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71 Bangladesh Genocide Essay

The three million figure is totemic, which is one reason that, in February, the Bangladesh Law Commission opened consultation on a draft law called the Liberation War Denial Crimes Act. The proposed legislation uses the precedent of the Holocaust denial laws enacted in Europe after World War II.

Some of the proposed offenses are so broad that they would significantly hinder free speech and stifle legitimate historical research. The proposal would outlaw the “inaccurate” representation of war history and “malicious” statements in the press that “undermine any events” related to the war. Efforts to “trivialize” information related to the killing of civilians during the war would also be forbidden; this would almost certainly be used to prosecute anyone who questioned the official death toll.

Even before this legislative plan, there was a clear drift toward censorship here. In 2014, I was prosecuted for contempt of court in relation to a blog post written three years earlier looking at the research into war casualties. While the International Crimes Tribunal did not convict me for that offense (though it did for other articles), the court ruled that the number of three million dead “is now settled” and that “the issue of ‘death figure in 1971’ involves highest sacrosanct emotion of the nation.”

More recently, a sedition case was filed by an Awami League activist against Khaleda Zia, the leader of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, because of a speech she gave in December. “There is a debate about how many hundreds of thousands were martyred in the liberation war,” she said. “Different books give different accounts.”

For this, Ms. Khaleda was strongly criticized. Mofidul Hoque, a trustee of the Liberation War Museum, said that her “comment shows utter disrespect to the millions who laid down their lives and perished in the black hole of genocide in 1971.” Although it is difficult to see how her comment could amount to sedition, the government has given a go-ahead to the legal action.

Where does the truth about the numbers lie? The three million figure was popularized by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the leader of the Awami League in 1971, the country’s first president and the father of the current prime minister. Mujib, as he is popularly known, is a revered figure, particularly within the Awami League. But his biographer, Sayyid A. Karim, who was also Sheikh Rahman’s first foreign secretary, viewed the number as “a gross exaggeration.”

In his book “Sheikh Mujib: Triumph and Tragedy,” Mr. Karim reported that the prime minister’s office told him the figure was taken from Pravda, the Soviet newspaper. According to the American writer Lawrence Lifschultz, a survey by the Mujib government that was projecting a death toll of 250,000 was “abruptly shut down.”

A 1976 study in the journal Population Studies estimated that the number of deaths caused by the war was about 500,000, many as a result of disease and malnutrition. A 2008 article in The British Medical Journal concluded that the number of violent deaths during the war was about 269,000 (allowing a possible range of 125,000 to 505,000).

Many Bangladeshis sincerely believe in the three million figure, which symbolizes the huge sacrifices of the war. M. A. Hasan, convener of the War Crimes Fact Finding Committee, said, “The figure of liberation war martyrs is one such issue which no one should question.”

For others, however, questions are necessary on this and other aspects of the 1971 war, including the widespread killings of members of the Bihari ethnic group, who supported the Pakistanis during the conflict, by Bengali nationalists. We should question this because nationalist narratives about the past often serve contemporary political interests, and we should beware of an orthodoxy being used to silence dissent.

Since the Awami League came to power again in 2009, it has tried to use the emotions surrounding the 1971 war to justify a move toward authoritarian one-party rule. In its version of history, only the Awami League is the party of liberation, and therefore of government, and opposition parties are branded as “pro-Pakistan,” and therefore dangerous and disloyal.

Freedom of speech in Bangladesh is already under threat both as a result of religious extremists’ murdering secular bloggers, and the government’s pressure on the independent news media (including a campaign of harassment against one newspaper editor).

The proposed genocide law might work to the political advantage of the Awami League in the short term. But in the long term, curtailing free expression for sectarian political purposes is dangerous for democracy.

