This is a cross post from Bangladeshi Patriot on the 1971 Awami League genocide of Non-Bengalis in East Pakistan:
When the Indian sponsored Mukt Bahni murdered 1 million Biharis
Posted on 10 April 2011
News about the massacres carried out by the Mukti Bahani are coming to the light. Sarmila Bose says that many of the pictures of the massacres of the Biharis have now become part of the lore that blames the Pakistanis Army. She mentions the massacre of Non-Bengalis in Jessore as a vivid example of the demonization of the Pakistanis Army by the Indian Army and their henchmen.
Here is a short essay on the massacre of the Biharis by the Mukti Bahani in Panchabibi. Kalam estimates that over a million Biharis were murdered before and after 1971–this was the main cause of the March 23rd’s military action–the causes of which have been obfuscated by history.
Kalam writes: I am grateful to Sarmila Bose for bringing the hidden facts in light.Pakistani Forces fought bravely in East Pakistan in 1971 this has been acknowledged by the Indian army. Rape committed by Pakistan Army in East Pakistan was very rare. In every army there are evil doers. In Pakistan army there may be few.
Actually Mukti Bahini and Bengal Regiment personnel raped the Bihari and west Pakistani women killed about 800,000/ to 1,000,000/ innocent Biharis and West Pakistanis in East Pakistan in 1971. After the 16th of December 1971 Bangladeshis showed the dead bodies and graves of these innocent Biharis and Pakistanis as Bengali people killed by the Pakistan army. This is the fact.
How cruel our Bengali Brothers could be we have observed in the BDR mutiny recently. I belong to a Bihari family who migrated from India to East Pakistan in 1947 and settled in Panchabibi in the district of Bogra. My uncle Bashir and my elder brother was a school going boys at that time and were admitted in a Bangla school at Panchabi and they both Passed S.S.C examination from Panchabibi High School.
In 1971 my uncle was a Primary school teacher there .Although our mother language was Urdu we were educated in Bangla. Our friends were Bengalis but in April 1971 when Panchabi was under the control of Mukti Bahini the Biharis were called to attend a meeting in the Panchabibi Police Station where matter of their safety was to be discusses.The day was Friday. When the time of Juma Prayer came the 110 Biharis who came to attend the meeting asked permission to go to the nearby mosque and say there prayer but they were not permitted to go to the mosque.
They were asked to go Panchabibi High school which was adjacent to the Police Station to say their prayer. While they offering their prayer in the school room of the school the room was locked by th Mukti Bahini from out side and 3 days later on Monday all of the 110 innocent Biharis along with my uncle and my brother-in-law were killed by the Mukti Bahini and loaded on a truck and buried on the bank of Jamuna river in 3 combined graves in the west of Panchabibi Police Station. The Mukti Bahini killed the Biharis in every part of East Pakistan in Dinajpur, Corkai, Phoolbari, Santahar. Natore, Paksy, Issardi,Mymensing, Jessore Chittagong and each and every part of East Pakistan where the Biharis lived.
I invite each and every one who disagree with the facts which I have mentioned above to go to the spot and investigate the matter. Muhammad Abul Kalam firstname.lastname@example.org adds: 2010/11/13 at 7:57 am
Indian Support of Mukti Bahini Guerrillas (Documents from the U.S. National Archives)
Initially, the Indians are likely to confine their actions to expressions of sympathy for and perhaps support to East Bengalis. They will watch closely for signs as to the strength and prospects for success on the part of East Bengal dissidents. If the evidence indicates to the Indians that the East Bengal independence movement has reasonably good prospects for success, the GOI may do any of several things: tolerate privately provided cross-border assistance to the East Bengalis. This assistance could range from propaganda support to weapons and explosives; permit East Bengal dissidents to use India as a refuge and to conduct cross-border activities from within India; covertly provide supplies, including weapons, and perhaps some training, to East Bengal dissidents. Indian Reaction to Pakistan Events, Mar. 29, 1971
Shahi displayed concern over evolution of events in East Pakistan and thought competing communist elements from India could set off armed struggle between left and right forces in East Bengal which could overshadow current hostilities between separatists and army. Pakistan PERMREP Protests Indian Interference, Apr. 9, 1971
Pakistan High Commissioner told Ambassador today that Pakistan and India on verge of war. … He claimed 3,000 Indians armed with regulation Indian Army equipment either kiled or captured by Pakistani troops in East Pakistan. Conversation with Pakistan High Commissioner, April 30, 1971
