History's worst Genocide
In utter frustration, the Pakistan military went for indiscriminate killing of innocent people, wide-scale destruction of villages, raping of women and looting and plunder. By playing up religious sentiments, they tried to instigate the simple-minded Bengalee Muslims to kill or drive out the Hindus who were painted as pro-Indian.
By playing on similar sentiments, they created some auxiliary forces such as the Al-Badr, Al-Shams and Razakars to collaborate with the military in identifying and eliminating all those who sympathized with the War of Liberation. The Freedom Fighters, who were operating behind the enemy lines, were to be hunted down and delivered to the military for torture and killing. So-called Peace Committees composed of collaborators were set up at different places to show that normalcy prevailed.
The repression grew in scale and intensity as the Pakistani military junta watched the freedom fighters grow in strength and achieve one success after another. To hoodwink the international community, it launched a worldwide campaign to paint that the Liberation War was a rebellion against the sovereignty of Pakistan and that their arch enemy India was behind all this.
The fact that about 10 million Bengalees had fled to India to escape the military repression was depicted as India's own game to draw international sympathy. However, the truth about the character of the liberation war and the atrocities committed by the military became known to the wider world through independent reports by the foreign journalists and despatches sent home by the diplomatic community in Dhaka.
About the crackdown of March 25, Simon Dring's report to the Daily Telegraph of London, smuggled out of Dhaka and published on March 30, was one of many such reports. It said: "An estimated three battalions of troops were used in the attack on Dhaka - one of armoured, one of artillery and one of infantry. They started leaving their barracks shortly before 10 p.m. By 11 p.m. firing had broken out and the people who started to erect makeshift barricades-overturned cars, tree stumps, furniture, concrete piping-became early casualties. Sheikh Mujibur was warned by telephone that something was happening, but he refused to leave his house." "If I go into hiding they will burn the whole of Dhaka to find me," he told an aide who escaped arrest.
The students were also warned, but those who were still around later said that most of them thought they would only be arrested. Led by M-24 World War II tanks, one column of troops sped to Dhaka University shortly after midnight. Troops took over the British Council Library and used it as fire-base from which to shell nearby dormitory areas.
Caught completely by surprise, some 200 students were killed in Iqbal Hall headquarters of the militantly anti-government students' union, I was told. Two days later, bodies were still smoldering in burnt-out rooms; others were scattered outside, more floated in a near-by lake, an art student lay sprawled across his easel. The military removed many of the bodies, but the 30 bodies still there could never have accounted for all the blood in the corridors of Iqbal Hall."
The road to freedom for the people of Bangladesh was arduous and tortuous, smeared with blood, toil and sacrifices. In the contemporary history, perhaps no nation paid so dearly as the Bengalees did for their emancipation. During the nine months of the War, the Pakistan military killed an estimated three million people and inflicted brutalities on millions more before their ignominious defeat and the surrender of nearly a hundred thousand troops on 16 December 1971.
Thousands of their well-armed troops were killed by the freedom fighters. The War of Liberation was literally fought in the name of Bangabandhu and under the leadership of the government which his party formed during those trying and eventful days.
That, briefly, was the genesis of the Liberation War. The Liberation War was not, however, fought on the battlefield alone. Thousands of unarmed people including women and children provided support to the freedom fighters-in running errands, hiding or transporting arms and ammunition, providing shelter and food, nursing the sick and the wounded and in myriad other ways.
In consonance with Bangabandhu's Declaration of Independence, a provisional revolutionary government was formed in exile on April 17,1971 in Mujibnagar with Bangabandhu as the President in absentia, In his absence, the Acting President Syed Nazrul Islam with Tajuddin Ahmed as Prime Minister coordinated the war operations, arranged funds and carried on negotiations with foreign governments.
The radio station calling itself 'Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra' kept on transmitting patriotic programmes throughout the war to inspire the Freedom Fighters as well as the people behind the Pak army line, A recurrent theme of these programmes was Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's Declaration of Independence and his 7th March speech at Suhrawardy Uddyan.
Several hundred civil servants took grave risks, left their posts and joined the Government-in-exile. Scores of Bengalee diplomats defected from Pakistani Missions abroad and worked to mould international opinion in favour of Bangladesh.
Thousands of Bengalee expatriates joined hands with their foreign friends and sympathizers in raising funds and building public opinion for the cause of liberation. The contributions and efforts of all combined to take the war to its glorious end in such a short time. That is how Bangabandhu's dream of an independent state of Bangladesh finally materialized.
Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs Bangladesh