History Podcasts

Wartime Jessore (3)

Wartime Jessore (3)

Wartime Jessore (3)

This picture shows a quieter street in wartime Jessore, one of the bases for No.357 Squadron.

Many thanks to Ken Creed for sending us these pictures, which were taken by his wife's uncle Terry Ruff during his time with No.357 Squadron, a special operations unit that operated over Burma, Malaya and Sumatra.


Bangladesh Genocide Archive

“…… we were told to kill the Hindus and Kafirs (non-believer in God). One day in June, we cordoned a village and were ordered to kill the Kafirs in that area. We found all the village women reciting from the Holy Quran, and the men holding special congregational prayers seeking God’s mercy. But they were unlucky. Our commanding officer ordered us not to waste any time.” – Confession of a Pakistani Soldier

Image credit Muktijuddho e-Archive Trust. Photographer: Golam Mowla

It all started with Operation Searchlight, a planned military pacification carried out by the Pakistan Army started on 25 March, 1971 to curb the Bengali nationalist movement by taking control of the major cities on March 26, and then eliminating all opposition, political or military, within one month. Before the beginning of the operation, all foreign journalists were systematically deported from Bangladesh. The main phase of Operation Searchlight ended with the fall of the last major town in Bengali hands in mid-May.

According to New York Times (3/28/71) 10,000 people were killed New York Times (3/29/71) 5,000-7,000 people were killed in Dhaka The Sydney Morning Herald (3/29/71) 10,000 – 100,000 were killed New York Times (4/1/71) 35,000 were killed in Dhaka during operation searchlight.

The operation also began the 1971 Bangladesh atrocities. These systematic killings served only to enrage the Bengalis, which ultimately resulted in the secession of East Pakistan later in December 1971. The international media and reference books in English have published casualty figures which vary greatly 200,000–3,000,000 for Bangladesh as a whole.

There is only one word for this: Genocide.

Genocide in Bangladesh, 1971

The mass killings in Bangladesh (then East Pakistan) in 1971 vie with the annihilation of the Soviet POWs, the holocaust against the Jews, and the genocide in Rwanda as the most concentrated act of genocide in the twentieth century. In an attempt to crush forces seeking independence for East Pakistan, the West Pakistani military regime unleashed a systematic campaign of mass murder which aimed at killing millions of Bengalis, and likely succeeded in doing so.

In national elections held in December 1970, the Awami League won an overwhelming victory across Bengali territory. On February 22, 1971 the generals in West Pakistan took a decision to crush the Awami League and its supporters. It was recognized from the first that a campaign of genocide would be necessary to eradicate the threat: “Kill three million of them,” said President Yahya Khan at the February conference, “and the rest will eat out of our hands.” (Robert Payne, Massacre [1972], p. 50.) On March 25 the genocide was launched. The university in Dacca (Dhaka) was attacked and students exterminated in their hundreds. Death squads roamed the streets of Dacca, killing some 7,000 people in a single night. It was only the beginning. “Within a week, half the population of Dacca had fled, and at least 30,000 people had been killed. Chittagong, too, had lost half its population. All over East Pakistan people were taking flight, and it was estimated that in April some thirty million people [!] were wandering helplessly across East Pakistan to escape the grasp of the military.” (Payne, Massacre, p. 48.) Ten million refugees fled to India, overwhelming that country’s resources and spurring the eventual Indian military intervention. (The population of Bangladesh/East Pakistan at the outbreak of the genocide was about 75 million.)

The Guinness Book of Records lists the Bangladesh Genocide as one of the top 5 genocides in the 20th century.

The gendercide against Bengali men

The war against the Bengali population proceeded in classic genocidal fashion. According to Anthony Mascarenhas:

There is no doubt whatsoever about the targets of the genocide. They were: (1) The Bengali militarymen of the East Bengal Regiment, the East Pakistan Rifles, police and para-military Ansars and Mujahids. (2) The Hindus — “We are only killing the men the women and children go free. We are soldiers, not cowards to kill them …” I was to hear in Comilla [site of a major military base] [Comments R.J. Rummel: “One would think that murdering an unarmed man was a heroic act” (Death By Government, p. 323)] (3) The Awami Leaguers — all office bearers and volunteers down to the lowest link in the chain of command. (4) The students — college and university boys and some of the more militant girls. (5) Bengali intellectuals such as professors and teachers whenever damned by the army as “militant.” (Anthony Mascarenhas, The Rape of Bangla Desh [Delhi: Vikas Publications, 1972(?)], pp. 116-17.)

Mascarenhas’s summary makes clear the linkages between gender and social class (the “intellectuals,” “professors,” “teachers,” “office bearers,” and — obviously — “military men” can all be expected to be overwhelming if not exclusively male, although in many cases their families died or fell victim to other atrocities alongside them). In this respect, the Bangladesh events can be classed as a combined gendercide and elitocide, with both strategies overwhelmingly targeting males for the most annihilatory excesses.

London, 6/13/71). The Sunday Times…..”The Government’s policy for East Bengal was spelled out to me in the Eastern Command headquarters at Dacca. It has three elements:

1. The Bengalis have proved themselves unreliable and must be ruled by West Pakistanis
2. The Bengalis will have to be re-educated along proper Islamic lines. The – Islamization of the masses – this is the official jargon – is intended to eliminate secessionist tendencies and provide a strong religious bond with West Pakistan
3. When the Hindus have been eliminated by death and fight, their property will be used as a golden carrot to win over the under privileged Muslim middle-class. This will provide the base for erecting administrative and political structures in the future.”

Bengali man and boys massacred by the West Pakistani regime.

Via Muktijuddho e-Archive Trust Photographer: S M Shafi

Younger men and adolescent boys, of whatever social class, were equally targets. According to Rounaq Jahan, “All through the liberation war, able-bodied young men were suspected of being actual or potential freedom fighters. Thousands were arrested, tortured, and killed. Eventually, cities and towns became bereft of young males who either took refuge in India or joined the liberation war.” Especially “during the first phase” of the genocide, he writes, “young able-bodied males were the victims of indiscriminate killings.” (“Genocide in Bangladesh,” in Totten et al., Century of Genocide, p. 298.) R.J. Rummel likewise writes that “the Pakistan army [sought] out those especially likely to join the resistance — young boys. Sweeps were conducted of young men who have never been seen again. Bodies of youths would be found in fields, floating down rivers, or near army camps. As can be imagined, this terrorized all young men and their families within reach of the army. Most between the ages of fifteen and twenty-five began to flee from one village to another and toward India. Many of those reluctant to leave their homes were forced to flee by mothers and sisters concerned for their safety.” (Death By Government, p. 329.) Rummel describes (p. 323) a chilling genocidal ritual, reminiscent of Nazi procedure towards Jewish males: “In what became province-wide acts of genocide, Hindus were sought out and killed on the spot. As a matter of course, soldiers would check males for the obligated circumcision among Moslems. If circumcised, they might live if not, sure death.”

Robert Payne describes scenes of systematic mass slaughter around Dacca (Dhaka) that, while not explicitly “gendered” in his account, bear every hallmark of classic gender-selective roundups and genocidal slaughters of noncombatant men:

In the dead region surrounding Dacca, the military authorities conducted experiments in mass extermination in places unlikely to be seen by journalists. At Hariharpara, a once thriving village on the banks of the Buriganga River near Dacca, they found the three elements necessary for killing people in large numbers: a prison in which to hold the victims, a place for executing the prisoners, and a method for disposing of the bodies. The prison was a large riverside warehouse, or godown, belonging to the Pakistan National Oil Company, the place of execution was the river edge or the shallows near the shore, and the bodies were disposed of by the simple means of permitting them to float downstream. The killing took place night after night. Usually, the prisoners were roped together and made to wade out into the river. They were in batches of six or eight, and in the light of a powerful electric arc lamp, they were easy targets, black against the silvery water. The executioners stood on the pier, shooting down at the compact bunches of prisoners wading in the water. There were screams in the hot night air, and then silence. The prisoners fell on their sides and their bodies lapped against the shore. Then a new bunch of prisoners were brought out, and the process was repeated. In the morning the village boatmen hauled the bodies into midstream and the ropes binding the bodies were cut so that each body drifted separately downstream. (Payne, Massacre [Macmillan, 1973], p. 55.)