In addition to its concern about the refugee problem, the GOI has been taking steps to support the Bengali struggle for independence in the face of the military successes of the Pakistan Army. The BSF has established camps at which 10,000 Bengalis are reportedly receiving training in guerrilla and sabotage tactics. Limited quantities of arms and ammunition continue to be provided to the Bengali separatists and some Indian forces have infiltrated into East Bengal to provide assistance and training to the separatists. … [W]e have learned from intelligence sources that China may have given a conditional promise to assist Pakistan in the event hostilities break out with India. The Chinese may have also given assurances that they will initiate military action “along the Tibetan border” if Indian troops deliberately cross the Pakistani border in force. Should the Chinese become directly involved,it is likely that the Soviet Union will openly support India and will presumably provide such military assistance as required. Contingency Study for Indo-Pakistan Hostilities, May 25, 1971
For some time now India has been systematically interfering in internal affairs of Pakistan with clear aim of jeopardizing Pakistan’s territorial integrity. India has sent armed infiltrators into East Pakistan to create disturbances and to help anti-state elements. She has circulated false and highly distorted and tendentious accounts of events in East Pakistan through government-controlled radio and press. She has not only provided shelter to anti-state elements on her soil but has also persistently allowed so-called members of “Bangla Desh Government” to use her radio and other mass media to stir up rebellion against legitimate government of country. Pakistan Protest Note to India, May 26, 1971
We have pursued three courses with regard to the Indians. First, since the refugee burden seems to be India’s major problem now, we have taken a number of steps to encourage India to manage this problem by getting international assistance rather than by taking direct action against East Pakistan as some Indians are urging. Partly because of our actions U Thant is getting an effective international assistance program underway. We are already helping and will be stepping up our assistance. Second, we have taken up with the Indians their cross-border support to guerrillas and have privately cautioned them against direct action. Third, in order to persuade the Indians that a solution to the East Pakistan problem can be achieved without their direct military intervention, we have confidentially briefed them on the positions we are taking privately with Pakistan. Possible India-Pakistan War, May 26, 1971
Following based on Corr’s personal observations and discussions with M.A.K. Chaudhry, Inspector General Police (IGP), East Pakistan, formerly IGP North West Frontier Province (NWFP). Joint Embassy-USAID Message, June 25, 1971
Choudhury admitted that attacks by Mukti Bahini forces against police stations in rural areas seemed to be continuing at a high level but asserted that at least now police were fighting back rather than dropping their rifles and running. … Referring to Dacca, he said bombings and sabotage were a major headache for his forces. Recalling press item three days ago announcing capture of young Bengali carrying explosives, IG said man was part of three man team designated to disrupt SSC (matriculation) examinations. He said young man was found with impressive supply of grenades adn other explosive devices, all with Indian markings. Man admitted to membership BM and to having been trained at Argatala before undertaking mission. Status of East Pak Police, July 23, 1971
Two successive batches of insurgents have now completed training in India and have boosted number and quality of infiltrators. Number of Mukti Bahini have received training at Dehra Dun and been commissioned as officers. Additional numbers are now in training at various Indian centers. Meanwhile extremist elements including Naxalites have taken advantage of opportunity to step up their own activity, on the other hand, Hamid said, Mukti Bahini are not so successful as they would like to have people believe. Conversation with Pak Army Chief of Staff: East Pak Situation, Aug. 11, 1971
Acting Secretary Johnson called in Indian Ambassador Jha August 23 to discuss USG concerns about reports of GOI intention to step up its support to Mukti Bahini and to express USG hope that GOI could use its influence with Mukti Bahini to discourage and prevent attacks on relief facilities and personnel in East Pakistan. Jha in response indicated historical tradition of anarchic violence in Bengal and physical and poltiical difficulties which GOI would face if it tried disarm guerrillas. Jha stressed dangers of radicalization of Mukti Bahini. Indian Support to Mukti Bahini, Aug. 12, 1971
During Hilaly’s call on Cisco August 13, Hilaly raised question of role Senator Church and his office playing on behalf of Bangla Desh Movement. Hilaly’s Call on Sisco, Aug. 14, 1971
