The Liberation war began on 26 March 1971 and ended with the liberation of Bangladesh on 16 December 1971. The armed struggle was the culmination of a series of events, situations and issues contributing to the progressively deteriorating relations between East and West Pakistan. The questions of land reforms, state language, inter-wing economic and administrative disparities, provincial autonomy, the defense of East Pakistan and many other consequential questions had been straining the relations between the two wings of Pakistan ever since independence of the country from Britain in 1947.
The First Phase of the War:
The general elections of 1970 had made SHEIKH MUJIBUR RAHMAN, the leader of the AWAMI LEAGUE which bagged 167 seats out of 169 allotted for East Pakistan, the sole spokesman of the people of East Pakistan and majority leader in the Pakistan National Assembly. But the Pakistan civil and military ruling clique had refused to transfer power to the majority leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and his party. Sheikh Mujib also refused to yield to the pressure put on him for undue accommodation. Sheikh's historic address on 7 March 1971 made this point quite clear to the Pakistani military junta. Then began the civil disobedience movement. Meanwhile talks started between Mujib and Yahya to resolve the outstanding issues.
While holding talks, the Pakistani military junta was bringing more troops to Bangladesh and at the same time wantonly killing innocent civilians all over the country. This clearly showed that they were totally insincere about handing over power to the elected representatives of Bangladesh. No sooner the talks failed, the genocide began, with the Pakistan army's crackdown on the people of East Pakistan on the midnight of 25 March 1971. The Bengali soldiers serving in the then Pakistan Armed Forces and para militia forces declared instantly their solidarity with the people's liberation war.
The Pakistan Army was ordered to launch operation on Bengali people at midnight of 25 March. According to the plan for operation Search Light two headquarters were established. Major General Rao Farman Ali with 57 Brigade under Brigedier Arbab was responsible for operation in Dhaka city and its suburbs while Major General Khadim Raja was given the responsibility of the rest of the province. Lieutenant General Tikka Khan assumed the overall charge of the operation.The students and the nationalist political activists put up resistance outside the cantonment. Road blocks were raised to obstruct the march of the Pakistani column to the city areas. The wireless set fitted jeeps and trucks loaded with troops groaned on the streets of Dhaka City at midnight of 25 March.Several hundred people chanted the slogan Joi Bangla which lasted for about 15 minutes. But soon guns silenced them. The army moved into the city before scheduled time and started the GENOCIDE.The military forces killed everybody in sight on the footpath and destroyed everything on their way. The tanks roared through the streets of Dhaka blasting indiscriminately at the people and official and residential buildings. They gunned down clusters of settlements and set fire on them. Scores of artillery bursts were pounded, while the tanks rumbled into the city roaring the main streets. The student halls of residence at Dhaka University were raided and numerous students residing there were brutally killed and maimed. They also killed many teachers of Dhaka University. The Hindu concentrated areas of old Dhaka were particularly targeted. They started killing the people, burnt their houses, looted their valuables and raped their women. The genocide that was perpetrated on the unarmed people was flashed in the world press. On 26 March Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was taken prisoner by the Pakistan army. At about the same time, Major ZIAUR RAHMAN announced Bangladesh's independence on behalf of Sheikh Mujib from Kalurghat radio station at Chittagong.
There were spontaneous uprisings throughout Bangladesh following the call of independence. These uprisings were participated by government officials, political activists, students, workers, peasants, professionals and members of the public. After initial resistance, many freedom fighters crossed over into Indian Territory to have safe sanctuary, due mainly to the enemy's overwhelming superiority of trained soldiers and modern weapons. The scattered and temporarily retreating rudimentary liberation forces were soon brought under a unified command.
The Second Phase of the war:
On 4 April, the senior officers of the liberation army assembled at the headquarters of 2nd East Bengal at Teliapara, a semi hilly area covered by tea gardens where Colonel MAG Osmany, Lieutenant Colonel Abdur Rob, Lieutenant Colonel Salahuddin Mohammad Reja, Major Kazi Nuruzzaman, Major KHALED MOSHARRAF, Major Nurul Islam, Major Shafat Jamil, Major Mainul Hossain Chowdhury and others were present. In this meeting four senior commanders were entrusted with the responsibility of operational areas. Sylhet-Brahmanbaria area was placed under the command of Major Shafiullah. Comilla-Noakhali area was given to Major Khaled Mosharraf while Chittagong-Chittagong Hill Tracts was given to Major Ziaur Rahman. Kushtia-Jessore area was placed under command of Major Abu Osman Chowdhury. In the meeting the organizational concept of the freedom fighter forces and the command structure were chalked out. Colonel MAG Osmany was to command the liberation forces, later named as MUKTI BAHINI.
