A Must Read

History of the liberation war

by Muhammed Zafar Iqbal

Translated by: Yeshim Iqbal

Published in: December 2008

Published by: Proteeti, Muktir Udyog
House 27, Road 9 I A, Dhanmondi, Dhaka 1209

Painting: Shahabuddin Ahmed

Cover & Page Design : Khondoker Tofazzal Hossain

The original Bangla version of the book
Table of Contents

  1. Country
  2. Early History
  3. Language Movement
  4. Military Rule
  5. Six Points
  6. Pakistan’s First General Election
  7. Conspiracy
  8. March Tarmoil
  9. Free Bangladesh
  10. Resistance and Resistance
  11. Refugees
  12. Bangladesh Government
  13. Fightback
  14. Traitors
  15. Fighting outside the country
  16. Countries for and against
  17. Joint Forces
  18. Surrender
  19. Cries of Anguish in the Joy of victory
  20. Our Pride
  21. The shame of war


Country
Of all the feelings that people have, the most beautiful is surely
love. And of all the things that one is capable of loving in the world,
the most intense love has to be for one’s own country, one’s
motherland. There is nobody as unfortunate as the person who has
never felt love for their motherland. We are very lucky that the war
we fought for independence of our motherland has a history of
supreme sacrifice, unbelievable bravery and valor and great
achievement. When people hear about this history, then they not
only feel deep love and compassion, but they are also filled with
pride at the thought of what this country’s people have achieved.

Early History
A story must always be told from a little earlier than when it starts,
and so Bangladesh’s history can be told from the British period.
The British have mled this region for approximately two hundred
years. Thousands and thousands of people have been killed,
imprisoned and exiled in their attempts to be free. ln 1940 the
‘Lahore Resolution’ [1] declared that the two areas that had the
most Muslims would become two countries and the remaining area
would become a separate country. But on the 14th of August, 1947
the two areas that had the most Muslims became one country,
Pakistan, instead of two, and on the 15th of August the remaining
area became a different country, India. And so a very strange
country was born; the two parts of the country were in two different
places. What is now Pakistan was known as West Pakistan and what
is Bangladesh was known as East Pakistan. There is a two thousand
kilometer distance and an entire country – India – between them!
Division, Discrimination, Exploitation, and Conspiracy
East and West Pakistan were two thousand kilometers apart. Even
the people were way apart in their looks, language, food, clothes,
culture and their heritage. The majority of the population had only
one thing in common and that was religion. If a bizarre country like
this was going to survive, a little bit of extra effort had to be put in,
but the Pakistani rulers did not do this. During the partition,
West Pakistan’s population was twenty million and East Pakistan’s
was forty million, so it would have made sense to have two people
from East Pakistan for every one person in West Pakistan in
everything education, business, police, government. But in reality
it was just the opposite – there were eighty to ninety percent of West
Pakistanis in everything. 75% of the budget was spent on West
Pakistan and 25% on East Pakistan, even though 62% of the
revenue income was from East Pakistan. Most frightening of all
was the number of armed forces – West Pakistan had 25 times as
many as East Pakistan! [2]
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Language Movement
Much worse than economic oppression is oppression on a country’s
language, of its culture and heritage, and that is exactly what West
Pakistan’s rulers started to do. Pakistan was born in 1947 and in
1948 Pakistan’s founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, went to Dhaka
and announced that Urdu would be Pakistan’s national language.
[3] The people of East Pakistan immediately started to protest. The
movement intensified and reached its peak on the 21 51 of February,
1952. Rafiq, Salam, Barkat, Jabbar and many others were shot and
killed by the police. But even that couldn’t stop the movement, and
in 1956 Pakistan’s rulers were forced to recognize Bangia as a
national language. [4] Our beloved Sbaheed Minar was created
where the language martyrs were killed, and the 21 51 of February is
now a special date not only for Bangladesh, but for the whole
world, as International Mother Language Day.

Military Rule
From the very beginning, Pakistani rule was a conspiracy, in
disguise and the biggest player behind was the army. 60% of the
country’s budget was spent on the army, (5) and they were not
willing to give up their luxurious way of living and let a civilian
government take over. Using political unrest as an excuse, in 1958
Pakistan army chief Ayub Khan took over power. He didn’t rule for
a day or two, rather he ruled for eleven years. Military rule can
never bring about anything good. In the history of the world, there
is not a single example of military rule moving a country forward,
and it was no different for Ayub Khan.

Six Points
The country was under military rule and the people of East Pakistan
were being severely deprived – the Bengalis were not willing to
accept this. In 1966, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the
spirited leader of the Awami League (Bangladesh’s largest political
party) announced his six-point [6] demand for autonomy. This was
an extraordinary document demanding freedom from economic
exploitation, deprivation and oppression [7]. lt was an extremely
brave move, considering what kind of oppression and persecution
the Pakistani political leaders were suffering at the time. As soon as
this was announced, almost all of Awami League’s important
leaders were arrested and put in jail. Also, to teach him a lesson,
Bangabandhu was accused of treason under a case called the
Agartala Conspiracy. [8]

