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The sheaves of eyewitness accounts, documented in this book, prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that the massacre of West Pakistanis, Biharis and other non-Bengalis in East Pakistan had begun long before the Pakistan Army took punitive action against the rebels late in the night of March 25, 1971. It is also crystal clear that the Awami League’s terror machine was the initiator and executor of the genocide against the non-Bengalis which exterminated at least half a million of them in less than two months of horror and trauma. Many witnesses have opined that the federal Government acted a bit too late against the insurgents. The initial success of the federal military action is proved by the fact that in barely 30 days, the Pakistan Army, with a combat strength of 38,717 officers and men in East Pakistan, had squelched the Awami League’s March-April, 1971, rebellion all over the province.
The rebellion was master-minded, by the hardcore, pro-India leadership of the Awami League, a regional political party which initially campaigned for provincial autonomy but subsequently espoused the secession of the eastern province from the federal union. The Awami League had won the majority of seats reserved for the province of East Pakistan in the constitution-making National Assembly and the East Pakistan Legislative Assembly in the countrywide December, 1970, general elections. But it had no legislative support in the four provinces of West Pakistan. In wooing the electorate in East Pakistan before the polls, the Awami League committed itself to the concept of a single Pakistani nationhood by proclaiming in its election manifesto “Pakistan shall be a federation, granting full autonomy to each of the federating units”. Having secured the confidence of the majority of the voters in East Pakistan on the platform of autonomy within the framework of a united Pakistan, the militant ruling caucus in the Awami League took to the path of rebellion and secession of East Pakistan from the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. It unloosed terrible orgies of killing and destructicn of the non-Bengali ethnic minority to which the generic name of Biharis was given by their tormentors. After the federal Army crushed the Awami League’s revolt, most of its hardcore leaders and followers sought sanctuary in India’s protective lap and invoked its massive military and financial support for their secessionist campaign.
Seizing it as the golden opportunity of the century to undo Pakistan, India used the Bengali rebels, it had trained and armed, for the war of attrition against Pakistan in its eastern wing for some nine months. After the Bengali guerrillas had been used by India as cannon fodder to soften the Pakistani defences in East Pakistan, Indian tanks, guns and troops rolled over the border on November 22, 1971, to accomplish India’s armed grab of East Pakistan and the establishment of its client state of Bangladesh. India’s Bengali surrogates, who operated the Indian-propped, Calcutta-based Government of Bangladesh, were installed in Dacca as the new rulers of Bangladesh on December 17, 1971 by the victorious Indian Army. On January 8, 1972, President Bhutto of Pakistan freed Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and sent him from Rawalpindi in a PIA Boeing to London en route to Dacca where he took over the leadership of the new Bengali state. He made a public declaration, soon after his return to Dacca, that for the past quarter of a century he had been working for the separation and independence of Pakistan’s eastern wing.
The Government of Pakistan had issued, belatedly, in August 1971, a White Paper on the East Pakistan crisis which gave a chronological synopsis of the macabre happenings in East Pakistan during the murderous months of March and April, 1971. It gave the following rationale for the federal military action in East Pakistan against the Awami League secessionists and their rebel cohorts:
“On the night of March 25/26, a few hours before the Awami League plan for an armed uprising and launching of the independent Republic of Bangladesh was to be put into effect, the President of Pakistan called upon the Armed forces to do their duty and fully restore the authority of the Government in East Pakistan...........
“The federal army took the initiative and thwarted the Awami League plan for the armed takeover of East Pakistan through armed infiltrators from India and subverted elements in the East Bengal Regiment, East Pakistan Rifles, the police and Para-military forces...........”
The White Paper bared these highlights of the Awami League’s operational plan for the armed revolt in East Pakistan which was due to be triggered full-blast in the small hours of March 26, 1971:
a) Troops of the East Bengal Regiment would occupy Dacca and Chittagong to prevent the landing of Pakistan Army units by air or sea;
b) the remaining troops of the East Bengal Regiment, with the help of the East Pakistan Rifles, the police and the armed Razakaars (Volunteer Corps) would swiftly move to eliminate the federal armed forces in various cantonments and stations;
c) the East Pakistan Rifles would occupy all the key posts of the border and keep them open for aid from outside;
d) requirements of more arms and ammunition would be met with supplies from India, and
e) Indian troops would come to the assistance of the Awami League rebel force once it succeeded in the first phase of occupying key centres and paralysing the Pakistan Army.
What Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and his pro-India caucus in the Awami League failed to achieve in March because of the daring, pre-emptive strike by the federal Army was accomplished for them by their Indian benefactors in the third week of December, 1971. The secession plan was in fact conceived in June, 1964. when the Sheikh and his associates, according to the prosecution’s charge-sheet in the secessionist Agartala conspiracy trial of 1968, held their first major conspiratorial conclave in Dacca in the house of Tajuddin Ahmed — the hardliner whom India made, in April, 1971, the Prime Minister of the Indian sponsored and Indian-financed Government of Bangladesh in Calcutta. According to the prosecution’s charge-sheet, it was in this meeting of the conspirators that the name of Bangladesh was coined for the independent Bengali state that was to be established in East Pakistan with Indian funds and arms. It was also in this meeting that the design of the flag of Bangladesh, which Sheikh Mujibur Rahman saw ceremoniously, unfurled at a Dacca rally on March 23, 1971, was presented for approval. The Sheikh was not exonerated of the charges of secession levelled against him in the Agartala conspiracy case; the trial was abandoned in February 1969, by the Ayub regime under political pressure from opposition parties. In the election year of 1970, India’s clandestine financial support to the Awami League was a major factor in the party’s affluence and its well-lubricated, highly efficient organizational apparatus.
The Awami League employed fascist techniques in its operations for power grab. Its leaders and their followers used strong-arm methods to terrorise their rival parties. All through the election year of 1970, scores of attacks by the Awami Leaguers on their political adversaries were reported in the press. The Awami League had won over a section of the Bengali bureaucracy in East Pakistan with lavish promises of speedy promotions and other fringe benefits once it came to power. Unlike its political rivals, the Awami League suffered from no shortage of funds. Money flowed into its coffers from generous India. It also enjoyed a rich harvest of protection money from the West Pakistani industrialists who owned factories in East Pakistan and who thought that bribing the Awami League was an insurance against labour tantrums. An excellent organizer, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had no difficulty in recruiting into his militant outfit tough young men specially trained in breaking up meetings, manhandling opponents and in other cloak-and-dagger tactics of political combat. The Awami League’s leadership showed a fascist intolerance for the Opposition and had no qualms of conscience in ruthlessly liquidating its rivals. The ouster of Mrs. Amena Begum, a one-time President of the Awami League, from the party at the behest of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman is one of the many examples of the Nazi-style manner in which he ran the Awami League. Even the organizational set-up of the Awami League, during nearly two decades of its operation, did not substantiate the party’s pretensions to democracy. The Awami League’s public meetings were organized as massive displays of its political strength in Dacca. The party cadres used to hire hundreds of trucks and even charter train services for transporting villagers to Dacca to pack the audience ranks in the public meetings and rallies of the Awami League.
The theme song of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and his firebrands was invariably the charge of exploitation of East Pakistan by West Pakistan. Typical of the highly emotive and inflammatory speeches with which Sheikh Mujibur Rahman injected animus against West Pakistan in the minds of his Bengali supporters was his speech at Hazaribagh Park on March 11, 1970 when he accused West Pakistan of looting the wealth of East Pakistan. Aside from preaching hymns of hate against West Pakistan, the leaders of the Awami League mis-represented to the people in East Pakistan every action of the federal authorities and distorted facts and figures to buttress their arguments for autonomy bordering on virtual independence. After the cyclone tragedy of November 1970 in the coastal belt of East Pakistan, the Awami League leaders and their newspaper mouthpieces invented countless false charges of callousness and misappropriation of aid for the cyclone sufferers against the federal officials posted in the province.
The charge against the Awami League leaders that while they wooed the electorate in 1970 on the platform of autonomy, after their electoral success in East Pakistan, they shifted their position and demanded a virtually independent Bangladesh has substance in it. The first point of the Awami League’s six-point programme of autonomy categorically said that “the character of the Government shall be federal and parliamentary”, implying that Pakistan would be a federation and not a confederation, In his election speeches in 1970, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman assured the voters that he wanted only provincial autonomy and not the disintegration of Pakistan or any dilution of its Islamic character. On September 21, 1970, in a public address at Narayanganj, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman said:
“The six-point programme would be realised and at the same time neither the integrity of Pakistan nor Islam would be jeopardised.”
