Exploding Myths About 1971 – Part 3: India’s Role in Creation of Bangladesh
by Dr. Junaid Ahmad
The genesis of Creation of Bangladesh can be traced to the vicious desire of India to dismember Pakistan right from the day Pakistan came into being on August 14, 1947. The entire Indian leadership, be it Indian National Congress or the Hindu rightist (communalist) parties considered the partition of British India a temporary and a short lived event. It was not only the hidden desire of Indian leadership but they openly expressed it on various occasions. Gandhi in his address of July 1947 to Congress Party of Bengal said, “Congress was opposed to Pakistan and that he was one of those who have steadfastly opposed the division of India”. Similarly, Nehru, on the eve of partition remarked, “India accepted the partition with the conviction that the new state was not viable and would collapse in a short time”. Similar sentiments were expressed by other leaders such as Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Acharya Kirplani, Sardar Valebhai Patel and a lot of other leaders and organizations like All India Congress Committee, Hindu Mahasabha, etc.. These were not merely desires of Indian leadership but the later events proved that India had planned to give shape to their desire to undo partition both at political and belligerent (military) levels.
India got fertilized ground for her machinations in dismembering Pakistan, due to mishandling of the national language issue by the central government of Pakistan and hegemonic attitude of West Pakistani politicians which had sown the seeds of marginalisation and alienation in Bengali population of East Pakistan. The question of official language was settled constitutionally as late as in 1956 yet it already created huge discontent in East Pakistan. Moreover, there were greater sense of deprivation and exploitation in East Pakistan and general feelings of East Pakistanis were so developed that they were being systematically colonised by West Pakistani imperialism and complained about unequal growth and development between both the wings.
India cleverly capitalized on the above mentioned discontentment of East Pakistanis and chose Shiekh Mujibur Rehman, the Awami League Leader, as their useful tool to accomplish their desire to dismember Pakistan. It would be pertinent to mention that Mujib even in 1950, according to Bengali intellectual Syed Badrul Islam writing in Daily Star in August 2012, threw a question to Prime Minister of Pakistan, Huseyn Shaheed Suharwardy that “was it not possible for East Pakistan to become independent someday,” at which Prime Minister admonished him. India, knowing fully well Mujib’s desire for achieving independence of East Pakistan, wholeheartedly endorsed Mujib’s approach. India began their initiative to involve itself fully in the affairs of East Pakistan from 1963. They established their successful contact with Mujib in 1963. Mujib continued meetings with Indian officials frequently and had regular meetings with Indira. One such meeting was held at Agartala (India) where, in fact, the germ of dismemberment of Pakistan was conceived in an organized manner. It was in July 1967, that ISI came to know about the conspiracy, hatched up at Agartala between R&AW and about 35 Awami League members including Mujib to work for the breakup of Pakistan. The Agartala case was delayed because of Indo-China war of 1962 and Indo-Pakistan war of 1965. The Agartala Conspiracy case was filed in 1967 but it was however, withdrawn in 1969 due to immense country wide political pressure generated by Bhutto who, for obvious reasons, had his own axe to grind. As a result, all AL leaders, who had remained in contact with Indian intelligence, escaped to India, except Mujib and Kamal Hussain.
Agartala Conspiracy sky rocketted Mujib and Awami League’s popularity and Awami League entered the general elections of Dec 1970 on the basis of hatred against West Pakistan. It may well be said that entire Awami League was united on the basis of organized hatred against West Pakistan. Additionally, Awami League’s militant wing had been established in July 1970 with Indian assistance. Amid the hatred of West Pakistani and AL’s terrorism, Pakistan went to polls on 7th December, 1970 in which Awami League scored a convincing victory in East Pakistan by, securing 160 out of 162 seats, with no seats in West Pakistan. Bhuttos, Peoples Party had a majority with 81 seats only in the Western Wing.
India, in the meantime took practical steps to isolate East Pakistan from West Pakistan. First, India staged the drama of hijacking of its plane in January 1971 to isolate East Pakistan from West Pakistan by suspending all air routes communication between East and West Pakistan over its air space.
Bhutto successfully manipulated the week govt of Yahya Khan and prevailed upon him not to hold sessions of the newly elected National Assembly in Dhaka. This led to further bitterness amongst the Awami League leadership and their followers. On the third postponement, Mujib ordered a non-cooperation movement on March 1, 1971 and ordered AL’s miscreants to burn the national flag and create chaos and rioting all over the province and on March 25, 1971, he declared independence of Bangladesh.
