Intro: Lasting 13 days, the Indo-Pakistan (Bangladesh war) is considered one of the shortest wars in history. Independent researchers though say that between 3,00,000 and 5,00,000 died. The Bangladesh government puts the figure at three million.
It all started with Operation Searchlight, a planned military operation that was carried out by the Pakistan Army on 25 March, 1971 to curb the Bengali nationalist movement by taking control of the major cities. In an attempt to crush forces seeking independence for East Pakistan, the West Pakistani military regime unleashed a systematic campaign of mass murder which aimed at killing millions of Bengalis, and they likely succeeded in doing so. The operation also began the 1971 Bangladesh atrocities. The systematic killings served only to enrage the Bengalis, which ultimately resulted in the secession of East Pakistan later in December, 1971.
The cost of freedom is always high, and Bengali people paid it during 1971 ‘Operation Searchlight’. The war that began in East Pakistan broke out in March 1971. Pakistan became an anomaly after partition as its eastern wing was separated from western wing by almost 1000 Km. People of eastern Pakistan were considered as second class citizen by the western, supreme commander of Pakistani forces and were referred to as a “low-lying land of low lying people”. The western part of Pakistan deprived the eastern part from its rights, and economic and political suppression of the region was at helm. We can figure out from reports published by planning commission of Pakistan that western Pakistan received more money from common budget.
In order to gain economic as well as political freedom, people from eastern part started movement against the western part. Offensive operation searchlight started by Pakistani army was a planned attack against civilian in which, Western Pakistani forces murdered 2.4 million Hindus.
Atrocities of 1971 war
Pakistani authority ordered its troops to kill Hindus and Kafirs in an explicit order. Operation searchlight was nothing but an operation to eliminate Hindu population and was aimed at suppressing Bengali Nationalist movement. As confessed by a Pakistani Soldier “……..we were told to kill the Hindus and Kafirs (non-believer in God). One day in June, we cordoned a village and were ordered to kill the Kafirs in that area. We found all the village women reciting from the Holy Quran, and the men holding special congregational prayers seeking God’s mercy. But they were unlucky. Our commanding officer ordered us not to waste any time.” “….It is Sheikh Mujibur Rehman’s (a Bengali novelist) home district. Kill as many bastards as you can and make sure there is no Hindu left alive”, I was ordered, told Colonel Nadir Ali, retired Pakistan Army Officer, Punjabi poet and short story writer.
During genocidal war against humanity women often become commodity. Gen AA Khan Niazi once said “You cannot expect a man to live, fight, and die in East Pakistan and go to Jhelum for sex, would you?” Evidence suggests that Western army murdered 2.4 million Hindus and raped 200,000 Hindu women.
Western media was biased during the 1971 war as USA was favoring Pakistan in the war against humanity as well as against India. According to New York Times (3/28/71) 10,000 people were killed; New York Times (3/29/71) 5,000-7,000 people were killed in Dhaka; The Sydney Morning Herald (3/29/71) 10,000-100,000 killed; New York Times (4/1/71) 35,000 killed in Dhaka during operation searchlight. But as per RJ Rummel figures were different then, and the biased coverage may be attributed to the fact that USA was supporting the genocide against Humanity: The human death toll over only 267 days was incredible. Just to give for five out of the eighteen districts some incomplete statistics published in Bangladesh newspapers or by an Inquiry Committee, the Pakistani army killed 1,00,000 Bengalis in Dacca, 1,50,000 in Khulna, 75,000 in Jessore, 95,000 in Comilla, and 1,00,000 in Chittagong. For eighteen districts the total is 12,47,000 killed. This was an incomplete toll, and to this day no one really knows the final toll. Some estimates of the democide [RJ Rummel’s book “Death by Government”] are much lower—one indicates 3,00,000 dead- but most range from 1 million to 3 million.… The Pakistani army and allied paramilitary groups killed about one out of every sixty one people in Pakistan overall; one out of every twenty-five Bengalis, Hindus, and others in East Pakistan. If the rate of killing for all of Pakistan is analysed over the years, when the Yahya martial law regime was in power (March 1969 to December 1971), then this one regime was more lethal than that of the Soviet Union, China under the communists, or Japan under the military (even through World War II). (Rum-mel, Death By Government, p. 33.)
Champion of “Human rights allied with Killers”
Samuel P Huntington in his magnum opus “The Clash of Civilizations” said that “The West won the world not by the superiority of its ideas or values or religion (to which few members of other civilisations were converted) but rather by its superiority in applying organized violence. Westerners often forget this fact; non-Westerners never do.
Yes Samuel is true, when we look at events of History. USA falls in such category-often referred to as champion of human rights often sponsored genocide against humanity. One such sponsorship was exposed when Gary J Bass published “The Blood Telegram”, that exposes the role of US President Nixon and his National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger.
World record in Killing
The Guinness Book of Records lists the Bangladesh Genocide as one of the top 5 genocides in the 20th century. The largest genocide during the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971 occurred in Chuknagar which is a small business town located in the Dumuria Thana of Khulna district and is close to the India Bangladesh border. In 71’, thousands of refugees gathered in Chuknagar to go to Kolkata. According to an account around ten thousand people were in Chuknagar waiting to cross the border when they were killed by Western Pakistani troops.
