Bangladesh was not born with a silver spoon in her mouth. She was born of a nine-month long bloody battle, a concrete and substantive armed combat with the occupation forces of Pakistan in 1971. She has earned her independence by fierce fighting, not by any compromise solutions or peace negotiations. All these are the facts of recorded history. But some of our people, who have no sense of history, or who want to make mischief again in the country after '71, try to twist the facts of the Independence War to promote their own interests. They look askance at the undisputed historical facts, call many things into question, and make a mountain out of a molehill.
They hold the weird idea that the War of Independence was fought between Pakistan and India, and Bangladesh was made a scapegoat for the long-borne rivalry between these two belligerent countries of the Subcontinent. They argue that India came to help Bangladesh as a snake in the grass, and profited more than Bangladesh by fighting and winning the war. What Bangladesh gained was not worth the candle. They shed crocodile tears for Bangladesh, and keep smelling a rat in India's relations with Bangladesh.
It is, however, not a spur-of-the-moment idea. It is rather the part of a deliberate propaganda campaign. The exponents of this queer theory must have a far-reaching cause at the back of their mind. They are trying to give currency to this grotesque idea at such a time when the war criminals are standing trial, and the whole nation is supporting it except for a few of their blind followers, political allies, and beneficiaries.
So, while the whole gamut of the fundamentalist politics is going through a sticky patch, and the most notorious war criminals have either been punished or are languishing in custody, their hired hands are trying to clutch at straws by manufacturing grotesque ideas with a view to fishing in the troubled waters. Their motive is to pass the buck to others, and prove the accused innocent. They try to establish that there was no war between Bangladesh and Pakistan, and hence there should be no question of the existence of war criminals in Bangladesh. They point their accusing finger at the Pakistani occupation army, and ask to try the 195 captured Pakistani officers who were acquitted as per the conditions of the Simla Treaty on July 2, 1972. This is virtually impossible at the moment, and to make the ongoing trial process conditional upon their trial is an indirect denial of a pro-liberation popular demand. The Grand Alliance Government, however, is trying to try the criminals of our country who were involved in killing, plunder, arson attacks, rape, molestation, and all other crimes against humanity perpetrated against the people of Bangladesh during the Liberation War with the backing of the Pakistani occupation army. They are, too, war criminals for aiding and abetting the war criminals, and in one sense more criminal than their Pakistani masters. The occupation army could not have carried on the massacre by themselves, if these local accomplices had not assisted them.
To ignore the active role of Bangladesh herself in the Liberation War is to reject the glorious gallantry of the people. It was a well organized and corporate combat shared by peoples of Bangladesh from all walks of life. The military and civil forces stood hand in hand and shoulder to shoulder, and went on fighting until the last enemy bit the dust. The war took place in two phases. The first phase was the war of resistance, which began just after the Operation Searchlight was unleashed (25 March 1971). The moment the marauding Pakistani forces waged the unprovoked crackdown on the sleeping people at dead of night, some of our patriotic armed forces started fighting back almost instantaneously. Charged by Mujib with the responsibility of making every house a fort and remaining prepared to fight the enemies with whatever they have-the freedom-mad people of Bangladesh did not hesitate to immediately jump into counter-attacks. This war of resistance continued until the Mujibnagar Government was formed on 17 April 1971.
The second phase of our Liberation War started formally under the auspices of the Mujibnagar Government in an organized way. The whole country was divided into eleven sectors under the command of eleven highly efficient army officers. Apart from this, many civil commanders formed different guerrilla forces to fight the enemies. The valiant military and the civil freedom fighters of Bangladesh forged ahead so indomitably that the highly trained Pakistani armed forces were kept at bay. They had no choice but to surrender.
Although the war lasted only nine months, it took a heavy toll of human life and honour. It wreaked havoc on the entire country. As many as three million people were killed, and two hundred thousand women were raped and molested. Numberless houses, buildings, mills, factories, bridges, culverts, roads, highways, and railways were destroyed. If all these do not amount to a war against Bangladesh, and fought back by the people of Bangladesh, then what else was it?