Continue reading the main story

Coordinates: 23°N90°E / 23°N 90°E / 23; 90

1971 Bangladesh genocide
Part of the Bangladesh Liberation War

Rayerbazar killing field photographed immediately after the war started, showing bodies of Bengali nationalist intellectuals (Image courtesy: Rashid Talukdar, 1971)

LocationEast Pakistan
Date21 March – 16 December 1971
(8 months, 2 weeks and 3 days)

Attack type

Deportation, ethnic cleansing, mass murder, genocidal rape
DeathsEstimated between 300,000[1] to 3,000,000[2][3][4]
Part of a series on
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Part of a series on the

History of Bangladesh


  • Neolithic, c. 7600 – c. 3300 BCE
  • Bronze Age, c. 3300 – c. 1200 BCE
  • Iron Age, c. 1200 – c. 200 BCE
  • Bengal in Mahabharata, c. 400 - c. 325 BCE
  • Gangaridai Kingdom, c. 350 - c. 325 BCE
  • Mauryan Empire, c. 325 – c. 185 BCE
  • Samatata Kingdom, c. 232 BCE - c. 800 CE
  • Shunga-Kushan Period, c. 185 BCE – c. 75 CE
  • Southwestern Silk Road, c. 114 BCE - c. 1450 CE
  • Indo-Roman trade relations, c. 30 - BCE - c. 600 CE


  • Gupta Empire, c. 240 - c. 550 CE
  • Sylhet-Assam Varmans, c. 350 - c. 650 CE
  • Gauda Kingdom, c. 590 - c. 626 CE
  • Khadga dynasty, c. 650 - c. 750 CE
  • Pala Empire, c. 750 - c. 1100 CE
  • Arrival of Islam, c. 800 - c. 1050 CE
  • Harikela Kingdom, c. 900 - c. 1050 CE
  • Sena dynasty, c. 1070 - c. 1320 CE
  • Deva dynasty, c. 1100 - c. 1250 CE


  • Nawabs of Bengal, c. 1717 - c. 1757 CE
  • Company Raj, c. 1757 - c. 1858 CE
  • Faraizi Movement, c. 1818 - c. 1884 CE
  • The Great Rebellion, c. 1857 - c. 1858 CE
  • British Raj, c. 1858 - c. 1947 CE
  • East Bengal, c. 1947 - c. 1955 CE
  • East Pakistan, c. 1955 - c. 1971 CE
  • Bangladesh Liberation War, c. 1971 CE
  • Bangladeshi Republic, c. 1972 CE - present
Bangladesh portal

The genocide in Bangladesh began on 26 March 1971 with the launch of Operation Searchlight, as West Pakistan began a military crackdown on the Eastern wing of the nation to suppress Bengali calls for self-determination rights. During the nine-month-long Bangladesh war for independence, members of the Pakistani military and supporting Islamist militias from Jamaat-e-Islami[7] killed up to 3,000,000[4][8] people and raped between 200,000 and 400,000 Bangladeshi women,[8][9] according to Bangladeshi and Indian sources,[10] in a systematic campaign of genocidal rape. Independent researchers estimate the number of people killed as being between 300,000 and 500,000,[1] and describe the 3 million number as excessively inflated.[13] The actions against women were supported by Muslim religious leaders, who declared that Bengali women were gonimoter maal (Bengali for "public property"). As a result of the conflict, a further eight to ten million people, mostly Hindus,[15]fled the country at the time to seek refuge in neighbouring India. It is estimated that up to 30 million civilians became internally displaced.[8] During the war there was also ethnic violence between Bengalis and Urdu-speaking Biharis. Biharis faced reprisals from Bengali mobs and militias[17] and from 1,000[18] to 150,000[19][20] were killed. Other sources claim it was up to 500,000.[21][22]

There is an academic consensus that the events which took place during the Bangladesh Liberation War constituted a genocide, and warrant judicial accountability.[24] However, some scholars deny it was a genocide.[25]


Following the partition of India, the new state of Pakistan represented a geographical anomaly, with two wings separated by 1,000 miles of Indian territory. The wings were not only separated geographically, but also culturally. The authorities of the West viewed the Bengali Muslims in the East as "too Bengali" and their application of Islam as "inferior and impure", believing this made the Bengalis unreliable "co-religionists". To this extent politicians in West Pakistan began a strategy to forcibly assimilate the Bengalis culturally.