(Source: Muntassir Mamun, the Archive of Liberation War, Bangabandhu and Bangladesh Research Institute)
US deployed its seventh fleet against India. The Seventh fleet was stationed in the Gulf of Tonkin. It was led by USS Enterprise, a 75000 ton nuclear powered aircraft carrier, the world’s largest warship with 70 fighters and bombers. US also tried hard to ensure Chinese support to Pakistan.
In response to USA’s seventh fleet, Russia (India’s friend) deployed its nuclear fleet under the command of Admiral Vladimir Kruglyakov, the Commander of the 10th Operative Battle Group (Pacific Fleet). Russia ordered its commander to prevent US attack against Indian military object.
Russians also played a very important role in curbing the Chinese from joining the war, though US president Nixon tried very hard to ensure Chinese support to Pakistan. Every military mastermind never goes for war on multiple fronts against enemy. But war with Pakistan meant two fronts with risk of the third front if China joined hands with Pakistan or adopts the policy- “The enemy of my enemy is my friend”. During 1971 war, Pakistan assured about opening third front against India. Pakistan’s foreign minister at that time, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto said in Parliament “In the event of war, Pakistan would not be alone. Pakistan would be helped by the most powerful nation in Asia. War between India and Pakistan involves the territorial integrity and security of the largest State in Asia.” (ZA Bhutto, Foreign Minister, Pakistan, in the National Assembly; July 17, 1963)
Sri Lanka’s Betrayal
Sri Lanka helped Pakistan throughout 1971 war; it allowed Pakistani aircrafts for refueling at the Bandaranaike airport. It came to light when Pakistani high commissioner in Colombo, Seema Ilahi Baloch said “We in Pakistan cannot forget the logistical and political support Sri Lanka extended to us in 1971 when it opened its refueling facilities for us.”
Grand Victory by Indian Army
On the evening of 3rd December 1971, Pakistani Air Force launched pre-emptive air strikes on the forward bases and radar installation of Indian Air Force under operation code name “Chengiz Khan” inspired by Israeli Operation Focus. At 17:53 hrs Indian cities Pathankot, Amritsar, Srinagar, Awantipur and Faridkot were under attack by Pakistani air force, within few hours the Pakistani Air Force dropped 183 bombs over 12 target runways. Almost all major Indian air force bases were under attack. In the midnight Indian Prime minister addressed the nation on radio and thereafter the India Air Force hit back at Pakistan Air Bases.
Pakistan Navy started its naval operation on both eastern and western front. In response to Pakistan Naval attack in western part, Indian Navy, under the command of SN Kohli attacked Karachi’s airport under operation code name “Trident” on 4 and 5 December. Operation “Trident” was followed by operation Python on the night of 8-9 December completely damaged Pakistan’s Navy capability to fight in western front. In eastern front, Indian Navy under the command of Krishnan blocked Pakistan Navy in the Bay of Bengal, INS Vikrant was deployed and Sea Hawk fighter attacked Eastern Pakistan Navy. PNS Ghazi sank off near the eastern cost of India. On 9 December, PNS Hangor sank the Indian Navy INS Khukri in the Arabian Sea. Indian Navy lost 18 brave offices and 176 brave sailors. Then captain Mahendra Nath Mulla showed undiluted heroism by choosing to go down with the sinking ship and passed his life-jacket to a junior officer. Pakistani Army as per Pakistan scholars lost one third of its fighting capability back then.
Pakistan infantry also launched ground operation against India. In Western front, Indian Army responded quickly and captured 14000 square Km of enemy territory, which returned to Pakistan in the Shimla Agreement of 1972. It was western sector where Indian solider outnumbered in the ratio 1:16 fought against Pakistan army in the Battle of Longewala (4–7 December 1971) under the command of Major Kuldip Singh Chandpuri.
Indian Army joined hands with Mukti Bahini-a term which refers to all Bengali resistance that fought against the Pakistan Army during the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971- to form the Mitro Bahini on eastern front. Indian army opened multiple posts on eastern front to capture the centre of gravity “Dhaka”, so that less blood bleeds on battle field. Lieutenant General Jagjit Singh Aurora, who commanded the eighth, twenty-third, and fifty-seventh divisions, led the Indian attack into East Pakistan. On 16 December, the Pakistani forces stationed in East Pakistan surrendered. Lt Gen AAK Niazi, signed the instrument of surrender on 16 December 1971 in the presence of Lt. Gen. Aurora. Table-1 mentioned below shows the number of Prisoners of War (PoW) by India.
Shimla agreement another failure of Foreign Policy
With the sign of instrument of surrender on 16th December 1971, India won a decisive victory over traditional rival Pakistan. It was a war forced over India by Pakistan and to defend motherland the army fought to last breath and last bullet. India took over 96,000 Prisoners of War (PoW). Later, in gesture of good faith than Prime Minister Indira Gandhi signed an agreement with Pakistan on 2nd July 1972 at Shimla also known as Shimla Agreement. India returned the territory captured during war along with Prisoners of War. India released all PoWs; Pakistan on the other hand, released only 617 Indian PoWs while holding back 54 PoWs. It was one of the blunders that haunt India till date. Life of bravest Indian soldiers went in vain; our political master failed to take leverage of thousands of PoW and captured territory.
Hitesh Rangra (The writer is a social media activist and political commentator)