Whenever the issue of trial of war-crimes is raised, the killers and collaborators now turned politicians are seen to treat Bangabandhu with great respect. The Al-Badar leaders say, ‘it was he who resolved the issue by declaring general mercy, so it is meaningless to discuss this issue and give much importance now. Their political allies and intellectuals sing the same song, in addition to this more horrible and fabricated stories are added. Their absurdities know no bounds. Across generations they have spread rumors like: Bangabandhu enjoying a meal (Khichuri) with top-collaborator Shah Azizur Rahman at Comilla Cantonment, he went to the Jail with his own car and received Khan A Sabur at the Jail-gate. These are the stories which have been used to wash the brains of our generation. Common people treat these with their utmost ignorance and we are habituated to listen to them.
For my personal interest, I have studied the issue of the controversial General Mercy. To start with the only document I could find was a old paper-cutting of New York Times, where in a few sentences it was said that some 30 thousand collaborators had been freed including the imprisoned Governor Malik along with some of his helpers.
Such a big incidence, what an important decision! Would not there be an official document at least? After searching for it long, I could not recover anything from the known persons working on trial of war-crimes issue or from collectors, who have been documenting our freedom-fight. The general mercy was a Presidential order; so it should be included in the government Gazette. It must be in the Annual Lawyers’ guide. I could not find it in any of the records. The authorities do not archive many documents of 1973/74 anymore. Files and documents are vanished. A Lawyer of the Supreme Court accuses ex president Ziaur Rahman directly as he himself had built the Shishu Park (children’s park) to hide the memorial of surrender of Pakistan Forces. Similarly he himself had given the order of burning all the records of war-criminals into ashes. There is nothing in the Bar council Library now.
My only support was a few lines. Bangabandhu declared general mercy, this is right; but he did not forgive the killers, rapists and plunderers. the question now is where is my proof? Those who raise this question do not provide anything; even those accused as war-criminals exonerated by this general mercy do not provide any document too; then? On November 30 in 1973 Bangabandhu made this declaration. A press-note was supposed to be published in the newspapers on the following day. I started searching for those papers. And Jisan emerged as my rescuer.
I started working with some dedicated youths after I had joined Daily Adhinayak (yet to be published). These youths have the ability to play any serious role in the field of literature and cultural activism – Jisan is one of them. I gave the responsibility to two persons to collect the news in archived newspapers published after this declaration had been made. When Ajit Das entered the National Archive, he was deterred with a new requirement, an approval from Home Ministry to get to the documents. At Bangla Academy, Jisan faced the same sort of hindrance. Prior to this, he had failed to enter PIB archives too.
What follows here supersedes any Spy thriller-story. With an expired Library Card, Jisan entered the Underground Archive of Dhaka University. He found the expected newspapers with the help of some known staffs enduring the mosquito bites. However, some student leaders got interested in Jisan’s adventurous works. They even took his interview (read cross-examination). These student-leaders have only memorized their respected leaders’ names and lack knowledge about their leader’s history and deeds. So they became feeble before the smartness of Jisan. With trembling hands, he shot photos of the newspaper articles with his Samsung Mobile. He could take the required snaps just before the charge of the battery depleted. When he had handed me over the photos from his mobile via blue-tooth, he said: “Pial vai, give me another four days. I will transcribe each line and come back”.
I suppressed my utmost wish of hugging him in pleasure. With a subdued excitement I came back home. With the photos and clippings I started my works and could not bear waiting for another two days. I zoomed the photos in and out to understand what was written; and then transcribed that myself. The decision of uploading the clippings in You-tube was taken much earlier. I selected the photos finally, made AVI files using converter and then gave it a complete shape by making it a bit slow using the movie-maker and adjusting its brightness.
Achieving this would have been impossible if Jisan was not with me. In this age of free flow of Information, I will forever remember his active role in finding the historical data for a Bangla Blog with my gratitude. Let us see now what it was in the Declaration of General Mercy; what it was written in its coverage; who they released.
Report on General Mercy Declaration: The Doinik Bangla, December 01, 1973
Heading: General Mercy Declaration on Punished Prisoners under Collaborator Act
Sub-heading: Bangabandhu’s urge to the persons received mercy for the engagement of Country’s Betterment: No Mercy for the Killers and Rapists.
Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh has declared a general mercy for the convicted and punished prisoners under the Collaborator Act. Persons who have been imprisoned under the Collaborator Ordinance (Special Tribunal) 1972, against whom there is a warrant or those who are wanted and those who have been punished will be imposed this general mercy and soon they will be freed. Yet those who have killed people, raped and set fire or caused to damage people’s homestead with explosives or convicted for damaging water-transport whatsoever will not be considered under this act. A Governmental press-note issued on Friday night last says this General Mercy.
Prime Minister Shaikh Mujibur Rahman says, Government has declared this general mercy for the people arrested and convicted under Collaborator Act so that people from all corners can enjoy the Victory Day 16th December together indiscriminately and take oath to build our country. Bangabandhu has ordered the Home Ministry to take necessary steps so that these persons can get released from Jail soon and join the victory festival coming on 16th December. The persons freed are urged to be united with spirit of victory and are requested to take the responsibility of working as a safe-guard for our independence.
While speaking in the declaration ceremony, Bangabandhu says, all will forget their bitter past and leave their previous activity and start working in unison and establish an unequal instance of patriotism, he believes and hopes.
Bangabandhu says, through much blood, sorrows and sufferings, tears and tortures we have achieved our independence. At any cost we have to preserve this independence.’ He hopes that this Independence Day will open a new horizon of peace, happiness, prosperity and welfare.