The Bengali people were the demographic majority in Pakistan, making up an estimated 75 million in East Pakistan, compared with 55 million in the predominantly Punjabi-speaking West Pakistan. The majority in the East were Muslim, with large minorities of Hindus, Buddhists and Christians. The West considered the people of the East to be second-class citizens, and Amir Abdullah Khan Niazi, who served as head of the Pakistani Forces in East Pakistan in 1971, referred to the region as a "low-lying land of low-lying people".

In 1948, a few months after the creation of Pakistan, Governor-GeneralMohammad Ali Jinnah declared Urdu as the national language of the newly formed state, although only four per cent of Pakistan's population spoke Urdu at that time. He branded those who supported the use of Bengali as communists, traitors and enemies of the state. The refusal by successive governments to recognize Bengali as the second national language culminated in the Bengali language movement and strengthened support for the newly formed Awami League, which was founded in the East as an alternative to the ruling Muslim League. A 1952 protest in Dhaka, the capital of East Pakistan, was forcibly broken up, resulting in the deaths of several protesters. Bengali nationalists viewed those who had died as martyrs for their cause, and the violence led to calls for secession. The Indo-Pakistani War of 1965 caused further grievances, as the military had assigned no extra units to the defence of the East. This was a matter of concern to the Bengalis who saw their nation undefended in case of Indian attack during the conflict of 1965, and that Ayub Khan, the dictator-ruler of Pakistan, was willing to lose the East if it meant gaining Kashmir.

The slow response to the Bhola cyclone which struck on 12 November 1970 is widely seen as a contributing factor in the December 1970 general election.[citation needed] The East Pakistan-based Awami League, headed by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, won a national majority in the first democratic election since the creation of Pakistan, sweeping East Pakistan. But, the West Pakistani establishment prevented them from forming a government. President Yahya Khan, encouraged by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto,[40] banned the Awami League and declared martial law. The Pakistani Army demolished Ramna Kali Mandir (temple) and killed 85 Hindus.[42] On 22 February 1971, General Yahya Khan said "Kill three million of them, and the rest will eat out of our hands."[43][44][45]

According to Indian academic Sarmila Bose, a significant minority of Bengalis, especially from the Islamic parties, continued to support a united Pakistan and a section of Awami League voters may not have supported secession from Pakistan at all; rather, they were hoping to achieve provincial autonomy.[46] Additionally, some Bengali officers and soldiers remained loyal to the Pakistani Army and were taken as prisoners of war by India along with other West Pakistani soldiers.[47] Thus, according to Sarmila Bose, there were many pro-regime Bengalis who killed and persecuted the pro-liberation fighters.[47]Sydney Schanberg reported the formation of armed civilian units by the Pakistani Army in June 1971. Only a minority of the recruits were Bengali while most were Biharis and Urdu speakers. The units with local knowledge played an important role in the implementation of the Pakistani Army's genocide.[48] American writer Gary J. Bass believes that the breakup of Pakistan was not inevitable, identifying 25 March 1971 as the point where the idea of a united Pakistan ended for Bengalis with the start of military operations.[49] According to John H. Gill, since there was widespread polarization between pro-Pakistan Bengalis and pro-liberation Bengalis during the war, those internal battles are still playing out in the domestic politics of modern day Bangladesh.[50]

Operation Searchlight

Operation Searchlight was a planned military operation carried out by the Pakistani Army to curb elements of the separatist Bengali nationalist movement in East Pakistan in March 1971.[51] The Pakistani state justified commencing Operation Searchlight on the basis of anti-Bihari violence by Bengalis in early March.[52] Ordered by the government in West Pakistan, this was seen as the sequel to Operation Blitz which had been launched in November 1970. On 1 March 1971 East Pakistan governor Admiral Syed Mohammed Ahsan was replaced after disagreeing with military action in East Pakistan.[53][54] His successor Sahibzada Yaqub Khan resigned after refusing to use soldiers to quell a mutiny and disagreement with military action in East Pakistan.[55][56]

