Barisal
August 21st, 2018
1952-1971 / স্বাধীনতা যুদ্ধ
Genocide.. "we were told to kill the hindus and Kafirs (non-believer in God).
November 15th, 20102,875 views

It all started with Operation Searchlight, a planned military pacification carried out by the Pakistan Army started on 25 March, 1971 to curb the Bengali nationalist movement by taking control of the major cities on March 26, and then eliminating all opposition, political or military, within one month. Before the beginning of the operation, all foreign journalists were systematically deported from Bangladesh. The main phase of Operation Searchlight ended with the fall of the last major town in Bengali hands in mid May.

 

According to New York Times (3/28/71) 10,000 people were killed; New York Times (3/29/71) 5,000-7,000 people were killed in Dhaka; The Sydney Morning Herald (3/29/71) 10,000 – 100,000 were killed; New York Times (4/1/71) 35,000 were killed in Dhaka during operation searchlight.

 

The operation also began the 1971 Bangladesh atrocities. These systematic killings served only to enrage the Bengalis, which ultimately resulted in the secession of East Pakistan later in December, 1971. The international media and reference books in English have published casualty figures which vary greatly; 200,000–3,000,000 for Bangladesh as a whole.

There is only one word for this: Genocide.

Genocide in Bangladesh, 1971

pakistani-army-shooting.jpgThe mass killings in Bangladesh (then East Pakistan) in 1971 vie with the annihilation of the Soviet POWs, the holocaust against the Jews, and the genocide in Rwanda as the most concentrated act of genocide in the twentieth century. In an attempt to crush forces seeking independence for East Pakistan, the West Pakistani military regime unleashed a systematic campaign of mass murder which aimed at killing millions of Bengalis, and likely succeeded in doing so.

 

 

In national elections held in December 1970, the Awami League won an overwhelming victory across Bengali territory. On February 22, 1971 the generals in West Pakistan took a decision to crush the Awami League and its supporters. It was recognized from the first that a campaign of genocide would be necessary to eradicate the threat: “Kill three million of them,” said President Yahya Khan at the February conference, “and the rest will eat out of our hands.” (Robert Payne, Massacre [1972], p. 50.) On March 25 the genocide was launched. The university in Dacca (Dhaka) was attacked and students exterminated in their hundreds. Death squads roamed the streets of Dacca, killing some 7,000 people in a single night. It was only the beginning. “Within a week, half the population of Dacca had fled, and at least 30,000 people had been killed. Chittagong, too, had lost half its population. All over East Pakistan people were taking flight, and it was estimated that in April some thirty million people [!] were wandering helplessly across East Pakistan to escape the grasp of the military.” (Payne, Massacre, p. 48.) Ten million refugees fled to India, overwhelming that country’s resources and spurring the eventual Indian military intervention. (The population of Bangladesh/East Pakistan at the outbreak of the genocide was about 75 million.)

 

The Guinness Book of Records lists the Bangladesh Genocide as one of the top 5 genocides in the 20th century.

The gendercide against Bengali men

The war against the Bengali population proceeded in classic gendercidal fashion. According to Anthony Mascarenhas:

There is no doubt whatsoever about the targets of the genocide. They were: (1) The Bengali militarymen of the East Bengal Regiment, the East Pakistan Rifles, police and para-military Ansars and Mujahids. (2) The Hindus — “We are only killing the men; the women and children go free. We are soldiers not cowards to kill them …” I was to hear in Comilla [site of a major military base] [Comments R.J. Rummel: "One would think that murdering an unarmed man was a heroic act" (Death By Government, p. 323)] (3) The Awami Leaguers — all office bearers and volunteers down to the lowest link in the chain of command. (4) The students — college and university boys and some of the more militant girls. (5) Bengali intellectuals such as professors and teachers whenever damned by the army as “militant.” (Anthony Mascarenhas, The Rape of Bangla Desh [Delhi: Vikas Publications, 1972(?)], pp. 116-17.)

