1971 killing of Bengali intellectuals

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1971 killing of Bengali intellectuals
Part of the 1971 Bangladesh genocide
1971 intellectuals.JPG
A sculpture in Meherpur showing the execution of intellectuals by the Pakistan Army in 1971
Location East Pakistan
Date 25 March 14 – 16 December 1971
Target Bengali intellectuals
Attack type
Deportation, ethnic cleansing, mass murder
Deaths 1,111[1]
Perpetrators Pakistan Pakistan Armed Forces
Shanti committee

In 1971 the Pakistan Army and their local collaborators, most notably the extreme right wing Islamist militia groups Al-Badr, engaged in the systematic execution of Bengali pro-liberation intellectuals during the Bangladesh liberation war of 1971, a war crime. Intellectuals were killed during the entire duration of the war. The largest number of executions took place on 25 March and 14 December 1971, as it became apparent that Bangladesh would become independent. 14 December is commemorated in Bangladesh as Martyred Intellectuals Day.

Black Night of 25 March[edit]

At the beginning of Operation Searchlight, on the night of 25 March 1971, a number of professors from Dhaka University were killed.[2][3]

Reason behind the killing[edit]

Since the establishment of the State of Pakistan, the rulers of West Pakistan discriminated against citizens of East Pakistan and denied them civil and political rights[citation needed]. The discrimination was visible in all disciplines and the attack on the language and culture was direct. As a result, the discontent and anger in the minds of Bengalis turned to political and cultural protests and these movements were led by intellectuals from all parts of the society. They encouraged and seeded the idea of nationalism in the heart of Bengalis through social and cultural activities. As a result of their cultural movement, the people of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) gradually became aware of their rights which turned the movement towards political protests.[4]

14 December executions[edit]

Dead bodies of Bengali intellectuals found on 15 December 1971

As the war neared its end, a final effort to wipe off as many intellectuals as possible took place, mostly planned between 12 and 14 December to eliminate the future leaders of the new nation.[5] On 14 December 1971, over 200 of East Pakistan's intellectuals including professors, journalists, doctors, artists, engineers, and writers were picked up from their homes in Dhaka by the Al-Badr militias and Pakistani Army. Notable novelist Shahidullah Kaiser and playwright Munier Choudhury were among the victims. They were taken blindfolded to torture cells in Mirpur, Mohammadpur, Nakhalpara, Rajarbagh and other locations in different sections of the city. Later they were executed en masse, most notably at Rayerbazar and Mirpur. In memory of the martyred intellectuals, 14 December is mourned in Bangladesh as Shaheed Buddhijibi Dibosh Day of the Martyred Intellectuals.[6]

It is widely speculated that the killings of 14 December was orchestrated by Maj Gen Rao Farman Ali. After the liberation of Bangladesh a list of Bengali intellectuals (most of whom were executed on 14 Dec) was discovered in a page of his diary left behind at the Governor's House. The existence of such a list was confirmed by Ali himself although he denied the motive of genocide. The same was also confirmed by Altaf Gauhar, a former Pakistani bureaucrat. He mentioned an incident in which Altaf requested Ali to delete a friend's name from the list and Ali did that in front of him.[7]

Notable victims[edit]

Many notable intellectuals who were killed from the time period of 25 March to 16 December 1971 in different parts of the country include:

Verdict on the killing[edit]

On 3 November 2013, a Special Court in Dhaka has sentenced two former leaders of the al-Badr killing squad to death for war crimes committed during Bangladesh's war of liberation in 1971. Chowdhury Mueen-Uddin, a Muslim leader based in London, and Ashrafuz Zaman Khan, based in the US, were sentenced in absentia after the court found that they were involved in the abduction and murders of 18 intellectuals – nine Dhaka University professors, six journalists and three physicians – in December 1971. Prosecutors said the killings were carried out between 10 and 15 December, when Pakistan was losing the war in Bangladesh (then East Pakistan), and were part of a campaign intended to strip the newborn nation of its intellectuals.[24]

On 2 November 2014 International Crimes Tribunal, Bangladesh sentenced Mir Quasem Ali to death for war crimes which include the killings of intellectuals. It was proved in the tribunal that he was a key organiser of the Al-Badr, which planned and executed the killing of the intellectuals on 14 December 1971.[25][26]


The number of intellectuals killed is estimated in Banglapedia[1] as follows –

  • Academics – 991
  • Journalists – 13
  • Physicians – 49
  • Lawyers – 42
  • Others (litterateurs, artists and engineers) – 16

The district wise break-up of the number of martyred academicians and lawyers published in 1972[27] was as follows –

District and Division Academics Lawyers
Primary Secondary Higher Secondary
Dhaka 37 8 10 6
Faridpur 27 12 4 3
Tangail 20 7 2
Mymensingh 46 28 1 2
Dhaka Division 130 55 17 10
Chittagong 39 16 7 1
Chittagong Hill Tracts 9 4 1 1
Sylhet 19 7 2
Comilla 45 33 1 4
Noakhali 26 13 4 2
Chittagong Division 138 73 13 10
Khulna 48 15 2 2
Jessore 55 31 5 4
Barisal 50 21 4
Patuakhali 3 1
Kushtia 28 13 4
Khulna Division 184 81 15 6
Rajshahi 39 8 3 5
Rangpur 41 22 9 4
Dinajpur 50 10 1 2
Bogra 14 12 2
Pabna 43 9 1 2
Rajshahi Division 187 61 14 15
Bangladesh 639 270 59 41
Martyred academicians (not affiliated to universities) = 968
Martyred university teachers = 21
Total martyred academicians = 989

Administrative districts and divisions mentioned here are as they were in 1972.