According to Indian academic[57][58] Sarmila Bose, the postponement of the National Assembly on 1 March led to widespread lawlessness spread by Bengali protesters during the period of 1–25 March, in which the Pakistani government lost control over much of the province. Bose asserts that during this 25-day period of lawlessness, attacks by Bengalis on non-Bengalis were common as well as attacks by Bengalis on Pakistani military personnel who, according to Bose and Anthony Mascarenhas, showed great restraint until 25 March, when Operation Searchlight began.[59] Bose also described the "atrocities" committed by the Pakistani Army in her book.[60] According to Anthony Mascarenhas, the actions of the Pakistani Army compared to the violence by Bengalis was "altogether worse and on a grander scale".[1]

On the night of 25 March 1971 the Pakistani Army launched Operation Searchlight. Time magazine dubbed General Tikka Khan, the "Butcher of Bengal" for his role in operation Searchlight.[61] Targets of the operation included Jagannath Hall which was a dormitory for non-Muslim students of Dhaka University, Rajarbagh Police Lines, Pilkhana which is the headquarters of East Pakistan Rifles. About 34 students were killed in the dormitories of Dhaka University. Neighbourhoods of old Dhaka which had a majority Hindu population were also attacked. Robert Payne, an American journalist estimated that 7,000 people had been killed and 3,000 arrested in that night.[62] Teachers of Dhaka University were killed in the operation by the Pakistani Army.[63] Sheikh Mujib was arrested by the Pakistani Army on 25 March.[64]Ramna Kali Mandir was demolished by the Pakistani Army in March 1971.[65]

The original plan envisioned taking control of the major cities on 26 March 1971, and then eliminating all opposition, political, or military,[66] within one month. The prolonged Bengali resistance was not anticipated by Pakistani planners.[67] The main phase of Operation Searchlight ended with the fall of the last major town in Bengali hands in mid May. The countryside still remained almost evenly contested.[68]

The first report of the Bangladesh genocide was published by West Pakistani journalist Anthony Mascarenhas in The Sunday Times, London on 13 June 1971 titled "Genocide". He wrote: "I saw Hindus, hunted from village to village and door to door, shot off-hand after a cursory 'short-arm inspection' showed they were uncircumcised. I have heard the screams of men bludgeoned to death in the compound of the Circuit House (civil administrative headquarters) in Comilla. I have seen truckloads of other human targets and those who had the humanity to try to help them hauled off 'for disposal' under the cover of darkness and curfew."[69] This article helped turn world opinion against Pakistan and decisively encouraged the Government of India to intervene.[1] On 2 August 1971, Time magazine correspondent sent a dispatch that provided detailed description of the destruction in East Pakistan. It wrote that cities have whole sections damaged from shelling and aerial bombardments. The dispatch wrote: "In Dhaka, where soldiers set sections of the Old City ablaze with flamethrowers and then machine-gunned thousands as they tried to escape the cordon of fire, nearly 25 blocks have been bulldozed clear, leaving open areas set incongruously amid jam-packed slums." It quoted a senior US official as saying "It is the most incredible, calculated thing since the days of the Nazis in Poland."[70][71]

Archer K. Blood, American diplomat wrote in the Blood Telegram: "with support of the Pak military, non-Bengali Muslims are systematically attacking poor people's quarters and murdering Bengalis and Hindus."[72][73]

Estimated killed

Bangladeshi authorities claim that as many as 3 million people were killed, although the Hamoodur Rahman Commission, the official Pakistani government investigation, put the figure as low as 26,000 civilian casualties.[74] The figure of 3 million has become embedded in Bangladeshi culture and literature.[24] The 'million' figure is attributed to the vernacular 'lakh' becoming mistranslated in Western media, thus increasing the casualty figure ten-fold. Serajur Rahman, the Deputy Head of the BBC Bengal service, attributes this mistranslation to a verbal gaffe by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman at Heathrow Airport;[75] Sayyid A. Karim, Bangladesh’s first foreign secretary alleges that the source of the figure was Pravda, the news-arm of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.[24] Independent researchers have estimated the death toll to be around 300,000 to 500,000 people while others estimate the casualty figure to be 3 million.[8][1][76][77] The United States intelligence agency, the CIA and the State Department estimated that 200,000 people had been killed in the genocide.[78]

According to Sarmila Bose's controversial book Dead Reckoning: Memories of the 1971 Bangladesh War, the number lies somewhere between 50,000 and 100,000.[79][80] However, her book was the subject of strong criticism by journalists; writer and visual artist Naeem Mohaiemen; Dr. Nayanika Mookherjee, an anthropologist at Durham University; and others.[79][81][82][83]

