As far as human history is concerned, the event of the killing of intellectuals dates back to Socratic times. Socrates (c.470-399) himself was wrongly convicted by Athenian Assembly, and sentenced to death by drinking hemlock for his compelling personality. The Polish astronomer Copernicus (1473-1543) faced violent opposition from the Church for his heterodox thoughts. The Italian philosopher and logician Bruno (1548-1600) was burnt at the stake for his unorthodox views. The Italian astronomer and physicist Galileo (1564-1642) was forced to recant his views, and was placed under house arrest for the remainder of his life by the religious authorities. A series of examples of intellectuals persecuted and killed for their unconventional role can be cited, but what happened to our intellectuals during the Liberation War in 1971 bears no comparison in the whole gamut of human history.
Intellectuals are the best brains of a country and the conscience of a nation. They are the friends, philosophers, and guides of the people. They are connected with the ability to think in a logical way, and are determined to get at the truth. They espouse certain ideals, and keep the torch of idealism alive. Therefore, the vested interests are always the antithesis of the
Our great Liberation War was an inevitable outcome of our social, economic, cultural, and political awareness generated by our intellectuals and quickened by the political leaders. Our Independence intellectuals were true intellectuals who, by Saidian (of Edward W Said) definition, were "individuals endowed with a faculty for representing, embodying, articulating, a message, a view, an attitude, philosophy, an opinion to, as well as for a public? [and] whose place is ?to confront orthodoxy and dogma?".The Independence intellectuals too confronted the orthodoxy and dogma of the anti-liberation elements and hence, their progressive ideals and actions earned them the enmity of the people who stood against the Liberation War.
It was December 1971. The Pakistan occupation army was coming near to a crushing defeat. The raiding forces were on the verge of turning tail. Sensing an impending danger, they hit upon a wicked plan to cripple our social and cultural advancement by killing the standard bearers of our country -- our formidable intellectuals. They shot the last bolt. On December 14, the Pakistan Army let loose the paramilitary units to kill the intellectuals. The distinguished Bengali intellectuals including poets, litterateurs, journalists, artists, physicians, engineers, lawyers, educationists, philosophers were brought from their houses, and killed at Rayerbazar badhya-bhumi (killing ground) and Mirpur in Gestapo manner.
The way those eminent intellectuals of the soil were killed was diabolical.
They were rounded up like cattle, bound, blindfolded, and led to torture chambers at Mirpur, Muhammadpur, Nakhalpara, Razarbag, and finally taken to Rayerbazar, where they were gunned down like sitting ducks.Some were buried alive, and some were found with their eyes plucked. Many of the distorted corpses were barely recognizable. From the badhya-bhumi, the dead bodies of Professor Abul Kalam Azad, Dr Fazle Rabby, Dr Alim Chowdhury, Dr A Khair, and Dr Kamal Uddin could be identified, while those of Shahidullah Kaiser, Professor Munier Chowdhury, Professor Mofazzal Haider Chowdhury, Professor Giashuddin Ahmed and many others could not be recognized.
We have heard of the blood-curdling story of atrocity of the gas chambers of the Nazis. We could not even think of the recurrence of such a heinous act. Therefore, we wondered at the harrowing fact, and felt numb with terrible shock. The whole nation became mute and motionless. We suffered too heavy losses!
The paramilitary force Al-Badr, which was formed in September 1971 under the auspices of General Niazi, chief of the Eastern Command of the Pakistan Army, was the instigator of that hideous massacre. Their objective was to strike panic into the people by abduction and killing. It was the military adviser to the so-called Governor, Major General Rao Forman Ali who masterminded the whole conspiracy to extinguish the intellectuals and the higher educated class. If they had had one week time more, they would have killed all the Bengali intellectuals, which was a part of their wicked scheme. The Badr force was in fact, a special terrorist faction of the then Jamaat-e-Islami led by Moududi, Ghulam Azam, and Abdur Rahim.
As far as perpetration during Liberation War is concerned, Ghulam Azam was the real supremo. He was a party, directly and indirectly, to the atrocious genocide, the rapes, and the molestation of millions of Bengali women, and the most barbaric act of killing hundreds of pro-liberation intellectuals. In these vile occurrences, he was assisted by his top associates, Nizami and Mujaheed. Their participation in the intellectuals killing mission has a host of proofs. For instance, in a picture recovered from the archives of Pakistan military intelligence, Ghulam Azam along with his chief accomplice Nizami is seen to hand the list of the names of pro-liberation Bengali intellectuals over to Pakistani generals (The New York Times, 30, July, 1971). He was the ringleader of 70,000 Razakars working under different factions with different names.
