Genocide has been defined by many persons. But the most accepted definition, we get from the United Nations adopted convention concerning genocide.
We know the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 9th December 1948 and came into force from 12th January 1951.
Article 2 of the Convention defines genocide as any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethical, racial or religious group- (a) Killing members of the group; (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group and (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
Let us see what happened in case of Bangladesh. The barbarous acts did by Pakistani military with their Bangladeshi collaborators from the night of 25th March to 16th December 1971 in Bangladesh covers first three acts (a, b & c). What not the Pakistani heinous army did in Bangladesh?
The definition above clearly says that any of the acts listed there would be termed as genocide.
Their crimes included killing, physical and mental harm, rape, destruction of a nation, intent to destroy culture and religion, burning towns, ports & villages, etc. It would be a very minor count if those atrocities are only defined as ‘genocide’. It was much more than that.
There was not a single place in Bangladesh in where the flames of Pakistanis’ barbarous acts did not burn everything. The main target of General Yahya Khan and his army was to wipe out the existence of Bengali nation from world history forever. The heinous activities of Pakistani demons in Bangladesh crossed the atrocity of all previous genocides.
The peace loving people of the world raised their voice against the ‘genocide’ committed by Pakistani military in Bangladesh. World leaders, civil society, media people, artists, writers, even general people did not hesitate to protest that genocide. Their slogan was- ‘Stop Genocide’. That history is very long to accommodate here. However, some of the reports published in various media of the world as well as remarks of world leaders describing the barbarous activities of the Pakistani military in Bangladesh as ‘genocide’ are referred below:
1) In the editorial of the New Nation published from Singapore on 6 April 1971 termed the holocaust in East Pakistan as genocide.
2) The Evening Star in its editorial on 17 April 1971strongly criticized the role of USA and said, “It can and should, however, use the channels of quiet diplomacy to persuade the West Pakistanis to stop the killing, which is approaching the proportions of genocide……..”.
3) An article titled ‘Genocide in East Pakistan’ published in the Saturday Review on 22 May 1971 said, “This may help to explain why the UN has so far been unable under its Charter to take action against what appears to be a provable case of genocide but it doesn’t explain why men of conscience have not stood up in the United Nations to split the sky with the indignation”.
4) The Hong Kong Standard in its 25 June 1971 edition published a report titled “Another Genghis’ said, “There is overwhelming evidence of murder, of senseless slaughter of children, of rape, or prostitution organized by and for senior army officers, of wholesale, maddened crazed, bloodthirsty determined massacre. Genghis Khan, for all his bloody faults, at least built up an empire in the course of his career. Tikka Khan and his gang of uniformed cutthroats will be remembered for trying to destroy the people of half a nation”.
5) The report titled ‘Helping to kill more Bengalis’ published in the Washington Daily News on 30 June 1971 said, “The Bengali in the east voted overwhelmingly for home rule in the only free election in Pakistan’s history. Instead they got the genocidal assault by the western army, which is still shamefully going on”.
6) Mr. Peter Hazelhurst, in his article titled ‘Millions of People Uprooted by Civil War’ published in the Manila Chronicle on 5 July 1971, wrote- In the coming months the legal aspects behind this man-made holocaust will be hotly debated in the capitals of the world and on international platforms. But many of the issues which precipitated this convulsion have been clouded by the cries of “secession” or “genocide” and other accusations and counter-accusations and if an accusing finger is to be pointed at any single Pakistani leader then one must, at this juncture, take a judicious look at the chronological sequence of events leading up to the rift.
7) The report titled ‘Harrowing Accounts’ published in the weekly the Palaver (Ghana, Accra) on 20 May 1971 said that the world must be shocked by harrowing accounts of genocide perpetrated against the people of Bangladesh by Pakistani military junta.
It again on 8 July 1971 published an article titled ‘East Pakistan Cry for Help’ which mentioned that many newspapers have come out with documentary evidence in the form of photographs and eyewitness reports of one of the greatest genocide exercised in the annals of man.
8) In a report titled ‘Stop the Genocide’, the Djakarta Times appealed the muslims of the world as well as International Islamic organizations to come forward within their limited means to stop the genocide and restore peace in the region.
9) The Montreal Star published from Ottawa, in a report of its 22 April 1971 edition, blamed Generals of Pakistan including President Yahya for planning and directing of the atrocities committed in Bangladesh.
10) In its 1 April 1971edition, the Daily Telegraph published a report titled ‘Indian parliament members asked to stop genocide in East Pakistan’. The report mentioned that the parliament at its 31 March session passed a bill on immediate cease of the genocide in East Pakistan.
11) In the editorial on 29 May 1971, the Sunday Mirror (Accra) mentioned, “The indiscriminate killing and destruction in the East which bordered on genocide can hardly be the best answer to the problem that confronted the President.”
