Spotlight : Freedom Fighters of Bangladesh

A new outlook, based on authorʼs research work

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Spotlight : Freedom Fighters of Bangladesh

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SPOTLIGHT: FREEDOM FIGHTERS OF BANGLADESH A New Outlook : Based on A uthor's Research Work

SPOTLIGHT: FREEDOM FIGHTERS OF BANGLADESH A New Outlook: Based on Author's Research Work

Capt SK G A RG (Retd)


ALLIED PUBLISHERS PRIVATE LIM ITED Prarthna Flats, 1st Floor, Navrangpura, Ahmedabad 380009 IS J.N. Heredia Marg, Ballard Estate, Bombay 400038 3-5-1129 Kachiguda Cross Road, Hyderabad 300027 5th Main Road, Gandhinagar, Bangalore S60009 17 Chittaranjan Avenue, Calcutta 700072 13/14 Asaf Ali Road, New Delhi 110002 751 Mount Road, Madras §00002

First published: 1984 © Allied Publishers Private Ltd., J 984

Published by R.N. Sachdev for Allied Publishers Private lim ited, 13/14 Asaf Ali Road, New DelbM 10002 and primed at Jagowal Printing Press, 7/15 Kirti Nagar New Delhi-110015,

Dedicated to the valiant officers and men o f the ‘Lucky’ 13th Battalion o f the Dogra Regiment whose salt I had the proud privilege to partake of, fo r good three years, both during peace and war.

I ¡¡



Contents A cknowledgements Foreword Preface Introduction

ix xi xiii xvii


1-53 20


TYRANNY BEGETS RESISTANCE Economic Disparity Between East and West Pakistan Social Exploitation Economic Exploitation Demand for Autonomy Political Impotence Revival of Political Parties Explosion in Pakistan Zia’s New Framework Mars Independence Day Celebration Legal Framework Order THE BASIC CONCEPTS Guerrilla Operations in Perspective Guerrilla Political Operations Partisan Warfare Insurrection, Rebellion, Revolt Allied Intelligence Operations Strategy and Tactics of Guerrilla Warfare War of Resistance Tactics Principles of Guerrilla Warfare


BANGLADESH IS AWAKE Nationalist Revolutionary Guerrilla Operations Spontaneous Uprising Strikes Cripple East Bengal People’s Rule The Political Charade

20 22 27 29 30 34 36 42 54-89 55 60 61 62 63 65 68 71 73 90-109 90 91 93 99 104


Contents Yahya Announces Crackdown Mujib Declares Independence


THE M U K T IB A H IN I The Evolution The Transformation Controversy Equilibrium


G U ERRILLA WAR A N D PARTISAN WARFARE Low-Key Hit-and-Run Operations Guerrilla Bases Unjust Reaction Guerrilla Intelligence Low-Military Positive Posture Guerrilla Warfare in October-November Borders Heated Up Pre-emptive Strike Guerrillas as Minor Adjunct Paragons of Guerrilla Warfare and Partisan War Allied Intelligence Operations


SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS The Problem The Backdrop Fundamental Tenets Strategy and Tactics Application of Fundamentals The Three Phases Political Operations The Principal Instrum ent: M ukti Bahini Violent Activities

Select Bibliography Index *

105 108 110-144 110 122 135 142 145-173 145 148 151 152 153 155 158 159 161 164 169 174-186 174 175 178 179 180 181 182 183 184 187 201

Acknowledgements A t the outset, I express my profound gratitude to General K .M . Cariappa—popularly known as the father o f the Indian Army—who, despite advance age and failing health, very affectionately wrote a brief “ Introduction” , Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw, MC—the first ever Field Marshal of the Indian Army, who had the unique honour of directing the heroic military operations of Bangladesh, in 1971—in spite of his national and international commitments kindly spared his. precious time to write the “ Foreword*’, Padma Bhushan General G.G. Bewoor, PVSM, former Chief of the Army Staff (Indian Army) whose illustrious regiment I proudly belong to and who, although being immensely occupied with personal problems very kindly, wrote his well-considerd “ views” , His excellency, General O.P. M alhotra, PVSM, ex-Army Chief and presently Ambassador o f India in Jakarta, who painstak­ ingly scanned each page of the kook with utmost interest and has been kind enough to write his stimulating “ views” , General K.V. Krishna Rao, PVSM, ADC—the former Chief of the Army Staff, in whose distinguished brigade I had the honour of serving in the high altitude and uncongenial area of Ladakh, long back in 1966—despite his very pressing commit­ ments, wrote the detailed “ Introduction” , in the highest traditions of the Indian Army, and General A.S. Vaidya, PVSM, MVC, AVSM—the previous General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Eastern Command, where he dexterously directed the counter-insurgency operations, particularly in Nagaland, Mizoram, Manipur, Tripura and West Bengal—and who, now, is the Chief of the Army Staff and with whom I had the proud privilege of facing the Pakistani troops in the Khemkaran sector, during the Indo-Pakistan War of 1965, very kindly, wrote his scintillating “ views” which made this book a going concern; and, not the least, to Dr. A.H. Nasution—the former General and the Defence Minister of Indonesia—who has been widely recognised as a prominent philosopher of



guerrilla warfare and who, kindly, wrote yet another “ Intro­ duction” to this book from that far-off land. Then, I wish to place on record my grateful thanks to M r. and Mrs. S.C. Tayal whose timely help and fruitful dis­ cussions enabled me to reduce the collected material to the written form; Dr. Girish Bihari, IPS, who was a driving force behind my research work, Dr. P.C. Sharma who ceaselessly helped the preparation of the final draft of this book; Mr. Ashok Pradhan, IAS, who provided me with serious exhort­ ations and looked after the follow-up work; Major Dinesh Chibber who travelled a long distance to give the finishing touches to this book at the cost of ignoring many far m*ore pressing comments; Dr. Radhe Shiam who prepared the Bangladesh map for this book; Mr. Rattan Lai Gupta who graciously and patiently typed the successive drafts without a murmur; Mrs. Chandra Shivani, my wife, whose unstinting support—moral and material—served me as a beacon in dark night and; finally, Master Raj Kamal, my beloved son, who as a mere child, lovingly typed the penultimate draft of this book even in candle light, sometimes, without which this book would have remained yet another shadow of unfulfilled desire. Capt SK G A RG (Retd)

Foreword I was asked by Captain S.K. Garg, Ph.D., of the Dogra Regi­ m ent to write the foreword to his book “ Spotlight: Freedom Fighters of Bangladesh’', and I agreed to do this because: (a) Captain Garg is an officer of the Indian Army which I have had the honour and. privilege of serving myself since October 1932, and which I had the unique honour o f commanding for over three and a half years, and witnessing its glorious record of successful war. (b) I read the book with great pleasure: the young author has made a profound study of guerrilla warfare and to its application to the conflict with Pakistan in its Eastern Wing. The historical review, the strategical and tactical concept and the actual operation of the guerrilla force have been lucidly and succinctly presented, and what is more, accurately recorded. Tins book should be studied by both junior and senior commanders, and form part of the curriculum of all schools of military education. It is a most valuable thesis. (Sd) SAM MANEKSHAW FIELD MARSHAL “ S ta v k a ” S p r in g f ie l d

COONOOR (The Nilgiris) 26 December 1981

Preface What better way fo r a man to die Than facing fearful odds For the ashes o f his ancestors and the temples o f his gods The role of the freedom fighters in the war of liberation in Bangladesh has become a controversial issue. Doubts have been expressed regarding the efficacy of these Bengali fighters as a viable liberation force. It has been contended that, by themselves, they were too fragile to liberate Bangladesh. Some military experts still believe that without the physical interven­ tion of India’s armed forces the Bangladesh struggle would either have been unduly protracted or degenerated mto a Vietnam type of war, the outcome o f which would have been unpredictable. The proponents of this view doubted the fighting capabilities o f the Mukti Bahini which, in fact, was the principal in strum eat o f liberation. There is no denying the fact that these guerrillas were hastily trained and were also inadequately equipped. They were facing the well-oiled Pakistani war machine, equipped with modem and sophisticated weapons. The repressive forces of General Yahya Khan were hell-bent upon destroying the flower of Bengali society. The cultural, social and political identity of East Pakistan was sought to be eliminated through a systematic genocide of a docile populace. Later, following the pattern of Communist Tibet, it was to be replaced by one which came nearest to Islamic fundamenta&sm; a new race was to be bred on the soil of Bangladesh. In a bid to launch the extermination campaign, General Yahya Khan, the President of Pakistan, unleashed a reign of terror on the alleged Bengali separatists on the night o f 25-26, March 1971. It provoked a guerrilla movement in the whole o f East Pakistan, afflux o f refugees into neighbouring India, and finally, the war with India.



The failure of the Pakistani administration in dealing with the frustrations of Bengali masses who found themselves exploited by West-Pakistani overlords was most explicit in East Bengal. The crisis saw Pakistan’s dissident Eastern Wing break away to become an independent state of Bangladesh. General Yahya Khan, spurning the people’s verdict, unabashedly stuck to power. His autocratic ambitions blinded him to the innate strength of the democratic aspirations of the Bengali people. He denied the elected representatives of his country their democratic right to rule Pakistan. He asserted himself so much that it led Pakistan to its ultimate dismember­ ment. As late as 1978, General Yahya Khan, after his release from house arrest by his military successor, admitted of the exploitatipn of East Bengal by West Pakistan. He emphasised that the seeds of the disintegration had existed right at the time of the creation of Pakistan and the situation was worsened by WestPakistani officers who lorded over East Bengal. The study of the Bangladesh-liberation Movement begins with the demand for autonomy for East Bengal. The first phase spreads over the period until talks between Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and General Yahya Khan failed at Dacca. It mainly covers the political operations as distinguished from the overt activities of guerrillas. They are used as rallying points for the aroused masses and directly advance the cause o f the move­ ment, but, without using violence. These are the best methods of bringing masses out into the streets. Civil espionage and counter-espionage, infiltration, manipulation of crowds, propa­ ganda and boycotts, are some other measures of peaceful political oparations. The second phase begins with the military crackdown on the innocuous, people of East Bengal and extends up to the time of armed intervention by India. The third phase covers the fourteen days of regular war.which was fought between India and Pakistan on the soil of Bangladesh. During the first two phases, the application of Guerrilla and Partisan warfare has been critically examined. This helps assess the efficacy of political operations in leading Bangladesh to a successful conclusion of guerrilla operations. Following the



same pattern, a critical appraisal of the application o f partisan warfare, as an effective complement to guerrilla warfare, has also been carried out. Similarly, the strategy, tactics and principles of guerrilla warfare and other allied operations, independently as well as in conjunction with the armed forces of India, have been projected upon the events of the war of liberation. Its purpose is to examine the pattern of guerrilla operations as evolved or used in this struggle. Then, the entire period has also been analysed in the light of the three phases of the “ War of Resistance” as envisaged by Mao Zedong. The first phase consists of Guerrilla Defensive, < the second of attrition and strategic stalemate and the third one comprises a strategic counter-offensive to seek a military decision. Immediately after Bangladesh was liberated, a number of books on the freedom struggle started appearing. They simply recorded the heroic deeds of Bengali guerrillas. Owing to the paucity of an authentic account of events and associated docu­ mentation, the operational details were not available to the authors of those books. Therefore, an analytic study of the events so also an objective perception were conspicuously missing. It was hoped that someone would arrange and tie up the loose ends of these events and assemble the full story which would be a “ stirring saga of heroism, tenacity and intense love of the co u n try .. . . Their endeavours are a legion, their contri­ bution to the eventual campaign of liberation, however, will be fully acknowledged only when the whole story can be told’*. With this view in mind I have ventured to make an attempt to fill the missing links. I hope, the present work will satisfy the demands of the inquisitive readers. “ P o n d ero sa ”

M a n sa ro v a r

M EERUT 6 May 1983

Capt SK G A RG (Retd)


INTRODUCTION 1 I have read with much interest the very well got up book Spotlight: Freedom Fighters o f Bangladesh, by Capt. S.K. Garg who is in the Department of Military Studies in Meerut College, Meerut. 1 did not take any part in the operations reported in this very well got up publication as 1am a retired officer. However, Capt. Garg has written this small booklet very well. I hope it will be widely read by all our officers and others particularly those who participated in that conflict. K.M. CAR1APPA General (Retd.) Roshanara Madikeri Kodagu Karnataka State

2 Over the years many books have been written on guerrilla warfare and Capt. S.K. Garg’s book Spotlight : Freedom Fighters o f Bangladesh is an interesting addition to this series. The book, which should be of interest to both soldiers and civilians, gives an insight into the fundamental concepts of guerrilla warfare. Beginning with the historical background that led to the secession of the Eastern Wing of Pakistan, the author goes on to discuss the basic tenets of guerrilla warfare, strategy and tactics and the emergence of the Mukti Bahini. A chapter has also been devoted to the analysis of “Guerrilla and Partisan Warfare”. Capt. Garg has put in a commendable effort to bring forth in detail the various facets of guerrilla warfare and its application in the conflict in erstwhile East Pakistan.



I have great pleasure in introducing the young author and his book to the general public and wish him all success. K.V. KRISHNA RAO General Chief of the Army Staff Army Headquarters DHQ PO New Delhi-110011

3 Capt. S.K. Garg, Ph.D., who calls himself a soldier-turnedacademician, is an expert in guerrilla and counter-guerrilla warfare. He has been teaching insurgency and counter-insurgency to post­ graduate courses in the Indian Armed Forces for over a decade and his book Spotlight: Freedom Fighters o f Bangladesh has been well commended by outstanding Indian generals. According to my opinion a profound knowledge and skill in the field of guerrilla and counter-guerrilla warfare are indispensable for the military of today, especially in the young third world countries, which are still facing external subversion, internal social injustice, besides the so called neo-colonialism. In conformity with Clausewitz’ doctrine, which says that war is a continuation of politics with other means, the emerging of different forms of guerrilla methods would not be strange to such a social and political condition as mentioned. I therefore deeply appreciate this young officer’s specialization in guerrilla and counter-guerrilla operations and wish him all success in DR. A.H. NASUTION General (Retd.) Jenderal TNI (Purn) Jl. Teuku Umar 40 Jakarta Pusat

4 Retired Captain, Dr. S.K. Garg, has published in book form the thesis he wrote for his Doctorate, the subject being of interest to the



generation of Indians who saw the birth and establishment of Bangladesh. Capt. Garg selected a difficult but interesting subject for his Doctorate; difficult because factual information about both guerrillas and their operations are not easy to come by. Records of operations by regular Army units and formations are available, with some security restrictions, and officers, especially senior ones, write books and go on record of actions, including comments on plans and policies of superiors. In the case of guerrillas, who are mostly civilians with §ome ex-Army officers and men, they are citizens of the country wherein they carried out the operations against the established Government and may be in or out of power positions in the new Government and thus may not want to bring to the fore, thus attracting publicity, their actions and operations. In order to get information of such operations so as to produce a cogent narrative with sufficient authentication it requires research of both persons and documents of all kinds. Capt. Garg has started with the historical background which led to the revolt of the population of East Pakistan against the policies of the Central Government, which was dominated by the big landlords and financial elites of West Pakistan and more so against the attitudes adopted by and the behaviour of the dominantly Punjabi military and civilian officers towards the Bengalis of East Pakistan. This has been presented in sufficient detail for understanding the reasons for it as also for the Partition of the country, which geographically and ethnically is one nation. The author has then discussed the concepts of guerrilla warfare and operations and has based his ideas of this on the writings of Mao Ze Dong and his lieutenants in their war against the Japanese invaders and later against the Kuomintang ruling Government of China. Capt. Garg has then got on to the subject of his thesis and written in detail about the guerrilla war waged by the citizens of the future Bangladesh against the Pakistan Army and the established Government of East Pakistan against which they had revolted. These guerrillas, many of them ex-Army personnel but a large number young men mainly students of colleges and schools, became well organised as time went on and were designated as “Freedom Fighters” (Mukti Bahini). A good deal of research has been done by Capt. Garg and quite besides studying documents of all kinds, he has, I presume, met and interviewed some of the participants though he has not quoted any names. He has accepted that their actions were



effective before and during the war as reported in operational documents, books, articles in journals and newspapers and commentaries, both written and verbal, in India and Bangladesh after the •1971 December war,7as well as from facts mentioned to him personally. On the other hand, books written by West Pakistan military officers as also articles in military journals convey the view that the Bangladesh guerrillas, whether civilian or Army persons, had little effect in the actual 14-day fighting. They admit that the guerrilla activities as they increased in intensity and in numbers of actions had a big effect in creating fear and uncertainty of existence in the civil Government officials and the Police, including the Border Defence forces. Also, the West Pakistan soldiers and policemen found the hatred and non-cooperation of the villagers affecting their morale and was an important factor in the horrible atrocities they perpetrated on these helpless peoples. The book has been well researched and is of good educative value for Army officers, since dealing effectively with guerrillas forms part of military training for officers and men. It presents the subject of guerrilla warfare and operations well and shows how the guerrillas were organised and employed to the best effect with the help and guidance of officers and men of the Indian Army, however clandestinely it may have been done. History alone will make clear, when more information comes to light as years go by and perhaps some of the leading guerrilla fighters, who are still alive in Bangladesh or elsewhere, write about their actions, what successes were achieved by these guerrillas and what was the effect of their actions over the 9 months period prior to the war breaking out between India and Pakistan on 3rd December 1971. I would commend this book to those who are (and were) interested in the freedom of Bangladesh as they will find it worth reading. I can end with the hope that our friends ir Bangladesh will find the book of value as part of their history of freedom. G.G. BEWOOR General (Retd.) 47, Koregaon Park, Poona-411001


Introduction 5

The history of guerrilla warfare in its different forms and manifestations is probably as old as warfare itself. At various times guerrilla tactics have been put to use by commanders often to compensate for material shortcomings and to prolong the conduct of operations till a favourable situation for the continuation of regular warfare was created. Most of the basic principles of guerrilla warfare were known in the last century or even earlier. Shivaji, a great exponent of guerrilla tactics, not only continually harassed large Mughal forces but also achieved considerable success through guerrilla operations. It has of late become popular to brand all unconventional or unorthodox warlike activities as guerrilla operations. However, not all unconventional warfare is guerrilla war nor should the term be used as a synonym encompassing all revolutionary activities or acts of terrorism. In his thesis, devoted primarily to a study of guerrilla operations during the Bangladesh War of Liberation, Dr. Garg has made an in-depth study of and explained with some clarity the various components of guerrilla warfare, partisan and commando operations, and their inter-relationship. A study of the application of guerrilla operations in the War of Liberation in Bangladesh would be incomplete without taking into consideration the geography of the region and the then prevalent political and economic factors. Throughout history, such indigenous factors have had a greater effect on unconventional than on conventional warfare. The erosion from its inception of the artificial political entity comprising East and West Pakistan, and the state of Indo-Pak relations are some of the factors which facilitated the rapid growth in the number of freedom fighters in East Pakistan, particularly those of the Mukti Bahini. Due to the hostile local population, difficult terrain, and its logistical isolation without adequate naval or air support, Pakistan’s five army divisions in the region were unable to neutralize the guerrillas operating from numerous bases in the then Eastern Wing of Pakistan. The staffing, organization, and training of the guerrilla factions was also facilitated by large-scale defections from the Bengali elements of the Pakistan Armed Forces. Historically, guerrilla wars have succeeded primarily when the opposing armed forces have been prevented, due to military or political reasons, from committing their full resources



to the struggle against the guerrillas. This was also borne out by the Bangladesh War of Liberation. Dr. Garg has made a thought-provoking study of the use of guerrilla operations in the Bangladesh War of Liberation. His task could not have been easy due to the unavailability of relevant documentation, much of which remains classified. Dr. Garg’s work deserves to be studied not only by members of the Armed Forces, but also students of contemporary military history and all those interested in the defence and security of our nation. O P. MALHOTRA General Jakarta

6 It is heartening to note that Capt. S.K. Garg’s doctoral thesis has flowered into a book entitled Spotlight : Freedom Fighters o f Bangladesh. Capt. S.K. Garg’s book is yet another dimension added to the literature on guerrilla warfare. The book offers valuable information on the guerrilla operations during the War of Liberation of Bangladesh. The study of 14 days war with Pakistan is adequately supplemented by this book. The emergence of Mukti Bahini and its guerrilla activities culminating in the wresting of Bangladesh from the erstwhile East Pakistan offers a close study in guerrilla operation in Bangladesh. The book provides enough insight into the popular modus operandi of a suppressed people in dealing with an unpopular government, in other words, the exploits of Mukti Bahini and its growth into a Liberation Army. The young author, Capt. Garg, is to be commended for this contribution to Military Literature. A.S. VAIDYA Lieutenant General HQ Eastern Command Calcutta-700021


Tyranny Begets Resistance The guerrilla wins i f he does not lose; the army loses if it does not win H



issin g e r

Mr Mahmud Ali, Pakistan’s Minister for Social Welfare, in the military government, boldly declared in February 1983, that the creation of Bangladesh was “ an accident of history and had never been vindicated by the free will of the people.” He, therefore, predicted a reunion with Bangladesh (Govern­ ment controlled “ Pakistan Times” , 22 Feb. 1983). In fact, the birth of Bangladesh, in 1971, was not an acci­ dent of history. The distrust and discontent present amongst the Muslim majority peasantry of Bengal was deeply ingrained in the political, economic, social and cultural fabric of the region. Right from the nineteenth century, the econo­ mic exploitation and social injustice meted out to the Bengali peasants, (who had formed a Muslim majority) by their minority-Hindu landlords, had set in motion a separatist trend. Bengali peasantry had started launching organised movements against their Hindu landlords. Titu Mian, a Fairaizi leader, led a revolt of Muslim peasantry in Bengal in 1830. By 1871, the Muslims of the Lower Bengal had reached a sorry state. Under British rule, they severely suffered at the hands of their landlords (Hunter, 1964, p. 117). The same sad situation con­ tinued into the twentieth century. Bengali Muslim elite which happened to be numerically superior was no match for his Hindu counterpart. The Hindu elite of Bengal, though in a minority, was considerably advanced in social, economic, and till late, the political life. The “ economic sterility and politi­ cal impotence” had been constantly goading the conscience o f


Spotlight: Freedom Fighters o f Bangladesh

a politically conscious and unconsciously volatile Muslim majority of Lower Bengal. The material conditions of Muslims had pushed them psychologically to the brink where they could have taken any extreme step. The imperialists in turn were horrified at the growing spectacle of nationalism in India. They took recourse to the old imperial maxim of “ divide and rule” , and the Muslims were ready to fall into their trap. This formed the backdrop of th at secessionist movement which led to the political fragmentation of the subcontinent twice—in 1947 and 1971—in less than a quarter of a century. The “ two nation theory” was propounded in the name of religion (Islam). The emergence of Pakistan was the culmination of these pernicious theories which were coupled with the imperialistic machinations. The genesis and growth of the crisis of 1971 proved the hollowness of Islam (religion) as a binding force. Islam miserably failed to bridge the wide gap, caused Jby geographic, economic, political and cultural factors, existent between the two wings of Pakistan—Eastern and Western. Ethnic attitudes, perpetuated by economic opportunism further increased these disparities. What the Hindu landlords did dur­ ing prepartition days in Lower Bengal, the Western Wing of Pakistan practised the same exploitative trend more scienti­ fically during the post-independence era in East Pakistan. Moreover, it was backed by the state apparatus also. East Pakistan came to be treated as a virtual colony o f West Pakistan. Not unnaturally, Bengali Muslims revolted against their colonial masters and East Pakistan eventually lay buried deep under a mountain o f corpses, heaped up by the military regime. The birth of Bangladesh on 16 Dec. 1971, as an independent nation, exploded the myth of religion being the sole binding factor and proved beyond doubt that material forces ’ were far more important than abstract religious principles. Maulana Azad had, one time, questioned Jinnah’s wisdom in propounding the two-nation theory. He contended that the people in both the wings of Pakistan were completely different from one another in every respect except that of religion. He decried the suggestions that religious affinity could unite geo­

Tyranny Begets Resistance


graphically, economically, linguistically and culturally different areas and masses together. In his opinion, East and West Pakistan could never compromise all their differences and form one nation (A$ad, 1959, p. 227). The prophecy of Maulana Azad came true in 1971. Mr. Abul Mansur Ahmed, a Bengali member of Pakistan’s Constituent Assembly, had categorically stated in the Assembly in 1956, that Pakistan was a unique country having two wings, that too separated by a distance of over a thousand miles. These two wings had nothing in common except two factors, viz., a common religion and, the fact, that Pakistan achieved her independence by a common struggle; otherwise, all other things, i.e., language, tradition, culture, economy, dietary habits, calendar, standard time—practically everything, were different. There was, in fact, nothing common in the two wings of Pakistan that constituted a nation (Govt, of Pakistan, 1956, p. 1816). Later, in 1978, General Yahya Khan, former President of Pakistan, while undergoing treatm ent in Washington for paralytic legs, conceded to a correspondent of an Urdu daily, JU N G , that the erstwhile East Pakistan was always exploited by West Pakistan and that the seed of the break-up had existed right at the time of the creation of Pakistan. Accord­ ing to him, the situation had deteriorated by the West-Pakistani officers who were posted in “ East Bengal” “ (Times of India, 29, Aug. 1978). The seeds of discontent and distrust between the Indian Muslims and the National Congress had begun to germinate as early as 1888: Sir Syed Ahmed Khan had called upon the Muslim community of India to hold aloof from the Congress (Mittal, 1976, pp. 147-150). There was a strong feeling amongst the Muslims of India that they had been left far behind in the race of progress by their “ more noisy and more advanced fellowcountrymen” —the Hindus, and that the Governm ent’s attitude towards Muslims was that of “ indifferentism” . There appeared to be three distinct choices before the Muslims—(i) Let the Musalmans form a separate political body of their own; (ii) throw in their lot in matters of political agitation with the Hindus; and (iii) come to terms on matters of the existing


