Munier Chowdhury’s Son Speaks: Death of Golam Azam – Time to Seriously Reflect and Act

Munier Chowdhury. Source: Asif Munier.
Munier Chowdhury. Source: Asif Munier.

“One of the reasons that so far GA and JI got all the leniency and privileges is partly due to the divisions in the anti JI, pro war crimes trials and Shahbagh/Projonmo Chottor lobbies.”
[Asif Munier is the son of Munier Chowdhury, a playwright and intellectual killed by Al Badr forces in 1971. He is the Vice President of Projonmo 71, an organization of the children of the martyrs of the liberation war of Bangladesh]

Death of Golam Azam – Time to Seriously Reflect and Act

by Asif Munier for AlalODulal.org

[Asif Munier is the son of Munier Chowdhury, a playwright and intellectual killed by Al Badr forces in 1971. He is the Vice President of Projonmo 71, an organization of the children of the martyrs of the liberation war of Bangladesh]

I remember my late brother Mishuk talked about his one and only close encounter of a sort with recently deceased Golam Azam. This was before the 2001 national elections in Bangladesh. Mishuk was still working with the only private TV channel with a terrestrial coverage as the head of news operations. As part of the preparation for the ensuing elections, they were recording interviews of the chiefs of all parties. Mishuk was looking after the arrangements directly for all the interviews. In turn, it was Golam Azam. I don’t remember if GA came in to the studio or they went over to his place in Maghbazar.  There was one moment when Mishuk was adjusting the clip mike on to Golam Azam and the two of them were literally inches away from each other. He said it was such a difficult moment, being so close to someone so hated and despised for the atrocities and the collaboration with Pakistan during the liberation war, including being responsible for the killing of his father. Yet, it was a moment of reflection for Mishuk on how we have to keep our emotions aside in the line of duty, and rise above emotions to be a professional.

I don’t know what I would have done in the place of my brother. Maybe the same – just bear the moment and be a professional. GA did not know at least at that moment that he was in the same room with the son of a martyred intellectual, who was one of the many intellectuals in Dhaka and across the country that disappeared and were brutally killed towards the end of the war. That such a martyr’s son knew about GA’s role in plotting the killings with the Pakistani leadership and then executing it through the Para militia auxiliary force Al Badr. That Mishuk knew how the hand-picked Bengali men from Golam Azam’s own political party Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh and its student front Islami Chatra Sangha, betrayed the country. Irony of it all, this guy was being interviewed as the leader of a party for the upcoming national elections in independent Bangladesh, a party and the person who opposed the birth of a sovereign Bangladesh and tried wholeheartedly to keep the East Bengal annexed to Pakistan.

That man-brute is gone. His was a natural death unlike the martyrs, albeit with a life sentence in prison over his head. But his legacy remains, maybe for a long time – fortunately for his followers and unfortunately for Bangladesh. It is a legacy of an Islamist political party that has its origins in and links to Pakistan, the same country that directly killed millions in our country and never sought an official apology or have put their own war criminals on trial. It is a legacy of a politics living like a leech on to a larger political party, distorting the true spirit, the history of the country and brainwashing a segment of the youth force with fundamentalism and extremism. It is also a legacy of continually instigating hate crimes against Hindus, in a country which has an age old tradition of peaceful coexistence of people with different beliefs.

But at the same time, GA’s death means that for the first time ever, the party that he formed with the blessings of the mother organisation in Pakistan, is left without its supreme leader. With old age and for several years until he was incarcerated for war crimes trials, he was not involved directly into the day to day affairs of Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh, but he remained the one person that provided JI followers home and abroad the moral strength to continue with his ideals, with the poisonous politics. He was their iconic figurehead for as long as any of his young or old followers can remember. Of course GA and his cohorts created the different layers of leadership and one of them may try to step up and fill the (smelly) shoes of Golam Azam.

But it is no coincidence that JI top leadership are being accused of war crimes committed during the liberation war in 1971. These are groups of people who live with the same ideology before and after the independence until today, who always deny their crimes, never say sorry – yet with plenty of evidence to go around for their heinous crimes in 1971. Some of them are being convicted to death or life imprisonment. Some of their leaders are in hiding in or outside the country. GA’s death certainly created a dent in their moral standing.

