Lecture on ‘Genocide and The Bangladesh Case’ by Professor Adam Jones held at UAP

In comparative genocide studies, the mass killing of 1971 in Bangladesh is considered as one of the most important cases of the twentieth century. Bangladesh is one of the first countries to have used the term ‘genocide’ in a statute of international crimes tribunal. The genocide in 1971 is being researched by the scholars of home and abroad in order to discover its relevance in the context of international criminal justice discourse. Adam Jones made such remarks about the genocide of 1971 in a lecture titled “Genocide and the Bangladesh Case, organized by the Directorate of Students’ Welfare, University of Asia Pacific on May 22, 2017.

Adam Jones is a political scientist, writer, and photojournalist based at the University of British Columbia, Canada. He is executive director of Gendercide Watch, a project of the Gender Issues Education Foundation. He was chosen as one of “Fifty Key Thinkers on the Holocaust and Genocide” for the book of that name, which was published in 2010; also he is author of the book “Genocide: A Comprehensive Introduction”. (Wikipedia)

Professor Jones said that despite living in a small world, we hardly know about the genocides those have occurred in other countries, we don’t get to know the history. For example, the genocide in Armenian is not a well-known fact to the Bangladeshi people, similarly the outside world does not know what actually happened in 1971. Among many other causes behind this, one of the major problems that he finds is that, there is a lacking of good number of books on the 1971’s genocide written in English. Mostly all the references used were written by the then West Pakistani journalists.

He tried to present a comparative context between war crimes and genocide. Mentioning about other genocides such as Holocaust, Armenian; Balkan wars in Bosnia, Rwanda genocide, he said that, in Cambodia we have one of the problems of defining genocide. The people thought it to be killing of ethnic group rather than genocide. However, it is now certainly one of the most accepted cases of genocide. The study of the Cambodian case made it possible for Bangladesh case to be studied as the context is seemingly similar. Rwanda is, on one other hand, the fastest and most brutal genocide in the recent history. He further added that many other countries had troops beside the Rwanda border but they went to rescue the white people only which was really shameful an act.

War historically has been the context that gives governance the freedom and desire to exterminate mass of people. War and genocide are conjuring twins, he said, it can be hard to take them apart. War is inevitably an extreme social situation where existing rules are often lifted. People live in fear, meanwhile it tends to emphasize political dictatorship. Bangladesh genocide, like most other cases, also happened at a time of war. Genocide is assumed to be irrational which it is not, often being a political and military conspiracy to suppress people for political purposes.

He believes that the genocide in Bangladesh started because of Bengali people’s decision to be independent from Pakistan. There was not necessarily a pre-fabricated master plan to kill the mass number of people. He thinks the Bangladesh’s genocide case is of contingency and escalation. The violence in the night of 25th March, however, created resistance among young people in Bangladesh. Often genocide is designed to stop birth of the targeted group. The Pakistani group similarly impregnated the women of Bangladesh. He referred to the book ‘Against Our Will’, published in 1975  written by Susan Brownmiller from a feminist perspective about the rapes in 1971 war for the first time.

According to Adam Jones, international justice for genocide needs to take a legal form and Bangladesh has set an example in this context. However, being a not-super-power in terms of international relations, Bangladesh is yet to get the attention that it deserves for further study of genocide. There should be more academic works done on the genocide of 1971, so that the world could know what had actually happened.

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Raihan Rahman Rafid

First year law student at University of Dhaka, Debater, Blogger, Public Speaker

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