The East Pakistanis refused to accept this and protests sprang up all
over the country. Imprisonment, torture, gunfire from the police and
EPR (East Pakistan Rifles) – nothing could stop them. Students led
these movements; they had an eleven-point demand. [9] Maulana
Abdul Hamid Khan Bhasani had not been imprisoned and he came
forward also. The movement became a mass revolt – who dared to
stop it? The bright yongg teenager Motiur died in this movement in
1969, as did Dhaka University student Asad – after whom Ayub
gate was then renamed Asad Gate. The Pakistan army was finally
forced to free Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the other
leaders. Also, the mighty President Ayub Khan handed over power
to the Pakistan’s army chief General Yahya Khan.
The date was the 25th of March, 1969 – nobody knew then that
exactly two years later on the same date, one of the world’s most
horrific genocides would be committed.
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Pakistan’s First General Election
As soon as General Yahya Khan was in power, he announced the
first general election in Pakistan’s history, which was scheduled to
take place on the 7th of December, 1970. On the 12th of November
one of the world’s worst natural disasters occurred on the coast of
East Pakistan – almost a million people died in the devastating
cyclone. The Pakistani government did not come forward as they
should have after such a huge disaster. Those who had survived the
cyclone started to die from lack of food and water. [10] The
Bengalis of East Pakistan were enraged at Yahya Khan’s neglect
and cruelty towards their people. At a public meeting, a furious
Maulana Bhashani demanded that East Pakistan be free. [11]

On the 7th of December, 1970, Pakistan’s first General Election
was carried out in a fair manner. The generals of the Pakistan army
had no respect for the political leaders. They assumed that a single
political party would not obtain a majority, so they would all just
fight amongst themselves. The army could use this as an excuse to
remain in power and plunder the country. [12] So General Yahya
Khan was shocked to see the results of the election – which were
unbelievable. Out of 162 seats in East Pakistan, Bangabandhu’s
Awami League got 160. Along with the selected female candidates
out of 313 seats of Pakistan National Assembly. East Pakistan’s
Awami League got 167, West Pakistan’s Zulfikar Ali Bhutto got 88,
and other parties together got the remaining 58.

Put simply, for the first time Pakistan would be ruled under East
Pakistan’s leadership. Bangabandhu clearly stated that people cast
their votes in favor of his six points, he would formulated the
constitution based on these six points, and the country would be
ruled by these six points.

The Pakistan army then decided that no matter what, the Bengalis
could not be allowed to rule Pakistan. Unknowingly, General Yahya
Khan had begun the creation of a new nation, Bangladesh.


Conspiracy
The largest collaborator in the generals’ conspiracy was the army
ruler, Ayub Khan’s one time Foreign Minister, West Pakistan’s
People’s Party Chairman Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. All of a sudden,
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto invited Yahya Khan to Larkana to “hunt ducks.”
All the key generals also joined them to “hunt ducks”. Presumably,
this is when they began to design the ‘blue print’ how to stop the
Bengalis from taking power. [ 13]

Even though a conspiracy was being planned, General Yahya Khan
was careful not to let this be known. So on the 13th of February he
announced that on the 3rd of March there would be a session of
National Assembly in Dhaka. Everyone began to eagerly await
that day.

On the 21st of February that year, martyrs day was commemorated
with a different kind of fervor. There was a massive number of
people at the Shaheed Minar, people beginning to dream of
independence. When the Pakistan army saw all these people, what
little doubt they may have had went away. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had a
minority number of seats and had no reason to share any power at
all, but he became desperate to be in power anyway. On the 1st of
March, he postponed the proposed session of National Assembly. It
was as if all the anger the Bengalis had been holding inside them
exploded; the people of the country were absolutely furious.
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March Turmoil
When the postponement of the Assembly was announced on the
radio, the Commonwealth Eleven was playing against Pakistan at
the Dhaka Stadium. Instantaneously the people erupted in protest;
Dhaka Stadium became a battlefield. Schools, offices, stores -
everything were shut down immediately. Thousands of people took
to the streets; Dhaka became a city of processions. The people
began t.o chant slogans for independence: “Joy Bangia,” “Bir
Bangali Ostro Dhoro, Bangladesh Swadhin Koro” (Brave Bengalis,
take up arms to liberate Bangladesh).

Bangabandhu called a five-day hartal and an indefinite noncooperation
movement in Dhaka and the whole country. Through
this nonviolent movement, Bangabandhu said that the Pakistani
administration was not to be cooperated in any way, and his words
brought all of East Pakistan to a standstill. To control the situation,
a curfew was imposed – the students and the public broke the
curfew and took to the streets. There were processions, slogans,
rage everywhere, people dying under the army’s gunfire – but
nobody stopped.

On the 2nd of March at the Dhaka University’s historical banyan
tree, the flag with Bangladesh’s map was hoisted. On the 3rd of
March at the Paltan Maidan, the Students’ League meeting decided
that Rabindranath Tagore’s “Amaar Sonar Bangla” would be
Bangladesh’s national anthem. [14]

After the five-day hartal on the 7th of March, Bangabandhu went to
today’s Suhrawardy Uddayan to deliver a speech. By then all of
East Pakistan was following his rule. Tens of thousands of people
came to hear his speech; Suhrawardy Uddayan was literally a sea of
people. Bangabandhu announced in this famous speech, “This time
the fight is our fight for liberation. This time the fight is fight for
independence.” [15] There have been few speeches of this type in
the history of the world. The speech brought together all the people
and gave them the courage they needed to sacrifice their lives for
the independence of their motherland.

