those who survived but are permanently consigned to the wheelchair. They symbolise in their persons the price that has had to be paid for our freedom.

Our best tribute to the martyred intellectuals can only be paid through whole-hearted upholding of the spirit of liberation in both words and deeds.

Md. Asadullah Khan is a former teacher of physics and controller of examinations, BUET.