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The Birth Of A Nation – A Genocide And Refugees

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The Birth Of A Nation – A Genocide And Refugees

The genocide in Bangladesh began on 26 March 1971 with the launch of Operation Searchlight, as West Pakistan began a military crackdown on the Eastern wing of the nation to suppress Bengali calls for self-determination rights. During the nine-month-long Bangladesh war for independence, members of the Pakistani military and supporting Islamist militias from Jamaat-e-Islami killed up to 3,000,000 people and raped between 200,000 and 400,000 Bangladeshi women, according to Bangladeshi and Indian sources, in a systematic campaign of genocidal rape.

Refugee the word is enough to describe its agony, suffering, migration of helpless people to safer place to defend lives and loosing near and dear one in a stranded situation. It remind us picture of helpless people leaving one place to other place with their last belongings. Physically active young member of family act as means of transport to aged member of the family with bamboo made swing in their shoulder. Thousands of mothers carrying son/daughter at their lap and cloth turned into shape of bags filled with house essentials on their head to their anonymous destination. They do not have food, water, guarantee of medicine, treatment with themselves. Even they do not know whether all family members will reach in a safety place or not. Birds, animals also have migration in their life routine from one place to other. They spend some time in new places and come back to native place in appropriate time without so life risk and damages to their own family. But, people’s migration? It is not as safe as birds and animals. It is full with pain, more of risk, uncertainty of future where a whole community is targeted for the sack of provocative interest, willing of ill minded.

If we look back Bangladeshi refugee life during 1971 war that was one of the worst humanitarian disasters in the history took place, when army of Pakistan invaded Bangladesh (then East Pakistan), killed 3 million people brutally, raped and tortured more than 0.4 million women in the cruelest manners possible. More than 10 million people were driven away from their own lands and were taken refuge in India. Those refugees were the tears of Bangladesh, the agony of a nation to be born.

The genocide in Bangladesh began on 26 March 1971 with the launch of Operation Searchlight, as West Pakistan began a military crackdown on the Eastern wing of the nation to suppress Bengali calls for self-determination rights. During the nine-month-long Bangladesh war for independence, members of the Pakistani military and supporting Islamist militias from Jamaat-e-Islami killed up to 3,000,000 people and raped between 200,000 and 400,000 Bangladeshi women, according to Bangladeshi and Indian sources, in a systematic campaign of genocidal rape. Independent researchers estimate the number of people killed as being between 300,000–500,000, and describe the 3 million number as excessively inflated. The actions against women were supported by Muslim religious leaders, who declared that Bengali women were “gonimoter maal” (Bengali for “public property”). As a result of the conflict, a further eight to ten million people, mostly Hindus, fled the country at the time to seek refuge in neighbouring India. It is estimated that up to 30 million civilians became internally displaced. During the war there was also ethnic violence between Bengalis and Urdu-speaking Biharis. Biharis faced reprisals from Bengali mobs and militias and from 1,000 to 150,000 were killed. Other sources claim it was up to 500,000.

Many of those killed were the victims of radical religious paramilitary militias formed by the West Pakistani Army, including the Razakars, Al-Shams and Al-Badr forces. There are many mass graves in Bangladesh, and more are continually being discovered (such as one in an old well near a mosque in Dhaka, located in the Mirpur region of the city, which was discovered in August 1999). The first night of war on Bengalis, which is documented in telegrams from the American Consulate in Dhaka to the United States State Department, saw indiscriminate killings of students of Dhaka University and other civilians.

The Jamaat-e-Islami as well as other Islamists opposed the Bangladeshi independence struggle and sided with the Pakistani state and armed forces out of Islamic solidarity. According to political scientist Peter Tomsen, Pakistan’s secret service, in conjunction with the political party Jamaat-e-Islami, formed militias such as Al-Badr (“the moon”) and the Al-Shams (“the sun”) to conduct operations against the nationalist movement. These militias targeted noncombatants and committed rapes as well as other crimes. Local collaborators known as Razakars also took part in the atrocities. The term has since become a pejorative akin to the western term “Judas”.

Members of the Muslim League such as Nizam-e-Islam, Jamaat-e-Islami and Jamiat Ulema Pakistan, who had lost the election, collaborated with the military and acted as an intelligence organisation for them. Jamaat-e-Islami members and some of its leaders collaborated with the Pakistani forces in rapes and targeted killings. The atrocities by Al-Badr and the Al-Shams garnered worldwide attention from news agencies; accounts of massacres and rapes were widely reported.

The generally accepted figure for the mass rapes during the nine-month long conflict is between 200,000 and 400,000; however, some scholars consider these numbers to be seriously inflated. During the war, a fatwa in Pakistan declared that the Bengali ‘freedom fighters’ were Hindus and that their women could be taken as the ‘booty of war’. Imams and Muslim religious leaders publicly declared that the Bengali women were ‘gonimoter maal’ (war booty) and thus they openly supported the rape of Bengali women by the Pakistani Army. Numerous women were tortured, raped and killed during the war.

A thirteen years old girl, was interviewed by a photojournalist in Dhaka. She was walking to school with four other girls when they were kidnapped by a gang of Pakistani soldiers. All five were put in a military brothel in Mohammadpur and held captive for six months until the end of the war.

US government cables noted that the minorities of Bangladesh, especially the Hindus, were specific targets of the Pakistani Army. There was widespread killing of Hindu males, and rapes of women. Documented incidents in which Hindus were massacred in large numbers include the Chuknagar massacre, the Jathibhanga massacre, and the Shankharipara massacre. More than 60% of the Bengali refugees who fled to India were Hindus. It has been alleged that this widespread violence against Hindus was motivated by a policy to purge East Pakistan of what was seen as Hindu and Indian influences. Buddhist temples and Buddhist monks were also attacked through the course of the year. Lt. Colonel Aziz Ahmed Khan reported that in May 1971 there was written order to kill Hindus and that General Niazi would ask troops how many Hindus they had killed.

The world had witnessed the refugee problem at different times at different parts of it.  United Nation has its policy to solve Refugee problem which is not being followed properly when the time comes. Therefore, it is assumed that United Nation should structure new international rule to solve this refugee problem as per need of present time in more constructive way. Some opined that refugee problem can be solved truly in a practical political way to restore Humanitarian mankind. Refugee life is a hindrance for a generation. They suffer at the utmost level to reconstruct their life in new location with empty hand. Some of them can establish themselves in life after long awaited fight against poverty, opportunities etc. but most of them lost in dark loosing fight against the odds.

To be continued…

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