Archive for the ‘Al Badr’ Category

Martyrs, mortuaries and Al-Badri zikr.

June 5, 2009

By Jamal Hasan

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The path to freedom for any nation could be long and winding.  In case of Bangladesh, it was rather bloody and painful.  This is why the period of nine months was not only an epic of an arduous struggle but it also had been a grim reminder of manmade human tragedy – a genocide.

Because of the inept management of the nascent republic, we lost many of the histories during the first few years after the post liberation period. Unfortunately, some of our patriotic citizens indulged themselves into shallow self-serving activities. Consequently, the issue of war crime and collaboration were left in the back burner.

There was a blueprint developed by Pak army at the fag end of the war in 1971 to annihilate the cream of the Bengali intellectuals.  It was chalked out at the army headquarter in Pindi.  That could serve the two prong policies.  Primarily, the Bengalis would never rise to demand an equal share because of there would be nobody to challenge the Oligarch.  Secondly, the influential cultural elites of the Bengali society in Pakistani rulers’ eyes were already proven to be “Hinducized” and “anti- Islamic.”  Trimming of them from the rest of the society could pave the way of reprogramming the general mass in the desired direction. Jamat-i-Islami and its military wings Al-Badr and Razakars fit into the right auxiliary role of the ruthless military junta.

After the 1975 changeover of Bangladesh, the country not only did lose a corrupt inefficient government, but the nation also lost the feeble possibility of restoring the history in its proper perspective.  The most devastating outcome of the changeover was the return of the defeated forces of 1971 in all nook and corners of the Bangladesh society.  This force, in the first place, was not supposed to be underestimated.  After August 15 of 1975, in a favorable equilibrium of the Cold War tussle the killer-collaborators rose from the mortuaries of the martyrs.  This evil force was shrewd enough to clean up any evidence of their misdeeds.  First thing they did to network among the like-minded people of the ministries, media and the court systems.  As a result, most of the documents about the killers and collaborators were systematically purged.  Consequently, liberation war related valuable papers, documentary movies, speeches of leaders, etc., were all trashed. 

Evidences of war criminals in courts were gone with the wind. How did the information and historical documentation were destroyed can be cited by looking into one organization, namely, Bangladesh Betar. The government owned national broadcasting media started a systematic purge to get rid of anything to do with Bangabandhu or activities during the pre-liberation days of the Bangladesh under occupation (those were the historical evidence of Pakistani collaborators).  It is quite a tedious effort to clear the transcription service or the archives of Bangladesh Radio of the “undesired” records.  After the changeover of 15th August, 1975, one radio staff assigned to the Dhaka station by the name Shamsul Alam (of Shadheen Bangla Betar Kendro fame) was transferring Bangabandhu’s speeches from tape to tape.  It is not unusual for radio archivists to preserve or dub historical records that could be a normal routine work.  Some jawans posted at the radio station heard Mujib’s voice coming out from a studio.  And then all hell broke loose.  To this new breed of Bengali army jawans, Bangabandhu’s bojrokontho was as repugnant as it could appear to the barbaric Pakistani occupation force.  The jawans without giving a chance for an explanation tied up Shamsul Alam and tortured him brutally. Later on, the systematic purge continued to rid of Mujib’s voice from the radio and television stations from entire Bangladesh. This is why someone willing to make any documentary on our liberation struggle had to go to India or Great Britain as primary sources.  What a shame!

The ghosts of 1971 could resurrect because of the seed of treachery within the Awami League, the Mushtaque coterie.  Then comes a misguided freedom fighter whose regime basically stabbed in the back of the spirit of liberation. During the martial rule of this freedom fighter, Golam Azam and his cohorts got a new lease of life.  Later on, the final blow came from another army strongman whose activity during the war period was not only questionable – it was in fact unpardonable.

Awami League primarily failed to keep the spirit of 1971 alive because it failed to look into its own turf to scrutiny the activity of its leaders.  Although Khandaker Mushtaque’s overzealous move for a rapprochement with the Yahya regime was tantamount to treason, he remained an influential policymaker of the party even after Bangabandhu’s arrival from the Pakistani jail.  Once a traitor, always a traitor.  He proved that word one more time.  His later political position showed that he was nothing but a “Yahya’s mole” in the Awami party hierarchy.

