When we can raise our voice for 2,000 Muslims killed in Gujarat, we must cry from the rooftops for 2.4 million Hindus killed in 1971 or the 250,000 Kashmiri Pandits forced out of their homes in
Why do we not?
Public memory is short and fleeting. Events register momentarily like a blip on a radar and are then consigned to some dark corner of our cerebral galaxy. The brain needs to be bombarded with repetitive stimuli or jolted by a single moral turpitude of seismic proportions to evoke a strong and sustained re-sponse. In the absence of such reinforcement, a thought fades away from ones mind and that is the unfortunate tragedy of the
To ascertain the etiology of this amnesia or selective attention deficit we need to delve deeper into the details of this gory chapter of
Asia. In a massive military operation, code named Operation
Searchlight aimed at crushing Bengali aspirations of autonomy, the Pakistan army in March of 1971 unleashed a
deadly reign of terror that killed about 3 million Bangladeshis and forced
another 10 million to seek refuge across the border in . India
Estimates of the actual numbers vary from a ridiculous low 26,000 put out by the
government (Hamood-ur-Rahman Commission) to a high of 3 million circulating in
the international media. In a preface to this massacre, , the military dictator of Pakistan
at that time is supposed to have remarked: (Pierre,
Stephen and Robert Payne (1973), Massacre, New York: Macmillan, p 50).
The official position from Bangla-desh concurs with the figure of 3 million. Pakistan
R.J. Rummel in his book, Statistics of Democide: Genocide and Mass Murder Since 1900 (ch.8) concludes: “Consoli-dating both ranges, I give a final estimate of
democide to be 300,000 to 3,000,000, or a prudent 1,500,000.” Even this figure
of 1.5 million places this massacre high up in the list of notable world
genocides. While the number killed by the Khmer Rouge in Pakistan Cambodia (in excess of 2 million) may top the Bangladesh genocide, it was carried out over a
period of four years in comparison to the nine-month deadly rampage of the
army: a chilling testimony to the awesome brutality of this massacre. Pakistan
Who bore the brunt of this genocide? Was it the Bengali Muslims? Were the Bengali Hindus selectively targeted? Or did both communities suffer equally? It is important to know the actual distribution of the casualties for therein may lay the clue to the big unanswered question: Why were the guilty not brought to book?
The killings were not random acts of response to a mass uprising but a meticulously crafted strategy of selective victimization as Rummel indicates in his book: “In East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) (General Agha Mohammed Yahya Khan and his top generals) also planned to murder its Bengali intellectual, cultural, and political elite. They also planned to indiscriminately murder hundreds of thousands of its Hindus and drive the rest into
. And they planned to destroy
its economic base to insure that it would be subordinate to India West
Pakistan for at least a generation to come. This despicable and
cutthroat plan was outright genocide.”
A report in the Sunday Times,
London (June 13,
1971) corroborates the existence of such a diabolical blueprint: “The
government’s policy for East Bengal was spelled out to me in the Eastern
Command headquarters at .
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.” Dacca
In a report submitted to the US Senate Judiciary Commit-tee (November 1, 1971)
An article in Time magazine dated August 2, 1971 titled
: The Ravaging of Golden
Bengal (external link) categorically concluded: “The Hindus, who account for
three-fourths of the refugees and a majority of the dead, have borne the brunt
of the Muslim military hatred.” Pakistan
All this evidence clearly indicates that the Hindu community of
Bangladesh was the specially culled out by the
army for this inhuman treatment. Coming to specifics, let us see whether we can
ascertain with a fair degree of accuracy, the ball park figures for the Hindus
killed or driven from their homes. Pakistan
In the senate judiciary committee report, Kennedy indicates that 80 percent of the refugees were Hindu that is 8 of the 10 million; a figure in line with the Time magazine report that suggests that three-fourths of the refugees were Hindu.
The percentage figures follow the same pattern when we look at the people killed.
While this is not an attempt to underplay or trivialize the sacrifices of Bangladeshis as a whole (Muslim intellectuals were also killed in large numbers), it cannot be denied that the Hindu community of
accounted for an
astronomically disproportionate share of the dead and paid a price that was
more than its due. Bangladesh
A crime like genocide usually involves established institutions like governments or nations. For the criminals to be brought to book one needs a dedicated champion like the legendary Nazi hunter, Simon Wiesenthal, or a driven community who share a commonality with the victims and will not let the perpetrators to rest. The Hindu community has neither.
Logically it would fall upon the
government to relentlessly pursue the executors of this horrific massacre.
After some half-hearted attempts in the immediate post — 1971 periods, the Bangladesh
government has relegated this issue to a back burner. Why they have done so is
intriguing? Does it have to do something with Islamic brotherhood and the fact
that the victims happened to be predominantly Hindu? Bangladesh
What about the Hindus themselves? The Hindus, wherever they maybe, are afflicted with a strange psychic malady that inhibits them from standing up for their rights or highlighting atrocities committed against them. Moreover those Hindus, who do so are shouted down by their own brethren. However, in defense of Bangladeshi Hindus, I must say that the continued oppressive religious environment in that country makes any such protest impossible, especially with their limited numbers.
The only other lobby with a special interest in this matter was predominantly Hindu India. I have always felt that
owes a moral responsibility to the Hindus left behind in Pakistan and in 1947. While the
Muslim minority of Bangladesh India
became a part of a secular republic with equal rights, the Hindu minority of Pakistan (and later ) were relegated to
second class status through no fault of theirs. Bangladesh
with its famed free and secular media have played a key role? Yes, it certainly
could have. And should have. But did not. India
To side with Hindus even if they are right is akin to blasphemy in the vaunted circles of the free Indian media. How else can you explain the relentless crusade against the Gujarat riots that persists even to this day in comparison with the near total silence on the monumental genocide that obliterated 2.4 million Hindus from the face of the earth or the shoddy treatment meted out to the continued ethnic cleansing of a quarter million Hindus from
All atrocities regardless of the color, caste, creed or religion of the victims must be condemned fair and square and the perpetrators relentlessly pursued till eternity if need be and brought to book. When we can raise your voice for 2,000 Muslims, (the official figures are much less) killed in Gujarat and we should, we must cry from the roof tops for 2.4 million Hindus killed in 1971 or the 250,000 Kashmiri Pandits forced out of their homes in Kashmir. Why do we not?