Denying Genocide and Rape at the LSE


by Sid (Faisal)
30th November, 2007 at 1:07 am    

On Tuesday 4 December, the Indian-American historian Dr Sarmila Bose (Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Oxford) will be delivering a talk, hosted by the Pakistan Society, at the London School of Economics. Today I signed a joint letter to the LSE to voice, in the strongest terms possible, disgust that the LSE has given Dr Sarmila Bose a platform for her work on genocide denial.

In September Bose published the paper Losing Victims: Problems of Using Women as Weapons in Recounting the Bangladesh War which purports to examine the “true extent of rape, who were the victims and who the perpetrators and any systematic policy of rape by any party” in the war in East Pakistan in 1971. In it she presents a lopsided re-writing of the sexual violence that was carried out in 1971, she denies the extent of the rapes committed by the Pakistan army and their Bengali collaborators (the Razakars). This is not her first work in historical revisionism. In 2005 she published her first paper on the atrocities of 1971, in which she specifically diminishes the extent of the genocide by the Pakistan forces.

On March 25 1971 the Pakistan army unleashed a systematic campaign of genocide on East Pakistan. Nine months later, a defeated Pakistan army left behind the aftermath of one of the most concentrated acts of genocide and mass rape in the 20th century. Most estimates of the killings and sexual violence of 1971 puts the death toll between 300,000 and 3 million dead with between 200,000 to 400,000 women raped.

According to Gendercide Watch:

The number of dead in Bangladesh in 1971 was almost certainly well into seven figures. It was one of the worst genocides of the World War II era, outstripping Rwanda (800,000 killed) and probably surpassing even Indonesia (1 million to 1.5 million killed in 1965-66).

Susan Brownmiller, in her book, Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape, assessed the figure to be between 200,000 and 400,000. She writes:

Rape in Bangladesh had hardly been restricted to beauty. Girls of eight and grandmothers of seventy-five had been sexually assaulted … Pakistani soldiers had not only violated Bengali women on the spot; they abducted tens of hundreds and held them by force in their military barracks for nightly use.

In Losing Victims, Bose argues that the claims of “hundreds of thousands” rape victims trivialises the “possibly several thousand true rape victims” of the war. She does not manage to offer a convincing explanation of how she reached this “several thousand” figure other than saying that the size of the Pakistani army could not have committed that many rapes in nine months:

The number of West Pakistani armed forces personnel in East Pakistan was about 20,000 at the beginning of the conflict, rising to 34,000 by December. Another 11,000 men – civil police and non-combat personnel – also held arms.[…]

For an army of 34,000 to rape on this scale in eight or nine months (while fighting insurgency, guerrilla war and an invasion by India), each would-be perpetrator would have had to commit rape at an incredible rate.

Mash has writen an inspired article that dismantles Bose’s denial of the extent the atrocities. Her massively played down figures are based on the number of Pakistani troops deployed in East Pakistan in 1971:

The actual number of Pakistani forces at the end of the war, and taken POW by the Indians, was 90,368, including over 54,000 army and 22,000 paramilitary forces. It is not unreasonable to conclude that a force of 90,000 could rape between 200,000 to 400,000 women in the space of nine months. Even if only 10% of the force raped only one woman each in nine months, the number of rapes are well over “several thousand” claimed by Ms. Bose. Since Ms. Bose does the math in her paper, I will do the macabre calculation for the total force here. To rape 200,000 Bangladeshi women a Pakistani force of 90,000 would have to rape 2 to 3 women each in nine months. Not only is this scale of atrocity possible by an army engaged in a systematic campaign of genocide, it also has parallels in other modern conflicts (for example, the rape of between 250,000 to 500,000 women in Rwanda within 100 days).

Bose’s paper is steeped in imbalance and skewed commentary:

  • The Pakistani forces are shown to be a benign, even a benevolent force with just the occasional slip into “opportunistic” rape.
  • Every one of the accounts by Bangladeshi rape victims are qualified with the liberal use of the words “alleged” and “claimed”. Their accounts are then countered with versions by Pakistani military personnel which are always accepted unconditionally. They are not tasked with the same need for corroboration that she demands of the Bengali accounts.
  • She dismisses accounts of two corroborative witnesses because they were illiterate!
  • A Bengali para-military soldier’s account of a Pakistani officer’s conduct is rejected because the man uses uncomplimentary language and is “uncorroborated”. However, the Pakistani officer’s peer’s glowing posthumous references (“he was a shaheed” – a martyr) are accepted at face value to reject any charges of rape.

