Justice delayed and denied as well

First published: http://blog.tehelka.com/justice-delayed-and-denied-as-well/
Date: July 15, 2013

The entire nation of Bangladesh had almost come to a halt since dawn on 15 July, the day when the verdict of Ghulam Azam had been scheduled. Anticipation, pondering, debate, tension, pandemonium, everything focused on only this issue. Meanwhile, the Jamaat-e-Islami had called for a nationwide strike demanding the release of Ghulam Azam. If you have carefully followed the history of Bangladesh, you would be familiar with his name. To those unaware, Ghulam Azam was the ring leader of the war criminals during the 1971 war of independence against Pakistan.

Jamaat-e-Islami and its allies Al Badr and Al Shams, have been followers of Ghulam Azam and worked against independence. During the liberation war, which lasted for about nine months, three million people were killed and about two lakh women were raped, by some estimates. Almost ten million people took refuge in India and the leading academicians and intellectuals were abducted and murdered just before independence – all of which were initiated, led and managed by Ghulam Azam.

Even after independence, he continued to work against Bangladesh. This time he rooted for terrorism in the country, in the name of Islam. He allegedly gathered funds from the Middle East and Pakistan. Many say he was a language movement veteran too. Later, he went on to say that taking part in the language movement was a great mistake and that he wanted to work for a united Pakistan.

When the war crimes tribunal began its activities, all of us had assumed Ghulam Azam would be hung. Every child in Bangladesh has grown up with a sense of hatred against Azam, so much so that since 1971, not one child has been named Ghulam Azam. Acclaimed writer Humayan Ahmed once wrote “Tui Razakar” in a television drama, which translates to “you are a war criminal”, and since then this notion has become very famous and has been used for every war criminal, especially Ghulam Azam.

The International Crimes Tribunal in Bangladesh has now finally announced their verdict and five allegations were proved against him, most of which were of the highest degree. He was sentenced to 90 years of imprisonment- a very disturbing and frustrating judgment, I would say.

As soon as the verdict was out, almost all the social networking websites were flooded with reactions. Pro-Shahbag and liberation forces expressed their anger and frustration against the ruling party and the judiciary. On the other hand, Jamaat-e-Islami and its allies seemed quite relaxed and calm. Yet, they’ve placed demands to free Ghulam Azam unconditionally. Shahbag activists have resumed their protest. Apparently, the driving force behind the lenient judgment was his age. He is 91 years old. But this cannot be reason enough. His mass killings didn’t spare infants or pregnant ladies. He didn’t spare old men either. He never showed mercy for the citizens of Bangladesh, he still doesn’t. I wonder why the judiciary has shown mercy based on his age.

Apparently, 90 years of imprisonment is sufficient for a 91-year-old prisoner. Being politically correct, that is the highest punishment, every human rights activist will justify too. Frankly, I think even 900 years of imprisonment would seem less, so 90 years is almost like no punishment given at all. According to the constitution of Bangladesh, death penalty is the highest form of punishment, and he deserves nothing less.

Six million Jews were killed over six years during the Holocaust. If Bangladesh had required a similar timeframe for independence, the rate at which Azam and his allies committed acts of mass murder in the nine months, the entire nation would have been dead by 16 December, 1971.

We had expected God to show some mercy, that we’d be able to see Ghulam Azam be hanged. If this had been the case, three million martyrs and two hundred thousand rape victims would finally get justice. But, after the verdict, I know each and every soul feels disgusted. We’ve failed to honour our heroes. The blood soaked birth of Bangladesh has been reduced to a joke. Justice, has been delayed and denied.

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