Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation

Pakistan army must be tried for war crimes

Mujib Barsha is the right time to call for an international trial of the Pakistani army for its role in the 1971 war crimes and genocide.

Prime Minister Narebdra Modi’s address on the occasion of the inauguration of “Mujib Barsha” – Mujib Year – to celebrate the centenary of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rehman, was an inspiring one.

Recalling the struggle of the people of Bangladesh under the leadership of Bangabandhu, Modi observed “how a repressive and cruel regime, disregarding all democratic values, unleashed a reign of injustice on ‘Bangla Bhumi’ and devastated its people” and how Mujib “had devoted every moment of his life towards bringing Bangladesh out of the phase of devastation and genocide and making it into a positive and progressive society.”

Rise of Bangladesh

Referring to Bangladesh’s trajectory in becoming a confident and progressive nation, making steady progress on all development indexes, PM Modi brought attention to the stark contrast between two nations – Pakistan and Bangladesh – “we are all witnessing”, he observed “that how, making terror and violence weapons of politics and diplomacy destroys a society and a nation.

The world is also watching where the supporters of terror and violence are currently placed and in what state they are, while Bangladesh is scaling new heights.” Modi pointed out the stark reality. Pakistan – a half-nation subsisting on terror and violence, and Bangladesh, a nation which is steadily and maturely moving towards stability, development and economic growth. Modi himself has done much in bringing about greater stability in the area and has gradually steered the focus towards a vision of a shared development and collective well-being in the region.

Many in the West who have been persisting with their fallacious hectoring of India on the citizenship issue, these past few months, have been supporters and patrons of this half-nation and its diabolically destabilising policies. They stood by it, or looked the other way, when Pakistan indulged in planned pogrom against its minorities, and when the Pakistan army was perpetrating one of the worst genocide against its own citizens in the eastern wing, butchering intellectuals and mowing down Hindu minorities. Journalist DRMankekar, in his Colonialism in East Bengal notes how “senior military and civil officers in Dacca and Comilla repeatedly told Mascarenhas (Anthony Mascarenhas, legendary journalist, who fled Pakistan, and filed his stories from London on the Pak army’s genocide): “We are determined to cleanse East Pakistan once and for all of the threat of secession, even if it means killing off two million people and ruling the province as a colony for 30 years.”

The descent

In his, now famous and historic article, written in the Sunday Times from London, Mascarenhas noted how Pakistanis elaborated their policy towards its eastern wing thus, “1) Bengalis have proved themselves ‘unreliable’ and must be ruled by West Pakistanis, 2) The Bengalis will have to be re-educated along proper Islamic lines. The ‘Islamisation of the masses’ is intended to eliminate secessionist tendencies and provide a strong religious bond with West Pakistan, 3) When the Hindus have been eliminated by death and flight, their property will be bait to win over the Muslim middle class. This will provide the base for erecting administrative and political structures in the future.” This was the false ideology driven agenda of the theocratic state of Pakistan.

One of those who witnessed the era first hand and played a crucial role in the historic events of that period was PN Dhar. In his memoirs Dhar notes how when the Pakistan army genocide began, the “first to arrive were the Awami League cadres and remnants of the police and the military personnel who managed to escape. They were followed by Hindus who escaped a merciless hunt.”

Cries for justice

It was only in the middle of April that Indian authorities understood the designs of Pakistan in unleashing the genocide, writes Dhar, “By driving out Hindus in millions, they hoped to substantially reduce the political support that the Awami League enjoyed as it was the ‘wily Hindu’ who was supposed to have misled simple Bengali Muslims into demanding autonomy.

Additionally with the Hindus gone, Bengal would lose its majority status vis-a-vis West Pakistan and not be in a position to challenge its dominance.”In his deeply disturbing, The Blood Telegram, Gary Bass for instance, records how then Indian foreign minister Swaran Singh, in a briefing for Indian diplomats agitatedly divulged how the

Pakistan army was mowing down its own civilians, “Artillery, tanks, automatic weapons, mortars, aeroplanes, everything which is normally used against invading armed forces, were utilised and very largescale killings took place; selective killings of individuals, acts of molestation and rape against the university students, girls, picking out the Awami League leaders, their supporters and later on especially concentrating on the localities in which Hindus predominated.”

While Sheikh Hasina’s government has held a bold and exemplary War Crimes trial against Razakar collaborators of the Pakistan army’s genocide in Bangladesh, “Mujib Barsha” this year and next year the 50th anniversary of the Bangladesh Liberation War, is the right time to call for an international trial of the Pakistani army itself for its role in war crimes and genocide in 1971.

The self-styled international ‘conscience keepers” of the world must respond.

(The writer is a Member, National Executive Committee (NEC), BJP and Chairman of Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation. Views expressed are personal)