On Bangabandhu’s call, while the nation started a non-cooperation,
the Pakistan military were killing people, by the hundreds, in every
comer of Bangladesh. The people put up barricades to stop the
Pakistani military. All over the country, along with black flags, the
flags of an independent Bangladesh were flying. Young people
began to train for a war. In a speech at the Paltan Maidan on the 9th
of March, Maulana Bhasani announced that West Pakistan should
make their own constitution, because East Pakistan’s people would
create their own independent country and have their own
constitution. [ 16]

Right around this time General Yahya Khan was preparing to start
the genocide. General Tikka Khan, known as the Butcher of
Baluchistan, was sent to East Pakistan as governor, but none of the
Justices in East Pakistan agreed to swear him in. Yahya Khan went
to Dhaka on the 15th of March and pretended to have discussions
with Bangabandhu while troops were secretly being brought in.
War-ships with arms and ammunition tried to dock at the
Chittagong port, but the people wouldn’t let them. Bhutto joined the
conspiracy on the 21st of March and came to Dhaka to pretend to
have discussions.

On the 19th of March the Bengalis rebelled at Joydebpur. Countless
people died in the fight that ensued when forces were sent from
Dhaka to stop these Bengalis. The 23rd of March was Pakistan Day,
but besides the army cantonment and the Government House, a
single Pakistani flag could not be seen anywhere in Bangladesh.
[ 17] At Bangabandhu ‘s house in Dhanmondi that day, the free
Bangladesh flag was raised while ‘Amaar Sonar Bangla’ was
played. [18]

The next day was the 24th of March. There was an ominous feel in
the country – it was as if the whole country’s earth, sky, and air
knew what was about to happen and was holding its breath wait.
The Beginning of Genocide: Operation Searchlight
General Yahya Khan picked the 25th of March for his genocide
because he thought it was a good day for him. Two years ago on
that day, he had taken power from Ayub Khan and become
Pakistan’s President. On the 25th of March, he gave the order for
one of the cruelest genocides in the history of mankind. General
Yahya Khan had said to his army, kill three million Bengalis and
they will eat out of our hands! [ 19] The genocide had been planned
for a long time, and the blueprints were called ‘Operation
Searchlight’,[20] where it was clearly stated how pretenses of a
discussion would be used to stall for time, how the Bengali forces
would be wiped out, how the Dhaka University would be attacked;
simply put, how a nation would be destroyed.

There were barricades on every street. Since it would take a long
time to get where they needed to go, the Pakistan army started
Operation Searchlight slightly ahead of schedule, at 1 1.30 pm and
started one of the world’s most heinous massacres. To ensure that
there would be no witnesses to this, all foreign journalists had been
sent out of the country. But one extremely brave journalist, Simon
Dring, risked his life to hide in Dhaka city and send news to the rest
of the world, through the Washington Post, of what was happening
in Bangladesh. [21]

Before attacking the innocent people in Dhaka city, the Pakistan
military had either killed or arrested all the Bengali officers in the
army and disarmed the rest. The EPR at Pilkhana had been
disarmed, but they still fought all night with whatever they had. The
military had been unable to disarn the Rajarbag police unit, and
they were the first to engage in actual battle. After suffering a lot of
damage, the Pakistan army retreated to bring in tanks, mortars,
heavy arms and machine guns, with which they managed to
overpower the Rajarbag police line. [22]

There was no end to the terror of the 25th of March. The Pakistan
army went to Iqbal Hall (what is today Sergeant Johurul Haq Hall)
and Jagannath Hall and murdered all the students there. Before the
students were murdered, they were told to dig a bole in front of the
dorms in which they would be buried after they were killed.
BUET’s Professor Nurul Ula managed to film this massacre from
the window of his house, and this video is now on the Liberation
War archives on the internet, and can be seen by anyone. [23] Not
only the students of Dhaka University were killed – the staff and
the teachers were murdered also. The nearby slums were set afire
and their people killed. They then attacked the Hindu areas of old
Dhaka, destroying the temples and burning down the houses.

Anyone who tried to escape was shot. On the 25th of March- Dhaka
was like a scene from hell, with only flames to be seen and the
sounds of gunfire and people screaming to be heard.
The main objective of Operation Searchlight was to arrest
Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. A commando team of the
Pakistan Army went to his house and arrested him. He had heard of
what was happening and warned all the leaders of his party to stay
away, then waited in his house for what would certainly be his
death.
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Free Bangladesh
Before the commando team took him away, Bangabandhu had
declared that Bangladesh was independent and called together the
people to free the country from the hands of the Pakistan army.
His declaration was transmitted with the EPR’s transmitter from
Dhaka to Chittagong to the rest of the country. [24] When the
announcement was made, it was after midnight on the 25th, and so
the 26th of March is our Independence Day.
The country called East Pakistan was removed from the map of the
world forever, and in its place came Bangladesh. But that
Bangladesh was still battered and full of pain; the monsters of the
Pakistani army were still on her land.


Resistance and Resistance
After committing one of the world’s most terrible genocides in
Dhaka, the curfew was lifted from eight in the morning to three in
the afternoon on the 27th March, and thousands of terrified men,
women and children fled Dhaka city towards rural areas for safe
abodes. General Tikka Khan thought that he would be able to
occupy the whole country by the 10th of April just like he had
occupied Dhaka city, but the reality proved to be very different.
Although they were totally unprepared the Bengali armed forces
regrouped in different areas, and along with the students and
people, they put up an incredible resistance.

