The fall of Dacca

By: Yasmeen Aftab Ali

Lack of balance of policies for then West and East Pakistan, flawed socio-economic strategies, geographical distance between both the areas, and language controversy in Bangladesh imposing Urdu as a national language were all major contributing factors in the eventual dismemberment of now Dacca. “People of East Pakistan, particularly the progressive forces were not prepared to accept Urdu as the only state language. They launched an effective Bengali language movement in 1948 to counter this decision, which reached its climax on 21st February 1952, when several people were killed by police. The movement ended after recognition of Bengali as one of the state languages of Pakistan. This movement succeeded in mobilising mass support throughout the South Asian Studies 25 (1) 102 province. Bengali language activists and the progressive political forces remained vigilant against anti-Bengali political elite of the central government and pro-Urdu provincial government.” (Language Controversy: Impacts on National Politics and Secession of East Pakistan: A Research Journal of South Asian Studies Vol. 25, No. 1, January-June 2010.)

“The Hamoodur Rehman Commission Report cites, as media reports, that incompetence, moral degeneration and political conspiracies were the major reasons for the 1971 debacle. It was maintained in the Report that the defeat suffered was not a result of scanty military factors alone, but had been brought about as the cumulative result of political developments that took place between 1947 and 1971.” Khurram A. Khan, December 6, 2014)

“Two facets acted as catalysts in expediting the final split. Firstly, the genuine grievances of the East Pakistanis were exploited by India in deepening the wounds and spreading rancor and acrimony. Secondly, certain West Pakistani politicians, faced with the possibility of an East Pakistan-led leadership ruling Pakistan—as a result of the relatively free and fair 1970 elections—blocked the military government’s handing over power to the victors of the polls, forcing East Pakistan to declare its independence as Bangladesh.”  (Sultan M. Hali December 3, 2015 Pakistan Today)

Visiting briefly the 1971 genocide, facts are well detailed in a book Blood and Tears (Published 1974) by historian Qutubuddin Aziz. It details 170 eye witness accounts of atrocities on non-Bengalis and pro Pakistan Bengalis by Awami League militants and other rebels in 55 towns of then East Pakistan between March-April 1971 with photographs.

India took advantage of the growing differences between the two units. Speaking at the ceremony to receive the award ‘Bangladesh Liberation War Honour’ Modi, in 2015, admitted that “there had been a conspiracy to divide Pakistan, he said the establishment of Bangladesh was a desire of every Indian and that’s why India’s forces fought along with the Mukti Bahini, thus creating a new country.” (The News June 8, 2015)

Borrowing research from a treatise by Lt. Gen [R] Kamal Matinuddin ,“Tragedy of Errors; East Pakistan Crisis 1968-1971” states that the hard core team leaders of Mukhti-Bahini were the deserters, from the Bengali element [officers, junior-commissioned, non-commissioned, and other ranks] composed in the following Army and para-military formations:.(My Op-Ed December 17, 2013)

Asoka Raina an Indian author of “Inside RAW-The Story of India’s Secret Service’ pgs 48-50 state, “The Bangladesh Operation possibly began a year before actual operation was underway Even when the world got a whiff of it in the shape of Mukti Bahini, many remained unaware of RAW’s involvement. By then Phase 1 of the operation was already complete. Phase II saw the Indian forces poised for the independence of Bangladesh. In order to present a clear synopsis of the events that bought RAW into the Bangladesh Ops, one must review the intelligence activities that started soon after the formation in 1968. But by then the Indian operatives had already been in contact with the ‘pro-Mujib’ faction. A meeting convened in Agartala during 1962-3 between the IB Foreign Desk operatives and the Mujib faction, gave some clear indications of what was to follow.”

The atrocities inflicted upon the Biharis by Mukti Bahini often in the name of Pakistan Army is a matter of record. Ian Jack, a Scottish journalist, writing in The Guardian states, “An Urdu-Speaking friend of mine, Dr Jawaid Ahsan, said that he had personally witnessed the killing of scores of Biharis by the Bengali vigilantes in the early days of the civil war…..” He has further stated, “Bengali junta mill workers in Khulna slaughtered large numbers- probably thousands –of their fellow Urdu speaking workers on 28th March 1971. After liberation, “Bengali mill workers repeated their original atrocity of the previous year and sent thousands more non-Bengalis into the rivers.”

Speaking a discussion in Dacca to mark the historic March 7 speech, the day in 1971 when Sheikh Mujib called on the Bengali nation to prepare for the secession struggle from Pakistan, she recalled referring to sedition charges against ‘Bangabandhu’ and 34 others, “It was there that Bangabandhu, at a meeting made plans for liberations, including when the war would start, when our freedom fighters would be trained and where refugees would take shelter.”

Today, we look back on this sad part of the history conveniently ignoring one important leaf of history. That of the resettlement of the 250,000 odd Pakistanis stranded in camps since the country broke in two.

One must pay tribute to renowned poet Jamiluddin Aali who had stood strong and helped in resettling those who migrated to Pakistan after this tragedy. This is an issue not being recognised as an issue. Neither by the successive governments of Pakistan nor by the so-called liberals willing to hold millions of Afghans to their bosoms, who have come here under clear agreement to return to their homeland, yet ignores the plight of those rejected by both nations.

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