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Razakars in the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation war

  • Published
    1st Aug, 2022
Context

Six members of ‘Razakar Bahini’, a locally recruited paramilitary force that collaborated with the Pakistan army during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War, were sentenced to death for ‘crimes against humanity’ by Bangladesh’s International Crimes Tribunal.

About

Razakars:

  • The Razakars were an auxiliary force of the Pakistan army during the 1971 Bangladesh War.
  • Razakar literally means ‘volunteer’ or ‘helper’ in Persian and Urdu, but has come to mean ‘collaborator’ and is associated with betrayal in Bangladesh.
  • It composed of mostly pro-Pakistani Bengalis and Biharis from Bangladesh (formerly East Pakistan).
  • There were approximate 50,000 Razakars who assisted the army in raids against the local population and were accused of committing horrific atrocities.

Bangladesh’s International Crimes Tribunal:

  • The Bangladesh Collaborators (Special Tribunals) Order was passed in 1972.
  • In 1973, the Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s government introduced the International Crimes (Tribunal) Act in 1973, to investigate and prosecute those that committed atrocities during the war.
  • After Mujibur Rahman was assassinated in a coup by sections of the Bangladesh army in August 1975 and the ruling Awami League was ousted from power.
  • During the period of military rule between 1975 and 1990, General Ziaur Rehman (1975–81) became the de facto head of the state.
  • Shah Azizur Rahman, Ghulam Azam and others joined the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) (formed by General Ziaur Rehman).
  • They were associated with banned organisations (then) that collaborated with Pakistani state forces, such as the Jamaat-e-Islami.
  • In March 2010, the government headed by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina established Bangladesh’s three-member International Crimes Tribunal to investigate and administer justice to those suspected of being involved in torture and killings during the country’s struggle for independence.
  • The ruling Awami League had pledged to prosecute war criminals of 1971 and had won a landslide victory in the 2008 general election.
  • Abul Kalam Azad (also known as Bachchu Razakar), a former leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami was the first person to be convicted by the tribunal in 2013. 
  • In 2019, government published a list of 10,789 Razakars who had collaborated with the Pakistani army in committing atrocities against Bengalis during the war.
  • It included names of 127 politicians and influential people.
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