Strikingly similar and equally hellish scenes are described in the case-studies of genocide in Armenia and the Nanjing Massacre of 1937.

How many died?

Bangladeshi authorities claim that 3 million people were killed, while the Hamoodur Rahman Commission, an official Pakistan Government investigation, put the figure as low as 26,000 civilian casualties. The fact is that the number of dead in Bangladesh in 1971 was almost certainly well into seven figures. It was one of the worst genocides of the World War II era, outstripping Rwanda (800,000 killed) and probably surpassing even Indonesia (1 million to 1.5 million killed in 1965-66).

The human death toll over only 267 days was incredible. Just to give for five out of the eighteen districts some incomplete statistics published in Bangladesh newspapers or by an Inquiry Committee, the Pakistani army killed 100,000 Bengalis in Dacca, 150,000 in Khulna, 75,000 in Jessore, 95,000 in Comilla, and 100,000 in Chittagong. For eighteen districts the total is 1,247,000 killed. This was an incomplete toll, and to this day no one really knows the final toll. Some estimates of the democide [Rummel’s “death by government”] are much lower — one is of 300,000 dead — but most range from 1 million to 3 million. … The Pakistani army and allied paramilitary groups killed about one out of every sixty-one people in Pakistan overall one out of every twenty-five Bengalis, Hindus, and others in East Pakistan. If the rate of killing for all of Pakistan is annualized over the years the Yahya martial law regime was in power (March 1969 to December 1971), then this one regime was more lethal than that of the Soviet Union, China under the communists, or Japan under the military (even through World War II). (Rummel, Death By Government, p. 331.)

People regard that the best option is to regard the figure “3 million” as not an absolute but an arbitrary number. The proportion of men versus women murdered is impossible to ascertain, but a speculation might be attempted. If we take the highest estimates for both women raped and Bengalis killed (400,000 and 3 million, respectively) if we accept that half as many women were killed as were raped and if we double that number for murdered children of both sexes (total: 600,000), we are still left with a death-toll that is 80 percent adult male (2.4 million out of 3 million). Any such disproportion, which is almost certainly on the low side, would qualify Bangladesh as one of the worst gendercides against men in the last half-millennium.

Who was responsible?

“For month after month in all the regions of East Pakistan the massacres went on,” writes Robert Payne. “They were not the small casual killings of young officers who wanted to demonstrate their efficiency, but organized massacres conducted by sophisticated staff officers, who knew exactly what they were doing. Muslim soldiers, sent out to kill Muslim peasants, went about their work mechanically and efficiently, until killing defenseless people became a habit like smoking cigarettes or drinking wine. … Not since Hitler invaded Russia had there been so vast a massacre.” (Payne, Massacre, p. 29.)

There is no doubt that the mass killing in Bangladesh was among the most carefully and centrally planned of modern genocides. A cabal of five Pakistani generals orchestrated the events: President Yahya Khan, General Tikka Khan, chief of staff General Pirzada, security chief General Umar Khan, and intelligence chief General Akbar Khan. The U.S. government, long supportive of military rule in Pakistan, supplied some $3.8 million in military equipment to the dictatorship after the onset of the genocide, “and after a government spokesman told Congress that all shipments to Yahya Khan’s regime had ceased.” (Payne, Massacre, p. 102.)

The genocide and gendercidal atrocities were also perpetrated by lower-ranking officers and ordinary soldiers. These “willing executioners” were fuelled by an abiding anti-Bengali racism, especially against the Hindu minority. “Bengalis were often compared with monkeys and chickens. Said Pakistan General Niazi, ‘It was a low lying land of low lying people.’ The Hindus among the Bengalis were as Jews to the Nazis: scum and vermin that [should] best be exterminated. As to the Moslem Bengalis, they were to live only on the sufferance of the soldiers: any infraction, any suspicion cast on them, any need for reprisal, could mean their death. And the soldiers were free to kill at will. The journalist Dan Coggin quoted one Punjabi captain as telling him, ‘We can kill anyone for anything. We are accountable to no one.’ This is the arrogance of Power.” (Rummel, Death By Government, p. 335.)

Eyewitness accounts

The atrocities of the razakars in killing the Bengalis equaled those of their Pakistani masters. An excerpt from an article written in the Azad, dated January 15, 1972, underscores the inhuman atrocities of the Pakistani troops and their associates, the razakar and al-Badr forces:

‘….The people of Narail can bear witness to the reign of terror, the inhuman atrocities, inflicted on them after (General) Yahya let loose his troops to do what they would. After March 25, many people fled Jessore in fear of their lives and took refuge in Narail and its neighboring localities. Many of them were severely bashed by the soldiers of Yahya and lost their lives. Very few people ever returned. Bhayna is a flourishing village near Narail. Ali Akbar is a well-known figure there. On April 8, the Pakistani troops surrounded the village on the pretext that it was a sanctuary for freedom fighters. Just as fish are caught in a net so too were the people of this village all assembled, in an open field. Then everyone- men, women, and children–were all forced to line up. Young men between the ages of 25 and 30 were lined up separately. 45 people were shot to death on the spot. Three of Ali Akbar’s brothers were killed there. Ali Akbar was able to save himself by lying on the ground. But no one else of that group was as fortunate. Nadanor was the Killing field. Every day 20 to 30 people were taken there with their hands tied behind their backs and killed. The dead bodies would be flung into the river. Apart from this, a slaughter house was also readied for Bengalis. Manik, Omar, and Ashraf were sent to Jessore Cantonment for training and then brought to this slaughter house. Every day they would slaughter 9 to 12 persons here. The rate per person was Taka ten. On one particular day, 45 persons were slaughtered here. From April 15 to December 10, the butchery continued. It is gathered that 2,723 people lost their lives here. People were brought here and bashed, then their ears were cut off, and their eyes gouged out. Finally, they were slaughtered…: The Chairman of the Peace Committee was Moulana Sulaiman. With Dr. Abul Hussain and Abdul Rashid Mukhtar, he assisted in the genocide. Omar would proudly say, “During the day I am Omar, at night I am Shimar( legendary executioner famous for extreme cruelty). Don’t you see my dagger? There are countless Kafirs (heretics) on it.”

Chuknagar: The largest genocide during the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971

Chuknagar is a small business town located in the Dumuria Thana of Khulna district and very close to the India Bangladesh border. In 71 thousands of refugees gathered in Chuknagar to go to Kolkata. According to a conservative account, around ten thousand people were in Chuknagar waiting to cross the border.

In the early morning of May 10, the fatal day around 10 am two trucks carrying Paki troops arrived at Kautala (then known as Patkhola). The Pakis were not many in number, most possibly a platoon or so. As soon as the Paki trucks stopped, the Pakis alighted from the truck carrying light machine guns (LMGs) and semi automatic rifles and opened fire on the public. Within a few minutes, a lively town turned into a city of death.