Spotlight: Freedom Fighters o f Bangladesh

elective system dominating the civil and political life of India (Amrit Bazar Patrika, 26 Nov. 1904). The concept of a separate political body for the Muslims of India had dawned upon the Muslim leadership by 1904. Many Hindus felt that by staying aloof from the National Congress the Muslims were seeking a preferential treatm ent for themselves from the British Government. The Hindoo Patriot pleaded with Indian Muslims that in their moves to attain political privi­ leges they must join hands with the National Congress. By holding aloof, they could not achieve any special favours from the Government. The Muslims must take common interests of both the communities (Hindoo Patriot, 29, Dec. 1904). But the call went unheeded. The Indian Muslims, by a resolution adopted at the Mohammedan Educational Conference, proposed the establish­ ment of a “ separate university for Mohammedans” (Hit Varta, 15 Jan. 1905). As a reaction to the growing separatist tendencies, the Hindus protested against the Lieutenant G overnor’s policy of filling appointments in the rank of Sub-Deputy Collectors mostly from the Muslim Community in the United Provinces (Amrit Bazar Patrika, 16 Feb. 1905). On the other hand, the Muslims were becoming sore at the “ Increasing oppression of Hindu Zamindars upon the Mulims in Pargana-Sherpur in Mymensingh” (MihiroSudhakar24, March 1905). The “ highhandedness of Babu Sheo Sharan Lai, Manager of Dumraon Raj towards the Musalmans of Karan Chak and Sadasipur in Patna district about a burial ground part of which had been appropriated by the Babu for a private purpose” had also been brought to light on 15 May 1905 (Bihar Bandhu, 15 May 1905). Against this background, LordC urzon, in 1905, partitioned Bengal professedly for political and imperial reasons (the partition, announced on 1 Sept. 1905, was implemented on 16 Oct. 1905; but, it had become widely known to the people in India by the month of July). It remained in force for the next five years and in 1911, King George V, in order to assuage the hurt sentiments of the Bengali population, annul­ led this partition. The political purpose of the partition was to cripple Bengali nationalism, which Lord Curzon succeeded

Tyranny Begets Resistance


in achieving in the name of administrative convenience. A.C. Mazumdar viewed partition as an attem pt to win over the Mohammedans. Later, during a tour of East Bengal, Curzon had commented that the Mohammedans, thereafter, could live in peace in East Bengal and that they could prosper also; because, no other community would control them in the newly created part of the province (New-India, pp. 11-12). Bengali reaction to the partition was vitriolic and convul­ sions became the order of the day. Banga Darpan reflected the helplessness of the Bengali race (Banga Darpan, 15 July 1905) while Sanjivani took it as an offence to the weak Ben­ galis. They felt as if a shaft had been dealt at their heart (San­ jivani, 29 June 1905). The united protests and appeals of Bengalis against the partition were deemed as imaginary and chimerical and an attem pt at romanticising the past and deni­ grating the present. The province of East Bengal was held out by the imperialists as a Muslim Paradise where they could determine their fate unhindered. The Muslim elite welcomed the move (Rahman, 1974, p. 19); but Sir Bamflyde Fuller, the Lieutenant G overnor of Eastern Bengal and Assam, in his note for the Indian Association on the Anti-Partition Move­ ment, categorically stated on 4 June 1906, that “ ....So far as the whole country being of one mind against partition the M usalmans who form 60 per cent of the population, are in favour o f it” (Minto Papers, 1905-1910). The Hindu-Muslim antagonism kept growing rapidly. Hindu nationalists launched an anti-partition agitation under the leadership of Surendra Nath Banerjea, Editor of a Bengali English daily ‘Bengalee’ Ashwani D utt, Babu Priya N ath Guha, Babu Mathura Das, Lalit Babu of Narasangha, Bipin Chandra Pal and some of the Muslim leaders like Leakat Hussain. The arrest of Surendra Nath Banerjea, from a Conference at Barisal on 16 April 1906, gave a fillip to the anti-partition agitation. The partition also detonated the fuse of the Swadeshi movement (1905-1908), wherein British goods were boycotted. The Slogan of Bande Mataram unfurled the banner of patriotic resistance and the streets of Calcutta were ringing with the echo of this national anthem. The Bengali


Spotlight: Freedom Fighters o f Bangladesh

Muslims, on the contrary, either isolated themselves from anti-partition movement or posed active hostility to it. Syed Nawab Ali Chowdhary, expressing his dejection over the folly of the Bengali Muslims in refraining from supporting the Hindus and their political movements, lamented; “ . ..i f only the Mohammedans o f Bengal, instead of following the Government, had agitated like the Hindus and had enlisted the sympathies of the Mohammedans of the whole India, and raised their voice up to the parliament, they would never see these unfortunate consequences (M into, Vol. II). In April-May 1907, the National volunteers, during the course of the Swadeshi movement, were berating Muslim shop­ keepers in Mymensingh for retailing imported goods. This led to skirmishes and disturbances. Muslim shop-keepers retaliated by attacking Hindus. Local ruffians were avenging personal scores in the prevailing chaos (Garlick, 1907). The terrorist movement, launched by Khudi Ram Bose, was already afoot. Thus, an already existing bitterness between the two communi­ ties of Bengal was growing fast with each passing day. In those days, Indian Nationalist politics was closely divided into two distinct political streams, viz., one, led by activists who subscribed to the militant methods of agitation and, the other, comprising the moderates who pursued constitutional methods of protest and persuasion. The cleavage between these two became more pronounced at the twenty-second session of the Congress, presided over by Dadabhai Naoroji, in Dec. 1906 (Das, M., pp. 88-122). Rival meetings were held in Calcutta, the centre of agitation by pro-and anti-partition groups. The latter consisted mainly of Hindus. While observing the Parti­ tion Day in Calcutta, the Bengalees (Hindus) universally observed the direction of the agitators that no food should be cooked on 16 Oct. (Slinka Record, 1907). Government reports used the terms “ Bengali” exclusively for Hindus and “ Muslims” for Bengali Muslims. The Hindu-Muslim riots on the issues of boycotting imported goods, closure of shops and support to the anti-partition agitation (Home Dept., 1906) were speci­ fically reported to the government. Muslims sent several resolu­ tions, hailing the partition, to the British Government. The Muslim resolution of 8 Oct. 1906, provided for celebrations on

Tyranny Begets Resistance


tlie «auspicious day” of 16 Oct. as a day of rejoicing by the Mohammedan community of East Bengal throughout the province and it was to be observed as a general holiday (Strula Record, 1907). Though Bengal was re-united in 1911, it left its legacy amongst the aristocratic Muslims, particularly the Nawabs of Dacca. In 1912, to placate the Nawab, a huge sum of money was loaned to him and Dacca was declared a university town. After World War I, the Allies had liquidated the Ottoman Empire for their siding with the Germans during the Great War, and Turkey was reduced to absolute insignificance—territorially and economically—after the conclusion of this war. It injured Muslim religious sentiments all over the world, because the Sultan of Turkey was also held as Caliph—the religious and spiritual head of the Islamic world. In India, the Muslim resentment found expression in the Khilafat movement, led by the Ali Brothers while Mahatma Gandhi also lent whole-hearted support to the movement. Thereafter, the growth of communalism at the end of the Khilafat movement and the subsequent activities of the Muslim League dominated the politics of Bengal. Up to 1915, singular aim of the Muslim League was to safeguard Muslim interests against the anticipations of Hindu dominance. The two communities got progressively estranged. During the period following non-co-operation and Khilafat movement—between 1919 and 1921—inter-communal advances made by the political leaders of both communities had some­ what healed the wounds, but, the attempt at reconciliation remained largely infructuous. Elements of communalism and obscurantism, on both sides, had persisted in the country. Results of the 1937 elections, especially in Punjab and Bengal, further strengthened this antipathy. During the thirties and forties, both Hindus and Muslims stood sharply divided into two opposing camps. Both strove hard to bag economic and political independence. The entire period was characterised by growing confusion. At this critical juncture, Jinnah's advent reinforced the foundation of the Muslim League. His singular aim was to reassert the authority of the League which had grown weak following a long period of dissonance and strain. Here, the National Congress backed Jinnah to the hilt and the


Spotlight: Freedom Fighters o f Bangladesh

image of Pakistan took on substance. By 1939, it had become amply clear that the Hindus and Muslims on the Indian soil lacked those basic convictions which were necessary for the establishment of a single State. The socio-cultural basis of both the communities was running counter to each other’s. In 1935, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, though thoroughly con­ versant with the plight of Muslims in India, had chosen to live in isolation and practise law in London: he was still sceptic of the policies of the Muslim League. Mr. Liaquat Ali Khan finally brought him back to India (Khaliq, 1978, p. 40). Sir Mohammed Iqbal—the poet and philosopher—gave Pakistan its spiritual name, Chowdhary Rehmat Ali—a contemporary law student in England—defined its geographical bounds and, the Quid-e-Azam, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, turned both of them into a political reality. In 1940, Jinnah, in the name of justice to the religion of Hindus and Muslims, declared that the British Government could bring a lot of happiness and goodwill in the subcontinent by creating two independent States (Khaliq, 1978, p. 41), viz., India and Pakistan. The pri­ mary objective of the Muslim League had then become the drafting of a legislative framework which could ensure the Muslim community of India an absolute parity with its Hindu counterpart within an independent India. By the time Jinnah went to attend the Lahore Convention in March 1940, he had already emerged as a strong political force which had to be reckoned with. During the 20s, 30s and 40s, the class and regional com­ plexion of the Muslim League High Command had become such that on the issue of proportional Muslim representation in central and provincial legislatures the interests of the Bengali-Muslim majority were always sacrificed: recurring weightage for the Muslim-minority provinces of U.P. and Bombay was accorded highest priority. Even in 1947, when Pakistan was carved out after bifurcating the Indian sub-conti­ nent, Bengali interests remained intrinsically peripheral. The same sad process continued into independent Pakistan, Bengali Muslims received lowest priority. With the creation of Pakis­ tan—the Muslim League which was forged in Dacca itself in 1906, passed into history. Later, the leadership o f the

Tyranny Begets Resistance


Muslim League gradually passed into the hands of the advanced Muslims of Bombay and U.P. Even then it was the Muslims of Bengal who gave their clearest verdict in favour of Pakistan even at the cost of sacrificing there Sher-e-Bangla—Fazlul Huq. To a common Bengnli Muslim, one sovereign State or two had mattered little. Fed up by the excesses of the Hindu middle class of Calcutta, he had voted for Pakistan. His commitment to Pakistan was fundamentally economic and political. He did not share the mass religious hysteria which was let loose in the northern and western regions of undivided India. He shelv­ ed his cultural and linguistic affinity with the Bengali Hindus which had continued from time immemorial. The Muslim grievances in Bengal were mainly economic “ which filtered down from the dispossessed landed gentry through the fledg­ ling middle class to the poor tenant farmer, share-cropper and landless labour” (Ayoob, 1972, p. 3). Right from the inception of the Muslim League, in 1906, the entire Muslim Bengal had always been present in the thick of the battle, waged for achieving an independent homeland for the Muslims of India. Neither the North, the west Punjab, nor even Sind or U.P. and Bombay could ever contribute so much to the creation of Pakistan as alone did Muslim Bengal. Obsessed by a fear of Hindu domination they had striven hard to carve out a separate State for themselves which could afford them a respectable life—a life full of peace and prosperity and which was free from economic exploitation. In a bid to achieve it, they supported the partition of Bengal in 1905, and later, they offered active hostility to the anti-partition agitation. As it happened, their whole scheme boomeranged with the reuni­ fication of Bengal in 1911. It dashed their hopes to the ground and their frustation touched a new high. Helplessness forced them into silence until 1940 when they got another opportunity to realise their unfulfilled ambition. The All India Muslim League, in its historic session at Lahore op 23 March 1940, brought about the famous “ Lahore Resolution” which was also known as the “ Pakistan Resolu­ tion” . Here, the Muslims demanded reconsideration of the plan which stipulated the scheme of federation as envisaged by the Government of India Act, 1935. In their view, that plan


Spotlight: Freedom Fighters o f Bangladesh

was impracticable under the peculiar conditions obtaining in the country. Therefore, they called for a new framework which was to be proposed with the prior consent and approval of the Muslims of India. The new framework was to be designed in accordance with the basic principles, which meant that the geographical areas with Muslim majority (as in the north­ western and eastern zones of India) should be grouped together to constitute independent States in which the constituent units should be autonomous and sovereign (Philips, 1962, p. 354). The Lahore convention Resolution was the first official pro­ posal in the direction of achieving an independent sovereign Muslim State within the Indian sub-continent. This document revealed a contradiction between the Bengali-Muslim national­ ism and the Muslim nationalism of North-western India. The latter envisaged one independent sovereign State for -Muslims while the former insisted upon more than one of such States. Thus, it became amply evident that the Bengali Muslims, who were seeking protection against Hindu domination earlier, had got disillusioned by the continuous neglect of Bengali interests right from the 1920’s. This time they wanted protection against Punjabi-cum-U.P.-Bombayite Muslim domination. So, to placate the Bengali Muslim element, more particularly the Shere-e-Bangla, Fazlul Haque, the Lahore Resolution retained the word “ States” instead of State and guaranteed an indepen­ dent sovereign State for Bengali Muslims also, which would ensure them freedom from Muslim domination as well. Origi­ nally, three Muslim States were specifically envisaged, viz., Pakistan in the North-West, Hyderabad in the South and, “Banga-I-Islam” in the East (Palit, 1972, p. 24). The period between 1940 and 1946 for the Muslims of India was both crucial and alarming. In a bid to avoid depri­ vation of an inside view of the government-functioning, the sceptic Muslim Leadership quickly accepted an offer from Sir Stafford Cripps: It granted them a share in the interim govern­ ment although the offer went directly against the original policy of the Muslim League (Khaliq, 1978, p. 110). The Mus­ lim League contested the general elections in 1946 and emerged as the recognised custodian of Indian Muslims. Thereafter, its parliamentary party, during its first meeting in New Delhi,

Tyranny Begets Resistance


which was chaired by Mohammed Ali Jinnah, persuaded Hussain Shaheed Suhrawardy to move a motion which super­ seded the Lahore Convention’s Resolution of 1940. The motion entailed only one Independent Sovereign State for Indian Mus­ lims. The State was to consist of all Pakistan zones in the Indian sub-continent where Muslims formed a dominant majority. Suhrawardy was a Bengali Muslim leader and a legal brain. He was also the then Prime Minister of the United Bengal. Muslim demands included an unequivocal undertaking from the British Government to implement the establishment of Pakistan without delay (Khaliq, 1978, p. 110). The Muslims of Bengal had pinned high hopes on the implementation of Lahore Resolution; but, they were cheated and left high and dry, without any hope of retrieval. Their leaders had been bought and silenced. Thus, the two ethnically and culturally different people, with wide geographical gaps, were welded together into a “ marriage of convenience” which began with “ discordant note and ended as a shatter” (Palit, 1972, p. 25). General Yahya Khan rightly remarked later, in 1978: East Pakistan had always been exploited by West Pakistan and the seeds of the break-up had existed right at the time of the creation of Pakistan. However immense their contribution to the freedom strug­ gle, the Bengali demands for autonomous Banga-I-Islam and of the Pathans for independent Pakhtoonistan had been shelv­ ed both by the All India Muslim League and the, Indian National Congress, at the time of the post-war partition of the subcontinent, in 1947. Both parties turned a blind eye to the need of these two communities. They had to live under virtual colonial rule in the post-partition Pakistan and suffered exploitation at the hand of their new colonial masters. With nationalist spirit still alive both continued their struggle for independence. One achieved at a high cost in human lives; the other is still struggling hard. The leaders of both the communi­ ties suffered intermittent imprisonment. The Bengali leaders had realised their aspirations but the Pakhtoons are yet to fulfil their dreams of an independent Pakhtoonistan. Jinnah, the founding father of Pakistan, was aware of the complexities of this unpractical dichotomy. He was conscious


Spotlight: Freedom Fighters o f Bangladesh

of the significant non-Muslim population within the state of Pakistan. Therefore, he emphasized the secular character of national identity during the post-partition days; but, his suc­ cessors failed to realise it. The undercurrent of Bengali nation­ alism reasserted itself in East Pakistan. The savage suppres­ sion of democracy and imposition of Urdu as the sole official language of Pakistan, the neglect of Bengali language, econo­ mic exploitation and its virtual treatment as a colony of Pakistan, sparked off serious crises every now and then. They took expression in the form of violent incidents and demonstrations. To these Bengalis, the independence of 1947 had meant a a mere change of rulers from British to the landowning auto­ cracy. They had accepted the principle of parity under the expectation of some kind of a democratic rule; but, they failed to realise the frivolity of Islam as an adhesive factor. Islam (religion) could bind the two wings of Pakistan only loosely. They could not visualise that the label of a second-class citizen­ ship was awaiting them in the new State of Pakistan. The proud Zamindars of West Punjab scorned them as “ Bengalis” , therefore, non-Muslims. The attitude of the ruling clique towards them was no better. The political system of Pakistan has always been unfaithful to its populace. Jinnah died in 1948. From his arrogant dictatorship Pakistan passed on to a phase of political instability, then to military dictatorship, later on to Martial law, and, finally, regrettably enough, to barbarism. General Zia-ul-Haque, the present President of Pakistan, had frankly accepted in Kuala Lampur that his country had suffer­ ed a great deal over the last 35 years on account of political instability. Pakistan had declared martial laws thrice and had a number of Prime Ministers which he could not remember himself. Even he, in the preceding five years, was not able to give it a “system as yet” (New Straits Times” , 8 Nov. 1982). The Man-Land ratio in East Pakistan was very high: it was higher than in the adjoining areas of India and lower than in China. This led to unemployment and induced a larger volume of migration. The dense population, accompanied by low standards of living, demanded more funds, more amenities,

Tyranny Begets Resistance


more industries and more development of the province. In­ telligentsia clamoured for freedom, more democratic rights and a greater voice in the administration. But, nothing was afforded to these less-fortunate Bengalis. Jinnah’s death brought Nazimuddin as the new Governor General of Pakistan and Liaquat Ali Khan continued as Prime Minister. During this period, the ruling Muslim League was dominated by Bengalis. But, in 1951, the Punjabi-dominated Muslim League swept the polls. Thus, an era of Punjabi domi­ nation had begun in the politics of Pakistan. Liaquat Ali Khan was asassinsated in October 1951. After the partition, Hussain Shaheed Suhrawardy, had stayed India. He was trying to bring about a United Bengal with the help of Sarat Chandra Bose. In order to build a facade of Muslim unity and to play down internal problems and dissensions, Pakistan depended on the hate-India bogey that whipped up anti-India hysteria. Military regime or civil rule, both were dominated by West Punjabis or Sindhis with only a sprink­ ling of Pathans, but, without any Bengali representation. Durring this period, Karachi’s political leadership had been reduced to a mere pliant tool in the hands of bureaucracy, which, with military’s solid backing, reigned supreme. Pakistan’s politi­ cians lacked a social and political base and the Muslim League failed miserably to carry out any political mobilisation and interest aggregation. Real power rested with the select coterie of civilians—predominantly a Punjabi clique of Ghulam Mohammed, Iskander Mirza, and Chaudhary Mohammed Ali. It maintained a close liaison with Army’s General Head Quar­ ters and even went to the length of seeking the military’s final sanction. The process continued throughout the period. Up to the timeof Liaquat Ali Khan, the “ Urdu speaking refugee elite” —“ the alien elite” —held all political portfolios. But, with the exit of this “ artificial leadership” , the distribution of power between Bengal and Punjab became a bone of contention. Punjab dominated military-bureaucratic as well as political elite that succeeded the “ Hindustani elite” further widened the cleft be­ tween the two wings of Pakistan. The feeling of cultural and religious superiority amongst the elite of the Western Wing

Spotlight: Freedom Fighters o f Bangladesh over its Eastern Wing population soon took the tinge of racial­ ism which the leaders failed to hide. Also the political system of Pakistan failed to accommodate various regional and sectional interests. ' The upshot was a lopsided distribution of political patron­ age and economic gains. Culture-bound attitudes, effusive in both the wings, created an unoridgeable gulf. Bengali Mus­ lims, though prepared to acknowledge the cultural superiority of the Hindu Bhadralok, always despised West Pakistan’s Muslim’s and termed them Abhadralok; because, they woefully lacked aesthetic concept towards life. With a more developed political culture and greater sense of social equality, an East Bengali projected a picture of increased consciousness of his political rights than his counterpart in West Pakistan. The Muslim middle class of East Bengal had always felt depriv­ ed of the fruits of economic and political powers that gravi­ tated around West Pakistan. There, people looked upon a Bengali with a sceptic eye and a potential danger. Imposition of Urdu as the sole official language of Pakistan manifested this bigotry. Though the geographical separation of the two wings had been posing economic problems, the rulers of Pakistan were hell bent upon treating the two wings as single entity. This separation had failed to check the flight of capital and the transfer of economic resources from poorer East Pakistan to the more prosperous Western Wing. At the same time, it could not facilitate the corresponding transfer of labour from the underdeveloped Eastern Wing to the relatively more developed Western Wing (West Pakistan). The result was the emergence of a typical economic structure, incongruous and lopsided which largely confined the economic development to its West­ ern Wing. Thus, the politico-economic structure of Pakistan was always ranged against the interests of East Pakistan. This gradually alienated Bengali Muslims from Islamabad, more especially after the exit of General Ayub Khan. Their political grievances whipped up their demand for political autonomy. The economic exploitation of one wing to the advantage of the other and the narrow social and political base of Pakistan’s power structure turned out to be a big impedi­ ment in the process of national integration. The same power

Tyranny Begets Resistance


structure continued even after the coup of 1958 though with a slight variation: the army undertook the role of a legitimising agent also. The three civilian coups which were staged by the Punjabiclique before the military coup of 1958, further demonstrated Bengali-Punjabi rivalry: these were aimed at neutralising the threat posed by the Bengali Muslims who were directly seek­ ing a sharp reduction in the powers of the ruling coterie. All of them were staged in such a way that, each time, the Governor General, Ghulam Muhammed, served as a pliant tool. All the three coups occurred within a short span of 18 months. The summary dismissal of the Bengali-dominated Khwaja Nazimuddin ministry and the consequent installation of a puppet, Mohammed Ali Bogra as Prime Minister, in April 1953, was the first blow, dealt at the democratic insti­ tutions of Pakistan. This crushed the democratic aspirations of her Bengali population. It set in motion the process of degener­ ation and smashed the very foundation of parliamentary democracy in that country. It also gave the Pakistani politi­ cians a taste of the autocratic powers of the Governor General. West-Pakistani politicians responded to it coldly, which further legitimised the high-handed action of the Governor-General. Then, a year later—in March 1954— the United Front Ministry of Fazlul Haque and Suhrawardy was unabashedly dissolved within weeks of its assuming office, and, another henchman, Major General Iskander Mirza, was appointed Governor of East Pakistan. This constituted the second civilian coup. The coterie saw a threat in the emerging Bengali group, led by Nazimuddin and Fazlul Haque. In the third coup of Oct. 1954, Ghulam Mohammed declared an emergency, dissolved the constituent-cum-National Assembly which had a Bengali majority, and installed Bogra’s “all talents” ministry. It included, among others, Iskander M irza and General Ayub Khan. The latter joined as the Commander-in-chief of the Army. The purpose of dissolving the National Assembly was to nullify its plans which were aimed at reducing the discretionary powers of the Governor General. Fazlul Haque and Suhrawardy


Spotlight: Freedom Fighters o f Bangladesh

were lured into dancing to the tune o f the bureaucratic-military establishment. Their Awami League virtually went into a poli­ tical wilderness. The ruling elite ably succeeded in putting them at dagger’s drawn. One-unit-Pakistan scheme of 1955 which was meant to counterbalance the Bengali middle class had killed all opposition to the Pakistan Administration. It also quelled the political storm which was brewing in West Pakistan. , In 1955, Iskander Mirza succeeded the ailing Ghulam Mohammed. Then, in August of the same year, Chaudhary Mohammed Ali succeeded Bogra as Prime Minister, who later bowed out of office, yielding place to Suhrawardy. Throwing away the Awami League’s manifesto to the wind and accepting the principle of a separate electorate under Mirza’s bidding Suhrawardy began to advocate the cause of a pro-west foreign policy for Pakistan. Though, during his time, the Bengali population did experience a degree of indentification with the government, the radical element of the Awami League quit the party. Thereafter, the coalition, formed by the Muslim League and the United Front, under 1.1. Chundrigar, succeeded Suhrawardy’s government and remained in office for a few weeks only. Last in series was the Republican Government of Feroze Khan Noon which faced a summary dismissal in Oct. 1958. Iskander Mirza quickly clamped down Martial Law and appointed General Ayub Khan, the C-in-C of the army, the Martial Law Administrator. The General stripped Mirza of all powers within three weeks and himself assumed the presidency of Pakistan. The political system once again proved itself unfaithful to the people: the first-ever drafted constitution was abrogated in 1956. This constitution had envisaged a theological state for Pakistan; thereby, a non-Muslim citizen could not aspire for the highest political chair of the country. The four years, following the dissolution of Constituentcum-National Assembly, in 1954, and before the advent of General Ayub Khan were crucial for Pakistan. They witnessed a retrogression for Bengalis and the emergence of Punjabis as a dominant group in the civil and military fields. Even during the first decade, following independence (1947-1958) when a

Tyranny Begets Resistance


parliamentary form of government was ruling the country, the National Legislature remained in session for a total period of 338 days only, which passed 160 laws and, the Governor General/President issued 376 major ordinances (Vorys, 1965, pp. 933-34-94). The relegation of legislature to a position of secondary importance stood opposed to the growth of democracy in Pakistan. Also, it struck the political and economic interests of East Pakistan. The situation presented a spectacle: “ East Pakistan is political, West Pakistan is governmental” (Marshall, 1959, p. 253). Each passing day (following the coup of 1958) alienated the Bengali population from the concept of Pakistan. The power structure, continuing since the day of Independence, in 1947, had sparked off reactions in the Eastern Wing. Impo­ sition of Martial Law, abrogation of the constitution, dismissal of the cabinet and the appointment of General Ayub Khan as Martial Law Administrator by Iskander Mirza, were the steps that paved the way for the coup of 1958. It facilitated the subsequent overthrow of Iskander Mirza into political oblivion. By machinations, the coterie succeeded in identifying him as the “ chief villain” . By surfacing the misdeeds of pre­ vious governments and cautiously turning them into “ scape­ goats” the ruling corterie found a pretext to stage a coup. Also, this provided it with an opportunity to evade the repeatedly promised general elections. By subsequently brand­ ing the coup as a “ revolution” (Fieldman, 1967), inside and outside Pakistan, the ruling clique found in it an effective lever to avoid any possible political explosion which could have been caused by the further postponement of elections. The same sinister clique of civil servants, after throwing politicians into the political wilderness, ruled Pakistan with the army’s direct and increased involvement. Ayub’s inclusion in the “all talfents” ministry, in Oct. 1954, began the process of army’s overt involvement in Pakistan’s politics: besides being the Commander-in-Chief of the army, he could effectively influence the process of decision-making also. By himself, Ayub had already decided-upon such a course as early as 1951 (Ahmed, 1960, p. 73), when he assumed the charge of Commander-inchief.


