It was the year 1971 and Bangladesh was wracked with ethnic genocide. Bangladesh was part of Pakistan and was better known as “East Pakistan”. During this time, millions of Bengali, or East Pakistanis, were being slaughtered by the superior West Pakistan forces. Women were kept in the men’s military barracks and forced to be sex slaves. Villages were being burned to the ground.
…we were told to kill the Hindus and Kafirs (non-believer in God). One day in June, we cordoned a village and were ordered to kill the Kafirs in that area. We found all the village women reciting from the Holy Quran, and the men holding special congregational prayers seeking God’s mercy. But they were unlucky. Our commanding officer ordered us not to waste any time.
The primary target of these raid, as reported, were supposed to just be Hindus and Atheists. In fact though, the targets were the Bengali people in general. When the British left Hindustan (which at that time consisted of India, Bangladesh and Pakistan), they divided the subcontinent into 2 countries; Pakistan, which contained modern day Pakistan and Bangladesh, and India. India was meant as a residence for the Hindu population, and Pakistan for the Muslims. However, the British assumed the primarily Muslim religion in East Pakistan was enough to tie them in unity to West Pakistan. It was not, as most of the government was centralized in the West, the East was often shortchanged, and neither culture (Bengali and Pakistani) was compatible. This created a breeding ground for hate and ultimately led to the genocide of 1971 in Bangladesh until India’s intervention on December 5 of the same year.
Today, Bangladesh is still suffering from the after effects of the genocide. After 1971, many Muslims remained in Bangladesh along with the Hindus. There are 2 major political parties in Bangladesh; the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and Jamaat-e-Islami (JEI), a socially conservative Islamist group. Both parties existed rather peacefully up until recently when the BNP decided to put the Vice President of JEI, 73 year old Delwar Hussain Sayedee, on trial for war crimes he may have been responsible for in 1971. He was sentenced to death by the courts. Currently, all of the officers of the party are denying any affiliation with Pakistan during the genocide, though the party openly opposed independence during the liberation that ended the genocide.
The trial concerning war criminals was 3 days long, during which several protests were staged by JEI supporters last week.
Death toll: At least 60
Death toll on Sunday: 19
Chaos reigns throughout Dhaka and the Indian President Pranab Mukherjee has intervened, counseling peace for both sides. The New York Times reports that:
Each side has blamed the other for the violence. Jamaat-e-Islami supporters have accused the police of provoking the confrontations… though the authorities say followers of the group…have attacked police officers, set fire to cars and trains, and rampaged in different cities.
It is unclear which way this situation will turn, but it seems the saying “Religious wars are the worst to fight”, still rings true during this small but growing, civil war in Bangladesh.