Razakar Urdu: رضا کار, literally “volunteer”; Bengali: রাজাকার) was an East Pakistani paramilitary force organised by General Tikka Khan in then East Pakistan, now called Bangladesh, during the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971. The force is accused of committing war crimes during the war including massacring civilians, loot and rape.
Etymology and Terminology
Razakar is a Persian term meaning volunteer. The Bangladesh government denotes all collaborators of the Pakistani forces as Razakar. This includes leaders of the Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh, members of East Pakistan Central Peace Committee and even the Chakma King Maharaja Tridev Roy.
In Bangladesh today, razakar is used as a pejorative term meaning “traitor” or Judas.
In June 1971, the Ansar was disbanded and reconstituted as the Razakars. Initially they were controlled by the Shanti Committee, which was formed by several pro-Pakistani leaders including Nurul Amin and Khwaja Khairuddin. Bangladeshi journalist Shahriar Kabir alleges that the first recruits were 96 Jamaat party members, who started training in an Ansar camp at Khan Jahan Ali Road, Khulna. Jamaat leader Ghulam Azam denies any involvement with the auxiliary forces, as it was constituted by the East Pakistan government.
The East Pakistan Razakars Ordinance was promulgated on 02 August 1971 by the Governor of East Pakistan, Lieutenant General Tikka Khan. The Ordinance stipulated the creation of a voluntary force to be trained and equipped by the Provincial Government. Then they were reorganised as members of the Pakistan army through an ordinance of the Ministry of Defence promulgated on 07 September 1971. The Razakar force was placed under the command of Major General Mohammed Jamshed. Organisational command of the Razakar was given to Abdur Rahim.
The Razakars had two branches they were Al-Badr and Al-Shams paramilitary forces. Students from madrasahs were inducted into Al-Badr for specialised operations while Al-Shams was tasked with protection of important strategic locations.
The Razakar force was organised into brigades of around 3,000-4,000 volunteers, mainly armed with light Infantry weapons provided by the Pakistan Army. Each Razakar Brigade was attached as an auxiliary to two Pakistani Regular Army Brigades, and their main function was to arrest and detain nationalist Bengali suspects. Suspects were tortured during custody and killed. The Razakars were trained by the Pakistan Army.
The Razakars were paid by the Pakistan Army and Provincial Government. Leading supporters of a united Pakistan urged General Yahya Khan to increase the number of Razakars and given them more arms to extend their activities in East Pakistan. They were advised “to uproot e secessionists, antisocialists and Naxalites.”
Towards the end of 1971, increasing numbers of Razakars were deserting, as the end of the war approached and Bangladesh moved towards independence.
During the war, the Pakistani Army committed genocide on the populace. The Razakar militias actively supported their killings of an estimated 505,000 people. They operated concentration camps and used rape as weapon of war.
The Razakar forces violated Geneva Conventions of War by partipating in numerous massacres of civilians.
The Dakra massacre was an instance of one such massacre where 646 Bengali Hindus were killed.
Razakars also allegedly killed Indian civilians during the war. On 05 August 1971, six Indians were killed by the Razakars in Panti village under Kumarkhali sub-division. They killed 3 Indians in Sylhet and 19 Indians in Jessore, Gopalganj and Chittagong hill tracts.
Following the surrender of the East Pakistani troops on 16 December 1971 and the proclamation of independence of Bangladesh, the Razakar units were dissolved. The Jamaat party was banned, as it had opposed independence. Many leading Razakars fled to Pakistan (previously West Pakistan).
Waves of violence followed the official end of the war, and some lower-ranking Razakars were killed in reprisals by Mukti Bahini militia/ The government rounded up and imprisoned an estimated 36,000 men suspected of being Razakars. The government ultimately freed many of those held in jail, both in response to pressure from the United States and China, who backed Pakistan in the war, and to gain co-operation from Pakistan in obtaining the release of 200,000 Bengali-speaking military and civilian personnel who had been stranded or imprisoned in West Pakistan during the war.
In 2010 the Bangladesh government, led by the Awami League, set up an International Crimes Tribunal based on the International Crimes Tribunal Act 1973 to prosecute the people who committed war crimes and crimes against humanities during the liberation war in 1971. People of Pakistan who were not aware of their crimes due to censorship by Yahya regime , have now openly welcome their trials and even support their public execution.
Delwar Hossain Sayeedi, the Nayeb-e-Ameer of Jamaat, was convicted of eight charges of war crimes and alleged to be a member of the Razakars, was sentenced to death for two of them in February 2013. However, the trial process has been termed as “politically motivated” by its critics, while the human rights groups recognised the tribunal as falling short of international standards.
- AKM Yusuf, the alleged lead organiser.
- Forkan Mallik, a Razakar commander, convicted of rapes and forceful conversions in Mirzaganj, Patuakhali.
On 16 December 2019, the Government of Bangladesh published the names of 10,789 Razakars who collaborated with Pakistan’s Army in carrying out atrocities against the Bengalis during the 1971 Liberation War.
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