Feature Img
Photo: Reuters
Photo: Reuters

I stood there, not sure what to do or how to feel. The afternoon sun shone down on us with an angry might, but somehow that no longer bothered me. My friends and peers stood all around me equally shocked, equally speechless. A little distance away, a girl in a red shirt was sobbing hysterically. I tried to guess her age. This is something I have always been bad at. Luckily for me, on this instant all I had to do was get a ballpark number. For my purpose, all I needed to know was that the girl was at most in her twenties. That she was not even born in 1971. That she was most probably still a toddler in the early 90s.

15th July 2013. Shahbagh. Moments after the International War Crimes Tribunal have announced the verdict for Ghulam Azam, supreme commander of the Razakar forces during our Liberator War. The prosecution has been able to prove Ghulam Azam guilty of all the charges brought against him. The court is convinced that as leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami and organiser of the Peace Committee, Ghulam Azam is guilty of having superior responsibility for all the atrocities committed by militia troops like Al-Badr and Al-Shams. Yet somehow, he is not given capital punishment. The 92-year-old Razakar leader is sentenced to 90 years in prison. 90 years that he, if he even lives that long, will spend in the prison ward of the Bangabandhu Medical College Hospital under the supervision of some of the best doctors in the country, with first class facilities of every manner. Who will bear the expense of this cushy life? You and me, the taxpayers of this glorious nation.

File photo

A lot has already been written about this verdict, both for and against. Many feel that we should be happy with this verdict. That it is the ideal mix of justice for his crimes, and clemency for an old man at the tail-end of his life. We are reminded by many that it does not befit us as proper human beings to want the hanging of an old man who has but a few years left anyway. We are told that justice has been served, and if we do not agree with this justice then the flaw lies with us, not with the court of law. A lot has indeed been said, and yet I have something left to say, which is why I put my pen to paper today.

I will spare the readers the gory details, but anyone with any sense of history knows about the brutal acts of the Pakistan army and the Razakars. One trip to the Liberation War Museum should help you refresh your memory if you find it hard to recall exactly what acts I refer to. The army and their local aids raped women, often in front of their husbands and children. They raped teenage girls in front of their parents. They ripped little kids down the middle with their bayonets, and butchered old men for no reason other than their own perverse pleasure. Do you see what I am getting at? Probably not. We are a nation of such short-term memory and such myopic vision! The Pakistan army, and Ghulam Azam’s troops, did not show mercy based on age or physical state or any other factor for that matter. They murdered, raped and massacred anyone and everyone. To them, little Bengali infants were no more than animals that they enjoyed hunting and eventually killing. On July 15th, our court showed mercy to a man who did not spare an iota of mercy for our ancestors, no matter how old and frail they may have been.

Copy-of-BB-84 (1)
File photo

I can almost sense a whole group of people jumping up and down, mumbling how we are better than them, how we cannot pay them back in their own coin, how the rule of the law leaves no room for petty thoughts of revenge or retribution. I most humbly request you; spare me your superior moral platitudes. If you must exercise your eloquence on this matter, please go do so to the widow who had to raise her children all by herself, because her husband was murdered by Razakars. Too hard? How about the mother whose sons were killed in a brushfire while she begged the Pakistan army for mercy? Still can’t do it, can you? Then spare me the agony of having to listen to the so-called moderate arguments and counsel on how to respect the rule of law. See, that is the biggest different between you and me. I have no hesitation, no qualms whatsoever in standing in front of Ghulam Azam’s family and stating how I feel he is one of the most base human beings ever to walk on earth, and how the only thing he deserves is the most painful and humiliating death. I wish for death upon him, and I am not ashamed of it.

