Yesterday, on Martyred Intellectuals Day, we mourned the brutal murders of many of our brightest and most enlightened men and women of this land at the hands of the Pakistani Army and their collaborators during the Liberation War of 1971. It is a day of national mourning because the void left by so many intellectuals, individuals dedicated to their respective fields and also devoted to their motherland, can never be filled no matter how much time has passed. It started from the black night of March 25th when the Pakistan Army unleashed a reign of terror on the people, indiscriminately killing unarmed men, women and children in a campaign of genocide. The occupying forces, with the help of local collaborators, decided to clamp down on the spirit of the people by annihilating one of their most precious possessions—their intelligentsia who were also clearly committed to the Liberation movement. Yet what is most shocking is that after 48 years we still do not have an official list of martyred intellectuals at the Ministry of Liberation War Affairs. Is it so hard for us to find out the names of these precious individuals? Are they not Freedom Fighters?
On March 25 the Pakistani Army targeted the university hostels and staff quarters, rounding up students and teachers, mercilessly torturing and killing them. Throughout the war, this was the strategy taken by the Pakistani forces and between December 10-15, only a few days before they would have to surrender to the allied forces marking the birth of Bangladesh, our Victory Day, another spree of killing took place, during which countless number of intellectuals were abducted, tortured, killed and their bodies dumped in various places, many of them in Rayerbazar. Those martyred intellectuals included teachers, writers, singers, journalists, doctors, etc., people who would have been invaluable to a brand-new nation ready to fulfil the dreams of its liberated people. Can we even imagine what we have lost? Can we even fathom the contribution these individuals would have made in our nation’s overall development? That seems to have been the intention behind this mindless carnage—to make sure that we remain crippled forever, so that we never stand tall.
While we have managed to get back on our feet and made remarkable progress, we cannot deny that had those lives not been cut short so early, Bangladesh would have gone even further ahead. The first step to honour these individuals is to know who they were, what they did and find their families and give what is due to them. Apart from more well-known names, many of the intellectual martyrs remain unnamed. It is time we went beyond the ceremonial commemorations and truly honour those who have sacrificed their lives for freedom. It is time to make a list of our martyred intellectuals who are also Freedom Fighters and honour each and every one of them.