Justice Delayed is never Justice Denied
It is yet another lie that the trial and punishment of the war criminals of the War of Liberation 1971 is being demanded, suddenly, after over three decades of supposed hibernation. That is simply not true. Search the newspapers, read the books, comprehend the poems, decipher the message of the street theatre, listen to the jaari gaan… there has been a persistent and consistent demand to try the perpetrators of one of the most heinous crimes in the history of mankind.
In straight Bangla, the 'heinous crime' was that together with the occupying Pakistan forces, brutal and inhuman as they were, their Bengali and Urdu-speaking gangs in the guise of Muslim League, Jamaat-e-Islam, Razakars, Al-badr, Al-shams, etc., unleashed a reign of terror commencing with the ill-famed Operation Searchlight 25 March 1971 on unarmed Bangalee men, women and children, and continuing until their meek surrender to our valiant Muktijoddha and the Indian forces at the then Race Course Maidan, renamed Suhrawardhy Udyan 1971 after the government of Sheikh Mujib banned gambling on horse racing. Over those nine months, the cowards murdered three million Bangalee, raped two lakh women, tortured innumerable people, and torched villages, towns and bazaars.
The fact is that cases were filed, thousands of criminals were arrested, and several were even handed out punishment. BUT, after the murder of Bangabandhu and most of his family in the 15 August 1975 coup that also saw many freedom fighter Army personnel and politicians as victims, the trials were stopped and the prisoners released by a Presidential Ordinance. Many of them were allowed to flourish politically to counter the freedom-fighters.
“The Collaborators Act was promulgated immediately after the independence in December 1971.Persons accused of different crimes were arrested since January 1972.Proceedings were initiated against the accused from April 1972.
General Amnesty was declared on 30th November 1973. A government Press Note appearing on 30th November 1973 stated 'General amnesty will not be applicable to those involved in rape, murder, attempted murder, loot and acts of arson'. Till 31 October 1973, under the Collaborators Act, 37471 were arrested. To expedite the process, 73 Special tribunals were set up and were in operation. Till 31 October 1973, 2884 cases were resolved.
As a result of the General Amnesty by Bangabandhu, 25719 accused were released. However, cases against 11000 were in various stages. All were not released. A total of 752 were convicted. Of them 11-15 were awarded the death penalty. On 31 December 1975, Ziaur Rahman scrapped the Collaborators Act. As a result, 11000 prisoners including those convicted under the Collaborators Act were released.” (Prothom Alo March 2008)
The trial was not held for so long nor demanded before are no reasons for either not to take place now, or ever. The current wave is the awakening of the conscience in tandem with the appropriate political climate.
Let us assume for argument's sake that punishment of the war criminals of the War of Liberation was not demanded till now. So what! Just because it was not demanded before is no excuse for not ever demanding it. The question is whether the crime was committed or not.
There could be so many reasons for the delay...Zia, Ershad, BNP, Awami League's dialogue with Jamaat, BNP-Jamaat jote…
Whenever the issue of trial and punishment of the 1971 killers, rapists, looters, arsonists and abetters is raised, it has become a defensive routine, albeit futile, of the criminal-minded these days to release smoke and that BNP made a jote and Awami League had a meeting with the criminals, and who has not used them as a ladder to power? Hell, stop it! Just because two major political parties made a huge mistake, BNP much more than AL, it does not mean that the punishment matter is over. Has the conscience of the nation been sold to the errors of the two parties? Moreover, for the sake of fairness, the parties should also be allowed to rectify and reform themselves. Both BNP and AL can demand, and in fact are now demanding the trial and punishment of the war criminals.
More recently, the Jamaat-e-Islami leader, a collaborator in 1971, more as a defensive ploy against the rising demand for their trial, said if religion is separated from politics then it is against the principles of the Prophet Muhammad (SWM), and that those who are talking about banning religion-based politics are really talking about banning the ideals of the Prophet. [Janakantha 29 March 2008]. What a fallacious statement! This is exactly how these very traders of religion, I dare not say Islam because they do not know the 'I' of it, tried to mislead the innocent people of this country.
