War Crimes Tribunal Judge tells the Economist to stick-em-up: Some context

So why is the Economist of London being summoned by a Bangladeshi court and ordered to embargo an article about (in)Justice Nizamul Huq of the War Crimes Tribunal's involvement with a known and ideological genocide activist?

  • How much more embarrassing can this get?
  • What does it take to get a fair hearing these days? 
  • Will we ever know that which we don't and want concerning 1971?
  • Even if this were a WikiLeak scale revelation,  would there me much public outcry in Bangladesh, where human rights activists only act selectively in defence of their leaders and territory?
  • Is (in)Justice Nizamul Huq trying to buy time so he can judicially assassinate the accused before publication?
  • How might I explore this area without feeding the monster of White Privilege?

TribunalGate 101: Made up on so many levels

Delwar Hussain Sayeedi is a political threat to the Awami League.
He can motivate a crowd of people like none of their leaders.
In fact the post-harvest waaz audience really misses him.
He sports probably the reddest mendhi beard in the Ummah.
Anticipate Jionists in the UK to play the preacher-of-hate-card.
It is difficult to know where to start to explain the retardedness of the War Crimes Tribunal as it looks set to make its guilty verdict of the exMP Pirojpur-1 and popular religious orator Delwar Hussain Sayeedi official.  The judges of the tribunal have allowed a prosecution-turned defence witness to be abducted from under their noses without proper investigation, they have allowed the prosecution to mislead the tribunal about witnesses being unavailable when they were in government safe houses. 

Needless to say (in)Justice Nizamul Huq refused to politely stand down
when a senior opposition leader said that his involvement with the
Nirmul Committee meant he could not be neutral and unbiased.
Following what I can, it seems that the judges have put unfair obstacle after unfair obstacle before the defence and let the prosecution get away with murder.  If this were any other trial, the defence would have won a few times over.  And for the record, we still do not know anything new about the operation of the Razakars and Jamat during the war year. 

The defence team is led by Barrister Abdur Razak, who appears to be discharging his duties well in trying circumstances, whilst his staff and set up are being harassed and party members disappeared.  By the end of this, he will have earned a great deal of esteem, which is not something that can be said of Justice Nizamul Huq, the desperate students of Shibir, as well as the secularist establishment.

However this is a trial about war crimes committed during the 1971 Bangladesh War, and as any 'rightminded' person would know, any member of the Jamat-e-Islami Party is a priori guilty as portrayed in the popular demonology. For reference, their guilt was established in 1992 at a civil society (mob) tribunal organised by the Nirmul Committee, which is stocked with hardcore secularist activists like Shahriar Kabir and the grieving relatives of some of the war dead. It is with this Nirmul committee which Justice Nizamul Huq has a history and controversially, a current 'learning relationship', through Dr Ahmed Ziauddin of the Centre for Genocide Studies. This is what the Economist had gotten to know, through hacking or whistle-blowing or hagoo-throwing.

But look at our own complicity in this injustice system, over the decades we have stood as witless witnesses to the programme of a dedicated group driven mad by edited stories of sorrow, marshaled by an ideology that narrows the heart and mind, and dressed in the virtue of justice, human rights and civil society. The lack of resistance and  contestation has allowed dim witted thinking, poor evidencing and rumourising to become social habits from the decision-maker to the home-maker.

Our tragedy is being unwilling to sift the truth from falsehood, which is why Bangladesh is about to kill the one of its most rousing politicians, who apparently wasn't even in Jamaat-e-Islami during the war year in which he is alleged to have committed crimes against humanity. Sayeedi was part of Tabligh-e-Jamat, an apolitical Islamic dawah group that focus on good manners and what they believe to be accurate religious performance amongst Muslim people. Apparently, he only got involved with the party in the 1980s.