The accounts of the two hundred interviewees were same. They differed only in details. “There were piled up dead bodies. Dead Kids’ on dead mom’s laps. Wives hugging their beloved husbands to protect them from killer bullets. Dads’ hugging their daughters to shield them. Within a flash, they all were just dead bodies. Blood streamed into the Bhadra river, it became a river of corps. A few hours later when the Paki bastards ran out of bullets, they killed the rest of the people with a bayonet.”

Source: Muntassir Mamun, The Archive of Liberation War, Bangabandhu and Bangladesh Research Institute

Further Documents and facts

    – R. J. Rummel – Tribune India August, 1999 : An unprecedented step by a US
    Bangladesh Genocide Study Group at Kean University

“..It is Mujib’s home district. Kill as many bastards as you can and make sure there is no Hindu left alive,” I was ordered. – Colonel Nadir Ali, retired Pakistan Army Officer , Punjabi poet and short story writer

Denials

According to Gregory H. Stanton, President, Genocide Watch there are eight stages of a genocide. All of them are evident in the genocide committed by the Pakistan forces. The last of the eight stages is denial:

It is among the surest indicators of further genocidal massacres. The perpetrators of genocide dig up the mass graves, burn the bodies, try to cover up the evidence and intimidate the witnesses. They deny that they committed any crimes, and often blame what happened on the victims.

Articles

    – Abul Kasem – Abul Kasem – Dr. Ajoy Roy -M. Maniruzzaman Mia Madhuri Lata still whimpers for her martyred husband and relatives – Scott Lamb – Rounaq Jahan. – Rabindranath Trivedi – Dr. Mohammad Omar Farooq

Images

* Genocide images 1, 2, 3 (Viewers discretion advised)


History

First ever nation wide parliamentary election in Pakistan was held in December 1970 to January 1971. Nationalist Forces lead by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman won overwhelming victory in East Pakistan and became majority party in entire Pakistan. But Pakistan military regime conspired to stop his Awami League party to take over power. On March 7, 1971 Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in his historic address to mammoth gathering at race course, Dhaka announced non-cooperation movement and declared, “This is the struggle for liberation, the struggle for independence.”
Then came president general Yahya Khan and majority party leader of West Pakistan Zulfiker Ali Bhutto to Dhaka for negotiated settlement. While mock discussions were continuing, military rulers started planning for crushing nationalist struggle through military solution.And at fateful night of 25th March, systematic genocide started. No part of Bangladesh was spared. Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman before his arrest in early hours of 26th March sent wireless message declaring independence of Bangladesh. On 27th March from Chittagong Radio Station Major Ziaur Rahman declared independence and appealed for international support.
People from all walks of life responded through armed resistance. This liberation war culminated in final victory on 16th December 1971 with emergence of independent Bangladesh

GENOCIDE AND ATROCITIES Between March 25 and December 16, estimated 3 million Bengalees were killed, 2,00,000 women raped and 10 million were displaced. This was the worst genocide after Second World War. This was mass killing of innocent civilians, men, women and children, no part of the country was spared. Killing fields can be found in every town and village. Killing was particularly targeted towards youth, religious minorities and democratic forces. In the final days of the liberation war, local fundamentalist collaborators of Pakistan Army named Al-badar and Al-shams took leading intellectuals including writers, journalists, doctors, lawyers and engineers blindfolded, killed them and dumped them in Dhaka city outskirts.Muslimbazar and Jalladkhana Killing fields.
In July 1999, construction work was in progress for expansion of a mosque at Mirpur, Dhaka. Construction workers discovered skeletons while digging the land, which was later confirmed to be a killing field of 1971 martyrs. With assistance from Bangladesh Army, Liberation War Museum excavated the area and found 5 skeletons and 1766 bones, which are preserved in the museum.In November 1999, based on eyewitness accounts, Liberation War Museum excavated an abandoned pump house in Mirpur and found 70 skeletons and 5392 bones.
Liberation War Museum preserves this historic site JALLAD KHANA to reflect upon heinous crimes perpetrated by Pakistan Army and their fundamentalist collaborators.
REFUGEE 1971 witnessed worst human influx from Bangladesh to neighboring India. Indian government reports that 98,99,305 migrants took shelter in 829 refugee camps. To escape mass killing, rape and destruction, men, women and children defied many odds that took toll of untold sufferings and death. Then youth from all over the country crossed border to take arms training and join resistance as Mukti Bahini (Freedom Fighters). Such a colossal influx had naturally been a huge burden on Indian economy and took India few months to give refugees logistic support in make shift refugee camps. In Eastern province of Tripura, refugees outnumbered local inhabitants. In initial period, some refugees had to take shelter in subhuman conditions in abandoned drainage pipes at Salt Lake, Calcutta.
Over crowded improvised living conditions in refugee camps led to sickness and death. Beside government support, local people and some aid agencies helped to mitigate this sufferings.
BANGLADESH GOVERNMENT

On 10th April 1971, elected parliament members of 1970’s election from East Pakistan formed Bangladesh Government. The cabinet took oath on 17th April in a liberated area in the mango grove of Baidyanathtala Meherpur, Kustia renamed as Mujibnagar. This government took all policy decisions with respect to the liberation war.

Bangladesh government adapted “Declarations of Independence” on 10th April. This has been the legal basis of Bangladesh constitution after final victory.


THE PROCLAMATION OF INDEPENDENCE

Whereas free elections were held in Bangladesh from 7th December, 1970 to 17th January, 1971, to elect representatives for the purpose of framing a constitution,

Whereas at these elections the people of Bangladesh elected 167 out of 169 representatives belonging to the Awami League,

Whereas General Yahya Khan summoned the elected representatives of the people to meet on the 3rd March 1971, for the purpose of framing a constitution,

Whereas instead of fulfilling their promise and while still conferring with the representatives of the people of Bangladesh, Pakistan authorities declared an unjust and treacherous war,

Whereas in the facts and circumstances of such treacherous conduct Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the undisputed leader of the 95 million people of Bangladesh, in due fulfillment of the legitimate right of self determination of the people of Bangladesh, duly made a declaration of independence at Dacca on March 26, 1971, and urged the people of Bangladesh to defend the honour and integrity of Bangladesh,

Whereas in the conduct of a ruthless and savage war the Pakistani authorities committed and are still continuously committing numerous acts of genocide and unprecedented tortures, amongst others on the civilian and unarmed people of Bangladesh,

Whereas the Government by levying an unjust war and committing genocide and by other repressive measures made it impossible for the elected representatives of the people of Bangladesh to meet and frame a Constitution, and give to themselves a Government,

Whereas the people of Bangladesh by their heroism, bravery and revolutionary fervour have established effective control over the territories of Bangladesh,

We the elected representatives of the people of Bangladesh as honor bound by the mandate given to us by the people of Bangladesh whose will is supreme, duly constituted ourselves into a Constituent Assembly, and

Having held mutual consultations, and

In order to ensure for the people of Bangladesh equality, human dignity and social justice,
Declare and constitute Bangladesh to be sovereign peoples’ Republic and thereby confirm the declaration of independence already made by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, and
Do hereby affirm and resolve that till such time as a Constitution is framed, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman shall be the President of the Republic and that Syed Nazrul Islam shall be the Vice-President of the Republic, and

That the President shall be the Supreme Commander of all the Armed Forces of the Republic,
Shall exercise all the Executive and Legislative powers of the Republic including the power to grant pardon,

Shall exercise all the power to appoint a Prime Minister and such other Ministers, as he considers necessary,

Shall have the power to levy taxes and expend monies,
Shall have the power to summon and adjourn the Constituent Assembly, and
Do all other things that may be necessary to give to the people of Bangladesh an orderly and just Government,

We the elected representatives of the people of Bangladesh do further resolve that in the event of there being no President or President being unable to enter upon his office or being unable to exercise his powers and duties due to any reason whatsoever, the Vice-President shall have and exercise all the powers, duties and responsibilities herein conferred on the President,
We further resolve that we undertake to observe and give effect to all duties and obligations that devolve upon us as a member of the family of nations and under the Charter of United Nations.
We further resolve that this proclamation of independence shall be deemed to have come into effect from 26th day of March 1971.