The content and rhetorical thrust of Bose’s work on the Bangladesh War in 1971 is based on selective choice of facts, inadequate research and a lack of transparency in her choice of case studies. Above all, her reliance on sources is one sided and biased which calls to question the academic objectivity of the author. She also uses language that displays an appalling insensitivity to victims of rape that should immediately call to question her understanding of the male motivations behind rape. In fact in her second paper she makes the following statement right at the outset:

The exaggerations and distortions of the issue of rape purveyed by many claiming to speak for the Bangladeshi liberation movement insult the true victims by trivialising their suffering, implying that it would not be noteworthy without the inflation of numbers and addition of gory perversions.

If insult to the true victims has been made, it is by denying their numbers and trivialising their suffering as Bose has taken pains to do. The massive numbers of sexual violence do not diminish any individual case of rape but rather shows the grotesque magnitude of the Pakistani campaign.

There is a second group (outside of the Pakistani army’s supporters) who support Dr Bose’s revisionism: Bangladeshi Islamists. In the Liberation narrative, the Pakistan army’s death squads were supported by para-militia organisations which operated under the wing of the Jamaati Islami party. These war criminals are alive and well today and still command the party but the single reason why their party has not managed to gain control of Bangladesh is because of popular antipathy. Most of the men and women who fought in the war as Muktijodhas (Freedom Fighters) may be dead and gone, but their sacrifice is still a part of popular memory – but revising history is forgetting their sacrifice and vindicating their killers. Needless to say, the Jamaatis have already welcomed Bose’s work. In the past they were forced to sheepishly talk around the issues of 1971 but if recent press statements are anything to go by, they now brazenly echo Bose’s “findings”. The Harvard educated historian has handed the Islamists a carte blanche.

The LSE is under no particular obligation to invite genocide deniers address their members. However, it has every right to do so. But by doing so gives credibility to Dr Sarmila Bose’s “history”. It also gives her work the oxygen of controversy despite her methods and construction of narrative being biased and agenda-driven. I end with a section from the letter to the LSE:

As supporters of free speech, we have no trouble engaging with Dr. Bose’s views. However, having invited a scholar who has made it her mission to provide a skewed perspective of the Bangladesh war by supporting the Pakistani military standpoint only, we feel it is the duty of your institution to create the circumstances for a healthy exchange of ideas. To date, no one from either the Pakistan society or the University has invited a researcher/writer who has worked on the subject and anyone from the Bangladeshi community, to engage with Dr. Bose at this event for the purposes of a ‘real’ and equitable dialogue.

I will be at her talk on Tuesday after which I will be reporting back here. So watch this space.


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  1. douglas clark — on 30th November, 2007 at 1:56 am  

    Sid,

    Please reconsider your strapline ;-)

    Even I’d support the LSE against such charges!

    Feel free to delete this post after you’ve read it.

  2. raz — on 30th November, 2007 at 2:12 am  
  3. Natty — on 30th November, 2007 at 8:28 am  

    It is better to let such people speak and then to dismiss their ideas than to push for a ban.

    It simply drives talk underground amidst conspiricy theories.

    I also disagree it gives these people the oxygen of publicity as it doesn’t. It simply exposes their thought which is a good thing surely. Refutation of this thought is much better than saying they shouldn’t be invited to speak.

    The Holocaust Denial Laws in Europe are crass and stupid and simply serve to fuel suspicion of the numbers who died thus it takes away the debate what discussing what happened to discussing is that or that factually correct.

    We should look at Europe at realise that such laws simply serve to do what thye are trying to avoid namely holocaust denail by state legislation.

  4. Natty — on 30th November, 2007 at 8:34 am  

    As an example when David Irving was jailed for Holocaust Denial then the press said David Irving claimed that a small number of people died and there were not mass concentration camps. He was tried under the Holocaust Denial Laws but in fact those very laws thus gave oxygen to his claim, thus in a roundabout way the law itself allowed the claim of Holocaust Denial publicity.

    It simply failed and instead of people reflecting on what happened they ended up discussiin whether numbers were accurate.

    So the Law has given fuel and publicity to such claims and achieved the opposite of what it was supposed to.

  5. Katherine — on 30th November, 2007 at 9:17 am  

    Raz – erm, what? The fact that Pakistan is now doing something nice and helpful means they never did anything nasty in the past? At the risk of falling foul of Godwin’s Law, that’s like saying that because Germany now makes aid payments to the Third World that the Nazis therefore never had concentration camps.

    PS This is an analogy, not a parallel.

  6. Rezwan — on 30th November, 2007 at 9:35 am  

    Raz:

    While condemning the efforts of denying the genocide happened during the Bangladesh liberation war in 1971, I would also like to point out that it would be wrong to point out that each and every Pakistani was a party to this genocide. I strongly believe no sane person (without extreme rage against a community) can be such brutal.

