On 26 March 2022, The Republic of Bangladesh will be celebrating this 51st anniversary of freedom. Independence from the reign of tyranny and oppression inflicted directly by the West Pakistani military-industrial complex, alliance which led two probably one of the bloodiest and most horrific conflicts in the Subcontinent of Asia. Interestingly this year also marks the centenary celebrations of “Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujubir Rahman”, who stood firm against the dictatorship committing atrocities and had the vision to carve out an independent Bangladesh, keeping alive the core principles of democracy freedom of the Bengali people at its heart. The birth of Bangladesh is indeed a moment in history that had defied all the odds, and the triumph of justice prevailed over barbarism carnage.
In 1947 the bifurcation of the Indian subcontinent was based on religion. It was deemed appropriate that the two communities could not live together; hence the creation of the Islamic State of Pakistan comprising its Western and Eastern wings came into being. However, soon after its insecure inception, it became apparent that the West Pakistani administration, including its law enforcement and military organs, were heavily unproportionate, represented by the Punjabi community from West Pakistan. This disproportionate and deliberate over-representation to become the top creamy layer of the Pakistani establishment had deep fault lines for the newborn Republic.
It also became even more apparent when it came to the declaration of the national language of Pakistan, and Urdu was selected as the only National Language despite the fact an insignificant minority of the population of Pakistan (both in East and West including) spoke Urdu as their mother tongue. The president of Pakistan Muhamad Ali Jinnah, on his maiden voyage to the East, announced the first sharp striking blow when he proclaimed that “Urdu and only Urdu would be the state language of Pakistan”, completely undermining the sentiments and aspirations of more than half of the population of Pakistan which in turn was the majority share of Pakistan’s human collective capital. The students of Dhaka University and civilians peacefully protested on the streets. This was one of the most non-violent demonstrations for their mother language’s pure love and appreciation. The protesters were met with bullets and batons by the military establishment.
The seeds of Bengali cultural identity in national politics were sown by the West Pakistani regime’s irresponsible and narrow-minded approach. The population in the East was up in arms as their thousands of years old lineage of the Bengali language and culture was completely undermined with the imposition of an alien language which was considered to be the language of Pakistan. Innocent students were vanquished by the West Pakistani regime, an act of cold-blooded murder in broad daylight who were protesting just to get their right to speak their mother tongue. They paid the penultimate price on 21 February 1952 when heavy-handed law enforcement agencies opened fire on peaceful protesters in a trigger happy exercise. Since that gruesome day, even the United Nations has acknowledged 21 February as International Mother Language Day to recognise the martyrs who struggled with the Bengali language, which they undertook to ensure that the Bengali identity was not lost from the face of Pakistan.
The foundations of this newly found fragile Republic, separated by thousands of miles comprising the federating units of the East and West, were always colonial. The realisation of a troubled marriage is probably heading towards a catastrophic departure in the next twenty years to come. There was an attitude of gross bias, bigotry and intolerance for the residents of East Pakistan in comparison to their Western compatriots who enjoyed the lion’s share of the resources, revenues and riches (especially the jute dollar cash crop revenues). With the West Pakistani population, predominantly Punjabi military establishment held an iron grip on the entire country. These policy discissions saw the repeated erosion of Democratic forces and the emergence of Military might (One Unit creation).
The population of East Pakistan felt even more annihilated and marginalised. During the military Junta, Ayub Khan’s reign, almost all of the foreign revenue earnings from East and any foreign aid coming into Pakistan were syphoned off and channelised towards Punjab’s province for its beautification upliftment. Heavy Industries, including those of jute processing, was set up predominantly in the Western part, thus depriving the East of its due share not only of employment creation but profits from its hard-earned labour in the form of exports. On the military front, it was almost unequivocal staffed by members of the Western part, predominantly Punjabi. Thus again undermining the aspirations and hopes of the other ethnic communities in Pakistan for their due share to participate in nation-building. It is also to be noted here that not only in East also Pakistan but the largest region in West Pakistan which was Baluchistan and other provinces like Sindh we’re also ignored. They were excluded from resource allocation from the central government, including employment in government jobs.
