Fall of Dhaka – an international conspiracy
In united India, Muslim majority East Bengal was the poorest with lowest percentages of urbanization, industrialization, literacy and per capita income. It was kept economically and socially backward by Hindu Zamindars and was a hinterland of Calcutta utilized for 200 years to provide raw materials for the industries in Hindu dominated West Bengal. Division of Bengal and Calcutta becoming part of West Bengal in 1947 further worsened East Bengal’s socio-economic condition.
Bharat detested the ”two-nation theory” ever since its conception and was bent upon disproving it, as this theory ultimately gave birth to Pakistan. India took advantage of the absurd shape of moth eaten Pakistan, in which East Pakistan was separated from the western wing by 1000 miles of Indian Territory and with no land corridor to link the two provinces. There were plans as old as 1947 to agitate the minds of the Bengalis so that the first blow to the “two-nation theory” could be delivered in the form of severing Pakistan’s eastern wing in a matter of one generation from the time of independence. A strong Pakistan – the envisioned fort of Islam – did not suit India, former Soviet Union and Israel, which viewed Pakistan as a future threat to their ideologies.
In order to hide their crimes against the Muslims of Bengal during the British rule in India, Indians worked upon a systematic plan to wash off the memories of the pre-partition days and to put the entire responsibility of impoverishment of East Pakistan on the rulers of West Pakistan. They took full advantage of their geographical contiguity and succeeded in winning over prominent Bengali figures of their choice and also made good use of the affluent Hindu population in that province. They exploited East Pakistan’s differences in language, dress, habits, food and culture from other provinces of Pakistan and subtly convinced them that their cultural links were with West Bengal and not with West Pakistan. They took 24 years to wean away the people of East Pakistan from the concept of united Pakistan and to make them look towards India – their erstwhile tormentors – to help them gain independence.
The Indian strategy to humble Pakistan was drawn out extremely well. The agitation in East Pakistan provided a fertile ground for India to launch a well-orchestrated propaganda to weaken and break up the province from West Pakistan. They established early links with Bengalis, trained them and used them as cannon fodder to wear down the Pakistani troops. The nine months insurgency was fully supported by the Indian Army and their support to the rebels was well known to the world powers. Having failed to realise their objective through the Mukti Bahini, the Indian Army decided to step in at a time when the small contingent of Pakistan Army had been exhausted and suffered from immense tactical, operational and logistic problems. Despite all the advantages to her favour, India still did not want to do it at its own but sought assistance from the former Soviet Union, which gave them all out back up support. Even the US Congress and CIA from whom we expected help were also involved; they took steps that were detrimental for Pakistan.
By that time the insurrection activities in East Pakistan had reached such a high pitch that the Pakistan Army was forced to fight on internal and external fronts concurrently. The Indian diplomacy was also at its best during this period. Mrs. Indira Gandhi through her diplomatic finesse, succeeded in drumming up refugees problem and portraying the military regime in Pakistan as brutal and fascist, thereby justifying India’s military intervention to restore normalcy. India’s superior diplomatic activity had turned this war into heroic act to liberate the Bengalis from the torturous clutches of a militant Pakistan. On the other hand Pakistan was left practically friendless and isolated and its traditional friends neutralised. The whole world quietly and helplessly witnessed the dismemberment process. As a consequence, the inevitable happened. The age-old dream of the Indians came true. Pakistan was brutally disfigured on the fateful day of December 16, 1971. Under the overwhelming odds, no Army in the world could have done any better.
No one doubts that the fall of Dacca in 1971 was the result of machination of the enemies of Islam. Pakistan was made the victim of a methodically planned international conspiracy. Notwithstanding the ignominious role of outside powers, we cannot go on blaming others for our shortfalls. Conspiracies hit governments that are corrupt and lack the character traits of sound leadership. The surrender in East Pakistan was no less than a conspiracy in itself. Those decision-making co-conspirators contributed to the shameful surrender of 45000 Pakistan Army and paramilitary soldiers.
East Pakistan grew up as a misled nation easily swayed by the Hindu brainwashing. Their emotional nature saw Indian Hindus as their saviours against their pre-supposed ‘West Pakistani Masters’. This is where they blundered and demonstrated political naivety and unawareness. The misled emotional Bengali political leaders exploited the poverty and illiteracy of the masses of East Pakistan. Matiur Rehman in his book “Bangladesh Today, An Indictment and a Lament, News and Media Ltd, London N4 3EF, 1978, page 8”, aptly puts across the point. ‘What made both external conspiracy and aggression possible was the existence within of a group of people led by Mujibur Rehman who were prepared to sell their country’s independence’. It is a fact of history that only 9% Bengali Muslims under the sway of Mujibur Rahman wanted independence.
India and the Hindus residing in former East Pakistan sowed the seeds of destruction of East Pakistan and the self-serving politicians of Pakistan nurtured the crop. The circumstances between 1948 and 1971 appearing on the political canvas of Pakistan placed a shallow political and military leadership in the saddle during the 1971 crisis, which could not save the sinking ship. While the sinking could be delayed but the final outcome was inevitable. It is generally believed that prolonging the war by another fortnight or so and allowing the United Nations to find some workable solution could avoid the premature surrender and thus save the honour of Pakistan Army. Unfortunately, we as a nation have failed to carry out true and objective analysis of losing East Pakistan. Hamoodur Rehman Commission Report that had ascertained the military causes of the debacle remained a hidden document till as late as 31 December 2000.
General Yahya Khan’s ill-fated two and a half-year rule from March 1969 to December 1971 hastened the process of fragmentation of Pakistan. Sheikh Mujibur Rehman and ZA Bhutto worked hard to make the Indian game plan of amputating Pakistan succeed. Mujib duly patronised by India misled the otherwise loyal people of East Pakistan from the concept of united Pakistan. Bengali nationalism that had peaked in the wake of postponement of National Assembly inaugural session scheduled for 3rd March 1971 could not be reined in despite concerted efforts by the military regime to assuage their aggravated feelings. Sowing of seeds of conspiracy to its final flowering in 1971 had been leavened by the creed of Bengali nationalism. The military crackdown on 25 March led to parting of ways and from that time onward; the gulf between the two wings kept widening till the tenuous chord snapped in December 1971.
It was irony of fate that the very people who were in the vanguard of Pakistan Movement took up arms to destroy the very country, which they themselves had helped to create. The people of East Bengal accepted India, from whose shackles freedom was achieved in August 1947 after such a long struggle, as a saviour and a mentor. Mujib started a witch-hunt against so-called collaborators. It didn’t take long for the people of Bangladesh to realize that they were duped. A military coup led by Maj Farooq and Maj Rashid killed Mujib and his 23 family members and dumped their bodies in a mass grave in August 1975.
Instead of taking revenge from those who had killed her father and family members, Hasina Wajid chose to persecute Jamaat-e-Islami members who had remained loyal to the concept of one Pakistan till the very end. Hanging aged Jamaat chief Abdul Quader Molla on dubious charges of rape and mass murder after 42 years has saddened everyone in Pakistan and brought the rampaging Islamists in Bangladesh on the streets. They assert that it was a political murder and will be avenged. Hasina’s days in power are numbered and the countdown has begun.
The writer is a retired Brig, defence analyst, columnist and author of ‘Maarka Hilli’ and ‘Roots of 1971 Tragedy’.