The armed forces and EPR in Chittagong rebelled and took control
of a large part of the city. On the 27th of March, from Chittagong ‘s
Kalurghat radio station, Major Ziaur Rahman read the declaration
of independence once again on behalf of Bangabandhu Sheikh
Mujibur Rahman. [25] At that time this speech created a new
inspiration among the people. To take control of Chittagong city the
Pakistan army had to attack from their ships and planes, and it
wasn’t until the l5th of April that they managed to take control of
the city from Bengali fighter. They initially occupied Kushtia and
Pabna, but the Bengali forces defeated them completely and held on
to these cities till the middle of April. The same thing happened in
Bogra and Dinajpur – the Bengalis reclaimed the cities that had
been occupied by the Pakistani soldiers. In Jessore, the Bengali
forces rebelled when they were being disarmed, and even though
almost half of them lost their lives to the Pakistani army, the rest of
them managed to escape from the cantonment. The Pakistani army
had control of Camilla, Khulna, and Sylhet, but the Bengali forces
persistently fought them. [26]

During this time the Pakistan army had brought in two divisions
from Pakistan to Bangladesh, as well as countless militia and aims
and ammunition by ship. With their massive air fleet and huge
supply of weaponry, the Pakistan army started to spread all over
Bangladesh. Ultimately, by the middle of May, they had taken
control of all the major cities. [27]
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On the 11th of April the government of Pakistan sent General A. A.
K. Niazi to take the responsibility of the armed forces from Tikka
Khan. The freedom fighters were then starting to prepare for the
next stage of war – guerrilla battle.


Refugees
While nobody in Bangladesh was safe after the 25th of March, the
Pakistan army was the most furious at Hindus and those who were
associated with the Awami League. Young people who might take
part in the War of Liberation were also targets. Young girls were in
the most danger of all. Along with the army, Bangladesh’s Bihari
population joined in the destruction and because of their torture, a
massive number of people took refuge in India. According to the
United Nations and Newsweek, the total number of refugees was
ten million. At that time the population of Bangladesh was only
seventy million- which meant one out of every seven people had left
their own country and home to be a refugee in another country. [28]
India gave refuge to this massive number of people, but was under
a lot of pressure because of the cost of feeding and sheltering them.
It may seem unbelievable but there were more refugees than the
residents at Agartala! The refugees lived terribly, with not enough
food or space to live and widespread disease. People died of cholera
and diarrhea. The highest toll was on young children and the
elderly. At the end of the war, it was seen that in several refugee
camps, there was not a single living child left!
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Bangladesh Government
Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had given the people hope
for a sovereign nation, but at the time of the liberation war he was
imprisoned in Pakistan. The person who took charge of this
movement for freedom was Tajuddin Ahmed. He left his family to
fend for themselves and crossed the border to India on the 30th
March. There were no other leaders with him at the time: he
contacted everyone later to form the government of the People ??s
Republic of Bangladesh.

On the 17th of April the historical Proclamation of Independence
was announced at Mujibnagar. This proclamation morally and
legally established Bangladesh as an independent country. In this
new country, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was the president and Syed
Nazrul Islam was the vice president and acting president in
Bangabandhu’s absence, and Tajuddin Ahmed was the prime
minister. On the 17th of April in Mujibnagar (Meherpur’s
Baidyanathtala) Bangladesh’s first government was sworn in before
national and international journalists, and ceremonially started its
journey. [29] Their first responsibility was to lead the armed
struggle against the Pakistan army and drive them out of
Bangladesh.


Fight Back
In the beginning, the battles that took place were disorganized and
unplanned. But slowly the freedom fighters grouped together and
began to fight back. The position of Commander in chief of the
Bangladesh armed forces was given to Colonel (Retired) M. Ataul
Ghani Osmani, Chief of Staff to Lt. Colonel Abdur Rob and Deputy
Chief of Staff to Group Captain A.K. Khandaker. Bangladesh was
divided into eleven sectors. The first sector (Chittagong, Chittagong
Hill Tracks)’s commander was at first Major Ziaur Rahman and
later Major Rafiqul Islam. The second sector (Noakhali, Camilla.
South Dhaka, part of Faridpur)’s commander was at first Major
Khaled Musharraf, later Captain Abdus Salek Chowdhury and
lastly Captain A.T.M. Haider. The third sector (North Dhaka. North
Sylhet and parts of Mymensingh)’s commander was at first Major
K.M. Shafiullah and then Major A.N.M. Nuruzzaman. The fourth.
fifth, and sixth sectors’ (South Sylhet, North Sylhet, and Rangpur
and Dinajpur respectively) commanders were Major C.R. Datta.
Major Mir Shawkat Ali and Wing Commander M.K. Bashar. The
seventh sector (Rajshahi, Bogra, Pabna)’s commander was Major
Nazmul Haque; he died in a car crash and then Major Qazi
Nuruzzaman took over. The eighth sector (Kushtia, Jessore,
Faridpur)’s commander was at first Major Abu Osman Chowdhury
and then Major M. A. Manzoor. The ninth sector (Khulna, Barisal)’s
commander was Major M. A. Jalil. The tenth sector was for the
naval areas, it was under direct control of the commander-in-chief.
This sector had no officers, so the naval commandos fought under
the commander of whichever sector they were in at the time. These
naval commandos carried out an incredible mission called
Operation Jackpot on the 15th of August in which they blew up
several ships with mines in Chittagong [30]. The eleventh sector
(Tangail, Mymensingh)’s commander was Major M. Abu Taher; he
held this responsibility until he was injured in a fight in November.
Besides these eleven sectors, Ziaur Rahman, Khaled Musharraf, and
Shafiullah were in charge of three brigades, named the Z force, the
K force and the S force after the first letter of their names
respectively. Also, in Tangail, Abdul Kader Siddiqui led a regional
team. Not only did he lead this extremely well-organized team of
fighters called the Kaderia Bahini to fight, he also put together a
team of volunteers to help them. [31] At the end of the war the
Bangladesh air force joined the armed forces, and this air force has
the credit of being the first to carry out a bombing in the war. [32]
A courageous group of young guerrillas called the Crack Platoon
captured international attention by carrying out an extremely
dangerous guerrilla operation right under the Pakistani military’s
noses in Dhaka city. [33]

