Freedom from Slavery: A Story of War, Friendship & Liberation

1927

Published on December 15, 2021
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As the Pakistani junta started a conspiracy to eliminate the Bengali nation soon after the landslide victory of the Awami League-led by Bangabandhu in the 1970’s general election, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman started preparing the nation for armed resistance. His call for non-cooperation deactivated the power of the Pakistani administration by March. Bangabandhu began running the Bengal with his mandate to the seven crores of Bengalis. In his historic March 7 speech at Suhrawardy Udyan, he asked the nation to get prepared for the final blow of the Liberation War against the Pakistani forces.

People from all walks of life began to get organized in every village and locality under the direction of Bangabandhu. And he finally declared the independence of the country at the perfect time in the early hours of March 26. With his declaration, the Bengali nation built resistance at every house to counter the Pakistani army forces for the greater sake of their much-awaited freedom.

The Pakistanis arrested Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and plotted to kill him in prison to thwart the victory of the Liberation War. But with the spirit and slogan ‘Joy Bangla, Joy Bangabandhu’, the brave Bengalis made the battlefield eloquent. The Bengalis risked their lives but resisted the Pakistanis in every way as per Bangabandhu’s direction and their desire for freedom. Eventually, after nine months of the blood-shed war, Bangladesh emerged as an independent state on the world map on December 16, 1971.

Bengalis’ final battle for freedom from Pakistani oppression

Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman announced a non-cooperation movement from the beginning of March 1971. On March 3, the Manifesto of Independence was declared with Bangabandhu as the head of independent Bengal. On March 23, the Pakistani flags were replaced by the red and green flag of Bangladesh across the regions. But on March 25, the Pakistani military started their brutal and heinous genocide in history. In such context, Bangabandhu declared the independence of Bangladesh through wireless immediately and the world came to know about the independence.

As part of revenge for the defeat in the 1970 elections, barbaric Pakistanis carried out genocide and organized rape across the country. Ordinary people fled to the border to save their lives from the brutality and persecution by the Pakistani junta along with their local collaborators including Razakars, Al Badr, Al Shams etc. Neighbouring India opened its border from humanitarian grounds to give shelters for more than one crore Bengalis.

Meanwhile, the Awami League leaders who had won the elections with the boat symbol under the leadership of Bangabandhu gathered in Kolkata. On April 10, 1971, they formed an expatriate government with Bangabandhu as President, Syed Nazrul Islam as Acting President (in absence of Bangabandhu) and Tajuddin Ahmed as Prime Minister. The expatriate government took an oath at Baidyanathtala (Mujibnagar) in Meherpur on April 17. They formally recognized Bangabandhu’s Declaration of Independence and issued the Proclamation of Independence keeping Bangabandhu as the head of the state.

Razakars joined Pakistani forces opposing freedom fighters

From the beginning of the war, the traders of religion Jamaat-e-Islami and Muslim League took arms for Pakistan and started fighting against the freedom fighters. They guided the Pakistani troops in every corner of the country to conduct their killing missions, rapes and looting properties of ordinary people and freedom fighters. Thus they became affluent overnight by looting the properties and assets of the people who fled to survive the persecution of Pakistani forces.

In a bid to augment their strengths, the Pakistani junta trained up to 50,000 Jamaat leaders and activists till September 1971 to form the Razakar force. Following a meeting with Jamaat leaders, Pakistani junta chief General AK Niazi told his public relations officer, Major Siddique Salik, "From now on, you will call the Razakars as Al Badr and Al Shams – so it will not be understood which party they belong to.”

The Pakistani generals, who were defeated in the war, also wrote about the Razakars in their autobiographies. General Niazi wrote, “The battlefield was unknown. It was not possible to determine who were friends or foes. But Razakars, Al Badr and Al Shams guided Pakistani troops to reach every area.”

The disgraceful role of Jamaat in torturing the Bengali nation during the Liberation War is well known. General Rao Farman Ali was an advisor to the then Governor-General Tikka Khan, who was notoriously known as the butcher of the Bengali nation in 1971. In his autobiography, Farman Ali wrote, I communicate with some leaders from Muslim League, PDP and Jamaat-e-Islami. Then Nurul Amin, Khwaja Khair, Farid Ahmed, Shafiqul Islam and Ghulam Azam met Tikka and formed a peace committee. During the war on April 7, they also brought out a procession in Dhaka on behalf of Pakistan. Another force called Razakars was also formed to guide the Pakistani army in the war. Even armed groups like Al Badr and Al Shams, created by Niazi during the war, played a crucial role for the Pakistani army. Ghulam Azam, Shah Aziz, Nizami, Mojaheed and other top Jamaat and Shibir armed men led these groups.” Khaleda Zia made these commanders of the rapists and murderers her ministers when she became prime minister.

About an incident on April 10, General Khadim wrote in his autobiography: “General Niazi roared as soon as he entered the house. He continued to say: I will change the caste of this bastard nation. Niazi instigated the army soldiers towards Bengali women. Then he started talking a lot of obscene things about the Bengali nation. Unable to bear such humiliation, the Bengali Major Mushtaq, who was present there, entered the bathroom and shot himself dead.”

