Myth of three million killed in Bangladesh

By Brig Asif Haroon Raja

It has been alleged that Pakistani troops killed three million Bengalis on and after March 25, 1971 in former East Pakistan. This allegation has generally been accepted by the world at large and even by some Pakistani secular pseudo intellectuals. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was the inventor of this theme fed to him by India. Indian defence analyst Subramanian went to the extent of claiming that 1971 saw the greatest genocide of the modern era in Bangladesh.

It may be appreciated that no Army in the world can mathematically regulate its firing, particularly when emotions are high and risk to life grave. No state machinery has ever dealt with secessionists gently. Rather, all secessionist movements, or even dissent, or terrorism, or so-called evil states were crushed ruthlessly with all the power at the command of the state. This goes for civilized world as well. Although this is not the best solution, but the sad part is that violence has always been and still is being dealt by force. India is among the leading states of the world resorting to state terrorism against its own people. It has been using savage force in occupied Kashmir since 1989 to quell freedom movement of Kashmiri Muslims and has never hesitated to use excessive force against other minorities. Indian forces killed 250,000 Sikhs to quash Khalistan movement.

India, which spearheaded the propaganda campaign of genocide against Pakistan and then invaded East Pakistan, may be asked whether it was driven by pure noble instincts to help the people of East Pakistan or their motives were selfish and evil-ridden. Even if we hypothetically grant Indian leaders the status of noble saints, was war the only remedy to the problem? Do saints opt for war or peace? In former East Pakistan it was not a popular freedom movement but a rebellion against the state by miscreants and terrorists of Awami League only. David Loshak wrote in Daily Telegraph, ‘India can only see good in dismemberment or permanent enfeeblement of its chief antagonist (Pakistan). It is this, rather than concern for fate of innocent people, that lies behind India’s propaganda war on behalf of Bangladesh’.

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Mukti Bahini had been established in July 1970 with Indian assistance and was used to terrorize the masses during the election campaign. BSF under Maj Gen Rustam Ji trained them. Spate of terrorism was unleashed from January 1971 onwards the intensity of which peaked after March 1, 1971. The rebels including elements from EBR and EPR took refuge in India where they were trained and equipped in 59 training camps established all along the border and launched across the border to conduct terrorist attacks throughout the year. Indian military took full part in this gory act to break up Pakistan. In February 1971, Indian force level in West Bengal was shot up from 7000 to 90,000 troops to bolster the morale of Mujib led rebels. On April 29, 1971, Indian Eastern Command was officially given the responsibility of assisting the rebels and the BSF was placed under its command. (Lt Gen JFR Jacob, Surrender at Dacca, pp40-41).

India initiated the concept of cross border terrorism in South Asia for the first time. London Times dated December 1, 1971 published a report stating, ‘There is substantial evidence to prove that, if not all, at least a major portion of Mukti Bahini consisted of Indian soldiers’. Indian former premier Morarji Desai in his interview to Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci, which was published in Washington Post of December 14, 1971, stated: ‘Thousands and thousands of Indian regular soldiers disguised as Mukti Bahini were dispatched to East Pakistan from April to December 1971; 5000 of them died’.  Even then the world powers opted to side with the rebels and their abettors. Force used by Pak Army in 1971 against the Indian aided secessionists when compared with other examples was inconsequential.

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Sheikh Mujib’s atrocious claim of three million Bengalis killed by Pak Army in 1971 was a falsehood of unprecedented proportion. His fabrication can be judged from his faltering figures which he blurted within a span of few days after his freedom in January 1972 from Mianwali Jail. While at London on January 8, 1972 on his way to Dacca after he was unconditionally released by ZA Bhutto, he claimed that one million people had been killed. But after his stop over at New Delhi where he was given intelligence briefing, he puffed up the figure to three million when he arrived at Dacca on 10 January.

After March 1972, the field investigators of Mujib’s own government could collect only about 2000 complaints from citizens of deaths at the hands of Pak soldiers. (The Guardian, London, June 6, 1972). The missionaries in Bangladesh estimated that about 30,000 had lost their lives in the March 25 Army action. William J. Drummond stated,Figure of three million deaths is an exaggeration so gross as to be absurd’About alleged mass graves, he clarified that those didn’t account for more than about 1000 victims. (Angeles Times, June 11, 1972). Le Monde Paris published a report, As per the inquiry conducted by Dacca Home Office it was reported that only about 3000 were killed by Pak Army.

Peter Gill wrote in Daily Telegraph‘The Pakistan soldiering in East Pakistan during 1971 was engaged in suppressing a rebellion and not in occupation of a foreign country. Sheikh Mujib’s wild figure of three million Bengalis killed during those ten terrible months is at least 20 times too high if not 50 or 60. And what of all the killing that the Bengalis did whenever they had a chance’As per one Awami League journalist quoted by Dr Abdul Mumin Chowdhry in his book, ‘Behind the Myth of 3 Million’, ‘1.6 million refugees died in refugee camps in India due to disease and under nourishment’.  

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Dr. Mumin, spoke out in 1996 to tell the true story of what went on during that war. He says the allegations against Pakistan were entirely cooked up and the actual death toll was much lower than the falsely fabricated figure of 3 millions. He cited an extensive range of sources to show that what the Pakistan Army was carrying out in East Pakistan was a limited counter-insurgency, not at all genocide. He says that greed for personal power and Indian predatory ambitions against its only regional counterweight were the only things that motivated the players who incited the breakup of the only homeland created for the Muslims of the subcontinent. He explains how the allegations of genocide were artificially cooked up and from where the “absolutely impossible figure of 3 million” was hatched, and anyone who tried to dig for the real truth in those days was murdered.

He then goes on to explain another category of atrocities committed by the so-called “liberators” that anti-Pakistan propagandists have whitewashed from all historic record. These were carried out against large numbers of East Pakistanis that fought for Pakistan and just about everyone who did not support Mukti Bahini. He describes the savage and gruesome ways they were murdered and otherwise brutalized and recounts the stories survivors themselves told, and apportions responsibility directly to Mukti Bahini and Sheikh Mujibur Rehman, who was an Indian collaborator in the mid-1950s.

He says the true story must be told otherwise Bangladesh will never be a truly free nation and a normal member of the international community or the comity of Islamic nations. He says only the truth will enable reconciliation between Pakistanis and Bengalis and enable them to move on from the past and move toward the future together as brotherly nations like they used to be at one time.

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