I write this piece knowing that if my father was still alive he would be bemoaning the killing of his beloved cousins on this 50th anniversary.
50 years ago on 25 March 1971, Pakistan Armed forces committed heinous atrocities on the civilian Bengalis in the name of ‘Operation Searchlight’ on the soil of Bangladesh following the declaration of independence of Bangladesh by it’s Founding Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in the early hours of 26 March 1971. The war crimes continued for the next 9 months until 16 December 1971 when Pakistani Armed forces surrendered to the Bangladesh-India Allied Forces.
During this 9 month of foreign occupation by Pakistani Armed Forces, mass atrocities were committed on millions of Bengalis in which as per Bangladesh Liberation War records, as many as three million people were killed, more than 200,000 women and girls were sexually violated, enslaved and impregnated, hundreds of intellectuals, Hindus and Muslims alike, were blind folded and brutally murdered. 10 million people had to flee the country in fear of their lives and the atrocities to neighbouring India and sheltered themselves as refugees.
My uncles were two of those many victims in the very early days of ‘Operation Searchlight’ in Chittagong. The two uncles – Lt Col M R Choudhury & Shufi Ahmed Choudhury – were both killed in Chittagong and clearly targets of this operation to eliminate the opposition to this tyranny.
The first Lt Col Mujibur Rahman Choudhury was born in Ronkali, Golapganj, Sylhet and commissioned into the Pakistan army in 1950 at the age of 23.
In January 1971 Lt Col M R Choudhury was posted as Chief Instructor East Bengal Regimental Center (EBRC), Chittagong Cantonment. He was the key person in organising the revolt of Bengali military personnel in Chittagong. He was killed by the Pakistan army on the night of 25/26 March 1971, while attempting to arm Bengali personnel of EBRC.
My other uncle was Mr. Shafi Ahmed Choudhury, the Chief Planning Officer of East Pakistan Railway, in Chittagong in 1971.
He lived in a house at Tiger Pass, Chittagong, where much of the planning for the resistance was planned in January and Feburary 1971 along with his close cousin Lt Col M R Choudhury and Major Zia, where he gave logistic advice on troop movements by train. It is because of the above, that the Pakistan army picked up Shafi Ahmed in the 2nd week of April 1971 and killed him brutally.
Now ‘Genocide’ is a legally codified and internationally accepted term under the 1948 United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Despite the enactment of international rules and norms against genocide, the heinous crime has persisted even after 1948. Some recent examples of genocide include the Rwandan Genocide in 1994, the 1995 Srebrenica massacre during the Bosnian Civil War, the indiscriminate killings of ethnic minority groups in South Sudan since the 2013 civil war, the Yazidis, Shiites and Christians being slaughtered in Syria and Iraq, and close to Bangladesh, Myanmar’s genocide of the Rohingyas.
On 25 March 2017, Bangladesh Parliament declared 25 March as “Genocide Remembrance Day” in 2017 and called upon the international community to support Bangladesh in seeking the official recognition of the heinous atrocities committed on the soil of Bangladesh as ‘Genocide.’
Finally I pay tribute to the patriotism, courage and sacrifice of both my uncles – Lt Col M R Choudhury, Shafi Ahmed Choudhury and their families – my aunts and cousins – along with the many other Bengalis who made the ultimate sacrifice for the liberation of the Bengali people. They are due our special honour and respect. Many of them will never get justice but we will never forget them, as we commemorate their patriotism, courage and sacrifice on this 50th anniversary.