In 1976 the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh undertook a comprehensive population survey in Matlab, Noakhali where a total of 868 excess wartime deaths were recorded; this led to an estimated overall excess number of deaths in the whole of Bangladesh of nearly 500,000.[24] Based on this study, the British Medical Journal in 2008, conducted a study by Ziad Obermeyer, Christopher J. L. Murray, and Emmanuela Gakidou which estimated that 125,000–505,000 civilians died as a result of the conflict;[24] the authors note that this is far higher than a previous estimate of 58,000 by Uppsala University and the Peace Research Institute, Oslo.[84] This figure is supported by the statements of Bangladeshi author Ahmed Sharif in 1996, who added that "they kept the truth hidden for getting political advantages".[85] American political scientists Richard Sisson and Leo E. Rose give a low-end estimate of 300,000 dead, killed by all parties, and they deny that a genocide occurred, while American political scientist R. J. Rummel estimated that about 1.5 million people were killed in Bangladesh.[86] Indian journalist Nirmal Sen claims that the total number killed was about 250,000 and among them, about 100,000 were Bengalis and the rest were Biharis.[85]

Many of those killed were the victims of radical religious paramilitary militias formed by the West Pakistani Army, including the Razakars, Al-Shams and Al-Badr forces.[87][88] There are many mass graves in Bangladesh,[89][90] and more are continually being discovered (such as one in an old well near a mosque in Dhaka, located in the Mirpur region of the city, which was discovered in August 1999).[91] The first night of war on Bengalis, which is documented in telegrams from the American Consulate in Dhaka to the United States State Department, saw indiscriminate killings of students of Dhaka University and other civilians.[92]

On 16 December 2002, the George Washington University's National Security Archive published a collection of declassified documents, consisting mostly of communications between US embassy officials and USIS centres in Dhaka and India, and officials in Washington DC.[92] These documents show that US officials working in diplomatic institutions within Bangladesh used the terms selective genocide[93][94] and genocide (see Blood telegram) to describe events they had knowledge of at the time. The complete chronology of events as reported to the Nixon administration can be found on the Department of State website.[95]

Islamist militias

The Jamaat-e-Islami as well as other Islamists opposed the Bangladeshi independence struggle and sided with the Pakistani state and armed forces out of Islamic solidarity.[96][97] According to political scientist Peter Tomsen, Pakistan's secret service, in conjunction with the political party Jamaat-e-Islami, formed militias such as Al-Badr ("the moon") and the Al-Shams ("the sun") to conduct operations against the nationalist movement. These militias targeted noncombatants and committed rapes as well as other crimes. Local collaborators known as Razakars also took part in the atrocities. The term has since become a pejorative akin to the western term "Judas".

Members of the Muslim League such as Nizam-e-Islam, Jamaat-e-Islami and Jamiat Ulema Pakistan, who had lost the election, collaborated with the military and acted as an intelligence organisation for them. Jamaat-e-Islami members and some of its leaders collaborated with the Pakistani forces in rapes and targeted killings. The atrocities by Al-Badr and the Al-Shams garnered worldwide attention from news agencies; accounts of massacres and rapes were widely reported.

Killing of intellectuals

Main article: 1971 killing of Bengali intellectuals

During the war, the Pakistani Army and its local collaborators, mainly Jamaat e Islami carried out a systematic execution of the leading Bengali intellectuals. A number of professors from Dhaka University were killed during the first few days of the war.[103][104] However, the most extreme cases of targeted killing of intellectuals took place during the last few days of the war. Professors, journalists, doctors, artists, engineers and writers were rounded up by the Pakistani Army and the Razakar militia in Dhaka, blindfolded, taken to torture cells in Mirpur, Mohammadpur, Nakhalpara, Rajarbagh and other locations in different sections of the city to be executed en masse, most notably at Rayerbazar and Mirpur.[105][106][107][108] Allegedly, the Pakistani Army and its paramilitary arm, the Al-Badr and Al-Shams forces created a list of doctors, teachers, poets, and scholars.[109][110]

