Looking back 45 years after liberation of Bangladesh
By Anil Bhat
New Delhi [India], Dec.23 (ANI): Vijay Diwas and Victory Day were celebrated in India and Bangladesh in the week gone by with as much fervor as in the past. This year, 2016, marked the 45th anniversary of the conclusion of the 1971 Liberation War which resulted in the creation of Bangladesh out of what was then East Pakistan.
This year, Kolkata played host to a 72-member delegation from Bangladesh led by that country's Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal. It included the "Mukti Joddhas" (freedom veterans) and their families, and serving senior Bangladesh Armed Forces officers. Celebrations were spread over four days under the aegis of the Indian Army's Eastern Command. Mukti Joddhas who participated in the war, have been attending the annual reunion for the past 10 years and they returned home with warm memories of shared and spirited experiences of a time that was tense and traumatic for many.
Major General R. Nagraj, MGGS (Major General General Staff), Headquarters, Eastern Command said the celebrations recalled the sacrifices of about 3,800 Indian personnel killed and 12,000 injured in a war that eventually led to 93,000 Pakistani soldiers surrendering in Dhaka on December 16, 1971.
The event in Kolkata included a military band concert on the historical Princep Ghat, a magnificent horse show, parachute jumping and band display at the Royal Calcutta Turf Club for the public. On 16 December, there was a wreath-laying ceremony at the historic Vijay Smarak inside Fort William. The memorial was installed in 1996 on the 25th anniversary of the victory.
A look back at pre-Bangladesh history is relevant. A few years before the painful split of Pakistan into two parts – west and east -, separated physically by India, the Bengalis of East Pakistan realized that the oppression, exploitation and deprivation that they had suffered at the hands of the British, was back in the form of their West Pakistani 'countrymen'.
Some of the causes of Bengali discontentment were: East Pakistan being turned into a market to dump West Pakistani products; foreign trade being biased in favor of West Pakistani interests; the ruling elite allocated and distributed resources in favor of West Pakistan; between 1948 and 1960, East Pakistan making 70 percent of all of Pakistan's exports, but receiving only 25 percent of the earnings; no profits/advantages accruing to East Pakistan despite it being the largest producer of raw jute; Imposition of Urdu on a largely Bengali speaking East Pakistan population despite Bengali being granted official language status in 1956; the Pakistan government's failure to aid victims of the Bhola Cyclone in November 1970; Pakistan's refusal to accept an Awami League majority win and the leadership of Sheikh Mujibur Rehman (winning 298 seats in the East Bengal elections and 167 seats at the National Assembly elections); the Operation Searchlight genocide by the Pakistan Army in East Pakistan of over three million East Pakistanis, largely Bengalis, but also Hindus and Christians and rape of up to 4,00,000 East Pakistani women.
All of these atrocities and disadvantages prompted a band of determined East Pakistani Bengali youth to rise in rebellion under the banner of Mukti Vahini and aided and trained by Indian Army, became an effective counter to the Pakistan Army in East Pakistan.
The uncertainty in those times was compounded by around 10 million East Bengali refugees entering India during the early months of the war
India declared war on Pakistan on December 3, 1971 after the latter attacked the former's air force bases on the west, The war was fought on two fronts — Western and Eastern, and East Pakistan was encircled within twelve days.
This war also revealed the great difference between how the Indian and Pakistan armies treated each other as enemies. The driver of a destroyed Pakistan tank captured by Indian Army personnel was cowering and when given tea by them. He broke down and cursed his officers and blurted out their misdeeds. In contrast, Lt. Chandavarkar, the youngest officer of the 45 Cavalry, was captured by the Pakistan Army, tied to a tree and for each question that was not answered, he lost a limb or organ. The JCO in charge chopped off his ear lobes, fingernails, toes, and fingers and finally gouged out his eyes before shooting him in the chest.
On December 16, 1971, Lt. Gen. Amir Abdullah Khan Niazi, General Officer Commanding-in Chief of the Eastern Command of the Pakistan Army, signed the instrument of surrender at the Ramna Racecourse in Dhaka with his Indian counterpart Lt. General Jagjit Singh Aurora.