An exile government called the People's Republic of Bangladesh alias MUJIBNAGAR GOVERNMENT headed by TAJUDDIN AHMED was formed on 10 April. On the next day Tajuddin Ahmed announced the names of three more regional commanders. Captain Newazish for Rangpur region, Major Najmul Haque for Dinajpur-Rajshahi-Pabna and Major Jalil for Barisal-Patuakhali region. All these regions were later named as sectors. All of Bangladesh was divided into eleven such sectors and different sub-sectors for operational purposes during the Sector Commander's conference held from 10 to 17 July 1971.
On 10 April 1971, the Government of the People's Republic of Bangladesh was formed through a PROCLAMATION OF INDEPENDENCE issued from Mujibnagar. It confirmed the declaration of independence made earlier. Bangabandhu SHEIKH MUJIBUR RAHMAN, who was then interned in Pakistan, was elected President, SYED NAZRUL ISLAM Vice President and TAJUDDIN AHMED Prime Minister. In the absence of the President, the Vice President was empowered to exercise the powers, duties and responsibilities of the President.
The Bangladesh Government held a formal inauguration ceremony at the mango grove of village Baidyanathtala (renamed Mujibnagar) under the present Meherpur district on 17 April 1971.
A few platoons of the then EPR and freedom fighters were deployed for presenting the Guard of Honour. The ceremony started at 11 am. When Syed Nazrul Islam hoisted the flag, a small group sang the NATIONAL ANTHEM Amar Sonar Bangla (My Golden Bangla) in a chorus. Syed Nazrul Islam announced the formation of a sovereign government of Bangladesh and introduced the ministers to the audience. The Acting President then delivered his speech. After that, Prime Minister Tajuddin Ahmed spoke at a press conference.
Facts of the Mujibnagar Government
President-Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman
(interned in Pakistani jail)
Vice President-Syed Nazrul Islam
(Served as the Acting President in the absence of the President).
Prime Minister-Tajuddin Ahmed.
Minister for Foreign Affairs and Law-Khondakar Mostaq Ahmad
Finance Minister-M Mansur Ali
Minister for Home Affairs, Relief and Rehabilitation-AHM Qamaruzzaman
Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces-General Mohammad Ataul Ghani Osmany
Chief of Staff-Major General Abdur Rab
Departmental Chiefs-Abdul Mannan (Press, Information, Radio and Film); Professor Yusuf Ali (Relief and Rehabilitation); Matiur Rahman (Commerce); Barrister Amirul Islam (Volunteer Corps)
On 27 March, Prime Minister of India Mrs. Indira Gandhi expressed full support of her government to the freedom struggle of the Bengalis. Indian Border Security Force (BSF) opened Bangladesh-India border to allow the tortured and panic stricken Bengalis to have safe shelter in India. The governments of West Bengal, Bihar, Assam, Meghalaya and Tripura established refugee camps along the border. These camps became ready ground for recruitment of the freedom fighters. The students, peasants, workers and political activists joined the Mukti Bahini with high spirit to liberate Bangladesh from the Pakistan army. They were given training on tactics and the use of arms and explosives.
Besides Mukti Bahini, many other bahinis were organized inside Bangladesh at different places to fight Pakistan Army. These Bahinis included Kader Bahini of Tangail, Latif Mirza Bahini of Sirajganj, Akbar Hossain Bahini of Jhinaidah, Hemayet Bahini of Faridpur, Quddus Molla and Gafur Bahini of Barisal, Afsar Bahini of Mymensingh and Aftab Bahini of Mymensingh.