We further resolve that in order to give effect to this instrument we appoint prof. Yusuf Ali our duly Constituted Potentiary and to give to the President and the Vice-President oaths of office.

BANGLADESH GOVERNMENT

Established: April 10, 1971
Oath Taking Ceremony: April 17, 1971
Baidyanathtala, Mehespur, Kustia.

  • President: Sheikh Mujibur Rahman
  • Vice President and Acting President: Syed Nazrul Islam
  • Finance, Commerce and Industry Minister: Mansur Ali
  • Prime Minister: Tajuddin Ahmed
  • Home, Agriculture, Relief and Rehabilitation Minister: A. H. M Kamruzzaman
  • Foreign Minister: Khondoker Mustaq Ahmed


Ministry and Secretaries

Principal
Ruhul Quddus (December 7, 1971)
Cabinet
Hossain Towfiq Imam
General Administration
Nurul Quader Khan
Finance
Khandker Asaduzzaman
Home
M. A Khaleque
Foreign
Mahbubul Alam Chasi

Health
Dr. T. Hassan
Defence
Abdus Samad
Agriculture
Nuruddin Ahmed
Land and Parliamentary affairs
Abdul Hannan Chowdhury
Relief and Rehabilitation
Jai Gobinda Bhowmik
Information
Anwarul Huq Khan

BANGLADESH LIBERATION ARMED FORCE

Mukti Bahini/ Head quarter: Mujib Nagar

Immediately after start of genocide on March 25, 1971 Bengalee members of armed forces, East Pakistan Rifles, Police and Ansars together with patriotic youth built up local resistance. On 4th April highranking officials of Armed Forces involved in resistance in Eastern part met at Teliapara, Sylhet for planning coordinated actions.

Cabinet meeting of Bangladesh government of July 11, 1971 appointed Col. M A G Osmani as Commander in Chief, Lt. Col. Abdur Rab as chief of Army Staff and Group Captain A K Khandker as Deputy Chief of Army Staff and Chief of Air Force. In this meeting, Bangladesh was divided into Eleven Sectors under Sector Commanders. 10th. Sector was directly placed under Commander in Chief and included the Naval Commandos and C-in-C’s special force. Sector Commanders basically lead guerrilla warfare later three regular army brigades were formed. On November 21, 1971 Bangladesh Liberation Force and Indian Army formed allied command which won ultimate victory on December 16, 1971.

  1. Col. M A G Osman/ Commander in Chief
  2. Group Captain A K Khandker/ Deputy Chief of Command and Chief of Air Force
  3. Lt. Col. Abdur Rab/ Chief of Army Staff

SECTOR COMMANDERS

Sector – 1
Major Ziaur Rahman (till June)
Captain Rafiqul Islam (July to December)
Coverage Area: Chittagong, Chittagong Hill Tracts up to Eastern side of Muhuri River
Head Quarter : Harina

Sector -2
Major Khaled Musarraf (till 21 October)
Captain A T M Hyder (22 October to December)
Noakhali, part of Comilla, Dhaka city and Eastern part of Faridpur
Head Quarter : Melaghar

Sector -3
Major K M Shafiullah (till September)
Major A N M Nuruzzaman (September to December)
Coverage Area:Part of Sylhet and Comilla districts and Northern side of Dhaka district
Head Quarter : Montala (Sylhet)

Sector – 4
Major C R Dutta
Coverage Area:Part of Sylhet district
Head Quarter : Khoai

Sector -5
Major Mir Shawkat Ali
Coverage Area:Part of Sylhet district, Ajmirigonj and Western part of Lakhai
Head Quarter : Shillong

Sector -6
Wing Commander Khademul Bashar (till December)
Coverage Area:Rangpur and Thakurgaon of Dinajpur district
Head Quarter : Patgram (Rangpur)

Sector -7
Major Nazmul Huq (till August)
Major Kazi Nuruzzaman (September to December)
Coverage Area:Rajshahi, Pabna and Bogra

Head Quarter: Tarangapur

Sector -8
Major Abu Osman Chowdhury (till August)
Major M A Manzoor ( September to December)
Coverage Area:Jessore, Kustia, Faridpur and part of Khulna district
Head Quarter : Kalayani

Sector -9
Major M A Jalil Mia
Coverage Area:Barisal, Patuakhali and part of Khulna
Head Quarter : Tarangapur

Sector -10
Naval Commando
C-in-C’s Special force
Naval Commandos conducted major operations in river and seaports at Chittagong, Mangla, Narayangonj and Chandpur. Significant coordinated operations were made at Chittagong port in the night of August 15, 1971 mining and thus destroying 17 Pakistani ships. This Naval Commando was placed directly under Commander in Chief of Bangladesh Liberation Armed Force.

Sector -11
Major Abu Taher (till November)
Sq. Leader Hamidullah (November to December)
Coverage Area:Tangail and part of Mymensingh district
Head Quarters : Mohendraganj

REGULAR ARMY

Three brigades were formed in July, September and October and were named after respective commanders.

Z-force: Head Quarters : Teldhala, Commander : Lt. Col. Ziaur Rahman
K-force: Head Quarters : Agartala, Commander : Lt. Col. Khaled Mosharraf
S-force: Head Quarters : Hajamara, Commander : Lt. Col. K M Shafiullah

Other Liberation War Forces

Bangladesh Liberation Force
Bangladesh Liberation Force was formed after special training of selected members of Students league and young members of Awami league. This force was popularly known as ‘Mujib Bahini’.
Sheikh Fazlul Huq Moni : Coordinator, Eastern Region
Sirajul Alam Khan : Coordinator, Northern Region
Abdur Razzak : Coordinator, Western Region

Student’s Union, NAP and Communist Party
Tofayel Ahmed : Coordinator, Southern Region Student’s Union, NAP and Communist Party, Some members of Students Union, NAP and Communist Party were separately trained and organized. They directed armed action in coordination with central command.
Chief of Command : Mohammed Forhad

Armed Forces in Occupied Territories
Quader Bahini
During liberation war ‘Quader Bahini’ lead by Abdul Quader Siddiqui played significant role in Tangail area. In the final days of liberation war, this armed force entered Dhaka with the allied forces.
Chief of Command : Abdul Quader Siddiqui

Hemayet Bahini
These locally organized freedom fighters made harassing attacks on Pakistani outposts in Faridpur and part of Khulna.
Chief of Command : Hemayetuddin

Afsar Battalion
Major Afsaruddin Ahmed organized freedom fighters in Mymensingh to form Afsar Battalion. This battalion collected arms from Pakistan occupation army and developed liberated area in the region.
Chief of Command : Major Afsaruddin Ahmed
Pakistan Armed Forces
Headquarter : Eastern Command
Chief Martial Law
Administrator : Lt. Gen. Tikka Khan (March 6 to August 1971)
Lt. Gen. A. A. K Niazi (August to December 16, 1971)
Adviser : Major General Rao Farman Ali
Chief of Stuff : Brig. Bakar Siddiqi
Regional Chief : Major General Nazir Hossain Shah
Major General S H Ansari
Major General Rahim Khan
Local collaborators

In occupied Bangladesh, fundamentalist political parties (Muslim League, Jamat-e-Islami, PDP, Democratic League etc.) and their student wing members gave total support to Pakistan Army in genocide and destruction. Beside carrying out propaganda in favour of Pakistan government, they unleashed barbaric attack and handed over sympathizers of liberation war to Pakistan armed forces. Their most heinous activities were expressed in killing of intellectuals in Dhaka on tragic nights of December 13 and 14, 1971.
These local collaborators organized Peace Committees, Razaker, Al-Badar and Al-Shams through out the country.

