The genocide in Bangladesh, begun in the night of 25th March 1971, lasted till the surrender of Pakistani army on 16th December. This is one of the most barbarous genocides in the history of mankind.
Not only me or we, but the world media and the sensible people of the world recognised the atrocities of the Pakistani military in Bangladesh as ‘Genocide’ and raised their voice to stop that.
We did not take any initiative before for international recognition of that genocide or to convince the world leaders to observe 25th March as ‘International Genocide Day’, though 45 years have already passed. For that, a number of causes could be showed or arguments could be placed. But, it is not true that we could not find any opportunity or environment in our favour to do that. Truly speaking none thought for that or came forward with any such initiative. However, the present government and the pro-liberation people, though late, are taking initiatives on this issue.
They deserve sincere thanks. It’s true that we might not get the expected result now what we could get if initiatives were taken 30 or 40 years back. It is not the time to think what we have lost, but the time what we can get now and how. And with that sentiment we should advance in the right track for positive result.
We know the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 9 December 1948. Later in September 2015, the UNGA established 9th December as the International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide and of the Prevention of this Crime. It is to be noted that Armenia placed before the UNGA their proposal for observing 24th April as ‘the International Day of Genocide’. The UN had to select 9th December to avoid any controversy, as genocide happened in a number of countries all over the world on different dates. However, Armenia observed 24th April as ‘Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day’ to remember the genocide happened there in 1915. To remember the genocide of Rwanda, the UN has recognised 7th April as ‘the International Day of Reflection on the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda’. We can find some other such examples. That’s why it seems there remains least opportunity to have 25th March as ‘International Day of Genocide’. I think this issue, if raised, may not be accepted by the international community. Perhaps it would be sensible if we put our efforts for international recognition of the genocide committed in Bangladesh like in Armenia, Rwanda or other countries. In that case, we can think of a proposal with a ‘different title’ wherein 25th March could be observed as a genocide day.
I think we should take our preparation in two ways simultaneously for international recognition of genocide in Bangladesh. The first one is at the internal level that means within Bangladesh and the second way is at the international level. I am sharing below some of the activities those might expedite the process of recognition:
Internal- (1) Government of Bangladesh should announce immediately 25th March as the ‘National Genocide Day’. Necessary instructions and arrangements are needed to observe this day every year. (2) Evidences of genocide are scattered all over Bangladesh. The government should locate all such places and preserve those with complete description of the genocide committed there. Necessary steps should be taken so that both local and foreign visitors can visit those places and be able to know easily a lot of things about the history of genocide and Liberation War of Bangladesh. We should organise visit programmes to these memorable places of our Liberation War, at least once in a year, for the present generation children especially school and college students. Such visits could be a part of the extra-curricular activities. (3) Foreign Ministry of Bangladesh can invite journalists of some important foreign news media and organise for them detail briefings on the barbarous genocide committed by the Pakistan army in Bangladesh in 1971 followed by visits to the places of genocide. This would facilitate better publicity of our genocide in the world media. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in the past, had organised programmes for foreign journalists for our image building or some other especial purposes. (4) Of course it is a very complex task to realise international recognition. It is not even possible for a person alone to do this job. It needs joint efforts. Bangladesh should form a national level committee comprising of members from all walks of life including representatives from Ministry of Liberation War, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Information, Prime Minister’s Office, Liberation War Museum, etc. That committee would take all necessary preparation to place the proposal at the United Nations. However, the committee should be given a time limit to complete the work. (5) We have perhaps, by this time, a good number of documents as proofs of the genocide.
But, we need to collect probable documents of proof that still remain uncollected and compile those with the existing documents. In this case, all Bangladeshi newspapers published in 1972 as well as reliable books on genocide of Bangladesh might provide lot of information. (6) Bangladesh Government should provide clear instructions to all concerned at every step so that the proposal is correctly placed for its international recognition. We should not forget that close coordination at all levels nationally or internationally is crucial to reach our goal.
International- (1) It is needed to collect and compile all required documents for submission as proofs with the proposal. In this case, ‘Bangladesh Documents’ published by Bangladesh Government and news items on ‘Genocide 1971’ published in the world media might be one of the sources of information. (2) Communication could be started without any delay with our friends of 1971 and seek their cooperation and supports. (3) Many world leaders, politicians, poets, artists, singers, journalists raised their voice against the genocide in Bangladesh and extended their supports to our independence war. Who are still alive among the friends of 1971 and the families of those friends who are not alive, might help and cooperate if we request them. Necessary diplomatic or personal communication should be established in this regard. (4) Relentless diplomatic efforts should be continued to realise supports and cooperation from our friendly countries. (5) Our diplomatic missions abroad should brief the local leaders and people about the genocide of Bangladesh. In addition, our mission can organise special briefings on this issue for the local media people. Foreign Ministry would take the responsibility of sending necessary materials to our missions. (6) Bangladesh nationals, residing temporarily or permanently all over the world, can play an important role in informing the locals about the genocide of Bangladesh in various ways and means. The government can instruct all Bangladesh missions to take necessary steps in organising our expatriates for this purpose. (7) Before proper placement of our proposal at the UN, we should seek advices from the countries having the history of genocide like Bangladesh. If necessary, Bangladesh delegation could visit those countries for detail discussion and suggestions. Our missions abroad including Permanent Mission of Bangladesh in New York can do a lot.
Undoubtedly the then President of Pakistan General Yahya Khan and his Pakistani as well as Bangladeshi collaborators must be punished for committing the genocide in Bangladesh. I personally believe that the present Pakistani leaders and peace loving citizens of Pakistan will not shoulder the charge of Yahya Khan & others. They would, in the same tune like us, pay respect to humanity by demanding punishment of those collaborators. If anybody likes to bear that charge and stands against our proposal, that person must be defeated in the same way the Pakistani military was in 1971. We should be more careful and advance forward with strong mind to realise our goal. The anti-liberation group might create obstructions at every step, but we must engage ourselves to resist. They might try to convince the world community in other direction as they tried in 1971. Even they might try their best to place this genocide as a war between India and Pakistan. Because they know that once this genocide gets international recognition, then the International Court of Justice might not be able to avoid the question of punishing the collaborators of this genocide.
The writer is a former Ambassador & Secretary