The exile government of Bangladesh had to go through a number of hurdles.  On one hand, they had to deal with Indian government, the undue interference of RAW, and then the “Yahya moles.”  The freedom fighters were not only fighting the Pakistani soldiers, they had to deal with the internal tension between the so-called Mujib Bahini members and others.  Not only that, the ultra left pro-Peking armed cadres often acted as nothing less than enemies.

Considering the open season for the heinous Al-Badrs during the time of 1976 to 1995, we cannot expect to find too much of any war crime related incriminating evidences from the governmental or semi governmental institutions.  We see a resurgence of 1971 activism worldwide now.  Many of ours young folks are trying to track the truth from the possible sources.  Unfortunately, more and more are coming back empty handed. Talk about the Home Ministry, Ministry of Law or Ministry of Foreign Affairs?  You would hardly find any desired documents that may be crucial to making a research paper or a documentary movie on the 1971 genocide.  Hail Mushtaque, Zia, and Ershad.  Bangladeshis would live another hundreds of years, but those leaders would be remembered as the notable patronizers to efface the history from the collective consciousness of an emerging nation.  Anybody who is interested to dig into the proceedings of war criminals held in Bangladesh during 1972-1974 – I have some news for you. There is slim chance, as the criminals did not waste any time to selectively purge all items that could implicate them in the future.

To some people Zahir Raihan’s disappearance from this mortal world was as mysterious as Agatha Christie’s novel.  Alamgir Kabir, a left leaning filmmaker brought that subject a few times during meetings with Dhaka University audiences.  He hinted that some leaders of Awami League might have been involved in Mr. Raihan’s disappearance.  The fact is Zahir Raihan compiled a good research material on Bengali intellectual killing.  His brother Shahidullah Kaiser’s death in the hand of the Al-Badr criminals made him a valiant crusader.  The government of the newly independent nation showed a flip-flop tendency to resolve the issue of intellectual killing at the time.  This made many Shaheed families quite outraged.  Under the chair of Zahir Raihan, a citizens’ enquiry commission was formed on December 29, 1971. Mr. Zahir Raihan took a rather risky step in visiting the killing field in Mirpur where his brother’s dead body was found.  His escorts were a bunch of Bangladesh army personnel belonging to Gen. Shafiullah’s (at the time of
different rank) troop.  They encountered a barrage of gunfire from a group of unknown plainclothesmen.  Mr. Zahir Raihan probably got into the crossfire and in all likelihood he took some bullets and died on the spot.  Nevertheless, the mystery still lingers and so does the speculation.

I already mentioned that even in the leadership of the exile government there were fifth columnists of the genocidal army junta. Also, in regard to prosecuting the high profile killers and collaborators, the overall track record of the Awami League as a ruling party was not all that good.  In many cases, the ringleaders of the notorious Al-Badr and Razakar took refuge in their Awami relatives’ shelters.  The systematic nepotism was rampant.  That is why it is hardly surprising that such high profile intellectual killers like Chowdhury Moinuddin or Ashrafuzzaman Khan fled the country so easily and so stealthily.  Today, they are living in the safe haven of western societies.  And in the whole world this scenario is possible because of only reality – “after all we are Bangalis.”  Zahir Raihan’s beloved brother Shahidullah Kaiser’s killer A.B.M. Khaleq Majumdar was tried and was found guilty. However, the judicial process was not knitted efficiently. It is possible, Khaleq Majumdar can still provide a treasure trove of information on the blueprint of the intellectual killing. But as New York activist Ms. Farida Majid wrote in a recent article that as there are criminals roaming around streets as legitimate politicians (Jamat-i-Islami is a legitimate political party in Bangladesh) there is no chance of a genuine war crime trial.  In other words, “Bichare’r bani neerobe nivrite kande”.