 

Mascarenhas’s summary makes clear the linkages between gender and social class (the “intellectuals,” “professors,” “teachers,” “office bearers,” and — obviously — “militarymen” can all be expected to be overwhelmingly if not exclusively male, although in many cases their families died or fell victim to other atrocities alongside them). In this respect, the Bangladesh events can be classed as a combined gendercide and elitocide, with both strategies overwhelmingly targeting males for the most annihilatory excesses.

 

London, 6/13/71). The Sunday Times…..”The Government’s policy for East Bengal was spelled out to me in the Eastern Command headquarters at Dacca. It has three elements:

 

1. The Bengalis have proved themselves unreliable and must be ruled by West Pakistanis;

2. The Bengalis will have to be re-educated along proper Islamic lines. The – Islamization of the masses – this is the official jargon – is intended to eliminate secessionist tendencies and provide a strong religious bond with West Pakistan;

3. When the Hindus have been eliminated by death and fight, their property will be used as a golden carrot to win over the under privileged Muslim middle-class. This will provide the base for erecting administrative and political structures in the future.”

Bengali man and boys massacred by the West Pakistani regime.

Bengali man and boys massacred by the West Pakistani regime. Younger men and adolescent boys, of whatever social class, were equally targets. According to Rounaq Jahan, “All through the liberation war, able-bodied young men were suspected of being actual or potential freedom fighters. Thousands were arrested, tortured, and killed. Eventually cities and towns became bereft of young males who either took refuge in India or joined the liberation war.” Especially “during the first phase” of the genocide, he writes, “young able-bodied males were the victims of indiscriminate killings.” (“Genocide in Bangladesh,” in Totten et al., Century of Genocide, p. 298.) R.J. Rummel likewise writes that “the Pakistan army [sought] out those especially likely to join the resistance — young boys. Sweeps were conducted of young men who were never seen again. Bodies of youths would be found in fields, floating down rivers, or near army camps. As can be imagined, this terrorized all young men and their families within reach of the army. Most between the ages of fifteen and twenty-five began to flee from one village to another and toward India. Many of those reluctant to leave their homes were forced to flee by mothers and sisters concerned for their safety.” (Death By Government, p. 329.) Rummel describes (p. 323) a chilling gendercidal ritual, reminiscent of Nazi procedure towards Jewish males: “In what became province-wide acts of genocide, Hindus were sought out and killed on the spot. As a matter of course, soldiers would check males for the obligated circumcision among Moslems. If circumcised, they might live; if not, sure death.”

 

Robert Payne describes scenes of systematic mass slaughter around Dacca (Dhaka) that, while not explicitly “gendered” in his account, bear every hallmark of classic gender-selective roundups and gendercidal slaughters of non-combatant men:

Bengali intellectuals murdered and dumped at dockside in Dacca.In the dead region surrounding Dacca, the military authorities conducted experiments in mass extermination in places unlikely to be seen by journalists. At Hariharpara, a once thriving village on the banks of the Buriganga River near Dacca, they found the three elements necessary for killing people in large numbers: a prison in which to hold the victims, a place for executing the prisoners, and a method for disposing of the bodies. The prison was a large riverside warehouse, or godown, belonging to the Pakistan National Oil Company, the place of execution was the river edge, or the shallows near the shore, and the bodies were disposed of by the simple means of permitting them to float downstream. The killing took place night after night. Usually the prisoners were roped together and made to wade out into the river. They were in batches of six or eight, and in the light of a powerful electric arc lamp, they were easy targets, black against the silvery water. The executioners stood on the pier, shooting down at the compact bunches of prisoners wading in the water. There were screams in the hot night air, and then silence. The prisoners fell on their sides and their bodies lapped against the shore. Then a new bunch of prisoners was brought out, and the process was repeated. In the morning the village boatmen hauled the bodies into midstream and the ropes binding the bodies were cut so that each body drifted separately downstream. (Payne, Massacre [Macmillan, 1973], p. 55.)

 

Strikingly similar and equally hellish scenes are described in the case-studies of genocide in Armenia and the Nanjing Massacre of 1937.