Peace Committee

Established : April 1971
Convener : Khawza Khairuddin
Organizers : Prof. Golam Azam
A. Q. M Shafiqul Islam
Moulana Syed Masum

Established : May 1971 (Khulna)
Ordinance : June 1971
Convener : Moulana A K M Yusuf
Director : A S M Zahrul Huq

Al-Badar and Al-Shams

Members of Islamic chhattra sangha, student wing of Jamat-e-Islam party killer force of Pakistan Army, like the SS of Hitler.

Civilian Administration in Occupied Bangladesh

  • Governor : Lt. Gen. Tikka Khan (March to August 1971)
  • Dr. Abdul Motaleb Malik (September to December 1971)
  • Chief Secretary : Shafiul Azam
  • Kafiluddin Mahmud

Total Armed Forces

  • Regular Army : 80 000
  • Rangers and Militia : 24 000
  • Civilian Forces : 24 000
  • Razaker, Al-badar and Al-shams : 50 000 (estimated)

GOVERNMENT AND PUBLIC LEADERS:

Neighboring India opened its borders to allow huge influx of refugees who had to flee to escape systemic genocide and destruction. In spite of colossal economic burden, government of India organized shelters for estimated 10 million refuges in make shift refugee camps, gave food and medical aids. Some national and international Aid Agencies assisted.

Government also helped in training of freedom fighters and gave logistic support. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi toured major world capitals in support of Bangladesh cause and for resolution of the human crisis. After Pakistan army attacked its western part, government of India on 4th December 1971 gave recognition to government of Bangladesh and Indian Army in allied command with Mukti Bahini started final assault and on 16th December Pakistan Army surrendered to this allied command. According Indian government sources 1421 Indian Army personnel were killed in operation.

Indian Political parties of all shades and opinion and people in general have been highly supportive of Bangladesh liberation war. Intellectuals and professionals campaigned for the cause. Cultural personalities throughout India organized programmes and even demonstrated in the streets.

Soviet Union and Socialist Countries: In polarized world in seventies, Soviet Union and other Socialist countries played critical role in favour of Bangladesh independence struggle. In early days of liberation war on 3rd April, President Podgorny in a letter to President Yahya Khan expressed concern for tragic events in East Pakistan and arrest of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Following Indira Gandhi’s visit to Soviet Union, Indo-Soviet treaty was signed on 7th August declaring readiness to protect each other’s sovereignty. In December 1971 when allied command was marching towards capital Dhaka, Soviet Union repeatedly vetoed move by United States in UN Security Council, to ensure final victory on 16th December.

United States: Nixon administration never condemned mass killing and destruction, rather supported evil designs of Pakistani military rulers. Declassified White House and State Department papers strongly suggest that US administration’s overtures toward Pakistani Military regime was primarily for global strategic interest to reward Pakistan for its support in developing new US-China axis. In final days of liberation war, US seventh fleet was moved towards shores of Bay of Bengal and in United Nation’s Security Council US representatives moved repeated

India: resolutions to tactically put on hold onward march of allied forces.
But in public front, there was a completely different scenario in United States. Some Senators and congressmen took strong position in favour of Bangladesh cause. Senator Edward Kennedy flew to visit refugee camps and condemned Pakistan atrocities in his discussion with Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, US dockworkers at Philadelphia put up human barrier against shipment of arms to Pakistan. In a most exceptional move, 20 American officials of Dhaka consul general’s office, US AID and USIS, endorsed by Consul General Archer Blood, sent a note of dissent to State Department against policies of US administration.

China: Government of People’s Republic of China supported Pakistan government. They also supported Pakistan and US position in international forums. It is noteworthy that China was supplier of major hardwares of Pakistan army. New US-China axis in global arena was being formulated during the period.

Non resident Bangladeshi: Bengalees from East Pakistan living in, particularly western countries organized powerful campaign to create awareness and inform governments and public leaders of atrocities perpetrated by Pakistan military and necessity of supporting independence of Bangladesh. They also raised fund for Bangladesh. They were largely successful in this mission.

United Kingdom: On receipt of information of genocidal attack on 25th March, non-resident Bengalees organized protest rallies in major cities of UK. A huge rally was held on 4th April at Hyde Park in London and memorandum was submitted to Prime Minister Edward Heath’s office at 10, Dawning Street. On 24th April at a meeting held at Coventry, Steering Committee of Bangladesh Action Committee for People’s Republic of Bangladesh was formed with Justice Abu Sayeed Chowdhury as Chairman. They also formed a Trust Fund with Justice Abu Sayeed Chowdhury, John Stone House MP and Donald Chesworth as Trustee. Fund was sent to help refugees and support freedom fighters.

United States: On 21st March 1971, East Pakistan League of America was renamed as Bangladesh League of America. A huge rally was held on 29th March at pavement of Capital Hill in Washington DC. Memorandum was submitted to President Nixon and UN Secretary General U Thant. They sent letters to all leading Senators and Congressmen presenting Pakistan atrocities and for supporting independence of Bangladesh. Funds were collected and sent to support liberation war. They also regularly published Newsletters on updated informations of liberation war of 22 Bengalee diplomats working in Pakistan Embassy defected expressing allegiance to Bangladesh government with.

In March 󈨋 many journalists of leading newspapers rushed to Dhaka to cover Yahya-Bhutto-Mujib negotiation. They were forcibly moved out of Dhaka after start of genocide in 25th March. But brave journalist like Simon Dring hid himself in Hotel Intercontinental (Now Hotel Sheraton) laundry and was first to inform world of tragic events in Daily Telegraph, UK.

BBC, Voice of America, German TV, and All India Radio covered events almost daily. International media played all-important role in influencing respective government and public leaders to take stand against Pakistan genocide in favor of Bangladesh independence.

Bangladesh government started running “Swadhin Bangla Beter Kendra” (Independent Bangladesh Radio Station) and its news, features and songs enthused people of in refugee camps, freedom fighters and those stranded in occupied country. Number of news bulletins were published in different regions of Bangladesh.

ROLE OF CULTURAL ACTIVITES

Starting from language movement of 1952, cultural movement has been integral part of national struggle. In 1971 liberation war, cultural activists from Bangladesh organized number of programmes in occupied territory, refugee camps and Indian cities.

Cultural personalities world over played significant supportive role in campaigning for Bangladesh cause. Pandit Rabisankar, Akbar Ali Khan and popular Beatle artists George Harrison organized fund raising “Concert for Bangladesh” at Madison Square on 1st August in New York that attracted huge crowd.

In November, “Concert in Sympathy” was held at seven cities in United Kingdom participated by artists from Bangladesh, India and Great Britain. Leading Indian artists like Lata Mangeskar, Waheeda Rahman and Sharmila Thakur organized concert “Strings and Stars – A cry for help” for raising fund for Bangladesh independence. In West Bengal, intellectuals and musicians e g. Tarasankar Bendopodhya, Dipen Mukhopodhya, Suchitra Mitra consistently fought for liberation war through writings and musical soirees. Great French philosopher Andre Malraux, inspite of his old age declared his readiness to join Bangladesh liberation war. American poet Allen Ginsberg visited refugee camps and wrote his famous poem “September on Jessore Road”.

ROLE OF WOMEN

Women, particularly students, were in the forefront of national struggle from early fifties. They played heroic role in every struggle for democracy and national rights in Pakistan days lead by personalities like poet Sufia Kamal.

