Sultan M Hali
AWAMI League, ruling dispensation in Bangladesh has declared henceforth March 25 to be observed as “Genocide Day” to mark the alleged atrocities against Bengalis in 1971. Many myths have been created around the severance of erstwhile East Pakistan and the creation of Bangladesh but none as deadly and inaccurate as the allegation that Pakistan Army carried out atrocities against Bengalis in 1971, massacring 3 million Bengalis and raping 200,000 women. Researching how and when this myth was created is of extreme importance because Sheikh Hasina Wajid, the daughter of Sheikh Mujib ur Rehman has been flogging this dead horse now for decades. Dr. Junaid Ahmad, renowned academic, in his recent book Creation of Bangladesh: Myths Exploded has exposed the falsehood of the genocide claim while numerous other authors have revealed the bogus claim of the exaggerated figures.
According to Dr. Junaid, “A myth has been repeated ad nauseam over the years by various Bangladeshi and Indian political personalities to undermine and shame Pakistan and its armed forces. Let’s be very clear, the historical roots of this myth of 3 million is based on an editorial piece published on Dec 23, 1971 titled Enemy Occupations by Pravda – the mouthpiece of the now defunct USSR. This hit piece on Pakistan claimed that 3 million Bengalis had been killed in the war of 1971. This ‘figure’, which was not based on any body counts, expert testimonies or photo/video evidence, got further legitimacy after it was endorsed by Mujib ur-Rahman in his interview with BBC’s David Frost on Jan 18, 1972. Eye witnesses reported that Mujib ur-Rahman, during this interview, was heavily intoxicated.”
The learned scholar goes on to add “In order to cherry pick proof for the plucked-out-of-thin-air 3 million figure, Mujib ur-Rahman constituted a Commission on Jan 29, 1972 to locate mass graves or other verifiable evidence. Chowdhary Abdul Mumin in his book Behind the Myth of Three Million, published in 1973, reported that this Commission comprised representatives from the BD Army, Border Security Force, Rangers, Police and Civil Administration. Despite their best efforts, this Commission completely failed to locate any mass graves or other evidence of any kind. The Commission conjured up a figure of a maximum 56,743 deaths as a result of the 1971 insurgency. This obviously was far less than the 3 million being held up by Bangladeshi politicians to cry victim. As a result, Mujib ur-Rahman showed great displeasure at the Commission’s findings and disbanded them, stating, I have declared three million dead, and your report could not come up with three scores thousands! What report you have prepared? Keep your report to yourself. What I have said once shall prevail”.
H M Seervai in his book, Partition of India, Legend and Reality, published in 1989 reports that till March 25, “the number of West Pakistanis and Biharis killed by Awami League militant were more than 100,000, including 15,000 at Santahar, 10,000 at Chittagong and 2,000 at Mymensingh”. LF Rushbrook Williams, in his book, The East Pakistan Tragedy, published in 1972, summarizing the events from the postponement of National Assembly meeting to the beginning of Operation Search Light writes; “The widespread and inhuman massacre of men, women and children by Awami League militants during their brief reign of terror in March and April 1971, although factually reported by several foreign correspondents, aroused comparatively little attention throughout the world.
Yet it was true genocide in the worst sense of the word. No pen could do justice to their ghastly nature as shown by the Photographs taken by the Army authorities. Rooms ceiling splashed with blood and carpeted with corpses; pariah dogs and crows feeding on the dead; men, women and even small children hurriedly shoveled into graves; bloodstained dolls and toys pathetically testifying to the fate of their baby owners – these were some of the sights which the Army met when at length they overcame the obstacles of blocked roads, blown-up bridges, and the water-transport destroyed, the number of murdered cannot be less than 120,000 and may be far higher, as corpses were just thrown into the rivers and carried away”. Another authentic and credible source emanates from Colonel Akbar Hussain, a decorated officer of the Liberation War, who on June 15, 1993, stated in BD Parliament: “After creation of Bangladesh, govt made an announcement of Taka 2000 compensation to every family that suffered loss of life in 1971. Only 3000 turned up.” In addition to the above myth of 3 million killed, Pakistan Army is also accused of raping more than 200,000 Bengali women. This too is a false figure which has been widely condemned. The gross inaccuracy of this allegation was borne out when an abortion team from Britain in early 1972 found that its workload involved the termination of only a hundred or slightly more pregnancies. The figure was also denounced by Australian Research Analyst Bin D Costa. He argued, “The figure of 200,000 women raped by the Pakistani Army in 1971 is considered to be too high”. Likewise, US Congressman Charles Wilson, who was eulogized in the Hollywood movie Charlie Wilson’s War, on December 9, 1987 stated, “To say that Pakistan army massacred its own 3 million Bengali people and dishonoured 200,000 Bengali women, to me is an allegation so gross that it goes beyond human imagination.”
Dr Junaid concludes: “Even basic arithmetic, which seems to be beyond the grasp of the Bangladeshi establishment, shows the unabashed absurdity of the 3 million killed and 200,000 women raped myths. To illustrate, perhaps at the expense of disgusting my readers, the Army action in East Pakistan started on March 26 and lasted till Dec 16, 1971 – a total of 262 days. This implies that about 11,450 Bengalis would need to have been picked-up, killed and buried every day. When compared to the 2nd World War for instance, the 6 million Jews killed by Nazi Germany in 6 years comes to only 2,740 killed every day – markedly less. Both the figures of the daily killings are fantastically preposterous and defy common sense.
—The writer is retired PAF Group Captain and a TV talk show host.