The nation mourns the loss of its brightest and most enlightened men and women who were brutally killed at the hands of the Pakistani Army and their collaborators during our Liberation War in 1971. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the tragedy.
They were academics, journalists, writers, artists, doctors, and engineers who devoted their lives to the cause of our national identity. There is no doubt that despite Bangladesh's remarkable leap forward, the country would have progressed way further ahead had those lives were not snatched from us by the enemies of our independence.
More than a thousand intellectuals were killed pre-planned throughout the nine-month-long war in three stages: on the black night of 25 March when the Pakistan Army unleashed a reign of terror called Operation Searchlight in a campaign of genocide, between June and November when the occupation army was waging search and destroy drives all over the country, and lastly, 10-16 December as the streaks of freedom touched the eastern sky.
The militia executed over 200 intellectuals on 14 December, and so the day is observed as Martyred Intellectuals Day. These intellectuals were taken blindfolded to Mirpur, Mohammadpur, Nakhalpara, Rajarbagh torture cells and later were executed en masse, most notably at Rayer Bazar, Katasur, and Mirpur.
The killing of the intellectuals was a part of an overarching scheme of the Pakistan Army designed to create a leadership void and destroy the nationalist spirit of the Bangladeshis. Major General Rao Farman Ali was the chief architect of the plan, and Lieutenant-General AAK Niazi and Major General Mohammad Jamshed helped him execute it. Members of the Al Badr militia directly took part in the killing. Matiur Rahman Nizami, Ali Ahsan Mujahid, Chowdhury Moinuddin, and Ashrafuzzaman guided them in operation.
Among the noted intellectuals killed by the Pakistan Army and their collaborators are Professor GC Dev, Jyotirmoy Guhathakurata, Anudwoipaion Battacharya, AR Khan Khadmi, Muhammad Muktadir, Fazlur Rahman, Sharafat Ali (DU); Khondakar Abu Taleb (journalist); Meherunnesa (poet); Habibur Rahman, Mir Abdul Qayyum and Sukjhranjan Samaddar (RU); Altaf Mahmud (musician); Munier Chowdhury, Mofazzal Haider Chowdhury, Anwar Pasha, Rashidul Hasan (DU), Dr Alim Chowdhury, Dr Fazle Rabbi (physician); Serajuddin Hossain, Shahidulla Kaiser, Nazmul Huq, Nizamuddin Ahmed, ANM Golam Mostafa, Selina Parvin (journalist); Zahir Raihan (film director, writer).
Here we have highlighted some of the prominent martyred intellectuals whose contributions shaped our literary and cultural sector
Govinda Chandra Dev
Govinda Chandra Dev was a professor of Philosophy at the University of Dhaka. The Pakistan Army massacred him at the onset of the war.
Professor Dev lived in a university quarter near Jagannath Hall with his adopted daughter and her husband. At dawn on 26 March, a group of soldiers banged on Professor Dev's door. One of the soldiers hit on his head with rifle, and another soldier shot him in the chest. He feebly asked, "What do you want here, son?" In response, the soldiers shot a few more rounds at him. Two bullets hit him in the head, and the other bullets hit him in the chest.
Professor Dev died immediately. The soldiers beat his daughter and killed her husband.
Jyotirmoy Guhathakurta was a professor of English at the University of Dhaka.
The Pakistan Army killed Professor Guhathakurta on the night of 25 March, 1971. He was shot in the dark by the Pakistani Army just outside his residential building in the campus.
Mufazzal Haider Chaudhury
Mufazzal Haider Chaudhury was one of the leading Bengali intellectuals killed by the Pakistan Army's collaborators on 14 December.
A group of Al-Badr militia took away the eminent scholar from his house on the dreadful day. His wife, Dolly Chaudhury, recognised one of the Al-Badr militants when her husband pulled the cover off the assassin's face. The person was Chowdhury Mueen-Uddin.
Serajuddin Hossain was a prominent Bangladeshi journalist. He was the news and executive editor of The Daily Ittefaq.
A small contingent of Al Badar came to his house at Chamelibagh around midnight on 10 December. Hossain was in his bedroom. One of the assailants asked who Serajuddin was, and Hossain identified himself, they took him away.
Selina Parvin, who was a journalist and poet, was killed on 14 December, 1971.
The Al Badr members picked her up from her residence on 13 December. Her body was later discovered in the Rayerbazar Boddhobhumy. She was bayonet charged.
A lone survivor of the mass killing testified to the court that while being blindfolded, he heard a woman [Selina Parvin] pleading to Al-Badr men for her life, but the killers did not spare her.
Dr Abul Fayez Mohammad Abdul Alim Chowdhury
Dr Abul Fayez Mohammad was an eye specialist. He abducted by the Al Badr militiamen on 14 December and his body was found on 18 December at Rayer Bazar.
Moulana Abdul Mannan, one of the key collaborators of the Pakistan Army during the Liberation war of Bangladesh, was directly involved in the abduction and killing of Chowdhury.
Altaf Mahmud was a musician and cultural activist renowned for his composition of "Amar Bhaiyer Rokte Rangano Ekushe February, Ami Ki Bhulite Pari," the quintessential song commemorating the language martyrs.
Mahmud took part in the Liberation War and used his residence as a secret camp for the freedom fighters. When the Pak Army found the camp's location, they raided his house and took him away on 30 August, 1971.
Munier Chowdhury was a professor of Bangla at the University of Dhaka, and a successful playwright and literary critic.
He was abducted around 1:30 in the afternoon on 14 December, 1971, from his brother's house in Green Road.
Chowdhury was a victim of the mass killings because of his involvement in politics and the education sector.
Shahidullah Kaiser was a famous journalist and novelist. One of his most memorable quotes was: "I became a novelist because Ayub Khan sent me to jail." Kaiser played a vital role in the Language Movement in 1952 and was imprisoned by the Pakistan government. He served a total of eight years behind bars.
During the war, he supported the freedom fighters in any way he could and often supplied rations to them using ration cards.
On 14 December, 1971, a few masked men took him away from his residence. It is said he was captured and killed by the Pakistani Army's collaborators as he neither returned, nor his body was ever found.
Zahir Raihan, a film director and writer, actively participated in the Mass Upsurge in 1969 and joined the Liberation War.
Raihan never returned when he went out on 30 January, 1972, trying to find his brother, the famous writer Shahidullah Kaiser.
Disclaimer: Wikipedia and Banglapedia have been used as sources of information for this article