Women were the worst victims of atrocities. During liberation war of 1971, women were not only just rape victims of Pakistan army. Brave women throughout the country defied torture and death to give shelter to freedom fighters treated wounded freedom fighters as doctor and nurses and took arms training in special “Gobra camp” and fought in war front. Some of these women received gallantry awards for their heroism.


Origins of Cholera

It’s unclear when, exactly, cholera first affected people.

Early texts from India (by Sushruta Samhita in the 5th century B.C.) and Greece (Hippocrates in the 4th century B.C. and Aretaeus of Cappadocia in the 1st century A.D.) describe isolated cases of cholera-like illnesses.

One of the first detailed accounts of a cholera epidemic comes from Gaspar Correa—Portuguese historian and author of Legendary India—who described an outbreak in the spring of 1543 of a disease in the Ganges Delta, which is located in the south Asia area of Bangladesh and India. The local people called the disease “moryxy,” and it reportedly killed victims within 8 hours of developing symptoms and had a fatality rate so high that locals struggled to bury all the dead.

Numerous reports of cholera manifestations along the West coast of India by Portuguese, Dutch, French and British observers followed throughout the next few centuries.


Revisiting the Battle of Garibpur, a Precursor to the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War

Victory in Garibpur was a decisive one, and was among the first secured by the Indian defence forces in the eastern sector in the 1971 war.

Lt-Gen. A.A.K. Niazi, the Cdr. of Pakistani Eastern Command, signing the instrument of surrender in Dacca in the presence of Lt. Gen. Jagjit Singh Aurora. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Note: This article was originally published on November 21, 2020 and was republished on December 16, 2020.

On November 21, 1971, a major battle ensued on India’s eastern front and it happened before the official declaration of war on December 3, 1971. On those fateful days of November, the first major confrontation took place in a land battle and an air encounter that defined the first victories in the eastern sector in the war, which was later known as the war for the Liberation of Bangladesh. As we approach the golden jubilee of the 1971 operations this battle stands out as worthy curtain-raiser to the famous victory of the Indian defence forces.

Hostilities, however, had erupted earlier in the year on the volatile India-East Pakistan border, and skirmishes had been on the rise from October onwards. Garibpur was a finger-shaped land protrusion into India from erstwhile East Pakistan in the Boyra Salient. The Pakistani artillery was using Salient and Garibpur protrusion to launch artillery fire assaults and raids into Indian positions along the border and in the depth areas. With war imminent, both the Indian Army and the Mukti Bahini were active and engaged in aggressive domination of the enemy by patrolling and raids.

In military parlance, improvement of defensive posture is synonymous with actions taken by both sides to secure their positions for defensive integrity, or also hold and develop a launchpad for intended offensive operations. A decision was taken to prepare for the Indian offensive by securing the area by denying the Pakistanis use of Salient by capturing Garibpur. 14th Battalion, The Punjab Regiment (Nabha Akal) along with ‘C’ Squadron, 45 Cavalry were tasked for the operation.

A silent attack foiled

The attacking forces planned a silent attack on night 20–21 November and moved a patrol ahead of the main body of troops to be the eyes and ears of the main force. The patrol unfortunately encountered an enemy patrol and a clash ensued thus losing the element of surprise. The commanding officer Lt Col R. K. Singh ordered the troops to close in onto the objectives swiftly so as to regain the initiative. Four companies of the battalion and the squadron of tanks swiftly occupied Garibpur by 3 am on November 21 after fierce fighting. The enemy was expected to react violently and resort to a counter-attack to retake the position.

A reconnoitring patrol under Captain M.S. Gill and an artillery observer was sent ahead of the position in the cold foggy wintry night and the patrol picked up the sounds of approaching Pakistani tanks as they thundered down the road to Garibpur. A message was sent to the battalion and the troops and tanks then readjusted to face the enemy from the expected direction of attack. The infantry with its recoilless guns held the area of Garibpur and tanks were sent ahead to meet the Pakistani charge.

A photograph from the Battle of Garibpur. Photo: Brig Mehta and Anurag Biswas

The counter-attack came as expected and the enemy moved 107 Infantry Brigade and 3 (Independent) Armoured Squadron of American made M24 Chaffee tanks from Jessore, which was nine kilometres to the north of Garibpur.

The first attack came at 6 am and the Squadron Commander of ‘C’ Squadron 45 Cavalry Major D. S. Narang was well prepared. He had skillfully deployed his PT-76 light tanks (the tank is an amphibious tank and has very little armour protection as compared to a main battle tank like the Chaffe in this case) to defend the newly captured areas.

The Pakistani assault was stopped in its tracks by the accurate and lethal fire from the much lighter and inferior PT-76 tanks, as the enemy lost tanks and infantry. Major D.S. Narang was hit and was mortally injured and martyred. He was later awarded the Maha Vir Chakra for his sterling leadership and gallantry.

Further attacks

Three more assaults came as the Pakistani infantry brigade stepped up the tempo and ferocity of its attacks, but 14 Punjab (Nabha Akal) and ‘C’ squadron 45 Cavalry stood firm and fought like tigers even as the last assault reached within 25 yards of their frontlines. Pakistani losses were 60-70 killed, 100 wounded and 11 tanks. Indian losses were seven killed, including Maj D.S. Narang, 22 wounded and 3 tanks destroyed.

One infantry battalion and a squadron of tanks had stopped and beaten back a Pakistani brigade attack. The enemy now resorted to air attacks as four Pakistani F-86 Sabre jets strafed the defences at 9:30 am and damaged the ferry across the Kadadak river in an attempt to cut off the forces.

The Indian Air Force (IAF) who till then were not employed to attack intruders due to not wanting to commence hostilities, were on 22 November, given clearance to intercept the intruding aircraft. The Pakistani aircraft attacked Garibpur three times that day and at 3 pm during a third attack by four Sabres the IAF engaged them with two Gnat and two MIG aircraft (the Gnats earned the sobriquet ‘Sabre Killers’ due to the tremendous success its pilots had in downing the much superior and mint condition newly acquired Sabre Jets of Pakistan). Three Sabres were shot down and the fourth was hit but it scurried back damaged.

Sabre kill viewed from the Gun Camera of a Gnat. Photo: By arrangement.

The section of Gnats was flown by Flight Lieutenant M.A. Ganapathy and Flying Officer Donald Lazarus and the MIGs were flown by the formation leader Flight Lieutenant Roy Andrew Massey and Flying Officer S.F. Soarez as his wingman all four pilots were awarded the Vir Chakra for their gallantry.

Two Pakistani pilots bailed out and were taken as prisoners by the Mukti Bahini. One of these pilots was Parvaiz Mehdi Qureshi who later on rose to become the chief of air staff of the Pakistani Air Force(PAF).

This battle was a victory and a decisive one at that – both on the ground and in the air. Garibpur was held in a bold and decisive move by ground troops, one battalion beat back an enemy brigade. In the first aerial combat of the war witnessed from the ground and cheered on by hundreds of troops and locals, a flight of Sabre aircraft was annihilated with three aircraft destroyed compared to none lost by the IAF. Since then Pakistan did not use aircraft in this sector during the entire war.

In 1996, a special incident worth mentioning occurred. When air chief marshall Parvaiz M Qureshi took over as chief of PAF, Group Captain Donald Lazarus wrote a letter to him congratulating him on his achievement. He also mentioned that they had only met earlier albeit briefly in the air and that too in combat. To his surprise, Lazarus received a reply from the Pakistani air chief thanking him for his wishes and complimenting the ‘fight’ shown by the Indian pilots on that day. A reminder that chivalry is not dead among warriors.

