The Bangladesh Law Commission has drafted a law which criminalizes the “distortion or denial" of any of the events that were for the preparation of 'Liberation War from August 14,1947 to December 16, 1971. Half-truth or misleading information about the history of the "Liberation War" in any media including textbooks and making statements to national or foreign media to undermine any events of the so-called Liberation War will be a criminal offence. Showing justification for or publicizing support for various criminal activities conducted by the Pakistan Army in 1971 and its collaborators is also offence. Any individual will be able to file a case against the violators of the law. The perpetrators will be punished with a jail term of up to five years and a monetary fine of Takka 1 crore.
Why has this law become necessary after 45 years of Bangladesh’s creation? The law commission started drafting the proposal when the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) leaders, including the party's Chairperson Khaleda Zia, questioned the number of those killed in 1971. On December 2I, 2015, Khaleda Zia said, “There is still a controversy about the exact number of people martyred in the Liberation War, different books and documents show different numbers in this regards. No one can write true history now, fearing harassment by the govt. Those who are now writing the facts are being subjected to harassment and being pressurized to withdraw their books from the market. But they are refusing to give in, saying they have written the truth".
On December 25, 2015, BNP’s Standing Committee member Gayeshwar Chandra Roy said, "I ask journalists to do a survey … to get the right statistics … Begum Khaleda Zia said there is a debate … The debate was placed in Parliament in 1991. Late MP Colonel Akbar Hossain raised the issue then. At Heathrow Airport in 1972, Shiekh Mujibur Rahman turned 3 lakh into 3 million out of ignorance. Someone hurriedly whispered into his ear and he uttered the words hastily. As far as I know, there is a list of 2.76 lakh families of the martyred in the Liberation War affairs ministry. Then where did the rest 27 lakh come from?"
On December 27, the President of Awami League and Indian sponsored Ekatturer Ghatak Dalal Nirmul Committee, Shariar Kabir, demanded the govt to formulate two new laws, one to punish the denial of the history of war and mass genocide of 1971 and second to compensate the victims of the war. About the so-called 'Liberation War Victims' Compensation Act, he demanded that the govt must ask Pakistan to compensate the victims and include the provision in the law for confiscating properties and assets of war criminals i.e., those facing war crimes''. The Awami League claims that during the war, three million people were killed, two lakh women raped, 10 million people fled to take shelter in India and millions were internally displaced. What is the source of this figure? Where does the truth about the numbers lie?
Actually, the three million figure was popularised by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. He misspoke in an interview to David Frost, a British journalist. On May 23, 2011, Serajur Rahman, the Deputy Head of the BBC Bengal service, wrote a letter to a British newspaper, The Guardian, "On 8 January 1972, I was the first Bangladeshi to meet independence leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman after his release from Pakistan. He was brought from Heathrow to Claridges … [in London] ... and I arrived there almost immediately...He was surprised, almost shocked, when I explained to him that Bangladesh had been liberated and he was elected president in his absence. Apparently he arrived in London under the impression that East Pakistanis had been granted full regional autonomy for which he had been campaigning... During the day, I and others gave him the full picture of the war. I explained that no accurate figure of the casualties was available but our estimate, based on information from various sources, was that up to “three lakh" (300,000) died in the conflict. To my surprise and horror, he told David Frost that "three million of my people’’ were killed by the Pakistanis. Whether he mistranslated “Lakh” as “million” or his confused state of mind was responsible, I don’t know, but many Bangladeshis still believe a figure of three million is unrealistic and incredible"
Eminent Bangladeshi writer “A Rahman”, a nuclear safety specialist in the British civil and military establishment, writes that “the figure of three million deaths in nine months of war is unsubstantiated, abnormally high …”
Three million deaths over a period of 270 days makes an average of just over 11,000 deaths every day. Even mass graves of 10,000 people means 300 graves i.e. almost every district would have five such super massive graves!
The question arises that despite many eminent personalities empirically challenging the figure of 3 million, why is the Awami League so intransigent in defending this gross exaggeration?
The reality is that in 1970s, Bangladesh Home Ministry discovered that most of those killed were Biharis and Bengali Muslims who stood for the unity of Pakistan. They suffered at the hands of Mukti Bahinis and were brutally massacred. The figure of 3 million helps the Awami League in face saving and to cover their atrocities and genocide.
To cover up Mukti Bahini’s genocide and rapes, the govt of Bangladesh enacted on February 28, 1973 'National Liberation Struggle (Indemnity) Order, 1973' to provide for indemnity to those persons in respect of acts done in connection with the national liberation struggle, the maintenance or restoration of order; enforced retrospectively from March 26, 1972.
The Awami League claims that Mukti Bahini picked up arms as a consequence of Pakistan Army operation on March 25, 1971. If this is true, then why the Indemnity Ordinance indemnifies the acts of Mukti Bahinis committed from March I, 1971 to March 25, 1971 i.e. before the army operation, and from December 16, 1971 to February 28, 1972 i.e. the period after the creation of Bangladesh? Moreover, why the current proposed law is covering the period from August 14, 1947 to March 1, 1971? Ian Jack writes that at Khulna, there was a kind of genocide perpetrated by Bengalis against the non-Bengalis. They worked beside in the town's jute mills. On March 18, 1971, their fellow workers slaughtered large numbers of them, sometimes methodically in slaughter houses set up inside the mills. Their bloated corpses clogged the rivers for days. After December 16,1971, Khulna’s Bengali mill workers repeated the episode time and again. Non-Bengalis were seen as traitors who supported the wrong side.
Official sources reveal that some 300 Mukti Bahinis were involved in genocide and rapes of Biharis as well as Pakistan supportive Bengalis. Some of the names have already appeared in the media recently.
The truth is to rewrite the history from its perspective; the Awami League has suppressed the freedom of speech in Bangladesh. The UK daily Guardian writes in its editorial dated April 8, 2016, “mature countries should interrogate their history and accept diverse interpretations of how they came into being, particularly when a nation has broken away from another.”
On its part, the Government of Pakistan has until now remained circumspect. The issue of conducting an open inquiry of those killed should be raised at all international fora. Pakistan owes this to those who sacrificed their lives first for the creation of Pakistan in 1947, then for its unity in 1971 and are still dying for its ideology while facing sham war crimes, to which the entire world is criticizing, of course, except India.