Newspapers and TV shows everywhere are chock-full of people asking us to be happy with this verdict, to acknowledge how justice has been served. What justice? In a country where people die every winter for want of warm clothes, Ghulam Azam will wrap himself in a state-provided blanket. In a country where freedom fighters work as labourers and rickshawpullers, Ghulam Azam will catch a siesta in an air-conditioned cabin. In a country where mothers sell off their children for lack of food, Ghulam Azam will have three proper meals, some snacks and the occasional dessert, all on state funding. If this is justice, if this is civilisation then I want no part of it. I feel shame today, for the first time in my life, for being a citizen of a country that spends its money to provide for its greatest enemy. This is no justice. This is the biggest humiliation one could heap on anyone who honours the memory of 1971. This is an outrage. This is a failure to execute our historic duty.

File Photo
File Photo

But I do not lose hope. Maybe that makes me naïve. Maybe it opens me up to even more disappointment in the future. Yet I do not lose hope. Ghulam Azam may have escaped the gallows. If there is a change in regime in the near future, he might even get out of prison. But in one sense he has lost the purpose and meaning of life. I gravely doubt he cares about it, but that does not change the fact that Ghulam Azam is now undoubtedly the most hated individual in the history of Bangladesh. He is a symbol of betrayal, of cowardice, or senseless brutality against one’s own fellow men in return for some minor benefits in political career. I hope all that he has amassed in this life was worth this shame.

The day when people at Shahbagh found out that Ghulam Azam has escaped capital punishment, there was, understandably, a lot of anger. People threw shoes at his photo; people screamed for their demands to be met that he deserves nothing short of death sentence. But the one thing that outshone all of these was what I have already mentioned at the very beginning. People cried. They cried tears of bitter disappointment. Old men with flags in their hands cried. Young girls wearing bandanas cried. Mothers cried. Angry young men set aside their boiling rage and wept like little children. The most seasoned of men struggled to their tears. Even I finally gave in and let the tears come unbidden.

“Professor” Ghulam Azam, I doubt you have refined human feelings like shame and regret. I doubt you even know about such uniquely human traits. But I hope from the bottom of my heart that you are somehow granted those feelings for just one day. Then you would know the shame of having a nation cry because you have managed to escape the death sentence. Then you would know the humiliation of having an entire generation of Bangladeshis hating you so much that they refuse to grant you even the tiniest display of mercy. And once you have felt that shame, I hope you never forget it for as long as you live. “Professor” Ghulam Azam, I hope you then live a long life, the full 90 years you have been sentenced to. Maybe then you will come to learn that there are things far worse than death. Maybe then you would rather choose death over living with the knowledge that we all really, truly, deeply want you to die, and we cry in frustration when you escape death. “Professor” Ghulam Azam, your entire life is a failure. Ghulam Azam, your life gives millions of young men and women nothing but sorrow. Ghulam Azam, an entire nation curses you and wishes you nothing but shame, suffering and death. Your life is a waste.

Hammad Ali is a teacher of Computer Science and Engineering at BRAC University.

22 Responses to “We have failed history”

  1. Akhtar Shah

    They all will be out. Don’t fret. System has already taken care of it. They will become heroes for “enduring such inhuman treatment!”
    A country where the leaders since birth fail to get a consensus on such a fundamental ,black and white issue of trying those who not only didn’t believe in the Countrys being , but also participated in heinous acts of inhumanity, then there’s little hope for any form of justice whatever that may be.

  2. susan ahamed

    everything iz okyy…… my question why government gave this judgement in ramadan..???? now some people can say not government, the ICT gave it… but most of the people and also myself know tht government and court is badly mixed up tht shouldn’t happened in a democratic country…. all the procedure of this judgement was finished about one and half or two months ago….so why they choose is ramadan… this government is a autocratic government …… so the person who make this sensitive issue politicized … we can’t keep trust on them …..but why i am saying tht, because everything iz interrelated with each other………….