Primary problem is not cross-border activity by Paks but rather by Indians, including vital support they are giving to Mukti Bahini. We believe problem of potential serious cross-border action by Paks would be easily eliminated if India halted its own support for military operation within East Pakistan. Indo-Pak Escalation, August 20, 1971
Three months ago East Bengali leftist parties sought the formation of a United Front Government. They were then rebuffed by the Awami League, which asserted that its sweeping victory in East Bengal in the December 1970 general elections conferred on it a mandate as exclusive representative of the people of East Bengal. The creation of the council is thus a major shift in the Awami League’s stance. Some sources believe that the council was formed as a result of pressure from leftists within the Mukhti Bahini; since the “liberation force” appears to have drawn heavily on students, it is very likely that it has a higher than average complement of leftists. Moreover, the Mukhti Bahini runs the day-to-day risks in the struggle against the Pakistan Government and now has more immediate contact with the people of East Bengal than the BDG, whose members are in India. Thus, the Mukhti Bahini might have been able to convince the Awami League of the need to broaden the BDG’s base. Bangla Desh: A “National Liberation Front” Emerging? Sept. 21, 1971
Serious concern over Indian military deployments, strengths, and intentions was expressed during Sep 30 briefing of Congressman Frelinghuysen by Major General Jilani, Director General, Inter Services Intelligence, and his staff. … They also portrayed 69 Indian-sponsored insurgent training camps bordering East Pakistan, with an estimated total of 30 – 50 thousand rebels in training. Pak Military Intelligence Briefing for Congressman Frelinghuysen, Oct. 1, 1971
Although India had not started the crisis, it was, for reasons of its own, supporting guerrilla activity in East Pakistan, even though this was denied. Memorandum of Conversation with Foreign Secretary Douglas-Home (Great Britain), Oct. 3, 1971
Sir Terence asked about US representations to India on latter’s aid to Mukti Bahini. I replied that GOI position is that it gives sympathy and support, as demanded by Pariament, to members of Mukti Bahini who enter India and then go back with or without arms. GOI makes clear it will not stop this support. However, GOI will not admit that it is supporting training camps for Mukti Bahini on Indian soil, despite ample evidence to contrary. I expressed doubt regular Indian Army units or personnel are participating in military activity in EAst Pakistan, though some Indian Bengalis might be involved. Sir Terence noted incidence of shooting, including artillery, across the border. I speculated that if Paks retaliate it will probably be in Kashmir in order to seize territory for bargaining purposes. War or Peace in South Asia, October 7, 1971
We now have specific report (Calcutta 2605 – protect source) to effect that Mukti Bahini plans to inject as many as 40,000 armed men across border by October 15, with additional 20,000 to follow by end October. This action reportedly would be accomplished with support diversionary actions by Indian Army to keep Pak Armed Forces off balance while infiltration took place. We are not convinced that intensified guerrilla activity will achieve results compatible with India’s interests. Risks of War in Indo-Pak Confrontation, Oct. 7, 1971
Oct 8 press reported 79 Indian agents eliminated the previous day in two separate actions in Rangpur District. First action in which 44 were claimed killed occurred mile and a half outside Pakistan territory near Daikhata. In second action, north of Lalmanirhat, 35 infiltrators were reportedly killed. In both cases, large quantities of ammunition, including machine guns, grenades and explosives claimed captured. Comment: Press reports of Indian agents and/or infiltrators killed this week now totals 136. More Indian Agents, Oct. 8, 1971
Status of insurgency: In Dacca 2733 we suggested two chief unknowns this situation were: (1) whether population of province had will continue support [sic] MB in face of difficulties and reprisals and (2) whether MB would be able organize itself for long guerrilla struggle. In past two months we have gathered some evidence on both points: (A) On question of popular support our impression is that urban bourgoisie showing some signs weariness. People in this clas hate West Pakistan as much as in April and May but some beginning wish things would settle down. However, peasants who must actually feed and shelter guerrillas appear be on side of MB as much as ever. This true despite fact that there are now more guerrillas than in July, placing correspondingly heavier burden on rural people. Army’s reprisals against villagers for MB actions appear counterproductive in sense of increasing their hatred of the army and support of MB. In sum, MB’s popular support appears to be holding up. (B) Question of organization somewhat more obscure. As reported in Dacca 4066, MB in