Martyred Intellectuals Day is held annually to commemorate the victims. In Dhaka, hundreds of thousands of people walk to Mirpur to lay flowers at the Martyred Intellectuals Memorial. The president and the prime minister of Bangladesh and heads of all three wings of the Bangladesh armed forces pay homage at memorial.[28]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Khan, Muazzam Hussain (2012). "Killing of Intellectuals". In Islam, Sirajul; Jamal, Ahmed A. Banglapedia: National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh (Second ed.). Asiatic Society of Bangladesh. 
  2. ^ Annual Report: Dhaka University 1971–72, Dr. Mafijullah Kabir
  3. ^ "Telegram 978 From the Consulate General in Dacca to the Department of State, March 29, 1971, 1130Z" (PDF). US Department of State. Archived from the original (PDF) on 8 August 2009. 
  4. ^ মুনতাসীর মামুন। । প্রকাশক: সময় প্রকাশন। আইএসবিএন 984-458-202-4।
  5. ^ Hensher, Philip (19 February 2013). "The war Bangladesh can never forget". The Independent. 
  6. ^ "DU set to observe Martyred Intellectuals Day, Victory Day". The News Today. Retrieved 14 December 2012. 
  7. ^ Mamoon, Muntassir; translation by Kushal Ibrahim (June 2000). The Vanquished Generals and the Liberation War of Bangladesh (First ed.). Somoy Prokashon. p. 29. ISBN 984-458-210-5. 
  8. ^ "Khadim, Ataur Rahman Khan - Banglapedia". en.banglapedia.org. Retrieved 2017-07-10. 
  9. ^ "Haque, Azharul - Banglapedia". en.banglapedia.org. Retrieved 2017-03-25. 
  10. ^ "Taleb, Khondakar Abu – Banglapedia". en.banglapedia.org. Retrieved 20 November 2016. 
  11. ^ "Kashem, Khondakar Abul – Banglapedia". en.banglapedia.org. Retrieved 20 November 2016. 
  12. ^ "Rahman, Muhammad Habibar - Banglapedia". en.banglapedia.org. Retrieved 2017-07-15. 
  13. ^ "Ali, Mohammad Sadat - Banglapedia". en.banglapedia.org. Retrieved 2017-05-12. 
  14. ^ "Mortaza, Mohammad - Banglapedia". en.banglapedia.org. Retrieved 2017-03-28. 
  15. ^ "Aminuddin, Muhammad - Banglapedia". en.banglapedia.org. Retrieved 2017-03-25. 
  16. ^ "Muktadir, Md Abdul - Banglapedia". en.banglapedia.org. Retrieved 2017-07-11. 
  17. ^ Story of a Martyred Intellectual of 71’s war
  18. ^ "ICT issues arrest order against Mueen, Ashrafuzzaman". Daily Sun. Dhaka. 3 May 2013. Archived from the original on 8 December 2014. Retrieved 3 November 2013. 
  19. ^ Khan, Tamanna (4 November 2013). "It was matricide". The Daily Star. Retrieved 7 November 2013. 
  20. ^ "Gallows for Mueen, Ashraf". The Daily Star. 3 November 2013. 
  21. ^ "Ahmed, Shamsuddin3 – Banglapedia". en.banglapedia.org. Retrieved 8 March 2017. 
  22. ^ "Talukder, Kosiruddin – Banglapedia". en.banglapedia.org. Retrieved 7 February 2017. 
  23. ^ "Mannan, Sheikh Abdul – Banglapedia". en.banglapedia.org. Retrieved 7 February 2017. 
  24. ^ "UK Muslim leader Chowdhury Mueen Uddin sentenced to death in Bangladesh". The Independent. 3 November 2013. 
  25. ^ "Bangladesh Islamist party leader files appeal against death penalty". Shanghai Daily. Retrieved 14 December 2014. 
  26. ^ "War trial: Mir Quasem verdict Sunday". The Daily Star. 30 October 2014. Retrieved 14 December 2014. 
  27. ^ Bangladesh – The Victory Day Memento published by the government of People's Republic of Bangladesh, 16 December 1972; Editor – Syed Ali Ahsan
  28. ^ "Nation observes new-dimension Martyred Intellectuals' Day". The Daily Star (Bangladesh). 14 December 2013. Retrieved 14 December 2012.