Nobody knows the whereabouts of Ashrafuzzman Khan’s infamous diary. This notorious Al-Badr operative kept a diary where with his own hand writings he wrote names of Bengali intellectuals who would be slaughtered by him.  A brother of Munir Chowdhury, Kabir Chowdhury is one of the entries.  Munir Chowdhury’s role during Ayub era was controversial.  Many of the Bengali intellectuals have not so glorious past that is true.  For example, Syed Ali Ahsan was the Bengali translator of Ayub Khan’s controversial book, “Friends, not masters.” It is well known among the people of that era.  The veteran journalist Abdul Ghaffar Chowdhury also wrote about it.  The same Syed Ali Ahsan joined the liberation movement and crossed the border in 1971.  He was a regular participant in Shadheen Bangla Betar Kendro. Professor Munir Chowdhury was a pure Bangalee whose students knew it very well.  That includes his own Al-Badr affiliated students as well.  I read a commentary by a reader in the NFB Readers Opinion Column on June 23, 2000.  Regarding the death of Munir Chowdhury, the writer wanted to make a point by decimating truth.  He wrote,  “The fact that RAW-operated Mukti Bahini killed Prof. Choudhury can be concluded from the writings of his sister Dr. Neelima Ibrahim…” The fact is Dr. Neelima Ibrahim was born as a Hindu and she is not related to late Munir Chowdhury.  Now you see, there is now a strange disinformation campaign to set a revisionist history in motion.  The book titled “Genocide ’71: an account of the killers and collaborators”  (Publisher: Muktijuddha Chetana Bikash Kendra) gives a gory detail of an eyewitness to a mass grave.  Hamida Rahman giving her account of her visit to the mass grave site at Katasur writes, ” …They were lying there, one after another. Next to this group of bodies lay the corpses of two men; the heart had been torn out from one of the bodies.  This body was that of Dr. Rabbi.  On a nearby stack were the bodies of Yakub Ali, Chairman of Ramna Union, and Sirajuddin Hossain of Ittefaq.  Someone next to me said the Munier Chowdhury’s body had also been found here.  Kabir Chowdhury had come in the morning and identified the body.”  Kabir Chowdhury is still alive and is very active in rekindling martyrs’ memories.  He can testify to any public forum if his brother’s body was found in the general mass grave set by the Al-Badr killers.

Unfortunately, we do not have any resourceful war criminal hunter like Simon Wiesenthal amongst us.  However, we have plenty of young activists who want to know the truth and the closure of the genocide of 1971. When Great Britain’s Channel Four went to Bangladesh in 1995 to make a historical documentary, the members of the Projonmo Ekattur came to assist them in all phases of production.  Many of the members of this group lost their parents in the hands of the notorious Al-Badr murderers and to their surrogates.  After the documentary titled “War Crime File” was telecast, there was a big uproar in the western world.  Viewers for the first time became aware of three Al-Badr killers’ presence in U.K. The producer did enough research to complete the project.  There were interviews of the victim families; there were narratives of eyewitnesses.  The British Home Ministry was touched by the shocking revelation.  When the final paper flow went to Bangladesh to deport the killers back to their country of origin, there was an interesting development.  It became more evident that some individuals in Bangladesh Foreign Ministry were deliberately sabotaging the deportation proceedings of the war criminals.  Does it sound strange?  Not at all! I hope the readers will agree with me.  Ashrafuzzman Khan’s diary’s pages were depicted in a recently made Bangladesh Television documentary titled “Ganoadalot.”  This Al-Badr ringleader was accused of killing seven intellectuals by his own hand.  In a Bangladesh court, the driver Mofizuddin gave the testimony in which he narrated the gory details of Ashrafuzzaman’s misdeeds of 197.  Today, the same Ashrafuzzaman Khan is living in the safe haven of USA.  Many of the U.S. law enforcement agencies are supposedly aware of the criminal.  The strong pro-Jamati lobby hidden in different ministries of Bangladesh would definitely try its best to squash any attempt for prosecuting this notorious Bangladeshi-American war criminal.

As most of the valuable documentations have gone down the drain, it seems as if the only way to preserve some of the historical gems is to interview the people who witnessed the tragedy of this great proportion.  The Al-Badri zikr has the catastrophic power of tainting the whole history making process.  And consequently the history may fall prey to a revisionist domain of distortion and disfiguration.

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Originally published in News from Bangladesh in its Editorial and Commentary section on  June 27, 2000.

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