Saturday, 13 August, 2022

Death Anniversary of Jahanara Imam and a Note on Gono Adalot

Dr. Abdul Mannan Choudhury

Death Anniversary of Jahanara Imam and a Note on Gono Adalot
Dr. Abdul Mannan Choudhury

On 26 June, 2020, Jahanara Imam would have her 26 Death Anniversary when she will be remembered by all her associates in the Gono Adalot and those who love her. Concerning Gono Adalot, there are a number of write-ups. Recently, I have gone through a write up that appears in the Wikipedia where I have found certain untrue and confusing information. These are to be corrected for avoiding intellectual dishonesty, distortion of history and putting Jahanara Imam and Gono Adalot in its real perspective. The Wikipedia is not to be blamed, but the sources it has depended in producing the write-up. Some of them are not dependable.

Wikipedia reported ‘Jahanara Imam and other activists created the Ghatok Dalal Nirmul Committee on 19 January, 1992. The committee campaigned for the trial of the Collaborators of Pakistan Army who were accused of involvement in the Bangladesh Genocide during the Bangladesh Liberation war in 1971. On 26 March, 1992, the Ghatak Dalal Nirmul Committee established the Gono Adalot to hold public mock trials of the alleged collaborators. The reporting is partly false and defective because the Gono Adalot (or spelled as Gono Adalat) was never established by the Ghatak (or spelled as Ghatok) Dalal Nirmul Committee but by the National Coordination Committee for the Trial of the Killers and Collaborators of 1971 and Implementation of the Spirit of the Liberation War. For brevity’s sake it was named National Coordination Committee or National Coordination Committee for the Trial of the Killers of 1971. The Committee and its abbreviated version in Bangla are: gyw³hy‡×i ‡PZbv ev¯Íevqb I 71 Gi NvZK `vjvj wbg~©j KwgwU  RvZxq mgš^q KwgwU wKsev NvZK wbg©~j RvZxq KwgwU.  Secondly on March 26, 1992, the Gono Adalot produced Golam Azam only for trial in the Gono Adalot (People’s Court, Mass Court or Court of the Peoples) not just on account of helping Pakistan Army in Committing Genocide but for as many as 10 (Ten) heinous offences in the then East Pakistan including crime against humanity & war crimes through abetting the Pakistani forces in killing 30 million innocent people and violating more than 200,000 women, and such other related offences. I would appreciate the Wikipedia for avoiding assertion that like Jahanara Imam almost singlehandedly steered the movement and holding of the Gono Adalot. As said before the Gono Adalot was organised by National Coordination Committee, where Shahid Janani Jahanara Imam was the Chairperson and which had 22 members who were deemed highly honored and celebrated in the society. I need to mention the names but before that, I need to emphasise that the National Coordination Committee was formed with Jahanara Imam as its Coordinator and Abdul Mannan Choudhury, a Professor in Dhaka University as its member secretary & seventy other members. It had a steering committee consisting of the convener and the member secretary as well as Abdur Razzak, a member of the parliament, freedom fighter and presidium member of the Awami League. The party which had been organising the liberation struggle for long 23 years and the liberation war of 1971, Kazi Arif Ahmed, President of Jatio Samajtantrik Dal and a freedom fighter, Nurul Islam Nahid, the Secretary of Bangladesh Communist Party, Syed Hasan Imam, a very renowned cultural activist and freedom fighter, Principal Abdul Ahad Choudhury, a freedom fighter and President of the Muktijoddha Command council. Moreover, she was heading the coordination committee which had 49 members at the beginning and which rose to 72 members before the day of the trial of Golam Azam at the Sohrawardy Udyan, (not in front of Engineers Institute)  but, the institute is close to Sohrawardy Udyan previously known as Race Course Maidan. The membership to the committee was organisational membership. Each organisation nominated its president or secretary to sit on the committee except Awami League which was represented by a presidium member. The committee had a Chief Patron, although unofficially, namely Sheikh Hasina, the daughter of the founder of Bangladesh Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the President of Bangladesh Awami League and Leader of the opposition in the Bangladesh Parliament. The committee had subsequently an Advisory body having almost all senior members of the Gono Adalot and the National Fact Finding Committee headed by Begum Sufia Kamal- at that time was known as the conscience of the nation and a mother of the braves.

The fact finding committee had it members who were well-known members of the civil society including retired justice of the Supreme Court, retired chief of Air Force, Vice Chancellor the university and so on and so forth. Obviously, the question of almost singlehandedly steering by Jahara Imam is partly irrelevant.