During the nine-month duration of the war, the Pakistani Army, with the assistance of local collaborators systematically executed an estimated 991 teachers, 13 journalists, 49 physicians, 42 lawyers, and 16 writers, artists and engineers.[107] Even after the official ending of the war on 16 December there were reports of killings being committed by either the armed Pakistani soldiers or by their collaborators. In one such incident, notable filmmaker Jahir Raihan was killed on 30 January 1972 in Mirpur allegedly by the armed Beharis. In memory of the persons who were killed, 14 December is observed in Bangladesh as Shaheed Buddhijibi Dibosh ("Day of the Martyred Intellectuals").[88][107][111]

Notable intellectuals who were killed from the time period of 25 March to 16 December 1971 in different parts of the country include Dhaka University professors Dr. Govinda Chandra Dev (philosophy), Dr. Munier Chowdhury (Bengali literature), Dr. Mufazzal Haider Chaudhury (Bengali Literature), Dr. Anwar Pasha (Bengali Literature), Dr M Abul Khair (history), Dr. Jyotirmoy Guhathakurta (English literature), Humayun Kabir (English literature), Rashidul Hasan (English literature), Ghyasuddin Ahmed, Sirajul Haque Khan, Faizul Mahi, Dr Santosh Chandra Bhattacharyya[112] and Saidul Hassan (physics), Rajshahi University professors Dr. Hobibur Rahman (mathematics), Prof Sukhranjan Somaddar (Sanskrit), Prof Mir Abdul Quaiyum (psychology) as well as Dr. Mohammed Fazle Rabbee (cardiologist), Dr. AFM Alim Chowdhury (ophthalmologist), Shahidullah Kaiser (journalist), Nizamuddin Ahmed (journalist),[113]Selina Parvin (journalist), Altaf Mahmud (lyricist and musician), Dhirendranath Datta (politician), Jahir Raihan (novelist, journalist, film director) and Ranadaprasad Saha (philanthropist).[114][115]

Violence against women

Main article: Rape during the Bangladesh Liberation War

The generally accepted figure for the mass rapes during the nine-month long conflict is between 200,000 and 400,000;[8][117][118] however, some scholars consider these numbers to be seriously inflated.[119] During the war, a fatwa in Pakistan declared that the Bengali 'freedom fighters' were Hindus and that their women could be taken as the 'booty of war'. Imams and Muslim religious leaders publicly declared that the Bengali women were 'gonimoter maal' (war booty) and thus they openly supported the rape of Bengali women by the Pakistani Army. Numerous women were tortured, raped and killed during the war.[121] Bangladeshi sources cite a figure of 200,000 women raped, giving birth to thousands of war-babies. The soldiers of the Pakistan Army and razakars also kept Bengali women as sex-slaves inside the Pakistani Army's camps, and many became pregnant.[8][122] The perpetrators also included Mukti Bahini and the Indian Army, which targeted noncombatants and committed rapes, as well as other crimes.

Among other sources, Susan Brownmiller refers to an estimated number of over 400,000. Pakistani sources claim the number is much lower, though having not completely denied rape incidents.[123][124][125] Brownmiller quotes:

Khadiga, thirteen years old, was interviewed by a photojournalist in Dacca. She was walking to school with four other girls when they were kidnapped by a gang of Pakistani soldiers. All five were put in a military brothel in Mohammadpur and held captive for six months until the end of the war.

In a New York Times report named 'Horrors of East Pakistan Turning Hope into Despair', Malcolm W. Browne[127] wrote:

One tale that is widely believed and seems to come from many different sources is that 563 women picked up by the army in March and April and held in military brothels are not being released because they are pregnant beyond the point at which abortions are possible.

