Muktijuddho Mancha demands action as Prof Imtiaz denies ‘distorting war history’

Prof Imtiaz says he believes there is some misreading or misunderstanding of his contention in his book

Dhaka University
Published : 2 April 2023, 05:55 PM
Updated : 2 April 2023, 05:55 PM

Muktijuddho Mancha, an organisation of pro-Liberation War activists, has demanded punishment of Dhaka University’s Professor Imtiaz Ahmed for distorting the war history in a book - an allegation he refutes. 

Activists of the Mancha staged a human-chain demonstration and rallied at the altar of the Raju Memorial Sculpture at the university before handing a memorandum to Vice-Chancellor Md Aktaruzzaman on Sunday. 

Besides removal of the international relations department teacher, they demanded legal action against him following investigations by a high-powered committee. 

Prof Imtiaz, also the director of the Centre for Genocide Studies, refuted the allegations in an email communication with on Sunday. 

He said he believed there was some misreading or misunderstanding of his contention in the book published 14 years ago. 

Justice AHM Shamsuddin Choudhury, a former Supreme Court judge, in a recent column said that Prof Imtiaz insulted independence hero Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and distorted the history of the Liberation War in his book ‘Historicizing 1971 Genocide: State Versus Person’. 

Speaking at the Mancha demonstration on Sunday, Justice Shamsuddin said Prof Imtiaz wrote he had heard Bangabandhu saying “Joy Pakistan” after “Joy Bangla” at the end of his historic March 7, 1971 speech 

“He even wrote such things that mean what happened in Bangladesh in 1971 does not fall under the purview of the 1948 Genocide Convention. As per the definition of the convention, a race needs to attack another. And that didn’t happen to the Bengali.” 

“Professor Imtiaz gravely insulted our Liberation War martyrs by doubting the number of martyrs. He wrote the basic question is if 3 million people were martyred or the number was fewer.” 

“He also said the Bengali killed 15,000-50,000 Bihari. I condemn such audacious writing.” 

The former senior justice said a person who published misleading information in his book cannot head a facility like the Centre for Genocide Studies. 

“What will a person, who is mired in confusion about Bangabandhu, teach his students?”

In his defence, Prof Imtiaz said in the statement that he was “absolutely appalled by the allegation from some members of the society that I have been disrespectful to Bangabandhu and that I have denied the 1971 genocide in Bangladesh”. 

“How can a book which was written to plea and pursue 1971 genocide trials in Bangladesh, including establishing a Centre for Genocide Studies in the University of Dhaka, deny 1971 Genocide? 

“I believe there has been some  misreading or misunderstanding of my contention.” 

“Please also note that 14 years back there was not much literature pleading for 1971 Genocide trial in Bangladesh based on primary research and conducted in the University of Dhaka - the “epicentre of Genocide”, as mentioned in the book.” 

“Secondly,” Prof Imtiaz continued, "nowhere in my book [is there] a single word disrespectful to Bangabandhu.” 

“I think they took opportunity (could be not understanding my contention) on my remarks on Bangabandhu’s 7 March speech, which I have said, “is a master stroke of a political genius”, and I tried to explain why that is so. 

"7 March was a “call for independence,” but 26 March, as Mujibnagar cabinet rightly declared, is our “Independence Day”. This is because Bangladesh faced Genocide on 25 March, and after that Pakistan could not exist in its original form.”

He said there had been a controversy over his earlier remarks on the matter and he tried to explain it in the presence of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in 2006, when she was the leader of the opposition. 

“But now after 14 years I could see that many would misunderstand my contention, more so because some leaders of the opposition parties have repeatedly tried to malign the speech. I certainly would not have gone into this contention and raised the issue had I known that this would happen.” 

Prof Imtiaz also contested the allegation that he had disputed the death of three million people in the 1971 genocide. 

"This is absolutely a distortion of my views. I only cited that there are researchers who have come up with different figures, about which my position has been that the “number of death” is not the central issue in Genocide. What is central is the “intent to destroy”, which is clear from the killing in the University of Dhaka alone. 

“Moreover, I have always maintained that the number of death could be higher if we include the deaths and abortions in the refugee camps, including the abortions of the traumatised displaced women inside Bangladesh during the nine-months War of Liberation.” 

He also referred to a news report that Pakistan wanted to ban the book and he was barred from travelling to Pakistan and speak at Karachi University in 2014.