Spotlight: Freedom Fighters o f Bangladesh

General Ayub Khan, after usurping power on 7 Oct. 1958, dissolved assemblies and imposed martial law which continued until the middle of 1962. This created unbridgeable fissures of disparity. West-Pakistan rulers had sadly believed that they had in­ herited an inalienable right, as a legacy from the British rule, which entitled them to treat East Bengal as their virtual colony. Therefore, they perpetrated the oligarchichal exploitation of the Bengali population in East Pakistan. Though Ayub Khan’s rule provided a relatively stable government and though indus­ tries and agriculture received impetus, disparities grew unabated. Fed up of the treachery of Punjabi politicians, the Awami League decided to withdraw its support from Malik Feroze Khan Noon. Mujib declared: “ We have to be independent, we will have our army, navy and air force. I will see to it” (Mascarenhas, 1972, p. 98). Thus, the political system of Pakistan, undemocratic as always, was converted into military dictatorship in the name of “ Controlled Democracy” by Iskander Mirza or “ Basic Democracies” by Ayub Khan or “ Promised Democracy” by Yahya Khan. Most of the years Pakistan was ruled by suc­ cessive military dictators who governed it with the help of the bureaucracy which was bound to thrive in an unacceptable system (Tewary, 1971, p. 4). Besides economic disparity, the cultural and geographical gaps between the two wings, various tendencies of internal dissension for a separate Sind and Balu­ chistan and the distribution of seats in the National Legislature pushed discontent deeper. None of the seven successive govern­ ments, that occupied office before the advent of Ayub, and which came by evading the electorate’s mandate, could either be stable or could retrieve the situation. Ayub’s “ Basic Democracies” , which were aimed at preven­ ting a Bengali entry into the political arena, further helped evade elections. His “ Basic Democrats” —the rural-economic elite of West Pakistan and the surplus farmers in the Eastern Wing—formed the electorate for presidency and the National and provincial assemblies. This electorate served as a conduit to distribute development funds. The Basic Democrats reaped economic and political fruits under this scheme (Rehman, 1968,

Tyranny Begets Resistance


pp. 166-76). While projecting a false image of abroad-based political participation, it demolished the barriers between the leader and the people: it brought the leader near them. The initial break-through in land reforms presented Ayub an electoral success on a platter, in 1962. A strong Ayub, while advancing with a negative approach, emphasised the attainment of three goals, viz., (i) army’s supremacy in national matters, (ii) gra­ dual transfer of civil responsibilities to bureaucrats, and (iii) a tight personal grip over the decision-making machinery and national-policy formulation. Since no petition could ever be presented against the martial regime, all its activities assumed automatic legality. With a facade of subdued military tinge over national affairs, civilian affairs within the domain of bureaucrsts, and decision-making gravitating around the Presi­ dent, a vacuum began to engulf the army. In the absence of collective decision-making, military auto­ cracy presented a conspicuous target to the vollies of restless antagonists. They were seething with the pressure of events and eagerly awaited an opportune moment to trigger some kind of a crisis. The period between 1962 and 1969—ending with the exit of Ayub—was characterised by a presidential constitu­ tion and a system of indirect representation. It also demonstrat­ ed the President’s reluctance to relinquish power. All this encouraged rampant corruption, brazen nepotism and deepseated chaos in the administration. General Ayub Khan expres­ sed his scorn for Bengalis who, in his opinion, belonged to the very original Indian races. They hardly knew of freedom or sovereignty except in an Independent Pakistan and had always been ruled by caste Hindus, Moghals, Pathans and the British. Therefore, they were still under the cultural and linguistic influence of the Hindus. Bengalis, according to him, had all the inhibitions of downtrodden races. Their popular complexes, exclusiveness, suspicion and defensive aggressiveness were pro­ bably the result of that historical background (Khan, 1967, p. 187). Until the mid-60s this strategy worked effectively. Later, two factors gradually alienated the urban population from the side o f the government, (i) the regime’s alliance with monopoly capital that was represented by twenty-two select families of


Spotlight: Freedom Fighters o f Bangladesh

Pakistan, (ii) a decline in the real wages of industrial workers. In 1969, both militated against the government and triggered a movement for political freedom in urban Pakistan. This move­ ment joined hands with and was strengthened by the fiscal and autonomy movement of East Pakistan. This eventually forced General Ayub Khan out of the political scene and abruptly ended the much-publicised “ Decade of Development” — 195868 in Pakistan. Economic Disparity Between East and West Pakistan During this period of military regime, politics triumphed over economics in determining the choice (Bhatia, 1980). D r Mahbubul-Huq (1968), the then Chief Economist, Pakistan Planning Commission, described its upshot thus: “ During the 1960s, regional and personal income disparities worsened, unemploy­ ment increased, real wages of industrial workers declined by one-third, and there were major and increasingly shrill questions raised by East Pakistan about a pattern of development which was leaving it far behind West Pakistan. . . . The subsequent decade, following the downfall of President Ayub Khan in early 1969, was one of the relieved disaster for Pakistan . . . . There was civil war and the consequent break-up of the country. Pakistan had to start afresh to develop a self-contained economy. . . . The Defence expenditure which was Rs.320 crores at the time of Bangladesh crisis now tops Rs. 1,100 crores” (Bhatia, 1980). Social Exploitation The cruelty of the Pakistan regime in meeting the ends of social justice in the case of less fortunate Bangalis became mop* evident by their representation at the central and civil services of Pakistan (CSP). In 1947, eighty-three ICS officers, including the two Bengalis from East Bengal, had opted for Pakistan. By 1965, 47 of them continued in various Administrative Sen/ices; none of them was a Bengali (Sayeed, p. 156). A socially more egalitarian East Bengal, while it provided higher enrolment at

Tyranny Begets Resistance


the lower levels of education, suffered at the higher levels. The absence of a strong middle and upper-middle class was the reason. Economic compulsions made school &nd college drop­ outs more frequent, in fact, decreased their enrolment at the college and university levels (Ayoob, 1972 p. 34). This explains their meagre representation at the Civil Services of Pakistan. Even as late as 1968, it failed to cross the mark of 36 per cent (Govt, of Pakistan, 1968). Ayub’s decree, confining Bengali CSP officers to East Pakistan, further lowered their represent­ ation at officers’ level in the central secretariat which remained only 16 per cent. The Chief Secretary of East Pakistan, between 1947 and 1971, was invariably a non-Bengali. None of the 19 secretaries in various government departments was a Bengali. Similarly, all crucial posts, hitched to the decision-making process including those of secretaries in some crucial ministries like Finance, Defence and Home, were never filled by a Bengali. No one in the ruling clique ever sympathised with the Bengali cause. Ghulam Mohammed, Iskander Mirza, Chaudhari Mohammed Ali, Aziz Ahmed, Fida Hasan, Arshad Hasan, Altaf-Gauhar, Qudratulla Shahab, Ghulam Faruq, Mohammed Shoaib and M.M. Ahmed—none of them ever realised the piti­ able plight of Bengalis in East Pakistan. Nor could any Bengali ever rise to the position of prominence. Despite its low rate of urbanisation, low level of higher education and small limited middle class, a politically conscious East Pakistan, if given opportunity, could have put an effective check on the fast rate of deterioration in Pakistan, but for the strangulation of demo­ cratic government. Bengali representation at the vital ingredient of power struc­ ture—the defence forces—was abysmally appalling. In Pakis­ tan’s Army, the Punjabi representation was 60 per cent, the share of Pathans was 35 per cent and all other communities including Bengalis were represented by the remaining 5 per cent (Army accounted for 90 per cent of the manpower in the armed forces) (Sayeed, p. 276). In 1963, the officers’ cadre in the army had a Bengali representation of 5 per cent only. Bengali naval officers accounted for 19 per cent in technical and 9 per cent in the non-technical cadre; in naval Fanks their


Spotlight; Freedom Fighters o f Bangladesh

proportion did not exceed 28.5 per cent. The air force had them as 11 per cent pilots, 27 per cent navigators, 17 per cent technical officers? 31 per cent administrative officers and 13 per cent education officers (Govt, of Pakistan, 1963, pp. 29-31). Up to 1971, these figures did not change substantially. Within 23 years after 1947, out of the 48 Pakistani officers who rose to the rank of Major General and above, 17 came from Punjab, 19 from NWFP, 11 from amongst refugees and only one from Bengal (Sayeed, p. 278). Thus, this enormous concentration of political and economic power into a small sinister group always deprived East Pakistan of its minimal participation in the power structure which turned out to be the principal cause of that country’s dismem­ berment in 1971. Economic Exploitation The fundamental injustice, meted out to East Pakistan, was to consider the economy of a geographically divided Pakistan as an integrated whole. The regional disparity in the development of the private sector which was reinforced by the short-sighted policies and which was pursued in the allocation of economic resources in the public sector facilitated the transfer of a large share of that capital to West Pakistan. Had inter-wing mobi­ lity of labour been possible this transfer of capital would have been partially neutralised by a corresponding movement of labour from the poorer region of Pakistan to the richer one. In the absence of any geographical contiguity between the two wings of Pakistan the movement of labour was almost negli­ gible if not completely non-existent (Ayoob, 1972, p. 39). Between 1948 and 1969, resources worth 2.6 billion dollars were transferred from East Pakistan to its Western Wing (Govt, of Pak., 1970 B) i.e., from less developed area to the more developed region. Its reversal would have hastened the process of national integration and provided a national tinge to country’s economic content. Economic Planning for this period was the “Planning for disparity” (Sengupta, 1971, pp. 79-101). The growth rate of GNP in Pakistan, during the sixties, rose

Tyranny Begets Resistance


by 5 per cent, which amounted to a buoyant economy—the highest rate in Asia. But this transfer of resources accumulated the nation’s economic wealth into a few non-Bengali hands which existed in West Pakistan. Pakistan’s economy, based on the “ Social utility of greed” (Papanek, p. 226), facilitated a free play of capitalistic instincts and the support of the government helped the convergence of the country’s total wealth into the “ top twenty-two families (which) controlled 66 per cent of industrial assets, 77 per cent of insurance funds and 80 per cent of bank assets” (Huq, 1968). These were the select business houses of Memons from Kathiawar and Kutch, chinioties from Punjab, Bohras, Khoja Inshari and Khoja Ismaili from Guajrat and Kathiawar. In 1956, the government issued 60 per cent of the total import licences to Karachi and left only 15 to 35 per cent for East Pakistan, which also went to the “ alien” capitalist houses (Lewis, 1970, pp. 150, 154-55) (Monopoly capital in East Pakistan was considered “ alien” ). Monopoly capitalism was impeding the growth of the industrial entrepreneur in the Eastern Wing which helped close the ranks between a potential exploiter and the exploited in the region. The per capita income of West Pakistan, which was 32 per cent higher than that of East Pakistan during 1956-60, had doubled the existing gap between the two wings during the next ten years and raised it to a level which was 61 per cent higher (Govt, of Pak., 1970 B). Conversely, the percentage of savings in the Eastern Wing which had a low per capita in­ come, exceeded that of the Western Wing. The gross private saving of East Pakistan in 1963-64 was 12.2 per cent of the region as private income; while, in West Pakistan, it ended up with 10.5 per cent only (Bergan, 1967, p. 86). During the period, between 1958 and 1968, West Pakistan’s exports amounted to 41 per cent of Pakistan’s total exports; but, their imports rose as high as 70 per cent of the total imports, carried out by both the wings. Exports from East Pakistan, during the same period, rose to 50 per cent of the total exports whereas their imports remained as low as 30 per cent of the country’s total imports (Govt, of India, Bangladesh Documents, p. 19). During the same period, 77 per cent of the development funds


Spotlight: Freedom Fighters o f Bangladesh

went to West Pakistan; East Pakistan’s share was only 23 per cent. The ratio of foreign exchange allocations for development purposes between the Western and Eastern Wing was 80:20 (Govt, of India, Bangladesh Documents, p. 19). Then, 66 per cent of American Economic Aid was allocated to West Pakistan and only 33 per cent went to the Eastern Wing (Govt, of India, Bangladesh Documents, p. 19). Of the economic aid, besides the American one, West Pakistan’s share rose to 96 per cent while East Pakistan was doled out only 4 per cent (Govt, of India, Bangladesh Documents, p. 19). Viewed from the angle of relative density of population, unbalanced living stan­ dards, economic resources and regional development of the two wings the allocation process should have been reversed. East Bengal’s land area of 4500 square miles was stuffed with 75 million people; whereas, in West Pakistan, 45 million people were spread over 310,000 square miles of land. Without regard to the living standards, economic resources and the regional development, West Pakistan was placed in an exceedingly enviable position. East Pakistan’s share of central revenue, as reflected in a report published by the Pakistan Government, was Rs. 1.5 per head; West Pakistan was receiving it at the rate of Rs. 32 per head. A British Economist, Commissioned by the Pakistan Government to report on the country’s industrial development, had suggested the development of East Bengal also. His report never saw the light of the day. East Pakistan’s balance of trade with the rest of the world was always favourable, i.e., export­ ing more than importing; but, with West Pakistan, it invari­ ably remained unfavourable. During 1964-67, exports from West Pakistan to East Pakistan amounted to Rs.5,292 million as against latter’s exports to West Pakistan worth Rs. 3,174 million (Govt, of India, Bangladesh Documents, p. 19). Thus, West Pakistan was utilising the foreign-exchange earnings of East Pakistan for its own industrial development. As an addi­ tional benefit, it also exploited the protected market o f East Pakistan to sell its goods at artificially inflated prices. Bhutto, disgusted with this process of “ intra colonial structure” in Pakistan, once lashed out at his country’s government (DAW N,

Tyranny Begets Resistance


16 Feb. 1971). He alleged that “such a process led to the development of inefficient industries located in West Pakistan, which thrived on the captured Bengali market” (Lewis, 1970, pp. 91-92 and 136-37). The interesting fact is that 40 per cent of West Pakistan’s total exports went to East Pakistan. During 1968-69, the West Wing’s exports to the Eastern Wing were 50 per cent higher than the imports of the former from the latter (Meson, p. 12). During the period, ranging from 1950 to 1969, a sixty per cent portion of the central-revenue expenditure was absorbed by Defence alone (Govt, of Pak., 1968-69, p. 43). Since 90 per cent of the defence expenditure and the bulk of expenditure absorbed by the civil administration was to be consumed by West Pakistan alone, East Pakistan received only . a small fraction of it (Govt, of Pak., 1968-69, p. 43). The Eastern Wing also suffered in the outlay of non-plan expendi­ ture which was meant for development purposes (Govt, of Pak., 1970-71, p. 177). On the agricultural front, the picture was all the more gloomy: 95 percent of tubewells and 80 per cent of tractors were located in Punjab alone (West Pakistan) (Nations, 1971, pp. 18-19). This accelerated a massive polarization of wealth within the provinces of the Western Wing. The rural boom in Punjab had largely benefited big land owners and kulaks (Nations, 1971, pp. 18-19). Paddy yield—Bengal’s staple food— was stagnating and the international prices of jute had sharply declined. This substantially increased the number of landless labourers in East Pakistan. During the 60s, East Pakistan’s per capita income of the agricultural population, at the 1959-60 price level (which was Rs.228 for the period ranging between 1949 and 1954), had drastically declined to Rs.198 during the period falling between 1964 and 1968 (Bose, 1968, pp. 452-88). The 1957 census of Pakistan’s manufacturing industries indicated that 75 per cent of large-scale industries were located in West Pakistan. There, cotton mills were expanding faster than the jute mills in East Pakistan. Basic chemicals, pharma­ ceuticals and cement industries were concentrated in the Western Wing; whereas, paper and allied products were left to be manufactured in East Pakistan. This situation was peculiar in itself. East Pakistan sharply


Spotlight: Freedom Fighters o f Bangladesh

reacted to this “intra-colonial structure” which had been devel­ oping since the day Pakistan came into being. The exploita­ tion by the new colonial masters who were ruling from Islamabad was particularly pinching the Bengali-Muslim middle class and the petty bourgeoisie. Consequently, the students formed the vanguard of the protest movements. The principal factors that contributed to the mustering of massive Bengali support for protest movements against every Pakistan government were three, (i) the migration of the offspring of middle class and surplus farmers to urban areas that constituted the urban population of East Bengal; (ii) urban people had an easy access to the countryside, and thus, maintained close links with it and, (iii) the conspicuous absence of a bourgeoisie class and big landlords that could serve as a potential indigenous exploiting class. All exploiters were non-Bengalis; therefore, they received the treatment of aliens. Their collaborators were labelled as “ stooges” and “ agents” . They lived as despicable wretches and were treated with contempt. Therefore, they were largely ineffective to influence a common Bengali. Thus, “ the absence of a strong and viable exploitative or potentially exploitative class and the initial emphasis on the independent personality of “ Muslim Bengal” (which was supposed to be above class-barriers) blurred class distinctions and helped in the consolidation of East Bengal’s protest movements in the hands of the Awami League and its partners in the U .F., at least in the first phase of this movement” (Ayoob, 1972, p. 51). Mr. Dhirendra Nath Dutta, a Bengali member of Pakistan’s Constituent Assembly, had proposed on 25 Feb. 1948, the use of the Bengali language along with Urdu in the Assembly’s proceedings. His proposal embodied the undercurrent of Bengali alienation from the concept of Pakistan. Responding to this proposal, an angry Liaquat Ali Khan, the then Prime Minister of Pakistan, had retorted: “ Pakistan is a Muslim State and it must have as its Lingua Franca the language of the Muslim nation. . . . It is necessary for a nation to have one language and the language can only be Urdu and no other language” (Govt, of Pak., 1948, pp. 15-17). This derogatory statement amply manifested the racial approach of the WestWing of Pakistan towards the Bengali population of East

Tyranny Begets Resistance


Bengal. Next month, Jinnah, as Governor General, addressed the convocation of Dacca University in Urdu out of sheer arrogance; since neither was he himself a scholar of Urdu nor was the language popular in East Bengal. Moreover, he auda­ ciously declared that Urdu was Pakistan’s national language. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, a student attending the convoca­ tion, sharply reacted to this declaration and demanded an honoured place for the Bengali language along with Urdu: he announced Bengali as the only language of Bengal. Later, on 11 March 1948, Sheikh Mujib, while leading a language de­ monstration in Dacca, was arrested. All these events exhibited a syndrome of Karachi’s xenophobia of its East Bengali popu­ lation. Bengali reaction to West Pakistan’s disdainful treat­ ment was also obvious. According to the 1951 Pakistan census, Bengali was the language of 54.6 per cent of the popu­ lation; while, Urdu obliged only 7.2 per cent of Pakistanis. A Bengali student, in order to qualify for a covetous job in Pakistan, had to learn Urdu as an additional language. Con­ sequently, he inevitably failed to match his counterpart in West Pakistan who, by virtue of his long residence in the Urdudominated Western Wing, was invariably well versed in the U rdu language. Demand for Autonomy As early as 24 Nov. Î950, thirteen Bengali members of the Muslim-League-Assembly Party, through a Joint statement, had demanded internal .autonomy for East Pakistan, in spite of it, in January 1952,Prime Minister Nazimuddin openly accep­ ted, in Dacca, Urdu as itfie only official language of Pakistan. His statement touched off a massive agitation of Bengali students in support of the Bengali language. A ruthless admi­ nistration, loaded with noil-Bengali officers, mercilessly crushed the Bengali sentiment. It killed (by firing) a number of Bengali students on 21 Feb. 195^. Since then, the day is cele­ brated as M artyr’s Day in East Bengal- Finally, the govern­ ment yielded to pressure and recognised Bengali at par with Urdu, at least in theory. A separatist trend in the Bengali population of Pakistan


Spotlight: Freedom Fighters o f Bangladesh

was evident since the very first year of its existence. Defections in the Muslim League, after 1947, had depleted its strength; which paved the way for the formation of the Awami League on 23 June 1949, in Dacca. The governments’ concessions to East Pakistan came late in the day to save Nurul Amin’s government of East Bengal. Elections to the Provincial Assem­ bly of East Bengal were due to be held in M arch 1954. Oppo­ sition parties in the province decided to form a United Front to fight the Muslim League jointly in the forthcoming elec­ tions. The Awami League’s election manifesto of 16 Nov. 1953 included four major demands concerning the popula­ tion of East Bengal. They were, the abolition o f the Zamindari system without compensation; nationalization of the jute and tea industries; complete regional autonomy; and, the recogni­ tion of Bengali as the official language. United F ront’s (U.F.) 21-point programme also contained all the demands of the Awami League. Directly aiming at parity with West Pakistan, this programme of March 1954 (Gupta, 1963, pp. 65-167) was the first charter representing the demands of/ Bengali Muslims. It served as the predecessor to the six-point programme of 1956 which was launched by Sheikh Mujibux Rahman. The 21-point programme of the United F ront had charac­ teristically reflected the economic, political, social and cultural climate permeating East Pakistan. A crisis of identity, faced by the Bengali community, was clearly evident. Certain demands demonstrated that poverty, staYvation and unemploy­ ment were rampant. It also exhibited th a t a rapid industrializa­ tion of the region, higher education and protection against natural calamities, such as flood and famine, was the need of the day. It manifested that striking social., economic and political disparities, the exploitation of labour and social injustice were in free play. An intense desire for d emocratic rights, freedom of the press, speech and association was written on the wall. People were demanding self sufficiency in defence. They sound­ ed a call to the administration to seek a people’s mandate. All this signified that the Bengali population was longing to throw away the yoke of Pakistan's exploitation. It was hell bent upon doing away with second-class citizenship.

Tyranny Begets Resistance


Political Impotence From the elections of March 1954 the United Front emerged with a redoubtable victory and routed the Muslim League wholesale. Nural Amid’s entire cabinet, including his noble self, was badly defeated. Thenceforward, the Muslim League ceased to dominate the politics of Pakistan. The Bengalis had voted for the 21-point programme; but the ruling clique, exploiting the heterogeneous character of the UF Ministry, succeeded in stemming the tide of the Bengali-autonomy move­ ment. The ministry was dismissed on flimsy grounds. Fazlul Haque and Suhrawardy had already compromised on the basic issue of autonomy. Maulana Bhashani was firmly approving the Pakistan Government’s leaings towards China, in 1960. Later, he himself led a delegation to that country in 1963. For these two political blunders the Bengali leadership had to pay dearly only a decade later. Both, China and the USA, vehe­ mently obstructed their liberation struggle in 1971. They blindly supported the military regime. Weapons of both were unabashedly used to smother their freedom struggle. Mao’s theory—‘-to rebel is justified; where there is oppression there will be resistance” (Subrahmanyam, 1972, p. 45) and the American democratic ideals ended in mockery. East-Bengali leaders, by towing the line of the Karachi coterie, had already shelved their 21-point programme in 1954. The Martial Law of 1958 further whittled away their revolutionary potential. Suhrawardy’s arrest on 30 Jan. 1962 pulled the stu­ dent community out to the political scene of East Pakistan. People ignored the Martial Law with impunity and launched a massive agitation in Dacca in the face of General Ayub Khan who was camping there. They dem anded,' besides the release of Suhrawardy, restoration of civil liberties and demo­ cratic rights. “ The students’ strike was an im portant land­ mark in the history of the Martial-Law regime. Political life in East Pakistan lay at a standstill since the advent of Martial Law. Now it seemed that the long spell of political inertia was broken** (Ray, 1968, p. 221).