Gopalganj claims existence permanent chain of command from Colonel Usmani down to Thana-level guerrillas. MB sources informed Australian Deputy High Commissioner (protect) that MB has about 28,000 EBRS, EPRS, police, locally-recruited militia (Ansars) and veterans; 40,000 men in camps being trained for conventional war; and 35,000 men who have completed guerrilla training and are already active; latter reportedly supposedly scattered among 69 base camps and 100 sub-bases throughout province. According this source, MB intends establish 90 base camps eventually. Best judgment we can make at this point is that while MB has not yet developed its organization to degree necessary to overcome Pak Army, it has made considerable progress. First evidence of parallel BD shadow government appeared during month: as reported Dacca 4066, Time Correspondent Dan Coggin met individuals in Gopalganj Subdivision claiming to be governing area in name Bangla Desh Government. Pakistan Internal Situation, Oct. 9, 1971
Former East Pakistan Governor Abdul Monem Khan shot to death night October 13 at his home in Dacca. As Monem Khan had been conferring with conservative polticians for past several months with view toward ending his retirement, strong likelihood is that assassination carried out by Mukti Bahini. Assassination of Monem Khan, Oct. 14, 1971
The Pakistan Army in East Pakistan has achieved nearly autonomous control of the province, in many respects independent of the policies and direction of President Yahya Khan in Islamabad. Only foreign affairs affecting East Pakistan is firmly in the hands of Islamabad. The relative isolation of President Yahya Khan is probably the result of many factors. Indications of this isolation are that Army commandersi in the East pursue independent military operations, the Army governs the province behind the facade of the puppet civilian Governor Malik and his cabinet — who are completely dependent on the Army for their personal security — with limited reference to Islamabad, little but Pakistani successes and India’s perfidy is reported from Dacca to Islamabad, and President Yahya Khan lacks independent means of observation, reporting and verification of events in the East. … The myth of growing political stability in East Pakistan is almost certainly fed to Yahya Khan by reports from his civilian Governor and his Army commanders. The reality is that Army policies and operations — behind the facade of a civilian government — are progressively and seriously alienating the Bengali population in East Pakistan, and that the seeds of rebellion are not only those sown by India. President Yahya Khan’s Control in East Pakistan is Increasingly Limited, Nov. 5, 1971
General Farman Ali Khan described the loevel of Mukti guerrilla insurgency as somewhat intensifed but manageable because the newly trained Bengali guerrillas entering from India feared to take action. Over 1,400 guerrillas had entered Dacca district in the last 30 days but only a few had chosen to fight. He acknowledged, off-the-record, that this was due to the terroristic reprisal policy. He also acknowledged that terror and reprisal had an “unfortunate effect on Bengali attitudes.” But he said, “all Army commanders had concluded that insurgency was more of a problem in areas where the Army had been too lenient and had not demonstrated clean-up operations.” … General Farman Ali Khan said the Army sought to leave the fighting of the Mukti guerrillas to the newly armed Bengali “Rasikars,” who now numbered 60,000. He acknowledged that “Rasikars” — raised as village levies for guard duty with only ten days training, and without NCOs or officers — did not constitute a disciplined force. However, the “Rasikars” are a destabilizing element — living off the land, able to make life and death decisions by denouncing collaborators and openly pillaging and terrorizing villages without apparent restraint from the Army. With villagers caught between the Rasikars and Mukti guerrillas, law and order is breaking down rapidly in rural East Pakistan. Hence, the rural population is moving either to the cities which are now overpopulated or going to India. … General Farman Ali Khan accepted the estimate that at least 80 percent of the Hindus had left East Pakistan. He, off-the-record, spoke of about six million refugees who had gone to India and he anticipated that a further 1,500,000 refugees would probably go to India “before the situation settles down.” President Yahya Khan’s Control in East Pakistan is Increasingly Limited, Nov. 5, 1971
[I]nitially, insurgence was weak. Indians needed several months to train Mukhti Bahini. Mukhti Bahini have conducted border crossings, and we are satisfied there is active Indian involvement in Pakistan fighting. This is mixed operations, with about four times more Indians than Mukhti Bahini. Indians have publicly acknowledged their direct involvement during last 48 hours. Minister of Defense has said Indian troops are permitted to cross border and go far enough into East Pakistan to quell artillery. India-Pakistan Briefing for Yugoslav, Nov. 30, 1971
