How India Saved Bangladesh from Pakistani Dictatorship in 1971

“It’s no use crying over spilled milk, because all of the forces of the universe were bent on spilling it.”
W. Somerset Maugham, Of Human Bondage

Few would have anticipated that on a chilling Thursday, a nation was about to be born. Reading Beyond Freedom And Dignity, December 16, 1971, saw an end to ruthless butchery and decade-long conflict in the eastern part of Pakistan, now called Bangladesh. Gujarat elections are hailing, and so are the sentiments on social media, approving or dismissing Modi’s comment on top leaders of Congress including ex-Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh’s patriotic sense. And I suppose this could be an avenue where we might trace the historical role India played under Congress regime, in particular, a period 46 years ago, December 16th, 1971: Vijay Diwas.

Credits:- jrn

A History of Conflicts: Smuggled under religious premises

Historical catastrophes have little significance but for those who survive it. Being in war-threatening times, when elections are pooled with symbolic hatred and violence erupts over the inheritance of Christ’s birthplace, an expression of conflict of cultures is only getting stronger. Whether political, socioeconomic or whimsical reasons can ablaze a nation to the extent of genocide is no question for us to ask. From Armenia to Prague and Kazakhstan, We have a history of national bloodshed. The Indian subcontinent has experienced two of such mass-slaughters. First, after India-Pakistan partition in 1947 and then, a continuous spectrum of genocide in East Pakistan, it seems we have much to learn from the past, lest we repeat them.

Credits:-Dawn

Irrefutable to many historians, Pakistan was created keeping the common religion of its population in mind. Entangling a vast geographical and cultural/ethnic mass, the founders of Pakistan hoped that being Muslim was a fair and sufficient requisite to glue the country together. As it turned out pretty soon, the premise was ill-intended and wasn’t accepted by Pakistan nationalists. Speaking of the situation that prevailed in Pakistan post-1947, Salman Rushdie understood the Shame as “a failure of the dreaming mind perhaps the place was just insufficiently imagined”.

Before each crime lies the malice in the heart.

What are individuals when deprived of a shared civilization and cultural practices? Whilst the (West) Pakistan endured civil strives from insurgency in Balochistan to the much-spoken Kashmir issue, East Pakistanis were deliberately deprived of their Bengali inheritance. Wrote Samuel Huntington, “the fault lines between civilizations will be the battle lines for future”. But was it for the first time that Pakistan political leadership implemented divisive and coercive methods to constrain the public?

Much credited for his poetry and political ambitions, Allama Iqbal argued for the formation of a separate Muslim state in his presidential address in the Muslim League Annual Session at Allahabad in 1930. Of course, he wasn’t keen on including Bengal in the would-be Muslim country. Just to keep facts straight, remember when Choudhary Rahmat Ali, a Cambridge alumni, named the new Muslim State on the basis of P (Punjab), A (Afghanistan), K (Kashmir), S (Sindh) and Tan (Balochistan), ultimately integrated as Pakistan.

Credits:- Dawn

It was, however, on the insistence of A K Fazlul Haq, the Chief Minister of Bengal, that Muslim League Annual Session at Lahore (1940) considered including the Muslim-majority regions of East Bengal as a part of Pakistan. Made official in 1946, Sir Cyril Radcliff draw the borders that separated Pakistan (including East Bengal) from Indian sovereignty. Was the homogeneity of religion able overcome the impediments created by the diversity of culture in Pakistan though? The answer came no sooner than the British were gone and India gained political stability.

A Gamble Politically Misplaced

Much has been written to destroy Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s political ideology both in India and West. Yet, when it comes to delivering the presidential address, Jinnah seemed to be in tune with Nehru, soon to become the Mughal of Indian Parliament. On August 11th, 1947, Jinnah asserts: “You may belong to any religion or caste or creed — that has nothing to do with the business of the state. We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one state.

Fair enough. Or so did the Bengali community think for a while. Take a few years ahead and Urdu is declared as an official language in Pakistan, and Bengali was removed from the approved subjects by order of Pakistan Public Service Commission. Similar ludicrous attempts were made to de-sanskritize Bengali language and the educators of Pakistan undertook programs to teach Bengali through the Arabic script. Even though Tagore, an icon of nationalism and intellectual mysticism was an internationally-admired Nobel laureate, the Ayub-Government banned his poetry for being non-Muslim.

Given the fact that merely 7.2% population of Pakistan spoke Urdu, Bengalis saw the Government’s bias towards Urdu as an attack on their culture, and protested against it. Dealing with stern hands, Police in Dhaka gunned down five young men on February 21st, 1952 thus igniting the fire that burned the Radcliffe-designed Pakistani map forever.

