Thursday, December 15, 2005

16th December: Commemorate And Move On?

Tomorrow will be 16th December, a day Bangladeshis celebrate as Victory Day, when the the Pakistani occupying forces surrendered to the joint Indian-Bangladesh forces. I am not a very nationalistic person and I consider Canada to be more of my home than Bangladesh, and usually hate to dredge up past conflicts as they can cause a lot of acrimony and achieve nothing fruitful. However a lot of Bengalis have very conflicting emotions and attitudes about the day. Many get very patriotic, and start blaming the Pakistani kids of today, who had nothing to do with what their fathers' generation did, for all the ills of the war and beyond. Other Bengalis go the opposite way, claiming it's all in the past and completely ignoring the enormous sacrifices made by their fathers and mothers.

I believe 'Forgive But Not Forget' should be the motto today. If Bengalis did indeed want to punish the collaborators and perpetrators of the horrific crimes of 1971, the days after the victory in the Liberation war was the way to go forward. Trials like the Nuremberg Nazi ones would have been the way to go. Unfortunately Sheikh Mujib chose not to go that route, instead trying to obtain recognition from other Muslim leaders for his new country (and funding to go with it). Their main condition - forgive and forget Pakistan - which Mujib did in 1974, and Pakistan also recognized Bangladesh. To be fair, Mujib had no choice as the country was devastated, and it laid the foundation for good relations between Pakistan and Bangladesh ever since. Ironically, Israel was the second country, after India, to recognize Bangladesh and raise the issue of the genocide on the world stage. All the Muslim leaders and the US chose to support Yahya Khan. Today the Bangladeshi passport reads 'Valid In All Countries Except Israel'.

Today there is no reason to go Pakistan bashing. The crimes of 1971 were committed by a ruling elite, who forbade their own press from covering the genocide, told their own people in West Pakistan everything was fine and the army was just dealing with a few insurgents in East Pakistan, invoked religion as an excuse to oppress people, blamed neighbouring India for instigating trouble and put draconian laws to take away rights in the name of security. Today, the Bangladesh government sees no problem in phone tapping and killing people without fair trial.

Today, Pakistan and Bangladesh have a lot to learn from each other. We have yet to taste the fruit of true democracy. Our culture and development lags behind India. This year, during the D-Day celebrations, the German chancellor was invited to the commemoration. He gave a speech renouncing the Nazi genocide and the other leaders, former foes and now friends, applauded. There was closure. What is the chance of the Prime Minister of Pakistan paying a visit tomorrow to Bangladesh, apologizing for 1971, and the Prime Minister of Bangladesh accepting the apology and moving on?

Sadly, in our countries, rattling about a foreign 'foe' and imaginary issues on which nothing can be done is a good way to distract the masses from the real issues such as corruption, poverty and crime.

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Anonymous said...

True said.

I look at US-Japan, Germany-France, Canada-US, and even Greece-Turkey today, and wonder why we cannot have closure and live in peace. The past cannot be undone but we can learn from it and move on.

Yet India and Pakistan are forever fighting, Bangladesh and Pakistan are trading tit-for-tat accusations over 1971 and so on. In the words of Lenon, "Give Peace A Chance."

- Farah.

Anonymous said...

It's a bit late to be posting a response to this blog but as a Pakistani..u have no idea how shameful we are of the actions of our military. It would have been easier to swallow had it stopped there but it seems the army is adamant on repeating a bangladesh scenario on sindh, baluchistan and sarhad.

Fugstar said...

people have different natures. some move on. others dwell and reproduce their bitterness.

it isnt in any journalist or politicians interest to back the forgive and forget thing. its how many people find a place for themselves in this world.

Suroor said...

This is the comment I left on my blog:

I apologise as a human being and because somewhere down the line I can somehow be associated with Pakistan.

When I was growing up people never asked me where I was from. Then suddenly they started asking and even when I said I’m from England, it didn’t satisfy them. At that time I didn’t understand why they didn’t understand me when I said I was from England. I’m not ashamed of having Asian roots at all; but I’m ashamed of having roots that were sometimes rotten. I can’t change that. It is God’s will that I am who I am. But I don’t agree with atrocities of any kind. The reason I remember those who were killed in 1947 (and I remember Muslims and Non-Muslims; all Indians) and those who were massacred and abused in 1971 is because the world today is too busy with others. By no means am I saying that I don’t feel bad about Palestinians or Bosnians, or Iraqis; I feel for them but I don’t want to forget those whom we are beginning to forget.

I would have written something on power struggle in Pakistan, Haleem, if I could. But, I know very little about the country that I haven’t visited more than half a dozen times. My grandfather lived in Pakistan for only a year. For official purposes he was Pakistani but he was always an Indian at heart. My father and I are not even officially linked to the country. My mother is Arab. I don’t dislike Pakistan but there are only few Paksitanis I personally like. There must be more; but I don’t know many. Likewise, I know very few Bengalis and they are those I like.

Most of my blog readers are Bengalis and this is all I can do. I wish the Pakistani government would apologise. They should. I hope this pebble in the lake has some larger ripple effect, Mezba.

I know that rape was the most painful war crime of 1971. I personally believe that no one stopped it because it was a planned strategy just like the killing of intellectuals. Kill the mind and bleed the soul is effective, is it not?! Rapes were not random acts of surging hormones; they were planned and executed for mass effect. The Pakistani “amnesia” regarding the rapes is grotesque; shameful and lame. I don’t think we should forget that ever. People may personally choose to forgive, but who do you forgive when no one apologises?! Even if the Pakistanis say that they “only raped Hindus”, I curse them with eternal impotence! Bengalis were the brothers and sisters when Pakistan chose to separate from India. Hindus were as much under Pakistani protection as part of its people as the Muslims. There may have been reasons for war but there are never any reasons to kill innocent civilians and rape women.

Shame on everyone!

Anonymous said...

Thank you suroor for saying what I was feeling but could not find the words.