    In fact probably the general people in (West) Pakistan were left in the dark (I am sure the historians can provide evidence) and the military dictatorship was only giving an impression that it is culling the insurgents (and also playing the India card). Using rape and massacre is a part of ancient military tactics to break apart any community and make them subordinates and this tactics were used by Pakistani army.

    That said, I expect from the Pakistanis to come into terms of the actual facts and face the reality. Falling into the trap of genocide denial only make them protectors of the perpetrators, who surely do not represent the general Pakistanis in any terms. If the Hitlers and Goerings of 1971 are identified and possibly indicted/tried, it will only do good to the conscience of the people (like how the Germans feel about Hitler and Nazis now).

    While there are cordial relationships between Pakistan and Bangladesh, I would also expect that Pakistan formally apologizes to Bangladesh at some point for their army’s deeds in 1971.

  7. saj — on 30th November, 2007 at 10:38 am  

    It is not unreasonable to conclude that a force of 90,000 could rape between 200,000 to 400,000 women in the space of nine months. Even if only 10% of the force raped only one woman each in nine months, the number of rapes are well over “several thousand”

    why dont we say

    It is not unreasonable to conclude that a force of
    90,000 COULD rape between 1000,000 to 2000,000 women in the space of nine months

    if they could dose it prove they did ?

    whilst we are at it lets pull some more figures out of the air lets say
    Even IF only 5% of the force raped only two woman each month
    what figure do we come to ?

    what happened in 71 was and remains a blot on the history of pakistan it should not be defended but that dosent mean you pull figures out of the air

    As supporters of free speech, we have no trouble engaging with Dr. Bose’s views. lol…. yeah ok

  8. saj — on 30th November, 2007 at 11:21 am  

    i looked in to this for ten minutes and your claims get funnier by the second ( how i wish i had half an hour )

    lets take your claim that

    “The content and rhetorical thrust of Bose’s work on the Bangladesh War in 1971 is based on SELECTIVE CHOICE OF FACTS, inadequate research and a lack of transparency in her choice of case studies. Above all, her RELIANCE OF SOURCES IS ON SIDED and BIASED

    yet you yourself prefer to accept the view of a radical feminist who argues that that “men use, and ALL men benefit from the use of, rape as a means of perpetuating male dominance by keeping all women in a state of fear.” (no agenda there then)
    in her book, Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape, assessed the figure to be between 200,000 and 400,000. She writes:

    Not familiar with the work but seems generally about the use of rape in conflict not specific to the conflict in Bangladesh and the research on it will not have centred on this conflict

    yet you still are happy to accept these figures but not from Bose work “Losing Victims: Problems of Using Women as Weapons in Recounting the Bangladesh War”
    Seems very specific to the war in Bangladesh and the research on it will have centred on this conflict i assume
    I don’t know who is right or wrong but i do know who will have looked in to this more thoroughly and who is less likely to have an agenda and therefore more likely to be objective
    On the face of it you could be accused of what you accuse Bose of

  9. sonia — on 30th November, 2007 at 11:57 am  

    I’m going to this. I think its a good opportunity for Dr. Bose to be questioned, as I know she fully will be in the traditon of LSE Public Lectures, and I am looking forward to it. also looking forward to speaking to her in person afterwards.

  10. sonia — on 30th November, 2007 at 12:00 pm  

    I have read her work and there are some serious methodological issues with her research and subsequent conclusions, so it should be interesting. naturally will be highly contentious.. ( good fun to get our teeth into)

  11. sonia — on 30th November, 2007 at 12:13 pm  

    Of course, the problem i see with this is that people appear to be highly biased one way or the other. the simple issue is shit happens when war happens, everyone knows that, you can try and quantify it, won’t be easy, not many people will say they’ve been raped, in any case, you can do what research you like but given the contexts, each ‘side’ is going to say something about the ‘other’ side. I personally am intrigued to go to this to see what I make of Dr. Bose, a lot of her articles in the US news media have been so pro-pakistan, ( around the business of selling fighter jets to pakistan i remember_) that it is intriguing no one then makes the link to her ‘research’ work which clearly is not supposed to reflect any biases, or should certainly in the methodological issues, reflect hte possibility of researcher bias ( due to close personal proximity to locations/ideologies involved)

  12. Rumbold — on 30th November, 2007 at 12:29 pm  

    Before people get too annoyed at ‘Abu Tabel’, remember that it is Muzumdar in yet another guise.

    Sid:

    You are right to go along their and challenge her findings. Good luck.