I believe this is possible, and await confirmation, because I have met a freedom fighter who was a Jamaat district-level leader, a rokon-level party member who tends his local mass graves and have some access to the non-secular internal conversation.  If you accept certain sources and possible histories as potentially valid forms of knowledge the feedback loop of quietens and you might just hear something interesting.
Image from the Bangladesh war depicting General Yahya Khan.
So far unable to get justice out of Pakistan, the proxy forces
in which some of the older Jamaat leadership were involved
act as the lightning rod for frustration. 
The Master Narrative of Bangladesh

A master narrative can be a misguiding light in making sense of an experience. Sometimes people do not get very far in their own investigations before being sucked into a powerful and compelling set of reference points that contain their own internal logics and even validation overrides. 

This is a rough sketch:

(1) Islamists opposed the Awami League even after they won the election of 1970 and the army committed excesses, how dare they think differently! 
(2) All Islamists are evil traitorous swine and the principle responsible party for 1971 atrocities and all our woes, they want to take us back to Pakistan, they killed all our intellectuals
(3) I cannot listen to their side of the story or any other information that might complicate (1) or (2)
(4) The war criminals don't deserve a fair trial, my master narrative got it all right. The government should hang them before the election, the people want the trials!

Although the master narrative of the Bangladesh war still reads 3 million Bangladeshis killed by Pakistanis and their demonic local Razakar proxies, the picture is more complex and ugly. It is essential to understand ourselves changing sides and selling out, or being cruel, brave and dignified under fierce pressure, as this is what life is made of and what today is made of. Yet knowledge, especially history is socially contorted and this distortion has harmful and deluding impacts.  Bangladesh warlore has been constructed by political parties invested in reproducing their own heroism, the country's national liberation and the other's demonisation. This is all policed by loyal patriots who love justice.

As Prof Mushtaq Khan put it, during our war 'everyone was killing everyone'. For an idea about the multi-directionality of the war and its killings see the Sarmila Bose lecture in London last year on Applying critical thinking on 1971. For more depth about our politics leading up to the war please read Afia and Anwar Dil's sober and exhaustive Bengali Language Movement  and the Creation of Bangladesh, which has recently been published in Bangladesh, ten years on.

This Punjabi-Bengali couple of anthropologists
write from two generations of experience,
so the people of Bangladesh, Pakistan and India
might understand
Bothering to know

There is normally a strong social whip out for those questioning the evidence base for the trials, the wild charges, the master narrative of the 1971 war, and of course the political motivations of the trials.  Between self-censorship, state-censorship and imprisonment we have a broadly epistemicidal regime that is also vulnerable. By epistemicidal I mean destructive of ways of knowing, and by vulnerable I mean that it is crumbling slowly. Starting from the top, the English speaking press were never going to kick up a fuss as they hate Jamat so much it blinds them, and pays them. Mir Quasem Ali of Jamat's Diganta Media group was locked up a long time ago. Newish conservative blogs like Alalodulal are silent. The Guardians Of The Liberation Narrative even had an early Al-Jazeera piece removed by intimidating their Dhaka correspondent.  I guess many of the others are so deep in developmentia that this doesn't even seem to be worth the effort. Why rock the boat if you've got family and life to lead?

Alternate accounts of the politics to Bangladesh are occluded or traitorised through the very mature anti-Bangladesh jibe. Its not just in cyber macho space though, but at the heart of the academy and in polite society. Last year, a history professor in Jahangirnagar University narrowly kept his job after Awami League students and staff went ape at his inclusion of books of Sarmila Bose and Syed Sajjad Hussain on a student reading list.  I know people sitting in pretty gilded cages scared to be seen reading the Bose book, so I guess something destabilising is getting in there at least.

There is another dimension to 1971 knowing that is new, and harder for the secular guardians to dismiss because of its white privilege and cultural capital. David Bergman's Bangladesh War Crimes blog is really hotting up and provides the only public transcription of the proceedings. His positionality is part of the appeal, having been involved in the 1995 War Crimes File documentary that blew a lot of wind into the sails of the Nirmul Committee by video editing a lot of their content and screening it in front of a UK audience unable to contest it.  Since the kidnapping of Shukron Bali he has really gone for it, as far as interviewing his poor deserted wife.

Bir Bangali 
Hiding behind a lady's sari
While Dhaka burns
Nobody shall learn.

1 comment:

Saiful Islam said...

This is elusory Tribunal . there are political conspiracy