Bangladesh Liberation war truly was a people’s war. Countless
students, farmers, workers and people from all spheres of life took
part. The indigenous people from the plain land and hill also joined
the liberation war. They had no shoes on their feet or clothes on
their backs and no necessary weaponry – they didn’t even have any
time to train. In the words of Khaled Musharraf, the battlefield was
their training ground. They had unbelievable courage and deep
compassion for their motherland. While Bangladesh’s regular
armed forces fought the Pakistani military, the guerrilla teams
attacked the Pakistani military from the underground, forcing their
movement to be restricted to their own camps.
There is no end to the stories of bravery of these freedom fighters.
One small story from a book written by a Pakistani army official
goes like this: ‘A young freedom fighter was arrested by the
Pakistani army in Rohanpur area of Rajshahi in June 1971. Despite
terrible torture, he refused to disclose any information. A Pakistani
major finally held a stengun to his chest and said, answer my
question or I’ll kill you right now. The fearless young freedom
fighter bent down and kissed the ground of his motherland for the
last time, stood up straight and said, I’m ready to die. My blood will
free this country.’ [34] This is what is patriotism, valiance and
bravery. The Pakistani army saw these young fighters and knew
they would never be able to defeat them. Sooner or later, they
would have to admit defeat and leave the country.

The Swadheen Bangla Betar Kendro may not have fought with
arms, but it was like a real soldier in the Liberation War all the
same. With the help of our poets, writers, artists and the cultural
activist, the radio station continually encouraged the people and
gave the freedom fighters courage. Songs from that time still
inspire people today.

This history would be left incomplete if women’s role in the
freedom of Bangladesh was not mentioned. Only because of their
help could the freedom fighters move safely through the country.
The women took part in cultural activities that encouraged the
freedom fighters, provided medical services to the injured, and even
went to armed battle.
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Traitors
The Pakistan army had no friends in Bangladesh – except for a few
traitors. The people of Bangladesh rejected these traitors completely
during the election; the Council Muslim League’s Khwaja
Khairuddin, the Convention Muslim League’s Fazlul Qader
Chowdhury, the Qayyum Muslim League’s Khan A. Sobur Khan,
the Jamaat-e-Islami’s GolamAzam and the Nizam-i- Islam’s Moulvi
Farid Ahmed. [35] Out of these, the Jamaat-e-Islami political party
is worth special mention. To help the Pakistan army, these traitors
created the team of rajakars – which was mainly made of the armed
cadres of Jamaat-e-Islamis. In September a political delegation
from West Pakistan complained to General Niazi that the entire
rajakar group consisted of Jamaat-e-Islamis. General Niazi then
ordered that the rajakars be called Al-Badr and AI-Shams. [36]
These rajakars/Al-Badr/Al-shams had neither the strength nor the
courage to face the freedom fighters directly, [37) but as puppets of
the Pakistan army they carried out unspeakable torture and
oppression on the Bangladeshi people. The Pakistan army did not
know the people of this country, it was the Al-Badr, Al-Shams and
the Razakars who helped identify them. Whatever the word
Razakar might mean literally, there is no phrase that is hated more
by the Bangladeshi people.
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Fighting Outside the Country
During the freedom movement Bengalis who lived outside the
country were of an immense help. They raised money for the
freedom fighters and the Bangladesh government. alerted the world
about Pakistan's genocide and formed public opinion in favor of
Bangladesh's freedom. Especially noteworthy were Justice Abu
Sayeed Chowdhury, Architect F. R. Khan, Professor Muhammad
Yunus, and Professor Rehman Sobhan. It was not only the
Bangladeshis that helped - on the 1st of August in New York's
Madison Square Garden, Ravi Shankar, George Harrison, and
many other artists conducted one of the largest concerts of that
time, that captured the attention of the entire world. The American
poet Allen Ginsberg wrote a beautiful poem about the refugees'
suffering, "September on Jessore Road," that still moves people to
this day. [38]
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Countries For and Against
When the world began to find out about the Pakistan army’s
genocide, most countries’ sentiments were for Bangladesh, but two
very important countries – the United States of America and China
worked on Pakistan’s side, against Bangladesh’s freedom. In 1971,
even though mostly Muslims were being killed in the name of
Islam, almost all of the Muslim countries sided with Pakistan
to try and stop our movement for freedom. Even if the American
government was on Pakistan’s side because of political reasons, the
people of America stood by Bangladesh. When he came to know
about the genocide, the US Consul General at that time, Archer K.
Blood, was livid; the telegram he sent to the State Department is
known to be the harshest letter ever written in the diplomatic world.
Near the end of the war, America sent warships of their Seventh
Naval Fleet and the Soviet Union sent their nuclear armed naval
fleet to the Bay of Bengal. As hard to believe as it may be, because
of Bangladesh’s freedom movement, two of the world’s largest
superpowers came up against each other with their nuclear
weapons. [39]