  13. sonia — on 30th November, 2007 at 12:47 pm  

    well Random Guy how are you going to address the issue of being able to have sex with ‘what your right hand owns’ because as i see it, that has been used as an Islamic justification for ‘masters’ having sex with captive women, bought or captured, as I see that effectively justified rape on many occasions. ( the whole point of a woman being captive is that she has no say in anything. that is pretty much rape to me.) And so re: Sex slavery – is there no denial of rape in saying that the scholars were not wrong in allowing sex slavery?
    aND How doES ONE explain this hadith if not as a nice little anecdote of happily raping some ‘captive women’ and then worrying about whether coitus interruptus was allowed, and then asking the Prophet who was ‘amongst us’ ( doing what I’d like to know? having sex with some captive women?) I raised this issue on my blog and how many people denied it was rape? And how many muslims think seriously about the issue of sex slavery in the past? the ones who do think about it, well it was in the past. And the whole slavery excuse – oh we “regulated” and minimised it. Yes minimised it in such a way that there were only 2 ways of being made a slave. And who did that apply to? Non-muslims captured in war, and even if you converted, you were still a slave ( to avoid the trick of all those slaves pretending to be muslims so they could be freed)

    Frankly I don’t see this as any different to Pakistanis today denying that their men as soldiers raped women in a war. ( which doesn’t suprise me, most people deny this, and luckily for them, arent’ around in war time to see for themselves what actually happens)

  14. Random Guy — on 30th November, 2007 at 12:49 pm  

    He is?!! Oh well, my “idiot-radar” wasn’t switched on :/

  15. sonia — on 30th November, 2007 at 12:52 pm  

    its too much of a shock to the system, have your men come back from war, you dont want to think of them as rapists do you? ( possibly Especially if you lost it.)

    anyhow, its all rather amusing, everyone denying their own particular bit of history’s crimes.

  16. Sid — on 30th November, 2007 at 1:06 pm  

    One of the curious aspects of Bose’s unfolding of her version of the events is how willing she is to change her story as she goes along. In 2005, she claimed in her first paper that she discovered no “claims” of rape in the case studies that she had selected. From this she extrapolated that there had been ZERO rapes committed by the Pakistani army!

    If that were true, it would make 1971 unique in world military history as being the first war where rape had not been committed. She has changed her tune, and corrected her previous admission slightly with this second paper by admitting to “possibly several thousand true rape victims”.

  17. sonia — on 30th November, 2007 at 1:08 pm  

    Random Guy, i think you should do some serious reading into Islamic history, and then talk to me about “perversion of Islamic Law”. Personally, the history i have found out about in the last year, is a perversion of what my parents fed me as Islam full bloody stop. conquering places based on the fact that you are expanding your Muslim state, turning your captives into slaves and having all the sex you want with them ( if you are a man of course) well what is that if you ask me but an imperialist orgy using religion as an excuse.

  18. Random Guy — on 30th November, 2007 at 1:09 pm  

    #17 above was responding to Rumbold @ #15.

    Sonia, are you asking me a question specifically? Or is the ‘how are you going to address…’ just rhetorical?

    You are not the only one who has read a hadith and been shocked. I have many many times read hadith which have been eye-opening and even scary to myself. It is hard for me to imagine what a woman must think if she reads those verses – in isolation of all others – and considers it.

    The slavery-to-concubine issue is not unique to Islam, and in fact preceded it, as you must know. This tradition of taking captive women from war and turning them into servants was probably in place for hundreds – if not thousands of years before. What do you want me to do about that? Apologise?

  19. Random Guy — on 30th November, 2007 at 1:12 pm  

    Sonia, I hope you don’t expect me to take the burden for all “Islamic History” here. If your implicit assumption is that the average muslim male agrees with all aspects of the evolution of Islam since the Revelation, then I suggest you reconsider your stance.

  20. sonia — on 30th November, 2007 at 1:23 pm  

    good point sid no. 19. ( it would be very strange if there had been no rapes)

  21. sonia — on 30th November, 2007 at 1:26 pm  

    well it doesn’t matter Random guy if it is unique to Islam or not, its about the morality of Islam, if you are a Muslim, that is important, (its important to me because so many people have lied about it and Islam.
    How can Islam carry on having any moral standing after admitting its slavery to concubine “slip” when most people wont even admit it was a “slip”. This is the real contentious area of reform of Islam – some dont admit there is ANYTHINg bad to reform)

    Its about muslims denying rape done in the expansion of religion, isn’t it, just like denial of rape in the attempt to expand/control a nation-state.

    and its relevant to your point up there about Islamic justification of rape. Lots of people have justified rape – obviously its not unique to anyone. In fact the excuses tend to be very similar. God told me it was ok to do it.

