During the early morning hours of November 22, Bangladesh carried out the death sentences for two notorious war criminals of 1971. They were Salahuddin Quader (SQ) Chowdhury and Ali Ahsam Mohammed Mujahid (or Mojaheed).
The convicted were accused of taking part in mass murders and assassinations of innocent Bengalis during the 1971 liberation struggle against Pakistan. Both SQ Chowdhury and Mujahid were rehabilitated in politics by two former Bangladesh Presidents, Ziaur Rahman and Hossain Ershad, after the killing of the founding leader of Bangladesh, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, in 1971.
It is quite bewildering to the people of Bangladesh that the western press and human rights organizations kept referring to these two convicted people as opposition leaders and not war criminals. It is also quite frustrating to see the myopic vision of the United States with respect to its foreign policy; it bombs ISIS in Iraq and Syria, but at the same time issues statements in support of these criminals in Bangladesh who, through their actions, were no less than ISIS terrorists.
We consider the carrying out of the verdict against these two war criminals as a step towards achieving some closure for the injustice that the Bengalis suffered during 1971. Forty four years have passed since 1971, many of the perpetrators of crime have died without facing charges. The surviving Pakistani Army officers and soldiers who carried out the bulk of the atrocity, including genocide and mass rape, remain outside the jurisdiction. However, we consider this verdict by the International War Crimes Tribunal and its execution by the Bangladesh Government a proxy indictment for all war criminals of 1971.
Below we provide the charges brought against the convicted; without reading them you would not get the total scope of the heinous acts committed by SQ Chowdhury and Mujahid.
Charges against SQ Chowdhury
A total of 23 charges have been brought against war criminal Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury. He was found guilty in nine out of the 23 charges leveled against him by the prosecution. He was sentenced to death over four charges and jailed for different terms over the five others.
He got the capital punishment for each of the four charges: #3, #5, #6 and #8 — that include murder, genocide and murder after abduction. He was also given 20 years in prison for three charges: #2, #4, and #7 – each which include murder, complicity in genocide, loot, arson and deportation; and five years each for another two charges – #17 and #18, which include abduction and torture.
The charges against SQ Chowdhury are given below :
1. The first charge accuses Salauddin Quader Chowdhury of genocide. He had ordered the abduction of seven Hindus on Apr 4-5, 1971. Six of them were tortured to death at his ‘Goods Hill’ residence in his presence.
2. Salahuddin along with several others accompanied the Pakistani army that raided Maddhya Gohira Hindu Parha in Raozan. Pakistani army opened fire killing Poncha Bala Sharma, Sunil Sharma, Jyoti Lal Sharma, and Dulal Sharma on the spot and Dr Makhon Lal Sharma died after several days from wounds sustained during the attacks.
According to the tribunal, the acts of murder and injury committed in order to destroy the members of Hindu religious group in whole or in part fall under the category of genocide.
3. He was accused of killing Kundeshwari Oushadhalaya owner and social worker Nutan Chandra Singha of Raozan’s Gohira on Apr 13, 1971. Killing of unarmed Singha has been termed a crime against humanity.
4. He was accused of planning, complicity, genocide, loot, arson, and deportation. He had led a group of accomplices along with Pakistan Army and raided Jogot Mollo Parha on April 13. Two of his accomplices had gone to the Hindus there and asked them to attend a peace meeting. They were fired upon when they gathered in the courtyard of Kiron Bikash Chowdhury’s house.
As many as 32 people were killed at the time while three others survived with injuries. Later the house was looted and set on fire. The survivors later fled to India.
5. He was accused of genocide and arson as crimes against humanity. He had led the Pakistani Army to Banik Parha at Sultanpur village at Raozan at noon on Apr 13, 1971. They had opened fire on the unarmed civilian Hindus there and murdered four.
6. He led the Pakistani troops to attack Unsattar Parha at Raozan in the afternoon same day. They gathered the Hindus of the locality for a peace meeting and following a pre-arranged plan to open fire on the people. Altogether 70 were murdered, of whom 50 people were identified and the rest were unknown. One Januti Bala Pal was shot in the waist, but survived. She and the rest of the Hindus had fled the country and taken shelter in India as refugee.
7. Salahuddin was accused of crimes against humanity which includes complicity in murder of Satish Chandra Palit on Apr 14, burning his house and deportation of his family.
