Published:  12:00 AM, 16 December 2015

Trial of war criminals: Special glory to the Victory Day

Trial of war criminals: Special glory to the Victory Day
The people of our country are celebrating this year's victory day with a new mood, new mind. They are cheering the execution of four infamous war criminals and also voicing a strong demand for expediting the war crimes trials against the other accused. For long there was an outburst of hatred against the war criminals who had played notorious role in committing genocide, killing of intellectuals and unleashing other atrocities. But people felt sad when they saw war criminals in power chaired by the BNP. Indeed, the nation will never forget the three million martyrs who sacrificed their lives for the country's independence.  
Following the recent executions of Al-Badr commander and Jamaat Secretary General Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid and BNP leader Salauddin Quader Chowdhury, the people, in general, expressed opinions that justice has prevailed and that the nation's liability to the history has largely been repaid. They urged the government to complete the trials of the remaining war criminals without further delay. Earlier Jamaat assistant secretary general Abdul Quader Molla and Mohammad Kamaruzzaman were hanged in December 2013 and in April, 2015 respectively. And the people reacted in the same way
The former leader of Jamaat-e-Islami, Bangladesh's largest Islamist party, was also sentenced to 90 years in jail for crimes against humanity on 15 July 2013 and died in October 2014 while an appeal against his conviction was pending.
In the capital city Dhaka, political leaders and workers, students and cultural activists brought out processions immediately after the execution of the verdict at the Dhaka Central Jail. People from all walks of life including freedom fighters, activists of the Ganajagaran Mancha and students of Dhaka University gathered at the jail gate, Shahbagh, TSC and many other places in the capital. Sweets were distributed in different cities and towns.
Hats off to Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina whose undaunted resolve and unwavering promises to the nation and the bereaved families, who still lick the wounds received during our 1971 War of Liberation in the killing, rape and torture of millions of people, have made it possible to send heavyweight war criminals to the gallows one after another. She has proved to be 'iron lady' in trying the war criminals defying all local and foreign pressures.
When we talk about the celebrations of the people as we all know that Razakar was constituted in the month of May. Later, the East Pakistan Razakar Ordinance promulgated on 1 June 1971 by the occupied force’s Governor of the then East Pakistan, Lieutenant General Tikka Khan. The Ordinance stipulated the creation of a voluntary force to be trained and equipped by the provincial government. This was to add to the government's forces to suppress the rebellion of people who wanted independence for the region. It is also alleged that Razakars were recruited by the Shanti Committee, which was formed by several pro-Pakistani leaders including Nurul Amin, Ghulam Azam and Khwaja Khairuddin. The first recruits included 96 Jamaat party members, who started training in an Ansar camp at Khan Jahan Ali Road, Khulna. General Tikka Khan converted the Ansars into Razakars who were recognized as the members of the Pakistan army through an ordinance of the Ministry of Defence promulgated on 7 September.
The Shanti (Peace) Committee, Razakar (Volunteer), Al-Badr and Al-Shams were created and assigned a variety of combat and non-combat tasks. These included taking active part in the operations, spying against Mukti Bahini, interrogation, working as the guides of the Pakistani occupation force, killing and looting, forcing Hindus to convert to Islam, and providing manpower to the Pakistani army.
The Razakar force was composed of mostly members of the Muslim League, Jamaat-e-Islam and Urdu-speaking migrants who lived in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) at that time.  At present, in Bangladesh, razakar means all pro-Pakistani Bangladeshis who helped the Pakistan army and tried to prevent the independence of Bangladesh.
Together with the Al-Badr and Al-Shams paramilitary forces, the Razakar were under Pakistani army command and also trained by them (see external link section).  In September 1971, the Razakar force was placed under the command of Major General Mohammed Jamshed. Organizational command of the Razakar was given to Abdur Rahim who was trained at the Office of Public Safety. (This organization had been assisted by USAID.)
The Razakar force was organized into brigades of around 3000-4000 volunteers, mainly armed with light infantry weapons provided by the Pakistani Army. Each Razakar Brigade was attached as an auxiliary to two Pakistani Regular Army Brigades, and their main function was to arrest and detain nationalist Bengali suspects. They were tortured to death under custody. The Razakars were trained by the Pakistan Army. Both organizations were later accused of having violated Geneva Conventions of War by raping, murdering and looting the locals. Razakars also allegedly killed Indian civilians during the war. On August 5, 1971, six Indians were killed by the Razakars in Panti village under Kumarkhali sub-division. They killed 3 Indians in Sylhet and 19 Indians in Jessore, Gopalganj and Chittagong hill tracts.
Quoting a declassified US secret document Azadur Rahman Chandan wrote, " the ‘Rasikars’ are a destabilizing element - living off the land, able to make life and death decisions by denouncing collaborators and openly pillaging and terrorizing villagers without apparent restraint from the Army".
The Razakars were paid by the Pakistan Army and Provincial Government. Leading supporters of a united Pakistan urged General Yahya Khan to increase the number of Razakars and given them more arms to extend their activities in East Pakistan.
Towards the end of 1971, increased members of Razakars were deserting, as the end of the war came in sight and Bangladesh moved towards independence.
Following the surrender of the Pakistan army on 16 December 1971 and the proclamation of independence of Bangladesh, the Razakar units dissolved.
But they were politically empowered and rehabilitated by the founder of BNP, Major General Ziaur Rahman. After a long movement against the war criminals, AL Government led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has made a success to bring them before the justice and the common people are now seeing a war criminals-and -razakars- free Bangladesh.

The writer is Managing Editor,
The Asian Age and former DG, DIP

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