It was the night between March 25 and 26, 1971; it was the grisliest night the Bengali nation has ever known.
The forces of evil let loose by the Army rulers of Pakistan continued, for nine months at a stretch, the holocaust begun on March 25 with ever increasing intensity each day using newer and ghastlier methods of extermination of the Bengalis. It is not my intention however, to recount here the acts of brutality perpetrated by the Pakistani marauders during that period. For, it is not pleasant to ruminate on such brutal scenes as bustee people being felled by swarms of bullets while coming out, screaming, of their tenements set ablaze by flame throwers; or the still body of Sujit, a Dacca University student, in a pool of blood holding fast his mother's letter asking him, in view of the troubled situation, to return to his village home; or the mutilated corpse of the old and infirm gatekeeper of the Dacca University Women's Hall, Nani Rajbhor, who while asleep was shot dead at a point?blank range with the corner of his mosquito net lifted ; or the dead body of Moju Mia of Jinjira and that of his baby boy nestling in his father's breast both of whom were killed, while running for life, by a single bullet piercing through their backs. The history of liberation of Bangladesh is replete with hundreds of thousands of similar acts of brutality of which these are but a few examples. Thanks to the world press that many such stories have been carried to the farthest corner of the globe.
While the incidents of 'kill, loot and rape' in Bangladesh are tragic in themselves, more tragic is the fact that in their bid to 'crush' the Bengali nation, the Pakistani army have thrown to the winds all the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to which Pakistan herself is a signatory. The Declaration very solemnly declares that the "recognition of the inherent dignity? and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world." (Preamble, Universal Declaration of Human Rights) But was the dignity of man respected by the Punjabi soldiers for whom 'Bengalis and bastards' were synonymous? Was it respected when teachers were threatened with dire consequences if they indulged in 'loose talks'? Was it respected when some Dacca University teachers were humiliated day in and day out for nearly three months in a concentration camp? Was it respected when prisoners used to be double?marched to the latrine, given only? 30 seconds to evacuate the stomach and come out? Was it respected when a man was killed for his failure to recite the Kalema?
The Human Rights Declaration envisages a world "in which human being shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear." (Preamble, U.D.H.R.) About freedom of speech, the less said the better, for there has never been any freedom of speech in the entire history of Pakistan. This is too well known to be elaborated on. About freedom of belief, would it not be sufficient to note that three million people of Bangladesh have sacrificed their lives at the altar of their belief in; a democratic and secular political order and in a just and equitable society free from all sorts of exploitation of man by man? Needless to mention also that an all?pervasive fear, and not freedom from it, engulfed each and every Bengali during the occupation period. It was because of fear that Purna Chandra Dutta, a Dacca University lecturer, assumed a Muslim name through an affidavit in the Court; so did other members of his family. After the liberation all of them have forsaken their adopted Muslim names. It was because of fear of the advancing army that Azizunnessa of Vikrampur choked her new?born baby, unintentionally though, to death so that the baby might not cry out and betray her presence to the killers. To epitomize all, was it not because of fear that 10 million people of Bangladesh took refuge in this country (India)?
The pogrom that was begun by the Pakistani army on March 25 and continued with ever increasing ferocity till the liberation of Bangladesh completely negates Article 3 of the Human Rights Declaration which grants everyone "the right to life, liberty, and security of person". The provision of Article 5 of the Declaration that "no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and punishment", has also been totally flouted. I was told by a friend of mine, who was in a concentration camp, about a Hindu prisoner who used to perform 'namaz' five times a day like the Muslims because he could escape torture only during prayer times. I know about a college professor, who was inhumanly tortured to confess that he had raped several non?Bengali women during the non?co?operation movement in March.
Article 9 of the Declaration enjoins that "No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest and exile." Facts, however, are to the contrary. In real the arrests of thousands of men, young and old, were made arbitrarily and the detainees were never given any reasons for their arrests although Article 9 Section (2) of the draft Covenant on political and civil rights states clearly? that "anyone who is arrested shall be informed at the time of arrest of the reasons for his arrest and shall be promptly informed of any charges against him." Mr. Kamruddin Ahmed, an ex-Ambassador; and Mr. Fazlul Karim, Cultural Officer of the Bengali Academy,Dhaka, among others, were sent to the jail by an administrative order of six months' imprisonment without any trial in the court of law. Each one of the above mentioned incidents could be multiplied indefinitely. In fact, the provisions of all the 30 articles of the Human Rights Declaration have been trampled under foot and what has happened in Bangladesh has transgressed all norms of civilized behaviour and decency and is a complete negation of human values and conscience.
But the violation of human rights so persistently followed during the 9 months of occupation is but a part, indeed an insignificant part, of the whole story. More important is the fact that the 'master race', from the Punjab Plains executed a well?planned scheme of genocide in Bangladesh, the magnitude of which has transcended all records of known history. Flashing back one could see how indiscriminate the massacre was: a person would be killed because he is a stout young man and is a potential Mukti Fauj (freedom fighter); another, because he is an educated man a likely to give revolutionary ideas to the society; third, because he is one of the rabble and therefore must have taken part in anti?government demonstrations; fourth, because he is 'reported' to have given shelter to Mukti Bahini (freedom fighter); fifth, because he is a Hindu and therefore an Indian spy; sixth, because his movements were suspicious ; seventh, because no other pretext is available, he is a Bengali after all (is not enough to kill a person ?) ; and so on and so forth.