Spotlight: Freedom Fighters o f Bangladesh

Revival of Political Parties With the revival of political parties there, in the early 60s, the Awami League, under Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, and the NAP, under Maulana Bhashani, began to emerge on the political scene of Pakistan. Suhrawardy died in 1963 at a hotel in Beirut. Fazlul Haque had already passed into political oblivion. Ayub’s “ constitutional autocracy” hurriedly created an electoral college of 80,000 Basic Democrats—40,000 in each wing for the presidency and the National and Provincial Assemblies (Sayeed, p. 101). In the elections of 1965, despite an organised rigging, General Ayub could muster only 53 per cent of votes from his 40,000 Basic Democrats who inhabited East Pakistan. Later on, these stooges also began to subscribe to the dissident-cause and demanded restoration of parliamen­ tary democracy. Realities of the Indo-Pak conflict of 1965 provided an indi­ cator to the people of East Pakistan. It dawned upon them that during difficult times they were defenceless. Bhutto’s agreement with China had placed their defence at the mercy of the Chinese Government. East Bengalis had begun to realise that during war they were expendable. It became evident that their interests were being sacrificed for the sake of Kashmir which was too distant and bore no strategic significance to them. The districts of West Pakistan were more populous than the whole of Kashmir. The 1965-conflict had crippled their fish trade also. Its export to India had been halted; therefore, the fish rotted in East Pakistan and, consequently, they had to import coal and cement from distant places. It reached their hands at exorbitant prices which involved heavy freight also* The war further alienated the Bengali Muslims from Islamabad. They revived their demand for autonomy. A feeling of defencelessness coaxed them into demanding an independent militia for East Pakistan. They also demanded an enhanced Bengali representation in the defence forces of Pakistan. Fed up by the treachery of the ruling coterie, Sheikh Mujib announced his six-point programme at a meeting of the opposition leaders in Lahore which was held in March 1960 (Rashiduzzaman, 1970, p. 583). The programme drew massive Bengali support. The first demand of the six-point

Tyranny Begets Resistance


programme envisaged a federated Pakistan in the true sense. The federation was to be based on the Lahore Resolution which formed the cornerstone for the foundation of Pakistan, a “ Magna Carta” for the people of Pakistan. Sheikh Mujib, thereby, warned the Pakistan-rulers and cautioned them to retrieve the betrayal which the Muslim League had committed in April 1946: The Bengali Muslims were deprived of independence, sovereignty and autonomy in East Bengal and only one independent state of Pakistan was demanded in contravention of the “ Lahore Resolution” . It had envisaged the establishment of two Muslim states in the Independent Indian Sub-continent. Here, Mujib’s arguments, justisying his economic demands, were remarkably impressive. He argued that a geographically divided Pakistan cannot have a single viable economy. To have complete control over econ­ omic resources, his province must have the power of taxation and a firm control over foreign-exchange earnings. His pro­ posed provisions about the currency were meant to effectively check the flight of capital from East Bengal to the Western Wing which would end their economic exploitation. An inde­ pendent militia and self-sufficiency in defence would reduce their state of defencelessness in times of war and, in turn, relieve the armed forces of Punjabi domination. Thus, the autonomy movement, in 1966, had gathered full momentum even in the face of Ayub’s threats. Despite the fact that the leadership of the Awami League had been incarcerated on 8 May 1966, the movement, during June, was in full swing. In a bid to exploit the absence of the Awami-League leaders in “Jail” and in an attempt to snatch the leadership of the move­ ment, the rival NAP announced a seperate 14-point pro­ gramme on 14 Aug. 1966. This programme also aimed at seek­ ing autonomy for East Bengal; but the lack of co-operation within the NAP rendered the initial momentum of the move­ ment largely infructuous. The Pakistan Government’s leanings towards China offered a substantial temptation to the radical element to subscribed to Ayub’s cause, more particularly after 1962. Maulana Bhashani even led a semi-official delegation to Peking in 1963. Hypontised by the Chinese flirtations, he began softpedalling towards the Ayub-regime during the


Spotlight: Freedom Fighters o f Bangladesh

period 1963-66. This substantially narrowed down the Maulana’s political base during the elections of 1970. The voluntary withdrawal of the NAP from the anti-Ayub agitation ostensibly paved the way for the unchallenged leader­ ship of the autonomy movement by Sheikh Mujib and his Awami League. The Awami League emerged as a party of mass appeal with an overtone of leadership which was spread amongst the lower middle class (Kamal, 1970, p. 49). During 1967-68, East Bengal kept seething with discontent. In 1969, the Eastern Wing got reactivated and spread the anti-Ayub agitation into West Pakistan also. The last attempt of the military regime to stigmatise Sheikh Mujib came in Jan. 1968. The government announced his trial along with 34 other Bengalis in the infamous “Agartala Conspiracy Case” . He was accused of sedition in allegedly conspiring with India to secede East Bengal from the fold of Pakistan. But his long internment, since 1966,. turned him into a martyr and an unchallenged leader of the Bengali cause and the autonomy movement. By that time, the movement came to assume the character of a national right to live honourably. Ayub’s serious illness, during Mar. 1968, further encour­ aged full-scale anti-Ayub urban agitation in West Pakistan that was at its apex in November of the same year. Its aim was to achieve long-denied political freedom. This agitation spread into East Bengal also. Both the wings joined hands to achieve fiscal and political autonomy. Both the movements got combined and, thus, reinforced each other. The popular outburst attained a high pitch and forced Ayub Khan out of the highest office. He yielded power to the waiting General Yahya Khan in March 1969. Meanwhile, East-Pakistan students and the All-Party Action Committee had also advanced its 11-point programme on 19 Feb. 1969 (Banerjee, p. 180). Its main demands were concerned with educational facilities, job opportunities, regidnal auto­ nomy, limiting powers of the federal government, nationalisa­ tion of banks, industries and insurance, tax-reduction, bonus to workers, protection against natural calamities, withdrawal of emergency laws, and release of prisoners arrested in the Agar­ tala Conspiracy Case. In these demands a longing for self-deter­

Tyranny Begets Resistance


mination was explicit. A clean administration, a hectic search for social and economic justice to workers, a craving for regional development, an independent foreign policy which was free from strings and a firm demand for national status to the Bengali language were evident. The crisis of identity amongst Bengali Muslims was clearly discernible. During the 60s, India’s emergence as a bastion of democracy whipped up a vociferous demand for a democratic apparatus for Pakistan also. The same restlessness is evident in the truncated Pakistan even today. Outlawed political parties as also pro­ fessional groups—particularly lawyers—have demanded resto­ ration of democracy and early elections (Times of India, 4 Sept. 1980). They are demanding also the removal of press censor­ ship and an early return to the civilian rule. Nine lawyers were arrested in Karachi for taking out a procession in brazen defiance of the martial law’s ban on public demonstrations. They were also accused of making anti-government speeches at a convention of lawyers which was held on 21 Aug. 1980 (Times of India, 22 Aug. 1980). Of late, two lawyers were jailed for making an anti-Zia speech in Lahore. They had criticised the military regime’s curtailing of judicial powers and demanded a return to consti­ tutional government during a convention of lawyers. The law­ yers agreed also to boycott courts for three hours on a Satur­ day to press their demands for the restoration of the consti­ tution (Times of India, 15 Oct. 1982). Then, 200 women took out an anti-martial law rally in Karachi on 10 Nov. 1982, which coincided with the “democracy day” , announced by the eight-party for the alliance which had eight parties when it launched movement on 14 Aug. 1983; it now has ten parties—with the Awami Tehriq joining it with strong roots among the peasants of Sind; and earlier the Pakistan National Party of Mir Ghous Bux Bizenjo (Reuter, 27 Jan. 1984) Movement Restoration of Democracy (MRD). The Women’s Action Forum, grouping several women’s organisations in Pakistan, expressed “utter horror” at a recent incident in which an infant was reportedly stoned to death outside a mosque in K arachi They lamented: “ Today those soulless purveyors of religion whose very presence would desecrate a mosque,


Spotlight : Freedom Fighters o f Bangladesh

cannot be allowed to take us back to an era of pre-lslamic slavery in the name of Islam” (Times of India, 13 Nov. 1982). In the end of Nov. 1982, Pakistani students fired at the police before being dispersed by teargas in Mardan town (Times of India, 29 Nov. 1982). Pakistan-student bodies have already formed an alliance on the call of the eightparty M RD in Pakistan. Six student organisations in the populus Punjab Province also formed a “ Democratic Students Alliance” . Lately, twenty opposition workers were arrested on 28 Nov. 1982, in Pakistan-administered Kashmir state for carrying black flags as a mark of protest when the state presi­ dent was about to arrive. General Zia has not formally extend­ ed martial law to the occupied territory. Administration also claimed that there was no ban on political activity in Pakoccupied Kashmir. Even then, Sardar Abdul Qayyum Khan, who heads the Azad Jammu and Kashmir Muslim conference and who was released for the meeting with General Zia, was rearrested; because, he returned from the General’s house with­ out seeing him on the eve of the General’s visit to Delhi. These leaders had contended that General Zia should not talk about a no-war pact with India without solving the Kashmir tangle (Times of India, 17 Nov. 1982). Lately, General Zia was report­ ed to be toying with the idea of holding elections on a nonparty basis in Mar. 1984 (The Muslim, Islamabad-English daily, 23 Oct. 1982). Explosion in Pakistan The five and a half month old anti-government campaign which was launched by the M RD at the mid-August o f 1983 in Pakistan and called off in the end of the year to demand the resignation of General Zia-ul-Haq, the President of Pakistan, and an immediate transfer of power to the elected representa­ tives of the people, symbolises a crisis of identity, more parti­ cularly in the Sind Province. It is reminiscent of the condi­ tions that led to the eventual liberation of Bangladesh in 1971. The situation reflects the power-relations among the army, the bureaucracy and the sullen populace of Pakistan, and reacts upon the power-relations from which it arose. This is an

Tryanny Begets Resistance


expression of the conditions in which the disease must be sought and which are but a symptom. Thus, a mutually agreed settelment of power is a pre-condition for bringing stability in Pakistan. Certain factors, such as the national oppressions in Sind and Baluchistan, numbness in the frontier and urban dissatisfaction in the Punjab have been evident for long. Behind the facade of stability the discontent had been simmering and the lid was abruptly blown off. This is the third such agitation in Pakistan. The first one, in 1968, dislodged General Ayub Khan and the second, in 1977, led to the overthrow of Mr. Bhutto. On both of these occasions, the army was reluctant to back either Ayub Khan or Bhutto. General Ayub Khan transferred power to the waiting General—Yahya Khan; whereas, Mr. Bhutto yielded power at gun point. Now, also, the issue has to be settled at the army headquarters in Islamabad. In the case of Bhutto, his populist slogan of “roti kapra our makan” (bread, clothing and shelter for all) and his anti-India tirade had put him on the crest of a wave of popularity. Then, the six-point autonomy movement of Sheikh Mujib-ur-Rahman had also stirred the imagination of the oppressed Bengalis of the erstwhile East Pakistan. As discussed elsewhere also, both the movements were reinforcing each other. Unfortunately for Mr. Bhutto, in 1977, he earned the wrath of his people by rigging the poll on an organised scale. The mosque also was firmly ranged against him. More than six years ago, General Zia had wrested power from Mr. Bhutto, the then Prime Minister of Pakistan, in a military coup, with a promise to hold free and fair elections within 90 days; but, said nothing how soon the martial law would be lifted or how his successor would be selected. He reneged from his initial pledge. Then he made a subsequent promise to hold elections as soon as the “ process of account­ ability” (doing away with Mr. Bhutto) was complete and a “ positive” outcome of the poll assured. What became of this promise also is well known within Pakistan and abroad. There­ fore, people, inside and out of Pakistan, do not take seriously his recent pronouncement to hold elections to the national and provincial assemblies by 23 Mar. 1985, and lift martial law


Spotlight: Freedom Fighters o f Bangladesh

after the “ restoration of democracy” in Pakistan. His con­ ception of Islamic order is too narrow to allow political parties to exist and he is determined to Islamise Pakistan to a point of no return; though, now he is reportedly prepared to allow all political parties, including the PPP, to participate in the elec­ tions provided they were registered with the election commission of Pakistan. This participation too is conditional on a decision yet to be taken by his government on whether the elections should go on party basis. Also, he is adamant on amending the suspended constitution of 1973 by fiat of presidential decree before handing over power to the civilians who could change or remove the amendment (PTI, 8 Feb. 1984). Zia’s New Framework Mars Independence Day Celebrations On 12 Aug. 1983, General Zia-ul-Huq, in order to assuage the hurt feelings of his people, announced a new political plan for Pakistan which would vest most of the powers in him after an election, with a subsequent move for non-party elections, at least for one term; though even now he says nothing about his own political plan. PTI reported: “he had no political ambitions ‘so far’ . . . only Allah (God) knows the future” (8 Feb. 1984). He was quiet about lifting restriction on political parties which he had imposed two years ago. He painstakingly clarified that there would be no referendum or vote on the new framework under the new dispensation. The President would be the supreme commander of the armed forces and would also appoint the service chiefs, the provincial governors and the prime minister—who will be a person holding majority in the national assembly. This touched off a political storm in Pakistan and violence marred the Independence-Day Celebrations on 14 Aug. (Times of India, 15 Aug. 1983). The opposition leaders termed it a ruse to decoy people, lead them along the garden path and perpetuate military rule. The setting up of the national security council, with three service chiefs on it, and assumption of the power of the supreme commander by the president indicated a shift towards a new constitutional role for the armed forces. Mr. Allama Eshan Ilahi, a leading religious scholar, charged

Trycmny Begets Resistance


that the very shift to presidential form of government was a negation of the constitution: General Zia had announced that he would make all the proposed change in the 1973-constitution. Mr. Farooq Leghari, the secretary of the PPP, is reported to have said in Lahore, that only an elected parliament could amend the constitution (UNI, 14 Aug. 1983). Within five and a half months of the M RD movement much has happened in Pakistan to push it to a brink of disaster. General Zia was not prepared to step down. The rebellion in Sind led to the massacre of 200 people in Sind villages at the hands of the army (Times of India, 27 Aug. 1983). Mrs. Nusrat Bhutto perceived a break up of Pakistan (1 Aug. 1983). There was a call for jihad (crusade) against the Zia Government (3 Sept. 1983). Exiled Pakistani leaders began to return home and the stir gained momentum. Hindus were arrested and flogged on charges of subversion (Times of India, 7 Sept. 1983). Women announced their intention to join the MRD stir and Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan—the Frontier Gandhi, a veteran freedom fighter—was arrested (Times of India, 10 Sept. 1983). Doctors appealed to the United Nations against flogging of the people on medical grounds. Mobs attacked garrisons in Sind (Times of India, 13 Sept. 1983) and the arrests by the M RD members became an evening ritual. The M RD stir entered its second phase when Pakistani agitators attacked offices and railways and Amnesty International was urged to probe atrocities in Sind (Times of India, 15 Sept. 1983). Pakistani journalists decried press censorship and more jurist-intellectuals backed the stir (14 Sept. 1983). The M RD decided to resort to economic sabotage and asked the officials to disobey orders of the military regime. The protestors rfesented flogging (5 Oct. 1983). Then, within a week, government buildings in Sind were attacked and General-Zia was served with an ultimatum to quit by 15 Oct. 1983. The unrest spread to Quetta and anti-Zia rallies rocked Lahore. The Armed forces personnel were kidnapped in Sind and the motorcade of the General was stoned. Pakistani agitators burnt oil-tankers, so also a US flag (Times of India, 10 Oct. 1983). During the next ten days, the oil pipe line in Pakistan was sabotaged, student-demonstrators in Sind were teargassed, freedom of the press was curtailed and the


Spotlight : Freedom Fighters o f Bangladesh

army carried out a systematic decimation of the unarmed and peaceful population of Sind. The houses of the agitators, in Sind, were burnt in army action and the political prisoners were shot dead in a jail in Hyderabad (Times of India, 10 Nov. 1983). The military regime used helicopters in a major offen­ sive against the MR D (Times of India, 20 Oct. 1983). The MRD decided to boycott any poll under the military regime and intensified the stir. It urged the NAM to “ bring political and moral pressure” on General Zia-ul-Haq to end “ genocide’' in Sind (Times of India, 22 Oct. 1983). A New York paper reported that the events in Sind had tarnished the image of General Zia. Intensive action against the M RD failed to curb Sind (Reuter, 30 Oct. 1983) and Pakistan reached the brink of a break up. Over 4000 agitators had been arrested (Times of India, 23 Oct. 1983). An exasperated General Zia accused the M RD of being in concert with the Soviet Russia and India who were allegedly behind the agitation (Times of India, 23 Oct. 1983). Though the agitation has been called off in favour of rallies and meetings, people are 'demanding immediate national elections, under the suspended 1973-constitution which provides for the parliamentary system of government. But, the Military Ruler is firm on holding non-party poll (Times o f India, 22 Nov. 1983). He wants to ban Bhutto’s party and shies away from the 1973-statute. He contends that a parliamentary system would not conform to an Islamic system which he is determined to enforce in his country. Thus, General Zia wants a negotiated settlement on his own terms and offer the least to the political parties which, contrarily, want a settlement on their terms and offer the least to him. There appears to be no hope for a rapprochement. Rather, there is hardly any common ground between the two contenders except on ending the martial law. The General stands fast by his 12-August proposals which offer minimal democracy; the M RD wants the restoration of the suspended constitution. The military regime is firm on its proposal of holding elections by Mar. 1985; the MRD wants' elections in the manner held in Pakistan so far. General Zia is for the non-party elections with disqualification of some of the leaders

Tryanny Begets Resistance


and new qualifications for others. The MRD wants ban on political parties and the restrictions on political activity to be lifted; but, the General is not agreeable to that; he is adamant on non-party elections. He is reluctant to lift press censorship also. In the end of Jan. 1984, Miss Benazir Bhutto left Pakistan dramatically after a detention of 34 long months for the treat­ ment of her critical left ear ailment, in London. She was allegedly woken up from slumber around one, in the night, provided with a passport and an air ticket, put on board a Swiss Airliner and sent off without the knowledge of any of her relations except her younger sister who accompanied her. The manner in which she was shunted out signifies a departure from the hitherto rigid policy o f the Pakistan Government towards the Ten-party Movement for the Restoration of Democracy and its struggle for ending the martial law in Pakistan. This is likley to facilitate a second round of talks with the M RD leaders. Many political leaders, outside the pale of People’s Party, had felt the presence of Begum and Miss Bhutto within the country not conducive to any kind of compromise with the military regime due to their rigid opposition to General Zia. The “ mother and daughter were a hindrance in the govern­ ment’s way towards the restoration of democracy” . Since they were a stumbling block for a negotiated settlement of the six and half years old political statemate, their exit has been widely hailed. Some political leaders had hoped th at if Miss Bhutto could be set free to go abroad for treatment, other leaders under detention could also be released. Then they could meet and find a compromise formula (Times of India, 30 Jan. 1984). But, “ General Zia is in no hurry to release the detained political leaders” (Times of India, 22 Jan. 1984). With her departure the future set-up of the PPP now hangs in balance. Begum Bhutto—the widow of the executed prime minister of Pakistan, Mr. Zulfikar All Bhutto—is already out o f Pakistan for the treatment of cancer; the nominated senior vice-president of the party—the leftist Sheikh Rashid—too is in London after his treatment in Bulgaria, and most of the members of the steering committee are in jail. Then also, Miss Bhutto’s call for provincial autonomy and economic


Spotlight: Freedom Fighters o f Bangladesh

equality, which is the clear outcome of the struggle in Sind, the home province of the Bhutto family, and the increasing demand for fuller and effective autonomy in Sind and Baluchistan is a new strain in her voice. After the withdrawal of the Agartala Conspiracy Case, Sheikh Mujib represented East Bengal at a Round Table 'Con­ ference (RTC) in Mar. 1969. Here, General Ayub Khan agreed to restore parliamentary democracy based on universal adult franchise; but, three issues were left to be decided by the national legislature which was to be formed after the com­ pletion of elections. These three issues were: (i) provincial autonomy; (ii) representation at the national legislature; and (iii) one-unit Pakistan. Universal adult franchise would mean an equal number of representatives from both wings. A t that stage, West-Pakistan politicians gave a cold shoulder to Sheikh Mujib in his struggle for achieving other demands. Their singular demand had already been conceded. Thus, the govern­ ment temporarily succeeded in neutralising Bengali pressure for attaining regional autonomy. Even at that stage, M ujib’s commitment to Pakistan’s integrity and unity was sincere and total. He had boldly declared at the end of the RTC “ Let us strive together to lift our beloved Pakistan out of the tragic situation in which she is placed . . . Only this strong and united Pakistan can face the future with hope and confidence. Pakistan Zindabad” (Dawn, 14 Mar. 1969). The cold res­ ponse of West-Pakistan leaders to Mujib’s unfulfilled demands forced the policies of the two wings into two independent streams. The opportunistic approach of West-Pakistan leaders pro­ voked a storm of protest in East Bengal which brought forth their 11-point programme which was more radical in its econo­ mic and foreign-policy content than the one proposed by the Awami League. The student movement was drifting left. The agitation was fast spreading to the countryside also which fur­ ther deteriorated the law and order situation in East Pakistan. Manhandling and killing of the regime’s collaborators and destruction of their property was abundantly reported. In North Bengal, peasants stopped all payments due to the government. Some of the villagers elected people’s courts to try local “ evil

Tyranny Begets Resistance


gentry” . About a dozen revenue officers, bureaucrats and basic democrats were tried and executed (Ali, 1970, p. 213). Govern­ ment controlled media deliberately exaggerated the gravity of the law and order situation so that the government got an opportunity to reimpose Martial Law. The military regime was helfc-bent upon resisting the Bengali demand for political and fiscal autonomy at any cost. Its acceptance would blow off Pakistan’s political structure. The vested interests associated themselves with it. The theory behind declining this demand was based upon the paramountcy of the permanent executive over the representative institutions, army’s fiscal autonomy and the West-Wing’s predominance over East Pakistan. General Yahya Khan reimposed Martial Law on 25 Mar. 1969. He quickly announced his decision to head an interim government which would function until the “ creation of condi­ tions conducive to the establishment of a constitutional govern­ ment” (Dawn, 27 Mar. 1969). He promised also to honour Ayub’s word which granted the principle of “ one-man-onevote” and the restoration of parliamentary form of government. Simultaneously, he suspended all political activity, not political parties—“ till tempers cooled down” . He also promised to hold early elections; but side by side, played mischief by instigating West-Wing politicians to demand the revival of the 1956-consti­ tution. That ensured the principle of parity between the two wings with regard to the national assembly. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman rejected this claim outright and demanded a new constitution which would be based on his six-point programme and the 11-point programme of the Students Action Committee (SAC). On 22 June 1969, he demanded immediate arrange­ ments to hold elections, based on the principle of universal adult franchise and representation on the basis of population (Dawn, 23 June 1969). Yahya Khan’s announcement of 28 Nov. 1969, dissolving one-unit Pakistan, accepting the principle of universal adult franchise and leaving the autonomy issue to the National-cumConstituent Assembly (Dawn, 29 Nov. 1969), and also lifting the ban imposed on political activity from January 1970, partly assuaged Bengali sentiment which had been deeply mauled by the lukewarm response of West-Pakistan leaders to their auto­


Spotlight : Freedom Fighters o f Bangladesh

nomy demand. This temporarily prevented a political convul­ sion in East Pakistan. It also ensured them a permanent majo­ rity in the national legislature; although the break up of oneunit Pakistan had considerably reduced the West Wing’s support for their autonomy demand. According to the calcu­ lations of the military regime the long cherished Beflfali ambition to form a government at the centre was surely to be frustrated. This estimate had originated from the assumption that bickerings between the Awami League and the NAP would negate any possibility of securing a clear majority for any single political party and the rightist parties would bag an appreciable quantity of seats. Therefore, in the regime’s reckon­ ing, East Bengal was to project a fragmented post-election political picture. Any coalition of the Awami League and the West-Wing was a remote possibility. Professor G.W. Choudhary,a Bengali by birth and Yahya’s Constitutional Adviser, declared on 10 Sept. 1970, while address­ ing the Pakistan Society in London (only 3 months before the commencement of the elections) that no single political party of Pakistan, either from the East-Wing or from the West-Wing, was likely to emerge with a clear majority. East-Pakistan mem­ bers also could not form a single group in confrontation and if, that came, it would spell an end to the State of Pakistan (Mascarenhas, 1972, p. 57). But* his assessment went wrong. General Yahya Khan, on 10 Dec. 1970, was facing a National Assembly which was loaded by the Awami League and domi­ nated by the Bengali majority. This Assembly challanged the very existence of a political system and the power structure of Pakistan that had been continuing since its creation, in 1947. The General, at that time, happened to head it as the Commander-in-Chief, the chief Martial Law Administrator and the President of Pakistan. Legal Framework Order On 30 Mar. 1970, General Yahya Khan released his LFO (Legal Framework Order) (Badruddin, 1970, pp. 118-130) governing the rule of elections. According to it, all consti­ tutional documents of the National Assembly were required to

Tyranny Begets Resistance


obtain the General’s authentication which, if not accorded, would automatically dissolve the National Legislature. Also, the President’s interpretation of the LFO was final and beyond the jurisdiction of all law-courts. Powers to amend the LFO lay with the President exclusively. The LFO also entailed the framing of a constitution by this Assembly within a spell of two months after it met, failing which the Assembly would stand dissolved and pave the way for fresh elections. Thus, the LFO formalised him as the supreme arbiter of the country’s constitutional future and accorded him tremendous discretionary powers, more especially, through its two provisions, viz., Nos. 25 and 27. They were related to fundamental principles, the preamble and the directive principles of state’s policy which were to be incorporated in the future constitution. Evidently, the regime had already decided upon all vital issues, including the constitutional provisions except, of course, the extent of provincial autonomy. This response of the military regime fairly satisfied the agi­ tated Bengali population; but, Mujibur Rahman and Bhutto particularly criticised the two provisions of the LFO. They were the provisions which dealt with its authentication and with the President’s reserved right to interpretation. Still, Mujibur Rahman announced his party’s decision to contest elections under the LFO because it tended to accord referen­ dum to his six-point programme for regional autonomy (Morning News, 26 Oct. 1970). The military regime failed to assess the rising tide of Bengali resentment which emanated from their “ economic sterility and political impotence” . The 1970-election-results proved to be a virtual no-confidence in the Martial Law government. The rightist parties lost because of their damaged image amongst the people who were convin­ ced that they had been maintaining close links with the Islama­ bad establishment. Since these elections took the tinge of a clear referendum, the Awami League which was leading the “ National Movement” , dominated the voting pattern. The nationalist sentiment blurred all class distinctions for the time being. On the contrary, the NAP (Muzaffar), due to its image as redundant in the politics of East'Pakistan and the Bhashani group which had lost its former shape due to its inter­


Spotlight: Freedom Fighters o f Bangladesh

nal bickerings and factionalism, suffered a crushing defeat. The state of the leftist element which was rife in East Bengal, at that time, was “For the present the radicals are working with— and no doubt believe they are working through—Sheikh Mujibur Rahman” (Financial Times, 1 Dec. 1970). On 2 Nov. 1970, a devastating cyclone had hit the coasts of East Bengal and killed over a million people. Pakistan’s Central Government showed callous indifference in providing urgent relief measures. It occurred at a momentous hour when decisive elections were in the offing. This finally uprooted any remaining Bengali faith in Islamabad and its ruling coterie. The Awami League was out to make political capital out of human misery. The Financial Times, 1 Dec. 1970, had repor­ ted that “ in the most dramatic and momentous form, the failure or inability of the centre to respond quickly, demonstrably and efficiently to the East-Wing’s needs has confirmed the entire argument of Bengali separation” . Consequently, Mujibur Rahman, on 26 Nov. 1970, berated the Central Government, the bureaucracy, the defence services and the West-Wing politicians for their criminal apathy towards East Bengal at such a crucial moment. He lamented the absence of urgent relief and rescue operations that pushed thousands of Bengali survivors into the jaws of death. A large number of them died due to starvation, exposure and lack of medical attention. The navy failed to rescue thousands who were being swept into the sea. British Marines were obliged to bury these dead at Patuakhali. He rapped West-Pakistan poli­ ticians the “ pillars of national integration” , the “ self-appointed apostles of Islam” —Maulana Maududi, Khan Abdul Qayum Khan, Mian Mumtaz Daultana, Nawabzada Nasrullah Khan who could find no time to extend sympathy and succour to the Bengali survivors. Still, his accusations ended with an optimistic note: he emphasised that power must be won by people either through elections which, if aborted, then, through the strength of an awakened people. He declared that Bangladesh could no more be denied autonomy. “ Bangladesh is now awake” (Morning News, 27 Nov. 1970). His speech reflected the Bengali mood. Election results also strengthened this assumption. A Daily, from Dacca, observed