Another Bahini named as Mujib Bahini was organised in India with the active assistance of Major General Oban of the Indian army an expert on guerilla warfare. Mujib Bahini was trained at Dehradun. Student League leaders SHEIKH FAZLUL HAQ MANI, Tofael Ahmed, Abdur Razzak and Sirajul Alam Khan were organisers of this Bahini. Mukti Bahini consisted of the regular and the irregular forces. The regulars were later called 'Niomita Bahini' (regular force) and the irregulars were called 'Gono Bahini' (people's Force). The regulars included East Bengal Regiment and EPR troops. The irregular forces, which after initial training joined different sectors, consisted of the students, peasants, workers and political activists.
Irregular forces were inducted inside Bangladesh territory to adopt guerilla warfare against the enemy. The regular forces were engaged in fighting in conventional way. The first conventional brigade named as 'Z' Force was created in July. Major Ziaur Rahman was appointed commander of this brigade and the brigade was named as 'Z' Force after the first letter of his name. This brigade consisted of 1, 3 and 8 East Bengal.
Bangladesh Air Force, which was organized by Air Commodore A K Khondaker, was created in Dimapur of Nagaland on 28 September. Squadron Leader Sultan Mahmud, Flight Lieutenant Badrul Alam, Captain Khaleq, Sattar, Shahabuddin, Mukit, Akram and Sharfuddin and 67 airmen initially joined the Bangladesh Air Force, which had only few Dakota, Auter type air plane and Aluvet helicopters.
Similarly, Bangladesh Navy was also established with the naval troops deserted from the Pakistan Navy. On 9 November 1971, the first naval fleet 'Bangabandhu Naubohar' consisting of six small ships was inaugurated. The command structure of the Bangladesh Forces was fully organized with the regular brigades, sector troops and guerilla forces, the Bangladesh Air force and the Navy. The Mukti Bahini had fought many successful battles in putting up initial resistance.
At the international level, the United States and the People's Republic of China considered the crisis as an internal affair of Pakistan. On the other hand, India, Soviet Union and her allies and general masses in Japan, and Western countries stood solidly behind Bangladesh. In order to gain strategic advantage vis-a-vis Sino-US-Pakistan axis, Indo-Soviet Friendship Treaty was signed on 9 August 1971. It provided a new dimension to the War of Liberation.
Third and Final Phase of the War: (From-03â€™Nov up to 16th Dec)
Having realized that the Pakistan army could not be defeated by conventional warfare method, it was decided to create large guerilla forces all over the country. All Sector commanders were accordingly ordered to recruit, train and induct guerillas inside the country.
The joint command of the Mukti Bahini and the Indian army was underway from November 1971. Lieutenant General Jagjit Singh Aurora, Commander, Eastern Command of Indian Army, became the commander of the joint forces. The joint command of the Mukti Bahini and the Indian Army, however, started operation from the evening of 3 December, when the Pakistan Air Force bombed Amritsar, Sree Nagar and the Kashmir valley. Immediately, the Indian armed forces were ordered to hit back the Pakistan army and thus the Indo-Pak war broke out. The Mukti Bahini and the Indian army continued advancing inside Bangladesh and the defeat and surrender of the Pakistan army became a matter of time. International efforts for a cease-fire before Bangladesh is fully liberated failed due to Soviet veto in the United Nations Security Council.
A fleet of helicopters landed on the tarmac of Dhaka airport at about 4 p.m. with Lieutenant General Aurora and his staff. Group Captain AK Khandaker, Deputy Chief of Staff, Bangladesh Forces represented the Mukti Bahini. Lieutenant General AAK Niazi received Lieutenant General Aurora. The instrument of surrender was signed by Lieutenant Jagit Sing Aurora and Lieutenant General Niazi at the RAMNA RACECOURSE (now Suhrawardy Uddyan) at one minute past 5 p.m. on 16 December 1971.
Sectors of the War of Liberation:
In the War of Liberation in 1971 the whole geographical area of the then East Pakistan was strategically divided into eleven sectors with a sector commander for each of them. For better efficiency in military operations each of the sectors were divided into a number of sub-sectors under a commander.
Sector 1: comprised the districts of Chittagong and Chittagong Hill Tracts, and the entire eastern area of the Noakhali district on the banks of the river Muhuri. The headquarters of the sector was at Harina. The sector commander was Major Ziaur Rahman, later replaced by Major Rafiqul Islam. The five sub-sectors of this sector and their commanders were: Rishimukh (Captain Shamsul Islam); Sreenagar (Captain Matiur Rahman, later replaced by Captain Mahfuzur Rahman); Manughat (Captain Mahfuzur Rahman); Tabalchhari (Subedar Ali Hossain); and Dimagiri (a Subedar, whose name is not known).
