“Crimes against humanity anywhere at any point in time are crimes against humanity and civilisation for all times” - Anonymous
The government’s decision to observe March 25 as “Genocide Day” is highly significant and adds another key milestone in highlighting our national history. The genocide by Pakistan occupation forces was unprecedented and most brutal in contemporary history.
In terms of intensity, scale, and magnitude, the 1971 genocide in Bangladesh manifests one of the most aggressive violations of human rights this century.
The March 25, 1971 genocide was aimed not only at killing millions, but also at dismantling democratic process and institutions, wiping out human rights reflected in International Human Rights covenants and the UN Charter itself.
Marking March 25 as “Genocide Day” would not only add value to the momentum of reflecting our historic struggle for freedom, but would also facilitate enhancing the level of global awareness, understanding, and reflection on how the people of Bangladesh resisted the occupation forces.
On one hand, this will remind the international community of the crimes and atrocities committed by Pakistan occupation forces, and on the other, widen information and knowledge of the international community with regards to the core historical objectives, principles, facts, and realities based on which Bangladesh emerged as a sovereign, independent state.
It is extremely important to deeply explore the insights of our statehood through the War of Liberation, the historic leadership of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the supreme sacrifices of our freedom fighters, as well as the valuable role, contribution, and engagement of all segments of society.
This will enable further historical insights on our struggle for freedom, and reflect issues related to consistently widening economic disparities and deprivation from 1947-1971, the denial of core democratic values and rights of the Bengalis.
Genocide Day will also remind the world of how the country struggled and fought for freedom, and its key stages (from the Language movement in 1952 to the War of Liberation, and final victory in 1971).
There is need to refer to the massive international support through the whole nine months of our War of Liberation.
During this time, the occupation regime resorted to falsehood and distortion and suppression of facts. Such manipulation, however, could not shade the inevitable course of national history.
Keeping the above in view, the following proposed actions should be important and relevant:
Similar to observance of International Mother Language Day, Bangladesh representations and missions abroad should be able to make useful contribution in this regard.
There is need to brief respective countries of accreditation on the significance of Genocide Day and ensure events and extensive media coverage for the occasion. In this context it would be useful to ask countries to update their official records that should clearly refer to the genocide by Pakistan occupation forces, and trace key events and milestones leading to our freedom in 1971.
Genocide Day will be able to dispel misleading rhetorics and baseless views by Pakistani leadership and media on the War of Liberation in 1971. This will present an opportunity to show to the international community how vested interests tamper truth, conceal reason, and camouflage historical realities.
Genocide Day would be useful for the United Nations in general, and overall international community in particular
Further to this, Genocide Day will be instrumental in cautioning us against treacherous distortion of historical facts.
Genocide Day will propel structured and prudent responses rejecting baseless and ill-motivated distortions, despite historical evidence.
Genocide Day would be useful for the United Nations in general, and overall international community in particular -- to keep track of deviations from human rights in relations between states, and also guard against and resist possibilities of atrocities by any country in the future.
Based on lessons from the past, the UN may be better equipped to enrich analytical discourse and determine appropriate course of intervention in countries/regions facing genocide.
Through Genocide Day, Bangladesh may consider providing UN Anti-Genocide Covenants that should be linked to Principles and Declarations of Human Rights and statutes, provisions, and procedures relating to the International Criminal Court. Bangladesh can make a historical and much-needed contribution to global peace and security by proposing the UN General Assembly adoption of Resolution on UN-led multilateral intervention to combat genocide.
National, regional, and global think-tanks as well as academic, research, and policy-focused institutions should be able to generate further intensive information and knowledge on the injustice, tyranny, mass killing, and indiscriminate destruction that centred the 1971 genocide and the extent and magnitude of brutality and inhumanity throughout the period.
At a time when crimes against humanity in 1971 are investigated and trials held, and the country reinforces determination to fight terror and social evils, observance of Genocide Day will broaden priorities and opportunities to strengthen recorded history on sufferings and trauma that plagued the country in 1971, highlight people’s resistance and the armed struggle to wipe out foreign occupation.
While significant work and research have already been undertaken on our War of Liberation, there is need to undertake further analytical review, insights, and research on our freedom movement, the War of Liberation, and the treasured essence and valued perspectives for our statehood.
As the country moves towards higher growth and further strengthening of the economy with appropriate vision and strategy and with extensive engagement of the people, there is need to add further glory and pride in our story of national freedom and advancement -- that should be useful not only for our succeeding generations, but also for the world of tomorrow.
Dr Mohammed Parvez Imdad is a senior economist, policy analyst, researcher, and academic based in Manila, the Philippines. He worked for 35 years in the National and International Civil Service.