Primin Indira Gandhi announced to packed Lok Sabha … that one hour earlier General Niazi, Pak commander in East Bengal, had surrendered unconditionally in Dacca to General Arora, Indian General commanding joint Indian Army / Mukti Bahini operations. Telegram from New Delhi Embassy to Secretary of State, Dec. 16, 1971
Reports continue to pour in of wanton killings of civilians by Indian armed forces personnel and Mukti Bahini in East Pakistan. In fact, American TV networks have shown pictures of huge crowds of people witnessing the torture and execution of people without any trial. … The Government of Pakistan would be grateful if the Government of the United States would impress upon the Government of India that the Indian occupation forces would be held responsible for the arson, loot, murder and rape by Mukti Bahini and other elements in East Pakistan. Aide Memoire, Dec. 20, 1971
Citizens of largely Bihari areas of Mohammedpur and Mirpur, on the outskirts of Dacca, are living in state of terror. Areas are cut off from communications and food. Lawlessness reigns. The Bihari Question, Dec. 23, 1971
Reliable sources report that the Pakistan Army has been placed on a low-level alert; less reliable sources indicate that Indian units may have also been put on alert. Substantial numbers of Indian troops have been deployed along the border with East Bengal, and there have been indications of possible Indian deployments in the West. Exchanges of artillery and mortar fire across the eastern Indo-Pakistani border have grown in number and volume over the past few weeks. A variety of sources indicate that India is preparing for major military operations in September. The order of July 28 banning foreign relief workers in India from border areas could signal the start of accelerated military preparations. India-Pakistan: The Guns of August, July 30, 1971
As a result of indications of a military build-up on both sides of the Indo-Pakistan border and of an early massive increase in cross-border infiltration, we instructed Ambassador Keating to see Mrs. Gandhi and Charge’ Sober to see President Yahya (a) to propose a pullback of military forces, (b) to point out to the Indians and the Pakistanis the grave damage to our bilateral relations which would result if either provoked a conflict, (c) to indicate the importance which we attached to a political settlement with the elected leaders of East Pakistan, and (d) to ask the Indians to prevent a massive cross-border infiltration of guerrillas. … Foreign Minister Swaran Singh (Mrs. Gandhi was unavailable) said the U.S. was “distorting” the sequence of events leading up to the present crisis and emphasized the need for genuine reconciliation in East Pakistan. He nevertheless categorically stated that (1) the Mukti Bahini was not present on the Indian border in such numbers ready to march openly into India; (2) the Indian Army would not undertake diversions to cover a Mukti Bahini attack, and (3) India would not attack or make any incursion against Pakistan. He also said India would consider withdrawal of Indian forces if Pakistani forces withdrew. Foreign Secretary Kaul subsequently reaffirmed a willingness to “reconsider” the situation if Pak forces withdrew from the “threatening” positions they now occupy. Proposal for Mutual Withdrawal from Indo-Pak Borders, Oct. 20, 1971
He stressed that any Indian attack on Lahore would invite Pakistani retaliation on Indian cities such as Amritsar and Ferozepore. He noted Pakistani artillery of considerably longer range and higher fire power than any Indians believed to possess. He further stated Pak reconnaissance aircraft have penetrated India as far as Srinigar and returned safely despite Indian pursuit. Pakistan Military Tactics in Lahore Area, Oct. 20, 1971
Reports of extensive and presumably Indian-supported Mukti Bahini penetrations along East Pakistan border could represent serious escalation in Indian/Mukti Bahini pressure tactics against Pakistan. On behalf of President Amb. Keating is conveying to GOI our deep concern over this development. We are also instructing Amb. Beam in Moscow to convey to Soviets our concern over these developments and our hope that USSR will use its influence for restraint by GOI. You should seek immediate appointment with President Yahya to inform him of actions we are taking with Indians and Soviets. You should take not of Yahya letter to President (septel), expressing President’s strong appreciation for Yahya’s determination continue exercise greatest possible degree of military restraint and “avoid senseless and destructive war with India.” Secret Telegram from State Dept to Islamabad Embassy, Nov. 23, 1971
