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A holistic approach to understanding genocide and mass violence

  • Published at 11:05 am October 12th, 2019
Genocide and Mass Violence: Politics of singularity

Book note

History of human civilization is fraught with acts or campaigns of genocide. But research on different aspects of genocide is inadequate, which has led to widespread misconceptions about the term genocide. The word “genocide” loses its meaning when it is translated into Bengali as “gonohatya”, because if it is retranslated into English it becomes “mass killing”. Imtiaz Ahmed, editor of Genocide and Mass Violence: Politics of singularity, sheds light on the fact that these two words carry different meanings. 

In his introduction, Imtiaz says: “… but not all mass killings amount to a genocide. More importantly, genocide can take place without ‘gonohatya’ or ‘mass killing.’ In fact, even without any ‘killing’ there can be a ‘genocide!’” 

Published by the Center for Genocide Studies (CGS), Dhaka University, Genocide and Mass Violence: Politics of singularity is a volume of research papers written by academics and experts in related fields.  

Divided into three sections for different categories of events—"1971 Genocide”, “Genocide on the Rohingya” and “Preventing Violent Extremism and Radicalization”—this book mainly focuses on how the politics of singularity works to make society and nation intolerant and thus provokes people to carry out violent acts of all sorts, which may lead to “genocide” and ‘“mass killing”. 

The first section of the book deals with issues regarding the 1971 Genocide—rape, reparation for the rape victims, violence in the name of religion, role of media, rumor and propaganda—focusing on atrocities perpetrated during the times of genocide campaigns. In Chapter Ⅰ, Mustafa Chowdhury suggests that the extent of sexual violence, and the subsequent birth, death and abandonment of the war babies should be included in the historiography of Bangladesh. Umme Wara, in the following chapter, talks at some length about the past and present of Bangladesh’s struggle to ensure “Reparation” and respect for the “Beerangonas”. 

Kajalie Shehreen Islam, in Chapter ⅠⅠⅠ, explores how in 1971 religious ideology was framed in the media, aiming to produce a discourse which sought to legitimize violence perpetrated by the anti-liberation forces. Throughout the paper she illustrates how newspapers like Dainik Sangram and Dainik Pakistan misinterpreted religious concepts such as jihad, shahid and sacrifice, and how, according to these papers, getting involved in violent acts became a farz. The next chapter, written by Mohammad Atique Rahman, deals with the creation and re-creation of rumor and propaganda, role of which in organizing genocide is no different than the framing of religious ideology. 

Section Ⅱ starts with Amir-Ul Islam’s chapter on the issues of genocide on the Rohingya by the Myanmar Military where he discusses how the politics of singularity has played its role in this systematic and widespread persecution of the Rohingya. Hossain Ahmed Taufiq’s Chapter Ⅵ, on the other hand, deals with how this refugee crisis can create security issues in Bangladesh. 

The volume ends with Section Ⅲ, which is about preventing violent extremism and radicalization. What happened during the Holey Artisan attack definitely had its root in our society. Therefore, Imtiaz Ahmed, Amena Mohsin and Delwar Hossain discuss how to prevent such kinds of violent extremism and radicalization. The book finishes with Niloy Ranjan Biswas’s research paper on community engagement in such issues and the possibilities of community policing in Bangladesh.  

The holistic approach of this book to understand genocide and mass violence surely makes it an essential read for the readers all over the world, a world that still suffers from war and brutality.   

Hironmoy Golder is Staff Writer, Arts & Letters.

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