In order to implement their plan of changing the caste, the Pakistani beasts and Razakars have ruined the lives of at least five lakh women through organized rape. More than one lakh children, born due to these rapes, were adopted abroad as war children in the post-independence period.

Indian people shelter to Bengali refugees amid humanitarian catastrophe

More than one crore Bengalis crossed the border into India to save their lives from the persecution of Pakistanis and Razakars. People from all walks of life in India came forward with food, clothing, medical equipment and other services for the refugees from humanitarian grounds. The Indian government even raised the price of stamps to raise funds for refugees.

The number of registered refugees was 98, 99,305 as of December 15, 1971. There were many other unregistered Bengalis too who took shelter there. Indian government opened 826 shelters to stand by the helpless Bengalis. Hospitals were set up around the border to ensure speedy treatment of war-wounded freedom fighters.

In August, US Senator Edward Kennedy visited the refugee camps and battlefields. He termed the massacre carried out by the Pakistani junta as one of the most horrific 'human tragedies' of all time.

Training at the border: Inseparable ties with indomitable freedom fighters

The indomitable freedom fighters kept resisting the heavy weapons on a regular basis at the beginning of the war. Though at one stage, they were forced to retreat, they continued their last efforts to free their motherland and sacrificed their lives. The whole world got surprised to see their sacrifices and commitment. Then came India to help the freedom fighters through training. India opened at least 30 camps in the border areas in May for this purpose. Later in September, the number of these camps rose to 84. Around 500 to 2,000 freedom fighters were training in each batch for four to eight weeks.

In the earlier phase of the Liberation War, freedom fighters used to attack the Pakistani forces in 'hit-and-run' style with little training. Within a few days, however, they began attacking Pakistani military convoys on the frontline. Even they sank Pakistani ships. Following their training by the Indian border guards and the army, freedom fighters were handed over light weapons initially. In the meantime, Bangladesh’s expatriate government also bought some weapons by raising funds through various Bangladeshi missions abroad. Even after India's agreement with the Soviet Union, the supply of Indian arms to the freedom fighters increased.

Requested by the Mujibnagar government, the Indian trainers imparted special naval commando training for 365 Bengali naval personnel and swimmers from April 23 to May 6. In the Bhagirathi river of Palashi, more than one and a half hundred naval commandos were trained as suicide squads in two phases. The navy forces began the final blow from August 2.

The Indian government even helped us form an air force following discussions with our expatriate government representatives. They provided warplanes, aircraft and helicopters for the freedom fighters. After the formation of this force on September 28, training for the pilots was arranged in the already liberated areas in Bangladesh. Even in the early days of the airstrikes by the Bangladesh-India joint force from December 4, Bangladeshi pilots led the attack and showed skills.

More than one and a half thousand trained Indian soldiers lost their lives in the last two weeks fighting against the Pakistanis as they came to support the freedom fighters. Four thousand army members were injured. That is why Prime Minister Tajuddin Ahmed, in a radio speech on December 6, said "Our fighters are now fighting side by side with the Indian army and both of our blood gets mixed and flows throughout our soil.”

International conspiracy of Razakars against Bangladesh

On one side, Jamaat leaders and activists not only fought directly for Pakistan on the battlefield by raping women, killing Bengalis and looting their properties. On the other side, they tried to convince different countries and the international community to stop them from supporting the freedom fighters.

Even when the defeat of the Pakistanis was confirmed, they planned to assassinate the best intellectuals in the country on December 14. This organized intellectual assassination was carried out so that Bangladesh could not easily stand tall as an independent state. The blueprint of this genocide in Bengal is found in the diary of General Rao Farman Ali. The barbaric Razakar force consisting of Jamaat-e-Islami leaders and activists carried out the massacre as an auxiliary force of the Pakistani army.

In November 1971 at the verge of the defeat of the Pakistani junta, Jamaat spokesman and Muslim League leader Shah Azizur Rahman went to the UN to speak in support of the Pakistani junta and against the Bengali nation. Introducing himself as the Bengali leader of the Pakistan diplomatic mission, Shah Aziz denied the genocide carried out by the Pakistan army in Bangladesh. He even urged other Muslim countries not to recognize Bangladesh. Later, after Ziaur Rahman seized power, he appointed this person as the Prime Minister.

Pakistani brutality shocks the world

Initially, the world remained in dark about the infernal massacre that Pakistanis in Bangladesh. The Pakistan government spread misinformation and propaganda to the world through their embassies. Moreover, the expatriate government of Bangladesh did not have much connection with the rest of the world in the beginning. So there came Prime Minister of India Indira Gandhi who let the world leaders know the real situation in Bangladesh.

Indira Gandhi set out on her 19-day journey on October 24, 1971. She visited many countries including Britain, Belgium, Austria, France, Germany and the USA and presented the overall war situation of Bangladesh to the respective governments and heads of state. She met US President Richard Nixon on November 4 and 5. But when Nixon tried to lightly dismiss the great Liberation War of the Bengalis as the civil war of Pakistan, Smt. Gandhi strongly protested it in the meeting.

