<%-- Page Title--%> Book Review <%-- End Page Title--%>

<%-- Volume Number --%> Vol 1 Num 147 <%-- End Volume Number --%>

March 26, 2004

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A Documentary Journey


Contribution of India in the War of Liberation of Bangladesh. By Salam Azad. First Published, December 2003 By Ankur Prakashani, Banglabazar, Dhaka. Price : Taka 400.00 Pages: 520

Contribution of India in the War of Liberation of Bangladesh', Salam Azad has led us into a documentary journey to our history. Digging up historical documents is not an easy and pleasant task. Especially in a country where history is made to be forgotten. Unfortunately, a history connected with India has always been opposed by a section of our political-intellectual elites. And logic has very little to do with this kind of anti-Indian stance, the only logic that works behind some minds is that, anything connected with present-day India must be opposed because it is ‘Indian’; and of the past must be forgotten. Gratitude is a word not very much in practice in the minds of Bangladeshis.

In this context, one must admit that Salam Azad has undertaken a not-very-pleasant and difficult venture. Writes Salam Azad in the preface of the book, ‘More than 500 books have so far been published on the war of independence. These books hardly discusse the contribution of India. But we know about the extent of risks India had to bear in the spheres of political, diplomatic, military and economic fields by shouldering the responsibilities of the war of Liberation.’ But we want to forget.

Since 1994 the writer had been working on the book, laboured intensely to collect information, record documents, interviewed scores of Indian Military personnel who were directly involved with the Muktijuddho of Bangladesh. He met politicians, members of the IFS, Civil Servant, BSF, writers, intellectuals, artists, physicians, NGO and Red Cross workers and the Indian soldiers who were wounded in our War of Liberation. He interviewed about a couple of hundreds of Indian citizen in the Indian cities of New Delhi, Kolkata, Agartala and even with some of those living in the different parts of the globe. Salam Azad has earnestly tried to rekindle the contribution of India in our Muktijuddho; which he puts modestly in this way : ‘ I cannot claim this book as the complete document on the contribution of India towards the War of Liberation of Bangladesh. However, I have tried my best. My work can at best be treated as the start.’

The book is completed in ten chapters and with an appendix. These can be divided into seven categories. The chapters are: Background of the Partition, Pre-Liberation Movement, War of Liberation, Refugees in India, Support by the people of India, India speaks up for Bangladesh, Intervention by India, Surrender at Dhaka, List of Indians who sacrificed their lives for independence of Bangladesh and Post Liberation support. The chapters : 'Background of the Partition' and 'Pre-Liberation Movement' deal with the significant historical events ranging from Partition of Bengal under British Rule and its subsequent political developments; emergence of the religious based Muslim-nationalism patronised by the British to counter the anti-Bengal Partition movement, the 'swadeshi' movement, Muslim League and the Pakistan Resolution (1940) and finally the Partition of India (1947). The early days of Pakistan-Bengalis of East Bengal (which was a part of Pakistan) and their shattered dreams, the struggle for civil rights, democracy and sanctity of cultural identity as against the political and cultural domination of Pakistan (Western). Emergence of Bangali Nationalism and Sk. Mujibur Rahman as its undisputed leader. The chapter War of Liberation is a brief narration starting from Pakistani military attack on the unarmed civilians of Bangladesh 25th March 1971, the war to liberate Bangladesh from Pakistani occupation to the event of signing the instrument of surrender on 16th of December 1971. These three chapters chiefly deal with the Bangladeshi side of the story.

The chapter Refugees in India, deals with the influx Bangladeshi citizens into India, and the heavy economic, political, social burden borne by India consequently. On the face of indiscriminate killing of Bangalis, rape, arson-genocide by the Pakistani army, the unarmed civilians of Bangladesh had no other alternative but to enter India as refugees. And there were 9,899,305 of them. Salam Azad discusses the pattern of influx, their distribution in various state-camps with an elaborate list of the camps. And they had to stay there for nine months. `During the nine months of the war of Liberation, India had to spend 7000 crore Taka on the refugees and for the war. Out of this only 50 crore of foreign aid was recieved by the Bangladesh government (in Kolkata) and India. In this respect the then Finance Advisor of the Government of India in 1971 Ashok Mitra said in his interview; `No cash fund was recieved from abroad.' The then Central Minister Shiddarth Shankar Ray said `foreign aid came in the form of powder milk, polythene sheets, medicines etc. India did not receive any cash support,'writes Azad in his book. The chapter is followed by 'Support by the people of Bangladesh' and India speaks up for Bangladesh. The latter chapter deals with India's diplomatic effort to gain international support for the Bangladeshi cause, the visits of Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to the US, Soviet Union, UK, Germany and other countries, her effort to convince world leaders about the human tragedy in Bangladesh and the cause of liberation. In this chapter the writer includes the historic press meet of Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi at the National Press Club, Washington on 5th November 1971.

The chapters 'Intervention by India' and 'Surrender at Dhaka' are self explanatory. And the most significant of all chapters is the 'List of Indians who sacrificed their lives for Independence of Bangladesh'. For the first time, after thirty-three years of liberation we are able to know about the Indians who made the supreme sacrifice for our cause, for the cause of Liberation of Bangladesh. A fact we not only ignored over the years also but tried not to remember in any form. Salam is not mistaken when he writes:` As a matter of fact no government of Bangladesh has so far properly evaluated this contribution of India. ......it is our duty to keep in mind that in the war of Liberation of Bangladesh 3,630 Indian soldiers became Shahid, 213 soldiers were missing and 9,856 soldiers were wounded.'

It is not easy to say whether this figure will say something to us, whether the generation of Muktijoddhas will feel a pain in their heart, will once in a while feel for their families. If that kind of feeling rekindles in our Bangladeshi heart then and only then can we claim that we are not a nation of ingratees, one that is doomed to forget its past.

Salam Azad's effort can be considered as the effort of an individual to rid a nation from indebtedness. Let this be only a beginning, as he wrote, `My work can be at best treated as the start.'

One important flaw in the book is that, no Bangladeshi political leader, civil servant, military leader or sector commander or organisers of the Muktijuddho was interviewed, dicussed or their opinion reflected. Yet many of them are still alive and leading active socio-political-economic lives. Whether this is deliberate or a lapse due to ignorance or the writer did not feel the necessity to include the Bangladeshi leaders to say something about the contribution of India in our Liberation War, is a question that can only be answered by the author alone.

Nevertheless the book is worth reading with and is indeed an effort towards completing our history.

Reviewed by Khandaker M.U. Zaman





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