Thursday, August 25, 2011
Appeal to Bangladesh Prime Minister Wazed for Secular Constitution as Promised in her Election Manifesto
Indian Subcontinent Partition Documentation Project Inc.: ISPaD
c/o Politics, Economics and Law Department, State University of New York, Old Westbury, NY 11568
February 21, 2011
The Honorable Sheikh Hashina Wazed
Prime Minister of Bangladesh
Government of People’s Republic of Bangladesh Old Sangsad BhabanTejgaon, Dhaka 1215, Bangladesh
Dear Prime Minister Wazed:
We are writing on this auspicious day of 21st February on behalf of well-wishers of Bangladesh living in the U.S. We understand that Bangladesh is planning to keep non-secular Constitution alive with “Islam as State Religion” and keeping an Islamic verse written in Arabic as the national symbol. We respectfully urge you to bring back the secular Constitution that all people of Bangladesh fought for. The proposal also betrays the election pledge made by the Awami League Party, and sacrifices made by language martyrs. This proposal, if adopted, will retain institutional discrimination against Hindu, Buddhist, and Christian minorities and against many secular Muslims making them third class citizens of a country for which they shed their blood. As you very well know that the vast majority killed by Pakistani Army and Bengali Razakars for the liberation of Bangladesh were Hindus, leaving aside Awami leaders and Muslim activists. We believe this effort to keep an unjust Constitution is the mirror image of the efforts made by some to deny the role of Sheikh Mujib in creating Bangladesh, but in this case the unjust Constitution denies the disproportionate sacrifice of one group for independence of the nation. We need the minorities to be equal partners in the development of the nation.
We are pleading to you, to the ruling Awami League and to the Parliament to reconsider the proposal and bring back the secular non-discriminatory Constitution of 1972 that the nation fought for. Please keep “Joi Bangla” in Bengali script as the national symbol. For some reason if you still plan to keep the Islamic verse in Arabic, we would like to suggest that please also include “Bhagaban Amader Desh O Dasher Mangal Karun,” in Bengali alphabet.
Dr. Sabyasachi Ghosh Dastidar, New York
Dr. Jiten Roy, New York
Mr. Ramen Nandi, New Jersey
Mr. Dilip Chakravorty, New York
Mr. Pratip Dasgupta, New York
Dr. Shefali Sengupta, New York
Dr. Rudtranath Talukdar, Texas
Mr. Ratan Barua, New York
Mr. Pabitra Chaudhuri, New York
Copy: President of Bangladesh; Speaker of the Parliament; Leader of Opposition; Law Minister; Human Rights groups; Minority Rights groups; News media; U.S. Congressmen Crowley and Pallone; USCIRF; Bangladesh Ambassadors in D.C. and U.N.
Here is a response to that by Dr. Sachi G. Dastidar to the Woodrow Wilson Center, their response, a few other comments to Woodrow Wilson:
Dear Dr. Hathaway:
Thank you for your response. I am sorry that I could not write to you sooner because of mid-terms, grading, Spring Break, and a conference. Because it is of one of the issues of utmost importance to me and because Woodrow Wilson Center is involved, I thought I would send you this note. You are welcome to share this with Dr. Bose and others. I have also taken liberty to share your earlier response with my colleagues and friends. Here’re a few issues Dr. Bose raised:
(A) The Casualty: As I mentioned to you in my letter I have been working at the grassroots level in Bangladesh and India for over 30 years, (and to work with 26 schools our foundation supports.) I have traveled to almost every district and sub district in Bangladesh, sometimes traveling by boat or on the back of motorbike. What got me interested in my last book project is that every Hindu and every Hindu-majority village told me stories of ethnic cleansing in 1971. Almost everyone was a first hand witness to Hindu killing by the Army of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and by its Bihari and Bengali Islamist Razakar