At the very end of the war, when victory for the joint Bangladeshi
and Indian army was certain, America tried to stop it by repeatedly
sending ceasefire proposals to the United Nations Security Council,
and the Soviet Union vetoed these proposals every time, clearing
the road for our victory. But the country that played the most
important role in our achieving freedom was India. This country
took on the responsibility of feeding and sheltering a hundred
thousand refugees and supplied our fighters with arms, training, and
shelter. After India recognized Bangladesh as a country, they joined
forces with the freedom fighters. One and a half thousand Indian
fighters died in this war. [40]


Joint Forces
Around July the freedom fighters began to fight back in an
organized manner, and by October they bad become strong and
confident. They began to systematically attack and take over the
Pakistan army border outposts. The guerrilla battles also began to be
more and more daring. The Pakistan army’s response to these
battles was to go into villages with the rajakars to bum down
houses and kill the people. By that time the Pakistan army’s morale
was beginning to weaken and they no longer wanted to go outside
of their camps. [ 41]

The Pakistan army’s situation in Bangladesh started to get so bad
that, not being able to find any other solution, they attacked India
on the 3rd of December. The intent was to attack suddenly and
destroy the Indian air force, but this did not work at all. India
immediately announced war against Pakistan, joined the
Bangladeshi forces, and entered Bangladesh with their army.
Pakistan then had five infantry divisions in Bangladesh. According
to conventional rules of war, the Indian army should have taken in
three times as many, that is, fifteen divisions, but because the
freedom fighters were with them they took in only eight. [42] The
freedom fighters themselves bad managed to stop the movement of
the Pakistani army. It wasn’t only the freedom fighters; all the
general people of the country were also in the war with the joint
forces.

The fighting lasted only thirteen days. At the very beginning and
after bombing all the airports, the Pakistani pilots fled to Pakistan.
After the few ships left in the ocean bad been sunk, only their
ground forces remained. The Pakistani army was very skilled at
killing innocent people – the freedom fighters and Indian army
were eager to see if they were equally skilled when it came to
actual fighting.

After the fight started the Pakistani camps fell apart rapidly – they
somehow managed to desperately hold on to a small area of land.
The Indian army and the freedom fighters passed them by and
rapidly approached Dhaka. The Meghna river didn’t have a bridge,
so the common people used their boats to take the armies and their
weaponry across the river! [43]

In Dhaka, General Niazi and his generals were relying on two very
strange things to keep them going in the war. Firstly, they thought
that in West Pakistan, they would defeat India so bad! y that India
would have no choice but to retreat from Bangladesh. And
secondly, they thought that China would help from the north and
America would help from the south. Both these ideas were entirely
wrong. The Pakistanis themselves were completely defeated in
West Pakistan, and no Chinese or American soldiers provided any
assistance at all! [44]
Go to top


Surrender
The freedom fighters and Indian soldiers surrounded Dhaka and
demanded that the Pakistani army surrender. Because the Governor
House bad been bombed, Governor Malik and his ministers took
refuge at Hotel Intercontinental (today’s Sheraton). The Indian air
force dropped thousands of leaflets: “Surrender to us before the
freedom fighters get you.” [45]

Dhaka’s powerful and mighty(!) Pakistan army then decided to
surrender. When he saw that the surrender documents had something
about surrendering to the joint leadership of ‘Bangladesh’ and
India, a Pakistani general weakly tried to suggest that the name
‘Bangladesh’ be removed from the document, but nobody paid
attention to him; there was no way to deny the truth of history! [46]
On the 16th of December in front of thousands and thousands of
people at the Racecourse Maidan, General Niazi signed the
surrender document that forced him to bow his head and leave a
free Bangladesh. The victory that the 70 million people of the
country had been awaiting for nine long months was finally came to
them who lost their loved ones during the war. It was the 22nd of December
by the time the rest of the Pakistani soldiers had surrendered all over Bangladesh.
Go to top


Cries of Anguish in the Joy of Victory
Before the people could begin to truly celebrate the surrender of the
Pakistan army, a terrible piece of news came to them. In the first
week of December when everyone began to understand that
Pakistan’s defeat was inevitable and Bangladesh would actually
become a sovereign country, then the traitors of this country, the Al-Badr
- captured three hundred of the country’s teachers, doctors.
engineers, journalists, artists, poets, authors and scientists. When
the people desperately began to try to rescue them, their ravaged
bodies began to be found in the Rayer bazaar killing field and
elsewhere. The traitors wanted to ensure that even if the country
would be free, it would never be able to stand up with its head held
high, and so they calmly murdered the strongest and most talented
of the country’s individuals. Involved in the murders of the intellectuals were the
Jamaat-e-Ilslami’s student group, the Islami Chhatro Shongho ‘s central
committee member Chowdhury Moinuddin, Ashrafuzzaman Khan
[47], Motiur Rahman Nizami {chief of Al-Badr, East Pakistan) (48],
and Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojahid (central organizer of Al-Badr.
East Pakistan). [49]
Go to top


Our Pride
The earth that we stand on today, the sky we see when we look up,
and the air in our lungs when we take a breath; we owe it all to our
freedom fighters. This is a debt we will never be able to repay, but
the Bengalis have been given the opportunity to express their
gratitude through the honors of valiance. Of the people who have
received these awards, the highest honor of Bir Shreshtho has been
given posthumously to seven freedom fighters. They are Mohiuddin
Jahangir, Hamidur Rahman, Mostafa Kamal, Ruhul Amin, Matiur
Rahman, Munshi Abdur Rouf, and Nur Mohammad Sheikh. Until
recently, Birsreshtho Matiur Rahman’s body was in Pakistan and
Birshreshtho Hamidur Rahman’s body was in India. They have both
now been brought back to Bangladesh. They are now kept with a
deep love in our country with the other Birshreshthos and countless
martyrs of the war.

