The 1971 war criminals’ trial is finally on the move to provide closure to victims’ families. Those from Bangladesh who sold their soul to the rulers of Pakistan and collaborated with the Yahiya regime are set to be tried for crimes against humanity. They are not only accused of loots, kills and rapes but also of helping foreign forces in identifying and eliminating freedom fighters and intellectual patriotic assets.
Their treason notwithstanding, Bangladesh came into existence. But they didn’t give up; were neither apologetic nor repentant. Instead the traitors took to vengeance and collaborated with a discontent faction of the Bangladesh army to assassinate the Father of the Nation and prominent national leaders.
Vengeance later took another twist with the torturing of religious minorities and aboriginal communities in the name of God. The spirit of Islam was exploited to generate global terror. Offshoots of the same vengeance sprouted up under the shadows of BNP’s pro-right mindset, having been disgusted with Awami League’s village politics and its political idiosyncrasies. Thus, we saw another wave of crimes against fellow humans on the pretext of Shariah. But nature probably has had enough of this. It is being impelled to bring the perpetrators face-to-face with their crimes, even after 35 to 40 years. All the extrajudicial and political killings of leftists, freedom fighters, students and civilians in last 40 years could have been avoided if only the war criminals of 1971 had not been allowed to establish the myth that in Bangladesh everything is permissible, even crime.
Bangladesh is rife with success stories of crime and corruption. Awami League and BNP have both earned Champion’s Trophy term after term for encouraging cardinal vices. And that’s the yardstick dangling in front of our youth. They are a generation with potential worth gold, yet teetering at the crossroads between white and black. Really, it’s sad that despite knowing the difference between good and bad, our youth can still be tempted to waver in their choices. They have come to think that the road to crime and corruption at least has a success span of 35 to 40 years, and if they are very good at being very bad, they might even not be prosecuted in their lifetime.
An entire generation saw freedom fighters and honest to God patriots die without treatment while the corrupt, dishonest and selfish leaders would fly out to Mount Elizabeth or some other five-star hospital abroad. This comparison alone is enough to make it easy for the young of mind to choose the road that drives through Mount Elizabeth. But the criminal trials of ’71 and ’75 are proving to be Aesop’s proverbial dog in the manger. It’s like nature wants the accused to live longer so that they are fit enough for the gallows.
News has it that top BNP leader Tareq Rahman plans to build a health city of global standard in Bangladesh. A profitable project, no doubt, but only if our corrupt top guns find it as comfortable as Mount Elizabeth. Digressing back to nature, space and time are forever big avengers of justice. Awami League’s call for ‘Digital Bangladesh’ has already made the free flow of information irreversible, allowing the youth unadulterated access to facts related to events like the trial of Bangabandhu’s killers, the ongoing war criminals’ trials, extrajudicial killings and nationwide corruption. With historical truths just a click away, each young internet user is gradually becoming as empowered and vigilant as a freedom fighter of 1971.
This had to happen. Through the rise and fall of nations history has proven that nature intervenes when the state of affairs go from bad to worse. No longer can the ruling elite of Bangladesh live in denial. Despite reaping the fruits of political polarization and dynastic democracy, BNP leader Tareq Rahman and AL think-tank Sajib Wajed Joy are both tech-savvy enough to pre-empt the winds of change.
Not all of the 40 years of our existence were in vain. Bangladesh has, after all, nurtured a deprived-of-rights but conscious generation striving to hold onto the secular traditions of our society. Those who died unattended in government hospitals uttered till their last breath that truth and justice were no myths, that nature didn’t wield unequal yardsticks whether it came to AL, BNP, Jamaat or any other person or group. We sympathized with those thoughts, but were never quite sure of their manifestations. But now those very thoughts are beginning to take shape, at least we have started questioning faults in the system at every step. I believe the age of reckoning and enlightenment has arrived in Bangladesh, a moment of awakening at the crossroads: that there can be no left or no right on the highway to social justice.