killers. (Even Pakistan Government’s Hamoodur Commission asked if there was an order for ‘extermination of Hindus’ to which officers said, ‘No,’ of course. “He (Lt. Gen. A. A. K. Niazi) Denied the Allegation that he ever ordered his Subordinates to Exterminate the Hindu Minority” and “…915 men were just slain by a flick of one Officer’s fingers should suffice as an example….There were verbal instructions to eliminate Hindus.” See, March 27/28 1971 Massacre report at Comilla Cantonment.) All pro-secular Muslims and Awami activists were target, no doubt, but every Hindu, from peasant to professor, was targeted. As I did a reverse estimation of Hindu loss between 1961 Census and that of 1974, the loss was at least 6.3 million, which is higher when adjusted for Muslim loss. We Hindus do not just “vanish in thin air.” (From 1961-1974 rate of growth of Bangladeshi population was 38.35%, with Hindus constituting 18.5% of the population. In 1974 Hindu population came down to 13.5%; thus 6.3 million loss. Source, Bangladesh Census, as quoted in my Empire’s Last Casualty… book, p 43 and 51.) Many of the survivors have suggested to me that they won’t be surprised if the numbers of Hindus killed surpass three million. People have cited two difficulties in counting the dead, especially for Hindus. One is that they cremate their dead, and second, bodies dumped into the world’s largest delta were washed away. I heard of such dumping in Bhairab Bridge, in Barisal, Dhaka and from other places. Even after field work for 30 years, I am amazed to find new victims, not recorded in Bangladeshi documents, on a regular basis. (My Empire’s Last Casualty: Indian Subcontinent’s Vanishing Hindu and Other Minorities [Firma KLM Publishers, Calcutta, 2008] book is an attempt to document that loss, but from 1946 through 2001.) In 2008 when we opened a new building at Shahid Smriti (Martyr’s Memorial) Girl’s High School at SwarupKathi the local residents gave me a list of 136 Hindus, 42 from the school’s village, who were corralled and murdered by Pakistan Army and local killers: thus the name. The year before when I opened a girl’s dorm in Kochua in Khulna region I was invited by a young man whose father and two siblings were murdered. In Gandhi Ashram school of Noakhali that we support seven aged Gandhi associates were shot dead for being Hindu. In Prabartak Sangha Ashram of Chittagong 14 teachers, including one Muslim, were shot dead. The Comilla Boy’s Orphanage we support contains several memorials to Hindus murdered in 1971, including Parliamentarian Dhirendra Nath Datta and his son, who were dragged from home, tortured and killed by the Islamic Republic’s army, their bodies never found. (I have interviewed a granddaughter who was abused.) Madaripur Ashram School we support was destroyed along with the temple, student dorm and residences. Our Partition Documentation Center in New York is now recording narratives of refugees and survivors – from 1947 through the present. We are yet to find a Hindu whose family and home was neither attacked nor was there any loss in the family in 1971. It was essentially a Hindu genocide within a Bengali genocide (similar to WWII Europe and Rwanda.) The genocide began with attack on Dhaka University’s Hindu Jagannath Hall dorm by killing 64 Hindu students and teachers (see the on-site memorial tablet and NBC’s John Chancellor’s clip on YouTube); and by destroying the 9th Century Ramna Kali Temple, then mutilating and torching 100 Hindu devotees and priests (check the on-site memorial tablet). Recently we interviewed two Muslim brothers whose father Serajuddin Husain, Editor of Ittefaq, was dragged from home at 3 AM by Urdu-speaking gang but never to return. We are also recording narratives of Muslims who were victimized, or displaced from West Bengal. These are just a few examples. I can go on and on. (Unrelated to this I visited two dozen districts in Bangladesh during anti-Hindu pogroms in 1990 and 1992. Ambassador Milam was our ambassador then.)
