Nation

India and the World chapter 8 : India thrashes Pakistan – as it desired

India and the World chapter 8 : India thrashes Pakistan – as it desired

        Baskaran Krishnamurthy

Read Chapter 1 , Chapter 2 , Chapter 3 , Chapter 4Chapter5Chapter 6Chapter 7  if you are yet read them.

“The immediate background to the latest aggression us in 1971 was the other battle which Pakistan had been waging for many months against its own citizens of East Pakistan (as then it was). India had no part in the internal developments of Pakistan – East or West. We would normally have welcomed the attainment of freedom by any victim of colonial oppression but usually it would have little direct impact on us. Bangladesh, however, was a part of our subcontinent. How could we ignore a conflict which took place on our very border and overflowed into our own territory? Ten million destitute refugees poured into densely populated areas which were also politically sensitive owing to the activities of Marxists and the Left extremists we call Naxalites. This posed unbearable strains on our economy and on our social and administrative institutions. The terrible stories of genocide and the comings and goings of Mukti Bahini, the resistance force of Bangladesh, created a volatile situation for us also. Could we remain indifferent to these developments?”

(Mrs Indira Gandhi – in an article published in Foreign Affairs Quarterly; October 1972)

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, on march 7, 1971, addressed a massive gathering of over 2 million people, at Ramana Race Course, Dhaka. He gave a clarion call to his countrymen. He said – “the struggle this time is a struggle for emancipation; the struggle this time is for our independence. Every house should turn into a fortress.” (on 30 Oct 2017, UNESCO marked this speech as ‘world’s documentary heritage’ included in the Memory of World Register.)

He said – “the cry we hear from Bengali people is a cry for freedom, a cry for survival, a cry for our rights. Ours has been a history of continual lamentation, repeated bloodshed and innocent tears” and he ‘refused to walk to the Assembly trading upon the fresh stains of his brothers blood’.

There were spontaneous uprisings everywhere in the East Pakistan leading to establishment of ‘Mukti Bahini’ – Freedom Forces. (‘mukti’ – liberation; ‘bahini’ – Force)  The Liberation War began.

But before this, the Pakistan armed forces had staged the most horrific attack which shook the conscience of the world. This is by far the most gruesome offensive by the military over the civilians in any war of independence.

Pakistan declared martial law on 25 March 1971; arrested the ‘traitor’ Mujibur Rahman; outlawed the Awami League; moved the army into all parts of Bangladesh; ordered a reckless crackdown.  And… that was to be the darkest day (night) in Dhaka.

Called ‘Operation Searchlight’, the Pakistan army let loose its troops to kill at their will. The intellectuals were the target. The motive was clear – Bangladeshi intelligentsia was to be extinguished.

Dhaka University, on the night of 25 March 1971, was encircled by the Pakistan army from all sides. The next two days saw brutal killings and all forms of violent inhuman crimes were freely carried out against the Teachers, Students and Staff of the University. It went unabatedly all through the day and night. None was there to shield, to guard or to save the innocent learned ones. They were massacred with clinical precision putting the civilized world to shame.

A number of teachers were mercilessly murdered. The list included Prof Fajilur Rahman, Prof Anwar Pasha, Prof Rashidul Hassan, Prof Abdul Muktadir, Prof Khan Kahdim, Prof Sharafat Ali… the list just went endless.

At the early hours of 26th March, a group of soldiers knocked at the door of Dr Gobinda Chandra Dev, Professor of Philosophy. Even before Prof Dev could reach to it, the door was force opened and the soldiers pounced upon, hit him on his head and shot him on chest. “What do you want here my son?’’ –the mild, soft and feeble voice of Professor was answered by more violent attacks. His lifeless body was for many more minutes subjected to senseless assault, was dragged and dumped with many other dead bodies in a ground nearby.

Professor of Philosophy Dr Gobinda Chandra Dev was a lecturer in Ripon College, Calcutta. During the Second World War, the college moved to Dinajpur. Though it was relocated in 1945, Prof Dev preferred to stay back. And later, he joined the Dhaka University where he was the most loveable Professor immensely popular for his mastery of the subject and for his pleasing manners. He remained a Bachelor till he was brutally killed at the age of 64. He had donated all his belongings to Dhaka University with which in 1980, the Centre for Philosophical Studies was launched in his memory.

The army did not leave the students. “Students had been mowed down in their rooms and as they fled, the youths were being machine-gunned.” Anyone in the vicinity, particularly the youth, was slaughtered.

The murderers marched into the Girls’ dormitory of the University. It is better that we do not describe what followed. After nearly a week of Liberation of Bangladesh, around 300 girls were rescued from different areas of Dhaka and 55 of them were found in ‘half –dead’ state.

Pakistan army did not spare anyone. The staff, the electrician, gardener, gate keeper…. Everybody was butchered indiscriminately. The carnage went on and on and on – for two full days.

International community had so much to do. But they remained mute. The U.S.A. and China sided with Pakistan which is just unpardonable.

Bangladesh people were not ready to go down. They devised their own strategy and established what was called – ‘Mukti Bahini’.

Mukti Bahini was a guerilla movement providing a solid resistance to the Pakistan army. People who had served in military, para-military and police services joined the movement in the fight against the Pakistan army. It had more than 1,50,000 ‘soldiers’ with M.A.G. Osmani as its Commander in Chief.

Battles at Gazipur, Goalhati, Garibpur, Dhalai, Rangamati, Kushtia, Daruin demonstrated the combative spirit of Mukti Bahini.  It had great fighters like Ziaur Rahmna, Khaled Mosharaaf, K M Shafiullaah spearheading the movement from different points.