After the Awami League’s electoral victory in East Pakistan in December 1970, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s speeches betrayed signs of a shift in his autonomy stance. He declared bluntly that his six points were not negotiable. It appeared that he had started toying with the idea of making his Bangladesh an independent state. The draft constitution, which his constitutional experts wrote early in 1971 with the object of railroading it through the National Assembly soon after its convocation, sought to whittle down the powers of the federal government to such an extent that Pakistan would then have been a confederation of virtually independent states and not a federation. Two of its well-known provisions, which militated against all canons of federalism, were that (a) the federal government would handle foreign affairs minus foreign trade and aid, and (b) all federal taxes would be collected by the provincial governments and not by the federal government. Such provisions are alien to the concept of federalism and do not exist in the constitution of any truly federal state. The Awami League’s proposal for two separate constituent conventions “for the purpose of framing constitutions for the state of Bangladesh and for the states of West Pakistan” was undoubtedly a constitutional formula for the eventual secession of East Pakistan from the fold of the federation. Under this constitutional formula, the Awami League demanded for Bangladesh the power to sign treaties and agreements of foreign trade and aid in total disregard of the federal government and to maintain trade representatives overseas. This was the platform of independence, not of provincial autonomy. The rigid stand of the Awami League leaders and their refusal to budge even an inch from their demand for virtual independence for Bangladesh wrecked the constitutional talks in Dacca in the third week of March 1971.
General Yahya Khan’s postponement of the National Assembly’s inaugural session, scheduled for March 3, 1971, was a temporary measure. It was intended to give more time to the political leaders to devise a consensus on the form and shape of the proposed constitution instead of openly wrangling in the forum of the National Assembly. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman over-reacted to the temporary postponement of the National Assembly’s session and hastily took to the path of rebellion against the federal government and usurped the authority of the lawfully-established government in East Pakistan. It is a tragedy of the grimmest dimension that because of the Awami League’s chauvinism and power lust, millions of innocent people in East Pakistan suffered the most dreadful trauma in sub-continental history.
India’s support to the Awami League encouraged Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in his bid to wrest the reins of power in East Pakistan from the federal government through the majesty of force and terror. India’s rulers have not reconciled themselves to the reality of Pakistan as a separate, sovereign state. Muslim-majority Pakistan has been a constant eyesore for Hindu-majority India. One of the reasons for India’s all-out support to Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and his secessionist movement was spelled out in mid-1971 by the Chairman of India’s Institute of Public Affairs, Mr. R. R. Kapur, a retired senior officer of the Indian Civil Service, in these words:
“Our support to Mujibur Rahman is based, let us be candid enough, on our sub-conscious hate complex of Pakistan. Platonically, we may plead all virtue but the harsh reality is that Pakistan was wrested from us, and its basis — the two nations’ theory — has never been palatable to us. If something ever happens which proves the unsoundness of that theory, it will be a matter of psychological satisfaction to us. That is, by and large, our national psyche and it is in that context that we have reacted to a happening which, we think, may well disrupt Pakistan.....”
There is ample evidence to prove that India was sending weapons and ammunition and armed infiltrators into East Pakistan to help the Awami League cadres long before the federal military intervention of March 25, 1971. India’s rulers had massed more than 100,000 crack troops in West Bengal since early March under the pretext of maintaining law and order during the elections in that stare. In mid-March, more Indian army formations were moved to West Bengal and deployed on the borders of East Pakistan to boost the morale of the Awami League insurrectionists. Late in March, 1971, at least eight battalions of the Indian Border Security Force gave active support to the Awami League rebels in the border belt. It was India which organised the burlesque of installing the government of Bangladesh in exile in the first week of April in an Indian border village. To provide an operational base to its protégé Bangladesh Government, the Indian authorities manipulated the seizure of Pakistan’s diplomatic and consular mission in Calcutta by a handful of defectors and handed it over to the secessionist fugitives from East Pakistan.
India would have attacked East Pakistan in April 1971, to establish Bangladesh by force but the Indian Army generals counselled their Prime Minister, Mrs. Indira Gandhi, against what then was to them a hazardous and precipitate action. They preferred the winter for a blitz attack on East Pakistan because Pakistan’s access routes to China would then be snowed up. They also wanted time to mobilise their armed forces for a full-scale war with Pakistan and to train the Bengali defectors in guerrilla warfare to soften the Pakistani defences in East Pakistan before the actual Indian invasion. The Indian Generals, according to the “Lightning Campaign” by Major-General D. K. Palit, also urged the Indian Prime Minister to eliminate the possibility of Chinese or American intervention in support of Pakistan. In eight months of frenzied preparations, India’s rulers succeeded in priming their war machine for the blitz attack on East Pakistan. They signed the Indo-Soviet alliance in August 1971 to neutralise the danger of Chinese intervention in a sub-continental war. They bamboozled American public opinion with exaggerated accounts of the refugee influx and turned it against Pakistan to ensure that no American weapons would flow into Pakistan.
India trained nearly 100,000 East Pakistan Bengalis in guerrilla warfare. Their harassing raids, sabotage and a virtual war of attrition bled Pakistan economically and weakened it under the strain of a costly anti-insurgency operation. In spire of Pakistan’s repeated offers to take back all the refugees who had gone to India, India’s rulers deliberately did not permit them to return to East Pakistan because that would have deprived India of a deceptively humanitarian excuse, initially, to milk the world for hundreds of millions of dollars in compassionate aid, and subsequently, to invade East Pakistan.