My family and I have traveled to Pakistan, with our own funds, the last one being in 2007 to participate in the 150th Anniversary of War of Independence organized by Peshawar University. There were scholars from all of Pakistan’s universities and think tanks. Learning that both my parents and my in-laws were Hindu refugee, I found no hesitation on the part of scholars to condemn the atrocities perpetrated by their army in 1971. A few years ago a Pakistani immigrant pumping gas in my New York City neighborhood told me as a matter of fact that “as army men we were ordered to kill Hindus and Awamis.” I am not sure how can one miss such day-to-day experience and not seek justice.
• (2) Rape: Unless someone is completely oblivious to the Bengali and Indian culture one would know that estimating rape victim is very complex, and 250,000 victims could be an undercount as well as overestimate. Dr. Nilima Ibrahim in her books, Aami Birangana Bolchhi (I am the brave woman speaking, Jagriti Prakashani, Dhaka; 1998), tried to narrate rape victim’s story, but gave up after second volume when she was denigrated for bringing shame to the families. Even a liberated Hindu girl’s father in one of her stories asked the victim not to return home before he can protect other siblings. This is not new. After 1946 anti-Hindu pogrom in Noakhali when British Bengal’s Muslim League Premier was Mr. Suhrawardy thousands of girls and wives were abducted and converted. Yet when groups of women like Ashoka Gupta, Sucheta Kripalani, Sneharani Kanjilal and others went to recover the women, the British Administrator MacInerny said those were ‘love marriages.’ Mrs. Sucheta Kripalani – the future Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh – asked “please give me one concrete case of love affairs between the communities from 10th October to this day, after the riot….” The recovered girls Mr. MacInemy investigated were indeed abducted. (See P 62-63, Ashoka Gupta, Noakhalir Durjoger Diney [An Account of the Aftermath of Riot in Noakhali in 1946], Naya Udyog, Calcutta; 1999. Also see Taj Ul-Islam Hashmi, Pakistan as a Peasant Utopia: the Communalization of Class Politics in East Bengal, 1920-1947, Westview, Boulder; 1992). I interviewed Mrs. Gupta and Dr. Hashmi for my project. More recently in my own neighborhood in New York City three teenage girls were victimized. Once the criminal was apprehended and produced at the court two girls came to testify, whereas the third girl, a Hindu, left the area with her family leaving no forwarding address. During the 2001 pre-election violence and anti-Hindu pogrom in Bangladesh large-scale attack took place on minority Hindus, (and Awami supporters) including mass rape of Hindus in Bhola Island. We were asked to provide shelter to 21 recovered girls as our foundation helps many orphanages. Yet the suffering parents took their daughters back as words of their children’s new shelter leaked out. (I also informed our embassy in Dhaka as one of our schools came under attack in Barisal.) And just days ago on March 27, 2011, The New York Times highlighted the plight of educated rape victims in India as victim’s families choose not to bring charges against rapists for fear of family disgrace. The Dhaka (Hindu) Girls’ Orphanage (school) we support in Old Dhaka was completely gutted by Pakistan Army, and by their Bihari and Bengali Islamist supporters with whereabouts of the girls unknown. Why should lives of our daughters not matter?
• (C) Bihari: In my field work among Hindu refugees (1947-1964 period) in India stretching from Jabar Dakhal (forcibly occupied) colonies of West Bengal to settlements in Dandakaranya Forest almost every family ‘blamed’ attack on them in East Bengal/Pakistan first on the non-native Urdu-speaking Biharis. (See, Dakshina Ranjan Basu, Chhere Asa Gram [The villages we left behind]; First published in 1954, Jigansa, Calcutta; Bandyopadhyay, Hiranmoy, Udbastu [Refugee], Sahitya Sangsad, Calcutta; 1970; Prof. Prafulla Chakrabarti, The Marginal Men: The Refugees and the Left Political Syndrome in West Bengal, Lumiere Books, Calcutta; 1990; and more.) Ironically after Bangladesh was liberated many of them were sheltered by Marxists to prove their ‘secular’ credentials, although most of the Marxists were Bangladeshi-Hindu refugees who after partition chose not to live with their Muslim-majority and oppressed-caste Hindu neighbors. Yet after 1992 Hindu-Muslim rioting in Calcutta many of the Left politicians blamed Calcutta riots on Bangladeshi Biharis who were settled “without proper secular education,” as quoted in The Statesman, Calcutta (December 12, 1992). In 1995 when Laloo Prasad Yadav came to power in Bihar State of India by promoting Yadav-Muslim solidarity he too was blamed for giving voting papers to Bangladeshi-Biharis when many of their leaders were accused of atrocities against Hindus and secular Muslims. So some Bihari loss can be attributed to migration to India as well as to Pakistan, but no violence can be condoned.
