Bangladesh today paid rich tribute to intellectuals who were abducted and murdered during the 1971 liberation struggle against Pakistan, two days after the execution of a war criminal dubbed the "Butcher of Mirpur".
President Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina led the nation in paying homage to intellectuals who were murdered in Rayer Bazar area just two days before the birth of Bangladesh on December 16, 1971. They placed wreaths on the Intellectual Martyrs Mausoleum in Mirpur as army buglers played the Last Post, marking the 42nd anniversary of the Martyred Intellectuals Day. The national flag was flown at half mast across the country.
Thousands of people also offered their homage at the memorial. Hundreds of youngsters joined an overnight candlelit vigil in memory of the martyrs. Main opposition BNP chief Khaleda Zia too offered wreaths at the memorial. This year's celebration came two days after Abdul Quader Molla, a top leader of the fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami party which is also a key ally of the BNP, was executed for crimes against humanity during the war.
For his atrocities and for siding with Pakistani troops during the 1971 war, Mollah was known as the "Butcher of Mirpur", after a Dhaka suburb where he led the infamous Al-Badr militia in slaughtering a large number of people, including women and children.
The Pakistan Army and its local collaborators -- Rajakars, Al-Badr and Al-Shams -- abducted many Bangali intellectuals from their homes on December 14, 1971. They were later murdered to create an intellectual void in the newborn nation.
Most Bangladeshis came to know of the massacre two days later, when their slaughtering ground was discovered at Rayer Bazar area on the bank of Buriganga river.