In this short article I will very briefly explore the pejorative term ‘razakar’ and how it is being used as a term of abuse in Bangladesh and within the Bangladeshi Diaspora around the world, and the consequences.
For a long time now I have been hearing some people calling other people ‘razakars’. When some people who are Islamic minded and talk about politics they are often labelled as razakars, even if they were born long after the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971 and has nothing to do with anything associated with the horrible nightmare of that time.
Recently, I have also become aware of the term ‘Tui Razakar’ which is used as a term of abuse by Awami League and some like minded people to discredit people who they consider to be supporting razakar war criminals, amongst others. I have also seen on facebook postings some people are calling for a razakar free Bangladesh and advising razakars to go to Pakistan. On the other hand, there are also various name callings, threats and abuses directed at Awami League people, their supporters and the Shahbagh movement.
Recently, I have seen many facebook postings claiming that Imran H Sarker, the Shahbag Movement spokesperson is a grandchild of a razakar. One headline reads, from Bengali translation, ‘Razakar’s grandson’s big voice’. Presumably this is designed to achieve two main outcomes.
First, to suggest that it is contradictory for him to demand the hanging of razakars when he himself is a grandson of a razakar. Hoping that this will create doubt in people’s mind and Imran will become more discredited and the movement’s moral position will become slightly weakened as a result.
Second, the implication presented is that as he might have been made to feel guilty of family association with razakars, in order to deal with this, he became part of this movement to try and wash this ‘dirt’ from the perception of him and his family in the eyes of some people. I think it is wrong to try to discredit him on these two grounds. This is because every human beings are born free and independent and is not responsible for the crimes and wrong doings of his / her father, grandfather or anyone else in the family.
Further, he or she does not have to follow the philosophy or lifestyle of his / her parents or grandparents. Everyone is free to decide what political ideology and way of life to follow. Implying that Imran does not have a right to campaign against razakars because his grandfather may have been a razakar is not a rational position to hold. It is possible that had his grandfather committed horrible crimes then he would have hated him with an equal intensity of emotion as he does with respect to the current alleged war criminals. As an independent human being he can decide and make his own decision regardless of what his family or friends believe or did and he should not be associated with anything wrong that someone in his family might have done. However, if he applied or applies double standards in his judgement, demands and recommendations then it would be irrational and morally unacceptable.
I asked myself whether being a Razakar was or is a crime, according domestic law, international war crimes law or moral law. During the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War there were many people and groups who supported the Pakistani military and the then state to prevent Bangladesh from becoming a separate and independent country. Not everyone who worked to keep Pakistan united committed horrible crimes, some off course are guilty of murder, rape, etc. Jamaat was one of the organised, but very small party at that time that supported the Pakistan army in their efforts to crush the Bangladeshi Liberation fighters. Now, imagined and real crimes of the war have been multiplied by infinity and all the blames for that have been put on the shoulders of Jamaat, who are called razakars. Awami League and their supported are calling for the hanging of ‘war criminals’. Those who are Jamaat or members of its student wing are also called razakars and anyone who sympathises with the Jamaat position with regard to the International Crimes Tribunal in Bangladesh are either called razakars or the supporters of razakar war criminals.
I have come to the conclusion that being a razakar cannot be a crime, nor is it or can it be an international crime. Internationally, the UN will never pass a law which states that to be on the losing side of a war or conflict is a crime. Off course, the winning side in a conflict may pass a domestic law to make it a crime to have been on the other side during the conflict that has just finished, but it will be morally unacceptable as two different standards are applied to judge the two sides in the conflict.
Morality is about right and wrong and is applicable universally, same standards for all without fear or favour. Moral rules are derived from intellectual foundations through the application of human rationality, based on understanding of situations and contexts and applying the human sense of right and wrong to all situations in consistent ways. Any deviation from a consistent application of moral rules renders the rules immoral in the particular application in question. Further, it is not a moral crime either to be a razakar, even though in every conflict one side naturally considers fighting for the enemy as wrong and immoral. Killing, raping, kidnapping, etc. are crimes and immoral acts. During any conflict there will be more than one side fighting against each other.
Pakistan was one country for 23 years and when the Pakistani military launched its unjust war on, at that time, East Pakistan the vast majority supported and helped in the Bangladesh liberation efforts. But just like every conflict in human history there were people who wanted to keep Pakistan united and took up arms to help the Pakistan army defeat the Bengali freedom fighters. During conflicts it is the natural self-preservation thing to do is to hate and kill each other, only morally justifiable in combat situations and against those who are participating in the opposite side. However, any actions that target civilians for killing, raping, looting, etc. are evil crimes, international war crimes and absolutely immoral.
The Awami League and their supporters and various left wing groups in Bangladesh have used, misused and overused the term razakar. This is probably not as a result of specific direction from the leadership above, but as a result of the way the leadership from the beginning behaved. Now it has taken a life of its own. For a long time a whole range of individuals use their particular and quick judgement, without consideration, to label all sorts of people as razakars. This is a wrong thing to do and causes unnecessary tension, misunderstanding, clouding of issues, etc. One should keep one’s mind focused on universal principles of right and wrong and apply high standards of empirical research and valid logical reasoning to make judgments. The right thing to do is to support what is right and oppose what is wrong regardless of politics, opinions, power, money, influence, etc.
When any conflict comes to an end the best way forward is to bring all sides of the conflict together and come to a settlement for the greater good of the country and all its people, including punishing those engaged in crimes and international war crimes. However, as it is not possible and desirable to punish everyone one has to be selective and decide on certain manageable level.
At the same time there has to be a reconciliation process. Unfortunately we did not have people like Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu – wise, highly moral and experienced leadership – to guide us after our liberation. Instead just after the glorious victory in 1971 we had a terrible period of rule by Sheik Mujib’s leadership and then coups and counter coups, etc. Forty years have passed and our leaders do not know how to bring reconciliation and peace. Instead the Awami League party in power are using a bogus international crimes tribunal to kill top leadership of Jamaat and destroy the party by making claims of war crimes which they cannot prove in an internationally approved, fair and transparent court. This is morally wrong and is destined to result in more hate and conflict in our country.
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