  22. sonia — on 30th November, 2007 at 1:27 pm  

    or actually, not calling it rape, saying it was ‘just a captive’ i got hold of, which is worse really, because it implies it wasn’t rape.

  23. Random Guy — on 30th November, 2007 at 1:45 pm  

    Well, as evidenced in my initial post, it is Islamically forbidden to rape a woman. Also, subsequent posts root the practice of taking prisoners of war as slaves as a practice rooted in a certain context (time and place wise). Are we having the same discussion here Sonia?

    Basically what you are saying is that Islam is immoral. What I am saying is (a) without context, everything can be construed as immoral and (b) re-applying current standards to the past is pointless.

  24. saj — on 30th November, 2007 at 2:30 pm  

    it would be very strange if there had been no rapes

    so from this we exstrapolate there was loads of rapes

    i like your logic…

  25. The Common Humanist — on 30th November, 2007 at 4:01 pm  

    Randon Guy:

    (a) without context, everything can be construed as immoral and (b) re-applying current standards to the past is pointless.

    a) I think we can ALL agree that rape and slavery are universally WRONG and EVIL. If your holy book condones either then perhaps you need to re-interpret it or even quesiton it…..!

    b) What about when people apply the standards of the past to the present? Thats what is happening at the moment and the cause of much tension.

    Islam is a product of its time and place 7th Century Arabia and the twilight of the Eastern Roman and Parthian empires. It is entirely unreasonable to apply legal and moral standards from a time of rampant superstition, slavery and endemic violence to now.

  26. Sunny — on 30th November, 2007 at 4:13 pm  

    well what is that if you ask me but an imperialist orgy using religion as an excuse.

    But Sonia, everyone does that.

  27. Sofia — on 30th November, 2007 at 4:13 pm  

    I suppose it is important to look at historical realities and theology within context and also to see how they have developed in modern societies…i don’t know one muslim who would advocate the whole right hand posseses thing…and have seen other interpretations of it…I have also seen lots of ppl baffled by it…

  28. Sofia — on 30th November, 2007 at 4:22 pm  

    going back to topic..rape has more often than not been used as a tactic in warfare…bosnia, iraq, afghanistan..from which ever side..so it’s not always anthing to do with religion but mindset of soldiers and their superiors.

  29. Random Guy — on 30th November, 2007 at 4:27 pm  

    Common Humanist @ #25

    In response to your comments:
    “a) I think we can ALL agree that rape and slavery are universally WRONG and EVIL. If your holy book condones either then perhaps you need to re-interpret it or even quesiton it…..!

    b) What about when people apply the standards of the past to the present? Thats what is happening at the moment and the cause of much tension. ”

    (a) I thought thats what ‘we’ ALL just did condemn rape? My Holy Book (the Quran) does not condone either. If you had read my posts correctly you would have noticed that I was talking about the REALITY of the time i.e. context.

    (b) That is exactly what I was saying. Were you reinforcing my statement there? Thank you! :)

  30. The Common Humanist — on 30th November, 2007 at 4:31 pm  

    Being an amateur historian I would agreee with Sofia@28.

    Rape has accompanied armies more often then it hasn’t.

    Religion, Ideology, Cultural or Ethnic hatred have all fueled such activities over the millenia.

    Perhaps the starkest examples in recent history was Germany 44 – 45. Soviet troops committed a vast number of rapes. US and UK troops very few in contrast. The key difference was that the UK/US was waging a very different kind of war and had experienced a very different kind of war then the Soviets had. The German/Soviet side of the conflict was very much a war of ideological and ethnic extermination – communist/fascist, slav/aryan etc etc etc.

  31. Sofia — on 30th November, 2007 at 4:44 pm  

    I think that is down to interpretation..and yes context…i don’t believe Islam justifies rape..and yes i’ve read the bits of the quran and hadith that have been referred to. I do on the other hand think that these passages have been used to justify historically the acceptance of female slavery and rape. This does not make it right…the problem with hadith and i will say it is a problem, is that you cannot take them out of context otherwise they will never make sense…when talking of the women your right hand possess i have heard interpretations that are different to what sonia has…of course she has a different interpretation using history to justify it…I would agree with sonia to an extent, and we’ve had this convo before so she knows to what extent..however..i don’t feel like i’ve been lied to..and was never expected to accept Islam without questioning it..and have never been forced to accept everything hook line and sinker…there are aspects of muslim interpretation (predominantly by men), that i find quite disturbing..and it this that i would focus on…