No one is advocating a non-religious society. Why should anyone? It is not possible. Most of these non-Jamaat politicians are Allah-fearing people. Many of them are practising Muslims, regularly distributing Zakaat, refraining from social ills, maintaining hijaab as is applicable, reciting the Quran and trying to follow it, and have performed Umra and/or Hajj. Likewise, the Hindus, Christians and Buddhists are going about practising their own religious rites. Is that not Islam? Tolerance for all beliefs?
What is being said is that those who use any religion as a political weapon to harm a counterpart, as done in 1971, is not on. Those who use religion to shield their crime and misdoings are not acceptable. In which religion is it deemed right to help Pakistani soldiers to kill Muslims, rape Muslims and torture Muslims simply for demanding their own freedom from a drunken and biased regime? Our religion and our beloved Prophet (SWM) propagate the belief that 'no Muslim should kill another Muslim', and yet that has been done.
We the people of Bangladesh are demanding the trial and punishment of the war criminals of the War of Liberation 1971, like civilised human beings, not their direct punishment.
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I am too much chintito because our former prime ministers Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia are in prison on charges of corruption. My point is why former president Ershad is not in prison? He has some corruption cases under trial.
Mostaq Monir (18 March 2008)
Hello Mr. Chintito,
Thanks for your article. This type of writing is really helpful for the today's almost materialistic young generation. One thing I have noticed is that we have many books and writings and even documentary films on the history of our motherland's birth pre and post 71. And sometimes it continues till 1975. But our country's development during 1975-1990 is not known to us although it might be very crucial especially for the young. I request you to please write about that un-revealed portion of our history.
Tapas Biswas, Kolkata. (18 March 2008)
I am a not very regular reader of your writings in Star Magazine and I would not compel you to think that I am your biggest fan because I am most probably not, but to me you look to be one of those very few people who not only thinks about the socioeconomic situation of Bangladesh but also does not hesitate to publish it with utmost depth in his/her article, and I like you for this very reason. I am a true (not biggest may be) fan of the style of your writing that contains not only sincerity but also a touch of humour, which compels me to read you articles throughout (though not regularly). I will go straight to the topic on which I want you to take a look. I am a bit concerned and to be honest also furious about the big movement every February regarding the introduction of Bangla in every area of legal proceedings in Bangladesh. I am studying LLB Honours 2nd year and I think the idea is not so clever. I have all due respects for the martyrs of 21st February 1952. I also hate those who do not respect our mother language and culture. We are the only people in the world who have dared to give our lives for our language. I even respect the emotion of those who propose to impose Bangla as a language to be used in all the legal proceedings. But the problem is we have to think of the practical problems and rethink the matter. Abdullah Zobayer (18 March 2008) (Abridged)
Hi! How are you? You did the right job by writing on some important topics which inspired us greatly. I read all your articles in the magazine every week. When I read your articles, believe it or not, I become highly thoughtful. It seems to me that I may learn something by reading your writings. You are genius. I am a student. I want to be like you. Tell me how I can be a genius like you. Imtiaz Hossain, Moghbazar,Dhaka. (20 March 2008)
Being a 'genius' like me is a small ambition for a young man of your potentiality. You should aim higher. You must. All the best. Chintito
Kick Off: 'India has hoque (natural right) over Chittagong Port', so was the (noble!) declaration by late Foreign Minister Abdus Samad Azad.
Flashback: Calcutta (now Kolkata) had developed with resources drawn from undivided Bengal. East Bengal being larger and much more fertile, it is anybody's guess that during those days of an agrarian economy (British replaced paddy with indigo, still an agricultural produce), East Bengal (now Bangladesh) contributed overwhelmingly more and West Bengal had been no match whatsoever in this regard. Nobody then raised the issue of our hoque over Calcutta Port. We simply liquidated our stakes.
We developed Chittagong Port through our arduous efforts, own resources and time.
Windfall Bounty: Now that we have developed, all over our country, a very good communications system, well supplied and nourished by our great port, vultures have focused their corpse-searching eyes on it.
Alarm: Almighty knows what more are to follow at the hands of unscrupulous people!Engr. Mohammad Mozammel Ali, P.Eng. (19 March 2008)
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