On November 21 an Indian Army Brigade group supported by armed helicopters ingressed into Chittagong Hill Tracts over-running our border out-posts and ingressing approximately 10 miles in our territory. On the same day, another brigade group of 23rd Indian Division launched an attack in the Belonia Salient of Noakhali District pushing 8 miles deep into Pakistan territory, supported by the rest of the Division. In the Brahmambaria subdivision also on November 21 attacks were launched by a battalion group each from 57th Division against two of our border posts at Mukandpur and Saldandi which were over-run. In Sylhet District Maulvi Bazar subdivision, two battalion groups attacked and over-ran our border out-posts at Dhalai, Atheram and Zakigauj. The battalion groups included two companies of Gurkhas. On November 21, another attack was launched in Rangpur District in the Burangamari Salient where an Indian Brigade Group penetrated 15 miles into Pakistan territory up to Nageshwari. On the same day in Jessore District, a major offensive was launched by a brigade group of 9th Indian Division supported by armor and air cover. The attack was launched opposite Chaugacha and Indian tanks penetrated about 8 miles into Pakistan territory. … As many as 12 Indian Divisions have been deployed around East Pakistan. In additon there are 38 battalions of the Indian border security force. 2nd and 5th Indian mountain divisions which were previously deploted on the borders with China have also been moved towards East Pakistan. The 8th Mountain Division (of 6 brigades) has also been moved to East Pakistan borders towards Sylhet from Nagaland where only one brigade is now left. … Mr. President, as you are aware Indian armed forces in the last few months have maintained pressure all along our Eastern borders. Apart from training, equipping and launching rebels supported by Indian Border Security force personnel into Pakistan territory, Indian artillery units have been constantly shelling areas in East Pakistan. But as I have pointed out above, in the last 3 or 4 days the Indian Armed Forces have turned from localized attacks to open and large scale warfare on so many fronts. Letter from President Yahya to President Nixon, Nov. 23, 1971
Lest there be any possible misunderstanding on subject of Niazi’s intentions in making his approach to me, I should like to emphasize that Niazi is appealing for our most speedy assistance in bringing his proposal to attention of Indian army authorities as quickly as humanly possible in order to reduce liklihood that beginning of assault in Dacca (which could occur beginning with daylight tomorrow) may unleash bloodbath. Today’s heavy bombing and strafing of targets in Dacca and elsewhere lend point to Niazi’s urgency. I strongly recommend that New Delhi or Calcutta or both be immediately authorized convey Niazi’s message directly to Indian army authorities asap. Niazi Cease Fire Proposal, Dec. 14, 1971
“Pakistan Government is putting out false allegations against Indian in and outside UN. They have alleged that India has launched massive attack with tanks and troops in East Pakistan. This allegation is false and baseless and is designed to cover up massing of Pakistani infantry, artillery and armor right up to our borders in an attempt to crush freedom movement in East Bengal and push more refugees into India. To exacerbate the situation further, President Yahya has declared a stae of emergency throughout Pakistan on November 22. This has been done following Pak offensive of November 21 supported by tanks and artillery against freedom fighters who were holding liberated area around Boyra in East Bengal five miles from Indian border. Pakistani armor under heavy artillery cover advanced to our border threatening our defensive position. Their shells fell into our territory wounding a number of our men. The local Indian military commander took appropriate action to break up Pakistani attack. In doing so he destroyed thirteen Chafee tanks whereupon the Pak troops fell back. On November 22 Pakistani forces called up an air strike of four Sabre jets on our positions. These were intercepted within Indian territory by our Gnats who destroyed three Sabre jets.” South Asia Crisis, Nov. 24, 1971
Current GOI attitudes toward West Pakistan are necessarily tentative pending Indo-Pak peace settlement and unfolding of President Bhutto’s declared policy and actual practice over next months. … Should Bhutto opt for postures of revanchism and revision, for military buildup, for anti-Indian alliance strategy, GOI might respond by abetting the weakening of West Pakistan from within. Indian Intentions Re Baluchistan and Pashtunistan, Jan. 17. 1972
NY Times and Washington Post Wednesday editions carried Schanberg/Lescaze stories attributed to Indian sources suggesting USG deliberately delayed transmission of surrender proposal from Niazi to Indian authorities. … Spokesman has emphasized that nothing like 20-odd hours lost; that only even potentially avoidable delay fell within period 1620-2300 December 14 when we unable to establish contact with Pakistanis or Indians; that delay was completely unintended and stories suggesting contrary are unfounded and inaccurate. Alleged Delay in Transmission of Surrender Proposal, Jan. 26, 1972.
