Normalcy. something so often it becomes so normal, so

            Normalcy. Routine. That is the
Banality of Evil. Doing something so often it becomes so normal, so mundane,
such a part of the everyday system that one doesn’t think much of it. Things
that would seem “evil” to one society can simply be everyday life to another.
It’s akin to children believing that some chores are evil, things that should
never be done, while adults find them to be a normal part of life. An example
of the Banality of Evil is the Bengali genocide. The Bengali genocide was an
extremely terrible event in history, similar in many ways to the atrocities
committed in World War Two.

            World War Two was a dark blemish in
history, but it should never be forgotten. Holocaust survivor and author Elie
Wiesel reminds us of that in his award-winning book, “Night”. For those people
who have never read “Night”, it is a true story about Elie Wiesel himself, when
he was 15 years old. He and the rest of his family were Jewish and had been
taken to concentration camps. Elie had survived the holocaust, but his family
wasn’t nearly as fortunate. His own father had died calling his name. His
mother and sisters had been separated from him before he even really knew what
was happening. Elie had survived the rigorous life in multiple concentration
camps and had lived to tell the tale so we can remember what happened, so it
never happens again. Wiesel’s book, “Night” fulfills the concept of the
Banality of Evil well. Many of the Germans had become desensitized to the
violence, what they were doing. They did it enough, and it became so normal, it
was akin to a simply normal day at work, in a way. Wiesel himself even fulfills
the concept. After spending enough time in the camps, after spending enough
time witnessing these atrocities, it became, in a way, normal. It became normal
to see someone get killed for being too slow. It became normal to see someone
get beaten by an officer just because he was having a bad day. It became normal
to see people fight for rations. It became normal to see people dying and see
smoke coming out of the long chimney of the crematorium. These events, events
that most people couldn’t even imagine, fulfill the concept of the banality of
evil. Be it Elie Wiesel or the German officers, they were desensitized to these
normally terrible and unthinkable acts.

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            Genocide. Massacre. Decimation. Those
are the closest words to describe the horrendous events that happened in the
genocide at Bangladesh. However, to get an inkling of what happened during that
genocide, one must go back. Far, far back, to the so distant year of 1970. It
all started with Pakistan. Pakistan had been divided into two groups, separated
by India, West Pakistan and East Pakistan. East Pakistan, now present-day
Bangladesh, had been believed to be ethnically and culturally inferior by the
Pakistani elites, despite East Pakistan producing over 59 percent of the
country’s exports, and despite it being the smaller of the two Pakistans. West
Pakistan had even attempted to make Pakistan’s national language Urdu, even
though less than ten percent of the East Pakistan population had an adequate
understanding of the language. When a cyclone named Bhola devastated East
Pakistan, killing around 300,000 people, West Pakistan had been had been slow
and even dismissive to give a response. Needless to say, West Pakistan had been
less than generous to their Eastern counterparts. In 1970, the West had
declared that Pakistan would have its very first general election ever since
they had gained their independence. The Pakistani leader, General
Agha Mohammad Yahya Khan, had carefully placed limits for the freedoms of the
voter and had stated that it was not the outcome of the election that was
important, but the integrity of Pakistan. West Pakistan’s votes
were divided between multiple parties, while East Pakistan’s were mainly
concentrated on one sole person, Sheikh
Mujibur Rahman. Mujibur had campaigned for Bengali autonomy and,
unsurprisingly, won the election. West Pakistan had been appalled by the result
of the election and what it meant for the country. Yahya Khan, the Pakistani
leader from earlier, had delayed the first assembly meeting and instituted
martial law. Riots broke out everywhere in the East, Mujibur had even declared
the beginning of a civil disobedience movement on the seventh of March in 1971.
Mujibur and Yahya Khan had debated about some of the issues and were said to have
come to an agreement, but on March 25 of 1971, Mujibur was arrested, and around
60,000 to 80,000 West Pakistani began the beginning of the Bengali genocide;
Operation Searchlight. The West Pakistani soldiers picked out and killed the
Pakistanis in the East who were rebellious, and the men who were most likely to
influence resistance. That night alone resulted in 5,000 to 100,000 deaths.
They had attempted to get rid of the nationalist movement by instilling fear
into the hearts of the East Pakistanis. Of course, it didn’t work. East Pakistan
simply declared the next day, March 26, 1971, to be its independence day.
Pakistan was displeased, to say the least. Over several months, Pakistan’s army
targeted men, academics, and professionals. There were even sweeps, where young
men were taken from their homes usually never seen again. According to,
some of the bodies could be found in fields, around army camps or floating in
rivers. However, it wasn’t only the men who were affected. Women were being
kidnapped and raped by Pakistani soldiers. Hit and run rapes were common. It
entailed the male members of a family being forced to watch as a Pakistani
soldier raped the female members of the family. The males were eventually
killed, and the females taken to rape camps. Yes, you read that correctly, rape
camps. Similar to how Jews were sent to concentration camps, the women were
tied to each other and loaded onto trucks, nearly unconscious and beaten. When
they arrived at the camps they were separated by age. The infertile women were
killed immediately, the others were set aside for later. Yahya Khan, mentioned
earlier as the Pakistani leader, declared that the Bengali’s were to be turned
into the “true Muslims”. He intended to make a pure Pakistan. No one is certain
how many women were raped, but they say it was from 200,000 to 400,000. Some
women were raped up to 80 times in one night. There was a bride who was raped
in front of her husband, who was forced to watch as six soldiers had their way
with his wife. The bride’s father found his newly married daughter bleeding and
unconscious. His son in law was kneeling on the floor crouched over his own
vomit. The genocide ended December 16, 1971. The number of people who died is
uncertain, however, it has been estimated to 500,000 to more than 3 million.
The Bengali Genocide fulfills the concept of the Banality of Evil because the
Pakistani soldiers found their actions to be an everyday thing. It was normal
to eliminate some Bengali men. It was even fun to defile some Bengali women. They
fulfilled the concept because it was an everyday thing for them.