    • Nilima Choudhury

      My close friend Hammad Ali,Red Salute to You!Tears came out when i was going through this page!I remembered 1971…those Black days…I was a little girl….mone pore .. Mone pore se bibhishika….Amader Hindu Gram Makalkandi je vabe Panjabira elo.pasher gramer Muslimra Biswashghatokota korlo.Ora Panjabider janalo je era hindu ar mukti bahinir songe jog ache.Kintu adote hindura voye chup chap chilo.Amar nijer mone pore amar baba lukiye sudhu ektu Joy banglar Khobor sunten.Dhaner nouko kore pasher gramer Muslim ra Panjabider niye ashe.Sedin chilo Manasha pujo.Hammad Amar sposto mone pore….Amar sob boro dadara sobai dhaka ,Sylhet e porto .tara sob tokhon gramer barite voye din katachchi.Barite pasher gramer aro hindura ese asroy niyeche.Srabon mash…Charidike haor….shudhu jol ar jol… Panjabira haor e kokhono aste sahos kortona.Pasher Gramer Muslimra jodi na niye asto Dhaner nouko kore.Sedin Amar desher lokera sudhu dhomer jonnoi Biswashghatokota korlo.Muslimra Bd r Panjabider songe Mile Sara grame Hindu Meyeder sdhorshon korlo……Ar Panjabira nirbichare 500 hindu nidhon korlo.Ar muslimra hindu der bari lutpat korlo….tarpor Petrol dhele agun diye puro gram puriye dilo…Eije aj ami likhchi Hindu shobdo ti jani karo karo khub rag hochche.Kintu Shottyo ekdin prokash pabei.Lutpat kore panjabider songe anando ullash korlo…..ei amar Swadesh….Ei amar desher Apon manush.Prokkyato Golam Ajam kivabe etodin dhore e matite bichoron korchilo …ta ki vaba jay……..!!Hammad ,Sediner kotha mone kore ajo ami kandchi…ei dekho ami kandte kandte likhchi…amar adorer chchoto bhai Sanjib khete boshechilo bhat niye.tar Hum hoyechilo.Or khabarer thala ami thele dure felechi…Panjabira ese geche…..O ke tan diye uttiye niye gelam. O tokhono bolche…Didi amar khidhe….tarpor amra tindin noukote khete opaini Nodir jol chchara.Jete jete Sanjib jiggesh korche Didi Kara Panjabider niye elo?Ami Bolchi Pasher gramer Muslimra.Amader keno marbe?Amra je hindu …amar uttar.Panjabira Shudhu Hindu mare?Ami bollam ha.Sanjib proshno korche…Kara valo didi?Hindu Na Muslim?Ami rege gelam…eto kotha bolchis keno doura…..!!Pathok Bandhura apnara bolte paren ke valo?ami parini!Obosshyo Sanjib nijei boro hoye se prosner jobab peyechilo.tai se Bam Rajniti te shokriyo onsho grohon kore Gono manusher kotha boleche.E deshe jotodin ei Biswashghatokra benche thakbe totodin ematite kannar awaj sunte pabe……..

      • afsan chy

        Hi nilima

        Its a deeply touching story. I can understand how you feel. i work on the history of 1971 and have a 4 volume edited work published by Maula Bros (2007) I am right now doing a research on Villages in 1971. my special focus is on the Hindu experience. Your information will be invaluable. could you please get in touch with me at afsan.c@gmail.com or call 01730346267.


  3. Imteaz Tishad

    আমাদের আর চাওয়ার কিছু নাই।

  4. Noyon

    I don’t agree with you. No one even cares. People are satisfied you see? what an ungrateful nation we have become!

  5. Rhidy Ruby

    So what do you want to do? kill this old man? Does it always have to be an eye for an eye?

    • Tarin

      how can u possibly relate this eye for an eye revenge scheme for ghulam azam of all the criminals in this world considering his elaborate crime history?

      it is quite apparent that it is a political decision to give him a life sentence so that the government can drag this issue and hope to win next elections. in case the incumbent govt does not win this election, it can still fight back its stronghold when the next regime’s period comes to an end by campaigning for providing capital punishment for those criminal that got out after receiving life sentences!!