Just based on these facts, I would urge Woodrow Wilson Center to push for prosecution of war criminals, otherwise, I am afraid, both Bangladesh and Pakistan, and even India, may become destabilized by these mass murderers.
Sorry for the length. If you need additional information, please let me know.
Sachi G. Dastidar
Dear Dr. Dastidar,
Thank you for this full and careful response. I commend you for your efforts in trying to bring to light what took place in East Pakistan/Bangladesh in those tragic months.
The Wilson Center seems to have provoked something of a firestorm by holding last month's event. If we have in some small measure contributed to a clearer explication of the events of 1971, then we will have fulfilled our purpose.
Thank you for taking the time to bring the facts before me.
With every good wish,
From Dr. Amalendu Chatterjee of North Carolina:
Dear Dr. Hathaway,
You do not know me. I saw the exchange of emails among you, Prof Dastidar and Jamal Hasan. I thought if I can add some senses to all those controversies regarding Dr. Sarmila Bose. I am nether a historian nor a professor but I am a direct witness of the minority (Hindus and liberal Muslims) genocide in 1971. I was then a Pakistani Officer posted in Kaptai Hydro-electric dam in Chittagong Hill Tract. I am now a business owner in North Carolina. I never met Prof Dastidar or discuss the event in Bangladesh for the last 35 years we live in North America. I heard of Prof Dastidar’s work and frankly admire it for documenting every detail. I may have seen him during the 1960’s student movement in Dhaka. I was pursuing my Engineering Degree and he was in the Dhaka University. I could not dispute a single fact Prof. Dastidar presented in an e-mail to you. If I can add few more facts for your information:
1. I was Hindu Student body President in Dhaka Engineering College and had an opportunity to meet the then Governor Monayem Khan in 1966. In my brief discussion with him I knew fully well what went through his mindset. President G. W. Bush summarized it well in his autobiography ‘Pakistani leaders are obsessed with India’. Similar comment was made by Senator J. Helm who was the senate foreign relation committee chairman. The reason is simple - India is a Hindu majority state with democracy where Muslims (more than what is in Pakistan) live with their full democratic rights (multi-wives, no family planning – part of shariat law). On the other hand Pakistan is a loser and all Pakistani leaders would like to relate Bangladeshi Hindus with the good of India even having many discriminatory laws against Hindus such as enemy property act to capture Hindu lands.
2. As an officer we were not paid for months in 1971 and staying in Kaptai was getting difficult for junior officers like us. Some of us had to leave the place on foot with no money and no clothes. We were very worried for the family’s whereabouts along with it. We have seen dead bodies on road ways but could not stay together for social and financial reasons. I ended up in Barisal from Kaptai where I met many minority leaders and Muslim leaders. We had peaceful but worried life for several weeks and then started the Pakistani military operation with local Rajakars, and Nizami leaders. I have seen Miliatry would go village to village looking for Hindus with the pretence of talking of their security. All Hindus will gather in one place and the army will start shooting them randomly. I was in one such gathering but was smart enough to escape. The military never stayed in the rural area during nights. Rajakars will go to Hindu houses to loot all properties at night. We (muktibahinis) were trusted by many rich Hindu families (doctors, lawyers) with all their gold and cash money (it was in millions). We lost all of them and I had one set of clothing for months before I crossed to India in September/October. I had a beard of 2 feet and lost 25 lbs of weight when I became a refugee in India. On the way, we had many older people but many could not reach India due to torturous travel.
