Weekend Tribune talked to a number of people, predominantly young, to learn what they think is the historical lesson that contemporary Bangladesh can learn from of the massacre that took place on December 14, 1971, when prominent Bangladeshi intellectuals were abducted and brutally murdered by a soon to be defeated Pakistani forces.
“I think the common Bangladeshi people should keep in mind that, before a war ends, the enemy may try to make you disabled intellectually rather than giving more effort to destroy your economy or infrastructure.”
-Shumiya Shudha, Student, IBA, Jahangirnagar University
“I think a good lesson anyone can take from the Martyred Intellectuals Day is that you cannot cripple a country by carrying out a mass slaughter of the intellectuals. That's not how ideologies are killed. If Bangladesh has to take away one thing, it would be that we should have gotten an apology out of them when we had the chance.”
- Farhan Rahman, Student, IBA, Jahangirnagar University
“Freedom of speech is the utmost important lesson to take away for each of us and being tolerant to people’s perceptions. Let’s not go in the way of spilling blood, remembering that millions of people gave away their lives for a better today for us.”
- Ahmed Imtiaz Samad, Student, Independent University Bangladesh
“On the Martyred Intellectuals Day, the Pakistani military force were set to obliterate the entire intellectual community of the then East Pakistan. Just two days prior to the victory day, the Pakistani forces collaborating with Al Badr and Al Shams, abducted all the intellectuals including teachers, doctors, journalists and other prominent personalities from their houses, and conducted cold blooded killings. I did not witness the darkest of days that our ancestors did, but I believe there is always a lesson to learn form tragedies. We the people alongside our government should inevitably ensure that they are being secured from any kind of national or international group of antagonists and no such perpetrators are hiding inside the nation to appear as a threat to them. Intellectuals are our assets, and no matter what, we should assure their safety.”
- Zahid Khan Shawon, Student of Economics, Dhaka Commerce College
"The long lasting effects of the killings of the intellectuals in 1971 can still be felt today. The people killed at the time were the nation's backbone, the people upon whom the duty fell to voice the concerns of the time and the people who were the best equipped to deal with those problems. The lesson, I think, is quite a simple one. Silencing voices of dissent and marginalizing intellectualism can still be seen today, the effects of which are quite evident. Namely, you are bringing upon yourself the death of the spirit of democracy and neutralizing the only gatekeepers of those in power."
- Nabil Hossain, Music Composer
“The tragedy happened immediately before our Victory Day. Pakistani forces and some local criminals - Razakar, Al Badr, Al Shams, killed a lot of intellectuals and professionals including journalists, teachers, engineers, doctors. It's easily understandable that this was an outcome of their desperation to cripple our nation sensing the obvious defeat.
In my opinion, the only lesson that we should take from this is to be aware of the fact that there are still evil forces who do the same and that even by being citizens of the country, not necessarily by killing intellectuals physically but by destroying possibilities, potentials of people or systems those evil forces can be victorious within a matter of time. We had those culprits, we still have them destroying things for their own benefits. It's even scarier now, because today the number of such evil forces in comparison to that night is much higher, and happening not only in one single night, but all the time.”
- Syed Md Saif, CEO and founder of Lily
“The impact of losing our most treasured intellectuals on December 14, 1971 put our nation towards an everlasting downward spiral. The educational and cultural benchmark of a country is set by the leaders and creative pioneers. The likes of Zahir Raihan, Shahidullah Kawser, Munier Choudhury, Altaf Mahmud and so many others have paved the way for millions of others to a better future. Their demise was an incomprehensibly heavy blow to our entire nation. What we can learn from this devastating event from 40 years ago is that the most impactful way to halt a nation's advancement towards proficiency is to pick out and execute the pioneer masterminds behind the curtains. If only the intellectuals were present with us today, our nation would be full to the brim in educational, political and cultural sectors.”
- Sadman Saquib, Student, Bangladesh University of Textiles
“The lesson is that we should be alert at all times about who are the friends to the nation and who are the enemies.”
- Pinu Rahman, Bank officer
"I think the only lesson is that we need to respect our past, the sacrifices people made and learn to love our language."
- Syeda Shahtaj Sadaqat, Student, Brac University