Once again, let me emphasise that Gono Adalot was established by National Coordination Committee not by Ghatok Dalal Nirmul Committee- The Ghatok Dalal Nirmul Committee was a member of the this 72 member confederated body known as National Coordination Committee. Since, Jahanara Imam was holding the position of the Coordination Committee and Ghatok Dalal Nirmul Committee simultaneously; nobody tried hard to differentiate these two bodies. The Ghatok Dalal Nirmul Committee was easy to pronounce and transmit; the prefix of 71 was virtually dropped in order to avoid certain pitfalls. Jahanara Imam was intelligence and tactful enough to accept the name coordination committee. In her last letter from the death bed she assigned the coordination committee only to continue the movement. That was also a calculated step to enable Sheikh Hasina to remain in the movement and gave it a final shape and last touch.

Besides, the reporting in the Wikipedia, some previous and subsequent reporting in local dailies and foreign write up especially that of William Van Schendel in his book ‘A History of Bangladesh’ has had cementing effect to live with wrong thing. Schendel maintains … in 1992 a group of ‘pro-liberation’ activists headed by Jahanara Imam formed the Nirmul Committee (or Committee for the Uprooting of Traitors and Collaborators of 1971; ekattarer Ghatak dalal Nirmul Commettee). They staged a ‘People’s Court’ (Gono Adalot; gana adalat) to get the people’s verdict on the leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami, whom they accused of war crimes and treason. In this way they sought to force the issue of the stalled prosecution of war criminals back onto the political agenda. The government reacted by charging the organisers of the people’s court with treason. .

He has fixed up a poster of Gono Adalot whose letterings might have convinced him to write that Ghatak Nirmal Committee must have steered the movement or it is the single body that established the Gonoadalot. I, therefoe  find a moral and ethical obligation to point out such misreporting or fabricated reporting.

There are also reportings that Jahanara Imam was succeeded by Shariar Kabir. The fact is that Jahanara Imam in the coordination committee was firstly succeeded by Begum Sufia Kamal and thereafter by Syed Hassan Imam. Professor Kabir Choudhury held the reign of Ghatok Dalal Nirmul Committee till his death, while, Shahriar Kabir was officiating. Only recently he has assumed the role of the Chief of Ghatok Dalal Nirmul Committee. It is untrue that National Coordination Committee has sold its existence to Sheikh Hasina. The fact is that Sheikh Hasina has taken over all the functions of the National Coordination Committee and Gono Adalot, and has formed ICT which instituted tribunals that tried the persons identified by Gonoadalot and the National Fact Finding Commission of National Coordination Committee. The tribunals disposed justice to as many as 52 people till last reporting. The accused were either life term in view of their advancing age or death sentences for war crime and crime against humanity. This is the history of Gonoadalot and its ultimate destiny was given shape while Sheikh Hasina was or is in power.

This write up does not mean I am trying to deprecate the role of Jahanara Imam and her associates in organising the movement for the trials of killers and collaborators and of Gonoadalot. This is just meant to present the fact, reduce the tendency of distortion of history and get rid of intellect dishonesty and her colleagues in its true perspective. More specifically, the write up shall put the role of Jahanara, which will, I think, be tantamount to showing due respect to Jahanara Imam on her death anniversary.

I mentioned earlier that Sheikh Hasina was very much a part and parcel of the movement, helped enormously in holding the people’s court while it was opposed by the then government machinery headed by Begum Khaleda Zia and backed by Jamalat who were  instrumental in thwarting  the movement and instituting so called Sedition Charges against 24 (but not 28 as mentioned in some write up;, 23 of them were involved in the Gono Adalot, the 24th person namely Professor Abdul Mannan Choudhury was the member secretary of the National Coordination Committee. Sheikh Hasina also maintained a close links with the committee, promised the trials of all killers and collaborators of 1971, if voted to power. She kept her words. She, in the 9th parliament passed ICT act which opened door for the constitution tribunals that, I said earlier concluded the trials of 52.

Therefore, it is justified to pay homage to the departed soul of Jahanara Imam and pay complements to an undaunted and dedicated living soul –Sheikh Hasina the great, who has materialised what was once a dream, by giving a damn to challenges and odds at home and abroad.


The writer is a freedom Fighter and at present Vice Chancellor of World University of Bangladesh