‘Bangladesh War: Report from Ground Zero by Manash Ghosh’, journalist’s diary notes: The Tribune India

Manash gosh

What the Jews were to Hitler, the Hindus were to Niazi. He would ask his troops to count the number of Hindus they had killed each day, so that a large official tally could be made at the end of the month. This would give a clear idea of ​​how many Hindus they were able to wipe out from the face of East Pakistan. So his troops were urged to “… kill whoever Hindu comes your way.” The problem with Bengali Muslims is that they are Hindus at heart, so they are traitors. Our war is between us (pure) and them (unclean Muslims). The Bengali problem requires a military, not a political, solution. The chief of the Pakistani army, General Hamid Khan, while inspecting his troops in East Pakistan in 1971, asked his soldiers: “Jawan, tumne aaj tak kitne Hindu maare? (Soldier, how many Hindus have you killed so far?) Bengali women, regardless of religion and age, were considered by him to be “gonimat ka maal” (public property), who should ‘first to be appreciated and then to be killed without fail and at will without asking questions. At a meeting of commanders, Niazi even openly vowed to completely change the Bengali (race) nasal. It upset a Bengali Mushtaq major present at the meeting so much that he went to the bathroom and shot himself. This incident is mentioned in Lieutenant General Khadim Hussain Raja’s book “A Stranger in My Own Country” (2012).

The author (far right) fleeing Pabna in East Pakistan with his DC, Nurul Kader Khan (far left), in April 1971.

For example, Hindus made up about 75% of the ever-increasing number of refugees entering India; between 55,000 and 60,000 entering each day at the end of April, with the majority women. There was another category of Bengalis, mainly young Muslims and peasants, who mingled with the refugees and entered India in large numbers. During my almost daily visits to the Boyra, Tehatta and Gede borders to cover the influx of refugees, I saw their ever-increasing number, which convinced me of the positive outcome of the liberation war. Many, whom I met at the border, were university students from faraway places, including Dhaka and other cities. As they crossed, they urgently requested the location of the nearest Mukti Bahini camp or the BSF outpost. If I asked them why, their answer was that they were here to train in the use of weapons to join the Mukti Bahini and rid the country of the Khan Sena (Pak soldiers). With the exception of the ragged bags and red gamchchas (towels) wrapped around their necks or heads, they wore nothing else.

A large majority came from the peasant stock, for the most part illiterate. I was in awe of their conviction in the cause of the liberation of their land from the yoke of Pakistan. They said that young people from their neighboring villages had already passed by the hundreds to India for weapons training. The broadcasts of Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendro and All India Radio had prompted them to voluntarily join the struggle for freedom. Their parents urged them to join the Mukti Bahini. Significantly, each volunteer swore by Sheikh Mujib and his call for independence. Several times I took them in my office car and dropped them off at youth camps.

At the end of April was also the time when opposition leaders in the Indian Parliament demanded recognition of the government in exile and Indian military intervention in Bangladesh. Indira Gandhi and her advisers argued that military intervention would boomerang India and reverse the process of the war of liberation, which had gained international attention, especially after the provisional government was sworn in. She said any Indian intervention would be interpreted as part of an Indian plot to dismember Pakistan, something Pakistan was trying to sell to the outside world, without much success. India had to be cautious because Bangladesh had suddenly become the center of international diplomacy.

The cons and the false narrative of General Yahya, propagated by his personal emissaries in various world capitals, was that the civil war situation had been “brought under control” with the arrest of his “leader” and the “real villain of the piece ”- Cheikh Mujib. His story was that “normalcy was quickly returning because of his positive initiatives.” He assured world leaders that once normalcy was restored, he would begin negotiations with members of the National Assembly for an amicable solution.

An immediate offshoot of the government-in-exile, working out of Calcutta, and the massive influx of refugees made the city overnight become the hub of international news and diplomacy. VVIPs flew in and out of town almost daily to witness firsthand the enormity of the refugee crisis.

India’s foreign ministry had opened its branch secretariat in the city, headed by a seasoned Bengali diplomat, Ashoke Roy. The most active diplomats were from the American and Soviet consulates, but Gurginov and the head of the KGB of the Soviet consulate were the most prominent. Gurginov could converse in common, chaste Bengali.

It was he who first informed me that diplomats from the American consulate were in contact with members of the Awami League and wooing them to return to Dhaka to find a settlement with Yahya without Mujib at the negotiating table. . Moscow paid little attention to Yahya, whose envoy informed the Kremlin that he was doing his best to restore normalcy and that the Soviets should refrain from giving any moral or material support to the Provisional Government under the rule. pressure from India.

Yahya had of course scored with the Americans. The deputies, who had been courted with the help of the American consulate, belonged to the camp of Khondokar Mushtaq Ahmed. Khondokar was the foreign minister of the provisional government. For now, close monitoring by RAW detectives has frustrated their efforts to respond positively to Yahya’s game plan. Yahya had, however, been able to identify those in the provisional government led by the Awami League who could play the role of a Trojan horse in the future and help him derail the “so-called war of liberation” with the help of the American Consulate in Calcutta. .

Although Yahya’s movement was unsuccessful at the time, it marked the start of the process to take Bangladesh in the opposite direction. Four years later, it culminated in the heinous murder of Sheikh Mujib.

– Extracted with permission from the publisher.

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