How many died?

Bangladeshi authorities claim that 3 million people were killed, while the Hamoodur Rahman Commission, an official Pakistan Government investigation, put the figure as low as 26,000 civilian casualties. The fact is that the number of dead in Bangladesh in 1971 was almost certainly well into seven figures. It was one of the worst genocides of the World War II era, outstripping Rwanda (800,000 killed) and probably surpassing even Indonesia (1 million to 1.5 million killed in 1965-66).

As R.J. Rummel writes:

 

The human death toll over only 267 days was incredible. Just to give for five out of the eighteen districts some incomplete statistics published in Bangladesh newspapers or by an Inquiry Committee, the Pakistani army killed 100,000 Bengalis in Dacca, 150,000 in Khulna, 75,000 in Jessore, 95,000 in Comilla, and 100,000 in Chittagong. For eighteen districts the total is 1,247,000 killed. This was an incomplete toll, and to this day no one really knows the final toll. Some estimates of the democide [Rummel's "death by government"] are much lower — one is of 300,000 dead — but most range from 1 million to 3 million. … The Pakistani army and allied paramilitary groups killed about one out of every sixty-one people in Pakistan overall; one out of every twenty-five Bengalis, Hindus, and others in East Pakistan. If the rate of killing for all of Pakistan is annualized over the years the Yahya martial law regime was in power (March 1969 to December 1971), then this one regime was more lethal than that of the Soviet Union, China under the communists, or Japan under the military (even through World War II). (Rummel, Death By Government, p. 331.)

 

People regard that the best option is to regard “3 million” as not an absolute but an arbitrary number. The proportion of men versus women murdered is impossible to ascertain, but a speculation might be attempted. If we take the highest estimates for both women raped and Bengalis killed (400,000 and 3 million, respectively); if we accept that half as many women were killed as were raped; and if we double that number for murdered children of both sexes (total: 600,000), we are still left with a death-toll that is 80 percent adult male (2.4 million out of 3 million). Any such disproportion, which is almost certainly on the low side, would qualify Bangladesh as one of the worst gendercides against men in the last half-millennium.

 

It all started with Operation Searchlight, a planned military pacification carried out by the Pakistan Army started on 25 March, 1971 to curb the Bengali nationalist movement by taking control of the major cities on March 26, and then eliminating all opposition, political or military, within one month. Before the beginning of the operation, all foreign journalists were systematically deported from Bangladesh. The main phase of Operation Searchlight ended with the fall of the last major town in Bengali hands in mid May.

 

According to New York Times (3/28/71) 10,000 people were killed; New York Times (3/29/71) 5,000-7,000 people were killed in Dhaka; The Sydney Morning Herald (3/29/71) 10,000 – 100,000 were killed; New York Times (4/1/71) 35,000 were killed in Dhaka during operation searchlight.

The operation also began the 1971 Bangladesh atrocities. These systematic killings served only to enrage the Bengalis, which ultimately resulted in the secession of East Pakistan later in December, 1971. The international media and reference books in English have published casualty figures which vary greatly; 200,000–3,000,000 for Bangladesh as a whole.

There is only one word for this: Genocide.

Genocide in Bangladesh, 1971

pakistani-army-shooting.jpgThe mass killings in Bangladesh (then East Pakistan) in 1971 vie with the annihilation of the Soviet POWs, the holocaust against the Jews, and the genocide in Rwanda as the most concentrated act of genocide in the twentieth century. In an attempt to crush forces seeking independence for East Pakistan, the West Pakistani military regime unleashed a systematic campaign of mass murder which aimed at killing millions of Bengalis, and likely succeeded in doing so.