Tyranny Begets Resistance


that Mujib was a “ phenomenon” rather than a mere political leader. He represented a certain mood of the people of East Pakistan (Pakistan Observer 10 Dec. 1970). As a result of these elections, the Awami League grabbed 72.6 per cent of the total votes cast, bagging 160 out of 162 seats contested in East Pakistan. It acquired a total strength of 169 out of 313 seats in the National Assembly and enjoyed a comfortable majority of 53 per cent in the constituent body of Pakistan. The 1970-election-results clearly established the triumph of geography over history (Pakistan Observer, 10 Dec. 1970). It represented the victory of dissidents over the establishment (Pakistan Observer, 10 Dec. 1970) at Islamabad and “dramatised the ssemingly unbridgeable differences between the two halves of the country” (Dawn, 12 Dec. 1970). A stage had, thus, been set up where the Awami League’s absolute majority in the National Assembly threatened to destroy the very fabric of Pakistan’s power structure for the first time since its birth, in 1947. This majority directly provoked the regime’s reaction in March 1971. Until Ayub’s exit in 1969, the army’s involvement in national politics had remained only covert and minimal; but, with Yahya’s advent the army changed itself from the position of a “bureaucratic military to a military-bureaucratic one” (Ayoob, 1972, p. 94). It established the military junta as the new real boss of Pakistan. Yahya Khan’s pronouncements were similar to those of his predecessor. During Yahya K han’s regime the involvement of the military elite in the country’s civil affairs had increased markedly. Yahya himself owed his highest seat of power to the army alone. Only two civilians—M.M. Ahmed, the President’s Economic Adviser, and Rizvi, the Director, Civil Intelligence Bureau—could ably succeed in winning the confidence of the military regime. Their existence also hung by a slender thread of the general’s pleasure. General Yahya Khan’s inner circle (the country’s decision-making apparatus) was formed, beside Yahya Khan, by six more generals; whereas the Naval and Air Force Commanders-in-Chief, along with provincial military governors, constituted his outer-circle (Mascarenhas, 1972, pp. 83-84). This brought into play the element of collective partici­ pation in the process of decision-making. It implied a collec-


Spotlight: Freedom Fighters o f Bangladesh

tivc responsibility for collective guilt and then bearing the consequences collectively. Also, it adorned Yahya Khan as an “ egalitarian” . Therefore, his brutal crack down, in Mar. 1971, was essentially a logical step that followed the militariza­ tion of Pakistan’s administration. As the threat to the system escalated, following the elections of Dec. 1970, so did the response to that threat (Ayoob, 1972, p. 95). Pakistan’s political structure, since 1947, had been charac­ terized by three basic assumptions which formed a triangle and complemented each other. They were:, (i) the dominance of West Pakistan, especially the Punjabi element, over its Eastern Wing; (ii) the supremacy of the permanent executive over representative institutions; and (iii) the army’s financial auto­ nomy. The Awami League’s post-election position directly threatened all the three basic assumptions. Bangabandhu— Sheikh Mujib, the only charismatic leader of the time, with the people’s verdict in hand, would not dilute his six-point programme for a compromise formula: his party had contested elections on the basis of his six-point programme. Maulana Bhashani, interpreting this victory as a vote for independence and emboldened by the people’s mandate, demanded of Yahya Khan a referendum for an autonomous state in East Pakistan, as was envisaged in the “ Lahore Resolution” (Pakistan Obser­ ver, 19 Dec. 1970). On 19 Dec., Sheikh Mujib announced the non-feasi­ bility of any constitution except on the basis of his six-point programme (Dawn, 20 Dec. 1970). Responding to M ujib’s insistence on a new constitution which should be based on his six points, M r Bhutto, the Chairman of the People’s Party of Pakistan, retorted, on 19 Dec. 1970, “neither a constitution could be framed nor even a government at the centre could be run without the co-operation of his party” . He was not prepared to occupy opposition benches in the national legislature. In his opinion, majority or alone did not count in national poli­ tics: after all, his PPP had won a thumping majority in the bastions of power (Pakistan Times, 21 Dec. 1970) in Pakistan, i.e., Sind and Punjab. Angry Tajuddin Ahmed, the general secretary of the Eastern Wing of Awami League, publicly retorted, two days later, that the people’s struggle had been

Tyranny Begets Resistance


against such “bastions of power” . The Awami League, with an absolute majority and a clear electoral mandate in hand, was quite competent to frame a constitution and form the central government (Pakistan Observer, 22 Dec. 1970). Exploiting the existing polarisation of political forces be­ tween the two Wings of Pakistan, the regime shifted its strategy. The PPP’s victory in the West Pakistan was tending to under­ mine the Awami League’s victory in the Eastern Wing. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was neither in a position to swim against the tide of the autonomy demand nor did the changed political environment in West Pakistan leave any room for the Awami League to seek a satisfactory fulfilment of Bengali demands, since the transfer of power, based on six points, would spell a drastic alteration in the inter-wing equation of West Pakistan’s dominance over East Bengal. It would thus mean a diffused Indo-Pakistan situation, and a cut in army’s powers, that would never suit either the military regime or Mr. Bhutto or even We3t Pakistan’s population. Therefore, the dismemberment of the country, through a confrontation between the Awami League and army, would ideally project Bhutto as the unchal­ lenged leader of West Pakistan. In mid-January, General Yahya Khan branded Mujib as Pakistan’s future Prime Minister (Pakistan Observer, 15 Jan. 1971). But, within three days, he changed his stance and remarked that the people had given their decision in favour of the majority parties (Dawn, 18 Jan. 1971)—i.e., the Awami League and the PPP. Thus, during the initial phase of the confrontation with the Eastern Wing, the interests of both (General Yahya Khan and Bhutto), converged and coincided. Therefore, Yahya Khan announced his inability to convene a session of the National Assembly. The flimsy pretext was the lack of political understanding between the majority parties (Awami League and PPP) over the constitution. The aim was the pressurising of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman to dilute his d e­ mands and compromise on his six-point programme. Yahya Khan, on the strength of the emergence of PPP as the majority party in West Pakistan, favoured it as a right to veto every constitutional formula. This amounted to counter-balancing the Awami League’s majority in the national legislature.


Spotlight: Freedom Fighters o f Bangladesh

Abortive discussions, between Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Bhutto, over the constitutional issues, further widened the existing gulf between the two leaders. It sharpened their diffe­ rences. At the end of parleys, Bhutto declared: “ Since the ques­ tion is of making a constitution and our geographical position is peculiar the majority adopting the constitution should include a consensus” (Pakistan Times, 31 Jan. 1971). This characteristic demand guaranteed Bhutto the Prime Ministership of Wes* Pakistan. That peculiar geographical position had not grown peculiar overnight; rather, it had been conti­ nuing for the previous 23 years. But strangely enough, its realisation dawned on Bhutto so late, and Bhutto’s response to the Awami League’s demand for convening a National Assembly before 23 Feb. 1971, found him on platter an opportunity to whip up hate-India campaign in the case of the two Kashmiri Hijackers of an Indian Airline’s Fokker Friend­ ship plane, at Lahore. When it suited the military junta, these hijackers were quickly transformed from “ heroes” into “ Indian agents” . The blowing up of this plane obliged the military regime to pursue a policy of “continuous confronta­ tion” with India and, thus, divert public attention from consti­ tution-framing to a hate-India campaign. Mujib deplored the incident and rebuked the Pakistan Government for its inability to avert that ugly occurrence. But, Bhutto defended the action of the hijackers. Therefore, this situation represented the diametrically—opposite individual stands and attitudes of the two national leaders towards the military regime, so also to the issue of an early transfer of power to the elected represen­ tatives of the people. Mujib, disgusted by the delay in convening the National Assembly, declared on 9 Feb. 1971, that the politics of Pakitstan was that of conspiracy and intrigue. But, since the Bengalis had learnt to shed their blood, none could stop them any more. “ We must frame the constitution on the basis of six points” (Dawn, 10 Feb. 1971). On 13 Feb. 1971, when Yahya Khan announced his decision to • convene the National Assembly’s inaugural session on 3 Mar. 1971, Bhutto, on the strength of his previous day’s lengthy meeting with President Yahya Khan, at Rawalpindi,

Tyranny Begets Resistance


declared at a cocktail party, in Peshawar: “ Bhutoo is once again in the saddle. It has been decided by the powers that Mujib is out. I am to be the Prime Minister” (Mascarenhas, 1972, p. 75). On 15 Feb. 1971, members of the National and Provincial Assemblies and those of the Awami League reaffirmed, in Dacca, their firm conviction in the faithful pursuance of the six-point programme. The same day, Mr. Bhutto declared his party’s intention to boycott the inaugural session, if a credible guarantee of reciprocity was not provided to his party. He announced in public: “ we can’t go there only to endorse the constitution already prepared by a party and to return humi­ liated. If we are not heard and even reasonable proposals put by us are not considered I do not see the purpose to go there” (Dawn, 16 Feb. 1971). This meant a compromise on the basic principles—the six points—on the part of the Awami League. The League, on its part, could not digest this challenge as it was directed against the Bengali population. On 17 Feb. 1971, Mr. Bhutto repeated his decision of boy­ cotting the Assembly Session and proposed a provision of two separate Prime Ministers, one for each wing for the geogra­ phically-divided Pakistan, with General Yayha Khan as Presi­ dent (Times of India, 18 Feb. 1971). About a week later, Sheikh Mujib retorted: “ the fate of 120 million people was too serious a matter to be trifled wit h” . It was time to call a halt to the kind of political histrionics which the nation had been made to witness during the past week. An artificial crisis had been deliberately fabricated in order to sabotage the framing of the constitution by the elected representatives of people and the consequent transfer of power to them. The Awami League, mindful of its responsibility to the people of Pakistan, the majority of whom it represented, had, thus far, deliberately maintained silence, since it wished to avoid poisoning the atmosphere by bitter controversy (Pakistan Times, 25 Feb. 1971). He also clarified that the Awami League fully understood the geographical compulsions of the Western Wing and would not impose its six-point formula in their decision of the independent federal relationship with the Centre (Pakistan Times, 25 Feb. 1971). Meanwhile,


Spotlight: Freedom Fighters o f Bangladesh

West-Wing politicians were making all out efforts to persuade Bhutto to attend the session and avert any crisis over this issue. But, the military regime was bent upon blasting the inaugural session. Bhutto had been trying all possible tricks to prevent West-Wing members from attending the assembly. Even General Umar was reported to have personally pressur­ ised many West-Pakistan members to abstain from attending the National Assembly Session (Govt, of India, Bangladesh Documents, p. 293). Still 36 members, from West Pakistan, had arrived in Dacca by 1 Mar. 1971. General Yahya Khan dissolved his civilian cabinet on 21 Feb. 1971, and got his “ Operation Genocide” approved by his outer-circle at a meeting in Rawalpindi, the same day. The postponement of the National Assembly’s inaugural session, which was scheduled for 3 Mar. 1971, was also approved at the same meeting. Both of these Yahya Khan’s proposals had already been cleared by his inner-circle. The Governor of East Pakistan, Admiral A.M. Ashan and its Martial Law Adminis­ trator, Lt.-Gen. Sahabzada Yaqub Khan, (now, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister), had strongly opposed the postponement and warned that it would create an unmanageable situation which was fraught with the most dangerous consequences. Owing to their long residence in East Bengal they had already assessed the intensity of Bengali reaction. But they were *overruled and were to be abruptly relieved of their portfolios on 2 Mar. 1971 (Mascarenhas, 1972, p. 85). Emboldened by the unflinching support of the military junta, Bhutto, on 28 Feb. 1971, threatened to launch a popu­ lar agitation throughout the country. Also, he threatened to have a general strike from Peshawar to Karachi if the inau­ gural session was held on 3 Mar. without his party’s partici­ pation. He suggested either to postpone the National Assem­ bly’s session or abrogate the provision which limited the framing of the constitution within two months’ time; otherwise, “ that would mean the end of democracy in the country” (Pakistan Times, 1 Mar. 1971). Bhutto’s stratagem provided the ruling coterie with a ready lever to postpone convening of the National Assembly sine die. “ Three hawks thumped Yahya’s table to postpone convening of the National Assembly indefi­

Tyranny Begets Resistance


nitely” (Kaul, 1971, p. 254). These three hawks, among the top brass of the army, were Lt.-Gen. Peerzada, Lt.-Gen. Gul Hasan and Maj.-Gen. Akbar Khan (Kaul, 1971, p. 254). The trio, backed by the firm assurance of Chinese support, went crazy to adopt extreme measures to crush the democratic movement in East Bengal. Next day, General Yahya Khan broadcast to the nation that a political confrontation between the leaders of both wings of Pakistan had created a “ most regrettable situation” by declaring to boycott the National Assembly’s inaugural session, on 3 Mar. 1971. Besides that, the tension, created by India, had further complicated the whole situation. There­ fore, in line with the changed environment, he had decided to postpone the summoning of the National Assembly to a later date. He announced that for a viable and healthy constitution, both East and West Pakistan must have an adequate sense of participation in the process of constitution-framing (Morning News, 2 Mar. 1971). This broadcast brought many factors into the forefront. Yahya Khan was adamant on not accord­ ing authentication to the National Assembly’s proceedings for framing the future constitution, unless the PPP, “ the majority party of (West) Pakistan” , was placed in a position where it could effectively influence that process. By induction, it amounted to a grant of veto to Mr. Bhutto over the Assem­ bly’s proceedings and also a provision of a counter-vailing power to neutralise the Awami League’s absolute majority in the National Assembly. The Party had so assiduously muster­ ed the support of the non-PPP members o f . West Pakistan; it was being squandered. Yahya Khan’s total leanings on the India bogey were obvious. He was exploiting the sky-jacking event and exag­ gerating India’s refusal to permit Pakistan-overflights to the extent of frustrating a transfer of power to the Awami League. By his pronouncements, he amply demonstrated that Bengalis would not be allowed to rule at the centre. Thus, the Awami League’s majority in the national legislature was thrown to the winds and their six-point programme pushed into oblivion. At that critical juncture, Sheikh Mujib was inclined to accept even a loose federation. He wanted to maintain the unity of


Spotlight: Freedom Fighters o f Bangladesh

Pakistan at any cost. But, the Bengali population took it as a breach of faith and “ the supreme act of treachery” . To them, it meant a “ stab in back” . The crowd went hysteric and express­ ed its frustration in violent demonstrations in Dacca which, later, spread throughout East Bengal. Clashes between Bengalis and police, even army, were abundantly reported from several placeis, in East Pakistan. All were out to seek “ self-determination” —nothing short of independence. The entire Bengali population of Pakistan plunged into a struggle for liberation. General Yahya Khan was known for his toughness. He unleashed upon the alleged Bengali separatists a regin of terror on 25 Mar. 1971, and arrested the most powerful Bengali leader, the Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. The response was a Bengali guerilla movement—harassing Yahya’s East Pakistan troops, a flow of refugees into India from East Pakistan and, finally, the war with India. The administration’s failure to deal effectively with the frustrations of Bengalis, who regarded them­ selves as exploited by the West Pakistan, was nowhere so explicit as in East Pakistan. The crisis saw Pakistan’s dissident Eastern Wing break away to become the independent state of Bangladesh. The events of 1971, that occurred in East Bengal, disproved the basic premise and the ideological motivation of Pakistan. “ The developments in Bangladesh have not only challenged the two-nation theory of Jinnah and other communalists who were in league with imperialists. It has now posed a challenge to the revolutionary commitment of the Chinese leadership (Subrahmanyam, 1972, p. 44), which unhesitatingly brand­ ed Sheikh Mujib as a “ bourgeois nationalist” leader (Subrahamnyam, 1972, p. 43). In their eyes, Sheikh Mujib had failed to measure up to the revolutionary concepts of Chinese ideology. Much later, in Aug. 1978, General Yahyy Khan confessed (Times of India, 29 Aug. 1978) that West Pakistan had been exploiting East Bengal for decades; seeds of the break up had existed at the time of creation of Pakistan in 1947; the situa­ tion was worsened by the West-Pakistani officers, posted in East Bengal; Bhutto had approached him to suggest not to hold elections so that both could rule Pakistan. Bhutto implor­

Tyranny Begets Resistance


ed upon Yahya: “ Please, you stay in power. Do not hold elec­ tions. You be the military arm and I will be the political arm of the country, and thus we together can rule for years” (Times of India, 29 Aug. 1978); but, Yahya Khan allegedly declined this offer “in the larger interest of the country” . Like an ard­ ent patriot he held elections; because, in his opinion, it was for the civilians to rule the country and not for the army. But, in practice, the matter was altogether different. When he assumed Presidency, in 1969, he promised to transfer power to the elected representatives of the people after "bringing sanity” to Pakistan which had been torn by widespread disturbances occurring throughout the country. Yahya Khan, instead of honouring the people’s verdict, made all-out efforts to stick to power like an autocrat. His ambition made him blind to the innate strength of Bengali democratic aspirations. He denied elected representatives their democratic right to rule Pakistan. Rather, he reasserted himself and led the nation to a civil war and then to its ultimate dismemberment.


1rhe Basic Concepts Shamelessly attack the weak; Shamelessly fly from the strong. Th


J eune

E cole

A systematic study of any guerrilla movement is hampered by the fact that the guerrilla has not been a subject of established academic studies. Whenever studied, it never stretched over such a long period as might suffice to project a complete pic­ ture of reasonably unalterable fundamental tenets. In the absence of a solid foundation of basic tenets one cannot confi­ dently apply them to the study of a movement. So much of confusion prevails around the fundamental doctrines of guerrilla warfare that anything from street violence to regular army’s operations, conducted in the enemy’s rear, has been termed as guerrilla warfare. N ot only that, even the meaning of guerrilla warfare has been variously interpreted and used by a large number of freelance writers whose works often look more like a journalistic narrative rather than any serious study of a general planning of war operations. Usages like social conflict, resistance, irregular war, commando operations, partisan war are all taken to mean Guerrilla warfare whether they contain a war element in them or not. Guerrilla warfare becomes a subject of «‘frequent misuse” even in “ military parlance” . It is too often used as a general term to describe any form of bold and unorthodox tactics even in training manuals and official publications (Palit, 1970, pp. 152-153). Guerrilla tactics by regular troops in war are often confused with pure guerrilla operations. A foreign power invading a country and using long-range columns to disrupt communications in depth are not guerrilla

The Basic Concepts


operations, but guerrilla tactics, adopted by regular forces (Bhagat, 1967, p. 127). Therefore, a conscious attem pt has been made in this chapter to describe those fundamental concepts of guerrilla operations that have been used in the study of this movement. The description has been based on those studies of guerrilla operations which were carried out scientifi­ cally by the students of Military Science and not by those freelancers who followed only a journalistic approach o r the approach of some other discipline. Goerrilla Operations in Perspective Guerrilla warfare is essentially a weapon of civilians, and not highly trained regular soldiers who have been taught to adhere to certain guiding principles of warfare. Guerrillas are free men who arm and organise themselves into guerrilla bands. Their arming and organising is entirely different from that of regular armed forces. Clausewitz terms this guerrilla activity as “arming the nation". Guerrillas can be recruited from the ranks of any and every occupation. Guerrilla war is also called irregular war. A guerrilla has been defined as a social reformer; a crusader for people’s freedom, "who after exhausting peace­ ful means resorts to armed rebellion” . He fights “ little” wars and directly aims at destroying an “ unjust social order” ; indirectly, he aims at replacing it with something new. There­ fore, guerrilla warfare is a social phenomenon. Commando operations are distinctly different from guerrilla warfare. They are launched by special assault troops and teams of sabotage squads that are especially created for this purpose out of regular-army units. The aim of these operations is to attack and surprise the enemy, particularly at night. Regular soldiers, employing guerrilla methods of fighting, comprise commandos. Guerrilla war is used during peace time also. When an enemy, during war, is expected to occupy certain home territory and then try to annex it to his own areas, guerrilla war is organised in that area, during the peace time. During peace, guerrilla warfare is also a powerful instrument of statecraft. Communist parties are using guerrilla warfare to exert pressure


Spotlight: Freedom Fighters o f Bangladesh

on bourgeoisie governments. The Chinese are reported to have been employing it for subversion in India (Nagaland, Mizoram, Naxalbari, etc.) and Africa. The Bengali population of erst­ while East Pakistan employed it for seeking independence. The Russians and the Allies used guerrilla forces as an adjunct to regular warfare against Axis forces during World War II. Communist parties use it also for overthrowing constitutionally established governments and then seize power. Some use it to bring about radical reforms in society. Weaker people employ it for overthrowing a foreign rule. Conversely, governments incite the enemy’s border population to rise in arms against their own government so that during war they could be used as guerrillas in the enemy’s rear; e.g., the British, against the Turks during World War I. Guerrillas are used also in the collection of intelligence information in enemy-occupied territory. When a stronger army has succeeded in occupying some particular territory by expel­ ling a weaker army out of it, guerrillas infest that area, symbol­ ise the authority of the defeated army and its government and collect intelligence information for the use of their own troops. Under such circumstances, only guerrillas can stay in that area of land. Units of army, police or intelligence agencies will not be able to stay behind. Guerrilla warfare, besides being used in conjunction with regular war, can also be waged independently. Modern guerrilla warfare has gone much beyond the concept of “ hit-and-run” operations or causing minor disruptions in the enemy’s “ other­ wise tidy rear” . To start a guerrilla war, one does not have to wait for an opportune moment such as, when a weaker army has been routed out by a stronger army; or, has it to be started during war time alone. Since the communists have expanded the scope of guerrilla warfare by adding to it social, economic and political connotations, and calling it “ revolution” , modem guerrilla warfare has assumed the character of totality. Today it embraces even statecraft which earlier, did not fall within the purview of guerrilla warfare. No longer is it the weapon of the weak alone. Big powers need it all the more. During peace time, they require it for conducting intelligence

The Basic Concepts


operations and to manipulate politics in countries where they have vested interests. The broader concept of guerrilla warfare should not be defined by the term guerrilla warfare but by guerrilla opera­ tions. The term guerrilla operations is not commonly used with discretion and it is more common—though not rightly—to use the term guerrilla warfare for guerrilla operations. Guerrilla warfare combines in itself the elements of violence and non­ violence both, i.e., the armed activities and unarmed political activities o f guerrillas. Armed actions include guerrilla attacks, civil insurrection» sabotage, mass riots and terrorism. Unarmed activities comprise propaganda, infiltration, strikes, demonstra­ tions, boycott and espionage. According to Brigadier-General Samuel Griffith, a revolutionary guerrilla movement becomes almost immortal when it has mustered the sympathetic support of a significant segment of the population which always varies, but a decisive figure ranges between 15 and 25 per cent. All the people of this significant segment are not armed. Those armed, are called “ armed guerrillas” . The remainder who actively conduct political operations, are termed “ civilian guer­ rillas” . Just like military aid to civil power, armed guerrillas also provide aid to the civilian guerrillas in the conduct of guerrilla political operations. As the military aid to civil power is not an act of war, the aid provided by armed guerrillas to their civilian guerrillas also does not constitute an act of war. Therefore, guerrilla warfare and guerrilla political operations flow parallel to each other within the main stream of guerrilla operations. While complementing each other, they remain organically separate. Guerrilla operations encompass the whole spectrum of guerrilla activities—both military and non­ military. The status of guerrillas has been a subject of discussion in international forums. The Brussels Conference of 1874 accorded guerrillas the status of regular soldiers whenever they happened to be covered by the four principles of the Brussel’s Declara­ tion, viz., (i) they should have a Commander responsible for them, (ii) they should wear badges of ranks which are settled, distinctive.and can be recognised from a distance, (iii) they carry weapons overtly, and (iv) while conducting operations, they


Spotlight: Freedom Fighters o f Bangladesh

follow the laws and customs of war. These four conditions were subsequently incorporated in the Hague Regulations of 1899 and 1907. Campbell (1967, p. 3) defines guerrilla warfare as an instru­ ment of a strategically weaker force which enables it to launch a tactical offensive at chosen times and in certain places. Accord­ ing to Thayer, (1965, pp. XVI-XVII) it is an irregular war, fought by independent bands. Based on the circumstances of its origin, it can be divided into two distinct types, viz: 1. A spontaneous uprising of a segment of the population against its own government which is a rebellion and may, if it grows, develop into a revolution, e.g., the Mau Mau uprising and Algerian revolution. 2. The second type comprises a “ resistance” wherein the uprising is instigated or supported by a neighbouring country which seeks to weaken, harass, or overthrow its enemy indirectly, i.e., by exploiting the discontent­ ed element which is present in the enemy’s own country or in countries occupied by the enemy’s own forces. Maj.-Gen. Palit (1970, pp. 153-154) describes the charac­ ter of guerrilla warfare as “ a basically defensive form of war­ fare against a superior and organised enemy” . In his opinion, the aggressive and characteristic methods of guerrilla warfare do not change its fundamental character of being a defensive form of war. Lt.-Gen. Bhagat (1967, p. 112) views a guerrilla movement as an “ essentially violent movement from within a country against established authority” . It has two distinct aspects: 1. The political aspect, which makes a guerrilla movement a respectable and a legal struggle and also, provides it contacts with the outside world; whilst, 2. the warlike activities of guerrillas demonstrate the purposefulness and power of the movement. The one is a political problem and the other “develops into a military problem” .