Of those given these honors on the 15th of December, 1973, female
freedom fighters were also included. These women not only
provided shelter and assistance to the freedom fighters, but fought
by their side too. [50]


The Shame of War
Any kind of war is a crime against humanity – innocent people who
are not involved in the war in any way always end up having to
give their lives. This happened in our country too. During the war,
the Biharis who lived in Bangladesh sided with the Pakistani army
and carried out unspeakable brutalities like violence, oppression
and killing on the Bengali people. In response to their brutality
before, after, and during the Liberation War, many Biharis were
murdered, among which were women, children, and completely
innocent people. Almost all of the Bibaris wanted to go back to
Pakistan, but the Pakistani government did not welcome them, and
so this unfortunate group of people have been living sub-human
lives in the Geneva camps for many years.
Go to top

The Statistics of Genocide
During the liberation war in Bangladesh, there were about eighty
thousand Pakistani soldiers, twenty five thousand militia, twenty
five thousand civilian forces, and fifty thousand rajakars, Al-Badr,
and AI-Shams members. On the other side there were about one
hundred and seventy five thousand freedom fighters. Near the end
of the war another two hundred and fifty thousand Indian soldiers
joined the freedom fighters. At the end of the war after the
surrender, about ninety one thousand Pakistani prisoners were
transported to India. [51]

During the war, two hundred and fifty thousand women were
violated by the Pakistani army and their group of traitors. About ten
million people left the country to take refuge in India – it is
unbelievable and yet true that if they had not left, it is very likely
that they would have all been murdered in Bangladesh.
How many people were killed in Bangladesh is not known for sure
- there are several different estimates in the media. According to
the 1984 World Almanac, it is a million. According to the New York
Times (22nd December, 1972), it is between half to one and a half
million. According to the Compton’s Encyclopedia and the
Encyclopedia Americana, it is three million. [52] The exact number
may never be known. In Bangladesh today, the number is said to be
three million.


After Independence
When the liberation war was taking place in Bangladesh,
Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was imprisoned in Pakistan.
General Yahya Khan had given him the death sentence and a grave
had been dug for him in jail. After the Pakistani army was defeated
in Bangladesh, Bangabandhu was freed, and he returned to his
country on the lOth of January, 1972. [53] By the 15th of March,
the Indian army had left Bangladesh.

It got more and more difficult for the new Bangladesh government
to immediately fulfill the people’s dreams that had been created
with the joy of victory and Bangabandhu’s return. The people who
had taken responsibility to run the governent had no experience
doing so. The Pakistani army had destroyed all the roads and
factories at the last moment, the country’s economy was completely
ruined. There were hints of a conspiracy in politics too – a distance
began to grow between Bangabandhu and Tajuddin Aluned, who
had led the country during the war. Conspiracies started not only
inside the country but outside also, when there started to be a
shortage of food in the country, rice-bearing ships heading towards
Bangladesh suddenly turned away. [54] People started to be hungry
- famine took over the country. There was political unrest, which
was attempted to be quelled by the Rakkhi Bahini. All together,
anarchy began to take over, and at that point the Awami League
government created ‘Bakshal’ and tried to establish a one-party rule
which may have been acceptable right after the independence but
was not so at all four years later. There were disappointment and
anger everywhere. Taking advantage of this situation, a few young
officers of the army assassinated Bangabandhu and his entire
family, not even leaving out the newly married wives or the young
child. Also four of Awami League’s most senior leaders, Syed
Nazrul Islam, Tajuddin Ahmed, M. Mansur Ali, and A. H. M.
Qamruzzaman were put in jail where they were killed. As if this is
not a civilized place – rather a nation of barbarous people.

A dark time began. Bangabandhu ‘s government had issued a
general amnesty and forgave a group of the traitors, but those war
criminals who had murdered, tortured, raped and burned down
houses were not forgiven;. These eleven thousand war criminals
were imprisoned to be tried. After the assassination of
Bangabandhu and his family, on the 31st of December 1975, Jutice
Abu Sadat Mohammad Say em and General Ziaur Rahman’s
government forgave them. [55) The war criminals then began to be
rehabilitated by the military government and dictatorship. The
beautiful constitution that had been created in 1972 was slowly
modified until the fundamental ideals like secularism was
essentially removed. [56] Religious fanaticism and communalism
began to take place in the government and in society.
After fifteen long years and many movements, the country went
back to democracy in 1990. Since then, Bangladesh has been
attempting to stand on its feet with a democratic government.

Last Words
This country that has suffered so much grief is a country we deeply
love. We are eternally grateful to those who have given their lives
for this country. And those despicable traitors and war criminals for
them we have nothing but hatred. Even after thousands of years
from now – or as long as Bangladesh survives- they will never be
forgiven.