Credits:- Dawn

Situations went from bad to worse throughout the coming decades. East Pakistanis were deemed to be socially inferior and less-Muslims as they shared lineage with Bengali culture. Amidst countless incidents of plunders and violence, Ayub Khan pushed the boundaries too far by instigating the army of Pakistan to rape Bengali women in order to mutate the so-assumed Hindu Bengali gene.

Credits:- Dawn

Describing the incidents that followed, GW Choudhary blames Pakistan for not realizing that “nations are made up of human beings where deep feelings about such questions as their languages cannot be safely ignored. Pakistan’s attempt to impose uniformity where diversity was desirable had unfortunate consequences”. Little did the Ayub-led Pakistani Government know that East Pakistan connected with Tagore and Bengali culture more than it did to its Islamic religion. The Urdu speakers in Pakistan have increased to be no more than 7.5%, and Tagore’s Amar Sonar Bangla Ami tomai bhalobashi became the national anthem of Bangladesh quick after they parted with Pakistan.

An Insightful India that Turned the Tables

We won’t go into the horrible details of how East Pakistani mass was tortured, but this surely had an imposing impact on India, the closest refuge to the victims. Supported by political stakeholders, Punjabi establishment forces in Pakistan left little to the imagination when it came to brutalizing the Bengali compatriots. Notable for his power-abuses, General Tikka Khan, the martial law administrator of East Pakistan soon earned the infamous reputation of being the butcher of Bangladesh.

Credits:- Dunyanews

And while George Harrison of the Beatles organised a concert for Bangladesh, the US and other world powers, turned a blind eye to what was happening in East Pakistan. When the deprived people lost their voice, the world forum would have kept a diplomatic distance from the issue forever, had India not intervened. Observing massacres and human exploitations, India not only provided a generous home to millions of refugees (and refugees still enter India through Bangladesh, legally or otherwise), but also thundered destruction on Pakistani army in East Bengal.

Credits:- Dawn

It wasn’t an India of today that ensures the electoral gimmicks manufactured by a self-proclaimed messiah of valor. It was an India led by Mrs. Indira Gandhi, a woman Prime Minister, supported by Jagjivan Ram, a Dalit Defence Minister who rightly was the first generation achiever after centuries of prejudice, and a military strength humbled by a defeat just a few years ago. Yet India dared to stop the war crimes in East Pakistan, forcing the Pakistani armyto sign the Instrument of Surrender.

Credits:- Dawn

Today’s when Pakistani army troops surrendered in Dhaka 46 years ago. Soon Bangladesh was formed as an independent nation and for all that matters, Bangladesh is happy to share the Vijay Diwas, thanks to Indian military and decisive leadership under Mrs. Indira Gandhi.

The story of the emergence of Bangladesh is particularly important to developmental theorists as Bangladesh has done extremely well in its free years. Steady export growth in the garment sector combined with remittances from overseas Bangladeshis — which totalled about $15 billion and 8% of GDP in 2015 — are key contributors to Bangladesh’s sustained economic growth and rising foreign exchange reserves. Literacy, healthcare, stable political leadership and of course a far-better economic condition than Pakistan, Bangladesh has turned tides in its favor, unlike Pakistan which suffersfrom the misrule of an impotent civil government, the paranoia of an omnipotent military and intelligence network, and the terror of radical Islam.

And yet, the date isn’t about military conquest or political pursuits. December 16 has more to do with the principles of democracy and protection of human rights against a tyrant dictatorship. For sure, Vijay Divas is a national moment of thanksgiving to countless soldiers that got India the most comprehensive military triumph anywhere since World War II. It has to do with the integral fabric of Indian spirit that stands in support for what it thought was right, never mind if it has to face odds.

Today’s when Pakistani army troops surrendered in Dhaka 46 years ago. Soon Bangladesh was formed as an independent nation and for all that matters, Bangladesh is happy to share the Vijay Diwas, thanks to Indian military and decisive leadership under Mrs. Indira Gandhi.

The story of the emergence of Bangladesh is particularly important to developmental theorists as Bangladesh has done extremely well in its free years. Steady export growth in the garment sector combined with remittances from overseas Bangladeshis — which totalled about $15 billion and 8% of GDP in 2015 — are key contributors to Bangladesh’s sustained economic growth and rising foreign exchange reserves. Literacy, healthcare, stable political leadership and of course a far-better economic condition than Pakistan, Bangladesh has turned tides in its favor, unlike Pakistan which suffersfrom the misrule of an impotent civil government, the paranoia of an omnipotent military and intelligence network, and the terror of radical Islam.

And yet, the date isn’t about military conquest or political pursuits. December 16 has more to do with the principles of democracy and protection of human rights against a tyrant dictatorship. For sure, Vijay Divas is a national moment of thanksgiving to countless soldiers that got India the most comprehensive military triumph anywhere since World War II. It has to do with the integral fabric of Indian spirit that stands in support for what it thought was right, never mind if it has to face odds.