Bangladesh is observing the first Martyred Intellectuals Day after the execution of the Al-Badr commanders who had killed the brightest minds in wanting to take out the guiding lights of an emerging nation.
Sensing defeat in the Liberation War in 1971, the Pakistani occupation army and its collaborators killed many university teachers, doctors, artists, writers, journalists and other prominent Bengalis on Dec 14, 1971, just two days before their surrender, in a desperate act of vengeance.
They were systematically rounded up from their homes in the middle of the night, taken to torture cells throughout the city, brutalised for hours, and finally assembled on various killing fields and executed en masse.
The bodies of the slain intellectuals were found with marks of tortures in the capital’s Mirpur and Rayerbazar where the monuments have been built to immortalise them.
The nation will pay tribute to them by placing wreaths from early morning on Wednesday as it approaches 45 years of the staggering loss of human capital.
Bangladesh has so far hanged two war criminals for killing the intellectuals. Two others convicts are absconding with death sentences.
Jamaat chief Matiur Rahman Nizami was hanged on May 11 this year while Secretary General Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid was executed on Nov 22 last year.
During the Liberation War, Nizami was the chief of Islami Chhatra Sangha, the students’ affiliate of the Jamaat-e-Islami.
He was also the chief of the Al-Badr force that was formed by some members of Chhatra Sangha. Its Secretary General Mujahid took over from him in September 1971.
The Al-Badr was formed to actively collaborate with the Pakistani occupation forces.
The verdicts condemning Nizami and Mujahid to death have described them as masterminds of the genocide.
Two other Al-Badr leaders, Ashrafuzzaman Khan and Chowdhury Mueen Uddin were sentenced to death in 2013 for planning the mass killing of intellectuals. They are absconding and believed to have fled abroad.
President Md Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, in separate messages, have urged the people from all walks of life to build a knowledge-based society with the spirit of War of Liberation.
Hamid said intellectuals had played a very significant role and worked as the conscience of the nation in advancing the Liberation War towards its successful end.
But it is unfortunate, he said, that the occupation forces had brutally killed those intellectuals just on the eve of the victory.
The president called upon all to be imbued with the spirit of patriotism of the martyred intellectuals and work together to develop a merit-based nation.
Prime Minister Hasina said the Martyred Intellectuals Day is a painful event in the history of the liberation struggle of the Bengali nation.
She said when the country was close to achieving the final victory under the leadership of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the best brains were killed by the occupation forces and their local auxiliary forces like Razakars, Al-Badr and Al-Shams.
The anti-liberation forces wanted to deprive the nation of its best wealth, the intellectuals, by killing them, the prime minister said.
BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia also commemorated the martyred intellectuals in a message.
Unlike almost all pro-liberation organisations, Khaleda, however, did not mention the Jamaat, BNP’s key political partner in an alliance it leads, in the message.
She blamed an ‘international evil force’ for the killings of the intellectuals.
The social and cultural organisations will observe the day through a host of programmes.
Hamid and Hasina will pay their respect to the martyred intellectuals by placing wreaths at Mirpur Martyred Intellectuals Memorial early in the morning.
Hasina is scheduled to chair a discussion at the Institution of Engineers, Bangladesh at Ramna at 3pm, among other programmes.