We hope that the new generation will feel the passionate joy that
comes with loving one’s motherland. We hope they will travel all
over the country to find the freedom fighters and touch their hands
to say, you have given us a free country, we give you our love. We
hope they will look into the freedom fighters’ eyes and say softly.
we give you our word, we will work to create the Bangladesh that
you dreamt of. We promise, we will pay back your debt of blood.

Reference:
1 A Short History of Pakistan, l.H.Qureshi (1992)
2 ???????????????????????????????????????, ???????????? ??????????????? ??????????????? ?????? ??? Bangladesh fights for
Independence. Lieutenant General ASM Nasim Bir Bikram, page 14 -17
3 ???????????? ??????????????? ?????????????????? ????????????????????? ??????????????????, ???????????? ???????????????????????????????????????????????? ???????????????????????? ??????????????????????????? ???????????????????????? ????????? ???????????????????????? ???????????????
4 ???????????? ??????????????????????????? ?????? ?????????, ??????????????? ???????????? ??? ???????????????????????? ????????? ???????????????????????????
5 Muktishongram, Abul Kashem Fazlul Haque, pg. 37
6 Bangabandu O Bangladesh, Muntasir Mamun, pg. 17
7 Muktishongram, Abul Kashem Fazlul Haque pg. 55
8 Bangabandu O Bangladesh, Muntasir Mamun, pg. 18
9 Bangladesh Swadhinota Juddher Dalilpatra, 2nd
10 Muktibahini Wins Victory, Major General ATM Abdul Wahab, pg. 67
11 Muktishongram, Abul Kashem Fazlul Haque pg. 120-121
12 The Ultimate Crime, Sardar Mohammad Chowdhury, pg. 27-29
13 The Last Days of United Pakistan, O.W. Choudhury, page 152
14 71-er Dosh Mash, Rabindranath Tribedi, pg. 14-19
15 Muktishongram, Abul Kashem Fazlul Haque pg. 212-214
16 Muktishongram, Abul Kashem Fazlul Haque pg. 223-225
17 Witness to Surrender, Siddiq Salik, page 67- 68
18 Witness to Surrender, Siddiq Salik, page 67- 68
19 Massacre (1972). Robert Payne. page 50
20 The Evidence, Vol I, Mir Shaw kat Ali, page 196
21 Bangladesh Fights for Independence, Lieutenant General ASM Nasim Bir
Bikram, page 557
22 Bangladesh at War, Major General K.M. Safiullah, page 27
23 Bangladesh Genocide Archive, www.genocidebangladesh.org
24 Witness to Surrender. Siddiq Salik, page 75
25 Shwadheen Bangla Betar Kendro, Belal Mohammad, pg. 36-42
26 A Tale of Millions. Raliqul Islam BU
27 Bangladesh ‘Fights for Independence, Lieutenant General ASM Nasim Bir
Bikram, page 35- 37
28 Contribution oflndia in the War of Liberation of Bangladesh, Salam Azad, page 180
29 Bangladesh Sarkar 1971, H. T. Imam
30 Muktijuddhe Nou Ovijan, Commando Mohammad Khalilur Rahman, pg. 66
31 Shadhinota ’71, Kader Siddiki Birottom, pg. 550-552
32 Bangladesh Sarkar 1971, H. T. Imam
33 Brave of Heart, Habibul A lam Birpratik
34 Witness to Surrender. Siddiq Salik, page 104
15 Witness to Surrender, Siddiq Salik. page 92 – 93
16 Witness to Surrender, Siddiq Salik, page 105
37 Shadhinota ’71, Kader Siddiki Birottom, pg. 550-552
38 http://www.genocidebangladesh.org/?p=21
39 Muldhara 71, Moidul Hasan
40 Contribution of India in the War of Liberation of Bangladesh, Salam Azad,
page 323 – 481
41 Witness to Surrender. Siddiq Salik, page 10 I
42 Jonojuddher Gonojoddha
41 The Times of India, 3 May 2005
44 Witness to Surrender, Siddiq Salik, page 199
45 Brave of Heart, Habibul A lam Birpratik
46 Witness to Surrender, Siddiq Salik, page 211
47 Ekattorer ghatok o dalalra ke kothay, Dr. Ahmed Sharif ed., pg. 190-192
48 Muktijuddher Prekkhapote byaktir obosthan, A. S. M. Shamsul Arefin, pg. 427
49 Fort Nightly secret report on the situation in East Pakistan
50 Bangladesher Muktijuddha 1971: Nari – Sukumar Roy ed. Muktijuddho Gobeshona Kendra
St Figures from the fall of Dacca by Jagjit Singh Aurora in the Illustrated Weekly of
India, 23 December 1973
52 Mathew White’s, Deat11 tolls for the major wars and atrocities ofU1e twentieth century
53 Sheikh Muj ib Triumph and Tragedy, S. A. Karim, page 259
54 Sheikh Mujib Triumph and Tragedy, S. A. Karim, page 337
55 The Daily Star, December 14.2008
56 Bangladeshe Civil Shomaj Protishthar Shongram, Muntasir Mamun, Joyontokumar Ray, pg. 99

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  1. Pingback: Unrest in Bangaldesh after death sentence Sayedee: Is the liberation war really over? «Nationalism Studies Network Nationalism Studies Network

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