Adolf Hitler’s “intelligenzaktion pommern”, a plan of secret holocaust made during World War II, has been seemingly pictured in the 1971 “operation liquidation” sought and implemented by the Pakistani army and their local collaborators. This plan is relatively lesser known but almost all of us are aware of the historic perpetration committed against the Bangalee intellectuals. This write-up would also show that the killing of a prominent intellectual evidently happened in Myanmar as well.
Featuring Bangladesh as talentless was the major view of killing a group of professors, journalists, activists, doctors, artists, writers, engineers, civil servants and so on. These persons of diverse professions are altogether named as “intellectuals”. In our time, we can dauntlessly speak of the 1971 killing of the Bangalee intellectuals as “genocide” which is established in the International Crimes Tribunal of Bangladesh (ICT-BD) and subsequently, upheld in the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh [Ref: Ashrafuzzaman & Chowdhury Mueen Uddin Case (ICT-BD (I) of 2013); Ali Ahsan Muhammad Mujahid Case (ICT-BD (IV) of 2012); and Motiur Rahman Nizami (ICT-BD (III) of 2011)].
Genocide is defined in the UN Genocide Convention as acts committed with intent to destroy a racial, national, ethnic, and religious group, in whole or in part, that is considered as a “crime of crimes”. During the WWII, Adolf Hitler ordered to kill the intellectuals of Poland with the intention to prevent the Polish intellectuals from unifying the Poles to revolt against the then German masters. Adolf Hitler observed the Polish intellectuals as threats because he felt that they might convince the Poles to fight against the new German leaders for their own rights.
This perpetration is regarded as a “secret holocaust” committed by the Nazi Germany during early period of the WWII. In other words, considering the intellectuals as a particular national group, this perpetration is measured as a “secret genocide”.
Thus, whether it is considered as “holocaust” or “genocide”, it is alleged that ‘holocaust ignored yield holocaust repeated, and genocide ignored yield genocide repeated against the intellectuals’. From a broader perspective, this statement is not only relevant as regards intellectuals but also concerning every group included and/or should be included in the definition of genocide in this present world.
From the viewpoint of Bangladesh, the dark chapter of ignorance of genocide has been closed to some extent due to the trials and punishments of the local collaborators in the ICT-BD. This can be a magnificent example of punishing the perpetrators of genocide by a domestic tribunal. We commemorate the Bengali intellectuals who were picked up forcibly from their households by the Al-Badrs particularly in between 10th -14th December 1971. The killing of intellectuals took place as a part of execution of the ‘operation liquidation’ to liquidate the professionals and intellectuals.
On 24 December 1971, a report was published in the Hindustan Times titled “5000 Persons in Dacca were Listed for Annihilation’ on the “operation liquidation”. This report narrates that ‘the intellectuals who were killed on December 15, a day before the surrender ... included prominent doctors, intellectuals and journalists, including the BBC’s representative in Dacca. The Bangladesh authorities have recovered a list of nearly 5,000 people in Dacca City alone from the occupation forces. These persons were to be annihilated. The list included practically every single intellectual in the city. Liberation came before “operation liquidation” came into full effect. Only Allah knows what would have happened, if they had gone through their full programme.’
Another report was published in the Daily Purbadesh on 22 December 1971 titled “Choranter Chanchollokor Dolil” that says about a secret meeting held in Mohammadpur, Dhaka on 9 August 1971 which results in killing hundreds of intellectuals in different places including Dhaka.
Mohammadpur Physical Training Institute was known as “torture camp” where most of the targeted intellectuals were picked up blindfolded from their home.
The intellectuals were killed to be dumped at the riverside brick-field, more specifically the main spots of execution in Dhaka city were the marshy land at Rayerbazar near Mohammadpur and another at Mirpur in an extremely barbaric manner. It has mostly been heard that tying their hands back, either they were shot in the head or buried alive. Moreover, their eyes were plucked off. A piece of data shows that nearly 80% of the intellectuals of Dhaka were killed and many of the distorted corpses were barely recognizable. However, there are some other places like ‘the Thataribazar killing field, Bosila Etakhola (now Kaderabad housing in Mohammadpur), Shirnirtek killing field, Lohar Bridge killing field at Gabtali (beside Amin Bazar bridge), several mass graves in Mohammadpur, the killing field in Rokeya Hall of Dhaka University, the mass grave in Adabor and the killing field in Sharengbari in Mirpur which have no mark or sign of identification.’ The whole nation was shocked after losing such great sons and daughters of Bangladesh before a few hours of achieving our victory.
Now, if we look at Myanmar, we will be astonished to know that Mr. Ko Ni, a prominent Muslim defender of religious minorities in that country, was assassinated on 29 January 2017 purportedly for his contributions and courage. He was also a senior adviser to National League for Democracy (NLD) since 8 October 2013. It should be mentioned that he was regarded as one of the most important voices for Myanmar Muslims, especially Rohingya Muslims. From the time the Burmese army started taking a scorched-earth tactic in northern Rakhine state as a reaction of attacks on Burmese border guards allegedly by the Rohingya extremists, various human rights organizations and international communities accused the Myanmar army of killing and raping the members of Muslim Rohingya community as well as destruction of their properties. Mr. Ko Ni was one of those persons who dared to raise their voicees against the law through which the citizenship of the Muslim Rohingya has been taken away.
The reason as to why he was killed is yet to be discovered. Nevertheless, Chit Min Lay, a former student under Mr. Ko Ni stated that, ‘sometimes I was worried for him, because he [Mr. Ko Ni] was always targeted by the extremists for his religion.’ Therefore, religion of Mr. Ko Ni is one of the factors behind his assassination. However, this write-up is worth enough to make it clear that the cardinal reason behind his being targeted and killed is his courage and indeed intelligence of taking the right thing as right and wrong thing as wrong. Whether this incident is a fragment of the ongoing genocide committed against the Rohingya people in Myanmar is yet to be explored.
The discussed experiences of such killing of intellectuals during WWII, 1971 Liberation War of Bangladesh, and even the killing of Mr. Ko Ni in Myanmar substantiate the conclusion that killing of intellectuals is surely a genocidal tactic in certain circumstances.
The writer is working as a Lecturer at the Department of Law, East West University. He is also a researcher of International Criminal Law and Justice.