Air Commodore A. K. Khandker, Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Bangladesh Armed Forces, and Major General J F R Jacob, Chief of Staff of the Indian Army's Eastern Command, witnessed the surrender. Also present were Vice Admiral Mohammad Sharif, commander of the Pakistan Navy's Eastern Command and Air Vice Marshal Patrick D. Callaghan of the Pakistan Air Force's Eastern Air Force Command. Lt. Gen. Aurora accepted the surrender without saying a word, while the crowd shouted anti-Niazi and anti-Pakistan slogans
The text of the surrender, now a public property of Indian, Bangladeshi and Pakistani governments, is on display at the National Museum in New Delhi, and reads:
The PAKISTAN Eastern Command agree to surrender all PAKISTAN Armed Forces in BANGLA DESH to Lieutenant-General JAGJIT SINGH AURORA, General Officer Commanding in Chief of Indian and BANGLA DESH forces in the Eastern Theatre. This surrender includes all PAKISTAN land, air and naval forces as also all para-military forces and civil armed forces. These forces will lay down their arms and surrender at the places where they are currently located to the nearest regular troops under the command of Lieutenant-General JAGJIT SINGH AURORA.
The PAKISTAN Eastern Command shall come under the orders of Lieutenant-General JAGJIT SINGH AURORA as soon as the instrument has been signed. Disobedience of orders will be regarded as a breach of the surrender terms and will be dealt with in accordance with the accepted laws and usages of war. The decision of Lieutenant-General JAGJIT SINGH AURORA will be final, should any doubt arise as to the meaning of interpretation of the surrender terms.
Lieutenant General JAGJIT SINGH AURORA gives a solemn assurance that personnel who surrender shall be treated with dignity and respect that soldiers are entitled to in accordance with provisions of the GENEVA Convention and guarantees the safety and well-being of all PAKISTAN military and para-military forces who surrender. Protection will be provided to foreign nationals, ethnic minorities and personnel of WEST PAKISTANI origin by the forces under the command of Lieutenant-General JAGJIT SINGH AURORA.
Signed (JAGJIT SINGH AURORA)
Lieutenant-General, General Officer Commanding in Chief
India and BANGLA DESH Forces in the Eastern Theatre
16 December 1971
Signed (AMIR ABDULLAH KHAN NIAZI)
Lieutenant-General, Martial Law Administrator Zone B and Commander Eastern Command (Pakistan)
16 December 1971
An interesting and very ironic incident prior to the surrender mentioned in Hassan Abbas' book, "Pakistan's drift into extremism: Allah, the army, and America's war on terror", reads:
On December 14, 1971. Major General Rao Farman Ali and Lieutenant General A.A.K. Niazi, the military commander in East Pakistan, asked the U.S. consul in Dhaka (capital of East Pakistan) to transmit a surrender proposal to New Delhi. Before forwarding the proposal, the U.S. ambassador in Islamabad was instructed by Washington to get approval from Yahya. The foreign secretary. Sultan Ahmed, speaking on behalf of the president of Pakistan, gave the necessary approval. Yahya Khan did not have time to attend to this matter personally. On the eve of Pakistan's surrender he was giving a party in his newly constructed house in Peshawar." One of the few guests was Mrs. Shamim, known as "Black Pearl," the Bengali beauty who was Yahya's latest sexual af?liate and whom he had recently appointed as Pakistan's ambassador to Austria. As drinks ?owed, so did the affair go progressively nude? It was when the whole party was drunk and unattired, except for Major General Ishaque, Yahya's military secretary, that "Black Pearl" wished to go home. The president insisted that he would drive her personally, both of them stark naked. General Ishaque could not save Pakista, but he did manage to knock enough sense into the sizzled head of a fun loving president to put him into his pants. Thus coincided the housewarming of the president's house with the surrender in East Pakistan.
The cruel inhuman conduct of Pakistani officers of their troops was in sharp contrast to the manner in which Indian Army treated Pakistan prisoners of war (PsOW). The 93,000 Pak PsOW were totally surprised at the humane treatment they got in their POW camps in India, as promised before their surrender by then Indian Army Chief, Gen, later Field Marshal, S H F J Manekshaw. Twice after the 1971 war, he visited Pakistan for Delineation Talks. In one of them, at Lahore, as he was departing after being hosted by the Governor of Punjab province, one of the employees at the Governor's House placed his turban at Manekshaw's feet. In chaste Punjabi when Sam told him 'this turban should be on your head, not at my feet', the man emotionally replied that it was there to thank him for the well being of five of his sons serving in the Pakistan Army and all being held as PsOW in India, in humane conditions with prisoners pay, beds to sleep on, even when Indian Army personnel were facing a shortage of the same and provision to write letters home, which he was receiving from all of them. His parting words, much to the embarrassment of the Governor and Pakistani officials were '.we will never again say that Indians are bad'.
The views expressed in the above article are that of Col (Retired) Anil Bhat.(ANI)