As luck would have had it in November 1970, the worst possible Cyclone Bhola in recorded history struck the shores of East Pakistan, wiping out almost half a million souls at landfall. Utter ignorance and gross lack of activation of state and international resources to aid and rescue the aftermath of such a natural calamity further cemented it the deep divide between the East and the West. In the 1970s, the first free and possibly only fair General elections of Pakistan saw the Awami League under the leadership of the charismatic Sheikh Mujubir Rahman win an overwhelming absolute majority. Out of 160 seats, out of the 300 members, the entire assembly was poised to form the next government of Pakistan. However, a deep-seated conspiracy to obstruct the flow of democracy was hatched and thus changed the direction of history in the Indian subcontinent forever.
The West Pakistani establishment, including the deep state at its core, was fiercely against the opinion of a Bengali being the supreme leader of Pakistan with an absolute democratic mandate behind him. They formulated a heinous plan, a conspiracy to crush the Bengali unity and ensure that their hopes and liberation were forgotten forever. A military crackdown codenamed Operation Searchlight was launched on 26 March 1971. Hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians, men, women and children were mercilessly murdered and ravaged throughout East Pakistan. It is estimated as high as 10 million refugees fled across the borders into neighbouring India to seek refuge from absolutism and the reign of terror, which lasted in East Pakistan from 26 March up to 16 December 1971. Under the joint synergistic forces off the Mukti Bahini (Bengali Liberation forces) and Indian Armed Forces, the West Pakistani military establishment capitulated. The myth of an elite martial race projected by the Punjabi establishment burst within a mere 12 days of a full-scale invasion by the synergistic forces. After World War II, this is probably the most significant surrender of the Military and other officials, numbering as high as 90 thousand. It also demonstrates how nations with brotherly and deep-rooted cultural connections stood thick and thin, side by side in their greatest need. Truly a remarkable and unique example for the entire global community to take note of, probably unseen in history till recorded date.
Sheikh Mujubir Rahman Was arrested on the night of Operation Searchlight and was rumoured to have his grave dug out and faced imminent liquidation by the West Pakistani establishment. He stood sturdy and brave even when death was imminent. On his side stood shoulder to shoulder the iron lady Mrs Indira Gandhi of India, who vouched that she will do whatever is possible and necessary to ensure that the people of Bangladesh get what they have struggled so dearly for and would never give up her resolve to free the Sheikh so that he returns to his people as their true leader.
The attitude and mentality of the deep state establishment in Pakistan have always been to crush and use brutal force against innocent civilians, be it in Pakistan, Kashmir, or Baluchistan. They have always relied on the creation often paramilitary militia under the direct supervision of the military establishment who act as groups at arm’s length and are hand in glove in their operations. After the 1971 debacle of East Pakistan surrender, the Pakistani establishment had embarked upon a doctrine of bleeding India through thousand cuts. Kashmir became the focal point of this state policy. To get international sympathy and foreign aid, they have deliberately distorted the facts and presented a distorted picture, especially to the Western world, that their actions are entirely justified in Kashmir, Baluchistan, Pashtun lands and Sindh. Recruiting young individuals and by a systematic campaign of brainwashing inducting them in the name of a fake holy war commits active international cross border terrorism. This is high time that the world community takes note of all this repeated offender who keeps on spreading hate and terrorism in the neighbourhood and beyond, where almost any links to global terrorism Leeds back to their roots inside Pakistan.
Today, Bangladesh has evolved to be one of the most resilient and fastest developing economies globally, and under Prime Minister Hasina, the country has grown leaps and bounds. She has kept her father’s legacy alive by ensuring a steady and sustainable trajectory of mass human improvement. Both Bangladesh and India enjoy spectacular opportunities for growth and development together, and this historic bond that will last forever, irrespective of the global geopolitical dynamics. The two countries are a natural complementary ally, who only can augment and cement their destinies together for a brighter and better future shared by many, not the few.
Image courtesy: satheeshsankaran