Sultan M Hali
HISTORICAL negationism or denialism is an illegitimate distortion of the historical record. The past is always subject to editing, omission, co-optation and selective memorization. Unfortunately, Bangladesh and India are indulging in historical negationism with respect to the 1971 Pak-India War, which resulted in the birth of Bangladesh. It is a fact of history that India planned the dismemberment of Pakistan and executed its heinous plan very methodically. The partition of India was not accepted by Hindu Brahmins, who considered the division as desecration of “Mother India” and had sworn revenge, plotting to destabilize Pakistan so that it is forced to rejoin India. Immediately after Independence, the assets of undivided India, which were to be distributed in a ratio of 64:36, were never handed over to Pakistan.
Kashmir, Junagadh, Manavadar and Hyderabad Deccan were to be given the option to join either Pakistan or India through a plebiscite but India illegally occupied each. Pakistan tried to liberate Kashmir, resulting in the first Kashmir War of 1947-48. 1965 War was a stalemate but India went into over-gear to sever its eastern wing. Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) was created by Indian Prime Minister Indira with the specific task of disillusioning the East Pakistanis with the state of Pakistan and start insurgency and a demand for separation. The Bengali Guerrilla group Mukti Bahini was created, trained and armed by India. The group was even infiltrated by regular Indian soldiers to sabotage, disrupt and kill Pakistan Army personnel surreptitiously.
On January 30, 1971, an Indian Airlines Fokker F27 Friendship aircraft named Ganga, flying from Srinagar to Jammu, was hijacked by Indian agents and taken to Lahore, where it was set on fire after releasing all passengers and crew. Using the incident as a plea, India banned the over-flight of Pakistani aircraft so that logistic support from West Pakistan to its beleaguered Eastern wing could be blocked. Non Bengalis and west Pakistanis in East Pakistan were targeted, raped and slaughtered. When the Pakistan Army acted in defence to restore law and order, Indian propaganda forces came into action and the drama of mass exodus of Bengalis to India was orchestrated under the alleged plea of highhandedness of Pakistan.
When time was ripe, Indian forces attacked East Pakistan, with the Indians enjoying 10:1 supremacy. The end was never in doubt and on December 16, 1971 East Pakistan was invaded by India announcing the liberation of Bangladesh. Indira Gandhi declared that “Jinnah’s Two Nations Theory had been sunk in the Bay of Bengal.” Post natal pangs of Bangladesh were painful. Numerous coup d’états took place and the government changed many times. Relations between Pakistan and Bangladesh improved, which was much to the chagrin of India. Machinations by India continued and finally bore fruit when Sheikh Hasina Wajid assumed the mantle of power for the second time in 2009. She had served earlier from 1996 to 2001 but had failed to respond to Indian overtures then. In 2009 she accepted the tutelage of India, which tried to prop up Sheikh Hasina, the demagogue by building hatred against Pakistan.
Historical negationism came into play. To brainwash the new generations of Bangladeshis, the school syllabus of Bangladesh has been altered and children are only taught the history starting from 1952 language movement and bulk of the syllabus is on 1971 war of liberation that spans over 9 months struggle starting from operation “Search Light” on March 25, 1971 to victory day of December 16, 1971. The Awami League government has included a 100 marks compulsory paper on liberation war history for CSS exams. All these initiatives aim at indoctrination of young generation Bangladeshis. The scars of the 1971 War had healed but Sheikh Hasina, following the script written by her Indian mentor, first introduced the Bangladesh Liberation Medal, in which various heads of states and intellectuals, including 13 Pakistanis were awarded. To rake the wounds of 1971 War, forty four years later politicians were persecuted, tried in kangaroo courts and hanged. Pakistan Army may have indulged in genocide and rape to some extent but it was in retaliation to the genocide and rape conducted by Bengalis and Indian soldiers posing as Bengalis at a much greater extent. Sheikh Hasina Wajid has leveled charges against the state of Pakistan and the Army and is seeking a formal apology. A propaganda video clip of approximately 8 minutes and 30 seconds made by Sony TV channel showing discussion between General Niazi, Commander Eastern Command and General JFR Jacob of Indian Army in a Command post of 1971 war, is being propagated to establish superiority of Indian army as victorious force besides creating hatred in Bangladeshis against Pakistan and its armed forces through the dialogues of General JFR Jacob in the video.
Governments of India and Bangladesh are working together on many projects regarding their joint struggle for liberation of Bangladesh in 1971. The initiatives include setting up of war museum, exchange of wartime documents, Indian army soldiers’ mausoleum, making of documentaries and feature films and issue of postal stamps depicting surrender by Pakistan Army in 1971. It is interesting to note that a large segment of Bangladeshi society still cloaks anti-India sentiments. However, in absence of any counter narrative by Pakistan, anti-India sentiments are also likely to wane away. There is dire need for rebutting the false Indian-Bangladeshi propaganda against Pakistan and ensuring that the perils of selective history are avoided.
—The writer is retired PAF Group Captain and a TV talk show host.