  32. Sofia — on 30th November, 2007 at 4:52 pm  

    one more point…i feel with saudis taking over any religious interpretation and fatwa making, we are moving back to the 7th century..ijthihad has become like a dirty word to saudis..who prefer their misogynistic interpretations to any more enlightened intepretation of Islamic texts. For muslims who are concerned with the relevancy of islam today, there has to be a reinterpretation of certain things..this is not a precedent, but has been done in the past..although saudis would say that this is blasphemous…oh yes the saudis say women can’t drive cars and are actually imprisoned for being raped..hmmm…enough said…

  33. ad — on 30th November, 2007 at 9:23 pm  

    rape has more often than not been used as a tactic in warfare

    A tactic that infuriates people without killing or permanently disabling them? You would not often expect such a tactic to be militarily expedient.

    Why would the Pakistani army have pursued such a policy? What documentary evidence supports such a claim?

    I have to agree with Saj: the fact that such a crime was mathematically possible does not prove that it happened.

  34. Sid — on 30th November, 2007 at 10:08 pm  

    This is an old NBC tv news report from 1972.

  35. ad — on 30th November, 2007 at 10:21 pm  

    Thanks. (I am a lot more easily convinced by NBC than by a book written by someone I have never heard of.)

    Still sounds like an odd tactic, though.

  36. Sid — on 30th November, 2007 at 10:25 pm  

    Two more old news reports:
    Dhaka University Massacre (NBC)

    Khulna Massacres (CBS)

  37. Sid — on 30th November, 2007 at 10:27 pm  

    Pakistan came close to a formal apology by Musharraf 5 years ago.

  38. Mash — on 1st December, 2007 at 12:06 am  

    Ad at #35, rape is an odd tactice of warfare. However, it is a common tactic utilized during genocide. Most recently the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda held targetted rape against an ethnic or national group is genocide.

    The rape of Bengali women and girls by the Pakistani army during 1971 is quite well documented. It is estimated that anywhere from 200,000 to 400,000 women were raped. This is not an estimate put forward by Susan Brownmiller. Brownmiller in her book was only citing the estimates given by the Red Cross, Planned Parenthood, the Bangladesh government, rape counselors and doctors who converged on Bangladesh after the war, Mother Teresa, etc. It is estimated that anywhere from 25,000 to 50,000 women and girls became pregnant because of the campaign of genocidal rape. Many international teams converged on Bangladesh to perform abortions, some of the war babies were adopted by foreigners, and unfortunately many women committed infanticide or suicide also. Others raped women and girls had also been killed by the Pakistan army.

    Over 10 million refugees fled Bangladesh during 1971 to escape the Pakistan army, while an additional 30 million fled their homes within Bangladesh. That number amounts to over half the population of Bangladesh at the time. These refugees provided numorous eyewitness accounts of the rape and killings. Western news reporters reported on the many women who were found, naked with their heads shaved, in Pakistani barracks and cantonments after the war. The women were kept naked and with their head shaved to prevent escape and to prevent suicide. In fact, over 500 such women were found in the Dhaka cantonment at Pakistani General Niazi’s own headquarters. You can read news reports of the discovery by western reporters of captive rape victims in magazines such as Time and in most western newspapers from the time. Niazi, after the war, acknowledged that the Pakistan army had raped, but he blamed General Tikka Khan (his predecessor in Bangladesh) for the brutality. He maintained that after he took over, rape only occurred because his troops were disobeying his orders.

    The American Consul General in Dhaka during 1971, Archer Blood, also reported on the raping and killing of Bengali women and girls during the early stages of the war. He sent vivid telegrams to the State Department expressing his shock at the killings and the rapes. You can find these declassified telegrams online at the National Security Archives at George Washington University.

    After the war, the Bangladeshi government had begun a survey of the killings and the rape. By March 1972, an incomplete tally from the 18 districts of Bangladesh showed over 89,000 women raped, about 1.25 million people killed, over 80,000 skulls and skeletons discovered, and over 2000 slaughterhouses and mass graves found.

    Notwithstanding Ms. Bose’s revisionism, there is overwhelming evidence (in eyewitness accounts, in newspaper reports, in the work of rape counselors and abortion clinics, in accounts from charitable organizations such as Mother Teresa’s centers, Red Cross, Planned Parenthood, etc.) of genocidal rape by the Pakistan military during 1971.

  39. zohra — on 1st December, 2007 at 1:15 am  

    Ad @35 rape is not at all an odd tactic in war, and especially not in genocide (as Mash @38 highlights).

    More here: http://opendemocracy.net/blog/zohra_moosa/when_the_state_rapes

  40. halima — on 1st December, 2007 at 1:46 pm  

    Rape is often the prime instrument in war – Bose? She doesn’t seem to be a credible historian just on that account let alone denying the genocide in East Pakistan.

