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Documentary reveals the story of forgotten genocide in Bangladesh

The brutal Operation Searchlight by Pakistani army is yet to be recognized as genocide

The brutal genocide in Bangladesh by Pakistani armed forces which continues to haunt the nation even after more than half a century, was revealed in detail in the documentary by Global Human Rights Defence (GHRD) in the Human Rights Film Festival at The Hague.

The genocide gained renewed attention as it entered its 50th anniversary in 2021. The ‘Bitter Winter’ platform dedicated a series of eight articles to delve into this tragedy. Nirmal Rojario, a leader of the Bangladeshi Christian community and the acting president of the Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council, emphasized the need for justice and international attention.

“A genocide happened, yet there has not been any trial. So, we want a trial and justice and the attention of the international community,” Dhaka Tribune quoted Rojario as saying.

Global Human Rights Defence (GHRD), an NGO based in The Hague has also released a timely and important documentary titled ‘What Happened? The Liberation of Bangladesh’ addresses this justice needs and sheds light on the historical events.

Directed by Lina Borchardt and featuring testimonials from survivors and archival footage from the Liberation War Museum in Dhaka, the documentary offers a powerful 41-minute exploration of the genocide. The film premiered at the second edition of GHRD’s Human Rights Film Festival in The Hague on June 30, 2023, resonating with audiences concerned about global discrimination and persecution, Dhaka Tribune reported.

The documentary also played a central role in the event titled ‘The Forgotten Genocide: Bangladesh 1971’. It was hosted by the European People’s Party at the European Parliament in Brussels in July this year. The screening highlighted the importance of addressing the historical tragedy and seeking justice for the victims.

As per Dhaka Tribune, the roots of the genocide can be traced back to the aftermath of India’s independence from Britain in 1947 when the Indian subcontinent underwent a violent partition along religious lines.

East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) became a separate territory, and tensions escalated between West Pakistan and East Pakistan.

The Pakistani military, with the support of radical Islamist groups, launched “Operation Searchlight” in East Pakistan, igniting the Bangladesh Liberation War or War of Independence. The Mukti Bahini, the Bangladeshi patriotic armed resistance, fought against the Pakistani Army and the local Islamist militias known as Razakars, Dhaka Tribune reported.

It is pertinent that during the nine-month war, widespread human rights abuses took place, including massacres of civilians, indiscriminate bombings, and attacks on minority communities.

The documentary highlights the courageous stories of individuals who endured and resisted the violence. Meghna Guhathakurta, who lost her father during the early days of the war, shares her personal account of the atrocities she witnessed. The plight of minorities, including Christians, Hindus, and Buddhists, was particularly harsh, with targeted killings and forced displacement.

The GHRD documentary reveals the extent of the genocide and the systematic efforts to erase the cultural identity of Bangladesh. Pakistani Islamists aimed to impose their despotic rule and suppress anyone who did not conform to their radicalized version of Islam, Dhaka Tribune reported.

The documentary also exposed the use of rape as a weapon of war and the subsequent stigmatization faced by survivors in Bangladeshi society. Shireen Huq, a women’s rights activist, highlights the challenges faced by women who were victims of mass rape and the lack of government initiatives to address this issue.

The documentary also sheds light on the ‘biranganas’, the women who were raped by the Pakistani Army and Razakars. These brave women sacrificed themselves for their people and were officially recognized as ‘war heroines’. However, the stigma around rape in Bangladeshi society prevented many survivors from coming forward, which made it difficult to obtain an accurate census of the victims, Dhaka Tribune reported.

The GHRD documentary emphasises the need for justice and accountability and calls for the prosecution of the Pakistani Army members responsible for the atrocities at the International Criminal Court.
The film serves as a poignant reminder that Bangladesh is a nation of Bengalis, transcending religious divisions, and deserves recognition and healing for the scars of the past.

The GHRD’s documentary serves as a reminder of the importance of preserving historical memory and seeking justice for past atrocities. By addressing these issues, countries can foster healthy diplomatic relationships while promoting human rights and accountability, Dhaka Tribune reported.