The Basic Concepts


A patriotic partisan resistance first begins and then is organised; whereas, a guerrilla movement is first organised and then it begins. According to Mao, a guerrilla movement must have a political goal which should “ coincide with the aspira­ tions of the people” without which their “ sympathy, co-opera­ tion, and assistance can not be gained” . The essence of guer­ rilla warfare, in his opinion, is “ revolutionary in character” . Peterson (1969, p. 98) describes communist revolutionary guerrilla warfare as different from orthodox guerrilla warfare which is viewed as causing “ minor disruption of an otherwise tidy rear” . Communist revolutionary guerrilla warfare, on the other hand, is a deliberate military effort, inspired by inter­ national communism, using local adherents to weaken military, economic and political unity of an area so that it falls under communist control. “ Guerrilla operations” are the sum total of the guerrillas’ military and non-military activities. The military operations are called guerrilla warfare while non-military ones—also known as guerrilla political operations—include a number of other operations also, known as “ allied intelligence operations” which are different from government’s normal intelligence activities. These operations are not mere open politics as is commonly described. Guerrilla warfare is the shock of armed collision between . an irregular force and parts of a regular force whom it attacks in the form of ambush, raid, harassment, sabotage and such other actions as would be little short of a regular attack (which inevitably leads to a pitched battle). The irregularity of force being either or both in the nature of ' soldier and method of fighting (Bihari, 1972, p. 52). The irregularity in the nature of soldier lies in the fact that guerrillas do not form a part of any formal, rigid, legal or conventional organisation as regular armies do. They lack uni­ formity and formality in clothing and weaponry. There is {‘the absence of a recognised legal authority and complete licence in the choice of means of operations” (Singh Mei, 1971, p. 37). The irregularity in the methods o f fighting implies that


Spotlight: Freedom Fighters o f Bangladesh

guerrillas do not strictly follow the methods of fighting as employed by regular soldiers. Guerrilla Political Operations Guerrilla political orpeatioñs are conducted by civilian guerril­ las either independently or with the help of armed guerrillas who launch certain guerrilla political operations like psycho­ logical warfare, self-indoctrination and guerrilla war, not neces­ sarily as an aid to civilian guerrillas. When armed guerrillas provide aid to civilian guerrillas in difficult cases of sabotage, terrorism, armed action for logistical support like procuring supplies and arms, it does not form a part of guerrilla warfare, much in the same manner as military aid to civil power does not make aid an act of war. During war, civilians and armed forces, both wage psycho­ logical warfare. Appeals from the politicians of one country for the population of the opposing country, through informa­ tion mass media highlighting the prospects of the enemy’s defeat, fall under the category of non-military psychological warfare. An army commander’s address, in the field, for the opposing army about the inevitability of their defeat or leaflets, dropped by the air force from the sky, constitute psychologi­ cal warfare, waged by an army. Similarly, exhortations to regular soldiers to defect and join guerrilla cadres from a part of guerrilla psychological warfare; because, they directly advance the cause of the guerrilla movement. Just as in the battle field, regular armies collect military tactical intelligence through probing attacks, by interrogating prisoners o f war and, by infiltrating in the enemy’s rear, the armed guerrillas collect guerrilla tactical intelligence by various methods as a part of guerrilla war. Civilian guerrillas collect intelligence information for the use of armed guerrillas much in the same manner as governmental civilian espionage agen­ cies do it for the regular army. The intelligence, thus collected, by armed and civilian guerrillas, for the use of guerrilla war­ fare, is also passed on to the home or to the foreign army, as the case may be, when guerrillas act as an adjunct to supple­ ment the war effort of the home of the foreign army. The for­

The Basic Concepts


mer is a part of Guerrilla War and latter is that of the Guerrilla Political Operations. Similarly, sabotage operations of armed guerrillas, carried out as a part of raid, etc., will become a part of Guerrilla War; whereas, the same conducted by civilian guerrillas, form a part of Guerrilla Political Operations. Such sabotage operations are aimed at paralysing the government or making greater impact upon the population and the government. Partisan Warfare Partisan warfare has been best defined by Osanka (1966, p. 66) as “ terrorism, hold-ups and robberies” . In his opinion, it does not mean guerrilla war in the modern sense. Guerrilla acts, in the form of terrorism (Lenin, 1962, p. 223) i.e., the liquidation of govemment-authority and expropriation of govemmentmoney and arms, are Partisan Warfare. “ Offensive tactics” is the key to Partisan War. Therefore, the destructive element of Guerrilla Political Operations takes the form of Partisan War. Guerrilla acts, filled with terrorism, constitute Partisan War. During the first Russian Revolution, the term Partisan War used to indicate looting and pillaging and was not used in the sense of Guerrilla War (Osanka, 1966, p. 64). A Guerrilla Political Operation, is a unique amalgamation of Partisan War and peaceful political operations, as distinguished from other overt political activities of guerrillas. Guerrilla Political Opera­ tions are used as rallying points for the aroused and fighting masses. They are the best method of bringing masses into the streets. Delaney (1963) describes them as espionage, worldwide campaign of propaganda and subversion and Geneste (1963) terms as “ undermining man’s mind and will through presuasion and subversion” . Guerrilla Political Operations are different from Psychological Warfare which is waged during both types of war—regular and irregular. These operations are the more skilful exploitation of social, political and economic conditions and of mass organisation and political indoctrination (Singh & Mei, 1971, pp. 6-7). Griffith’s (1969, p. 23) ideological content that differntiates Partisan resistance from revolutionary guerrilla movement is Guerrilla Political Operations. Other


Spotlight : Freedom Fighters o f Bangladesh

ingredients of Guerrilla Political Operations are labour strife, subversion, cunning diplomacy and political intrigues as described by Peterson (1969, pp. 98-99). Thus, Guerrilla War consists of purely military operations, carried out to harass an invading army, and, Guerrilla Opera­ tions, beside Guerrilla War, include Guerrilla Political Operations also. Guerrilla Political Operations, conducted by civilian guerrillas, are of two types, viz., violent measures like riots, sabotage, terrorism and armed propaganda wherein physical force is employed, and non-violent measures such as civilian espionage and counter-espionage, infiltration, mani­ pulation of crowds, boycotts, unarmed propaganda which are peaceful political activities of the guerrillas and different from other political activities. Insurrection, Rebellion, Revolt Insurrectionary Guerrilla Operations are launched against an indigenous government by unorganised bands in spontaneous uprising of a part of the population. Peterson calls “ Revolt and Insurrection” as “ Armed Uprising” in which the outcome is quickly decided. According to Thayer, it is a “ rebellion” and may, if it grows, develop into a revolution. General Bhagat’s view about uprising is that it may be politically in­ spired, still it is spontaneous and crowd-controlled; it has no long-term political objectives and manifests acute disaffection. It subsides as quickly as it erupts, without generally leading to any major political upheaval; though it has unsetlling effect. Peterson describes revolution a “successful rebellion” . Subversionary Guerrilla warfare is not a distinct form of Guerrilla Operations. There is nothing like a subversionary type of Guerrilla War. Describing his second type, Thayer points out that an uprising is instigated or supported by a neighbouring country which exploits the discontented element in the enemy’s population to harass or overthrow the enemy’s government indirectly. Guerrillas of the victim country wage these operations not for subversion but to achieve the aim of the Guerrilla Operation, which is liberation.

The Basic Concepts


Allied Intelligence Operations Guerrilla warfare, without discussing Allied Intelligence Opera­ tions, remains incomplete. During peace, every responsible government conducts irregular political operations against a potential enemy as a part of planning and preparation for future regular and irregular war. Irregular political operations comprise political murders, thefts of industrial and other secrets (as different from those secrets which are procured through paid intelligence agents) sabotage, subversion, etc. We call them “Allied” because the normal intelligence activity of civilian intelligence organizations is chiefly responsible for collecting, collating, assessing and classifying the intelligence information.* Since irregular operations are carried out with the help of intelligence and in utmost secrecy, we call them irre­ gular intelligence operations. During peace, Allied Intelligence Operations are carried out without planning for or waiting for the Guerrilla War to begin. They are conducted as a normal routine and as part of a preparation for any future war. During Guerrilla War, these operations have to be intensified. Allied Intelligence Operations are those irregular political operations which are launched in peace time to gain regional supremacy, political leverage, economic gains or to counter-act the Allied Intelligence Operations of rival powers. They do not have the sanction of international law and legal diplomatic usage; yet, they have become a routine affair. They are called “ Allied” because of their alliance with Guerrilla Operations. The term intelligence denotes those political operations which are carried out in a conspiratorial manner by such intelligence agencies which possess such an intelligence and expertise to conduct such operations. Thus, Allied Intelligence Operations, in the peace time, assume the shape of Guerrilla Operations. On an international level, the USA, the USSR and China are capable of conducting world-wide Allied Intelligence Operations with the help of their allies and satellites. Medium powers can conduct them only in their neighbouring countries and other areas of political and economic interests. Subversion is the principal task of Allied Intelligence Operations. Kautilya, in the Arthashastra, describes many types


Spotlight : Freedom Fighters o f Bangladesh

of Allied Intelligence Operations. Allied Intelligence Opera­ tions are launched to attain 8 types of principal objectives viz.: 1. To further the interest of own foreign policy in other nations by influencing its government, political parties and civil servants. 2. To manipulate public opinion in other countries by bribing editors, tuning the journalists by giving them specially designed training, and to manipulate the news­ paper and other publication business in accordance with own foreign policy. 3. Channelling the cultural development of a country to suit own interests, e.g., discrediting achievements of socialist/capitalist countries; influencing their literature. 4. To create, train and finance an elite which can act as the fifth column in propaganda drives. 5. Subversion and instigation of guerrilla movements against unfavourable national governments. 6. Ideological sabotage of the struggle of national libera­ tion and anti-communist/anti-imperialist movements. 7. Fanning religious, communal, racial, linguistic riots and ethnographic controversies. 8. To carry out “ executive action” (murder, blackmail, sabotage, etc.) against chosen individuals and institu­ tions to coerce them into alignment or to eliminate them. These activities can be grouped into six categories, viz.: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6.

Propaganda and psychological warfare. Misinformation and deception. Collection of military intelligence. Executive action within the country and abroad. Sabotage and subversion. Guerrilla warfare.

Thus, the Allied Intelligence Operations is the peace time shape of Guerrilla Operations or Guerrilla Political Operations. They are conducted during peace time and there is no armed

The Basic Concepts


action of a serious nature involved in them. Rival objectives are also attained by rival governments through intense political activity, pressure politics, etc., but, these are not included in Allied Intelligence Operations; because, they are overt regular measures of statecraft. Strategy and Tactics of Guerrilla Warfare The terms strategy and tactics in regular warfare are well defined. They have fixed implications and fairly well-demarcated limits. In Guerrilla warfare, they still are in their infancy. The concept of strategy and tactics, in general, has been best sum­ marised by Maj.-Gen. Palit who, after closely studying the definitions, provided by the Combined Training Manual of 1902 and various eminent military thinkers like Hamley, Vonder Goltz, Wavell, Von Moltke and Clasewitz, states that strategy lies in the domain of planning, slightly intruding into the field of execution, i.e., tactics. Tactics begins where strategy ends and is employed in the execution of battle. When “ political strategy” , which dwells in the government’s highest echelons, flows into military headquarters, it is transformed into “ Military Strategy” . According to him, it is the art of “ mobilising and directing national resources” including armed forces for safeguarding and promoting national interests vis-a-vis those of the enemy— actual or potential. Tactics, in his opinion, is the method of engaging the enemy in the execution of battle. Movement and weapons-power are its two basic elements; use of formation and terrain constitute its other ingredients. Clasewitz (1968, p. 192) defines strategy with surgical precision thus: Strategy fixes the point where, the time when, and the numerical force, with which the battle is to be fought. Thus, the strategist draws plans for war, links together and regulates a series of combat to gain the end of war. Tactics, in his opinion, is the use of military forces in combat. Mao Zedong has carried the concept of strategy and tactics in guerrilla warfare to its farthest limits. Lenin, Lawrence,

Spotlight: Freedom Fighters o f Bangladesh


Giap, Nasution, Guevara, etc., are other distinguished philo­ sophers of guerrilla warfare who also expressed their views on this subject extensively. The "F our Golden Rules” —four famous slogans of the Chinese Communist Party—enshrine strategy, tactics and the basic principles of Chinese guerrilla warfare. They are: 1. 2. 3. 4.

Enemy advances, we retreat. Enemy halts, we harass. Enemy tires, we attack. Enemy retreats, we pursue (Heilbrunn, 1963-a, pp. 183-197).

According to Mao (1965, p. 68) guerrilla warfare has a strategy, independent of regular forces when the country of the guerrilla is big but weak in the strength of regular armed forces. But, when the country is small in size or strong in the armed might of regular forces, guerrilla warfare cannot have an independent strategy. In that case, guerrilla warfare remains only a minor adjunct to the regular army and plays a support­ ing role in the campaigns (Mao, 1966, p. 68). Then it involves only tactical and not strategic problem. Viewed from the angle of M ao’s’(1966, pp. 72, 80-81) “ three guidelines” for the guerrillas in his “ Strategic Programme” , “Six specific problems of strategy” and “Strategic principles of Guerrilla Warfare” which throw ample light upon this problem, strategy in guerrilla warfare has 6 salient features, viz.: 1. Strategic Protractedness—protracting the struggle at a strategic plane. Mao prescribes protracted defensive warfare on “ interior lines” , i.e., enemy’s lines of communication, supply convoys, static posts, etc., lying within the sphere of the offens­ ive. In his (1966, p. 75) opinion, “ through the cumulative effect of many victories, achieved through quick decision in offensive campaigns and battles, can we attain our goal of strategic protractedness” which is used to wear down the enemy and gain time to transform the guerrillas’ inferior forces into superior ones. Regular wars witness the strategy of a war of quick decision.

The Basic Concepts


Guerrillas, in order to defeat the strategy of regular war, follow the strategy of protracted war (Mao, 1966, p. 116). 2. Interior-line operations either independently or in support o f regular armies. 3. Exterior-line quick-decision offensive operations either independently or in support o f regular armies. The interior lines are formed by the enemy’s lines of com­ munication, supply convoys and static posts, etc., within the “ sphere of offensive” . “ Exterior lines” is the rear of the enemy (Mao, 1965, p. 68). So, guerrillas must develop intensively guerrilla warfare over the vast area and convert enemy’s rear into an “ additional front” (Mao, 1966, p. 129). According to Mao (1966, p. 142), “ quick decision can be achieved by attack­ ing a moving and not a stationary enemy” . The whole guerrilla war is always fought on exterior lines. The working relationship between the main forces that are fighting on interior lines and guerrilla units which are fighting on the exterior lines, presents a “ remarkable spectacle of pin­ cers around the en e m y ” . 4. Strategic Defensive and Strategic Offensive: Tactical defensive in guerrilla warfare has negligible scope. It is largely restricted to outpost actions or resistance at narrow passes, etc. In M ao’s opinion, strategic defensive pertains to the “ strategic situation and policy” prevailing when enemy is on the offensive and guerrillas on defensive i.e., the situation during the first and second phases of Mao’s War of Resistance: the enemy, at that time, is situated on exterior lines while guerrillas on interior lines. Enemy’s policy at that time is launching “the offensives and consolidating gains” ; whereas, the guerrillas’ policy is to counter-attack with secondary forces to pin down several enemy columns, and simultaneously, launch surprise attacks and lay ambushes with principal forces against the enemy’s single column. Mao’s “ strategic offensive” is, in fact, “ counter-offensive” and relates to the strategic situation and policy when the enemy is on the defensive and guerrillas on the offensive. The enemy’s policy, in such a situation, is defensive and that of guerrillas counter-offensive—purely offensive and not the one as “ in defensive” . Guerrilla, here, instead of attacking enemy’s


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entrenched positions, destroys his smaller units which are weaker than the attacking guerrilla bands. 5. Interior and Exterior-line Operations: They are launched primarily to disperse enemy forces for security duties, and thus, dissipate his (enemy’s) manpower and compel him to waste much time on avoidable activities. 6. Absence o f a Tactical Rear o f Guerrillas: According to Mao (1966, pp. 128-29), guerrilla, detachments, which are despatched for short-term operations in the rear of the enemy in the same area, do not have a rear o r battle lines. But each guerrilla area has a small rear of its own upon which it establishes its fluid battle lines. During the Long March of 1933-34, M ao’s whole caravan of mules, carrying war supplies, gradually died away in the process of the march itself. Mao realised the disadvantages of having a tactical rear of guerrillas, thus increasing the size of the tail and rendering the war machine ponderous and unwieldy. War of Resistance While applying guerrilla strategy to a War of Resistance it should be remembered that a War of Resistance, besides employing guerrilla warfare, uses various other forms of war also. Guerrilla warfare, mobile warfare, and positional warfare —all are used in varying degrees at different periods in a War of Resistance. Mobile warfare is the form in which regular troops use guerrilla strategy in an otherwise wholly regular form of warfare. Regular warfare assumes two forms in this context, viz., Mobile Warfare and Positional Warfare. Positional Warfare depends exclusively upon the defensive works with deep tren­ ches, high fortresses and successive defensive positions (Mao, 1966, p. 110). M ao’s War of Resistance must pass through three stages, viz., Guerrilla Defensive; Attrition and Strategic Stalemate; and Strategic Counter-Offensive (Final Offensive). First phase—Guerrilla Defensive—consists of organisation, consolidation and preservation wherein the enemy is on the strategic offensive and, guerrillas, while maintaining strategic

The Basic Concepts


defensive, perforce confine their activities to sanctury-areas and carry out minimum local action which is necessary to maintain the movement’s vitality. With a still unorganised mobilisationbase, penetration into “ sensitve areas” cannot be confidently 'effected due to the movement’s rudimentary character. This phase is full of hectic political activity—organising, recruiting, training and securing local support for the movement against the government. Because of the anti-government climate, per­ vading “sensitive areas” , this phase is most crucial for the movement. In this phase, the guerrilla commander primarily concentrates on preserving regional base-areas which are located in difficult and isolated terrain. He clandestinely sends volun­ teers to persuade and convince the population of adjoining areas to enlist their support for the movement. Local homeguards or militia are raised to act as vigilants; they collect information, extract voluntary donations from the merchant class and local landlords. They also liquidate government collaborators and informers so that the revolution is preserved. Homeguards are indoctrinated but act as partially trained reserves. The militia serves as a back-up for better-trained and better-equipped guerrillas and not as a mobile fighting force. In the second phase which comprises attrition and strategic stalemate, the enemy consolidates his gains by strengthening the terminal points which are fixed by him at the end of his first phase when his offensive eventually came to a standstill. Herein, guerrillas prepare for a strategic counter-offensive. This phase is characterised by the wearing down of regular forces of a militarily superior power. The enemy gradually loses the will to continue war. Guerrillas build up stocks of the captured equipment, organise basic industries and create a rudimentary logistical system. Since the process is inevitable, there is no hurry. War is cheap to guerrillas and expensive to the enemy in casualties, equipment and finances. The more equipment and troops the enemy commits against guerrillas the more he plays into the hands of a guerrilla commander. In this phase, direct action assumes increasing importance: sabotage and terrorism multiply, collaborationists and the known reactionary element are sought and liquidated, vulnerable military and police outposts are subjected to guerrilla attacks


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and weak enemy-columns are ambushed with the primary aim of capturing arms and equipment, and snatching medical supplies and radio equipment. Since, a fair proportion of guerrilla force gets better-equipped and its capabilities increase in the process, political agents proceed to indoctrinate the inhabitants of the peripheral districts which also are soon absorbed into the expanded liberated areas. This will be the transitional period of the entire war. It is a trying period but a pivotal one. Success will be determined by the extent to which the whole nation has asserted in this stage. Preparations for the strategic counter-offensive would have been completed in this phase. The Third Phase is entered into for seeking a military de­ cision. A final offensive is launched to destroy the enemy which amounts to the régularisation of irregular operations. During this phase, guerrillas will launch their counter-offensive, while the enemy is still on the defensive. A significant proportion of the active guerrilla force is transformed into regular forces which contain the strength and organisation required to con­ front the enemy in conventional warfare. If needed, this phase can be prolonged by negotiations to buy time, to strengthen the guerrillas’ position and also to wear down, frustrate and harass s the enemy. A stepped-up guerrilla offensive, supplemented by mobile warfare, with increasing numbers of regular troops, makes for a gradual transition to tactical offensive. If success is uncertain, guerrillas, at once, change into the reverse gear. If the offensive opens successfully and moves towards its culminat­ ing point, it is the guerrilla type of tactics that become supple­ mentary to regular forms of warfare. The commitment of tangibles becomes the main tactics. During this phase, the enemy will stick to his own positions. Guerrillas, in any case, cannot recover their lost territory with­ out launching powerful attacks to support mobile warfare (Mao, 1966, p. 157). War, in this phase, will assume the shape of a strategic counter-offensive and will be fought on strategi­ cally exterior lines. Here, mobile warfare will be the primary form of fighting; but, positional warfare will rise to importance. Positional attacks will become significant. During the third phase, guerrilla warfare will still provide strategic support by

The Basic Concepts


supplementing mobile and positional warfare though it will not be the primary form of fighting (Mao, 1966, p. 122). Mobile warfare of the third stage will be undertaken by the originally guerrilla forces which will have progressed from fighting guerrilla to mobile warfare (Mao, 1966, p. 156). Thus, positional attacks, launched in support of mobile warfare, assume the primary role in the third phase. The Indo-China war presents an example where all the three phases of Mao’s strategic cycle are clearly discernible. When M ao’s guerrillas were launching bold offensive attacks in mainland China, he had already started his strategic cycle in Indo-China as well: 1946-48 Phase I, consisted of guerrilla defensive. 1948-50 Phase II, holding French in stalemate. 1950-54 Phase III, a final offensive launched to seek a military decision which ended with Dien Bien Phu. According to Mao, this cycle is flexible and can be switched into the reverse direction if the situation in that phase is not favourable. Tactics Tactics in guerrilla warfare has limited scope and is relatively a simpler affair than guerrilla strategy. Success in guerrilla war depends not so much on the correct application of tactics as upon correct planning. Hence, strategy in guerrilla warfare is more decisive than tactics. Heilbrunn (1962b, pp. 98-99) sums up the intrinsic nature of guerrilla tactics thus: to select weak targets for attack and offer no target to the enemy for his counter-attack. According to him, guerrillas conduct operations to achieve 3 principal tactical aims: 1. To draw enemy forces; to weaken his frontline in national wars and destroy him piecemeal in revolutionary wars; to obstruct the enemy’s efforts at pacification and prevent him from providing effective protection to the population and winning it over.


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2. To weaken his infrastructure like lines of communication, supply channels, headquarters. 3. To win the support of the people. Guerrilla attacks assume the shape of an ambush, raid, harassment, encirclement and sabotage, etc. Before carrying out any of these operations, guerrillas are required to encircle the enemy, which, in Heilbrunn’s (1962, p. 88) opinion, falls into the category of tactics rather than operational planning. The Vietminh Manual points out that encirclement constitutes a combination of the 3 forms of operations, viz., political, economic and military—a peculiar combination of Guerrilla War and Guerrilla Political Operations. The essence of military encirclement lies in the technique that the noose is tightened when guerrillas advance to kill; it is widened when they intend to draw the enemy out of its entrenched positions. The manual also describes ambush as a principal technique of the regional troops and guerrillas which enables them to attack the enemy’s regular forces by surprise and with lightning speed, and to kill him and decamp with his equipment and weapons. Since it causes minimum casualties to guerrillas, it is their safest method of killing (Heilbrunn, 1962, p. 92). Before laying an ambush or launching a raid, guerrillas are thoroughly briefed at a rendezvous whence they proceed to the ambush site in small groups and by different routes avoiding inhabited areas. One party blocks the road at a point where the enemy is expected to arrive. The other party gets into a position at an end of the road to kill any retreating enemy who might try to escape back during the course of the ambush. An assault is launched to split the enemy into several parts and then destroy him piecemeal. Therefore, the assault parties are invariably the strongest. The ambush leader stays with the fire party, controls the operation from there maintaining close contact with other constituents of the ambush by using field signals, observation posts and runners. Harassment, in the military sense, comprises small surprise attacks and ambushes. Kamandak, author of a Sanskrit book, Nitisary drops a hint at military encirclement, thus: “ those, exhausted by keeping awake during night for fear of encircle-

The Basic Concepts


ment and those, who have got spent due to the strain of war or labour during day, should be destroyed in the afternoon*'. Guerrilla tactics will further be discussed ahead also, while dealing with the principles of guerrilla warfare. Principles of Guerrilla Warfare In regular warfare, two sets of principles, eight in one case and ten in another, haVe been clearly enunciated and tested again and again over a long period of history with the result that there is hardly any controversy about the same. In guerrilla warfare, however, there is no such heritage and different authors have discussed many aspects of guerrilla war as principles. Mao’s literature, particularly on his “ Long March” and subsequent campaigns in China, and the Vietminh Manual, provide adequate material for formulating the working princi­ ples of guerrilla warfare. Mao’s frank admittance that his dictums do not apply to all the situations of strategy, must be constantly borne in mind. His suggestions must be modified in conformity with varying situations. Blind adherence will bring grief. There are ten principles of guerrilla warfare: 1. Maintenance of Objective. 2. Offensive action. 3. Secrecy. 4. Alert shifting. 5. Exploitation of Environment. 6. Speed. 7. Deception. 8. Co-operation. 9. Morale. 10. Intelligence. 1.Maintenance o f Objective: Clasewitz prescribes “aim” for regular war as “ wholesale annihilation of the enemy” . Du Picq calls it “ breaking enemy’s moral cohesion”, i.e., the de­ struction of the enemy’s will to fight (which is more relevant to guerrilla war). Then, Clasewitz defines the «object” of attack


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as capturing “territory” while Mao’s (1966, p. 74) guerrillas have “wiping out enemy’s effective strength” as their objective: “ holding or siezing a city of place” can not be guerrillas’ “ main objective” . The Vietminh Manual also prefers to kill two or three to repulsing 100 or 300 of the enemy, and thus, provide a protracted character to guerrilla war. Mao defines the objec­ tives of guerrilla attack as wiping out one part of the enemy and routing another so that Mao’s army could swiftly move its troops to smash other enemy forces. Guerrillas can certainly be committed to this task after the movement has been firmly rooted in. The M anual’s description of guerrilla-objective envisages protection o f the population by attacking, exhausting, and forcing the enemy on to the defensive as a “glorious mission” of the guerrillas. 2. Offensive Action: In regular warfare, no military deci­ sion can be achieved without using this principle. About guerrilla war, Mao (1966, p. 81) points out that the basic principle of guerrilla warfare must be offensive and it is more offensive in character than in regular warfare. According to the Manual, the objective of guerrillas is to avoid a numeri­ cally superior and watchful enemy and catch him at his weak ' points—for example, when he is resting or retreating—and constantly harassing stationary enemy to wear him down. Mao also advised his guerrillas to “ shamelessly attack the weak, shamelessly fly from the strong” —The Jeune Ecole. In regular war, the attacker, during the course of an attack, continues to spend manpower and resources until the culmi­ nating point of attack has been reached and the strength is just sufficient to maintain a defensive. In guerrilla war, attacking guerrillas need not maintain that defensive posture. They must flee immediately after an attack is over. A regular attacker waits for the culminating point to arrive so that he can return the blow. But, in guerrilla war, the transition to an offensive return is never contemplated as a natural tendency of the offensive. The Vietminh Manual, elaborating this point, reads; “in normal periods of time we must constantly seek to attack the enemy and not wait until he attacks us” . A guerrilla attains his objective even when a guerrilla attack succeeds in weakening the enemy. Henry Kissinger also strengthens the same view point;

The Basic Concepts


The guerrilla wins, i f he does not lose\ the army loses i f it does not win. 3. Secrecy: In regular warfare, this principle presents a fine amalgam of two principles, viz.: Surprise and Security. Accord­ ing to Clasewitz (1968, p. 199), surprise consists of secrecy and rapidity. The principle of security implies a close combina­ tion of secrecy and protection; because, the lines of communi­ cation, ports, airfields, strategic nerve-centres, military-industrial complexes, Headquarters and the entire infrastructure require adequate protection. Guerrillas possess, no such appendage and fight without visible regular supply lines. Their bases and sanctuaries (which are located in a terrain that makes access difficult) encompass jungles, mountains, deserts, delta-region or adjoining countries which are naturally protected. Sea pirates find security in the ocean’s wide spaces or depths; on land, guerrillas find it in rugged terrain and friendly populace. They do not encounter the problem of protecting their appendages. Thus, the security in regular war is secrecy in guerrilla war. The size of guerrilla bands is small and their position dis­ persed. They carry no such appendage that disturbs quietness or needs protection. Thus, abundant quietness is automatically available to them. Their equipment is light and can be quietly carried. Their exposure can also be limited to the minimum; because, guerrillas operate in intersected country. They do not face such problems as a requirement for subsistence and shelter. On the contrary, a regular army constantly faces them; because it can not shield its actions from public view. Mao (1966, p. 74) also strengthens this point thus: "in guerrilla warfare, it is even less permissible than in regular warfare to expose ourselves by ostentatiously parading our forces” . Whatever little parading is involved in a guerrilla movement, can be concealed by arousing the population to prevent the leakage of information and providing a screen for our own forces (Mao, 1966, p. 149). The Manual advises to ‘‘talk less” and listen more, “ think before you talk” , “ hide all things military” , “avoid main roads” , “ leave nothing behind” , and “ precaution must be taken against traitors” . All of them can be effectively performed by using secrecy.


