Pakistan Day: retrospect and prospect

Each year Pakistan Day comes and goes by. Let usdraw lessons from it.

The All-India Muslim League was born in Dacca in 1906 after the partition of Bengal. Lord Curzon partitioned Bengal for a number of reasons, including a swollen population of 85 million. The Muslim population was happy but Hindus started agitation against English raj, alleging the partition was the outcome of the British divide-and-rule policy.

Hindus’ reaction made Muslims realize that Hindus did not care a fig for Muslim interests.

The partition was actually due to Curzon’s realization that Bengalis harboured deep resentment against Hindu domination in various realms of life. The Muslim identity came to the fore in the partition of Bengal.

Lord Curzon partitioned Bengal in 1905 (a year before birth of Muslim League in 1906) to split the population, then 85 million, into smaller administrative units. The population was broadly divided into Hindus and Muslims. The British recognized that Bengal was too large for a province. The Congress initiated mass agitation that brought the province to the brink of rebellion.

The All-India National Congress believed that the dividing line cut right through the heart of the Bengali-speaking “nation”.  It deprived Western Bengal’s “respectable people” (bhadralok) of their intellectual leadership. The partition resulted in the creation of a new Muslim-majority province of Eastern Bengal and Assam with its capital at Decca.

The All-India Congress accused the Raj of acting upon the “divide and rule” policy. Congress termed the division “vivisection of mother province”. ‘Hail to mother’ (Bande Mataram) became the Congress’s national anthem. The Hindus (Congress) began to boycott British goods. Lancashire-made cloth was burnt in bonfires. Lancashire imports began to be shunned.

Bengalis were in the forefront of the movement for a separate Muslim homeland, but then seceded from it to create Bangladesh.

The Congress-led agitation forced Lord Linlithgow to abrogate the partition in 1912.

The Muslim League of West Bengal (1912-1947) came into being in response to the Hindu nationalists’ violent agitation. The agitation exclusively focused on Hindu identity, heritage, education and other interests. The partition strengthened Muslims’ identity. It gave them confidence that they could stand up and fight for their rights.

The ugly anti-Muslim face of Congress was unmasked in te 1937 elections in the 11 provinces of British India. Congress won a majority of seats in eight provinces. Congress began to shout that Muslim League had no grounds to claim that it was the Muslims’ sole spokesman.

The Quaid-e-Azam did not lose heart at 1937’s poor electoral performance. The subsequent 1946 elections confirmed that Muslim League was in fact the Muslims’ sole spokesman.

Bengalis were in the forefront of the Pakistan movement. Yet they developed the impression that West Pakistan treated them just as the British raj did. Urdu was imposed on them. They developed the perception that their due share in economic resources was denied.

Mujibur Rehman was treated as a traitor (Roedad Khan in Pakistan: A Dream gone Sour says that there was a sound case against him). Even when East Pakistan had practically slipped out of West Pakistan control, he tried to maintain a semblance of union in the form of a confederation (Rao Farman Ali, How Pakistan was Divided).

India continued to stoke the Bengali cauldron of resentment. It kept preparing to attack East Pakistan.but the West ignored all indications.

Field Marshal ‘Sam’ Manekshaw makes no bones in a YouTube interview that Indira Gandhi compelled him to attack East Pakistan; he initially delayed the attack because of the impending monsoon. But he later complied. He admits “The Pakistani forces fought extremely well”.

In a published letter, RAW officer R.K. Yadav made the startling revelation that India’s prime minister Indira Gandhi, parliament, RAW and armed forces acted in tandem to dismember Pakistan’s eastern wing. The confessions in his letter are corroborated by B. Raman’s book The Kaoboys of R&AW. He reminds `Indian parliament passed resolution on March 31, 1971 to support insurgency. Indira Gandhi had then confided with Kao that in case Mujib was prevented from ruling Pakistan, she would liberate East Pakistan from the clutches of the military junta. Kao, through one RAW agent, got a Fokker Friendship, the Ganga, of Indian Airlines hijacked from Srinagar to Lahore…. Not only intelligence officers but also officers of armed forces were employed to carry out subversion and sabotage inside Pakistan.

