Bangladeshi Americans Recall Horror of March 25, 1971, Demand Apology from Pakistan
File photo of Indian Army personnel performing during a function to commemorate 50 years of the Indo-Pakistani War for the independence of Bangladesh, in Kolkata on March 10, 2021. (Dibyangshu Sarkar/AFP via Getty Images)
By REENA BHARDWAJ/ANI
WASHINGTON – A U.S.-based Bangladeshi organization, Human Rights Congress for Bangladesh Minorities, held a car rally March 25, followed by a protest outside the Pakistani Embassy in Washington, DC demanding an apology for the 1971 genocide named ‘Operation Searchlight’. The protestors observed ‘Genocide Day’ recalling the horror of one of the worst genocides in modern history committed by the Pakistani occupation army against the unarmed people of Bangladesh on the night of March 25, 1971, and afterwards. At the protest, voices underscored the Global Magnitsky Act and how the U.S. should impose sanctions and confiscate assets of those responsible for the genocide and are freely living in the United States.
The Global Magnitsky Act is a powerful statutory tool enacted by Congress, which gives the White House broad power to sanction foreign officials who are responsible for serious human rights abuses.
Protestors raised flags, held placards and chanted slogans against Pakistan. During the protest outside the Pakistani embassy, Priya Saha, executive director pf HRCBM and an organizer, told ANI that in addition to the apology, the protestors also demand from Pakistan the extradition of 195 Pakistani war criminals.
“We demand that Pakistan holds a trial for raping and killing thousands of women and children in 1971,” Saha added.
Sheila Jackson Lee, the Democratic Congresswoman who co-chairs the Congressional Pakistan Caucus, in her remarks in the House of Representatives on March 23 said that March 25 officially marks the beginning of the genocide in Bangladesh.
“It has been 50 years since the genocide in Bangladesh, and the survivors and their descendants are still fighting for recognition; they are still fighting for an apology from Pakistan, as the Prime Minister of Bangladesh (Sheikh Hasina) formerly asked her Pakistani counterpart (Imran Khan) as recently as January of 2021; and they are still fighting for justice and for closure,” Lee said in her address.
“We are grateful to Sheila Jackson Lee and her remarks in the House of Representatives on the beginning of the genocide in Bangladesh. We demand the U.S. Congress to recognize the Bengali Genocide Day on March 25,” another protestor told ANI.
On March 25, 1971, at midnight under the name ‘Operation Searchlight’, seen by many as the first step in the Bengali genocide, the Pakistan army allegedly killed about 100,000 Bengalis in a single night.
They targeted academics and scholars, specifically murdering many university students and professors. The protestors say that the goal of the operation was to crush the Bengali nationalist movement through fear – they attacked Pilkhana, Rajarbagh Police Lines, Jagannath Hall, a non-Muslim dormitory of Dhaka University, Iqbal Hall, Sri Ramna Kali Temple and other major institutions.