The ongoing war criminals’ trials are not only being opposed by groups within Bangladesh, but also from several diverse and questionable corners of the world. Leader of the opposition,Khaleda Zia, is on a road march to save her political allies from prosecution for crimes against humanity. Not surprisingly, her political credibility has failed in generating public support against this long-awaited trial. The generation next of Bangladesh is no longer vulnerable to distortion and political slogans. Khaleda Zia’s soft corner for the radical Jamaat is well-known, as also the fact that her late husband, General Ziaur Rahman, rehabilitated the war criminals of 1971 and made politics difficult by distorting the history of our war of independence.
But now, with the Awami League government determined to bring closure to the families affected by the horrific crimes of ’71, war criminals associated with Jamaat have resorted to hiring western lobbyists to fight their case, not in courts, rather by trying to influence globalgame-changers. There is documented evidence of the Jamaat investing huge amounts of money to run concerted campaigns against the trials in Dhaka: the campaign includes co-opting western media through indirect means and hence we see a stream of articles even in respected western newspapers and magazines questioning the neutrality of the trial courts. This is nothing but an attempt to destroy the credibility of both the Awami league government and the tribunal.
Ironically, even a few human right organizations are expressing concern about the fairness of these trials when the war crimes are clearly documented in Jamaat’s own partisan newspapers of 1971.
Not sure of the impact of their media on slaught, western lobbyists also turned to hiring an academician with enough worth (!) to turn the trials into a controversy. In Dead Reckoning: Memories of the 1971 Bangladesh War, Sarmila Bose has tried to undermine the genocide of 1971. With a sugarcoat of academic research she has distorted the history of the Liberation War of Bangladesh, not realizing that events that took place 40 years ago merely register as having happened yesterday on the timeline of world’s history. Witnesses of that genocide are still alive. Bose’s arguments resound those of Khaleda Zia & her followers who are desperately trying to rewrite the history of ‘71 just to achieve political edge over Awami League.
Almost 34 years after the Liberation War,Ms Bose visited Bangladesh to gather evidence against the genocide and in favour of her argument. She saw what see wanted to see, learnt what she wanted to learn. Bose carries the genetic influence of Netaji Subhash Bose who joined Hitler to fight back the British Raj. I have yet to ascertain who Ms Bose is trying to fight by joining the anti-trial campaign. In 1971, she was only twelve, too young to cash in on the political wisdom which she now propagates. But better late than never, as she has now made her interviews of the 30 Pakistan army officers, involved in the 1971 carnage, as the basis of her book. Those interviews must have been quite something as they were apparently enough to convince Ms Bose that the Liberation War was just a Civil War and that the Biharis were the main victims of Bengali nationalism.
Let’s recap ’71. The Awami League led by Bongobondhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman won the general elections of 1970 and according to the constitution he was supposed to form a government as prime minister. But Zulfikar Ali Bhutto couldn’t accept defeat and was not ready to hand overpower to anyone else. President Yahya Khan sided with Bhutto by delaying the process of power-transfer. Mujib in good faith took part in the negotiation process and continued his non-violent movement for the acceptance of his six-point demand.
During his historical address of March 7,1971, Mujib had urged the Pakistani military junta to show respect to the will of majority voters and requested the people of Bangladesh to get ready for freedom struggle in case the election mandate was violated.
Yahya Khan discontinued the dialogue process with Mujib and left Dhaka on the evening of March 25, 1971. By midnight his army, under the command of General Tikka Khan, launched Bengali genocide. That led Mujib to declare Independence on March 26, 1971, just before his arrest.
Mujib’s followers formed an interim government on April 17 to fight back the occupying forces of Yahya Khan, and soon the freedom struggle turned into War of Independence. The fight between a civilian Bangladesh interim government and the entire army of Pakistan was in no way just a civil war, a reality which Ms Bose has failed to identify.Bangladesh lost almost 3 million people and almost 2 to 4 lakhs of women were brutally raped and tortured by the Pakistan Army and its native collaborators.
Ms Bose has tried to create another controversy by challenging the number of death and rape victims, just like Nazi-sympathetic researchers dispute the number of Jews killed in Holocaust. There is no area of Bangladesh that did not face the brutality of Pakistani Army and its Bangladeshi collaborators. If Ms Bose was sincere she would have stayed in Bangladesh long enough to seek the truth and not just be satisfied with the accounts of the selected few she chose as her research sample.
How could she not realize that Bangladesh itself is a mass graveyard as almost every family lost their beloved ones in 1971? Her field research is heavily biased because the 30 war criminals she interviewed in Pakistan would obviously never confess to their crimes. So instead she has highlighted the killing of pro-Yahia Biharis while overlooking the massacre of Bengali Muslims and Hindus.
Ms Bose has tried to distort history under the disguise of academic neutrality. Her biased research sampling in fact is a beacon of some hidden agenda clearly favouring the war criminals of ‘71.
Lobbyists have organized book readings of Dead Reckoning (The return of Goebbels) at reputed western universities to buy recognition for Ms Bose’s em-bedded version of history. Influential dailies are raving about her book and sugar-daddy columnists are patting her back, conveniently forgetting that this is no longer an era of government controls over media and/or censored journalism. Truth is now just a click away. Ms Bose needs to keep herself more updated in this age of internet, when social media is enough to unleash every truth distorted by interest groups. She should also be ashamed of her colonial hangover and Goebbels syndrome.
The people of Bangladesh have neither forgotten their relatives killed in 1971, nor are they ignorant of the fact that justice has been denied to them for so long because of the machinations of the pro-Jamaat cult. That’s why they voted Awami League into power in 2008; to get justice and closure.
If Ms Bose continues to take her 15 minutes of fame seriously, she might end up making a fool of herself and in the process lose her credibility. She reminds me of a blind woman trying to understand what an elephant looks like….