 “In July 1971, the first Bangladesh irregulars, trained in India, were infiltrated across the border at Madaripur. This first group of 110 guerrillas destroyed tea gardens, riverboats and railway tracks. These acts tied down troops, undermined East Pakistan’s economy and destroyed “communications between Dhaka, Comilla and Chittagong.”

The Indian forces initially set up six camps with some 3000 volunteers each, for training.

By September 1971, recruitment went up to a staggering 20,000 guerrillas monthly. Eight Indian soldiers were committed to every 100 trainees at 10 camps. On the eve of the war, at the end of November 1971, over 83,000 Gano Bahini fighters had been trained, 51,000 of whom were operating— a guerrilla operation perhaps unrivalled in scale until then.

In the Chittagong Hill Tracts, Brig. Uban sent in Indian soldiers, or rather CIA-trained, Indian-funded Tibetans using hastily-imported Bulgarian assault rifles and U.S.-manufactured carbines to obscure their links to India. Fighting under the direct command of RAW’s legendary spymaster Rameshwar Kao, Brigadier Uban’s forces engaged in a series of low-grade border skirmishes.

India’s COAS issued a secret order to the GOC Eastern Command, initiating the campaign that would end with the dismemberment of Pakistan The Eastern Command was to ensure that the guerrilla forces were to work towards “tying down the Pak [Pakistan] Military forces in protective tasks in East Bengal,” “sap and corrode the morale of the Pak forces in the Eastern theatre and simultaneously impair their logistic capability for undertaking any offensive against Assam and West Bengal,” and, finally, be used along with regular Indian troops “in the event of Pakistan initiating hostilities against us.”.

Even after secession,Bangladesh retains its Muslim identity. The spontaneous outrage in Bangladesh over desecration of the Holy Quran at a Durga Devi temple speaks of consciousness of Muslim identity in Bangladesh.

After separation of East Pakistan, India shouted the two-nation theory is dead. But subsequent events reflected that the impression was mistaken.

Several events corroborate that the Hindus and Muslims remain apart even after separation of East Pakistan. When India suddenly stopped supplying onions and vaccines, Bangladesh tapped other avenues.

After the failure of the Bay of Pigs, John F. Kennedy told a journalist that, “victory has 100 fathers and defeat is an orphan.”

The autobiographies of the East Pakistan commanders like AAK Niazi, Abu Bakr Osman Mitha et. al. bear out the victory dictum. Niazi  was rueful that he was removed from service. But several of his colleagues went scot-free, He wrote a 13 page application to the then Pak president Farooq Leghari for restoration of his pension (AAK Niazi, The Betrayal of East Pakistan, pp.291-304).. But “the president chose not to reply” Major General Mitha also lamented that his pension was delayed After his retirement was announced on national television, his pension was withheld for seven years and his life made difficult.

In psychological parlance, such autobiographies are “defence mechanisms” and can’t be quoted as evidence, as the Indian writers including generals, do. In his over-ebullience, Niazi alleges Sahibzada Yaqoob ‘opposed the two nation theory”. Niazi blamed Yaqoob for the war plan  that “the battle of the East will be fought in the West”.

He blamed General Tikka for”atrocities” which in fact were figments of his own imagination.

Rejecting an offer for conditional surrender in the East, the Indian forces entered Dacca on December 15. It baffles one’s imagination why a land that gave birth to the Muslim League and the Pakistan Resolution became fed up within just a few decades. The perception of not being treated at par with West Pakistanis became a belief over time. The perception should have been discussed threadbare at the political level. But it was too late.

Even after becoming independent, Bangladesh has retained its Muslim complexion. Indian Bengal is at loggerheads with Bangladesh on the issue of sharing river waters. Bangladesh never called for reunification with West Bengal.  India welcomed refugees from East Pakistan but now BJP President and Home Minister, Amit Shah, calls them “termites”. BJP stalwarts openly threaten if Bengali refugees do not go back they would be shot dead. India refused to supply vaccines notwithstanding a written accord. It blocked onion exports. Bangladesh is home to a million Rohingya refugees. But, India refused to accept even 81 refugees stranded in a boat in Andaman waters.

Amjed Jaaved
Amjed Jaaved
The writer is a freelance journalist, has served in the Pakistan government for 39 years and holds degrees in economics, business administration, and law. He can be reached at [email protected]

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