Wiesel’s book, “Night” and the Bengali genocide have many things in common.
Elie was shipped off to a camp in a vehicle, not even treated as a person, but
as cargo. The Bengali women were treated the same way, but tied together and
stacked like sacks of grain. They both also included mass murder or attempted
elimination of a certain group of people. Yahya Khan and Hitler both tried to
get rid of a certain group of people to make a supreme race, their own ideal
race. These fulfill the concept of the Banality of Evil because they didn’t
seem to think twice about it, they made it a normal part of their lives, a
normal thing to do. They took something that would have been seen, and still
is, as an atrocity in other countries and made it the semi-norm for themselves
and their soldiers.

are many dark spots in history. Dark corners that no one really wants to
revisit. However, to prevent them from happening a second time, we must
remember. We must remember the suffering that others had gone through. Remember
the pain, the agony, so that it hopefully never happens again. And we must hope
that humans won’t be so stupid as to do these things again, even though they
probably will. In the preface to “Night”, Elie Wiesel stated, “To forget would
be not only dangerous but offensive; to forget the dead would be akin to
killing them a second time.” Elie Wiesel may be dead, but his memory lives on
in his works. And we all hope to remember, to save others the pain and
suffering that he and others have gone through.

Works Cited

Adrija. “Birth Of Bangladesh: When Raped Women And War Babies Paid The
Price Of A New Nation.” The Indian Express, 2017,

Marlee. “Bangladesh: The Forgotten Genocide – UAB Institute For Human
Rights Blog.” UAB Institute For Human Rights Blog, 2017,

Philip. “The War Bangladesh Can Never Forget.” The
Independent, 2017,

Anam, and Anam Zakaria. “By Marking Genocide Day, Bangladesh Seeks To
Remember What Pakistan Wants To Forget.” Scroll.In, 2017,

Lorraine. “The Genocide The U.S. Can’t Remember, But Bangladesh Can’t
Forget.” Smithsonian, 2017,

David Meléndez, and Sanjeev Sanyal. “El Genocidio Olvidado – Revista De
Prensa.” Almendron.Com, 2017,

Wiesel, E., Mauriac, F. and Rodway, S. (n.d.). Night.


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