Bangladesh liberation war: No full list of martyred intellectuals yet

Tapos Kanti Das | Published: 00:00, Dec 14,2019 | Updated: 00:15, Dec 14,2019


Forty-eight years after the country became independent, the nation still waits for a complete list of the intellectuals who were killed by the Pakistani occupation forces and their local collaborators as the successive governments were reluctant to prepare the list.

Family members of martyred intellectuals alleged that the nation had no such list due to sheer negligence of the governments.

Referring to the liberation war affairs minister’s February 6, 2014 speech in the Jatiya Sangsad that a list would be published by June 2014, they hoped that the government would prepare a proper and comprehensive list of the martyred intellectuals and publish it through gazette notification.

Shaheed Buddhijibi Koshgrantha, a biographical publication on martyred intellectuals published by the Bangla Academy, has defined who were considered as intellectuals.

According to the publication, writers, scientists, artistes, singers, teachers from primary schools to universities, researchers, journalists, lawyers, physicians, engineers, architects, sculptors, government and non-government staff, people involved in film making and theatre, and social and cultural activists constituted intellectuals.

When their defeat appeared imminent towards the end of the independence war, the Pakistani occupation forces and their local auxiliaries Razakar, Al-Badr and Al-Shams militias abducted members of the Bengali intelligentsia blindfolded, with their hands tied, from their houses to camps or other places, who never came back.

Family members of slain intellectuals also expressed dissatisfaction as there was almost no progress in bringing back to the country two absconding condemned killers of intellectuals – Chowdhury Mueenuddin and Ashrafuzzaman Khan – to execute the International Crimes Tribunal-2 sentence passed against them on November 3, 2013.

Mueen is now residing in the United Kingdom and Ashraf in the United States. The tribunal sentenced the two Al-Badr bosses to death finding them guilty of killing intellectuals at the fag end of the Independence War.

Asked for comment, liberation war affairs minister AKM Mozammel Huq said, ‘We have a list of martyred intellectuals, but that is not a complete one.’ 

The minister said that they did not have any plan to publish the list in a separate gazette at the moment.

‘Our moves to bring Ashraf and Mueen back to the country are under way,’ he, however, said.

While the liberation war affairs ministry has no complete list of the martyred intellectuals, figures provided by various government and private documents range between 232 and 1,111.

But independence war researchers believe that even the figure 1,111 is not correct and it should be 10 times this number.

‘What instances would we leave for the new generations if there is no comprehensive list of the martyred intellectuals? They were the bright sons and daughters of the soil. Why should there be no gazette on them? These [issues] should be resolved,’ daughter of a slain intellectual said.

Roquaiya Hasina Neely, daughter of martyred Dhaka University English teacher SMA Rashidul Hasan, talking to New Age also questioned the government’s sincerity to bring back Ashraf and Mueen who were convicted six years ago.

‘All pay homage to the martyred intellectuals . . . I don’t find any conviction in it while there is no gazette on martyred intellectuals and while killers are yet to be executed,’ she resented.

She is, however, satisfied that war criminals and killers of intellectuals were tried and the courts sentenced them.

Shyamoli Nasrin Chowdhury, widow of eminent eye specialist Alim Chowdhury murdered by Al-Badr members, said, ‘We have been waiting for a comprehensive list of the martyred intellectuals and a gazette notification to this effect.’

Both Roquaiya and Shyamoli hoped that the government would take necessary steps to bring Ashraf and Mueen back to the country without further delay in order to execute the sentence against them.

The photos, names, ages and nationality of Ashraf and Mueen, who left the country in the early 80s, have been circulated in the red list of wanted persons on the official Interpol website.

Besides Ashraf and Mueen, the two International Crimes Tribunals have so far convicted six other anti-independence collaborators for killing and torturing intellectuals, according to ICT prosecution officials.

They were then Convention Muslim League leader Fazlul Quader Chowdhury’s son Salauddin Quader Chowdhury, CML leader Syed Mohammad Qaisar and Jamaat leaders Motiur Rahman Nizami, Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed, Md Kamaruzzaman and ATM Azharul Islam.

Of them, Salauddin, Nizami, Mojaheed and Kamaruzzaman were executed and the appeals from condemned Qaisar and Azhar were still pending with the Appellate Division.

Members on Buddhijibi Nidhan Tathyanusandhan Committee, a body to research killing of intellectuals set up in 1972, made a list of 20,000 of the finest minds of the nation who were killed.

Shaheed Buddhijibi Koshgrantha, reprinted in 1994, put the number of intellectuals executed then at 232, but said that the list was neither complete nor comprehensive.

The book defined martyrs as the people who had either been killed by the Pakistani military or their collaborators or gone missing between March 25, 1971 and January 31, 1972.

‘Bangladesh,’ a documentary published by the government in 1972, said that the Pakistani occupation forces  and the local death squads killed 1,109 — 21 university teachers, 59 college teachers, 270 secondary school teachers, 637 primary school teachers, 50 physicians, 41 lawyers and 13 journalists and 16 others.

Banglapedia, or the National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh, estimated that 1,111 intellectuals were killed.

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