3. I was born Hindu but had to convert first to Christianity and then Islam to survive through the disaster and hide my identity. I know a very close family who could not take the torture of hiding converted to Islam and then had to give away his daughter to a Muslim boy. They were Banerjee family. There were many such events in front of me.
4. My work place in Kaptai was full of Bihari Muslims (engineer and mostly workers) and they could not tolerate a Hindu officer like me to be there. Only two to three Hindu officers of us were there out many hundreds. Yes, there were massacres and Kaptai dam is the witness when hundred of bodies were washed away by Bengali first and then by Biharis. The superintendent engineer of the dam was shot point blank with his colleagues by the military. He was dead on the spot. That was the story narrated to me by one of the survivors, Mr. Saleh. The daughter of the survivor, Ms. Taslima Ahmed, lives in North Carolina.
5. The face of radical Islam stopped briefly after liberation but resurfaced after the assassination of Mujibur Rahman and is still continuing even today – read the latest news what is happening after Dr. Yunus was removed by the Government and court gave the verdict in favor of government.
I can add more eye witness stories but will stop now. I have a serious reservation on Dr. Bose’s research and her views. She is using wrong data from one side. She may need to talk to people like us or visit places where there are proof of events that occurred.
Amalendu Chatterjee, PH.DVP-Technology
Comments by Mr. Akbar Hussain of Toronto
Thanks to Dr.Chatterjee for a first hand account of the chilling acts took place during the Liberation war. The partition of India in 1947 in the name of Islam was a blunder. This reality is now being accepted by many former die-hard Pakistanis also. The infamous Two Nations theory of Mr. Jinnah has been proved as garbage by the events took place right after the creation of Pakistan. The struggle to establish Bangladesh as a secular state was seen as a direct threat to Pakistan because our intentions nullified the veracity of the Two Nations Theory. Since religion can’t be a basis for nationhood successive Pakistani governments, civil and military both used the boggy of Islam to sustain the state. This was a futile attempt and the consequences are right in front of us. The introduction of Islam in India did not bring the purported emancipation for the low caste Hindus who were converted. The mullahs had an agenda to create a section in the society who will be indoctrinated to decline the Indian ancestry.
This was a historical social crime committed by the jealous local Islamic clergy which led the Muslims take pride of a bandit like Sultan Mahmood of Ghuzni who invaded India 17 times to plunder our forefathers' wealth.
The events leading to the resurgence of Islamic fundamentalism in Bangladesh is a tragic one. The political notion of secularism and its implications as a state policy was never really understood by anyone in the political arena in Bangladesh. The intellectual depth required to fathom the meaning of secularism is not there in Bangladesh. Slogans do not make a society secular. Sheikh Mujib who was definitely a dedicated Bengali but did not have any intellectual ability to understand and implementation of secularism in the country.
He had great chances to do that but he joined the Organization of the Islamic countries which was a blunder. The role of Gen.Ziaur Rahman was a vicious chapter in the Bangladeshi political scene. He rehabilitated the defeated Islamic forces and Begum Zia played into the hands of the mullahs. I think it will take a few generations to establish a meaningful secular society in Bangladesh. As long as the Muslims are not free from the drag of a 7th century book and its so called heavenly sources the ideals of secularism will remain illusive.
Comments of Dr. Gouranga Saha of Lincoln University, U.S.A.
I am an another living victim & witness of the events of “Untold Miseries of Minority Lives during Pakistani and Bangladeshi Regimes after Bangabandhu’s assassination. I will soon send out my vivid witnesses of those shameful discriminations & tortures (both physical & psychological) to this blog.
Gouranga Saha, Ph.D.
Professor of Science & Technology Education
Comment by Asim Chakrabarti; April 16, 2011