The word "terrorist"
was not in fashion in 1971. The Pakistanis called them "miscreants".
They called themselves the "Mukti Bahini" (freedom fighters).
The ordinary Bangladeshi also called them "Muktis", and
therein lay their strength. They had limited resources, and very
little training. They survived because the people risked their lives
in giving them shelter, food, money, and a place to hide. They waved
from the rooftops when the Mukti planes came to attack Dhaka. Trenches
had been built, but they were too busy cheering to remember them,
for in some ways, they too were Muktis.
our independence, we quickly forgot those nine months, and treated
the people in the Chittagong Hill Tracts much as the Pakistanis
had treated us. The same oppression, the same genocide. The Bangladesh
government called them "insurgents". They called themselves
the "Shanti Bahini", (Peace Brigade), as did the other
hill people. Shanti Bahini, years later, fought the Bangladeshi
military junta, much as the Muktis had fought the Pakistanis, years
before. Again the junta retaliated by killing the most vulnerable.
It was the military that the people were terrified of. The Muktis
and the Shanti Bahini were their saviours.
The main "terror"
today is from the guns in the streets, the knee-capping, and the
acid throwing. We call the people who do this, "shontrashis".
While the Muktis did strike terror in the hearts of the Pakistani
soldiers, the goal was to liberate the people. The Shanti Bahini
tried to defend their people from genocide. The shontrashis use
terror to subjugate people into paying protection money, to gain
control, to remove competition for government contracts, and to
satisfy their lust. Protected by the politicians in power, the shontrashis
and the junta are the only terrorists we have known.
Terror is not
about danger itself, but about the fear of danger. Does the ordinary
New Yorker, wake up in the morning expecting to die? The answer
is no. Does the ordinary Afghani child lie sleepless at night in
fear of the bombs from the sky and the ones lurking in the ground?
The answer is a sad yes.