It is the story of the time when Bangladesh was liberated in 1971, leaving its identity as East Pakistan. It is one of the most horrendous incidents that happened when the Pakistani Army committed genocide of the Hindu communities where 200-400,000 women were raped, approximately 2-3 Million people were killed and almost 10 Million people got displaced.
Today, this incident might have been removed from the shackles of history, but it becomes very important to talk about it in order to raise voices against the brutality, injustice, hatred that exists even now to target a particular community.
This March commemorates 50 years since the 1971 Bengali Hindu genocide incident happened. Today, let us reflect back on those pages of history which highlight the plight of this brutal incident, where Hindus in Bangladesh were viciously oppressed and tortured!
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Here’s How The Brutal Genocide Happened
The genocide in Bangladesh began on 26 March 1971, with the onset of Operation Searchlight (A planned military operation carried out by the Pakistani Army to curb the separatist Bengali nationalist movement in East Pakistan in March 1971) as West Pakistan (now Pakistan) began a military crackdown on its Eastern wing (now Bangladesh) of the nation to suppress Bengali calls for liberation.
Hindus residing there were made the premiere target and according to some historical sources, it is shared that The Pakistani Army called off verbal instructions to eliminate Hindus! Hindu community was robbed of its lands and their shops too were systematically slaughtered.
Rapes of The Hindu Women
Killings weren’t enough, while the incident was ongoing, a fatwa in Pakistan declared that the Bengali freedom fighters were Hindus and that their women could be taken as the ‘booty of war’. Numerous women were tortured, raped, and unsparingly killed during the war including the Bengali women. The Military of Pakistan wanted the Hindu community out of East Pakistan but still, the Pakistani soldiers raped Hindu women.
Hindu women were killed after being raped and Bengali Muslim women were left alive to give birth to “pure” Muslim babies.
Aubrey Menen, an English writer of Irish, documented an account of a 17-year-old Hindu bride who was gang-raped by Pakistani soldiers:
“Two went into the room that had been built for the bridal couple. The others stayed behind with the family, one of them covering them with his gun. They heard a barked order and the bridegroom’s voice protesting. Then there was silence until the bride screamed…In a few minutes, one of the soldiers came out, his uniform in disarray. He grinned at his companions. Another soldier took his place in the extra room. And so on, until all six had raped the belle of the village. Then all six left, hurriedly. The father found his daughter lying on the string unconscious and bleeding. Her husband was crouched on the floor, kneeling over his vomit.”
Mass Killing of The Hindu Population
An article in Time magazine dated 2 August 1971, read as follows:
“The Hindus, who account for three-fourths of the refugees and a majority of the dead, have borne the brunt of the Muslim military hatred.”
Pakistanis wanted to eliminate the Hindu communities in order to distribute and share the properties belonging to the Hindus among the middle-class Muslims residing in Bangladesh. The Hindus were made the special targets of the Pakistani forces. Historical accounts also claim that the only motive of the Pakistani soldiers was “to kill Hindus”.
US consulates reported methodical slaughter of Hindu men in cities starting in the first 24 hours of the incident. Pakistani Army units entered villages asking where the Hindu community lived. Hindus were identified because they were not circumcised. It has also come into account that sometimes the military also massacred Hindu women. There were barely any areas left where no Hindu was killed!
How The Then Indian Government Reacted To The Genocide
Writer Gary J Bass who is the author of the book “The Blood Telegram: Nixon, Kissinger and a Forgotten Genocide” which is an accountable book based on this incident claimed in his book that while the then Indian Government (led by Smt. Indira Gandhi) was aware of the mishappening with the Hindus, it tried to play it down and instead referred to it as genocide against the Bengali community in Bangladesh so as to avoid an outcry from the leaders of the then Jan Sangh which is the predecessor to Bharatiya Janta Party.
He has also mentioned that “rather than basing this accusation primarily on the victimization of Hindus, the then Indian Government tended to focus on the decimation of the Bengalis as a group”.
Present Condition of The Hindus in Bangladesh
After the liberation of Bangladesh to be a separate country, the Hindu community has contracted—from 13.5% in 1974 to 8.96% in 2011—a nearly 33% decline, which is humungous in demographic terms.
Also, since the year 1947, when India attained independence, the Hindu communities in Bangladesh have lived as second-class citizens—first under the Islamic theocracy of Pakistan till 1971 and subsequently under some of the governments in Bangladesh.
The Hindu community still has to go through some discrimination against it regarding various issues and continues to become a target of mob violence.
The Hindu American Foundation Report: https://www.hinduamerican.org/
The Blood Telegram (Vintage, 2014). Gary J Bass
The Great Partition: The Making of India and Pakistan. Yale University Press, 200
The Genocide That Was Never Told. Vinayaka Bhatta
– Written Content and Graphical Content Prepared By Kashish Rai (Twitter: @KaafyyFilmyy)