For those who haven’t seen Mritunjay Devvrat’s fantastic film ‘Children of War’ on the atrocities committed by Pakistani forces during Bangladeshi’s 1971 Liberation Struggle should pencil it in their schedule. Devvrat’s dark and gripping depiction of how rape and torture were used with the aim of annihilating the Bengali population of what was then East Pakistan revisits an important chapter in South Asian history.
The barbarity of 1971 resulted in the killing of 3 million Bengali-speaking people and witnessed at least 250,000 women being raped in a systematic effort to destroy Bengali culture and ethnicity. Millions were rendered destitute with their lives torn asunder; left with little hope but to seek refuge in India. The genocide of 1971 and thebloody circumstances surrounding Bangladesh’s birth should never be forgotten.
A salient point that Children of War’s narrative of 1971 makes is the collusion of Razakars and Jamaatis in the barbarity heaped upon the Bengali population. In fact, a key dialogue by the villain of the film – a demonic Pakistani army officer played by Pavan Malhotra – alludes to fiendish collaborators within the Bengali population without whose support the marauding Pakistani army would have made little headway in its evil designs.
As history would have it, Jamaat-e-Islami and its ilk were banned after Bangladesh attained liberation. However, tragic circumstances and conspiracies saw a return of Jamaat leaders and their politics in independent Bangladesh after the death of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Worse, those with blood on their hands went on to hold influential positions in subsequent Bangladeshi governments. It was only when the current Bangladeshi regime led by Sheikh Hasina first assumed power in late-2008 that the prospect of justice for the war crimes of 1971 was revived.
Since 2010, Bangladesh’s International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) has been trying several war crimes accused most of whom have been associated with the Jamaat-i-Islami. In fact, till date the ICT has tried and convicted as many as ten prominent collaborators, sentencing eight of them to death for crimes against humanity. The death penalty for Jamaat leader Abdul Quader Mollah was executed last December.
That said, given its involvement in 1971 war crimes, there has been a growing chorus for trying Jamaat-i-Islami itself as a criminal organisation. This was articulated during the Shahbag protests last year where thousands of people from all walks of Bangladeshi civil society demanded that Jamaat be held accountable. Even prior to that eminent Bangladeshi writer and war crimes researcher Shahriar Kabir had called for trying Jamaat for war crimes. For Bangladesh to achieve justice and closure, it is imperative that all those – individuals and organisations – involved with the genocide of 1971 are brought to book.
In this regard, it is disconcerting to note that a section of the ICT prosecution team appears to be dragging its feet over submitting formal charges against the Jamaat. Some prosecutors believe this is not the opportune moment to start the Jamaat trial. This is needless procrastination. The secular people of Bangladesh have waited four decades for justice for 1971 war crimes. The Jamaat trial must not be delayed any further. Besides, having just won a fresh mandate in the January polls, the Awami League dispensation must deliver on this key poll promise.
Even more than specific individuals, the barbarity of 1971 was perpetuated by a heinous religio-political ideology that militates against humanism. The Jamaat trial will hold that ideology accountable and shame it in the eyes of the world. Perhaps that is the essence of Mritunjay Devvrat’s ‘Children of War’. For those who forget history are condemned to repeat it.
Read mor ehere — http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/talkingturkey/children-of-war-why-we-should-never-forget-the-genocide-of-1971/