[Mashuqur Rahman, USA.]
Last Sunday I attended a seminar on the Bangladesh Genocide at Kean University in Union, New Jersey. The seminar was organized by the Nathan Weiss Graduate College at Kean. The seminar inaugurated graduate course work on the Bangladesh Genocide as part of the Masters program in Holocaust and Genocide Studies. The seminar was introduced by Dr. Bernard Weinstein, Holocaust and Genocide Studies Program Coordinator. The dean of the Graduate College Dr. Kristie Reilly and the President of Kean University Dr. Dawood Farahi also made introductory remarks.
Freedom fighter and author Dr. Nurun Nabi, Dr. Rounaq Jahan of Columbia University, Dr. ABM Nasir of North Carolina Central University, and Dr. Sachi Dastidar of the State University of New York made presentations to an audience of about 300 at the University Center Theater.
The event was organized due to the tireless work of Bangladeshi students at Kean University. These students, all born after 1971, are not only the future of the Bengali nation but also the future guardians of our history. I salute them.
The importance of preserving and defending our history was brought into focus when family members of some of the victims of the genocide spoke at the seminar. The family members, one by one, approached the podium and opened a window for a brief few minutes into lives of courage and of sacrifice. They shamed us. As Dr. ABM Nasir mentioned in his speech, in many ways we have failed the victims of the genocide and their families. Millions of lives were brutally extinguished in those nine months in 1971, and millions more were left shattered. The Bangladeshi nation has failed them in the last 36 years. We have failed to preserve our history and we have failed to defend it against attacks from the very people who perpetuated the genocide. We have failed to bring to justice the perpetrators. We have let the murderers and rapists walk free. In doing so, we have insulted those on whose backs we have become free.
So our task is clear. Our task is to preserve and honor the sacrifices of those who we lost in 1971. We owe it to ourselves, to our parents, and to those who will come after us.
Clarification (12/13/2007 2:00PM): I stated in the post above that the seminar inaugurated graduate course work on the Bangladesh Genocide. That is not quite accurate. The seminar was the first step in developing course work for a graduate course. The university is looking into developing the course work. The following is from a memorandum from Kean University:
The university authority is overwhelmed by knowing the magnitude of the genocide and by looking into resources available. It will look into the possibility of writing a course after collecting enough resources that can support the course curricula. The university administration is looking into developing research network with other universities and researchers about this genocide so that there is a strong background work before the curriculum is developed. All these actions are yet to be taken by the university administration.
Below I have included the written testimony from the family members who spoke and those who were present. I thank Dr. Ziauddin Ahmed for compiling and providing me with a copy of the testimony of the family members. I thank the family members for their courage and for their humanity.
Pakistan army killed my fatherIt was a dark day in the history of genocide, March 25th 1971. A deathly hush had fallen over the bustling capital city of Dhaka, as Pakistani soldiers, armed to the teeth began their systematic and brutal blood bath of the Bengali army, navy and air force personnel , followed by mass executions of civilians; professors, doctors, lawyers and other professionals and university students were targeted . The city was terrorized as squads of Pakistani soldiers forced their way into homes in the middle of the night, dragged their targets out, before their screaming families and shot them in cold blood, checking them off their death list.The Pakistani terror squad quickly spread to the neighboring cities, burning villages to the ground on the way, shooting escaping civilians; men, women and children, as they ran out of their burning homes. By that time all news of the genocide operation was controlled by the Pakistan army and the propaganda machine was in full force, along with a complete curfew. Electricity and water was turned off along with all communications.
Major M.A. Hasib stationed in Comilla cantonment, a city approximately 60 miles from Dhaka, was making arrangements and looking forward to a civilian life, after devoting a 21 year career to the Pakistan army. He had opted for an early retirement, because he had been superseded for promotion to Colonel twice. He was disgusted with the treatment of Bengali officers by the Pakistani army, who routinely and deliberately, used the concept of the glass ceiling and kept the Bengali officers in their midst at lower ranks. Hearing of the atrocities committed by the Pakistani soldiers, from the news on BBC radio, his wife feared that he was imminent danger. But he comforted her. Believing that since his early retirement was approved and came into effect only ten days earlier and that he had been a loyal army officer all his life, they had nothing to fear from him, thus no harm would come to him and his family. But the Pakistani death squads were taking no chances.
They came for him on the morning of March 29th 2007, as he sat down to breakfast with his family and huddled together to listen to BBC news on the transistor radio. He was my father, Major M.A.Hasib. Four armed soldiers escorted into a jeep at gunpoint. That was the last time he was seen alive.
My mother and two small sisters were later thrown into prison camp, where they witnessed and suffered the atrocities committed by the Pakistani soldiers.