Remembering 1971

Why Bangladesh has announced a Genocide Day

Updated - November 29, 2021 01:31 pm IST

Published - March 23, 2017 12:02 am IST

The National Monument for the Martyrs in Savar, near Dhaka.

The National Monument for the Martyrs in Savar, near Dhaka.

Why Genocide Day?

It has been a long-pending demand in Bangladesh, by political parties and civil society, to mark the atrocities committed by the Pakistani army on civilians in the then East Pakistan during the Liberation War in 1971. On March 11, the Bangladesh Parliament passed a resolution calling on the government to observe March 25 as Genocide Day. The government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina approved the demand and said it would send two senior officials to the UN headquarters in New York and the UN Human Rights Council office in Geneva for international recognition of the day.


What happened on March 25, 1971?

On the night of March 25, 1971, the Pakistani army, launched Operation Searchlight in Dhaka aimed at curbing elements of the separatist Bengali nationalist movement. East Pakistan was already on the boil after the Pakistan establishment refused to hand over power to Sheikh Mujibur Rahman who had won the 1970 election. The Pakistani army, along with local activists from the Jamaat-e-Islami, unleashed violence that night, targeting students and teachers of Dhaka University and neighbourhoods of Old Dhaka. According to some researchers, around 7,000 people were killed and 3,000 were arrested. During the early hours of March 26, Mujibur Rahman declared the independence of Bangladesh, which officially set off the Liberation War.

How did Pakistan respond to those events?

Pakistan Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto set up a judicial commission to find out the atrocities committed by the army in East Pakistan. Justice Hamoodur Rahman submitted his report in 1974, which was not released to the public for three decades. It documented large-scale atrocities committed by the Pakistani troops and also recommended that the government establish a special court to further investigate the army’s actions. This never happened. Even the commission’s estimate of the casualties has been widely challenged. It put the death toll during the Liberation War at 26,000. Bangladeshi authorities say up to three million people were killed and millions more displaced. The Pakistani authorities haven’t offered a formal apology so far.

Will this affect Bangladesh’s relations with Pakistan?

Bilateral ties have been strained after Bangladesh started prosecuting alleged war criminals who collaborated with the Pakistani army in 1971. With Pakistan still refusing to apologise, Bangladesh’s move to get international recognition for the genocide will have repercussions for bilateral relations.

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.