History or Herstory!
By Maimona J Ashraf
Lately I had a glimpse on interesting headline “British reporter convicted for doubting Bangladesh war toll”, this caption precipitated a sneer smile accompanied with couple of puzzles. First, has he been convicted because he questioned ‘History’! OR second, he has been convicted because he questioned ‘Herstory’?! These puzzles can expectantly be cracked with few flashbacks as known rhetoric is “if you want to understand today, you have to search yesterday.”
By moving back descending to ‘history’, holdback to ‘her’! When in 2010, Sheikh Hasina, the current Prime Minister of Bangladesh, set up a domestic court to investigate the war crimes during the 1971 war of independence from Pakistan. The Bangladesh’s International Crimes Tribunal mentioned three million deaths and 200,000 women raped in 1971. The government opened inquiry after more than four decades against nine opposition leaders for convicting the war crimes, seven from Jamaat-e-Islami and two from Bangladesh Nationalist Party.
The British Reporter, David Bergman, who has been working as Editor Special Reports for the Bangladesh national newspaper since 2010 and won a British television award for exposing war criminals in 1971 war, contradicted the official death statistics on the basis of existed evidences and advised studies that illustrated real statistics much lower. The David’s contradiction caught fire and heated the case, resultantly held journalist ‘guilty of contempt’ for questioning official figures. The hot issue of Bregman in cold winters wittingly resembles to Pakistan’s current political scenario where one opposition leader has challenged the electoral statistics of ruling party and court notices have been issued against the opposition leader for causing diverse challenges. Apart from sarcastic comparison, history-rigging holds as serious, if not more, pros and cons as electoral rigging.
The lawyer who filed petition against Bergman said “no one has the right to question the 3 million death toll as it is a settled issue” but how the history can remain settled well if you are stipulating to replace ‘historical facts’ with ‘gossips well told’. The stiffness of Bengali government to inquire the war crimes inclines opinions towards critical views which accuse government for deliberately exaggerating the bloodshed of 1971 war, to prosecute her opponents and to counter criticism for executing a trial lacking any international oversight.
David Bergman is not first for negating the speculated details, there have been many before. Though Pakistan’s military is usually blamed for war crimes in 1971 war, but how the whole tragedy was staged and how India trained Mukti Bahini for conducting massacres to fuel fire so that Pakistan’s military could face all the heat, a detailed account from Sarmila Bose’s “Dead Reckoning” sheds light on it. India itself explicitly adorns its secret vicious tactics planned to dismember East and West Pakistan, which was also narrated in The Hindu’s article “India’s secret war in Bangladesh.” The question is if these are identified and accepted facts then why the political regime in Bangladesh is trapping history with inflated figures! If the aim is merely to punish the war criminals of 1971 then verdicts must be written with ‘impartiality’ and not with ‘prejudiced fluid’.
The views of Awami League or India can be influenced by personal interests but it can be substantiated through a variety of interpretations. Nonetheless the ‘History’ is not ‘Herstory’ and it is a challenge for many Pakistanis to recover the real history and to introduce it to present. Even the more serious challenge is to not let the adversary succeed and to not let the political debacle repeat in Baluchistan that ensued Bangladesh. The diplomatic channels should take productive initiatives to hinder Indian infiltration to stimulate separatist aspirations in Baluchistan, if we do not want to give our future a history of apathy and flicker of indignation.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Dispatch News Desk. Assumptions made within the analysis may not reflective of the position of Dispatch News Desk.