India schemed for East Bengal since 1947
By Asif Haroon Raja
When India was partitioned and moth eaten Pakistan deprived of West Bengal, East Punjab, large slices of West Punjab and Kashmir came into being on August 14, 1947, West Punjab was relatively more developed than all other provinces which became part of Pakistan. Balochistan, Sindh and East Bengal were under developed but East Bengal was the poorest of all. In united India, it had been among the most prosperous provinces during the golden rule of Mughals. However, it was ruthlessly plundered by the British joined by the Hindus after the battle of Plassey in 1757 in which Siraj-ud-Daulah was defeated because of the treachery of ill-famed Mir Jafar and some Hindu Mahajans.
If Mir Jafar knew beforehand that he will be kicked out by Robert Clive two years later and that within a decade the Muslim ruling elites of Bengal will lose all their powers and privileges, Mir Jafar would not have committed treachery in 1757. People of Bengal had to pay a very heavy price for Mir Jafar’s betrayal. In matter of 50 years, the entire nobility of Muslim Bengalis was reduced to serfs and lowly Hindus became big landlords and business tycoons. While Hindu dominated West Bengal prospered leaps and bounds, Muslim heavy East Bengal became the hinterland for extracting raw material only. No factory, mill or industry was built in East Bengal but business, agricultural lands and property remained in the hands of moneyed Hindus. The Muslims deprived of government jobs could only take up menial jobs.
The Muslims of East Bengal were so fed up of their cruel masters that they became the ardent supporters of Pakistan Movement. A.K. Fazl-ul Haq, the then chief minister of Bengal, moved the historic 1940 Lahore Resolution. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Maulana Bhashani were among the passionate supporters of Pakistan who later changed colors. In the 1946 elections, Muslim League secured maximum votes from East Bengal. In 1948 when Quaid-e-Azam addressed a huge gathering in Dacca and asked the audience to tell him whether they wanted to remain with Pakistan or join India, the people vociferously shouted ‘Pakistan’. Their love for Pakistan was slowly and gradually transformed into hatred by the psychological operators of India and influential Hindu minority residing in East Bengal. Their major focus was directed against the youth and the seculars who felt more homely with Hindu culture rather than Islamic culture. They saw the latter too suffocating and devoid of fun and frolic.
A large section of the educated Bengali Muslim elite saw themselves more as Bengalis and less as Muslims and they did not even bother to find out how the Indian political regime were treating the Kashmiri Muslims and Indian Muslims. Blinded by their hatred for Islam, those Secular-Bengali-Muslims remained totally ignorant that the Bengali Muslims in West Bengal were facing far greater discrimination than the discrimination they faced within Pakistan. They completely forgot the extreme atrocities and discriminatory behavior of the upper-caste Hindu Bengali Bhadroloks against Muslim Bengalis before 1947. It was imbecile and unforgivable on their part to consider West Pakistanis as sworn enemies and Hindus as friends and to seek independence with the help of India.
India not only wanted to divide Pakistan to give a deathblow to two-nation theory, but also to do it in a bloody and vicious manner to ensure that the separation of Bangladesh from Pakistan should take place through the most bitter and vicious struggle possible so that the memory of those atrocities could be used to legitimize the suppression of Islam in Bangladesh, just as the Zionists use the memory of the Nazi Holocaust to oppress the Palestinians and deprive them from their right of self determination and their right of return. They wanted to show to the world that Muslims cannot rule themselves and the Muslims of the sub-continent will be better off if they submit to the Indians. It was also necessary to show to the millions of Muslims in India that they are lucky indeed that they are citizens of India and not Pakistan.
Basant Chaterjee revealed in his book ‘Inside Bangladesh Today’, that Pundit Nehru had been scheming since August 1947 to reclaim East Bengal and to make it an integral part of Indian Union. The long-term master plan to reclaim East Bengal was always there since August 1947, but the reclamation project suddenly became extremely urgent for the Indian Political High Command after the 1962 debacle. In that war India was thoroughly humiliated by the Chinese Army. Indian defence completely collapsed and the Chinese were able to march down into the Assam plain without any Indian resistance whatsoever. The entire state machinery collapsed and panic set in.