The licentious attitude of the soldiers, although generally supported by their superiors, alarmed the regional high command of the Pakistani Army. On 15 April 1971, in a secret memorandum to the divisional commanders, Niazi complained,

Since my arrival, I have heard numerous reports of troops indulging in looting and arson, killing people at random and without reasons in areas cleared of the anti state elements; of late there have been reports of rape and even the West Pakistanis are not being spared; on 12 April two West Pakistani women were raped, and an attempt was made on two others.[128]

Anthony Mascarenhas published a newspaper article titled 'Genocide in June 1971' in which he also wrote about violence perpetrated by Bengalis against Biharis.[129]

First it was the massacre of the non-Bengalis in a savage outburst of Bengali hatred. Now it was massacre deliberately carried out by the West Pakistan army…. The West Pakistani soldiers are not the only ones who have been killing in East Bengal, of course. On the night of March 25… the Bengali troops and paramilitary units stationed in East Pakistan mutinied and attacked non-Bengalis with atrocious savagery. Thousands of families of unfortunate Muslims, many of them refugees from Bihar who chose Pakistan at the time of the partition riots in 1947, were mercilessly wiped out. Women were raped, or had their breasts torn out with specially-fashioned knives. Children did not escape the horror; the lucky ones were killed with their parents…

Pakistani Major General Khadim Hussain Raja wrote in his book that Niazi, in presence of Bengali officers would say ‘Main iss haramzadi qom ki nasal badal doonga (I will change the race of the Bengalis)’. A witness statement to the commission read "The troops used to say that when the Commander (Lt Gen Niazi) was himself a raper (sic), how could they be stopped?".[130]

Another work that has included direct experiences from the women raped is Ami Birangona Bolchhi ("I, the heroine, speak") by Nilima Ibrahim. The work includes in its name from the word Birangona (Heroine), given by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman after the war, to the raped and tortured women during the war. This was a conscious effort to alleviate any social stigma the women might face in the society.

There are eyewitness reports of the "rape camps" established by the Pakistani Army.[43] The US based Women Under Siege Project of the Women’s Media Center have reported the girls as young as 8 and women as old as 75 were detained in Pakistan military barracks, and where they were victims of mass rape which sometimes culminated in mass murder. The report was based on interview with survivors.[131] Australian Doctor Geoffrey Davis was brought to Bangladesh by the United Nation and International Planned Parenthood Federation to carry out late term abortions on rape victims. He was of the opinion that the 200,000 to 400,000 rape victims were an underestimation. On the actions of Pakistan army he said "They’d keep the infantry back and put artillery ahead and they would shell the hospitals and schools. And that caused absolute chaos in the town. And then the infantry would go in and begin to segregate the women. Apart from little children, all those were sexually matured would be segregated..And then the women would be put in the compound under guard and made available to the troops…Some of the stories they told were appalling. Being raped again and again and again. A lot of them died in those [rape] camps. There was an air of disbelief about the whole thing. Nobody could credit that it really happened!"[132]

In October 2005, Sarmila Bose published a paper suggesting that the casualties and rape allegations in the war have been greatly exaggerated for political purposes.[51][133] Whilst she received praise from many quarters,[134] a number of researchers have shown inaccuracies in Bose's work, including flawed methodology of statistical analysis, misrepresentation of referenced sources, and disproportionate weight to Pakistani Army testimonies.[135]

A 2014 film titled Children of War focused on the harrowing condition in the 'rape camps' set up by the Anti Separatists.[136]

Historian Christian Gerlach states that "a systematic collection of statistical data was aborted, possibly because the data did not substantiate the claim that three million had died and at least 200,000 women had been raped."[137]

Violence against minorities

US government cables noted that the minorities of Bangladesh, especially the Hindus, were specific targets of the Pakistani Army.[73][103] There was widespread killing of Hindu males, and rapes of women. Documented incidents in which Hindus were massacred in large numbers include the Chuknagar massacre, the Jathibhanga massacre, and the Shankharipara massacre.[138] More than 60% of the Bengali refugees who fled to India were Hindus.[139][140] It has been alleged that this widespread violence against Hindus was motivated by a policy to purge East Pakistan of what was seen as Hindu and Indian influences.[141]Buddhist temples and Buddhist monks were also attacked through the course of the year.[142] Lt. Colonel Aziz Ahmed Khan reported that in May 1971 there was written order to kill Hindus and that General Niazi would ask troops how many hindus they had killed.[143]

According to R. J. Rummel, professor of political science at the University of Hawaii,

Female students of Dacca university marching on Language Movement Day, 21 February 1953.

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