 

In national elections held in December 1970, the Awami League won an overwhelming victory across Bengali territory. On February 22, 1971 the generals in West Pakistan took a decision to crush the Awami League and its supporters. It was recognized from the first that a campaign of genocide would be necessary to eradicate the threat: “Kill three million of them,” said President Yahya Khan at the February conference, “and the rest will eat out of our hands.” (Robert Payne, Massacre [1972], p. 50.) On March 25 the genocide was launched. The university in Dacca (Dhaka) was attacked and students exterminated in their hundreds. Death squads roamed the streets of Dacca, killing some 7,000 people in a single night. It was only the beginning. “Within a week, half the population of Dacca had fled, and at least 30,000 people had been killed. Chittagong, too, had lost half its population. All over East Pakistan people were taking flight, and it was estimated that in April some thirty million people [!] were wandering helplessly across East Pakistan to escape the grasp of the military.” (Payne, Massacre, p. 48.) Ten million refugees fled to India, overwhelming that country’s resources and spurring the eventual Indian military intervention. (The population of Bangladesh/East Pakistan at the outbreak of the genocide was about 75 million.)

 

The Guinness Book of Records lists the Bangladesh Genocide as one of the top 5 genocides in the 20th century.

The gendercide against Bengali men

The war against the Bengali population proceeded in classic gendercidal fashion. According to Anthony Mascarenhas:

There is no doubt whatsoever about the targets of the genocide. They were: (1) The Bengali militarymen of the East Bengal Regiment, the East Pakistan Rifles, police and para-military Ansars and Mujahids. (2) The Hindus — “We are only killing the men; the women and children go free. We are soldiers not cowards to kill them …” I was to hear in Comilla [site of a major military base] [Comments R.J. Rummel: "One would think that murdering an unarmed man was a heroic act" (Death By Government, p. 323)] (3) The Awami Leaguers — all office bearers and volunteers down to the lowest link in the chain of command. (4) The students — college and university boys and some of the more militant girls. (5) Bengali intellectuals such as professors and teachers whenever damned by the army as “militant.” (Anthony Mascarenhas, The Rape of Bangla Desh [Delhi: Vikas Publications, 1972(?)], pp. 116-17.)

 

Mascarenhas’s summary makes clear the linkages between gender and social class (the “intellectuals,” “professors,” “teachers,” “office bearers,” and — obviously — “militarymen” can all be expected to be overwhelmingly if not exclusively male, although in many cases their families died or fell victim to other atrocities alongside them). In this respect, the Bangladesh events can be classed as a combined gendercide and elitocide, with both strategies overwhelmingly targeting males for the most annihilatory excesses.

 

London, 6/13/71). The Sunday Times…..”The Government’s policy for East Bengal was spelled out to me in the Eastern Command headquarters at Dacca. It has three elements:

1. The Bengalis have proved themselves unreliable and must be ruled by West Pakistanis;
2. The Bengalis will have to be re-educated along proper Islamic lines. The – Islamization of the masses – this is the official jargon – is intended to eliminate secessionist tendencies and provide a strong religious bond with West Pakistan;
3. When the Hindus have been eliminated by death and fight, their property will be used as a golden carrot to win over the under privileged Muslim middle-class. This will provide the base for erecting administrative and political structures in the future.”

Bengali man and boys massacred by the West Pakistani regime.

Bengali man and boys massacred by the West Pakistani regime. Younger men and adolescent boys, of whatever social class, were equally targets. According to Rounaq Jahan, “All through the liberation war, able-bodied young men were suspected of being actual or potential freedom fighters. Thousands were arrested, tortured, and killed. Eventually cities and towns became bereft of young males who either took refuge in India or joined the liberation war.” Especially “during the first phase” of the genocide, he writes, “young able-bodied males were the victims of indiscriminate killings.” (“Genocide in Bangladesh,” in Totten et al., Century of Genocide, p. 298.) R.J. Rummel likewise writes that “the Pakistan army [sought] out those especially likely to join the resistance — young boys. Sweeps were conducted of young men who were never seen again. Bodies of youths would be found in fields, floating down rivers, or near army camps. As can be imagined, this terrorized all young men and their families within reach of the army. Most between the ages of fifteen and twenty-five began to flee from one village to another and toward India. Many of those reluctant to leave their homes were forced to flee by mothers and sisters concerned for their safety.” (Death By Government, p. 329.) Rummel describes (p. 323) a chilling gendercidal ritual, reminiscent of Nazi procedure towards Jewish males: “In what became province-wide acts of genocide, Hindus were sought out and killed on the spot. As a matter of course, soldiers would check males for the obligated circumcision among Moslems. If circumcised, they might live; if not, sure death.”