8. He had direct complicity in abduction and murder of Awami League leader Sheikh Mozaffar Ahmed and his son Sheikh Alamgir on Apr 17.
9. He was accused of genocide, loot, arson and deportation.
In mid-April, he was staying in a Razakar camp at Boalkhali while Pakistani Army caught Shanti Deb of Munsirhat and killed him at Banik Parha, near where he was at the time. Pakistani Army and Razakars also looted and burned down the house of Ram Babu of Banik Parha and Hindu Parha of Kodurkhali at the time. Hindus of those households later fled to India.
10. He accompanied Pakistani Army in looting the house of Manik Dhar of Dabua village at Raozan and torching the house of local Chairman Shadhon Dhar.
11. He was accused of genocide and deportation.
On Apr 20, Pakistani Army and Razakars jointly attacked Hindu populated Shakhapura village at Boalkhali and killed 76 people in the jungle and paddy field near Shakhapura Primary School they had taken shelter in. Family members and rest of the community had left the country to save lives.
12. He was accused of genocide. He had led the Pakistani Army in Jagot Mollo Parha village on May 5, 1971 and killed Bijay Krishna Chowdhury Rakhal, Bibhutibhushan Chowdhury and Harendra Lal Chowdhury.
13. He was accused of complicity in genocide, loot, rape and persecution on political grounds. On May 10, Pakistani Army arrived at Ghashi Majhirpar based on the directions from Salauddin Quader, his father and Peace Committee member Oli Ahmed to launch an attack on the people of the area, mostly Awami League supporters. Six people were shot dead and two injured while five women were raped.
14. He was accused of abduction, confinement, torture and murder. On May 20, Salauddin Quader and his accomplices led Pakistani Army to abduct Awami League supporter Md Hanif from his house at the bank of Karta Dighi at Raozan’s Patherhat and took him to Goods Hill. Hanif’s family had tried for his release through Salauddin Quader’s relative Nazma Khatun, but that did not work out when he demanded Tk 1,000 for that.
Hanif was tortured by Salauddin Quader himself, Nazma had said. He was killed later.
15. He was accused of abduction, confinement and torture of Sheikh Maimun Ali Chowdhury in mid-May, 1971.
16. He was accused of abduction, confinment, torturr and murder. Salahuddin abducted Omar Faruk on Jun 7, 1971 at his Goods Hill residence.
17. He was accused of abduction, confinement and torture.On Jul 5, 1971 he had abducted Nizamuddin Ahmed, Shiraj and Wahid alias Junu Pagla and took them to Goods Hill. They were abused, tortured and interrogated and later taken to Chittagong stadium where 10/12 others were being held. Junu was released while Ahmed and Shiraj were confined until Bangladesh won freedom.
18. He was accused of confinement, abduction and torture of Md Salahuddin at his Goods Hill residence in the third week of July, 1971.
19. The Pakistani army picked up two brothers, Nur Mohammad and Nur Alam on 27 July, 1971 and took them to Goods Hill. They later picked up another brother of theirs, Mahbub Alam and tortured all the three .
Salauddin Quader took TK 10,000 and released Mohammad and Alam on the next day but told them that Mahbub was sick. Later, the brothers came to know that Mahbub had been killed.
Charges of murder, abduction, confinement and torture have been levelled against Chowdhury for this incident.
On Jul 27/28, 1971 Razakars detained Aklash Mia from Kadur Khali and eventually took him to Goods Hill and he was tortured to death there.
20. He was accused of confinement, torture and murder.
Salauddin Quader, along with the Pakistan army, had allegedly picked up Fazlul Haque Chowdhury, Union Parishad Chairman of Binajuri, in the first week of August, 1971. He was taken to Goods Hill and crippled by sustained torture.
He was handed over to Raozan police and was later released, but died on Sept 10, 1987. During his life time he had told many about the occurrence and his witnessing of torture and murder at the Goods Hill.
21. He is accused of abduction, confinement and torture.
22. He had abducted Md Nuru Chowdhury with the help of his Al-Shams Bahini in second week of August, 1971.
Chowdhury was taken to Goods Hill and tortured, but released after Chowdhury’s father paid Salauddin Quader TK 6,500. It accuses him of abduction, confinement and torture.
23. It accuses the BNP MP of abduction, confinement and torture. On Sept 2, 1971, Salauddin Quader allegedly tortured one M Salimullah at his Goods Hill residence after he had objected to torturing one of his Hindu employees earlier in the day. Salimullah was released the following day after a night of torture.