In fact, the world came to know about Bangladesh’s Liberation War and the brutality of the Pakistani junta due to the world tour of the Indian head of the state. Thus, it helped form public opinions and campaigns across the world in favour of Bangladesh’s Liberation War. This helped the expatriate government establish communication with the world. In addition, Indira Gandhi also called on with the leaders of the United Nations, the World Peace Organization and Russia (then the Soviet Union) before and after the world tour. And that is why the superpower Russia supported Bangladesh’s Liberation War later that left China and the United States afraid of directly confronting the war on behalf of Pakistan.

While Pakistani soldiers were carrying out genocide and rape in Bengal, there was a plot to assassinate Bangabandhu in a Pakistani prison. Pakistan was planning to hang him in various cases. They used to dig graves in front of his jail. Realizing the situation, Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and Yugoslav President Joseph Tito warned Pakistan in a joint statement on October 21. But the Pakistani junta announced the death sentence of Bangabandhu. But they did not dare to execute Bangabandhu due to international pressure.

The ultimate victory of the indomitable Bengalis

An armed resistance started soon after Bangabandhu’s declaration of independence on March 26. Then the war got a formal structure with the formation of the expatriate government and division of the battlefield into 11 sectors. The Mukti Bahini was formed along with ordinary Bengali people, professionals, police, EPR, Army-Navy-Air Force members. The freedom fighters attacked the Pakistanis on the frontline with the spirit and desire for freedom and the Pakistani junta and their local collaborators, the Razakars, lost their way. Meanwhile, the Pakistanis were are trying to use the United States to dispute the Liberation War. As a result, Bangladesh and India formed joint allied forces on November 21 to deal with all their conspiracies.

After the conspiracy went in vain, the Pakistanis invaded India to avoid their surrender of their around one lakh trained army personnel to the freedom fighters. The junta plotted to turn Bangladesh's Liberation War into an Indo-Pakistan War by invading India on December 3. But the next day, India joined hands with the freedom fighters and hit the Pakistani army directly. On December 6, the Indian government recognized Bangladesh as an independent sovereign state. That is why all the conspiracies to divert the Liberation War came to an end. And the Pakistanis were finally defeated by the Bangladesh-India allied forces.

As a result, Pakistan was forced to surrender publicly and unconditionally under the open sky of Suhrawardy Udyan in Dhaka on the afternoon of December 16. For the first time in the history of two thousand years, this land of Bengal emerged as an independent state. The slogan 'Joy Bangla, Joy Bangabandhu' was buzzing in the air all around.

In context with the victory, the Indian generals of the allied forces highly applauded the freedom fighters of Bengal. According to their autobiographies, the guerrilla operations of the Mukti Bahini had alienated the Pakistanis. The indomitable courage of the freedom fighters shattered the confidence of the Pakistanis. That is why they got frightened when the Indian troops started confronting them directly along with the freedom fighters, and it brought the much-awaited victory for Bangladesh.

Bangabandhu's homecoming and reorganization of Bangladesh

Following a nine-month blood-shed war, Bangladesh was born as an independent state on December 16, 1971. Soon after the Pakistani invaders surrendered to the Allied forces consisting of freedom fighters and Indian troops, Smt. Indira Gandhi at 5.30 pm told the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha session, “We congratulate the people of Bangladesh on their victory. We believe that Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the father of the nation of this new country, will bring the country towards peace and prosperity by leading his people.”

The people and government of India kept their words. After thwarting the conspiracy of the Pakistanis, Bangabandhu returned to the country on January 10, 1972. And then, in less than three months, the Allied forces left Bangladesh –which is a rare incident in the history of the world.

After the victory, Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman started rebuilding war-torn Bangladesh. The independence of Bangladesh is the final outcome of the youth who took to the streets for the sake of Bengali, Bangla and Bangladesh. Like playing a vital role in context with the language movement both in Dhaka University and elsewhere, Mujib also placed his protest against changing the name ‘East Bengal’ to ‘East Pakistan’ in Pakistan Constituent Assembly in 1957.

Finally, while marking the sixth death anniversary of Shaheed Suhrawardy on December 5, 1969, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, also the then Awami League president, termed this territory as ‘Bangladesh’. He said, "On behalf of the people, I am announcing that from today, the name of the eastern province of Pakistan will be Bangladesh instead of East Pakistan."

And achieving the freedom by sacrificing lives of three million martyrs and more than four million women, Bangabandhu brought back one crore Bengali refugees from India in just three months. He built and renovated the houses of about two crore displaced people. He managed to get recognition of his country from the world against all odds. Among other policies, he announced the five-year annual plan to speed up the country’s development.

Today, Bangabandhu’s daughter Sheikh Hasina, also the Hon'ble Prime Minister, is leading the country along the path shown by Bangabandhu. In its 50 years of independence, Bangladesh has become a digital and middle-income country by overcoming lots of obstacles. It has earned a worldwide reputation in disaster management, extremism and terrorism control, social security, and innovation and development. With its slogan and spirit ‘Joy Bangla’, the country is now racing for being enlisted among the developed nations in the world.