On 25th March 1971, Pakistan took military action, Operation Searchlight, to stop ongoing riots and chaos created by the militant wing of Awami League. India created refugee camps along the border of East Pakistan, in order to attract international support. The refugee card was widely played by Indian media to provide humanistic shield to her vicious aims. According to noted Indian journalist, Kuldip Nayar’s version in his book “Distant Neighbours”, “eighty five percent of those Bengalis who left East Pakistan were Hindus who would have gone away to West Bengal after partition in 1947 in any case”. India, however, throughout the next nine months persuaded the world powers that it was trying for political solution through her intervention. However, the Indian intervention, in reality, was not political, but was a vicious, planned attack on Pakistan’s sovereignty. Even Indira Gandhi openly confessed in a television interview to French television on 8th November 1971, that “Independence of Bangladesh, Free Bangladesh was inevitable ….. India would not permit the return of refugees until Sheikh Mujib was released.” Thus, the refugees conundrum was a more Indian construct not only to win international support but also to organize and train the Mukti Bahini to effectively carry out terrorist activities and later on support Indian Army in the war in East Pakistan.
In pursuance of her goal to isolate Pakistan diplomatically, India approached almost all major powers, persuing them to support its policies and on 7th August, 1971 signed with USSR treaty of Peace, Friendship and Cooperation. The treaty entailed USSR’s support to India in the event of war with a third party. The Indo-USSR treaty was followed by the Indian Army Chief Sam Manekshaw’s visit to USSR to procure armament. Manekshaw said in an interview that “I got the money, went to Soviet Union and bought the tanks.”
In pursuance of the orders of Indira Gandhi, it was decided to set-up a provincial exile government of East Pakistan/Bangladesh in Calcutta. It was 14th April 1971 that the exile Bangladeshi Government was formed in a house at ‘8 Theatre Road Calcutta’ with its name as ‘Mujib Nagar’ giving an impression that it was a separate territory. To propogate the stance of the provincial government of Bangladesh, a separate Bangladesh radio ‘Free Bengal Betal Kendra’ was also established under the supervision of R&AW. Tajjudin Ahmad was nominated as the prime minister and Syed Nazarul Islam as the president in Mujib’s absence. B Raman the ex R&AW official in his book, The Kaobays of R&AW confessed that “Indira Gandhi decided to assist the Bengali-speaking people of East Pakistan to separate it from Pakistan and achieve an independent state to be called Bangladesh….. the Indian armed forces under the leadership of Field Marshal Manekshaw and Border Security Force (BSF) headed by the late K. F. Rustomji overtly and the R&AW and the IB covertly ensured this.”
Thus, India had effectively equipped herself before entering into war with Pakistan; it had made the ground favourable in East Pakistan, whose population largely was full of venom and hatred against West Pakistan; two wings of Pakistan were separated from air space as India banned their air space, for Pakistani flights; created para-military force, Mukti Bahini to fight against Pakistan; used refugee camps to attract international and diplomatic support on humanitarian ground and train guerillas; and so on.
Finally on the night of 20th and 21st November, 1971 India attacked East Pakistan which was already isolated from West Pakistan as stated above. Indian forces comprising 3 Corps and 9 divisions from the west and another 2 Corps of 6 divisions from the east moved into East Pakistan from all directions and Pakistani forces comprising only one Corps with three divisions and a total of only 34,000 fighting troops surrendered on December 16, 1971 as it was not possible for 34,000 Pakistani troops to fight against the combined strength of 200,000 Indian Army and more than 150,000 India-trained Makti Bahini guerillas.
From the above narrative, it can fairly be concluded that India followed a multipronged strategy to dismember Pakistan by utilizing political, economic, social and geographical gap between the two wings and by preparing Mukhti Bahini militarily and by military intervention in East Pakistan.
Senior Bangladeshi politicians and military officials have already accepted on various occasions that their independence was achieved with help from India. Major General (retd) Z. A. Khan, former Director, DGFI of Bangladesh in March 2005 stated “There is no doubt that R&AW played a vital role during our liberation war, but their motive was to divide Pakistan at any cost to weaken their arch rival [Pakistan]. Their hidden objective is to establish undivided India, which they call ‘Akhand Bharat Mata” and Shawkat Ali, Deputy Speaker of Bangladesh parliament said on 17th December 2011“I would give 100% credit to India for the liberation of Bangladesh”.
Our conclusion is strengthened by Indian Prime Minister Modi’ blurbs that “We fought for Bangladesh’s ‘swabhimaan’ (honor) … alongside Mukhti Jodha (Mukhti Bahini)… for Bangladesh… Indians were fighting side-by-side with them and in a way helped realize the dream of Bangladesh’; and that, “Indian soldiers fought alongside Bengali Guerillas and regular armed resistance forces during the nine month war.” The dismemberment of Pakistan is a big scar on the collective consciousness of great powers, but perhaps the cynical statement of a wayward character of “Jean Christophe” (French Nobel Laureate, Romain Rolland’s novel) explains the morality norms of the present age that “if great men (powers) have no morals, morality is not a great thing!”