Another camp of the non-Bengali Muslims was added to them, and the combined force forged some paramilitary units, which were trained by the Pakistan army. The paramilitary units named Al-Badr and Al-Shams played the key role in the heinous task of intellectuals killing. In June 1971, the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Sydney Schanberg made a candid report on that. In his words: "Throughout East Pakistan the army is training new paramilitary home guards or simply arming 'loyal' civilians, some of whom are formed into peace committees. Besides, Biharis and other non-Bengali, Urdu-speaking Moslems, the recruits include the small minority of Bengali Moslems who have long supported the army-adherents of the right-wing religious parties such as the Muslim League and Jamaat-e-Islami led by Ghulam Azam and Matiur Rahman Nizami. These groups collectively known as the Razakars, the paramilitary units spread terror throughout the Bengali population. With their local knowledge the Razakars were an invaluable tool in the Pakistani Army's arsenal of genocide." After Schanberg made a number of eyewitness accounts for the New York Times, the Pakistan Army expelled him from the country on June 30, 1971.
A careful investigation into the incidents reveals the fact that the killing occurred schematically in three phases. The first phase includes the random killing of the intellectuals until the first week of April 1971 in different places of the country, including the universities. On the night of 25 March 1971, ten most distinguished intellectuals were killed at Dhaka University. The killing was a part of the genocide launched by the Pakistan Occupation Army. The planned killing had not yet started.
Secondly, Jama'at-e-Islami as part of its party policy had planned to kill all progressive intellectuals. The orthodox, unscrupulous, greedy, and extremist intellectuals joined hands with Jama'at, who carried on with the killings from April to December 1971.
The third phase included the intellectuals who were killed from the last week of November to the last week of December. Being the victims of a deliberate international conspiracy, they were killed in an operation directly conducted by the Pakistani generals. Among the martyrs of the third phase, some were the targets of only Jama'at, some of international conspiracy, and some of both.
The leaders of Jama'at-e-Islami submitted their intellectuals' extermination plan to Rao Forman Ali. The unprincipled anti-liberation intellectuals joined that conspiracy, and helped the Pakistani Army to locate the targeted intellectuals. To execute the plan for their abduction, some disgruntled university students and journalists were used. Considering the abduction operation unbecoming of the regular Army, Rao Forman Ali made use of the Badr force in the killing of the intellectuals.
Immediately after submitting the killing plan, Ghulam Azam, along with the chief of the Razakars, Mohammad Yunus, and the liaison officer of the Peace Committee, Mahbubur Rahman Gurha, went to see the training of the Razakar and Al-Badr at Mohammadpur Physical Training College. From then on, the Student Sangha all over the country was transformed into Al-Badr and in the last week of November (1971) and first half of December (1971), the list of the intellectuals was handed over to them.
On December 4, 1971, began the imposed curfew and black out to pave the way for abduction. The preparation for abduction of the intellectuals extensively started from December 10. Amid curfew and black out, a Badr bus, stained with mud, picked up the listed intellectuals from their residences.They were taken to the Al-Badr headquarter at the Physical Training College for interrogation and persecution. At dead of night, they were taken to Rayerbazar brickfield and killed. Another killing also took place at Mirpur.
The trend of thekilling of pro-liberation reformist intellectuals in our country by the extremist and reactionary forces has not come to a halt even forty-three years after Independence. Many have already been killed and many are threatened with extinction. They feel a growing sense of alarm. The successors to the defeated anti-liberation forces seem to have vowed to avenge themselves on the pro-liberation intellectuals. This is a sad reflection on our society today, and a serious cause for
If we are to ensure the promotion of the ideals of our great Liberation War, and the furtherance of our national development, we cannot but be enlightened by the ideals of the martyred intellectuals, who were killed a few hours or days or months before the final victory in the Liberation War. Among all the sacrifices made on the altar of our Independence, the martyred intellectuals reign supreme.r
(Today, 14 December, is Martyred Intellectuals Day)
writes fiction and columns, and teaches English literature at Kushtia Islamic University. Email: [email protected]