As the nation is set to mourn the “Intellectual Martyr’s Day” tomorrow recalling planned 1971 murders of the intelligentsia, archival media documents revealed that a Bengali journalist with links to Jamaat-e-Islami had a hand in the carnage.
“To his fellow reporters on the Bengali-Language paper where he worked, Chowdhury Mueenuddin was a pleasant, well-mannered and intelligent young man . . . and there was nothing exceptional about him except perhaps that he often received telephone calls from the leader of a right-wing Moslem(Muslim) political party,” The New York Times wrote in an investigative report on January 3, 1972.
It added: “But, investigations in the last few days show, those calls were significant. For Mr. Mueenuddin has been identified as the head of a secret, commando-like organization of fanatic Moslems (Muslims) that murdered several hundred prominent Bengali professors, doctors, lawyers and journalists in a Dhaka brickyard.”
A stalwart of the then Jamaat-Islami’s elite killing force Al-Badr and currently a resident of Britain, Mueen-Uddin was a journalist at the then Daily Purbodesh in 1971 while soon after the independence he fled the country to evade peoples wrath or justice for his role.
Al-Badr is accused of carrying out a planned massacre and particularly the killing of the leading intelligentsia just two days ahead of the final victory on December 16, 1971 and the New York Times on that issue reported “Their goal, captured members have since said, was to wipe out all Bengali intellectuals who advocated independence from Pakistan and the creation of a secular, non-Moslem (Muslim) state”.
In his current official webpage Mueen Uddin described himself as the Director of Muslim Spiritual Care Provision in the NHS and chair of the Multi-Faith Group for Healthcare Chaplaincy.
He added that since 2005, he was advising healthcare providers on how best to provide patients spiritual care at times of need but the webpage made no mention of his 1971 role or about his Al-Badr links, though the US newspaper’s report 41 years ago gave a vivid portrayal of the executioner group.
“Dressed in black sweaters and khaki pants, members of the group, known as Al-Badar, rounded up their victims on the last three nights of the war, which ended on Dec. 17,” read the more than 1,000-word report by Fox Butterfield.
The report feared “if the war had not ended when it did, many Bengalis believe, Al-Badar would have succeeded. The bodies of 150 persons, many with their fingers chopped off or fingernails pulled out, were found in the brickyard. Hundreds more are believed buried in 20 mass graves in nearby fields”.
It has now been determined that Al-Badar was composed of Bengalis, not of the hated West Pakistanis or the Bihari immigrants from India who have long oppressed the native Bengali majority.
Butterfield also talked to the then Purpodesh editor late Ehtesham Chowdhury who told him the Al-Badr killers led by his colleague had kidnapped and killed his brother while he himself escaped capture only because he stayed late in his office on the night.
The report said Mueenuddin was last seen in Dhaka on December 13, 1971 when a colleague of his had argument at the Purbodesh office but “that reporter was kidnapped from his house by Al-Badar a few hours later”.
“We will find him . . . We will find him, or there can be no rest for any of us,” a fellow journalist Atiqur Rahman had told Butterfield as he along with his colleagues started a search for Mueennuddin immediately after the independence.
The report said there is growing evidence that Al-Badar was equipped and directed by a special group of Pakistani Army officers as among papers found in the desk of the then East Pakistan governors military adviser Major General Rao Farman Ali were a series of cryptic references to Al-Badar.
“Captaln Tahir, vehicle for Al-Badar”, and “use of Al- Badar,” one scrawled note said. Captain Tahir is believed to have been the almost legendary Pakistani commander of the razakars, the Bihari militia used by the Pakistani Army to terrorize Bengalis.
On another page, the author wrote, “Nizamuddin, motivated news”. Nizamuddin Ahmed was a Bengali journalist known for his anti-Pakistani views. He was kidnapped from his home two days before the war ended. Besides his name the author had penciled in an ominous check mark.
Butterfield wrote according to one captured member now being held in the Dhaka jail, the reporter, Mueenuddin, had been mastermind of the organization. A diary belonging to Mr. Mueenuddin’s roommate has been found. It listed the names of Al- Badar members and how much money they contributed to the group.
The New York Times report said Al-Badar was believed to have been the action section of Jamaat-i-Islami, carefully organized after the Pakistani crackdown in March 1971.
“(But)The executioners left few clues. They rounded up their victims at night during the curfew. They never identified themselves. And they carried out their killings in a remote and heavily guarded area,” read the report titled “A Journalist Is Linked To Murder of Bengalis”.