February 20, 2013
The war Bangladesh can never forget
Philip Hensher in The Independent:
Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka is a noisy, exciting city, full of energy and argument. The massive chaos of its constantly stationary traffic is often riven by protests, strikes, marches. These can be on any number of grievances. But this is a country driven by a national agony at its creation which has never been fully addressed. The protest now happening outside the national museum is of an unprecedented nature, and on an unprecedented scale.
Since 5 February, Bangladesh has been transfixed by this ongoing, immense protest. Hundreds of thousands have occupied Shahbagh Square in protest at a verdict passed by the International Crimes Tribunal on war crimes committed during the genocide which preceded the founding of the country in 1971. One of those found guilty, Abdul Kalam Azad, was sentenced to death. Another, however, Abdul Quader Mollah, the assistant secretary general of a Muslim party which collaborated with the genocidaires, the Jamaat–e-Islami, was given life imprisonment. The protests which followed, and are still continuing, are led by intelligent and liberal people; they are, however, calling with great urgency for the death penalty to be passed on Mollah and other convicted war criminals.
The genocide is still too little known about in the West. It is, moreover, the subject of shocking degrees of denial among partisan polemicists and manipulative historians. Before 1971, Bangladesh was East Pakistan, detached from the main body of the country. The founders had believed that the unity of religion would bind it together. Over time, however, the incompatibility of secular cultures had grown overwhelming. Parts of the Pakistani rulers regarded the Bengalis with open racist contempt.
Posted by S. Abbas Raza at 12:52 PM | Permalink