Delayed and Denied

Bangladesh's Shahbag protests are an offshoot of the difficult, often unfulfilling pursuit of justice for wartime attrocities

01 May 2013
A witness before South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, instituted in 1996 to examine abuses of human rights under apartheid.
POOL-MIKE HUTCHINGS / AP PHOTO
A witness before South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, instituted in 1996 to examine abuses of human rights under apartheid.
POOL-MIKE HUTCHINGS / AP PHOTO

ONE BRIGHT MAY MORNING IN 1971 in Chuknagar, a small town in what is now Bangladesh, Ershad Ali Modal was working on his family farm with his father when he heard the loud rumbling of jeeps. His father told Ershad to go back to their hut, about a hundred yards away. From there, he saw the Pakistani army jeeps drive close to their field. A group of soldiers were on the road that led to a large open field where thousands of people had gathered, planning to cross the border at Satkhira and seek safety in India. Pakistani troops were patrolling the area, preventing their Bengali-speaking compatriots from leaving.

They needed only one shot to kill Modal’s father. Modal heard the shot, the jeep moved, and his father had fallen.

Last December, as we walked near the spot where his father died, I asked Modal, now 65: “If you were to meet that soldier again, what would you do?”

Salil Tripathi lives in London, and is a contributing editor at The Caravan and Mint

Keywords: Bangladesh Liberation war genocide Shahbag restorative justice Truth and Reconciliation Commission International Criminal Court war crimes
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