The Lawmaker Reckoning: The forgotten Genocide of 1971

On 15th October two United States congressmen placed a proposed resolution in the House of Representatives urging US President Joe Biden to consider recognising the atrocities committed by the Armed Forces of Pakistan in the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971 as crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide. The bipartisan resolution was proposed by Rep Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) in association with Indian origin Rep Ro Khanna (D-Calif).

The eight-page resolution entitled Recognising the Bangladesh Genocide of 1971 primarily focuses on the active role played by the Pakistan army, along with all its functioning ancillary units, in active involvement of mass rape and genocide committed in 1971.

A bipartisan resolution on the Liberation War of 1971

“Proud to join Rep Steve Chabot in introducing the first resolution commemorating the 1971 Bengali Genocide in which millions of ethnic Bengalis and Hindus were killed or displaced in one of the most forgotten genocides of our time,” tweeted Khanna.

“We must not let the years erase the memory of the millions who were massacred. Recognising [sic] the genocide strengthens the historical record, educates our fellow Americans, and lets would-be perpetrators know such crimes will not be tolerated or forgotten,” Chabot posted.

The West Pakistani establishment was fiercely against the opinion of Awami League President Sheikh Mujibur Rahman being the supreme leader of Pakistan, despite winning an absolute democratic majority mandate in the 1970 general elections. They formulated a heinous plan, conspiracy to crush the Bengali unity and to ensure that their hopes and liberation where forgotten forever. A military crackdown codenamed Operation Searchlight was launched on 26th March 1971 by the army and its collaborators.

Hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians – men, women and children – were killed throughout East Pakistan. It is estimated almost as high as ten million refugees fled across the borders into neighbouring India to seek refuge from a reign of terror which lasted from 26 March up to 16th December 1971. Under the joint synergistic forces off the Mukti Bahini (Bengali Liberation forces) and Indian Armed Forces, the West Pakistani military establishment capitulated.

This resolution opens up the forgotten floodgates for perhaps the most horrific crimes against humanity committed in 1971. Global benchmark institutions like the British Houses of Parliament, United Nations in Geneva and the European Union in Brussels ought to take cognisance and act accordingly.

Changing perspectives in Washington

The US had a diametrically opposite political stance in 1971 when its administration was in active support General Yahya Khan, the West Pakistani dictator. However it seems fifty years later, there has been finally an awakening. The resolution specifically draws attention to the nine-month long war of Independence in Bangladesh, Mar-Dec 1971. It recalls the horror inflicted during those months of carnage and mass rape and offers sympathy to the victims.

American diplomat Archer Blood’s The Blood Telegram is perhaps till date the most accurate chronological recording of what followed and the time has come to finally hold the perpetrators to justice fifty years on.

US President Jo Biden has also recently mentioned Pakistan as one of the most dangerous places in the world at a private Democratic party fundraiser event in California. Time will only reveal the logical conclusion to the resolution tabled and if the US administration is determined go as far as imposing sanctions on Pakistan. For the moment, it has definitely a good step taken in the direction of Dhaka.


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Priyajit is an Author and a Geo-Political Analyst with special interest in the Indian sub-continent.

Published Date

October 22, 2022

"You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty."

– Mahatma Gandhi