The country is remembering some of its best minds as it observes the Intellectuals Martyrs Day on Wednesday.
On this day in 1971, Al-Badr commanders at the behest of Pakistan army, masterminded the murders of some of the best Bangalee intellectuals two days before the end of the Liberation War.
Sensing defeat, the Pakistani forces and their collaborators abducted several top-notch Bangalee intellectual and professionals, including academics, doctors, engineers and journalists, in Dhaka .
They were systematically rounded up from their homes at midnight , taken to torture cells around the city, brutalised for hours, and finally assembled on various killing fields and executed en masse.
The bodies of the slain intellectuals were found with torture marks at Dhaka’s Mirpur and Rayerbazar, where the monuments have been built to immortalise them.
Dec 14 is observed as Intellectual Martyrs Day in Bangladesh in memory of those bright souls who fell victim to a brutal military regime.
President Md Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina paid their respects at the Intellectual Martyrs Memorial in Mirpur on Wednesday.
The Memorial was covered with floral wreaths placed by several political parties, social and cultural organisations, and ordinary citizens.
Flanked by senior leaders, BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia also paid her respect at the Memorial.
Hundreds gathered to honour the intellectuals who were murdered in the killings fields of Rayerbazaar in the very last days of the War of Independence.
Bangladesh has so far hanged two war criminals for killing the intellectuals. Two others convicts are absconding with death sentences.
Jamaat chief Motiur Rahman Nizami was hanged on May 11 this year while Secretary General Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid was executed on Nov 22 last year.
During the Liberation War, Nizami was the chief of Islami Chhatra Sangha, the students’ affiliate of the Jamaat-e-Islami.
He was also the chief of the Al-Badr force that was formed by some members of Chhatra Sangha. Its Secretary General Mujahid took over from him in September 1971.
The Al-Badr was formed to actively collaborate with the Pakistani occupation forces.
The verdicts condemning Nizami and Mujahid to death have described them as masterminds of the genocide.
Two other Al-Badr leaders, Ashrafuzzaman Khan and Chowdhury Mueen Uddin were sentenced to death in 2013 for planning the mass killing of intellectuals. They are absconding and believed to have fled abroad.
President Md Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, in separate messages, have urged the people from all walks of life to build a knowledge-based society based on the spirit of the Liberation War .
Hamid said intellectuals had played a very significant role and worked as the conscience of the nation in taking the Liberation War to a successful conclusion.
But it is unfortunate, he said, that the occupation forces had brutally killed those intellectuals just on the eve of the victory.
The president called upon all to be imbued with the spirit of patriotism of the intellectual martyrs and work together to develop a merit-based nation.
Prime Minister Hasina said the Intellectual Martyrs Day is a painful event in the history of the liberation struggle of the Bengali nation.
She said just when the country was close to achieving the final victory under the leadership of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the best brains were killed by the occupation forces and their local auxiliary forces like Razakars, Al-Badr and Al-Shams.
The anti-liberation forces wanted to deprive the nation of its best wealth, the intellectuals, by killing them, the prime minister said.
BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia also commemorated the Intellectual Matyrs Day with a message.
Unlike almost all pro-liberation organisations, Khaleda, however, did not mention the Jamaat, BNP’s key political partner in an alliance it leads, in the message.
She blamed an ‘international evil force’ for the killings of the intellectuals.