“…in a street of horror in the old quarter of the city I saw Mukti Bahini Guerrillas hunting snipers…” – Kishor Parekh, Bangladesh War 1971 (courtesy enterworldpressphoto)
(originally posted on Daily times)
By Faizan Ali Warraich
LAHORE: Before forgiveness there must be some remorse, and it is time to acknowledge the misdeeds committed during the 1971 civil war that led to the creation of Bangladesh.
This was stated by writers and intellectuals while addressing a session titled ‘Interview with Bangladeshi History’ on the second day of the Lahore Literary Festival (LLF).
In the session, people came to witness a new chapter in the relationship between Pakistan and Bangladesh, as the session was on the events that took place during the civil war in then East-Pakistan, which led to the creation of Bangladesh.
Indian author Salil Tripathi, Bangladeshi activist Sadaf Saaz Siddiqi and human rights activist Hina Jilani spoke on the occasion, while the session was moderated by Taimur Rahman.
Opening up the house for discussion, moderated Taimur asked Salil what event had actually inspired him to raise his pen to write on the 1971 war. Replying to the foremost question, Salil said, “History is bloody, and much atrocious acts had been committed from both sides, but the blame had always been on the state and the one who had power.”
He said that rather than scratching old wounds and searching for the actual number of casualties, let us accept the reality that oppression and atrocious war crimes had been done in the land of Bengali people, who were in majority at the time of separation from Pakistan.
He said he challenged in his book the Bangladeshi official figure of 3 million casualties, and Pakistani statistics of 9,000 deaths, and added that these were overly exaggerated and underestimated figures, respectively.
Salil said that intellectuals of both the countries had been calling for ‘amnesia-like’ situation, which demanded that Bangladesh should forgive Pakistan and, respectively, Pakistan should set aside all the differences with Bangladesh to start new chapter in the relations. However, he said that things could not go further without ‘acknowledging the mistakes’.
Sadaf said that although the history of our relations was stained with the blood of innocent people, the Bangladeshi government had also not given any fair treatment to those women who were sexually, psychologically and physically thrashed by war militias.
She said that the stigma of getting raped stayed with those women, and in Bangladeshi society, they were not treated fairly.
She said day of assassination of Mujibur Rahman was a tragedy for Bangladesh and the day polarised the Bangladeshi society. “Much atrocities were committed in the war of independence of Bangladesh.”Sadaf while making her point said that the war was none but a ‘legacy of blood’.
Hina Jilani on the occasion said that we should learn from our history. She said that people during the war indulged in crimes and committed atrocities in the name of nationalism and considered Bengalis ‘lesser Pakistanis’. She said that there must be an essence of transitional justice.