Major General Amrit Pal Singh (Retd) was Divisional Commander of an Army division in Northern command and Chief of Operational Logistics in Ladakh (2011–2013). He has experience in counter-insurgency operations in J&K and conventional operations in Ladakh, and is a co-author of a book Maoist Insurgency and India’s Internal Security Architecture.


Background and escalation

Prior to the start of the war, attacks conducted against Israel by fledgling Palestinian guerrilla groups based in Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan had increased, leading to costly Israeli reprisals. In November 1966 an Israeli strike on the village of Al-Samūʿ in the Jordanian West Bank left 18 dead and 54 wounded, and, during an air battle with Syria in April 1967, the Israeli Air Force shot down six Syrian MiG fighter jets. In addition, Soviet intelligence reports in May indicated that Israel was planning a campaign against Syria, and, although inaccurate, the information further heightened tensions between Israel and its Arab neighbours.

Egyptian Pres. Gamal Abdel Nasser had previously come under sharp criticism for his failure to aid Syria and Jordan against Israel he had also been accused of hiding behind the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) stationed at Egypt’s border with Israel in the Sinai. Now, however, he moved to unambiguously demonstrate support for Syria: on May 14, 1967, Nasser mobilized Egyptian forces in the Sinai on May 18 he formally requested the removal of the UNEF stationed there and on May 22 he closed the Gulf of Aqaba to Israeli shipping, thus instituting an effective blockade of the port city of Elat in southern Israel. On May 30, King Hussein of Jordan arrived in Cairo to sign a mutual defense pact with Egypt, placing Jordanian forces under Egyptian command shortly thereafter, Iraq too joined the alliance.


1971 War

With 1971 commenced the most tragic year of our history. Failing to resolve a political problem by political means, a Martial Law regime, manipulated by some megalomaniac politicians, resorted to military action in East Pakistan on night 25/26 March. Widespread insurgency broke out. Personnel of two infantry divisions and Civil Armed Forces with weapons were airlifted in Pakistan International Airlines planes, over-flying about 5000 miles non stop via Sri Lanka in the first week of April 1971 – the longest operational air move by Pakistan Army. By May near normalcy had been restored, thanks to the fast reaction, dedication and cool courage of our soldiers, sailors and airmen operating in a hostile environment under adverse climatic and terrain conditions without adequate logistics and medical support. India's immoral covert armed intervention having failed. By October it had concentrated four times our strength in over 12 divisions (400,000) supported by five regiments of tanks and about 50,000 activists trained and equipped by Indian Army. Indian Navy's one aircraft carrier, eight destroyers/frigates, two submarines and three landing crafts, against our four gunboats, eight Chinese coasters and two landing craft supported them. Eleven Indian Air Force squadrons – 4 Hunter, 1 SU-7, 3 Gnat and 3 MiG 21 – from five airfields around East Pakistan faced our one valiant Number 14 squadron of F-86F Sabres based on a single airfield around Dhaka .

On 21 November, Eid day, when our fatigued soldiers had been operating in the most hostile environment for almost ten months, including a month of fasting, the Indian army felt emboldened enough to launch a full scale invasion at over twenty fronts in the east, west and north of East Pakistan . Divisions attacked our brigade positions brigades attacked our battalion, company and platoon positions, supported by their armour, artillery and air force. When most of our defensive positions, rooted to the ground could not be overrun, Indian forces after suffering heavy casualties resorted to outflanking moves. The aggressors could not capture, till the cease-fire on 16 December, a single town except Jessore, which was not defended for strategic reasons. For the Pakistani soldiers this was their finest hour fighting against heavy odds with their backs to the wall inflicting heavy casualties, bloodied but unbowed” when an Indian commander, through a messenger asked for our Jamalpur battalion to surrender, encircled by two brigades, the commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Sultan Ahmad, Sitara-i-Juraat of 31 Baloch replied in a message wrapped around a bullet which read, “I want to tell you that the fighting you have seen so far is very little in fact the fighting has not even started. So let us stop negotiating and start the fight.” Similarly 4 Frontier Force under 205 Brigade (Brigadier Tajammul Malik) held out at Hilli for 19 days against 6 battalions, inflicting heavy casualties, till withdrawal on 11 December, after getting outflanked. Similar hard fought actions took place at Bahaduria and elsewhere by Punjab, Baloch, Frontier Force and Azad Kashmir units all arms and services, and Civil Armed Forces including West Pakistan Rangers and police units. 107 Brigades (Brigadier Mohammad Hayat, Sitara-i-Juraat) held at bay a division of 5 brigades and 2 armour regiments at Khulna inflicting heavy casualties till 17 December and ceased fighting only after repeated orders of our Eastern Command.

On the West Pakistan front, on 3 December 1971 , India attacked with the main effort against Shakargarh sector with three infantry divisions supported by three armoured brigades against our 8 Division front, operating under our 1 Corps (Commander Lieutenant General Irshad Ahmad Khan). The attack was halted in the tracks, inflicting heavy casualties. 8 (Independent) Armoured Brigade (Brigadier Mohammad Ahmed, Sitara-i-Juraat) effectively blocked and destroyed enemy penetration our minefield and saved Zafarwal from being outflanked by enemy armour. In Jammu and Kashmir , Chhamb, Lahore , Kasur, Sulemanki and Rajasthan sectors, war was carried into Indian territory , with success at some points, not so successfully at others due to inadequate forces and air support. For the Pakistan Army, Navy and Air Force this conflict was their finest hour. Fighting against overwhelming odds in both wings of the country raged with full fury. Before our counter offensive could be launched in West Pakistan , India asked for cease-fire in the United Nations. The Ghazis and Shaheeds proved in their supreme hour of trial all the military virtues of Faith, Honour, Valour, Fortitude, Endurance, Loyalty, Group Cohesion and Unlimited Liability, and above all, the spirit of Jehad.

On 4 December 1971 , the United States moved a draft resolution calling for cease-fire and withdrawal of Indian forces, which was vetoed by Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Thereafter, another six resolutions including one by China were introduced calling for cease-fire and withdrawal of forces, some of which were accepted by Pakistan. However, due to behind the scene political machinations by India and her allies their passage and implementation was stalled till Dhaka fell on 16 December 1971 and the cease-fire had been perfidiously converted to surrender.” I took a careful look at the documents and was aghast to see the heading – which read Instrument of ‘Surrender'……” writes Lieutenant General J.F.R.Jacob, Chief of Staff, Indian, Eastern Army. (Lieutenant General J.F.R.Jacob, “Surrender at Dacca : Birth of a Nation).

Flawed national and operational strategy proved to be disastrous for Pakistan , both politically and militarily. Power, national and operational strategy, the methodology of crisis and conflict management and higher direction of war in which we had been found wanting in 1971.


Allen Ginsberg and his poem ‘September on Jessore Road’

Anwar A Khan

&lsquoSeptember on Jessore Road&rsquo, written by famous American humanist poet and writer Allen Ginsberg is a 152 line long poem about the sufferings confronted by Bangladesh&rsquos refugees who took shelter in various camps in West Bengal, India during Bangladesh&rsquos liberation war. He composed the poem after visiting the War victims of East Pakistan, now Bangladesh, on Jessore road personally in September in 1971.

Ginsberg came all the way from America to witness the Bangladesh liberation war of 1971. He saw the inhuman sufferings of the people who were without food and shelter for months together. He was greatly moved coming in contact with the millions of war victims who were forcibly evicted from their hearth and home when Pakistani army let loose a reign of terror, killing, burning and destroying everything that came on their way in Dhaka and elsewhere of the country on the fateful night of March 25, 1971 and afterwards.

