“I saw Hindus, hunted from village to village and door to door, shot off-hand after a cursory ‘short-arm inspection’ showed they were uncircumcised. I have heard the screams of men bludgeoned to death in the compound of the Circuit House (civil administrative headquarters) in Comilla. I have seen truckloads of other human targets and those who had the humanity to try to help them hauled off ‘for disposal’ under the cover of darkness and curfew.”
By: Mrutyuanjai Mishra
These were the famous lines written by a Pakistani journalist Anthony Mascarenhas narrating the human rights violations committed in Bangladesh under the headline “Genocide” in 1971. He refused to buckle under the pressure of Pakistani generals, who systematically killed professors, well-educated middle-class people and specifically targeted people who revolted against the dominance of the Rawalpindi Raj of West Pakistan.
The genocide committed in Bangladesh deserves far more attention and recognition in the museums of the world where genocides are documented in order to prevent future war crimes against humanity.
We all know that Bangladesh gained independence and thereby a huge humanitarian catastrophe, which could have embroiled India on its way and caused communal riots, was avoided. It was thanks to the strong and timely leadership of our late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who acted bravely by allotting the military responsibility for stopping this heinous genocide on the shoulders of Indian military generals, comprising a Muslim, a Sikh, a Jew and a Parsi, thus coordinating the three branches of the armed forces, the army, the air force and the navy. The people of Bangladesh have always been thankful for having attained independence and having being able to retain one of the most beautiful languages of the world, Bengali and its tremendous rich literature, which deserves to be praised and promoted.
Thank heaven that there are journalists with integrity like Anthony Mascarenhas, who did not bend to the pressure of its government and reported bravely in spite of the risk involving his nearest family members. Since then we have seen many journalists getting abducted, threatened and killed in Pakistan. The New York Times reported the death of the famous journalist, Syed Saleem Shahzad, who wrote on the terrorism issue in 2011, and there are many others who buckled under the pressure from ISI, the military agency which probably till today has more power than the Prime Minister of Pakistan.
Will we ever see a similar report written on Baluchistan as the one we saw in 1971? Would the world community react to the atrocities committed on the people of Baluchistan, who live in a territory which was forcefully annexed in 1947? Probably not.
US Congressman Dana Rohrabacher introduced a bill in the House of Representatives in 2012, which was co-sponsored by another two congressmen, Louie Gohmert and Steve King, simply stating that the Baluchi nation has a historic right to self-determination.
This would be entirely in the geo-political interest of the West, as the strategic location of Baluchistan, which is the largest province of Pakistan, is close to Afghanistan and Iran, as well. It is no secret that Baluchistan is used by Pakistan to house the dangerous terrorist group Afghan Talibans, who have caused incessant problems and damage to the Western troops present in Afghanistan.
Even though Baluchistan is rich in natural resources like e.g. gas, it has been historically subjugated and suppressed by the Punjabi elite, who also control the army. The United States and the majority of European countries did not back the freedom struggle of the people of Bangladesh, but they ought to support the righteous cause of independence for the people of Baluchistan. It is not only in their interest, but it is in the interest of all those who want to see an end to the sectarian violence between Shias and Sunnis to stop the piling up of Sunni fundamentalist organizations right close to the border of Iran, which is primarily Shia.
This cannot be emphasized strongly enough. The human rights violations of the Baluchi people, who are a distinct ethnic and linguistic group, has been one of the most under-reported stories to date and ought to be brought into the limelight just the way a Pakistani journalist dared in 1971.
The western countries did not come to the rescue of the people of Bangladesh, a country which comprises one of the most moderate Muslim populations in the world. They have a chance to create another moderate Muslim country, which could act as a buffer between a Sunni Islamic state, Pakistan, and a Shia Islamic state, Iran. This could easily make South Asia a peaceful region for many, not just for the people of Baluchistan.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, having mentioned the issue of Baluchistan in his Independence Day speech, has probably become the catalyst who has finally internationalized this issue of human rights violations of a group of people who want to be recognized for their ethnic origins and have been seeking justice for a long time.
Mrutyuanjai Mishra is a commentator with Politiken, Denmark’s largest newspaper. He also comments on Asia on Danish TV and radio channels. He has authored many analytical articles on Asia and India in several Danish newspapers.
Courtesy: Times of India