Washington, Mar 24 (PTI) Victims of the Bengali Hindu genocide in Bangladesh 50 years ago are still fighting for an apology from Pakistan, an influential American lawmaker has said, observing that the people of the US stand in solidarity with the survivors.
Sheila Jackson Lee, the Democratic Congresswoman who co-chairs the Congressional Pakistan Caucus, in her remarks in the House of Representatives on Tuesday said that March 25 officially marks the beginning of the genocide in Bangladesh.
“It has been 50 years since the genocide in Bangladesh, and the survivors and their descendants are still fighting for recognition; they are still fighting for an apology from Pakistan, as the Prime Minister of Bangladesh (Sheikh Hasina) formerly asked her Pakistani counterpart (Imran Khan) as recently as January of 2021; and they are still fighting for justice and for closure,” Lee said.
The brutality unleashed by the Pakistani Army and the targeting of Bengali Hindus simply because of their religion must be strongly condemned as religious freedom is one of the most sacred of human rights, she said.
“Madam Speaker, I rise in sad remembrance of the 50th anniversary of the Bengali Hindu Genocide, and celebrate and honour the lives of the more than two million Bengali Hindu persons who were systematically killed by the Pakistani Army when it launched an offensive into East Pakistan, present-day Bangladesh, thus beginning the 10-month reign of terror known as ‘Operation Searchlight’.
“Over that time, approximately 2 to 3 million people were killed, over 200,000 women were raped in organised rape camps, and over 10 million people were displaced, most finding refuge in India. I offer my prayers and condolences to the victims and their families who still feel the very real effects of this heinous crime against humanity,” she said.
On March 28, 1971, Archer K Blood, US Consul General stationed in Dhaka, sent a cable back to Foggy Bottom headquarters of the State Department with the subject reading “Selective Genocide.” In his cable, the Consul General informs his superiors at the State Department that “Here in Dacca we are mute and horrified witnesses to a reign of terror by the Pak military,” and that the full horror of its atrocities “will come to light sooner or later.” she said.
“That is why I rise; to remember and acknowledge that history so that victims and survivors of the Bengali Hindu Genocide know that the people of the United States stand in solidarity with them,” Lee added.
Invading Pakistani troops launched a brutal crackdown in erstwhile East Pakistan with tanks and artillery on the night of March 25, 1971, after Bangladesh’s founding father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman won an overwhelming victory in the 1970 general election, triggering the 1971 Liberation War against Pakistan.
The war saw the breakup of Pakistan as Bangladesh won its independence with Indian military support. Officially three million people were killed during the nine-month long war. PTI LKJ CPS AKJ CPS