It was a miserable situation and Allen Ginsberg was greatly shocked to see things personally. He came across the mothers without food and children unnourished. Allen saw the hungry fathers and mothers holding the empty pots for food and succour in trembling hands. He also

experienced deaths of people in

Witnessing the conditions prevailing there, Ginsberg composed the poem &lsquoSeptember on Jessore Road&rsquo based on the awful conditions of the then war victims.

Allen Ginsberg is one of the twentieth century's most talented poets, regarded as a founding father of the Beat Movement. He was born into a Jewish family in Newark, New Jersey, United States of America and grew up in nearby Paterson. In 1943, he graduated from Eastside High School. Later, he got admitted to Columbia University. He vigorously opposed militarism, economic materialism, and sexual repression, and he embodied various aspects of this counterculture with his views on drugs, hostility to bureaucracy, and openness to Eastern religions.

Returning to America, Ginsberg recited in a poetry reading session in George Church New York. The poem touched his friend Bob Dylan who gave the poem a musical form. Both the song and the poem touched people around the world encouraged George Harrison and Ravi Sankar to arrange concerto help Bangladesh&rsquos refugees in 1971.

George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Joan Bayez, Pandit Ravi Shankar and singer Ali Akbar Khan performed in the concert and collected about two and a half million dollars for Bangladesh&rsquos people. Through the poem &lsquoSeptember on Jessore Road&rsquo, Ginsberg expressed his solidarity with Bangladesh&rsquos liberation war. The poem also formed public opinion in support of Bangladesh.

The poem portrays the plight of the refugees during the liberation war. Ginsberg depicts the immense sufferings of millions of refugees who were compelled to flee over by the Jessore Road as a passage to India during the War. The poem could not be presented in full but it contained main issues of the topic:

Millions of babies watching the skies

Bellies swollen, with big round eyes

On Jessore Road -long bamboo huts

No place to shit but sand channel ruts

Millions of fathers in rain

Millions of mothers in pain

Millions of brothers in woe

Millions of sisters nowhere to go

One Million aunts are dying for bread

One Million uncles lamenting the dead

Grandfather millions homeless and sad

Grandmother millions silently mad

Millions of daughters walk in the mud

Millions of children wash in the flood

A Million girls vomit and groan

Millions of families hopeless alone

Millions of souls nineteen seventy one

Homeless on Jessore Road under grey sun

A million are dead, the million who can

Walk toward Calcutta from East Pakistan

It needs no emphasising that Jessore Road had always remained an important link between India and the-then East Pakistan in terms of communication and in 1971, it gained new significance.

Millions of broken and injured families and individuals affected by the War, made their way to this path which linked Jessore with West Bengal's Kolkata, India.

In 1971, Jessore Road led from human rights abuses, authoritarianism and natural disaster it led to Bangladesh, this free country, still struggling to come to terms with its past, with its environment, and realise its extraordinary potential, sharing its outstanding natural beauty, its visible history and extraordinary endeavours for self-development with a world that, perhaps, never noticed its devastating past, and remains so unaware of its human, social, cultural and economic potential.

Almost 50 years have elapsed since then. But even today, this poem shakes us to the core and invoke anguish in our heart for the sufferers. The humanist American poet will fondly be remembered by Bangladesh&rsquos people who once stood by the people of Bangladesh and gave a very loud voice.

Anwar A Khan is an independent political observer who writes on politics, political and human-centred figures, current and international affairs.


Crossing the Suez Canal — in both directions

Syria and Egypt also fielded PT-76 in their wars with Israel, the latter losing 29 to Israeli tanks in the Six-Day War. But Cairo invested in more of the amphibious tanks, as it had a specific role in mind for them — participating in the epic crossing of the Suez Canal that separated the heavily fortified border between Egypt and Israel in the opening assault of the Yom Kippur War.

But in actuality, the PT-76 occupied a modest role in the crossing of 90,000 Egyptian soldiers and nearly 1,000 tanks. Following a heavy Egyptian artillery bombardment, at 2:00 p.m. on Oct. 6, 1973, 20 PT-76s of the 130th Marine Brigade swam across the Great Bitter Lake, escorting a thousand marines mounted in amphibious BTR-50 armored personnel carriers.

The Israeli army hadn’t built fortifications or sand ramparts on the far shore of the lake, so the Egyptian marines made it across without opposition by 2:40 that afternoon and began clearing nearby minefields. Two hours later, the marines repelled a counterattack by an Israeli armored company, knocking out two tanks and three APCs with the help of Sagger anti-tank missiles.

The mechanized brigade proceeded to conduct drive-by raids on the Israeli air base of Bir El Thamada and nearby radar stations.

The brigade’s 603rd Marine Battalion then peeled off to capture and hold Fort Putzer, seizing the unoccupied position on Oct. 9 and holding it until the end of the war despite repeated counterattacks. Meanwhile, the 602nd rolled eastward, where it had the misfortune of bumping into a battalion of 35 Israeli Patton tanks late at night on Artillery Road.

This night fight didn’t go well for the battalion’s 10 outgunned PT-76s, which were blinded by the Patton’s Xenon searchlights. The Israeli tanks devastated the battalion, forcing the survivors to retreat back to Egyptian lines.

However, the tale of the PT-76 and the Suez Canal does not end there, as the Israeli Defense Forces had two dozen of its own PT-76s captured during the Six-Day War and refitted with American-made engines and machine guns. Several were reportedly used in Operation Raviv in 1969, an amphibious hit-and-run raid using captured armor against new Egyptian radars and surface-to-air missile sites on the Suez canal during the War of the Attrition.

A week after the Egyptian crossing, the IDF had stabilized the Suez front line but still faced the bulk of the Egyptian 3rd Army on the Israeli side of the canal. Rather than tackle the army head on, Gen. Ariel Sharon struck its flanks, forcing an armored spearhead back to the canal so that he could cross over to the Egyptian side.

Seven IDF PT-76s and eight amphibious BTR-50s of the 14th Armored Brigade swam across the canal on Oct. 14. Once on the far shore, they began marauding down the line of Egyptian support installations, blowing up lightly defended logistical bases, surface-to-air missile sites and radars, allowing Israeli air power to come fully into action.

A CIA report even notes that the tanks had Arabic-speaking drivers and Egyptian markings to better sow confusion behind enemy lines.

The vehicles were soon joined by many heavier Israeli tanks which crossed using two captured bridges and motorized rafts. These proceeded to encircle the Egyptian 3rd Army in the following weeks, spurring the United States to impose a ceasefire which brought the war to an end on Oct. 25.

The PT-76 would be involved in numerous other conflicts. Over a half century, the Indonesian army used its PT-76s to invade East Timor, patrol against the Banda Acheh secessionists, and suppress unrest on the island of Ambon.

Angolan PT-76s dueled South African Ratel armored cars in the Angolan Civil War. Iraqi amphibious tanks fought in the Iran-Iraq war and were hammered by U.S. aircraft in 1991 and 2003. Multiple factions in the Yugoslav civil wars fielded the vehicle.

China’s derivative, the Type 63, fought in Vietnam during the Sino-Vietnamese war of 1979, suffering heavy losses to rocket-propelled grenades. Type 63s also saw combat in the Sri Lankan civil war. Russian PT-76s even saw combat in Chechnya.

In fact, Russia’s naval infantry force only retired its last 30 upgraded PT-76Es in 2015. These had 57-millimeter dual-purpose auto-cannons, new engines and modern targeting systems.

Hundreds of PT-76s remain in service across the globe today, so the story of a 60-year old tank that seemed under-gunned and under-protected from the day it left the factory floor may not be over yet.


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