Sheikh Mujibur Rahman always vied for Bangladesh
Deaths of Maulvi Tamizuddin and Khawaja Nazimuddin in 1963 followed by death of Suhrawardy in 1964 were setbacks for Pakistan. These three Bengali leaders were a bridge between the peoples of two wings and had always believed in oneness of Pakistan and were against centrifugal forces. Their departure gave free passage to Mujibur Rahman to give vent to his regional tendencies. In September 1964, a revolutionary organization under Mujib was formed for separating East Pakistan from rest of Pakistan by staging an armed rebellion duly supported by India. India had not only promised arms and financial support, but had also given an undertaking that on the D-Day, it would block air and sea routes linking the two wings. The conspiracy was unearthed in 1968 and it transpired that Mujib and 34 other co-accused Bengalis had conspired to gain independence with the help of India. Diary written by Lt Commander Moazam Hussain contained the detailed plan. Asoka Raina in his book ‘Inside RAW: Story of India’s Secret Service’, gave out details of the meetings which took place between Mujib led team and Indian Intelligence Bureau and other details of the secession plan.
Although Mujib denied the charge that he was in collusion with Indian government, however, he acknowledged in 1972 that he in fact had been, and even took pride in the fact. G.W. Choudhury in his book ‘The Last Days of United Pakistan’ writes: “Mujib was more interested in creating a separate state for the Bengalis”. He adds, “During my many lengthy discussions with Mujib, I discerned that he was not interested in becoming the prime minister or president of a united Pakistan. His ambition was to become the founder member of a new state, Bangladesh”.
Having gone through umpteen statements of Mujib after independence of Bangladesh and the accounts of Indian and western authors, it can be concluded with authenticity that Mujib was India’s man and had always desired independence. He remained a regionalist leader till the end and showed no interest in the people of West Pakistan. He achieved his goal of independence by first agitating political grievances followed by economic exploitation and then asking for regional autonomy to remove east-west disparities. Six-point program was a plan for secession and not to seek autonomy.
The 1970 election results which were manipulated by Awami League sealed the fate of united Pakistan. After achieving decisive results in the elections, Mujib concentrated on tarnishing the image of the Army and forcing the administration to confine the troops to barracks and establishing a parallel government. Postponement of inaugural session of National Assembly in Dacca scheduled on 3 March 1971 gave him an excuse to fuel Bengali nationalism and heighten violence. The massacre of over 100,000 Biharis and non-Bengalis and gang rape of West Pakistani girl students in Iqbal Hall of Dhaka University left no doubt that an insurrection had begun. Mujib drew up a plan and prepared three contingencies to achieve his goal of battling the Army if need be.
The military cantonments were besieged by tens of thousands of armed Bengali militants waiting for the green signal to go into action. Once he put the government in a completely defensive groove and gained an upper hand, he took the next step towards confederation and finally drew his gun demanding secession under peaceful conditions failing which the same was to be achieved by drawing blood. Even if he had a mind to stay within the federation as some pseudo intellectuals profess, other extremist leaders of Awami League abetted by India and Bhashani’s radical group would never have allowed him to do so. Staying within the federation was also up to a certain time period to extract maximum juice out of western wing and then declare independence.
Although Sheikh Mujib, Tajuddin Ahmed, Syed Nazrul Islam and Kamal Hussein took part in negotiations with Gen Yahya and his team in Dacca from 15-24 March 1971, but the decision to establish Bangladesh had already been taken by Awami League and the decision was irreversible. They outwardly claimed confederation but actually wanted separation. This rigid stance was taken irrespective of the fact that Yahya had agreed to almost all the six points. Mujib’s additional demands included drastic slashing of defence budget and demobilization of Army by 75%. Eleven points of the students’ wing were also lumped to over ensure that no breakthrough was achieved. India had already promised Mujib that it would invade East Pakistan to realize its secession if he refused to become the Prime Minister of Pakistan. After first accepting to form the next Government and then refusing three days later was intended to symbolize Unilateral Declaration of Independence. RAW had taken firm control over Awami League and Mujib had turned into a helpless accomplice in its game. RAW had played a key role in subverting the loyalties of Awami League led Bengalis and in training the Bengali rebels. This has been disclosed by several Indian, western and Bangladesh writers including Indian writer B Raman in his book titled ‘Role of RAW in Liberation of Bangladesh’.
The military action on March 25, 1971 helped the secessionists to the extent of neutralizing if not winning over the sympathies of the great majority who never wanted independence. It provided an excuse to Bengali Hindus in East Pakistan to run to India and thus create refugee problem. 80% of refugees were Hindus, who otherwise should have returned to their country at the time of partition of India. Calculated stoppage of PIA direct flights from Karachi to Dacca by India in January 1971, premeditated massacre and rape of non-Bengalis between 2-24 March 1971, designed breakdown of talks, preplanned exodus of Awami League leadership, desertion of EBR, EPR and Police to India, setting up of large numbers of refugee camps before the mass departure of runaways, commencement of insurgency at a massive scale within three weeks of the military action are clear cut indicators that the secession plan had been made beforehand and not after the military action.
The Pakistan Army restored order in record time of about two months but India kept its promise with tacit approval of the USA as well as USSR. When India found that the Mukti Bahini reinforced by Indian soldiers in civil clothes was unable to defeat Pak Army, it decided to intervene. The 1971 War was fought in an environment when Pakistan was isolated and friendless in the world. The Pakistan Army, cut off from its base and supplies for months before the war, could not have won particularly when the territory it was defending had been infiltrated by Bengali Hindus operating as ‘Mukti Bahini’ and was facing a faceless enemy. The invasion by India was preceded by the most elaborate clandestine operation ever.
Some pro-Mujib elements in Pakistan like Hamid Mir, Najam Sethi and many others propagating Indian themes keep quoting Mujib’s Pakistan-friendly and anti-India utterances during his internment in Mianwali jail. They strongly maintain that Mujib had always espoused for united Pakistan and that Awami League’s draft constitution did not envisage two independent states, but indicated five provinces. They tend to deliberately ignore the duplicitous track record of Mujib as well as the chain of events that occurred after Agartala conspiracy. Shifty by nature, he was known for contradicting his own statements without any qualms of conscience. When he was hauled up in Agartala case, he is on record having given a firm assurance that he would retire from politics if released. But no sooner the winds started blowing against Ayub Khan; he quickly changed his stance and once again got stuck with his six points. Throughout 1970 and early 1971, he kept changing his stance on six points. In one breath he would express his limitless love and affection for unity of Pakistan, and in the other he would spit venom.
During private meetings he would become emotional and argue forcefully that how could Awami League advocate secession of East Pakistan when the Bengalis constituted a majority of total population. He assured President Yahya on several occasions that his six points were not Quranic injunctions which couldn’t be suitably modified. However, publicly, he never made such a commitment. During his entire rule of Bangladesh from January 1972 to August 1975, at no stage he ever uttered any word of remorse for having been denied the premiership of united Pakistan. Lingering misperceptions to create doubts among the younger generation are at best an effort to ignore hard realities of history and to obfuscate facts for the sake of casting doubts on settled issues.
The writer is a retired Brig and a defence analyst. Email: email@example.com