Fourteen years ago, this story in caused quite a stir amongst “Bangladeshi” extremists. It revealed, honest Bangladeshi researchers were proposing new theories about East Pakistan’s “War of Liberation” and its history to reinterpret Bangladesh for the modern world.
I believe Bangladeshi nationalists will be well served if they read this essay rather than burn it. We do not have to agree with the findings, but we need to know how academia views the history of East Pakistan.
Read and reflect.
Behind the Myth of 3 million
Written by Dr. M. Abdul Mu’min Chowdhury
Behind the Myth of 3 million
Chapter- I: The Making of The Myth
Chapter – II: The Probity of the Myth
Chapter – III: Mujib’s Search for Fact
Chapter – IV: The Truth that Mujib Suppressed
Chapter – V: The Recycling of the Myth
Chapter – VI: The Forgotten Humanity
Chapter – VII: The Glimpses of Truth
Chapter – VIII: Behind the Myth
Page 1 of 9
Many myths have been formed around the creation of Bangladesh. Among them is the fiction that the defeated Pakistan Army savagely killed three million people and raped three hundred thousand women during their less than nine months unsuccessful fight to preserve the integrity of a united Pakistan.
Recalling this ‘heinous’ Pakistani crime with suave moral indignation was made into a national ritual. Not only the beaten Pakistan Army but also the subverted Pakistan came to be portrayed as inherently evil and her dismemberment a triumph of civilized values over barbarism. No less a figure than the ‘Father of the Nation’ was made to consecrate the lore. With his stamp of authority behind it, his grateful children were implicitly compelled into faithfully repeating it. Not to accept it as ‘the whole truth, nothing but the truth’ with unquestioning faith was to fall short of being a ‘Bengali patriot’. In those hallucinatory days of ‘liberated’ Bangladesh, the premium for such a terrible shortcoming was not merely dear, but potentially fatal. The ‘permanent disappearance’ of Zahir Raihan, the celebrated writer and film director, who showed the audacity of forming and heading ‘The Buddhijibi Nidhan Tayithanusandhan Committee’ (The Fact Finding Committee on the Killing of Intellectuals), in January 1972  was a calculated warning to all doubting Bangladeshis. Understandably, the skeptics kept quiet and the scoundrels and the credulous joined the chorus masters in singing the saga of three million ‘martyrs’ and three hundred thousand ‘heroines’.
Once the ‘Father of the Nation’ had fallen into disrepute and even came to be accused of treachery to the Bangladeshi nation’, some of the deified artefacts adorning the liberationist altar came to be seen as mendacious. But not this nor any other Pakistani crime; at least not officially. The successive masters of Bangladesh have shown no interest in exonerating Pakistan from any charges, however undeserved they might have been. Instead, by keeping them alive they skilfully played politics by veering on the sides of the accused and the accuser all at once. Alongside the dubious opportunism of the occupants of power, the dwindling band of the conscious keepers of the ‘Bengali spirit of liberation’ have continued their efforts to keep the myth alive through a more vociferous recital.
Yet, over the years, questioning voices were heard. These were not from the much maligned ‘pro-Pakistanis’ alone, but also from among the unimpeachable ‘liberationists’ and their ‘Indian comrades’, including the highest Indian most generals who gave Bangladesh its ‘Cesarean birth’. Some of the latter have, of course, their own fiction to sell.
Curiously, those in Pakistan have remained indolent. There was no attempt to refute any of the vile accusations, including this very loathsome charge. Instead, there appeared to be a misplaced hope that apologetic smile to any and every charge would help in taking the heat out and once sobriety was restored and goodwill regenerated, the time would arrive for the truth to come out. Despite its many attractions, such a stand back posture has helped in perpetuating the falsehood and possibly retarding the restoration of the brotherly relationship between the peoples of Pakistan and Bangladesh.  For the intention of the mythmakers was to harbour hatred.
In order to create a healthy relationship between the two peoples it is essential to admit, and where possible to take measures to amend, all past mistakes committed by either people and their leaders. However, it is imperative that such steps should be taken on both sides with fidelity to truth and not on opportunism or contrived facts and unfounded myths.
Like many other myths of its kind, the fiction of three million dead and three hundred thousand women raped was not politically innocent; and it is time to recognise this both in Pakistan and in Bangladesh. Not to do so would be a disservice to truth and damaging to the interest of the people of both countries, especially the people of Bangladesh. This would be so, for any further credence to such a poisonous myth would perpetuate the psychic isolation and the splintered Muslim self-view of the people of Bangladesh in their geopolitically island-like setting. This would not serve their enlightened national self-interest, nor their independence. Instead, this would help those in and outside their country who wish to do away with their very existence as a Muslim nation.
BEHIND THE MYTH OF THREE MILLION is a re-examination of a sad chapter in the relationship of the people of Pakistan and Bangladesh and exposes its utterly contrived nature as well as the motive behind such inventiveness. I am one of those whose family were reported among the casualties of Pakistan Army’s action in Dhaka on the night of 26 March 1971. Some of my personal friends within the ‘liberationist’ camp even had a condolence meeting for me in their Indian safe heaven! I am not alone in having been counted as dead. Countless other people could tell a similar story of their own. Some have even found their names engraved in the commemorative plaques solemnly dedicated in memory of the fallen heroes of the Bangladesh War.  Being one of many such’ ‘reincarnated’ beings, I feel duty bound to help remove the myth which is of no service either to my fellow countrymen or to history. Yet, mindful of the requirement of objectivity I have chosen to confine myself to published works and recorded sources and have analysed them with the utmost fidelity to the truth. The ultimate judgement lies with the reader and it is my hope that they would find the pages that follow both interesting and informative.
In putting facts over fiction, I risk ruffling the feathers of those who for all manner of reasons have allowed themselves to be beguiled. Even if a few of them start considering the facts and begin rethinking their position, I shall consider my efforts worth-while. For those who in their blinkered disposition refuse to distinguish facts from fiction and continue to follow the pied pipers of the ‘spirit of liberation’ fame, who have – to my mind and I hope many would agree with me – no better function other than leading the Muslim Nation of Bangladesh towards its national suicide, I can only pray for divine guidance.
A friend has helped me with source materials and other friends have joined him in encouraging me for a quick completion of the work. All of them have done so, I am sure, out of friendship and not for credit. The friend who helped me with source materials particularly wanted to remain anonymous. In deference to his wish, I refrain from naming him and other friends. However, saliently and sincerely I acknowledge their debt and pray for their continued well-being.
February, 1996 (Dr. M. Abdul Mu’min Chowdhury)
NOTES AND REFERENCES
1. Zahir Raihan was a Marxist who was said to have been disillusioned while in Calcutta and did not believe that the ‘intellectuals’ found murdered in Dhaka on the eve of 16 December 1971- who included his elder brother Shahidullah Kaiser- could have been killed at the behest of the Pakistan Army as has been alleged. The rumour has it that he also had incriminatory photographs of questionable activities of the Awami League leaders in India. While gathering information about the killing he was kidnapped in Dhaka in broad day light and was never seen again. There is no doubt that he was killed by either those who were at risk of being exposed or those who did not like the truth behind the killing of the intellectuals to come out.
2. For a cogent argument on this point cf. Syed Sajjad Husain, The Wastes of Time: Reflections on the Decline and Fall of East Pakistan, Notun Safar Prokashani, 44 Purana Paltan, Dhaka -1000, 1995: 265-84
3. Jauhuri, Tirish Lakher Telesmat (The Riddle of Thirty Lakh), Asha Prokashan, 435 Elephant Road, Dhaka -1217,1994: 74