Bangladesh pays rich tribute to martyred intellectuals of 1971
Bangladesh pays rich tribute to martyred intellectuals of 1971

From 8:30am, people from all walks of life will pay respects at the Martyred Intellectuals Memorial at Mirpur

The Martyred Intellectuals Day, a black day in the history of Bangladesh, is being observed with due solemnity across the nation on Tuesday.

Fifty years ago, on December 14, 1971, the Pakistan Army and its local accomplices systematically targeted some of the best minds of our country in order to break the intellectual backbone of the nation.

Most of the martyred intellectuals were dragged away from their houses blindfolded and killed between December 10 and 14 in 1971.

According to Banglapedia, the number of intellectuals killed includes 991 academics, 13 journalists, 49 physicians, 42 lawyers and 16 litterateurs, artists and engineers in Dhaka.

From the nationally published Martyred Intellectuals Day collection in 1972, news published in various publications and from the write-up of internationally renowned journalist Nicholas Tomalin at the international news magazine “Newsweek”, the total number of martyred intellectuals is as high as 1,070.

Tajuddin Ahmed, the first prime minister to the Mujibnagar government of Bangladesh, decided to create an investigation commission on December 31, 1971. However, it was not carried out later.

Every year the nation observes the day with profound solemnity and respect commemorating the intellectuals. This year too, the government along with various political, social and cultural organizations has chalked out elaborate programs to observe the day.

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As per schedule, wreaths will be placed at 7:05am at Mirpur Martyred Intellectuals Memorial. Several television channels, including Bangladesh Television (BTV) and the private TV channels, will air the program live.

Led by the Liberation War Affairs Minister, members of the martyrs’ families and the valiant freedom fighters will place wreaths at the Intellectuals Memorial at 7:22am and at the Rayer Bazar Boddho Bhumi at 8:30am.

From 8:30am, people from all walks of life will show their respects at the Intellectual Memorial while maintaining proper health safety guidelines.

Marking the day, the ruling Awami League and other political parties have planned various programs today as well.

What happened that day?

Realizing that their defeat was inevitable, the anti-liberation forces hatched this master plan to cripple the nation by killing the nation’s intellectuals in the most heinous way possible.

This massacre of December 14, 1971, was a most barbaric one, which stunned peace-loving people all around the world.

The Pakistani forces and their local collaborators left the dead bodies of those intellectuals at many places of Dhaka, including Mirpur, Rayer Bazar, etc, after killing them brutally.

Also Read – A half century on, we remember…

Right after liberation on December 16, 1971, the close relatives of the martyred intellectuals discovered the mangled and abused bodies at the Mirpur and Rayer Bazar graveyard.

The dead bodies carried signs of torture. They were blindfolded with hands tied at the back. Some of them had more than one bullet shot.

Some were killed with sharp weapons; most of the bodies were so distorted that the relatives failed to recognize their beloved ones.

Plan of massacre

Major General Rao Farman Ali was the mastermind behind the plan for eliminating the intellectuals on behalf of Pakistan’s forces.

The Pakistan army killed some of the intellectuals, including many of the teachers of Dhaka University on the night of March 25. However, the greater part of the planned killing took place just a few days before the war ended.

During the war, the Pakistan army and its trained semi-militant forces, the Al-Badr and Al-Shams had created a list, where they included all the freedom-loving intellectuals.

Also Read – Month of Victory: The plot to kill intellectuals

A handwritten diary of Rao Farman Ali was discovered from the ruins of Bangabhaban, where a list of many killed and living intellectuals were found, proving that Farman Ali was the mastermind behind this cleansing.

Besides, the information secretary during Ayub’s regime, Altaf Gauhar, said in an interview that in the list of intellectuals the name of his friend the poet Sanaul Haque was present too.

At Altaf Gauhar’s request, Rao Farman Ali deleted the name of Sanaul Haque from the list in the diary.

The verdict on killing

On Nov 3, 2013, many in the courtroom, most family members of martyred intellectuals, broke down in tears when the war crimes tribunal handed down death sentences to notorious al-Badr leaders Chowdhury Mueen Uddin and Ashrafuzzaman Khan for their leading roles in the killing of intellectuals in 1971.

The war crimes case against the duo is popularly known as the intellectual killing case, since all the 11 charges brought against them were for abduction and killing of 18 intellectuals that had taken place between December 10 and 15 of 1971.

“The events were chained together and were perpetrated by a group of Al-Badr men forming a killing squad to which Chowdhury Mueen Uddin was the operation-in-charge and Ashrafuzzaman Khan was the chief executor,” said the judgment.

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The tribunal of Chairman Justice Obaidul Hassan and members Justice Md Mozibur Rahman Miah and Justice Md Shahinur Islam pronounced the summary of the 154-page verdict in a packed courtroom, which was only slightly less crowded than on other verdict days.

Regular followers of the trials of war crimes cases observed that the reduced attendance might be due to the trial in absentia, with Mueen believed to be living in the UK and Ashraf in the US.

It has been seven years since Ashrafuzzaman and Mueen were given death penalties but the Bangladesh government is yet to take any effective measures to bring the criminal duo back to the country in order to execute the verdict, officials at the Home Ministry have said.

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