It will take some time to create a new icon that will continue to bring in and hold together their fanatic followers, or to keep the money flow from home and abroad. It does not explicitly seem that the anti JI, secular-liberation war idealists, both political and in the civil society, realise that it is a time to utilise this vacuum by forging a unity among their divided forces and fight their propaganda war, their fundamentalist politics. One of the reasons that so far GA and JI got all the leniency and privileges is partly due to the divisions in the anti JI, pro war crimes trials and Shahbagh/Projonmo Chottor lobbies.

We should also cautiously remember that even with death, Golam Azam can still hold a certain spiritual power over his followers. It was a smart move on their part to ensure that the final prayers for him were held in the main national mosque of Bangladesh with a large presense of JI members and that his grave is neatly tucked away in the family graveyard but very much in Bangladeshi soil. The visual imagery of the journey of his coffin back and forth between Maghbazar and Purana Paltan can be used for many years to evoke fanatic followers, along with many of GA’s recorded speeches. Having the grave inside the family home means they can do anything with the grave, including turning it into a shrine-like symbol for inspiring Golam Azam’s ideals. I would not want to put too many ideas into their head in case they have not thought of them already, but it is time to note that they did not try to bury him in any government burial site but chose a private graveyard. When most of GA’s children live abroad, there should be some scepticism as to why they kept the burial safely tucked away in their family home/graveyard.

One must not forget that the fundamental basis of the war of independence for Bangladesh in 1971 was for the sovereignty of language, culture, economy and secularism. The then West Pakistan and their East Pakistan allies under the leadership of Golam Azam were against that. In particular, he and his leadership team including Nizami had always promoted Islamic fundamentalism through their party politics. Their propaganda is that the ongoing war crimes trial is a process of political victimisation.

The answer to that should be that yes, it was a political decision to hold the trial, since it was demanded to the state by many for many years, and that the current ruling political party promised through their election manifesto to hold the trials if they won the elections.

So amending the law, establishing the court, appointing the judges and officials – all are part of that political commitment. But the fact that several of the Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladeshi leadership including GA was on trial and maybe more will be so in the near future, because of their role then in 1971. They rose to power within their party and in the politics of the country with support from their right wing political allies. But their wrongs do not become right just because they have been able to take a front seat in politics.

We all know the facts with plenty of clear evidence. I come from a family, like many others, are living testimonies of what Golam Azam and his cohorts did before and during the liberation war. My father was abducted and disappeared forever two days before the surrender of the ‘occupation forces’. A university professor and a playwright, he was one of the 200 plus intellectuals abducted, brutally killed and dumped at Rayer Bazar, Mirpur and in other kiilig fields in December 1971 and about 1,000 during the year by the para military force Al Badar, under the supreme command of Golam Azam. I gave testimony on behalf of my brother during the trial in absentia of escaped war criminal Chowdhury Mueen Uddin. My brother was a witness to the abduction of our father. My mother, like many mothers, myself, like many children of the martyrs, would live with a combination of emptiness, pain and hatred all through our lives because of what Golam Azam and his group and the Pakistani forces did to us. We will continue to demand justice as it is our right – as long as justice is not fully served.

Golam Azam was no saint like figure. He was evil to the core. Emotionally it feels that GA should not have been shown leniency in his sentencing, but logically and with respect to the law, of course I fully go along with the verdict of the judges. I, and many like me, hope all accused of war crimes in Bangladesh receive the maximum punishment of the land if proven guilty – to honour the fallen and in respect of justice.

3 comments

  1. My uncle was the brightest star of the family – a compassionate and talented individual with malice towards none. He was a national treasure as well.
    It would be a shameful and sorry indictment of the nation if his murderers – proven guilty beyond all reasonable doubts – were to walk away free from their heinous crimes against humanity.
    Proud to see his son standing up for justice and closure of personal pain.

  2. “One must not forget that the fundamental basis of the war of independence for Bangladesh in 1971 was for the sovereignty of language, culture, economy and secularism.”

    In the April 10th Declaration of Independence, the values of equality, human dignity and social justice are mentioned.so i suppose you must be talking about some kind of subdivisional trend

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s