Monday, January 11, 2016, Poush 28, 1422 BS, Rabiul Awal 29, 1437 Hijri

Between The Lines   
Crimes against women in '71 must be atoned for
Shamsul Huda
Published :Monday, 11 January, 2016,  Time : 12:00 AM  View Count : 93
After seven decades of the World War II, Japan has expiated the sins committed by its imperial army and come up with reparations of over Tk 65.50 crore ($8.30 million) to heal the 'psychological wounds' of 'sex slaves', although only 46 out of an estimated 200,000 'comfort women' mostly from South Korea, China, Taiwan, Netherlands and the Philippines are alive by now. It proves that justice is delayed, but not denied stirring debates why Bangladesh isn't raising strong voices at international levels to demand for the punishment and compensations for similar and identical crimes perpetrated by the Pakistan army and their collaborators against its women and girls during the nine-month-long nightmare in 1971.
Crimes of Pakistan army against Bangladeshi women aged between 11 and 60 were even worse than those committed by the Japanese. According to varied estimates, the number of Bangladeshi women who were raped and killed is said to double the number of second world war's 'comfort women' and they were not only enjoyed, they were brutally tortured, their breasts were pierced, their genitals were torn off and they were tied to the trees for gang rapes by the sadist Pakistan army.
Pakistan army virtually went berserk during the period of liberation war of Bangladesh. The worse was that even men and their own women were not spared. A leaked secret circular issued by the then Pakistani General Amir Abdullah Khan Niazi to his divisional commanders revealed the facts that West Pakistani women were also raped. And there are evidences that Bangladeshi males were abused in the army checkpoints when they were halted and frisked to ensure whether they were circumcised to prove their identity as Muslims or Hindus.
Soon after the independence, Bangladesh government was baffled what to do with the completely ostracized girls and women, many of them were pregnant and they refused to go back home with the stigma of being held captive in the Pakistani rape camps. They were suffering physical disabilities and emotional problems that prevented them from living normal lives. There was a conspicuous number of unwanted pregnancies ranging from 70,000 to 250,000, according to the statistics of the government and a report of the then Centre for the Reproductive Law and Policy. To deal with the touchy situation, a government-mandated 'victim relief programme' was launched with the support of the World Health Organization and International Planned Parenthood Federation, with the aim of performing abortions and there were reportedly 170,000 abortion cases and the births of 30,000 war babies, most of them were later adopted by the families in Canada, France, Sweden and the Netherlands.
Soon after the country's independence, when the state of rape victims was extremely unconscionable and their woes and agonies echoed the country's sky, the father of the nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman came forward as a rescuer. He showed fatherly affection and love to these war victims calling them as his daughters when their own family members, near and dear ones, abandoned them citing their inability to reunite with them due to social barriers. The father of the nation stood by them and asked the communities and families to accept the 'brave women' (Birangonas) but he was adamant not to accept the babies who carried the polluted blood of Pakistanis.
Bangabandhu also tried an official strategy to rehabilitate the valiant women. He made arrangements for their marriages and offered state facilities for men who agreed to the matchmakings. But it did not work the way the father of the nation wanted as many were deserted by their husbands soon after their weddings and tens of thousands of these women are still haunted by heinous atrocities meted out to them.
It is irony of fate that these brave women have until today nothing to console themselves as they are neither compensated for, nor the perpetrators have atoned for their sins when Japan reiterated again and again the sincere apology and remorse for its war crimes. It was in the 1974, during the Delhi Agreement, Bangladesh demanded for the prosecution of 195 Pakistani military officers for their crimes against humanity and genocide under relevant provisions of international law and Pakistan responded saying that it "deeply regretted any crimes that 'may have been' committed" in 1971. The position taken by Pakistan was reiterated by former presidents Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Pervez Musharraf. But as recently as November 2015, Pakistan retreated from its earlier stand and denied any role of atrocities of its army in 1971 that prompted Bangladesh government to summon Pakistan High Commissioner in Dhaka and triggered countrywide protests and outrage against Pakistan denial of war crimes.
Bangladesh has still anti-liberation forces aplenty to share the identical views of Pakistan, lamented Industries Minister Tofayel Ahmed, a close associate of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman as the number of war victims was questioned and martyrs of intellectuals were compared to the fools. They were not fools. "You, Mr Gayeshwar Chandra Roy, are a fool." Could you imagine the magnitude of humility and ignominy when people like you were unclothed to show their religious identity and exposed to the lush of the Pakistan army?
Time has come to identify depraved people who question the martyrdom of the country's valiant sons, by bringing them to the book, otherwise we can't be united like South Korea to complete our dreams of punishing the war culprits and of realizing the reparations for our war victims.
Shamsul Huda is a senior Bangladeshi journalist based in Saudi Arabia

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