Charges against Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid (or Mojaheed):
The International Crimes Tribunal on Jul 17, 2013, ordered Mojaheed to capital punishment for the massacre of the intellectuals and involvement in the murder and torture of Hindus during the War of Independence.
Out of the seven charges leveled against him, the tribunal had found him guilty on five counts. He was given the death penalty in the first, sixth and seventh charges. Mojaheed (or Mujaheed) got life in prison for the fifth charge. The Supreme Court upheld the war crimes tribunal’s verdict on this charge.
1. The first charge brought by the Prosecution says Ali Ahsan Muhammad Mujaheed, the leader of Islami Chhatra Sangha, was involved in the abduction of Sirajuddin Hossain, the then Executive Editor of the daily Ittefaq, on gunpoint as Hossain had written a newspaper article against the local agents of Pakistani Army.
On Dec 10, 1971, some seven to eight masked youths, armed with rifles abducted the journalist from his house at 5, Chamelibag, Dhaka. He had never returned since then nor was his body found.
2. One day in mid-May, 1971, the Pakistan Army and its local collaborators raided and torched some 300 houses belonged to people of Hindu community in Baidyadangi, Majhidangi, Baladangi villages under Faridpur’s Charvodrason Police Station. Some 50 to 60 people were also gunned down by the attackers. Apart from Hammad Maulana of Faridpur town, some 8-10 non- Bengalis also took part in that operation against the unarmed people.
Mujaheed has been charged for his involvement in assisting and instigating the attack on a particular community as it is a punishable crime as per the sections 3(2)(a)(c)(G) and 4(1) of the International Crimes (Tribunal) Act 1973.
3. In the first week of June, 1971, Razakars, held Ranjit Nath alias Babu Nath, son of late Ramesh Chandra Nath of Rathkhola under Kotwali Police station, district Faridpur from near the Khabashpur mosque of Faridpur town and took him to Pakistani Major Akram Quresi at Faridpur Old Circuit House.
Nath was then taken to the house of one Abdur Rashid situated on the eastern side of the ‘Bihari camp’ where he was confined and tortured with an intention to kill him. But, he, somehow, managed to escape.
Prosecution says Mujaheed was directly involved in the incident.
4. Razakars abducted one Mohammad Yusuf alias Pakhi of East Goalchamat Khoda Bakshpur, PS: Kotwali, district: Faridpur from Alfadanga locality on July 26, 1971, suspecting him to be a freedom fighter. The Pakistan Army personnel intensified their torture on Pakhi after Mujaheed confirmed him to be a freedom fighter. Pakhi was subjected to inhuman torture that resulted severe physical injury including fracture of bones.
5. During the liberation war, composer Altaf Mahmud, Jahir Uddin Jalal, ‘Badi’, ‘Rumi’, ‘Jewel’ and ‘Azad’ were confined at an old MP Hostel in Dhaka’s Nakhalpara area. On Aug 30, Ali Ahsan Mohammed Mujaheed and Matiur Rahman Nizami, the General Secretary and Chief of the ‘Al Badr’ went there and advised the Pakistani Army to kill them before they would claim presidential clemency. Everyone, except, Jalal, was killed.
This is an act against humanity as per the sections 4(1) and 4(2) of the International Crimes (Tribunal) Act 1973.
6. During the War of Independence in 1971, the Pakistani Army set up a camp at Mohammadpur Physical Training Institute in Dhaka. The members of Razakar and ‘Al-Badr’ used to receive their ‘training’ at that camp, known as ‘torture camp’.
Mujaheed being the Secretary of the then East Pakistan Islami Chhatra Sangha used to visit the camp regularly with his co-leaders with intent to annihilate the ‘Bengali population’, used to plan and conspired with the senior Pakistani army officers of the camp. Following such conspiracy and planning, ‘killings of intellectuals’ were started from 10 Dec in 1971.
7. Following directives from Mujaheed, the Razakars attacked the Hindu community of Bakchar village under Kotwali Police Station of Faridpur District on May 13, 1971. They also detained Birendra Saha, Nripen Saha, Shanu Saha, Jagabandhu Mitra, Jaladhar Mitra, Satya Ranjan Das, Upen Saha and others.
The wife of Upen Saha requested to release her husband even in exchange of money and jewelleries but in vain. Everyone was killed. The Razakars also raped one Jharna Rani during the raids.