Prime Minister says, some people, in association with invaded force, opposed against our freedom fight. They were arrested under the Collaborator Act. Among them many are familiar persons. As they were associated with Pakistani Force and helped them technically, people of Bangladesh suffered an indescribable miseries.
Bangabandhu says, these people have been arrested and imprisoned for long. He thinks that they are repented deeply. They are certainly remorseful for their pas activities. He hopes, after they have been freed, they will forget their past misdeeds, work with a new oath for building our nation and establish a new instance of patriotism. Yesterday the press-note issued from the Home Ministry is as follows:
Press-note: Prior to this, Government has considered the matter of Mercy of those who have been arrested under Collaborator Ordinance 1972(Special Tribunal) PO No-8, 1972, or have been convicted and paid their sufferings; government is making the new declaration in this regard:
1. Except the fields of crimes and persons described in the article no: 2
a) The persons arrested and convicted under the Criminal Act Section 401 of 1898 are being given released and, if there is no complain under any rule or act, except this order, under the general mercy, they will be freed from jail soon.
b) According to this order all cases under trial in any special tribunal or in special magistrate will be withdrawn. If there are no other cases against them pending, they will be freed from jail under this general mercy.
c) According to this Act, all cases filed against any person and the inquiry will be withdrawn and if he is not convicted otherwise under any acts whatsoever will be freed from jail. According to this act all warrants, summons or any notice served against him to crock his assets will be withdrawn. In that case the persons have to be free from other cases. If any proceedings are completed in absence of the persons and if he remains still absent, he will be freed from jail only when he surrenders and beg mercy and declares his loyalty, only then this general mercy will be eligible for him.
2. Persons convicted under the section 302(Killing), section 304, 376(rape), 435(cause damage by using bullet or explosives), Section 436(Burn Homesteads), and Section 448(set fire in water transport or explosion), According to the Criminal Act will not be considered under this act.
Banglar Bani or Ittefaq are equally same at their reports which will be seen in the video footage. There is other surprising news in the Donik Bangla on the same issue: regarding of being set free of Shah Azizur Rahman who later would be the Prime Minister of Bangladesh in the hand of Zia and of Sarsina’s Peer Shaheb who would be given the Independence Medal during Ershad regime. It said: According to an especial order made by the Bangladesh government, PDP Leader Shah Azizur Rahman and Sarsina’s Peer Shaheb have been released. Due to the cause of collaborating with Pakistani invaded forces they were arrested. .
It has been cleared that high profile collaborator like Governor Malik and Shah Aziz were not handed outside the Dhaka Central Jail. After they had been arrested, they had been there before they were freed. So there is no way to believe this story that Bangabandhu called him from jail and together he ate khichuri with him. This is altogether false.
On December3, in the Daily Ittefaq came the follow-up of the news of the decision of General Mercy where all people welcomed the decision. There was an important news. Home Minister Advocate Abdul Malek Ukil clarified the about the persons had been arrested under Collaborator Act. Under the Heading: Total Number of People arrested under Collaborator Act were 37 thousand 4hundred and 71 seventy-one, it had been written that on the perspective of declaring the mercy,
Yesterday while conversing with journalists, Home Minister Mr. Malek Ukil says this. He says, after the list of the persons arrested under Collaborator act verified with the order of general mercy, he has given approval to free all persons arrested under its jurisdiction. He says, according to the Collaborator Act number of total convicted persons is 37 thousand 4 hundred and 71 among which. Among these people, cases against 2,848 persons have been settled of 752 persons have been convicted and 2096 have been released. He says, in a newspaper the number of arrestees under collaborator act is 86 thousand which is not true; rather it is exaggerated. Home Minister says, many student leaders arrested and convicted under this act will get released. He says, life-imprisonment awarded former Governor East Pakistan M A Malek will get released along with his cabinet members. The persons among others will get released are Dr. Kazi Din Mohammad, Dr. Hasan Jaman, Dr. Sazzad Hossain, Dr. Mohor Ali(All are Collaborators and University Teachers) and Khan A Sabur. Home Minister says, persons freed will get back their properties and enjoy all facilities given to a citizen. The story that Bangabandhu himself went to receive Khan A Sabur has been solved through this news.
Finally, I am quoting the speech given by Bangabandhu broadcast and telecast on Radio and Television on 15December: after the revolution we did not kill those who were arrested and convicted as the enemies of liberation; rather we have forgiven them. We do not believe in the policy of jealousy and revenge. Consequently, those who were arrested and convicted under the Collaborator act have been shown a general mercy. They have been given all sorts of civic facilities as they would have enjoyed before. I believe, if persons misguided by others and followed the path of jealousy are repented will also be given same opportunity to build this nation.
Many things have come in consequence of the perspective of general mercy declaration. Those issues have been discussed and published. But the main thing I have not gotten as reference in any winterers’ writing. If this writing meets up that deficiency, my endeavor will be fruitful. Mine personal notion is, after the General Mercy Declaration had been made, Collaborator Ordinance was a bit mended, which is called amendment. But even after this, why it is not present in the gazette will always be an illusion.
Source: Doinik Bangla, Doinik Ittefaq, Doinik Banglar Bani and Bangladesh Observer. News Clippings have been used in the footage.
Courtesy: Ikram Neoaz Faraji Jisan
NOTE: The whole write-up is a translation of a blog post by Mr Safaet Hossain and his team translated the content from the Bengali blog post into English (edited by Rezwan).
Omi Rahman Pial is a well-known figure in Bengali Blog-sphere. He is also an historian of Bangladesh Liberation War and an activist demanding the trial of war criminals