12) On 8 June 1971, the London Times published a letter of Mr. John Stone House, MP. The letter said, “The evidence that the military Government of West Pakistan has committed an appalling crime against humanity in East Bengal is incontrovertible. .………. .
How much longer will the world community salve its conscience by merely dabbing at the sores rather than acting firmly to stop the genocide? Talk of cutting off aid to Pakistan and diverting this towards the refugees is commendable but not sufficient.”
13) The Sunday Times published on 13 June 1971 a detailed report titled ‘Genocide’ written by renowned journalist Anthony Mascarenhas.
14) The Momento, published from Caracas, in its 13 June 1971 edition said, “The number of dead, according to the European Press, varies between 500,000 to 1,000,000 – apart from massive tortures psychological repression and persecution, with no-holds-barred on the old, the young and the children. In this sense, most commentators agree that humanity is faced today with one of the most horrid genocides of all time”.
15) The Zambia Daily Mail wrote on 14 June 1971 – “The Government of President Yahya Khan is trying to force the East Pakistanis to accept its authority by force. Since the conflict started a few months ago, thousands of people have died from bullets, hunger and disease. The exact number is not known and may never be known. There have been accusations of genocide by the Pakistan Government troops”.
16) In the editorial on 15 June 1971, the Washington Daily News said- Eyewitness reports, one more ghastly than another, continue to filter out of East Pakistan, telling of the massacre of the Bengali people by the Pakistani army. Naturally, the military regime of President Yahya Khan denies it is committing selective genocide. But evidence mounts that it is cold-bloodedly murdering minority Hindus, Bengali separatists, intellectuals, doctors, professors, students- in short, those who could lead a self-governing East Pakistan.
17) On 16 June 1971, the Guardian published a report by Francis Boyed which described the genocide in Bangladesh and clearly blamed Pakistan for that.
18) World Peace and Human Rights Council of Venezuela on 24 June 1971 demanded immediate cease of genocide in East Pakistan. The Council blamed Pakistan and said that the fascist military committed the genocide.
19) El Heraldo published a letter on 24 June 1971 written by former Mexican President Fortes Gill on the massacre committed by Pakistani military in East Pakistan. In that letter, he appealed the United Nations to condemn the killings of East Pakistanis by armed forces instructed by the President of West Pakistan.
20) On 30 June 1971, the Times published- That this House believes that the murder of civilians and the atrocities on a massive scale by the Pakistan Army in East Bengal, contrary to the United Nations Convention on Genocide signed by Pakistan itself, confirms that the Military Government of Pakistan has forfeited all rights to rule East Bengal, following the wanton refusal to accept the democratic will of the people expressed in the election of December 1970.
21) La Verdad (Caracas) on 3 July 1971 in a report titled ‘Unabated Killing’ mentioned that the genocide practiced by the troops of General Yahya Khan is a tragedy which could lead to similar horrors.
22) In the editorial titled ‘Genocide of Hindus’ of the Glove And Mail (Ottawa) on 16 July 1971, it was mentioned that President Yahya Khan must face the realities of the situation. Only an end to the genocide of Hindus, only some form political solution in East Pakistan can prevent the country from splintering apart permanently.
23) In his statement at the US Senate 27 July 1971 session, Senator Proxmire quoting the report titled ‘Genocide’ published on 13 June edition of London Sunday Times said that that word explained what was happening in East Pakistan. He asked how long they would wait to see the application of Genocide Convention.
24) On 17 August 1971, International Herald Tribune published a report titled ‘After Visiting Refugees in India Kennedy Hits Pakistan ‘Genocide” which said- Senator Kennedy denounced Pakistan’s military repression in East Pakistan as genocide and said that the secret trial of the East Pakistani leader, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was “an outrage of every concept of international law”.
On the same day, some other newspapers also published articles, such as: The Times (Mr. Kennedy Convinced of Genocide in East Bengal), Financial Times (Kennedy Convinced of Genocide), Morning Star (Genocide in Pakistan- Kennedy), The Guardian (Kennedy Calls to Halt Pakistan Aid), etc.
Finally, I would like to mention Article 3 of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. This article defines the crimes that are punishable under the Convention- (1) Genocide; (2) Conspiracy to commit genocide; (3) Direct and public incitement to commit genocide; (4) Attempt to commit genocide and (5) Complicity in genocide.
According to the definition of genocide prescribed by the mentioned UN Convention, the atrocities committed by Pakistani junta in Bangladesh in 1971 proves it as one of the most barbarous genocides of human history.
We should bring not only the Pakistani military, but all involved either in the conspiracy or cooperation in committing the genocide, to justice as per Article 3 of the Convention. The references mentioned here might be used as the international proofs of genocide in Bangladesh.
The writer is a former Ambassador & Secretary