Sector 2: comprised the districts of Dhaka, Comilla, and Faridpur, and part of Noakhali district. The sector commander was Major Khaled Mosharraf, later replaced by Major ATM Haider. About thirty five thousand guerilla fighters fought in this sector. Nearly six thousand of them were members of regular armed forces. The six sub-sectors of this sector (and their commanders) were: Gaugasagar, Akhaura and Kasba (Mahbub, later replaced by Lieutenant Farooq, and Lieutenant Humayun Kabir); Mandabhav (Captain Gaffar); Shalda-nadi (Abdus Saleq Chowdhury); Matinagar (Lieutenant Didarul Alam); Nirbhoypur (Captain Akbar, later replaced by Lieutant Mahbub); and Rajnagar (Captain Jafar Imam, later replaced by Captain Shahid, and Lieutenant Imamuzzaman).
Sector 3: comprised the area between Churaman Kathi (near Sreemangal) and Sylhet in the north and Singerbil of Brahmanbaria in the south. The sector commander was Major KM Shafiullah, later replaced by Major ANM Nuruzzaman. Nineteen guerilla bases operated in this sector. By November 1971, the number of the guerilla fighters in the sector stood at nearly thirty thousand. The ten sub-sectors of this sector (and their commanders) were: Asrambari (Captain Aziz, later replaced by Captain Ejaz); Baghaibari (Captain Aziz, later replaced by Captain Ejaz); Hatkata (Captain Matiur Rahman); Simla (Captain Matin); Panchabati (Captain Nasim); Mantala (Captain MSA Bhuyan); Vijoynagar (Captain MSA Bhuyan); Kalachhora (Lieutenant Majumdar); Kalkalia (Lieutenant Golam Helal Morshed); and Bamutia (Lieutenant Sayeed).
Sector 4: comprised the area from Habiganj sub-division of Sylhet district on the north to Kanaighat Police Station on the south along the 100 mile long border with India. The sector commander was Major Chittarajan Datta, later replaced by Captain A Rab. The headquarters of the sector was initially at Karimganj and later at Masimpur. The freedom fighters in this sector included about nine thousand guerilla fighters and about four thousand regular members of the armed forces. The six sub-sectors of this sector (and their commanders) were: Jalalpur (Masudur Rab Sadi); Barapunji (Captain A Rab); Amlasid (Lieutenant Zahir); Kukital (Flight Lieutenant Kader, later replaced by Captain Shariful Haq); Kailas Shahar (Lieutenant Wakiuzzaman); and Kamalpur (Captain Enam).
Sector 5: comprised the area from Durgapur to Danki (Tamabil) of Sylhet district and the entire area up to the eastern borders of the district. Sector commander was Major Mir Shawkat Ali. The headquarters of the sector was at Banshtala. The six sub-sectors of this sector and their commanders were: Muktapur (Subedar Nazir Hossain, freedom fighter Faruq was second in command); Dauki (Subedar Major BR Chowdhury); Shela (Captain Helal, who had two assistant commanders, Lieutenant Mahbubar Rahman and Lieutenant Abdur Rauf); Bholajanj (Lieutenant Taheruddin Akhunji who had Lieutenant SM Khaled as assistant commander); Balat (Subedar Ghani, later replaced by Captain Salahuddin and freedom fighter Enanmul Haq Chowdhury); and Barachhara (Captain Muslim Uddin).
Sector 6: comprised Rangpur district and part of Dinajpur district. Wing Commander M Khdemul Bashar was the sector commander. The headquarters of the sector was at Burimari near Patgram. The number of soldiers in this sector was 700, which rose to about eleven thousand in December. The five sub-sectors of the sector (and their commanders were: Bhajanpur (Captain Nazrul, later replaced by Squadron leader Sadruddin and Captain Shahriyar); Patgram (initially, some junior commissioned officers of the EPR and later, Captain Matiur Rahman); Sahebganj (Captain Nawazesh Uddin); Mogalhat (Captain Delwar); and Chilahati (Flight Lieutenant Iqbal).