  6. abbas

    আমরা শেষ পর্যন্ত গোলাম আজম কে কিছুই করতে পারলাম না। সে বয়সের কারনে বাড়ি তেই থাকত। এখন থাকবে হাসপাতালের আরামে। কি ভাল বিচার তাই না?

  7. Hannan

    Yes we have failed history. Miserably. We have spared the butcher, the most heinous of all Razakars of the highest punishment.

  8. Golam Arshad

    Who are the “Mir Jafars” ? You and Me! Or Then Six and a half Cr ore vs One Crore! After Forty Years, the Nation’s Pride is in visible danger! Madam Prime Minister : It is NOW the Bleeding Scar that purportedly Divides the Nation. PEACE must be restored, vengeance and vendetta must be stopped NOW!!

    • M.Mozammel Haque

      Mr.Arshad please forget about 6.5 crores and 1 crore.
      6.5 to 1.These 6.5 were living in the land with difficulty and this 1 was living in the other land with difficulty.Because
      politicians and media came between two patriots in those days and some opportunists enjoyed the chances to fulfill their ugly desires ending anti human violence.

    • Raisul Hashmi

      How is peace restored by pardoning Ghulam Azam and garlanding their party men?

  9. Babu Moshay

    There are a couple of things we have in common Mr Hammad Ali. I too, as you couldn’t determine the age of that girl, can’t determine people’s age. Reading your long article made me wonder your age. On the other hand age has not much to do with maturity. It’s a very long article you wrote, probably your repeating of some phrase and lines made it yet longer. Though it didn’t become more sentimental than it already is.

    However, I will, as you asked so nicely, spare you superior moral platitudes and I do very much agree with you that Gulam Azam should be counted for the dreadful deeds he did and be punished for. You asked Gulam Azam, at least for one day, to feel shame and regret. All these are valid and good points that you raised. But where is the “punishment” in it if he is dead?

    How would he feel shame and regret if he isn’t taken away his freedom and put in jail for rest of his life? He has been free for long time but “karma” does catch us up one day. How would he fulfill his karma if he is sanctioned to die?

    Aren’t you making a bit easy for him by sending him to death? Let the widow that you warmly mentioned in you article feel that the murderer of her dear and near ones are finally in sufferings! Death sentence wouldn’t solace the Widow, Mr Ali!! I was there, alive, during the freedom fight! I want him to be alive and feel the last seconds, minutes, hours and days of his remaining life to suffer in shame and agony. He shouldn’t be allowed to die till he is aware that his near and dear ones would suffer to carry his name till it’s wiped out of the soil of Bengal. Death is easy and five minutes of agony Mr Hammad Ali, it’s not a punishment!

    • Raisul Hashmi

      Ghulam Azam and his accomplices are all born criminals. They are not human beings though their body structures look so. They are all devils in the guise of human beings; the devils can’t opt for remorse or repent for the crimes they commit. There is no word like shame and regret, remorse or repent in their dictionaries because they are devoid of such feelings. They have lived 41 years without any punishment but showing the highest form of audacity towards the country and its people. Capital punishment and execution thereof is the right answer. The sooner, the better.

  10. Fahad Munir

    We should be ashamed because we haven’t done anything to this man in this long 42 years. Even played nusty politics again and again.

  11. Rezaul Karim

    I don’t blame the Judges for not giving the appropriate sentence for Ghulam Azam. The country does not have the means to control the back-lash of violence Jamaat Islami can create in such an event. Maybe some day in the future the secular and free thinking people will be strong enough to do the task. Until then we may have to live under the rule of ‘Mir Jafars’.

    • Tarin

      That does not give any excuse for the court to avoid giving capital punishment. if they had honest political intentions they would have been smart enough to organize the law enforcers to tackle the jamaat backlash!!

Comments are closed.