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4. Alert Shifting: This principle deals with the best deploy­ ment of guerrilla bands. Mao (1966, p. 78) thinks that the chief methods of employing the forces are dispersal, concentration, and shifting of position. He explains it with the example of a fisherman. His casting of the net is the guerrillas’ “ concentra­ tion” , and withdrawing it amounts to the guerrillas’ “ disper­ sion” . Fishermen too require frequent shifting of positions while fishing. The principles of Concentration and Flexibility which are applied in regular warfare, go to form the principle of “ alert shifting” in guerrilla warfare. Mao (1966, p. 78) further points out that dispersal, concentration and shifting of position are the three ways of flexibly employing forces in guerrilla warfare. “ Concentration” , according to him, means “ assembling the parts into a whole” . His dispersion is equal to dismantling—“ breaking up the whole into parts” . Regular armies, when defeated, carry out planned with­ drawal. They shift as a compact body of troops; because, they cannot afford to withdraw in a haphazard fashion, unless, of course, they are routed wholesale. In guerrilla warfare, guerrillas disperse to vanish just as Lawrence’s partisans dispersed like an influence, an idea, a thing intangible, invulnerable, without flank or back, drifting like gas and like a vapour, blowing where they liked only to re-assemble (concentrate) for the Hext engage­ ment. Moreover, a withdrawal of regular troops involves a defensive posture: it aims at metamorphosing into an offensive which has no place in guerrilla action. Mao (1966, pp. 150-51) remarks that time, place and troops are three crucial links for the application of this principle. About time, he advises that an early attack facilitates the enemy’s defence preparations; while, a late one will present a hard nut to crack. Regarding place, he points out that, if guerrillas hit snug, nothing will be achieved. With regard to the troops, he emphasises, that only the troops measuring up to the target should be employed. Initiative, in guerrilla warfare, is closely linked with this principle. Mao, in this context, suggests that guerrillas should know not only how to employ tactics, but also how to vary them. The important task is to make change such as offensive from defensive, from the defensive to the offensive, from advance to retreat or from the retreat to advance,

The Basic Concepts


from containment to assault or from assault to containment, from encirclement to outflanking or from outflanking to encir­ clement, and to make such changes properly and in good time according to the circumstances of the troops and terrain on both sides. Doing so, requires subjective ability of a very high order. 5. Exploitation o f Environment: Environment implies some­ thing more than geographical factors. It embraces climate, terrain, road and communications net work, local economic conditions, location of villages and towns, attitudes of indi­ genous population and ethnic factors. All of them have a crucial bearing upon the effectiveness of guerrilla operations. The system of religious beliefs, for example—the entire pattern of people’s culture—goes a long way to determine the people’s reaction under peculiar conditions of guerrilla warfare. Guerilla operations have the highest chance of success in difficult terrain like jungles, mountains, desert, and in delta country; because, the regular army’s movements are hampered by topographical obstacles and such a terrain is present in “ Grey Areas” . Besides this internal environment, the external environ­ ment may prove even more vital to guerrillas while selecting their areas of operation, e.g., territorial contiguity with a friend­ ly power which is providing sanctuaries and supplies to the guerrillas such as the Afghan insurgents who hide behind the safe heaven of friendly Pakistan across their borders; Bangladesh insurgents found sanctuaries in India from where it was difficult to wipe them out; and, Greek rebels found this temporary retreat behind the Yugoslav border; whereas, Algerian rebels hid in Tunisia. In essence, this principle calls upon guerrillas not only to exploit terrain and popular support, but also, to apply this principle in conjunction with the principle of Alert shifting. The Vietminh Manual prescribes for guerrillas the use of ' terrain and popular support. In regular warfare, popular support is located around a supply base, guerrillas need it immediately around their areas of operation i.e., the battle field. The reason is obvious: immediately after the encounter, a guerrilla will disappear into the sea of humanity or hideout. He needs the


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people’s help also for selecting ideal terrain for an encounter and ideal hideouts for hiding after the encounter is over. He requires it also to procure local guides. If the Guerrilla Political Operations have yielded adequate popular support, guerrillas as pointed out by Mao (1966, p. 76), can boldly use vast areas as their fields of operation. The phase of self-preservation also entails the establishment of bases where they can carry out their training and, simultaneously, expand ¿he movement from there. A glaring fact still remains that popular support, instead of being gained, should be exploited. Its procurement lies in the domain of Guerrilla Political Operations and not in Guerrilla War. The Vietminh Manual enumerates certain methods of exploiting popular support such as suggesting rules and plans, gathering intelligence information and ensuring supply routes. The Manual describes popular support as “ popular antennae” . Guevara (1965, p. 113) too emphasised the need to exploit terrain in rural areas and labelled a guerrilla as an “agrarian revolutionary” . While popular support tends to shorten the supply lines of guerrillas, its absence in regular war may compel regular soldiers not only to adopt a cumbersome, time consum­ ing and vulnerable supply line but also to compulsorily disperse. To sum up, terrain and popular support, if exploited by guerrillas, will turn into unfavourable factors for regular armies and favourable ones for guerrillas. Thus, the exploitation of environment is a powerful weapon in the hands of guerrillas and it is precisely to deny its use to the victim army. It enables the potential aggressor to subvert the population of the potential theatres of war; and also, it encourages them to launch guerrilla operations against the home government, much before the aggression can even commence. 6. Speed'. Excluding Flexibility from Mobility, this principle is reduced to speed. Mao (1965, p. 70) hinted that “ the movements of guerrilla troops must be of super-natural rapidity” . Speed is the essence of guerrilla warfare. The guerrilla must be able to move as necessary over the countryside without reliance on bridges or roads. The Vietminh Manual lays down speed as a basic requirement for the very existence of guerrillas. The enemy

The Basic Concepts


will not remain negligent for long and unless we exploit it at once, we may suffer in the end through his artillery-shelling and air strafing, etc. The Manual also provides a few guide­ lines for applying this principle. For example, to take only arms and documents (from the enemy) and withdraw at once; “ never stay immobile in one place” ; “assau lt... retreat and the firing of guns must be carried out quickly” . In regular warfare, the principle of Mobility is applied at the strategic plane. In guerrilla warfare, it is mostly employed in the tactical field. Guerrillas invariably procure everything and keep that ready for use in caches much before their operations commence. 7. Deception: What surprise is to regular warfare, deception is to guerrilla warfare. Although, deception results in gaining surprise, yet to achieve surprise we use deception. It implies taking the enemy by surprise throwing him off-balance—physi­ cally and psychologically—by creating a situation with regard to time or place or even both, which he does not expect to take place and is not prepared for. Physical dislocation disturbs mental aplomb. Principal factors that constitute surprise are secrecy, concealment, originality (non-repetition), rapidity, audacity, deception. Clasewitz (1968, p. 199) describes surprise as a fine blending of secrecy and rapidity. It implies a measure as opposed to straightforward dealing. Deception includes deceit, stratagem—a diluted form of deceit, and surprise diluted strategem in their extreme forms. Clasewitz, while describing stratagem as a “sleight-of-hand” , points out that a deceiver, by stratagem leaves it to the person himself whom he is deceiving, to commit the errors of understanding; but guerrillas, by the use of deception of place, strength, time and the method of attack, lure an enemy into the suicidaltrap. Mao (1966, p. 149) adds “ we must make the enemy blind and deaf by sealing his eyes and ears and drive his commanders to distraction by creating confusion in their minds” which is made possible by using extreme form of surprise, i.e., deception. Adequate use of surprise nightmoves is all the more essential, which requires ruses. Mao remarks that a constant use of strat­ agem to mislead, decoy and confuse the enemy is always advis­ able. In the opinion of Clasewitz (1968, p. 207), a stronger


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force requires not so much of strategy as prudence and sagacity; but, for a weaker force no prudence, no sagacity is any longer sufficient at the point where all art seems to forsake him. For him, stratagem offers itself as a last resource. Guevara (1966, p. 177) also asserts that guerrillas’ numerical inferiority makes it necessary always to attack by surprise. The Four Chinese letters sum up the application of decep­ tion thus: SHENG TUNG, CHI HSI meaning “ Uproar (in the) East; Strike (in the) West” . Mao (1966, p. 80) suggests some more measures to carry out successful deception, viz., “ by making a feint to the East but attacking in the West, appearing in the South and now in the North; hit-and-run attacks and night actions which should be constantly employed to mislead, entice and confuse the enemy” . Guevara (1966, p. 101) explains a surprise attack, i.e., deception, as ‘‘a sudden, surprise, furious, relentless attack; then, abruptly, total passivity. The survivors think that things have returned to normal, when suddenly a fresh blow is what counts. Guevara frequently used M INUET to wear down enemy’s regular armies” . While using M INUET, guerrillas surround enemy’s advancing column, on all the four sides. Then, five or six guerrillas, stationed on each side, sufficiently spread out to avoid their own encirclement, begin the dance. As one side fires at the enemy, who naturally moves towards that side where (on that side) guerrillas move back without breaking visual contact, and thus, succeed in drawing the enemy out. Then another guerrilla side starts firing and drawing the enemy out to a different side. Therefore, as the partners on all sides participate in the “ dance” , the enemy column is rendered immobile, and demoralised. The enemy thus expends huge quantities of ammunition and loses morale, while guerrillas withdraw unhurt (Guevara, 1970, p. 117). He recommends the use of an “ impregnably located decoy” also, for breaking the enemy’s encirclement with the help of decep­ tion and also to counter-encircle the enemy. Then he explains the “ misconception” which can be created by the enemy as “ to see every bush and tree on Mount Pakung as an enemy soldier” . Mao (1966, p. 149) advises guerrillas to create deliberate misconceptions amongst the enemy and spring surprise attacks on him. This means transferring the uncertainties of war while

The Basic Concepts


securing the greatest possible certainty for guerrillas, and there­ by, gaining superiority, the initiative and consequently victory. A guerrilla must follow the advice of Clasewitz for practising deception, viz., the use of wrong measures to surprise the enemy, instead of producing favourable results, may boomerang. The right measure, in his opinion, is that which gives the law to the other “ party” . And, giving law is possible by faithfully pursuing other principles of guerrilla warfare in close conformity with the principle of deception. 8. Co-operation: Guerrilla’s mere existence depends upon the degree of various types of co-operation which he can manage to seek and render. His very survival revolves around the application of the principle of co-operation. He meets all his needs by applying this principle. Deprived of it, he remains a pseudo guerrilla, living on the mercy of enemy’s regular troops which are backed by all possible resources and a wellknit organisation. Denied aid, succour and intelligence from people and left with a series of dried up sources of arms, ammunition and equipment, and deprived of sanctuaries, a guerrilla would have lost all his advantages which a guerrilla war naturally bestows on him. On the contrary, all the needs of a regular army are catered for through a number of govern­ mental organisations—well established and well-stocked. In regular armies, co-operation is attained by co-ordinating the activities of all arms and services which is achieved through a high degree of intimate functional dependence amongst the three services. In guerrilla warfare, its attainment largely depends upon the degree of physical, geographical and psycho­ logical proximity that is present amongst the guerrillas, and in the indigenous population, which determines the precise nature, direction and the method of struggle. It is sought and rendered in 5 different fields, viz., co-operation with the people; the regular army; the guerrilla political cadres (civilian guerrilla); the neighbouring guerrilla bands; and, with the country which is providing aid and sanctuaries, if it is so.


Spotlight: Freedom Fighters o f Bangladesh (a) Co-operation with People: Confucius Laid down : “By gaining people, Kingdom is gained; By losing people. Kingdom is lost” .

Mao likens guerrillas to fish which must live in the sea of a locality and its water must be warm enough to facilitate it* proliferation. Lawrence also remarked that “ our Kingdom lay in each man’s mind” . Mao (1970, p. 67) also wrote, “ with the common people of the whole country mobilised, we shall create a vast sea of humanity and drown the enemy in it” . Local support is sine qua non. Without it a guerrilla force can neither survive nor function. Guerrillas obtain everything through this support—food, succour, intelligence, shelter, clothing, arms, ammunition, motor fuels, recruits, medicines and funds to keep the movement a going concern. Local people are one of their chief sources of supply. Community support enhances community security, i.e., the guerrilla’s own people will not betray him. This is possible only when the community holds guerrillas in high esteem and treats them as patriots who are fighting for their cause and not living as parasites on community. A successful guerrilla leader must lift the com­ munity’s spirit and enhance its sense of pride, daring and adventure. Therefore, “ guerrillas must secure the active sym­ pathy of the majority and tacit support of the remainders” . Mao (1970, pp. 66-67) developed this code in the form of “ Three Rules and Eight Remarks” . He suggested that complete and absolute popular support in (and around) base area is vitally essential. Their sympathy, co-operation and assistance in these areas must be total and absolute. (b) Co-operation with Civilian Guerrillas: Civilian guerrillas conduct Guerrilla Political Operations as a complement to Guerrilla War within the framework of politico-strategic plan­ ning of Guerrilla Operations which are drawn at the highest echelon. Hence, civilian and armed guerrillas must co-operate with each other effectively. In most of the cases, the question of overall leadership provokes feuds amongst guerrilla leaders.

The Basic Concepts


Mao, in view of a competition for leadership which might eventually lead to disaster, conducted his Guerrilla Operations through committees which were represented by both military commanders and political commissioners. Mao clearly establish­ ed the supremacy of political cadres over armed guerrillas and announced that discipline and revolutionary conscience of soldiers result from the party’s leadership and its teachings and not from political or military leadership of certain particular individuals. Armed guerrillas who are adept at handling weapons and explosives sometimes also aid civilian guerrillas. (c) Co-operation with Neighbouring Guerrilla Bands: This co-operation is employed to increase the guerrillas’ numerical strength for a particular task and to exchange information which has been gathered through intelligence agencies. The Vietminh Manual points out that continuous attacks and proper co-operation between the elements of several villages or com­ munities make it easier for guerrillas to discover the enemy’s weak points. Guerrilla movements, which are generally rent with factionalism, face internal struggles for power among individual guerrilla bands and also amongst their leaders. Personal rivalries invariably take deep roots and struggles for power, sometimes, grow extremely bitter. Many a time, guerrillas have turned their guns from the enemy and pointed them at their own compatriots. In Afghanistan, during 1979-80, squabbling-Afghan Rebels talked of unity thus: “ Ideology, Ethnic Chauvinism and personal ambitions of individual leaders have kept the insurgents divided in Afghanistan since the first of three Marxist governments seized power in April, 1978” (The Times of India, 17 Jan. 1980, p. 11). (d) Co-operation with Regular Army: It is of three kinds, viz., Strategic co-operation; Tactical co-operation; and Battle co-operation. Strategic co-operation of guerrillas lies in harassing the enemy much far away from the field of battle. It demoralises the enemy and encourages own national spirit of resistance. When guerrilla operations are launched to supplement the war effort of regular armies they provide tactical help; whereas, co­ operation of guerrillas in immediate battle areas comprises


Spotlight: Freedom Fighters o f Bangladesh

battle co-operation. (e) Co-operation with the Nation, Providing Aid and Sanctuaries, If it is so: Aid and sanctuaries, afforded to another nation, first serve the donor’s national interests geo-political, geo-strategic, economic, social or even cultural. Guerrillas pay for such aid and sanctuaries very heavily in the form of co­ operation to the donor country, which directly or indirectly serves her (donor’s) national interests. Aims and interests of both, the donor and the receiver are diametrically opposite to each other’s. Guerrillas have no option but to pay an exorbitant price for such an aid. In 1949, Tito sealed his bor­ ders and closed all sanctuaries; because, his national interest came to a direct clash with those of the Greek guerrillas. Increased co-operation from guerrilla forces to the donor country compels them to compromise their goals by adjusting to the donor’s demands. Consequently, guerrillas begin to appear more of a subversionary element than the ones waging a guerrilla war. It dampens those emotions of guerrillas which provide fuel for guerrilla warfare, and this renders the ideologi­ cal struggle far more difficult (Paret& Shy, 1964, p. 37). Sanctuaries are provided and accepted when the borders of both countries are contiguous to each other. The material aid, provided to guerrillas, enhances their strength so much that it becomes virtually difficult to flush them out of an area or wipe them out; because, they can live in a safe heaven across a friendlier border. Afghan rebels find it in Pakistan; MuktiBahini guerrillas hid inside India; even the royalists, in Yemen, waged an impressive guerrilla campaign against Republican revolutionaries because they were aided and shielded by the neighbouring Saudi Arabian Government. 9. Maintenance o f Moral: Individual morale is the quality, courage and bold determination which motivates a soldier to continue fighting with all odds against him and even when adversity stares him in the eye. The morale of a mass of soldiers is the sum total of “ moral forces” which (moral forces) “ fasten themselves soonest and with the greatest affinity on to the w ill. . . which guides the whole mass of powers” . Clasewitz enumerates three kinds of “chief moral forces” :

The Basic Concepts


I. The talent of the commander; 2. its national feeling; 3. tfife Military Virtue of the Army. Chief moral forces o f the first category are gifted; those o f second, are manipulated; and those belonging to the third category need some elaboration. The singular difference between the regular and a guerrilla soldier with reference to the third type of chief morale forces, lies in the fact that, while a regular soldier disputes the ground inch by inch and holds it till the last man and last round, sur­ vives or dies for the honour of his nation; a guerrilla, on the contrary, would compromise on territory and yield it to save his life and to disappear only to re-appear at some other point in faithful pursuance of guerrilla tactics. Clasewitz points out that one army can more easily dispense with military virtue in the face of another army than, if its adversary were carrying out national insurrection. The reason is obvious. While facing a national insurrection, the regular soldiers are more scattered and left more to themselves than in the previous case. By this analysis, guerrillas need military virtue more than the regular armies do; because, guerrillas are always scattered and left to themselves. In the opinion of Clasewitz, military virtue is substituted in national risings by “ bravery, aptitude, powers of endurance and enthusiasm” . This assertion, however, is not valid these days. A guerrilla war is as organised as a regular one, and it can not afford to dilute military virtues in any eventuality. Courage, an important ingredient of morale, is the “ general element in which everything moves in war” . It is the feeling of one’s own power, and it acts as a counterpoise to the danger. Boldness, another constituent of morale, should not be looked down upon even in foolhardiness, that is boldness without an object, with- out any co-operation of intelligent faculties, “ until it treats with contempt the order of a superior authority” . Perseverance, an­ other component part of morale, is required for putting hearti nto a difficult and physically uncomfortable task, such as war, and there is hardly any celebrated enterprise in war which cannot be achieved by endless exertion, pains and privations. The military spirit of morale emanates from two sources; one of them is a succession of campaigns and brilliant victories. Military succes­ ses boost up the morale of the guerrillas and that of the local


Spotlight: Freedom Fighters o f Bangladesh

people, who willingly support the movement and assist guerrillas to give them supplies, information and recruits for their bands, and what not. Hence, it is of paramount importance in guerrillas war. The Vietminh Manual also suggests not to fight unless success is assured and that guerrilla must attack an enemy ceaselessly and everywhere from all directions and on all the sides. Other factors, exploited to maintain morale, are comrade­ ship, contentment and an undying will to win. Co-operation generates espirit de corps a feeling of comradeship; whereas, discipline, in guerrilla warfare, is achieved through a manner which is much different from that of regular forces. The reason is simple. Guerrillas are not mercenaries; they are volunteers, who fight because they want to. They are intensely indoctrinat­ ed crusaders. They are united, not by religion, custom, race or hunger, but by common economic and social goals and by a common desire to improve their lot. Guevara explains it thus: guerrillas are free men; guerrilla-bands functioning under com­ pulsion is inconceivable. Fascism and Nazism destroy these faculties. Free men, hating oppression, with freedom of initiative and arms in their hands, these make the ideal guerrillas as is the opinion of Yank Bert Levy also. Mao (1970, pp. 65-66) bring» out the same theme: an extremely imposed discipline generates indifference between officers and men and uproots their internal unity and fighting strength. Therefore, a discipline of compul­ sion is ineffective amongst guerrillas. Hence, the basis for disci­ pline must be the self-imposed individual conscience. Then, discipline becomes a tower of strength. Guevara agrees with Mao that guerrilla discipline should be based on reason and conviction. In M ao’s (1970, p. 66) opinion, the principal mea­ sure to ensure discipline amongst guerrillas is self-indoctrina­ tion. To achieve this goal, liberal political discourses should also be encouraged. But, once the issue has been clinched, minority must submit to majority (Singh & Mei, 1971, p. 61). About leadership, Mao (1970, p. 33) suggests that all guerrilla units must have political and military leadership. It should hail from amongst the local population which is already familiar with local conditions. He emphasises the need to edu­ cate and train local people as excellent building blocks for the

The Basic Concept


formation of potential leadership. It is especially applicable when the local population lacks fertility in producing efficient leadership (M ao, 1970, p. 62). The satisfaction that results from a sufficiency in articles and which fulfils material needs of life breeds efficiency, more parti­ cularly amongst the guerrilla type of forces; because the life of a guerrilla is exacting and full of privations where nothing is sufficient. There 1s little medical care and a wounded guerrilla is presumed to be a lost guerrilla. So, the distribution of supplies irrespective of rank distinction, i.e., equal treatment to officers and men with regard to fulfilling physical needs, will bring satisfaction and; in turn, efficiency amongst guerrilla forces. According to Mao (1970, p. 66), horizontal and vertical unifica­ tion of officer and soldier groups is attainable only when the mode of living of officers and men is almost the same. Then, such units become powerful combat factors. The whole concept can be reduced to a line: “ there must be equality of existence in accepting the hardships and dangers of war” . , An army’s national feeling, which generates the will to fight among regular soldiers, is a 'fundamental requirement of guerrilla warfare. The “ cause” , the chief constituent of ideology, is mostly abstract; but, when identified with immediate and potent causes for disaffection like poverty and backwardness, becomes a rallying point for the aroused masses. It acts as the principal motivating force to draw these patriots out of their homes and hearths and turns them into guerrillas. In the case of regular armies, the gravity of a cause is felt only in the highest echelons; whereas, in guerrilla operations, it is the main concern of every guerrilla. This is why, the political objectives of guerrillas (the cause) must coincide with the aspirations of the masses. “ Without a political goal guerrilla war must fail, as it must if its political objectives do not coincide with the aspirations of the people and their sympathy, co-operation and assistance cannot be gained” (Mao, 1970, p. 33). (Horizontal unification refers to the Unity, present within the soldier groups; while, vertical unification means Unity from lower to higher echelons).


Spotlight: Freedom Fighters o f Bangladesh

10. Intelligence: The tenth principle of Guerrilla warfare, according to certain scholars of Military Science, is planning. But this is not just a principle. It envelopes many principles and maxims. A thorough and detailed planning does lead to success in guerrilla warfare; yet, it is open to question that planning is a mere principle of guerrilla warfare. While planning for a war regular or irregular attention is certainly focussed on keeping main principles of war in immediate view and ensuring that none of them escapes notice, and that the relevant ones are properly and timely applied. Intelligence, as our tenth principle, is definitely preferable to planning. Without accurate, detailed and up-to-date information, it is inconceivable to launch Guerrilla Operations, let alone success. Thus, intelli­ gence is a decisive factor in Guerrilla Operations. In order to launch any Guerrilla Operation, intelligence information is intrinsically essential. Guerrillas need to know the enemy’s location, his weapons, strength, intention, equip­ ment, supply-situation and morale, so also, the capabilities of the enemy’s leaders and his troops, e.g., troops may be tough soldiers with a high standard of discipline and efficiency, or a poorly trained motley crowd. Similarly, guerrillas need intelli­ gence information about terrain, e.g., important roads, forests, * rivers, bridges, ferries, marshes, etc. All this information is obtained through a well organised and pervasive guerrilla intelligence system. Every person in a guerrilla area must, invariably, be considered a guerrilla agent. Local cadres “p u t the heat” on every person to procure all conceivable information. Simultaneously, guerrillas deny infor­ mation, about ownselves, to the enemy. Who is enveloped in an impenetrable fog. The enemy stands as on a lighted stage; from the darkness around him, thousands o f unseen eyes intently study his every move, his every ges­ ture. When he strikes out, he hits the air, his antagonists are insubstantial, as intangible as fleeting shadows in the moon­ light ( G r i f f i t h , 1970, p . 20). Superior and up-to-date information enables guerrillas to engage an enemy under conditions of their own choosing. Their

The Basic Concept


superior knowledge of terrain gives them the ability to use it to their own advantage and to the disadvantage of the enemy. Besides sending spies on espionage missions on every hand, guerrilla units must assimilate with the local population so that reliable local inhabitants render good help in procuring valuable information about enemy activities. Intelligence information, procured, must be transmitted timely and regularly. For this, local inhabitants can be paid handsomely so that they can establish a secret espionage network (Griffith, 1970, pp. 99-100).