See also The Report of the Commission of Inquiry – 1971 War declassified by the government of Pakistan. Paul Wolf, 2003-2004. No copyright to original government works. For educational use only.
‘Dead Reckoning’ redefines history of 1971 (viewstimes.com)
Sarmila Bose redefines 1971 history: Dead Reckoning (rupeenews.com)
Truth about 1971 comes out: Sarmila Bose (timesofislamabad.com)
Dead Reckoning defines the 1971 truth: There were no mass rapes (timesofislamabad.com)
Sarmila Bose thinks Pakistan Army was profesisonal in 1971 (pakistanindependent.com)
Sarmila Bose’s impartial evidence debunks 1971 rape allegations against Pakistan Army (timesofislamabad.com)
Host of new analysts like Bose bring out the truth of 1971 (timesofislamabad.com)
Pakistan Army shined in 1971: Sarmila Bose (newpakistantimes.com)
1971 Mass rape allegations massive propoganda: Sarmila Bose (thedawn.com.pk)
1971: Pakistan soldiers could not have raped so many women (thedawn.com.pk)
Truth about 1971 (pakistanindependent.com)
The truth about the Jessore massacre by Sarmila Bose
The massacre may have been genocide, but it wasn’t committed by the Pakistan army. The dead men were non-Bengali residents of Jessore, butchered in broad daylight by Bengali nationalists.
The bodies lie strewn on the ground. All are adult men, in civilian clothes. A uniformed man with a rifle slung on his back is seen on the right. A smattering of onlookers stand around, a few appear to be working, perhaps to remove the bodies.
The caption of the photo is just as grim as its content: ‘April 2, 1971: Genocide by the Pakistan Occupation Force at Jessore.’ It is in a book printed by Bangladeshis trying to commemorate the victims of their liberation war.
It is a familiar scene. There are many grisly photographs of dead bodies from 1971, published in books, newspapers and websites.
Reading another book on the 1971 war, there was that photograph again ? taken from a slightly different angle, but the bodies and the scene of the massacre were the same. But wait a minute! The caption here reads: ‘The bodies of businessmen murdered by rebels in Jessore city.’
The alternative caption is in The East Pakistan Tragedy, by L.F. Rushbrook Williams, written in 1971 before the independence of Bangladesh. Rushbrook Williams is strongly in favour of the Pakistan government and highly critical of the Awami League. However, he was a fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, had served in academia and government in India, and with the BBC and The Times. There was no reason to think he would willfully mislabel a photo of a massacre.
And so, in a bitter war where so many bodies had remained unclaimed, here is a set of murdered men whose bodies are claimed by both sides of the conflict! Who were these men? And who killed them?
It turns out that the massacre in Jessore may have been genocide, but it wasn’t committed by the Pakistan army. The dead men were non-Bengali residents of Jessore, butchered in broad daylight by Bengali nationalists.
It is but one incident, but illustrative of the emerging reality that the conflict in 1971 in East Pakistan was a lot messier than most have been led to believe. Pakistan’s military regime did try to crush the Bengali rebellion by force, and many Bengalis did die for the cause of Bangladesh’s independence. Yet, not every allegation hurled against the Pakistan army was true, while many crimes committed in the name of Bengali nationalism remain concealed.
Once one took a second look, some of the Jessore bodies are dressed in salwar kameez ? an indication that they were either West Pakistanis or ‘Biharis’, the non-Bengali East Pakistanis who had migrated from northern India.
As accounts from the involved parties ? Pakistan, Bangladesh and India ? tend to be highly partisan, it was best to search for foreign eye witnesses, if any. My search took me to newspaper archives from 35 years ago. The New York Times carried the photo on April 3, 1971, captioned: ‘East Pakistani civilians, said to have been slain by government soldiers, lie in Jessore square before burial.’ The Washington Post carried it too, right under its masthead: ‘The bodies of civilians who East Pakistani sources said were massacred by the Pakistani army lie in the streets of Jessore.’ “East Pakistani sources said”, and without further investigation, these august newspapers printed the photo.
