(Devil's Due series)
"We can kill anyone for anything. We are accountable to no one."
The Arrogance Of Power
Every since the partition of India in 1947 the Pakistani government had encouraged discrimination and racism against the Bengali people of East Pakistan. Over the next 24 years this obsession with racial superiority would infest every aspect of the relationship between Bengali society and Pakistani rule. President Yahya Khan responded to the split that his racial laws had created by telling his troops to "kill three million of them" so that "the rest will eat our our hands". This was the extent of Pakistani desire to retain power while holding it above the heads of their victims.
Thus with the creation of the Mukti Bahini (Bengali separatist guerrillas) the desire to crush the spirit of the Bengali people came to a head in Pakistan. A movement to liberate the people of East Pakistan from exploitation, rape, pillage, torture, and massacre could not be tolerated by the Pakistani army. For this reason the military in Pakistan decided to launch "operation searchlight" in 1971. This was the move that would bring Pakistan to shake hands with the devil. This was the decision by the leaders of Pakistan to fully engage in genocide as a means of keeping control of Bangladesh.
The Ottoman Route To Hell
Within the first few days of military occupation of Bangladesh the Pakistani army set out to recreate the Armenian Genocide. Raiding the Dhaka University, the Pakistani army utilized collaborators to round up top Bengali intellectuals. Wasting no time to "cut the head off the snake" the Pakistani generals ordered the executions of all Bengali academics they could find. Anyone who could organize an intellectual offensive against the brutality of Pakistani occupation. Those who were best fit to record and report on Pakistani atrocities were removed or killed. This was exactly the same move the Ottomans had made in Armenia.
The intention to kill intellectuals shows a desire on Pakistan's part to destroy the culture and social abilities of the Bengali people. Through killing off the intellectuals, Pakistan intended to cripple Bangladesh's society for generations. Without intellectual leaders the society was supposed to decay and loose it's own sense of identity. Therefore making it more likely to accept the concept of racial inferiority through which Pakistan already viewed Bengali society.
In addition the targeting of intellectuals meant that any future attempt to organize would be done by individuals that Pakistan viewed academically inferior. This motive is driven out of the idea that people like Che Guevara are the exception. It ignores the reality that many of history's greatest catalyst have been people of modest upbringing and not generally associated with academia or politics. However, regardless of this aspect, the slaughtering of intellectuals was a progression from mass oppression toward mass extermination.
"The Bengalis will have to be re-educated along proper Islamic lines."
Though the majority of Bengalis were Muslims it was clear through official Pakistani stances of the day that the difference in adherence to Islam was a source of prejudice on the Pakistani side. Though most of the differences are not listed the desire to "re-educate" the Bengali people is often stated by the government of Pakistan throughout 1971. Yet despite this supposed desire for education the Pakistani military often used "re-education" as a synonym for massacre.
Just as the Turks "re-educated" Armenians through "turkification" the Pakistani army employed the same tactics. Rounding up Bengali men and boys, the Pakistani commanders would clear out entire villages and neighborhoods. Once the men were separated from the females the women in the targeted village could be raped and murdered with impunity. Gang-rapes were common in areas where the males had been evacuated.
This method of genocide was encouraged for multiple reasons. The architects of the genocide believed that any children born from rape would be susceptible to influence by the Pakistani government due to a blood bond with the rapist. This perverted desire for power meant that Pakistani soldiers were given a green light when using their lust as a weapon of war.
Rape was also tolerated by Pakistani commanders since it was seen as a cheap way to increase moral amongst troops in the field. It could also be utilized as a method to break the fighting spirit of rebels in and around the areas where it was deployed. In addition, rape could create more casualties in the fact that women were at times raped till they died of the trauma inflicted during the abuse.
Re-education was achieved for the Bengali men and boys through mass executions. This form of re-education was not intended to educate the victims but to educate the families and communities from which they came. It was designed to show the viciousness of Pakistani rule while intending to deter future questioning of it.
Every Last Drop
By the time Bangladesh declared independence there were an estimated 3 million victims of the Pakistani perpetrated genocide. These victims had been killed just as President Khan had ordered. And yet the "others" did not eat out of the Pakistanis' hands. Instead the violence and blood spilled had given birth to a nation. From the suffering of a people came a country they could call their own.
It is from here, halfway around the world, that one might look at Shahbag square and wonder why then the nation has not moved past this wretched crime? Have they not suffered enough? Why this desire to open up a wound such as this one?
The answer is yes, they have suffered more than enough. And it is for this reason that the protest at Shahbag began. It was not simply to pick at the wound that genocide left behind but to force the world to recognize the wound exists in the first place. Without reconciliation, without justification, without recognition there can be no moving forward from this crime. Genocide must be recognized, it's perpetrators must be brought to justice, and the anguish it left upon Bengali society must be reconciled. That is the only path forward from Shahbag... it is the only path forward for Bangladesh.
As long as men like Salauddin Quader Chowdhury (just one example) are allowed to avoid true justice there will always be a Shahbag. Every drop of innocent blood must be accounted for. The devil's due is required when a nation suffers his folly. Genocide cannot be ignored. It cannot be forgot. And it will never fade far from the minds of those whom it has most affected.
A look at those fighting for justice...
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(note: not all sources listed)
The Financial Express
Bangladesh Genocide Archive