    On whether or not to stop her from speaking … Interestingly, a lot of Pakistani people I speak to were not even aware that the genocide took place, it’s kinda like a silence that those in the know (i.e elites in military knew but stopped talking about..). Not too dissimilar from pre-apartheid struggles in the South Africa when for ages loads of well meaning white South Africans didn’t realise that atrocities were being cimmitted under their noses and by their leaderships. So from this point of view anything that highlights the genocide is good for me, even from a problematic a standpoint as Bose, and as someone said earlier, let Bose defend her views.

  41. Shoque — on 1st December, 2007 at 4:18 pm  

    1971 has really been shamefully treated by the Pakistani establishment for so many reasons. It is of course, painful to acknowledge and investigate the darkest periods in your history. But it’s something that every nation on Earth has to do. Britain’s colonial rapine and role in slavery, America’s treatment of the indigenous people of that continent and slavery, Germany and the wars and holocaust, the complicity of politicians in India with religious riots, Nigeria and the Biafra war, Turkey and Armenia. It has always been painful to examine the crimes and horrors commited by your nation.

    People will always try to deny this (witness the right wingers in Japan who try to ignore or downplay the atrocities carried out in China and Korea by the Imperial Army), and so it is important that they are always challenged and repudiated for their denial. In the face of such reactionary wickedness and denial, the righteous will always speak truth to such moral emptiness and blackest cynicism.

    The Pakistani establishment has never made any kind of real gesture of self-examination. The stories go that in the salons of Lahore and Karachi the genocide and rapes were talked about with pride, and that the pure soldiers of Pakistan would improve the gene pool of the ‘black Bengali monkeys’ by raping the women there. Worst of all, in Pakistani eyes, they deserved their fate because the Bengalis had proved themselves to be only slightly more evolved than apes by reverting to type by wanting independance and being ‘Hindus’; simply because they fought for Bengali language and culture against the Pakistani hegemony an dthe Islamist ideology that sought to strangle them.

    What is most astonishing is how this denial is carried on by British Pakistanis, who also seek to deny, downplay, and revise the truth. And I think that is because the germ of the Jamaat-e-Islaami mentality is still strong within them, and anyone who dares to betray Pakistani sensibility on any issue (and Pakistanis in Britain have appointed themselves guardian of the Ummah), still ignites the darkest resentment and outrage and violence in them.

    After all, Pakistan, a nation supposedly set up to protect the Muslims of the subcontinent, is singlehandedly responsible for the biggest mass slaughter of Muslims (and Hindus) in post independance history.

    And that blows the myths of the Ummah and Pakistani supremacy clear out of the water. And that causes such deep pain for those in so much denial. And that is why this posting by Sid is so important, and why the denial by British Pakistanis must be forever exposed, and why the reactionary politics of the Jamaat-e-Islaami and ‘Ummah’ hypocrites must forever be resisted.

  42. halima — on 1st December, 2007 at 5:11 pm  

    Sure the denial should be exposed .. that’s exactly why Bose should publicly defend her politics, and yes, Sid is very right to challenge the views of denial. I think we are agreeing that denial needs challenging, and that the pain it causes us to hear is unbearable sometimes, just as the denail of the Jewish holocust is unbearable to me. But people have different views about ways to do this. We make these people martyrs on the extreme right if we let them go unchallenged – but whether one feels hurt and offence at hearing denial can’t be ignored so perhaps you are right – people’s feeling should come before politics, even before the politics of resistance.

    You’re absoloutely right, reflection of one’s atrocities isn’t something any nation does well, it takes a lot, perhaps even the need to elevate the human spirit from that all familiar fundamentalism that is called nationalism. Japan I think does a pretty good job compared to most, given that they have forsaken the right to bear arms and commit violence on the world. I don’t think this is just because of the post-WW2 settlement, but comes from the Japanese people’s own abhorrence of its history as you say, and the even more horrific violence committed against its own people by an external power, and now a search for peace dominates its identity as a nation.

  43. Sudeep — on 1st December, 2007 at 6:23 pm  

    Wish you all the best dude !

    Also, even if somehow one can gloss over the rapes in Bangladesh, what about the human rights abuses that led to one of the largest refugee population ever ? [10 million Bangladeshi refugees in India].

  44. Muhamad — on 1st December, 2007 at 8:20 pm  

    Halima, are you the same Halima who wrote an article on the White working class culture? If so, I think you used to call me Mo. :-)
    A while back, I read that Japan was reverting slowly to arms (due to threats from mainland Asia).