Sector 7: comprised the districts of Rajshahi, Pabna, Bogra and part of Dinajpur district. The sector commander was Major Nazrul Haq, later replaced by Subedar Major A Rab and Kazi Nuruzzaman. The headquarters of the sector was at Taranngapur. About fifteen thousand freedom fighters fought in this sector. The eight sub-sectors of the sector and their commanders were: Malan (initially some junior commanding officers and later, Captain Mohiuddin Jahangir); Tapan (Major Nazmul Haq, later replaced by some junior commanding officers of the EPR); Mehdipur (Subedar Iliyas, later replaced by Captain Mahiuddin Jahangir); Hamzapur (Captain Idris); Anginabad (a freedom fighter); Sheikhpara (Captain Rashid); Thokrabari (Subedar Muazzam); and Lalgola (Captain Gheyasuddin Chowdhury).
Sector 8: In April 1971, the operational area of the sector comprised the districts of Kushtia, Jessore, Khulna, Barisal, Faridpur and Patuakhali. At the end of May the sector was reconstituted and comprised the districts of Kusthia, Jessore and Khulna districts, Satkhira sub-division, and the northern part of Faridpur district. The sector commander was Major Abu Osman Chowdhury, later replaced by Major MA Manzur. The headquarters of the sector was at Benapole. About ten thousand freedom fighters fought in this sector. The seven sub-sectors of the sector and their commanders were: Boyra (Captain Khondakar Nazmul Huda); Hakimpur (Captain Shafiq Ullah); Bhomra (Captain Salahuddin later replaced by Captain Shahabuddin); Lalbazar (Captain AR Azam Chowdhury); Banpur (Captain Mostafizur Rahman); Benapole (Captain Abdul Halim, later replaced by Captain Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury); and Shikarpur (Captain Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury, later replaced by Lieutenant Jahangir).
Sector 9: comprised the districts of Barisal and Patuakhali, and parts of the district of Khulna and Faridpur. The sector commander was Major MA JALIL, later replaced by Major MA Manzur and Major Joynal Abedin. The three sub-sectors of the sector were: Taki, Hingalganj, and Shamshernagar.
Sector 10: This sector was constituted with the naval commandos. Eight Bengali officers of Pakistan Navy trained in France were the pioneers in forming this force. These officers were Ghazi Mohammad Rahmatullah (Chief Petty Officer), Syed Mosharraf Hossain (Petty Officer), Amin Ullah Sheikh (Petty Officer); Ahsan Ullah (M E-1), AW Chowdhury (RO-1), Badiul Alam (ME-1), AR Miah (EN-1), Abedur Rahman (Steward-1). These eight officers were given special training on the river Jamuna near Delhi under the auspices of the Indian Navy. The force was later commanded by Indian commander MN Sumanta.
Sector 11: comprised the districts of Mymensingh and Tangail, Major M Abu Taher were the sector commander. After Major Taher was seriously wounded in a battle, he was replaced by Squadron Leader Hamidullah. The headquarters of the sector was at Mahendraganj. About twenty five thousand freedom fighters fought in this sector. The eight sub-sectors of the sector (and their commanders) were: Mankarchar (Squadron Leader Hamidullah); Mahendraganj (Lieutenant Mannan); Purakhasia (Lieutenant Hashem); Dhalu (Lieutenant Taher, later replaced by Lieutenant Kamal); Rangra (Matiur Rahman); Shivabari (some junior commanding officers of the EPR); Bagmara (some junior commanding officers of the EPR); and Maheshkhola (a member of the EPR).
Bijoy Dibash commemorates the day in 1971 (16 December) when ninety thousand troops of the Pakistan occupation army surrendered to the allied forces of Bangladesh and India at Suhrawardy Udyan in Dhaka. The day is observed with due solemnity and nationalistic fervour. The first ray of the morning is heralded with a 31 gun-salute. In capital Dhaka, there is usually a ceremonial military parade in which all uniformed services are represented. Hundreds of thousands of people gather at the National Parade Square to watch this parade. Floral wreaths are laid at the Jatiya Smriti Saudha (National Memorial Monument) at Savar near Dhaka in memory of those who sacrificed their lives for the liberation of the country.
Md. Fouad Hossain Sarker