 

Robert Payne describes scenes of systematic mass slaughter around Dacca (Dhaka) that, while not explicitly “gendered” in his account, bear every hallmark of classic gender-selective roundups and gendercidal slaughters of non-combatant men:

Bengali intellectuals murdered and dumped at dockside in Dacca.In the dead region surrounding Dacca, the military authorities conducted experiments in mass extermination in places unlikely to be seen by journalists. At Hariharpara, a once thriving village on the banks of the Buriganga River near Dacca, they found the three elements necessary for killing people in large numbers: a prison in which to hold the victims, a place for executing the prisoners, and a method for disposing of the bodies. The prison was a large riverside warehouse, or godown, belonging to the Pakistan National Oil Company, the place of execution was the river edge, or the shallows near the shore, and the bodies were disposed of by the simple means of permitting them to float downstream. The killing took place night after night. Usually the prisoners were roped together and made to wade out into the river. They were in batches of six or eight, and in the light of a powerful electric arc lamp, they were easy targets, black against the silvery water. The executioners stood on the pier, shooting down at the compact bunches of prisoners wading in the water. There were screams in the hot night air, and then silence. The prisoners fell on their sides and their bodies lapped against the shore. Then a new bunch of prisoners was brought out, and the process was repeated. In the morning the village boatmen hauled the bodies into midstream and the ropes binding the bodies were cut so that each body drifted separately downstream. (Payne, Massacre [Macmillan, 1973], p. 55.)

 

Strikingly similar and equally hellish scenes are described in the case-studies of genocide in Armenia and the Nanjing Massacre of 1937.

How many died?

Bangladeshi authorities claim that 3 million people were killed, while the Hamoodur Rahman Commission, an official Pakistan Government investigation, put the figure as low as 26,000 civilian casualties. The fact is that the number of dead in Bangladesh in 1971 was almost certainly well into seven figures. It was one of the worst genocides of the World War II era, outstripping Rwanda (800,000 killed) and probably surpassing even Indonesia (1 million to 1.5 million killed in 1965-66).

As R.J. Rummel writes:

 

The human death toll over only 267 days was incredible. Just to give for five out of the eighteen districts some incomplete statistics published in Bangladesh newspapers or by an Inquiry Committee, the Pakistani army killed 100,000 Bengalis in Dacca, 150,000 in Khulna, 75,000 in Jessore, 95,000 in Comilla, and 100,000 in Chittagong. For eighteen districts the total is 1,247,000 killed. This was an incomplete toll, and to this day no one really knows the final toll. Some estimates of the democide [Rummel's "death by government"] are much lower — one is of 300,000 dead — but most range from 1 million to 3 million. … The Pakistani army and allied paramilitary groups killed about one out of every sixty-one people in Pakistan overall; one out of every twenty-five Bengalis, Hindus, and others in East Pakistan. If the rate of killing for all of Pakistan is annualized over the years the Yahya martial law regime was in power (March 1969 to December 1971), then this one regime was more lethal than that of the Soviet Union, China under the communists, or Japan under the military (even through World War II). (Rummel, Death By Government, p. 331.)

 

People regard that the best option is to regard “3 million” as not an absolute but an arbitrary number. The proportion of men versus women murdered is impossible to ascertain, but a speculation might be attempted. If we take the highest estimates for both women raped and Bengalis killed (400,000 and 3 million, respectively); if we accept that half as many women were killed as were raped; and if we double that number for murdered children of both sexes (total: 600,000), we are still left with a death-toll that is 80 percent adult male (2.4 million out of 3 million). Any such disproportion, which is almost certainly on the low side, would qualify Bangladesh as one of the worst gendercides against men in the last half-millennium.