Mukti Bahini had student militants; civilian units and ‘nimito bahini’ consisting of military, para military and police personnel. They were able to bring the countryside Bangladesh under their control. Sudden ambushes and ‘sabotage’ attempts by ‘Bahini’ commandos inflicted heavy casualties in the Pakistani camp.

In fact, both in its precision and in the direct participation of the citizens, ‘Mukti Bahini’ had a far better record than the National Liberation Army of Bolivia

Mukti Bahini emerged much more powerful with the active support of India. They received training and weapons from Indian forces and Calcutta Port was allowed to be used by Mukti Bahini for its naval adventures. Operation Jackpot involving the Bangladesh Navy registered a major victory that shattered the confidence of Pakistan.  The Port of Karachi was subjected to naval blockade by Indian navy.

Chittagong experienced heavy fighting where again the Pakistan troops were at the receiving end.

As the fight was getting intensified and was spreading into many parts of East Pakistan, a large number of Bengalis started fleeing into India with West Bengal and Tripura as their preferred destinations. In the next few weeks, more than ten million refugees had arrived in India.

Though this posed a severe challenge to India, public support for Bangladesh was too strong and there was an unprecedented wave in favour of Bangladesh particularly in the bordering states.  Sensing the popular mood and a just cause for freedom, Indian Government in April 1971 came out with all forms of aid and support to Mukti bahini and for the Liberation of Bangladesh.

Indian Air Force offered training and allowed use of its bases for Bangladesh forces. Liberation guerillas of Bangladesh operated from Bihar, West Bengal and from the north eastern states – Assam, Arunachal, Nagaland, Mizoram, Tripura and Meghalaya.

Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi fully involved herself and took extensive tours to many European countries and to the United States during the period September – October 1971 seeking support for India’s action in Bangladesh. She started from Soviet Union in September 1971 and visited Lebanon, Belgium, Austria, England, America, France and Germany (West) through the months of October and November 1971.

Indira Gandhi forcefully argued the case for Independent Bangladesh, explained the atrocities of Pakistan army against the civilians and clearly laid out a case for India’s intervention too.

But, the U. S. President Richard Nixon and his National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger mounted a scathing attack on Indira Gandhi. Their dislike for India was all too evident by their refusal to support India. The derogatory remarks of Kissinger about Smt Indira Gandhi carried no civility.

In his book ‘the blood telegram’, the Princeton University Professor Gary J Bass says (as quoted by rediff.com on 18 Dec 2013) – “Nixon and Kissinger allied with the killers the Pakistani Government, as it unleashed a genocide on a horrific scale.”

Gary Bass says – “In the defining moment where humane principles were put to test, America sided with the killers; it stands as one of the worst moments of moral blindness in US foreign policy.”

As Mrs Gandhi put it much later than 1971, “In regard to Bangladesh, and during the December war, the United States openly backed Pakistan at the cost of basic human values. It was necessary to take note of the despatch of warship Enterprise to support a ruthless military dictatorship and to intimidate a democracy and the extraordinary similarity of the attitudes adopted by the United States and China.”

Indira Gandhi was unrelenting and went ahead with her plans. India signed a friendship treaty with USSR in August 1971. It gave the much needed assurance to India to firmly register her presence in the tussle. European countries, particularly, France stood openly by the cause of Bangladesh.

In the last week of November, Pakistan President Yahya Khan publicly announced that war would begin in 10 days and, sure enough, on the tenth day there was a massive air attack all along the western border. Thus did Pakistan extend its war to India.

The Bangladeshi struggle entered into the final, decisive stage with India being dragged into it by Pakistan. The situation changed drastically. The combination of Bangladesh – India – Mukti Bahini proved deadly and too much for Pakistan to withstand.

The War lasted for 13 days from 3rd December 1971 to 16 December 1971. The instrument of surrender was signed in Dhaka by Lt Gen A A K Niazi for Pakistan.

The war of 1971 was not of our making and it again, was something thrust upon us. This was admitted by none other than Bhutto himself.  In his address to the nation on June 27, 1972, President Bhutto gave a perceptive account of the events and said: ”The war we have lost was not of our making. I had warned against it but my warning fell on deaf ears of a power-drunk junta. They recklessly plunged our people into the war and involved us in an intolerable surrender and lost us half our country. The junta did not know how to make peace nor did it know how to make war.”

At the end of the war, “the political map of the sub-continent had been redrawn and the notion of an inherent and insuperable antagonism between a secular India and a predominantly Muslim State has been discredited – not through any design on our part but because the idea itself was untenable and the military dictatorship of Pakistan, totally alienated from its own people, had followed a short-sighted and unrealistic policy.”

At the initiative of Mrs Indira Gandhi, President Bhutto was invited for discussions. It resulted in the Simla Agreement of July 2, 1972, by which “Pakistan and India have proclaimed their determination to solve their conflicts bilaterally and without recourse to force, and to seek a durable peace and growing economic and cultural cooperation.”

About this Mrs Gandhi said – “It is my hope that the implementation of this agreement in the spirit in which it was made will close the 25 year old period of Pakistan’s hatred of India, and that both countries will become good neighbours.”

In matters of relations with Pakistan, hopes vanish very fast; apprehensions come alive much sooner.

Pakistan was getting ready and waited for another ‘opportunity’ for an ‘engagement’ with India. Of course, it did come after nearly 3 decades in 1999 in the form of Kargil War.

India had an extraordinarily eloquent, soft spoken gentleman who was doing everything to join hands with Pakistan which had a General searching for a  reason or the other to fight.

It is time now for ‘Operation Vijay’; and it would be – Gen Musharraf Vs Poet Vajpayee!

Author – Baskaran Krishnamurthy, Writer, Columnist & Income Tax officer 

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