In fact, if the Americans had read The Times of London of April 2 and Sunday Times of April 4 or talked to their British colleagues, they would have had a better idea of what was happening in Jessore. In a front-page lead article on April 2 entitled ‘Mass Slaughter of Punjabis in East Bengal,’ The Times war correspondent Nicholas Tomalin wrote an eye-witness account of how he and a team from the BBC programme Panorama saw Bengali troops and civilians march 11 Punjabi civilians to the market place in Jessore where they were then massacred. “Before we were forced to leave by threatening supporters of Shaikh Mujib,” wrote Tomalin, “we saw another 40 Punjabi “spies” being taken towards the killing ground?”
Tomalin followed up on April 4 in Sunday Times with a detailed description of the “mid-day murder” of Punjabis by Bengalis, along with two photos ? one of the Punjabi civilians with their hands bound at the Jessore headquarters of the East Pakistan Rifles (a Bengal formation which had mutinied and was fighting on the side of the rebels), and another of their dead bodies lying in the square. He wrote how the Bengali perpetrators tried to deceive them and threatened them, forcing them to leave. As other accounts also testify, the Bengali “irregulars” were the only ones in central Jessore that day, as the Pakistan government forces had retired to their cantonment.
Though the military action had started in Dhaka on March 25 night, most of East Pakistan was still out of the government’s control. Like many other places, “local followers of Sheikh Mujib were in control” in Jessore at that time. Many foreign media reported the killings and counter-killings unleashed by the bloody civil war, in which the army tried to crush the Bengali rebels and Bengali nationalists murdered non-Bengali civilians.
Tomalin records the local Bengalis’ claim that the government soldiers had been shooting earlier and he was shown other bodies of people allegedly killed by army firing. But the massacre of the Punjabi civilians by Bengalis was an event he witnessed himself. Tomalin was killed while covering the Yom Kippur war of 1973, but his eye-witness accounts solve the mystery of the bodies of Jessore.
There were, of course, genuine Bengali civilian victims of the Pakistan army during 1971. Chandhan Sur and his infant son were killed on March 26 along with a dozen other men in Shankharipara, a Hindu area in Dhaka. The surviving members of the Sur family and other residents of Shankharipara recounted to me the dreadful events of that day. Amar, the elder son of the dead man, gave me a photo of his father and brother’s bodies, which he said he had come upon at a Calcutta studio while a refugee in India. The photo shows a man’s body lying on his back, clad in a lungi, with the infant near his feet.
Amar Sur’s anguish about the death of his father and brother (he lost a sister in another shooting incident) at the hands of the Pakistan army is matched by his bitterness about their plight in independent Bangladesh. They may be the children of a ‘shaheed,’ but their home was declared ‘vested property’ by the Bangladesh government, he said, in spite of documents showing that it belonged to his father. Even the Awami League ? support for whom had cost this Hindu locality so many lives in 1971 ? did nothing to redress this when they formed the government.
In the book 1971: documents on crimes against humanity committed by Pakistan army and their agents in Bangladesh during 1971, published by the Liberation War Museum, Dhaka, I came across the same photo of the Sur father and son’s dead bodies. It is printed twice, one a close-up of the child only, with the caption: ‘Innocent women were raped and then killed along with their children by the barbarous Pakistan Army’. Foreigners might just have mistaken the ‘lungi’ worn by Sur for a ‘saree’, but surely Bangladeshis can tell a man in a ‘lungi’ when they see one! And why present the same ‘body’ twice?
The contradictory claims on the photos of the dead of 1971 reveal in part the difficulty of recording a messy war, but also illustrate vividly what happens when political motives corrupt the cause of justice and humanity. The political need to spin a neat story of Pakistani attackers and Bengali victims made the Bengali perpetrators of the massacre of Punjabi civilians in Jessore conceal their crime and blame the army. The New York Times and The Washington Post “bought” that story too. The media’s reputation is salvaged in this case by the even-handed eye-witness reports of Tomalin in The Times and Sunday Times.
As for the hapless Chandhan Sur and his infant son, the political temptation to smear the enemy to the maximum by accusing him of raping and killing women led to Bangladeshi nationalists denying their own martyrs their rightful recognition. In both cases, the true victims ?Punjabis and Bengalis, Hindus and Muslims ? were cast aside, their suffering hijacked, by political motivations of others that victimised them a second time around.