During the 1971 Bangladesh war for independence, members of the Pakistani military and supporting Bihari and Bengali Razaker militias from Jamaat e Islami raped between two and four hundred thousand Bangladeshi women in a systematic campaign of genocidal rape.
Operation Searchlight was a planned military operation carried out by the Pakistan Army to curb the Bengalinationalist movement in the erstwhile East Pakistan in March 1970.
Ordered by the central government in West Pakistan, this was seen as the sequel to "Operation Blitz" which had been launched in November 1970.
The violence resulting from Operation Searchlight led to the war of liberation by the Mukti Bahini against Pakistani "occupation" forces in Bangladesh. Following the ill fated Operation Chengiz Khan, Indian intervention resulted in the Pakistani Army's unconditional surrender to the joint command of the Indian Army and Mukti Bahini on December 16, 1971.
During the war, a fatwa in Pakistan declared that the Bengali 'freedom fighters' were Hindus and that their women could be taken as the 'booty of war'. Imams and Muslim religious leaders publicly declared that the Bengali women were 'gonimoter maal' (war booty) and thus they openly supported the rape of Bengali women by the Pakistani Army. The activists and leaders of Islamic parties were also involved in the rapes and abduction of women. Scholars have suggested that rape was used to terrorise both the Bengali-speaking Muslim majority and the Hindu minority of Bangladesh.
The rapes caused thousands of pregnancies, births of war babies, abortions, incidents of infanticide and suicide, and, in addition, led to ostracisation of the victims. Recognised as one of the major occurrences of war crimes anywhere, the atrocities ended after surrender of the Pakistani military and supporting Razaker militias . Initially India claimed its support for the Mukti Bahini and later intervention was on humanitarian grounds, but after the UN rejected this argument, India claimed intervention was needed to protect its own security, and it is now widely seen as a humanitarian move. Despite the Pakistani government's attempts to censor news during the conflict, reports of atrocities filtered out, attracting international media and public attention, and drawing widespread outrage and criticism.
Pakistan Army worse than Nazis in 1971 war, says retd General VK Singh Srijani GangulyShraddha Jandial New Delhi, December 18, 2016
During the war Bengali nationalists also committed mass rape of ethnic Bihari Muslim women, since the Bihari Muslim community supported Pakistan.
In 2009, almost 40 years after the events of 1971, a report published by the War Crimes Fact Finding Committee of Bangladesh accused 1,597 people of war crimes, including rape. Since 2010 the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) has indicted, tried and sentenced several people to life imprisonment or death for their actions during the conflict.
The stories of the rape victims have been told in movies and literature, and depicted in art.
A photograph taken during the conflict of a woman who had been assaulted featured in an exhibition in London. Titled Shamed Woman, but also called Brave Woman, the image was taken by a Bangladeshi photographer, Naib Uddin Ahmed. The image is considered by John Tulloch to be as "classical a pose as any Madonna and Child". One of the more emotive photographs at the exhibition, the woman has her hands clenched, her face completely covered by her hair. Tulloch describes the image as having the "Capability to reveal or suggest what is unsayable"
The Mukti Bahini (Bengali: মুক্তি বাহিনী translates as Freedom Fighters, or Liberation Forces; also known as the Bangladesh Forces) is a popular Bengali term which refers to the guerrilla resistance movement formed by the Bangladeshi military, paramilitary and civilians during the War of Liberation that transformed East Pakistan into Bangladesh in 1971. An earlier name Mukti Fauj was also used.
The Mukti Bahini has been accused of killing and raping Bihari citizens of East Pakistan who supported the Pakistan army. After the Liberation War of Bangladesh ended, many people who had been denied repatriation to Pakistan were forcefully relocated to refugee camps, were referred to as Stranded Pakistanis and denied citizenship of Bangladesh.
Civil society, media and the government of India have all remained mute spectators
ANONYMA The Mass Rape of Berlin 1 MAGGIO 2015