After the humiliating defeat in 1962, the Indians realized that if they ever have to fight against China again, they will need a better transport and logistics infrastructure. The Chicken Neck obstacle had to be removed and India needed to establish unfettered road, rail and-river right-of-way through East Bengal to North East Frontier and Arunachal. Creation of Bangladesh was the solution and Awami League under Sheikh Mujib was the answer. Agartala Conspiracy was a tactical element in the long-term North-East Strategic Plan of India. Treachery of Mir Jafar in 1757 was to be repeated by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and East India Company was to be replaced by All India Company, i.e. RAW.
Mujib was invited to Agartala on November 3, 1963, just a year after 1962 war. That was the only occasion he visited Agartala. The “Bangabandhu” had come to test the waters to secure Indian help for his cause. Satya Deb, a former Class IV staff of Smarajit Chakrabarty, the then Sub Divisional Officer of Khowai in West Tripura is among the three living men in Bangladesh who had seen Mujib during that top secret trip to Tripura. After holding series of discussions with Mujib, Tripura Chief Minister Sachindra Lal Singh accompanied by Chief Secretary B. Raman flew to New Delhi to meet Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. In his book, B. Raman disclosed the meeting with Nehru in which Indian help for Mujib’s contemplated secession movement was discussed.
It is puzzling as to why no one in Bangladesh talked of this critical visit where the foundation of secession plan had been laid. Dr Kalidas Baidya in his book ‘Ontoraler Sheikh Mujib’, Kolkata, 2005 ultimately spelled out the details of Mujib’s connections with the Indian policy makers as early as 1950s. Current Bangladesh PM and daughter of late Mujib, Sheikh Hasina Wajid claimed, as reported in Bangladesh media on 8 March 2010, that Mujib planned separation from Pakistan in 1969 in London.
In the Indian game plan for East Bengal, the most crucial role was played by the Bangladeshi academics and journalists who consciously opted or unconsciously got ensnared, due to their lack of historical perspective and short-termism. The first shot in this Indian game plan was fired by Rehman Sobhan. He was an economist at the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics and was an extremely close and long-term associate of economist Amartya Sen. He wrote a paper in 1966 in which he highlighted economic disparities between two wings and step motherly attitude given to East Pakistan. He fudged the figures. The entire East Bengal press and political activists took the issue on board and soon it snowballed into a secessionist movement. RAW coordinated and guided the movement behind the scene. RAW also provided unlimited financial, intelligence and material support.
On 22 February 2011, on the anniversary of the withdrawal of Agartala conspiracy case, a surviving conspirator and Deputy Speaker of the Bangladesh Parliament Colonel Shawkat Ali confessed to the parliament at a point of order that the charges read out to them were accurate, stating that they had formed a Shangram Parishad under Sheikh Mujib for secession of East Pakistan. He was among the 35 accused in Agartala case.
Oli Ahad, Jatio Rajniti 1945 to 1975, 2nd Ed., Bangladesh Cooperative Book Society, Dhaka, p. 450, gives out details of Tajuddin Ahmed’s seven-point secret agreement which he signed with India. It amounted to making Bangladesh a vassal state of India. It read:
1. A paramilitary armed force for Bangladesh will be raised under supervision of Indian military experts; this force shall be stronger and more active than regular armed forces of Bangladesh.
2. Bangladesh shall procure all military equipment from India and under planned supervision of Indian military experts.
3. Bangladesh shall direct her foreign trade under supervision and control of Indian government.
4. Yearly and five-yearly development plans for Bangladesh shall conform to Indian development plans.
5. Foreign policy of Bangladesh must be compatible with and conform to that of India.
6. Bangladesh shall not unilaterally rescind any of the treaties without prior approval of Indian government.
7. In accordance with treaties signed before December (1971) war of Pakistan and India; Indian force shall enter into Bangladesh at any time and shall crush any resistance that may erupt there.
The writer is a columnist and a defence analyst. Email:firstname.lastname@example.org