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Time’s news story titled “Bangladesh: Bringing a Forgotten Genocide to Justice”

Edit Date:8/15/2010 12:00:00 AM


Shimul Chaudhury
6 August, 2010

I have read Time’s analytical news story titled “Bangladesh: Bringing a Forgotten Genocide to Justice” of August 03, 2010 (http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2008085,00.html). I especially like a sentence toward the end of the article, which reads: “This should never be about targeting one political group”. However, unfortunately, the rest of the report may mislead the readers, as the piece gives only a partial picture of a political drama that is happening in Bangladesh and demonizes an Islamic political group. The reporter Ishaan Tharoor completely misses to mention the widespread political maneuvering and torture on opposition forces by the current regime especially by misusing the public sentiment of Bangladesh’s liberation war of 1971. Please see a Daily Star (Dhaka) article of July 25, 2010: http://www.thedailystar.net/newDesign/news-details.php?nid=148039 . For more details, please visit:http://www.humanrightsinbangladesh.com/

What the current Bangladeshi government is doing has little to do with the country’s bloody past, and it has more to do with capitulating to, or rejecting, the overarching political and economic hegemony of a big neighbor and regional power, which the reporter Ishaan Tharoor deliberately or inadvertently did not mention at all. What is more, while providing links to Time’s archive of the 1971 liberation war of Bangladesh, Mr Tharoor was very much selective. For example, he did not give any link to Time’s reports of brutal killings of Pakistanis and their supporters in Dhaka stadium and other places in Bangladesh by some Awami League people soon after the surrender of Pakistani forces on December 16, 1971.

Not surprisingly, Mr. Tharoor totally overlooked Awami League’s systematic brutal treatment of rival political parties. For example, on October 28, 2006 its party men killed in broad day light nearly a dozen unarmed Jamaat men on the streets of Dhaka, which the whole world saw on television screens on that day. All the allegations of Jamaat’s collaboration with the Pakistani army are still theories, and are not based on facts or evidence. Moreover, after the liberation of Bangladesh, people of Jamaat-e-Islam have not waged a war against the country; conversely, they have completely accepted and showed total loyalty to the new-born state and have not launched any campaign to re-join Pakistan.

If the events of the 1971 war were the main reason for these arrests and tortures, a number of Awami League and Jatiya Party leaders (who are in power now) would have been in prison by this time for their Pakistan sympathies and ‘collaboration’ at that time. Jamaat leader Maulana Delwar Hossain Saidee entered active political life in the late 1980s. He does not bear any political taint involving our liberation war. His arrest explains to us the extent of manipulation of 1971 events by Awami League and the pro-Indian lobby in Bangladesh.

Actually the three top-most Jamaat leaders were arrested on June 29, 2010 on some preposterous blasphemy charges. Soon after that, the people of Bangladesh came to know very well that the blasphemy allegation against Jamaat leaders was not only unfounded and pointless but also ridiculous and laughable. Hence, as usual, with the help of a section of the media, the Awami League government recycled its typical weapon of public sentiment of the 1971 liberation war to use and re-use it against political opponents. 

Despite Awami League’s blatant undemocratic practices and cruel exercise of power, the dominant media (both domestic and foreign) is largely silent about its brutalities. What a section of the media usually highlights, for example, is Jamaat-e-Islam’s political stance of 1971 in favour of a united Pakistan. After about four decades of the liberation of Bangladesh, Jamaat’s political stance of 1971 can be interpreted in two ways: firstly, it was totally wrong to espouse to retain a united Pakistan given all the inequalities that had existed between West Pakistan and East Pakistan; secondly, the way Indian BSF personnel are killing hundreds of Bangladeshis on a regular basis and given India’s economic and political exploitations of Bangladesh may vindicate the Jamaat fear of 1971 that a Bangladesh axed from Pakistan would be subject to Indian hostilities, which is actually the present day reality. However, this is a matter of political and historical analysis and should be done in an academic way. Importantly, even if Jamaat’s stance was wrong (and I believe it was), it can also be interpreted as its right to hold a political opinion.

Post-1971 Bangladesh is not a better place to live, and this is not because of the independence of 1971, but because of the failure of the successive governments that have ruled the country ever since and because of Indian hostilities especially in the border regions. The BDR carnage and the killing of dozens of military officers on February 25, 2009 already weakened our defense system. As a result, post-February-2009-Bangladesh is much more vulnerable and more exposed to foreign aggression. Jamaat is not the author of the wide range of political and social ills that have been crippling the country for a very long time. Even enemies of Jamaat agree that Jamaat people are more responsible citizens. They are better parents in the family, more dutiful employees in work places, and more considerate and caring in collective life in society. If such people are marginalized and penalized, the ultimate sufferer will be the country itself.

If the West overlooks Awami League’s undemocratic practices for the fact that the party uses the secularism slogan, and helps demonize Jamaat-e-Islam for its Islamic leanings, that will be catastrophic for the future of the poor nation, Bangladesh, and the people of the country will have to bear the brunt of all consequences.

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