Afsan Chowdhury, a renowned researcher of the history of Bangladesh's Liberation War, has said that a case against the Pakistan government should be filed with the International Crimes Tribunal for committing crimes against peace in 1971. Pak government, its army and some of its political parties should be the accused in the case, he added.
The then leaders of Pakistan, including their top army officials should also be accused of committing crimes against peace. Pakistan as a country committed crimes against peace by launching war against an unarmed people.
They certainly committed crimes against humanity but crimes against peace too, which is also a crime, Chowdhury further said.
While talking to the Daily Observer in an exclusive interview, the historian said the Pakistanis had imposed the war on the people of Bangladesh but this conflict was inevitable because the people of Bangladesh and the people of Pakistan emerged from two different nationalist movements.
"Bengali Muslims and non-Bengali Muslims shared religious identity and politics but it was not a single monolithic nationalism. Pakistani nationalism history didn't include Bengali Muslims."
1971 was not just a war of independence, it was much more than a military conflict. It was a struggle for liberation of the ordinary people of Bangladesh. "A political movement widened to social liberation struggle but proper historic documentation is missing as our focus is usually on the political and military dimension of 1971," Afsan Chowdhury went on.
"We do not have much research on the experience of ordinary people. We have limited '1971' someway. History research has mostly left out social, economic, cultural and other activities that make a liberation struggle possible."
Participation of people in war or a people's war means multiple dimensions, but it's not much there in Bangladesh's history as there is a lack of understanding, Chowdhury said, adding that the social system is such that ordinary people, which includes an ordinary soldier, are left out from the pages of history. "It has become a history of elites largely."
In any war, the poor suffer the most. Expectations vary according to class and social positions. However, present Bangladesh was won through the joint efforts of people from all classes but the benefits have gone to a narrow band of powerful people.
"We are quite unaware of history of the poor and the marginalised. This is our nationalist history's biggest gap."
Replying to a question he said, "One of the greatest shortcomings in the perception of our fight for Independence is our failure to recognize the role of women in our Liberation War. The role of women is largely ignored, denied and misconstrued in our mainstream history. This is because of our general tendency to think of war only in terms of physical fighting and exchange of gunshots. But our liberation war or any war for that matter, which involves the entire population of the country, wins through the contribution of every group of people. It is a struggle through which a united nation asserted its aspiration for freedom. So everyone should be part of this history, but particularly women."
"Afsan Chowdhury worked as a researcher in the Muktijuddho Dolilpatra Project under Hasan Hafizur Rahman which produced 15 volumes of documents (from 1978 to 1984). He produced several radio series on 1971 history for the BBC and has edited and co-authored a 4- volume history of the liberation war titled, "Bangladesh 1971", published in 2007. He produced a video on the role of women in 1971, "Tahader Juddho" in 2001. He is currently completing a research project on "Villages in 1971" and teaches History of Bangladesh at BRAC University