    Sudeep, I wonder what Ms. Bose has to say about that.

    Rape is the way of a coward, and military history is replete with cowards.

  45. halima — on 1st December, 2007 at 8:41 pm  

    Yes, most probably, debating culture is one of my favourite pastimes, trying to make the point that it’s got to be one of the most abused words in the English dictionary, debated to death by researchers and academics alike and I’m still none the wiser about what it means – so to apply the meaning of culture to white working class culture – is another minefield.

    Most probably Japan is slowely reverting.. Picking up Japanese secrity umbrella might be getting too expensive for the Americans, but still I think the Japanese did more soul searching on their own history and atrocities than most ….

  46. shariq — on 1st December, 2007 at 9:33 pm  

    Brilliant comment Shoque! I think it deserves to be a post on its own right.

    I grew up in Pakistan and only really found out about the genocide after reading Hitchens and to a lesser extent Midnight’s Children.

    As you say though, the most depressing part is the fact that British Pakistani’s continue to believe the myth of genocide denial.

  47. Sid — on 3rd December, 2007 at 8:28 am  

    An update: I learnt over the weekend that the LSE has now closed Tuesday’s talk to members of the public and is limiting it to “all LSE students and staff only.”

    Some say that the LSE have closed it down for “fear of violence”. Although, given that the talk is pushing Pakistani Army version of events which is supported by the Islamists, I wonder whether this is an overreaction on the part of the LSE.

  48. fugstar — on 3rd December, 2007 at 10:37 am  

    LSE Paksoc has always been a diplobrat affair. It is suprising that 71 even gets a mention out of the blue given the general blindness to the experience of Bangladesh. Whats odd is posh pakistani yars getting a cheeky indian researcher to explain their history to them.

    The limit is just one of those standard techniques pulled (suggested by security to thick student socs out on the rim) when words escalate, people conform to stereotypes, outsiders start getting interested and going in with their agendas, flexing their tired vocabulary and potentially making things messy.

    I’m a glory-denier and find the whole episode akin to a double barrel shotgun through the back of the head, with several people’s fingers on the trigger. It’s only really the freshies who are into it so ritually, instrumentally and nationalistically.

    Such events and future conferences are a logical avenue for them to do their thing. It’s a good idea to pull something off a little exploratory with a bit of taste in the future.

  49. sonia — on 3rd December, 2007 at 11:32 am  

    hi sid, i saw that as well, no tickets for alumni or anything as per normal. so shan’t find out what’s going on inside, ah well.

  50. sonia — on 3rd December, 2007 at 11:32 am  

    goes to show what happens when people fear questioning/ – can’t handle a critique!

  51. halima — on 3rd December, 2007 at 12:35 pm  

    Or maybe the LSE Pakistani Society, on second thoughts, didn’t want to be associated with a revisionist historian.

  52. sonia — on 3rd December, 2007 at 12:43 pm  

    well the meeting is going ahead as planned, they invited her, its simply not open to the public now, or anyone apart from Staff and existing students ( ID cards checks)- so presumably, the rest of us won’t get to find out what was said, how much of a critique there was/is etc.

  53. halima — on 3rd December, 2007 at 1:23 pm  

    I can ask my friend there to attend – being a Bangladeshi I am sure he will be paying attention to the details!

  54. sonia — on 3rd December, 2007 at 2:47 pm  

    yes some insider reporting will be useful.

    personally, overall my feeling is that it is a shame that what always happens in discussing the impact of war and the fall-out, and what we can try to learn, becomes a battlefield itself again, with everyone trying to quantify things (as if somehow, to a victim, it makes a difference whether everyone else was raped or you were the only one) and shy away from basically accepting that shit has happened, we’ve all contributed towards it somehow or other, we’ve all had our losses, and can we agree to learn something from it for the future constructively!

    clearly not, and the way this “debate” thing is going just goes to show how we can’t even have proper dialogue. but i suppose that’s hardly suprising – given the relations between our two countries, we cant even visit easily without going through visa nightmares.

    Such a waste of time and keeping up of enmities.

  55. Sid — on 3rd December, 2007 at 2:58 pm  

    I think the LSE don’t want a repeat of the disruption that marred last month Oxford Union debate on Holocaust Denial. All I can do is assure the LSE is that there will certainly be no disruption from the Bangladeshi side. I can’t speak for Bose’s supporters, who include the genocide-deniers and Islamists.

  56. The Common Humanist — on 3rd December, 2007 at 4:10 pm  

    Random Guy,
    DoH! Thats what I get for scan reading! (Am at work! Shhhhhhh!)

    Petard. Own. By. Hoisted. My.

    TCH 8-)

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