This article belongs to With a Grain of Piquant Salt column.
I am always curious about one historical anomaly. Why is the Bangladeshi Genocide never considered in the same light as that of Rwanda, Darfur, Southern Sudan, Congo, Cambodia or other genocides? Why does it not even get a fraction of the attention paid to the Palestinian Question, the Kosovo Question, the Lebanese Question or a host of other minority based problems? I can only point to four reasons why this never hit the headlines. First is that the genocide was carried out by an American Ally. Second, the country never was part of the American Interest. Third, it was carried out by Muslims on other fellow Muslims. Fourth, both Bangladesh and Pakistan did not really show much interest in pushing for this to be resolved. Between these four issues, nobody cared or even still cares about the Bangladeshi genocide.
But then, I am biased and I have to admit that right off the bat. I am a Hindu, and my roots are from Bangladesh (my father was a refugee from erstwhile East Pakistan many moons ago). So while Hindus were targeted solely for being Hindus, Muslims were targeted for being intellectuals or just wanting their rights, so I am connected to Bangladesh by virtue of language, cuisine, family, history, culture, geography, religion and a whole lot more. I know fully well that Hindus have been significantly and seriously ethnically cleansed from Bangladesh (and from Pakistan and from Kashmir) but they do not matter in the greater scheme of things of the international and the national grand Poo-Bahs. Nobody cares much for them. One of my childhood memories is about the 1971 Bangladeshi refugees fighting over left over food thrown into garbage bins but let us not go there for now. So this is a topic which is dear to my heart and I might be a bit more emotional than normal and I really don't want to do an Alex Haley of Roots fame here.
Having said that, the history of the 1971 war and genocide is pretty well known and I do not want to reiterate it here. I quote from the report by the International Commission of Jurists here: "a campaign of genocide involved. . . the indiscriminate killing of civilians, including women and children and the poorest and weakest members of the community; the attempt to exterminate or drive out of the country a large part of the Hindu population; the arrest, torture and killing of Awami League activists and students, professionals, business men and other potential leaders among the Bengalis; the raping of women; the destruction of villages and towns."
According to an excellent and thought provoking recent paper by Donald Beacher ('The politics of genocide scholarship : the case of Bangladesh', Patterns of Prejudice, 2007, 41:5, 467 – 492)many scholars bluntly even denied that any genocide took place. He says that compared to the Cambodian Genocide where a similar number of people were killed, "no ideological or partisan faction in the United States has stood to gain much from the study of the Bangladesh genocide." Think about it, Pakistan, that rogue country responsible for this genocide is an ally of USA!
It is still ruled by the same Pakistani Army, which is very much supporting the so-called "War on Terror". Pakistan is still the primary base of most of the terrorists, they were either trained, educated, born in or have links to Pakistan. This "land of the pure" (an ironical name for Pakistan) was responsible. It has lost effective control over large swathes over its public and real life space to the fundamentalists. It has carried out massacres (some say it's also genocide, but that's a bit debatable) in Baluchistan and Karachi. And this is a USA ally! So why on earth would American politicians, media or academics be interested in investigating it any further (specially compared to the Cambodian Genocide)?
Mind you, it seems like most of those guilty are easily travelling in and out of USA, their children are living in USA and some have even settled in the USA. A few of the guilty have been punished, but no-where close to the number that should be! The presence of the ICC, Nuremberg tribunals, Rwanda Tribunals, the various tribunals in 'The Hague' is basically a slap on the face on all Bangladeshis. So what's the big deal about Bangladesh? It does not have oil or gas, it is next to a nice polite big democratic state, it is full of very poor people and as an aside just produces lots of cheap clothing. So there is no American interest what-so-ever in Bangladesh, which basically tells one that the American interest is highly selective. What do you call somebody who says: "do as I tell you and not as I do? " Or what is a person called who says one thing and does another? Or what about somebody who is extremely moralistic say about prostitution, but turns around and is caught kerb crawling?
Remember this was Muslims killing other fellow Muslim brothers. Take the matter of this little Bangladeshi Genocide. Do you hear anything from the OIC? Or the Arab League? Which OIC country has raised this in the UN General Assembly or in the UN Human Rights Council? If it has been raised or sponsored by one of these members, then well, I am quite surprised and I would most certainly apologise, but I couldn't find any such instance. Egypt can do chemical warfare on Yemen and not a peep is heard. (See here for another example) Iran and Iraq can kill millions of each others people and innocent whistles while fingers are pointed to USA. Iran kills literally millions in the Islamic revolution and it's an internal matter. Sudan kills hundreds of thousands of Muslims and it is a Zionist plot. Indonesia kills thousands of its own citizens and it is wondered about of it actually happened? Syria tops thirty thousand of its own citizens and hey, they deserved it, they were bad boys. Egypt ran concentration camps for the Muslim Brothers and other opposition members and they are actually holiday camps. Al Qaeda and Iraqis kill thousands of their own people and it is not really that important and anyway is the fault of the west. If somebody else had done so, then the sky would have fallen down (just compare the resolutions in the OIC for Kashmir, Palestine, Thailand, Iraq, Lebanon, Bosnia, Albania etc. and the above).
Bangladesh is not interested as the Army and a very large proportion of Bangladeshi society have bought into the argument that the liberation of Bangladesh was wrong, it was all a Hindu Bania plot, it was all the fault of the secular Awami League, the west was involved as it's a war against Islam, we were not religious enough, let bygones be bygones, and it was a mistake which will be rectified eventually. Not only that, quite a lot of the political, social and defence folks are elbow deep in blood, and what remains is generally corrupt left, right and centre. There is a small, brave and vocal minority which is trying to keep the flame and the memory alive, but they are vanishingly small. They are pushing for the current military caretaker government to punish some of the really visible culprits, but I am afraid I am a bit too cynical. Mind you, the first amendment to the 1973 constitution in Article 47 provides the Government with unlimited powers to prosecute the war criminals. The fact that nobody has used it leads me to the cynicism. Still, best of luck to them!!
Pakistan, on the other hand, has a very tiny constituency for punishing the guilty. Remember it was a civil war but in a separate geography - far away. So it wasn't a South Africa or even a Spanish type of situation. The schism runs deep, the Army is not particularly from outer space or another world or even another country. The Army is Pakistan and Pakistan is its Army. Hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis participated in the genocide. The rot spread deep. If you had gone after the culprits, the heart of the country would have been held up to trial and it would have imploded. Even now it would implode, but then the propensity of Pakistanis to be kicked around by their Army is legendary - the army steals from them, murders them, rules over them, tells them that they are useless and incapable of ruling themselves and so on and so forth. So to actually expect any form of Pakistani agency or group to push for punishment is frankly laughable. So just join the majority and close your eyes and hope it did not really occur.
Remember, when you treat your own people so cheaply, others will also treat YOU equally cheaply and you dare not say anything when you are silent in the face of your own genocide. For all those big fat mustachioed blokes who are busy blowing hard about it being a Hindu, Zionist, Western, Crusader, Buddhist, or what have you plot against Islam, remember what you did to your own people. I was thinking about a good quote to end this but then thought, the situation is like the wolf in the cry wolf fable crying wolf when it is wolfed down by a tiger. How many will listen to that wolf and come to its rescue?
All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!