The Forgotten Genocide


The Bangladesh Genocide of 1971 is rarely mentioned in history, or at least in world history. However, this genocide will never be forgotten by Bangladesh. Bangladesh became an official country after the genocide, but before, it was known as East Pakistan. With an estimated death toll of 3 million deaths, this was a very large detrimental part of Bangladesh’s history. Yet somehow, it became a forgotten genocide outside of Bangladesh.


West Pakistan (present-day Pakistan) had a majority of Muslim Punjabis, while East Pakistan had a Hindu majority but was also more diverse. West Pakistan always looked down on East Pakistan like a large tree looking down on a small plant. 


The 1970 Bhola cyclone had about 500,000 total deaths which devastatingly impacted East Pakistan. When East Pakistan went to ask West Pakistan for resources and help, they were neglected even though they had sufficient resources. This left Bangladesh vulnerable and in need of help.


The Bangladesh Genocide can be divided into three phases. On March 25, 1971, Operation Searchlight was initiated by the Pakistani government targeting Hindus. A nationalist propaganda center, Dhaka University was targeted in which Hindu students, professors, political and intellectual elite were targeted during the first phase.


Mass killings of the civilian population began after the Pakistani army succeeded in capturing cities in May. Along with the mass killings, the army engaged in a large-scale robbery as well as a raping of many girls and women. The second phase was targeted at females as the first phase was targeting primarily males. 


During the third phase, the attacks increased, but the Indian government decided to step in. They sent troops to protect the Hindus and Bengalis. On December 3, a war broke out between India and West Pakistan, which concluded with the defeat of the Pakistani army on December 16, 1971.


After the war, the Indian army kept many Pakistani war criminals, some of whom were charged with war crimes. Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan signed a trilateral agreement that allowed the criminals to return to Pakistan if Pakistan acknowledged Bangladesh’s independence. When the treaty was signed, Bangladesh officially became a country.

Bangladesh commemorates the victims of this massacre every March 25th. However, the Pakistani government has not apologized at all for this dreadful act. Furthermore, some countries have not acknowledged this tragedy as a genocide.