The critics of our Independence tend to consider the Liberation War as a 'civil war' waged against the solidarity of Pakistan at the instigation of India. They regard the war-hero, Mujib as 'India's agent' who agitated for breaking their 'holy' Pakistan. This was basically the view of the Pakistani rulers, and was shared by some of the fundamentalist political parties in Bangladesh who aided and abetted them in the war. But victory was in favour of the mass people. The collaborators could not put up with their defeat, nor could they stomach people's victory in the war. So, they tried and are still trying to avenge upon the pro-liberation peoples and their ideals by way of manufacturing strange stories. That India joined the Bangladesh Liberation War just a few days before the final victory might have prompted their fertile imagination to call it an 'Indo-Pak War'. If this wild imagination is not kept in fetters, they will go on to spin more yarns about it. And you never can tell, one fine morning they would come up with another queer theory that the 1971 War was a 'US-Soviet' war, because in the same war, America sided with Pakistan and Soviet Russia with Bangladesh giving huge military support and diplomatic assurances. When America sent a nuclear-armed aircraft carrier of their Pacific Fleet to the Bay of Bengal to support Pakistan, Russia sent their Fleet to the Andaman Sea to support Bangladesh and India. But the war ended before any such assistance could be rendered. However, the inventive Independence critics can have ample chances of calling the war a 'US-Soviet' War. If they can justify a claim like this, the list of the war criminals would be lengthened, and the ongoing trial of the Bangladeshi war criminals may be shelved for another four decades.
The independence critics also find fault with the Pakistani armed forces' surrender to the Indian commander Lieutenant-General Jagjit Singh Arora. But this was done as per military hierarchy. He was the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Indian and Bangladeshi forces in the Eastern Theatre. This does not necessarily mean that it was a war between India and Pakistan. It is rather the norm of the war. In fact, India joined the war after Pakistan attacked eight airfields in northwest India, otherwise India might have not participated in the war. The guerrilla force called Muktibahini and the newly formed Bangladesh Army had already been fighting the Pakistani forces for about eight months prior to the arrival of the Indian army. So, there is no reason as to why it can be called an Indo-Pak war!
But the denouncers love to dub it as that. It is no wonder that they will try to twist the facts of our Liberation War. Even four decades after the Liberation War, they have not changed their conservative mindset, although they have intentionally changed their appearance and taken on a pro-liberation veneer especially in their speech. Now, they do not overtly take the anti-liberation stance. Instead, they try to twist facts in order to justify their means. This is more dangerous, because known enemies are easier to fight against than the unknown enemies. The unknown enemies are harping on their propaganda with the Goebbelian (Paul Joseph Goebbels was the Reich Minister of Propaganda in Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945) hope that someday people would believe them. But this is a sheer impossibility. They are, perhaps, ignorant of the fact that all people can be fooled for some time or some people for all time, but all people cannot be fooled for all the time.
These bizarre stories about our independence are no laughing matter. They should not go unchallenged. Law should not be broken with impunity, especially with regard to the independence issues. The detractors of our independence are enjoying all the facilities the state can offer, but refusing to recognize the truths about its independence. They are really the limit. There is no scope for evasion of their responsibility. The High Court, too, is in line with it. An honourable judge has expressed deep resentment against the distortion of the history of independence at the hands of some Varsity- academics, and regards it as a treasonable offence. This is a welcome legal measure. But our hard-earned independence needs to be protected and fostered from all possible angles-individual, social, political, cultural, and legal. It is the responsibility of the People's Republic to ensure this. The supreme sacrifice of three million people should not go in vain. We must pledge allegiance to the flag.
Dr Rashid Askari writes fiction and columns, and teaches English literature at Kushtia Islamic University. Email: [email protected]