The refugees gave India its most powerful weapon in psychological warfare. By inflating their number from a million in May to more then nine million in November 1971, India deceived world opinion and gave Pakistan a bad name all over the world. India was allergic to Pakistan’s demand for a count of the refugees in India by an impartial agency, such as the United Nations. It did not accept Pakistan’s claim that only 2.02 million people had left East Pakistan due to the civil strife.
The Indian authorities deliberately encouraged the vast hordes of unemployed Bengalis, who swarm Calcutta and its neighbourhood, to move into the refugee camps as inmates so that the population of these camps could be magnified to impress and mislead foreign visitors and United Nations officials. If the Indian Government was so overburdened with tile refugees from East Pakistan, it could have promptly negotiated with the Pakistan Government their speedy return to their hearths and homes in East Pakistan, especially when the Pakistan authorities were anxious to take them back and a general amnesty had been granted to those who looted and killed during the Awami League’s March 1971 uprising. India’s rulers uttered haughty words to tell the world that they would allow the Bengali refugees to return to East Pakistan only when the province was turned over to the Awami League secessionists. A Goebbels-style propaganda machinery, which drugged the Indian people for weeks with the fiction of Pakistani General Tikka Khan’s imaginary death in the last days of March 1971, had no qualms of conscience in inflating the number of refugees to earn more money and sympathy from gullible nations and individuals and to malign its arch enemy, Pakistan.
Pakistan agreed to the United Nations Secretary-General’s proposal in the autumn of 1971 for the stationing of monitors on the India-East Pakistan border but the Indian Government contemptuously rejected it. The UN observers would have bared the fact of India’s military patronage, sanctuary and logistic support to the Bengali guerrillas and India’s massive preparations for the invasion of East Pakistan.
India’s claim that it had maintained a complete record of the incoming refugees was a mere fiction. After the federal army went into action against the Bengali rebels on March 25, 1971, India opened its borders to provide sanctuary to the hordes of fleeing rebels from East Pakistan. They were the killers who had enacted one of the bloodiest pogroms of modem times. Subsequently India encouraged more Bengalis in East Pakistan, especially the Hindus, to cross over to India. In June 1971, when United Nations officials wanted to check on the veracity of the Indian figures on refugees, the Indian authorities hurriedly fabricated some records and registers. When these fictitious documents did not fully substantiate the Indian claim of the millions of refugees India said had come over from East Pakistan, Indian officials blandly said that a few million refugees had gone to live with their friends all over India. India’s rulers found it to their immense advantage to magnify the extent of human displacement to attract international sympathy, attention and funds and to discredit Pakistan and its army.
In the months just before and after India and Pakistan attained independence in August 1947, some eight million Muslims migrated from India to Pakistan and six million Hindus migrated from Pakistan to India owing to Hindu-Muslim religious rioting in the two countries. Involving some 14 million people, this was the biggest trans-border migration of peoples in human history. India and Pakistan accomplished their rehabilitation and resettlement in their respective territories without any outside assistance. In 1971, India invented the excuse of its refugee burden to invade and grab East Pakistan. It defies human comprehension how all the nine million refugees India claimed it was hosting vanished in less than a month’s time. Indian propagandists claimed that all the Bengali refugees lodged in West Bengal, Assam and Tripura had returned and were resettled in their hearths and homes in East Pakistan (breakaway Bangladesh) in less than a month after India’s military seizure of the province on December 17, 1971. The movement of nine million human beings from the neighbouring states of India to Bangladesh, across mine-infested border tracts, shell-scarred roads, polluted wells and rotting dead bodies in barely three weeks, is beyond the pail of human achievement. But this is precisely what India’s propagandists want the world to believe in order to justify their bloated figures of the refugee influx.
Since his advent to power in Dacca, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman has drummed the phoney charge that the Pakistan Army had killed three million of his countrymen in 1971. In civil strife, there is undoubtedly some loss of life on both sides. But it is unbelievable that all through the nine months of strife in East Pakistan, the Pakistan Army’s barely three divisions, thinly spread out along more than 1800 miles of explosive, often flaming, border with India, did no other work except engage in the gory pastime of slaughtering 13,000-plus Bengalis every day. A correspondent of the Daily Los Angeles Times, William J. Drummond, who toured Bangladesh in the first quarter of 1972, exposed the absurdity of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s charge. Similarly, the falsity of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman oft-repeated allegation that the Pakistani troops had raped 200,000 Bengali girls in 1971 was borne out when the abortion team he commissioned from Britain early in 1972 found that its workload involved the termination of only a hundred or more pregnancies.
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