Bangladesh is Awake So long as the mutual terror makes a hot war impossible ...the guerrilla and the counter-guerrilla will inevitably have their role to play S ir F

it z r o y



This chapter has been devoted to the political movement which was launched for the liberation of Bangladesh, in 1971. Herein, those political operations are analysed which had a direct bear­ ing upon the birth, growth, and the culmination of Guerrilla Operations in Bangladesh. Nationalist Revolutionary Guerrilla Operations The liberation struggle of Bangladesh is essentially the saga of Nationalist Revolutionary Guerrilla Operations. These are launched against those established home governments which, even after losing the confidence of their people, stick to power in utter disregard to constitutional norms and practices. Such governments are also not prepared to modify their policies to honour popular aspirations. Therefore, such operations begin spontaneously as uprisings and then they are organised into revolutionary operations. The aim is to replace a hated ruling junta with a popular government. Here, particular emphasis is laid on preserving indigenous culture, national values and economic prosperity, and, the philosopher of such a revolution is a living leader who organised it; his philosophy is saturated with national heritage. In the case of Bangladesh, the right to have their own land and enjoyment of a fair social treatment motivated the Bengali labour class to rebel against the military regime: having a job,

Bangladesh is Awake


decent wage and social justice collected industrial workers on the streets. For students and professional workers, the goal was freedom. In Bangladesh, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had not organised guerrilla bands at the grassroots level, 'ihe whole process started spontaneoulsy with the military crackdown on 25 March, 1971. At that time, Mujib had already been incar­ cerated. Other leaders, following the dictate of Sheikh Mujib, had gone underground. Therefore, this resistance movement became conspicuous by the absence of leadership and higher direction. The aim of the movement was to conquer and de­ stroy the oppressive oligarchy of Pakistan which exercised power through its agents and armed forces which were well equipped. Allied with it was the pampered bureaucracy which fulfilled the ambitions of the oligarchy. Mr Bhutto, in league with General Yahya Khan, was not in a mood to allow the “ punies” of East Bengal to rule Pun­ jabis, Sindhis and Pathans. In his opinion, Bhutto’s class had “ descended on earth to rule Bengalis and not to be ruled by them” . With a Hitlerite attitude and Nazi approach, Bhutto was hell bent upon sharing power with Sheikh Mujib, although he was not in a majority. Under this situation, it was beyond the scope of anyone’s imagination (leave alone Yahya Khan) to transfer power to the elected representatives in proportion to their strength in the National Assembly. Thus, Bhutto was demanding transfer of power, seperately for East Pakistan (Eastern wing) and (Western Wing) West Pakistan. Spontaneous Uprising Yahya Khan’s postponing the inaugural session of the National Assembly sine die and sacking of the East-Pakistan Governor without ascribing any reason for his abrupt removal, came to the Bengali population as a bitter pill which they refused to swallow. In response, Mujib declared a general strike in Dacca which would register their protest against the postponing of Assembly’s Session. General Yahya Khan postponed the sess­ ion in the name of A LL A H (God) and QUAID-E-AZAM (Jinnah) but, it failed to convince the common Bengalis of East Pakistan. With no scheduled meeting in sight, a mammoth'


Spotlight: Freedom Fighters o f Bangladesh

crowd, deserting the Bazars of Dacca, surged on the Paltan Maidan—a. customary rallying point to express public dissent— with “ Bamboo poles, hockey sticks, iron-rods and dry coconut fronds” (Mascarenhas, 1972, p. 91) or whatever they could lay their hands on in a spontaneous outburst of anger for West Pakistanis and foreigners. As had happened in the Vienna Insurrection of 12 Nov. 1851, here also, the struggle “ was made by an almost unanimous population... the petty trading class and the working people, one and all arose at once against a Government, detested by all, a Government so universally hated” (Aveling Eleanor Mary, 1952, p. 40). In the Vienna Insurrection, the working classes were partially armed; “ they and the students had borne the brunt of the fight, as far as fight there had been... the students... formed the nucleus, the real strength of the revolutionary force” (Aveling Eleanor Mary, 1952, p. 42). Here, Bengalis, in East Pakistan, one and all, rose up in arms on the pattern of the Vienna Insurrection. In the agitated hearts of these Bengalis, Bangladesh had been born on 1 Mar. 1971, who had turned Pakistan’s Republic Day into a resistance day in East Pakistan. Soon this crowd, at the Paltan Maidan, swelled to 50,000. It burnt a Pakistani flag, smashed furniture and window panes of the PIA ’s office (Pakistan International Airlines) and looted West Pakistani shops. Sheikh Mujib hurriedly announced a general strike in Dacca for March 2 and a province-wide strike for March 3. He announced also the programme for his public address which was to be held at the Race Course on March 7, where he would disclose a set programme for achieving self-determination. To express his anguish, he scolded the crowd for its unruly beha­ viour and directed it to return the booty to its lawful owners. The agitated crowd dispersed; but, it rampaged through the city and clashed with police throughout that night. Bengalis, ignoring the direction of the Awami League volunteers, assaulted non-Bengalis. The wildfire of anger had soon engulfed Narayanganj. At Paltan Maidan, the hysteric crowd cried “Joy Bangla” (Victory to Bengal) and demanded immediate independence. A section of the people rushed towards the Jinnah Avenue—a shopping centre—and began looting and pillaging stalls, shops and

Bangladesh is Awake


emporia—owned by west Pakistanis—there. Some of the shops were set ablaze. Dacca and Narayanganj were burnt down. Thus began a wild rebellion which finally turned into a liberation struggle which was meant to relieve East Bengal of the bloody clutches of a “ military-bureaucratic-comprador elite” . At the end of the meeting at Purbani Hotel (Dacca), Sheikh Mujib announced to the press that “ only for the sake of a minority party’s disagreement, the democratic process of con­ stitution making has been obstructed and the National Assembly session has been postponed sine die. This is most unfortunate ...wc are the representatives of the majority people and we cannot allow it to go unchallenged” (The People, 2 Mar. 1971). He warned also: “ you will see history made if the con­ spirators fail to come to their senses (The People, 2 Mar. 1971). Strikes Cripple East Bengal On 2 Mar. 1971, a general strike crippled life in Dacca. It was an example of successful political operations. Similarly, Bengalis absented themselves from duty and formed crowds in the streets: both of these activities were ideal political opera­ tions. The defiance of curfew was assuming dangerous pro­ portions: again a political operation. People faced the army that had turned out of its barracks to restore law and order, with bare fists. A province-wide general strike, coupled with a non-violent non-co-operation movement, engulfed an entire East Pakistan and forced the army back into barracks; because, it failed to stand up against the audacious defiance of the Bengalis. These are the illustrious examples of successful political operations. Hard pressed by daily strikes which con­ tinued upto 6 Mar. and which were effective between 6 a.m. and 2 p.m. on each day and which had pervaded all spheres of public life including the government offices, secretariat, courts, communication services of PI A, railways and public and pri­ vate transport system, factories, commercial establishments and markets, the army was forced to observe constraints on rations and other supplies. This was a classic example of successful


Spotlight: Freedom Fighters o f Bangladesh

political operations which directly advanced the cause of the movement, using non-violent peaceful measures. Another glaring example of political operations was pro­ vided in the night of 3 Mar. when Chittagong went through a state of trauma. Here, the army was forced to unload the munitions ship “ M.V. SWAT” which had berthed at the Chit­ tagong port: Brigadier Hai Ansari—a Bengali officer—who was commanding the Chittagong garrison, was abruptly replaced by a West Pakistani officer who instructed the local authorities to unload that ship. The army had been abstaining from unload­ ing it for the past seventeen days because the dock workers were following the path of non-co-operation. The dock wor­ kers spread the word that the local authorities were forcing them to unload the ship. The news brought one lakh provoked Bengalis on to the streets of Chittagong. In order to break their way out, the army had to resort to massive firing. Soldiers of the East-Pakistan Rifles refused to fire at Bengali demons­ trators. This added dangerous dimensions to an already pre­ carious situation. Consequent upon it, seven men of the EPR faced a Summary Court Martial. Then they were sprayed with bullets. The tension, caused by this event, tended to sweep the entire province of East Pakistan. The movement’s temperature marked a steep rise (IDSA, 1971, p. 436). In order to counter-poise the regime’s provocation, Sheikh Mujib announced the observance of “ continuous strikes” —a daily shutdown between 7 a.m. and 2 p.m.—which paralysed the entire province of East Pakistan, during those seven hours— offices, banks, post-offices, telegraph-telephone services were completely dislocated; Airlines and train services had reached a state o f virtual halt. The situation compelled the West-Pakistan Army which was stationed in East Pakistan to observe austerity in the consumption of rations and other articles of daily needs. The austerity drive amply proved the remarkable success of this political operation. In this trouble-torn state, Lieutenant-General Tikka Khan, “ the most unrelenting ‘hawk’ in the entire Pakistan Army” (Loshak, David, 1971, p. 65)—flew into Dacca to assume the dual role of a Governor as well as that of the Martial-Law Administrator. He carried with him his previous reputation of

Bangladesh is Awake


being the “ Butcher” of Baluchistan. This served as a red rag to the bull and further increased the defiance of established authority with each day passed. Dacca, the focal point of nonco-operation movement, witnessed the weakest government-writ. Public buildings and government offices flew black flags. The national anthem was audaciously removed from the radio and television programmes. Public places were filled with mammoth crowds at the stroke of 2 where Mujib’s instructions, to the people, were regularly announced. Students and political leaders delivered fiery speeches. These were all peaceful political activi­ ties and were meant to push the movement ahead by applying non-violent measures. One fine day, 341 prisoners broke out of the Dacca Jail, attended public meetings and audaciously march­ ed past the streets of Dacca in Jail uniform under the nose of the authorities who watched them in helpless despondency (Mascarenhas, 1971, p. 94). Sheikh Mujib’s impending declaration of independence heightened the anxiety-level of the military-bureaucracy, in Rawalpindi. The acute disaffection, pervading the rank and file of the EPR, while holding the maximum number of key-posts in the military setup of East Pakistan, (and which was a com­ mon knowledge) forced certain radical changes in the military plans of Pakistan. Earlier, the,plans were aimed at containing the political outburst; later, they were meant to crush the rebellion ruthlessly with an iron hand. A political problem was sought to be solved militarily; because, “ political alternatives did not unduly tax Yahya’s mind. They smelt too much of defeatism and for him there was no turning back. He saw the remedy only in applying greater force” (Mascarenhas, 1971, p. 95) i.e., a military solution for a political problem. Prior to 7 Mar. 1971, Yahya Khan’s objective was to contain a political outburst by a show of force; later it was turned into a bid to crush the “ rebellion” brutally. Assured of Chinese support through General Hamid who was also acting in league with Bhutto at the instance of China (Daily News, 2 Apr. 1971), Bhutto concentrated all his energies at usurping power from both Yahya and Mujib. Under Bhutto’s influence, General Yahya Khan agreed to Tikka Khan’s asser­


Spotlight: Freedom Fighters o f Bangladesh

tion of “ give me force and I will crush them in 48 hours” . He was convinced that Bengalis needed a “ lesson” . On 5 Mar. General Yahya Khan decided to counter-balance Mujib’s impending declaration of independence which was scheduled for 7 Mar. with a gesture that would partly assuage Bengali feelings and partly buy time to tone up his war-machine. Then, he could wait for an opportune moment to “ sort them out once and for ever” . He offered to hold a round-table con­ ference of the political leaders in Dacca, on 10 Mar. but, Mujib spurned it as a “ Cruel Joke” . Next, Yahya, after deciding to withdraw the army into barracks, announced on 6 Mar., that 25 Mar. would be the new date for National-Assembly’s inaugural session. At the same time, he squarely blamed the Awami League for the unfortunate situation that had pervaded East Pakistan because Mujib had refused to attend the proposed Round-Table Conference. Not only that, at his instance, people were coming out in the streets and were destroying life and property. This was a brilliant example of the manipulation of crowds. General Yahya Khan also warned Bengalis that “ I will ensure complete and absolute integrity of Pakistan” (Dawn, 7 Mar. 1971). With that aim in view, massive air lifts began with a trickle and soon developed into a “ stream of reinforce­ ments which was to become a torrent” . Elaborate preparations for a military solution to the “ East Bengal Problem” had started soon after the elections were over, which had shattered many an illusion, harboured in Islamabad (Ayoob, 1972, p. 112). “ Military build-up was accelerated after 1 March and continued throughout the talks upto 25 Mar. Members of the armed forces dressed in civilian clothes were flown in PIA commercial flights via Ceylon. . . To ensure security the airport (Dacca) was put under strict airforce control and heavily guarded with artillery and machine-gun nests while movement of passengers was strictly supervised” (Ahmed, Tajuddin, Speech, 17 Apr. 1971). Thus, unknown to any, but the topmost generals, in President Yahya Khan’s inner-most circle, the civil war which was the sole alternative to a return to civilian government had already begun (Loshak, David, 1971, p. 59). Contrary to Yahya’s calculations, his speech, instead of

Bangladesh is Awake


counter-balancing Sheikh’s unilateral declaration of indepen­ dence which was due for the next day, served to inflame Bengali passions. But, the day of confrontation was further postponed as Mujib did not declare independence on 7 Mar. Even then, Bhutto accused Mujib of contriving a “situation that would facilitate the separation of the .two wings of Pakistan by consti­ tutional and legal means” (Bhutto, 1971, p. 84). The Awami League fell prey to Yahya’s trap. Mujib’s response to Yahya’s announcement yielded enough time for a military build-up in East Pakistan. At the same time, his announcement on 7 Mar. of a civil disobedience movement instead of a much publicised and eagerly awaited unilateral declaration of independence for seeking self-determination for the Bengali people, disappointed a common Bengali. Mujib failed to measure up to their expec­ tations. He blundered; otherwise, Bangladesh would have emerg­ ed independent the same day and at the minimum cost of lives for which people had come prepared. Had Sheikh Mujib, true to his image, led a million-strong crowd only four miles awayto the Headquarters of Eastern Command to seek Tikka Khan’s surrender, a dreadful catastrophe would have been averted and Bangladesh would have become independent on 7 Mar. only. Bengali masses had appeared at the Race-Course grounds with iron-rods, bamboo-poles, swords, spears, and indigenousshot guns. The police or army were nowhere in sight. Nothing could have daunted their pace not even Tikka Khan’s tanks, guns o r aeroplanes. These very “ puny, timid and non-martial” Bengalis had grown restless to pounce upon their seducers—the “military-bureaucratic-comprador-elite” (Subrahmanyam, 1972, p. 42) of Pakistan to “disprove the libel in the field of action” (Mankekar, 1972, p. 137). But, Mujib was lured into meaning­ less “ negotiations on constitutional formulas” and he miserably failed to apply the principle of “ Exploitation of Environment” . It was a fiasco for Sheikh Mujib which “ lay not in the leader­ ship he provided but his understanding of the objective situa­ tion against which he fought. . . . It was his preoccupation with politics that prevented him from judging the great social impli­ cations of the movement he had launched” (Ayoob, 1972, p. 62). A moderate, middle of the road politician Sheikh Mujib had rather pleaded that “East Pakistan would get nothing from


Spotlight: Freedom Fighters o f Bangladesh

secession except bloodshed and torment” (Loshak, David, 1971, pp. 71-72). Yahya Khan’s selection of a new date further helped him into avoiding a headlong plunge with an unpredict­ able outcome. He further pleaded: “The Awami League’s man­ date was not for independence, but for autonomy” (Loshak, ‘David, 1972, pp. 71-72) and that unilateral declaration of independence would mar the chances of external aid and those of a recognition against Pakistan’s internationally recognised government. “ Wrangling late into the night (of 6 Mar.) they (Awami League members) devised the formula” (Loshak, David, 1972, pp. 71-72)—a compromise between unilateral independence and President Yahya K han’s insistence on attend­ ing t,he assembly’s session without strings. Four demands the withdrawal of M artial Law, the immediate withdrawal o f all military personnel to their barracks, an inquiry into the recent killings, and an immediate transfer of power to the elected representatives of the people before 25 Mar. (Dawn 8, Mar. 1971)—buttressed by a province-wide disobedience movement which would manifest Bengali determination—were to be placed before President Yahya Khan. This time, the modus operandi had been changed, viz., non-violent; but, the objective remained unaltered power to the people and withdrawal of the Army. As Mujib’s announcement of the new approach, on 7 Mar. had stunned the mammoth crowd, he sensed the popular mood and thundered: “ Our struggle this time is a struggle for freedom. Our struggle this time is a struggle for independence Joi Bangla". The crowd went hysteric to execute Mujib’s 10 directives which related to the closure of all offices, stoppage of the payment of rent and taxes, hoisting black flags on all buildings and the formation of Sangram Parishads (revolutionary councjls) in each union, Mohalla, Thana, thus covering the entire adminis­ trative structure, down to the village level. This was a solid example of the manipulation of Bengali crowds by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Thus, the first phase of M ao’s war of Resistance, i.e. Guerrilla Defensive which consists of the organisation, consolidation and preservation, had successfully begun and hectic political activity was on. The civil disobedience movement, in East Bengal, had begun to manifest the degree of proximity and community-support to the freedom struggle.

Bangladesh is Awake


People’s Rule On 8 Mar., barring army garrisons, government writ, in East Pakistan, had fast extentuated and “ people’s rule” became the order o f the day. Pursuing Mujib’s directives, every citizen of East Pakistan deposited taxes with two Bengali-owned banks. Every man, woman and child religiously followed Banga Bandhu's “ ten commandments” which infected every sphere of activity with defiance to the military regime. Khan Wali Khan, an ardent follower of non-violence, had remarked,“ . . . even Gandhi would have marvelled.” This movement, in East Pakis­ tan, alarmed the people of West Pakistan. Share-value of busi­ ness establishments sharply dropped. The business community had been pestering the military regime for salvaging their sink­ ing business in the Eastern Wing of Pakistan where their export business—the pivot of the country’s economy was receiving a severe set-back. This proved that the Bengali movement was becoming really efficacious. In a bid to lift the sinking economy and mitigate the hardships of the common Bengali, in East Pakistan, M r Tajuddin Ahmed—Awami League’s general secretary—issued “ clarifications” and “ exemptions” in banking hours, in the operation of road and water transport, supply of water and gas, electric, and sanitary services. The treasury began to make payments to Bengalis only. Post and Telegraph depart­ ment delivered letters and telegrams within the limits of East Pakistan. These “clarifications” and “exemptions” bore ample testimony to the fact that the Awami League was running a parallel government in East Pakistan which was not even dreamt of in West Pakistan. Thus, the direct impact of the implementation of Mujib’s directives was that the exports—the pivot of East Pakistan economy—around which all its economic activities were revolving, suffered a severe rebuff. On 9 Mar., Sheikh Mujib reassured his people of a sincere implementation of his six-point programme: “ If necessary, we will again suffer jail terms, but we cannot deviate from the principle” , he announced (DAWN, 10 Feb. 1971). Since the civil administration was already co-operating with the disobe­ dience movement by obeying the orders of the Awami League, by 5 Mar. it had successfully covered the entire civil adminis-


Spotlight: Freedom Fighters o f Bangladesh

tration in East Pakistan. This again exhibited the presence of a parallel government which was virtually functional there. The EPR and EBR were the only trained forces which were available with thejnilitary regime, in East Pakistan, that could implement Yahya’s contingency plans. Though they had not renounced allegiance to the military autocracy till then, Neville Maxwell had expressed doubts as early as 1 Mar. 1971, about their credibility regarding the continuity of their loyalty to the regime in future. He remarked, “ The crucial question for President Yahya must bear on the loyalty of the Bengali ele­ ments among the security forces . . . and the reliability of the Bengali civil service” (Financial Times, 3 Mar. 1971). The effect of the movement had begun to tell upon the living of those non-Bengalis who were residing in East Pakistan. The West-Pakistani elite that had been stranded in East Pakistan, was growing panic-striken. It felt insecure in the face of enormous Bengali strength. Non-Bengalis in Dacca, Khulna and Chittagong had feared reprisals at the hands of the Bengalis and were attempting to flee to West Pakistan in search of safety. The steamer services to Karachi had been discontinued. Dacca airport was witnessing a mad scramble for a dash to Karachi because the commercial flights had only limited accomodation. Consequently, the PI A, cancelling all its inter­ national flights, placed every available aircraft at the disposal of these West Pakistanis. The PIA was operating flights round the clock. On their return-journey flights, these aircraft were ferrying West-Pakistan troops who were clad in civics. Then, also, outrageoulsy provocative actions of non-Bengalis who were residing in East Pakistan were constantly inviting the * wrath of the docile but an awakened Bengali population. A West Pakistani woman, residing in East Bengal, was contemptous of the Bengali race. She always preferred to dump the left-over food into the dustbin rather than give it to her frail, poor and hungry servants. The Biharis—the persons who were displaced from India during 1947 and who (later became victims of subsequent riots) had found refuge in East Bengal isolated themselves from the main stream of national life. Deliberately ignoring the Bengali language, they chose to speak Urdu or English that too during their residence in East Bengal. Here,

Bangladesh is Awake


□on-Bengali-speaking people were not held in high esteem. Such people presented ideal targets to the Bengali wrath. On 13 Mar., certain West-Pakistani politicians appealed in a meeting which was held at Lahore for accepting Sheikh Mujib’s four demands as a pre-condition for attending the Assembly Session (Dawn, 14 Mar. 1971); whereas, on 14 Mar., the disobedience movement struck its roots still deeper. The government-machinery was following the dictates of the Awami League: It was collecting taxes in the name of the party. The army, on the other hand, had been facing hardships and humiliation. Shopkeepers refused to sell them their goods, forcing them to live on simple dal-roti (Common man’s food (Indian), consist­ ing of simple flat wheat-cakes and pulses) which was being transported from Karachi through massive airlifts (Mascarenhas 1971, p. 105). This speaks for the effectiveness of the political operations of the Bengali guerrillas which they launched in East Bengal. One day, an irate mob pounced upon a group of Pathan soldiers who belonged to the East Pakistan Rifles and forced them to strip naked and then march back to the canton­ ment nude. “ Luckily most of them had shorts on. Otherwise, the disgrace would have been even more terrible” (Mascarenhas, 1971, p. 105). Bengalis had gone to the extent of even spitting upon WestPakistani soldiers. Therefore, these troops were to extract a terrible vengeance from these Bengalis, after 25 Mar. 1971. Their humiliation touched a new high on 8 Mar. 1971, when Lieutenant-General Tikka Khan had to swallow his pride. Mr Justice B.A. Siddiky, the Chief Justice of Dacca High Court, refused to administer him the oath of office and the General could find no other judge to oblige him (IDSA, News Review, Apr. 1971). Tikka Khan had to be content with his “ military hat” only for another month when the army was, once again, in a position to command the judicial services as well. This was a successful guerrilla political operation which directly advanc­ ed the cause of the movement with the use of non-violent measures. On 14 Mar., Bhutto exhorted that the power, at the centre, be transferred to the majority parties of both the wings, while in the provinces, it should be handed over to the parties there


Spotlight: Freedom Fighters o f Bangladesh

(DAWN, 6 Mar. 1971). The same day, General Yahya Khan, in a publicised attempt to find a political solution to the crisis, in East Pakistan, flew to Dacca; but, his actual purpose was to buy more time to be able to prepare for a military crack-down. The ruling clique was getting all the more alarmed at the legitimacy which the Awami League’s administration was fast acquiring in the eyes of the world. On 14 Mar. itself, Lt. General Tikka Khan astutely warned every government em­ ployee and anyone who was being paid out of the defence budget against any defiance to the military regime. He ordered them to report for duty within 24 hours (which coincided with Yahya K han’s arrival in Dacca), failing which their dismissal would be combined with their prosecution by special tribunals. The outcome was fairly predictable Bengalis defied en masse. Two days later, the same proclamation was repeated. This time, three day’s period was given to those loyal employees of th e' regime whose entry into office might have been barred by refractory “ miscreants” three days ago. The proclamation was meant to exhibit the regime’s much publicised sincerity in finding out a political solution to the problem of East Pakistan. Maulana Bhashani who had stood aloof until the declara­ tion of the election-results and had boycotted the elections by branding them “a farce” , on 10 Dec. 1971, called for an independent sovereign Bangladesh. At this stage, he appealed to Sheikh Mujib to join him in his pious crusade for achieving a sovereign state of Bangladesh (The Times of India, 14 Apr. 1971), but, the latter had been hypnotised by Yahya K han’s black magic. He remained indifferent to Bhashani. Later, when he got disillusioned with General Yahya Khan, Bhashani threw in his lot with the Sheikh. Negotiations between Sheikh Mujib and Yahya Khan, covering all the aspects of administra­ tion and the economy of East Pakistan, continued between 15 and 25 Mar. and characteristically, they never broke down though the complexion of the President’s negotiating team was bitterly provocative to the Bengali leaders. It formed a despicable band of hoodlums, consisting of the repugnant Rizvi—the Director of the Civil Intelligence Bureau and the principal instrument in hatching the Agartala Conspiracy case, in 1968, M ajor General Akbar, Chief of Inter-Services Intelli-

Bangladesh is Awake *


gence, another irritant in the team, and Lt Col Hassan who had been thought as a necessary evil to provide expert advice on Martial Law Regulations, only because he was an expert on the Military Law. He too presented an abominable sight to the Awami-League leaders. Thus, the negotiating team provided more undulations than a smooth surface to the delicate political discussions, ever undertaken by Pakistan’s Head of State, since 1947. The team’s other constituents also, viz., Major-General Umar, Mr M.M. Ahmed and Justice A.R. Comeliks—were also unappealing to Bengali eyes. One day, after returning from a meeting, Mujib remarked to a friend: “ Yahya has brought his monsters. Does he expect me to talk to them?” Sheikh Mujib, in order to maintain his dignity, deputed his three lieutenants Tajuddin Ahmed, D r Rehman Sobhan (Mujib’s Economic Adviser) and D r Kamal-Hussain—to negotiate with the official team and reserved himself for the apex meeting with the President. Ulti­ mately, Yahya-Mujib parleys presented “ the greatest political charade in modern times” (Mascarenhas, 1971, p. 108). During talks, General Yahya Khan, at once, conceded Mujib’s fourth demand; but, the latter rejected that acceptance because, by his reckoning, the acceptance of the fourth demand did not cover the “ actual atrocities” (Financial Times, 19 Mar. 1971); “ the remaining three merely demanded judicial recognition of the de facto situation in Bangladesh. The troops were in barracks, power was with elected representatives, and Martial Law orders were not being reinforced” (Sobhan Rehman 1971, p. 322). Thus, President Yahya Khan had con­ ceded all the four demands, put up by Sheikh Mujib, in principle, at least. On 18 M ar., Bhutto, encouraged by the solid Chinese support that had been assured through General Hamid, deman­ ded independent transfer of power in East Pakistan, and West Pakistan, separately from each other. The Chinese ambassador to Pakistan, is on record to have met Bhutto on 23 Mar. and 2 and 3 Apr. 1971. He was understood to have reassured Bhutto of China’s full support to General Hamid who was acting in league with Bhutto, of course, at the instance of China (Daily News, 2 April 1971). Bhutto “ was obsessed by the fear


Spotlight: Freedom Fighters o f Bangladesh

that Mujib would enter into collusion with smaller parties in regions to neutralise him. He wanted a free hand in West Pakistan, and Yahya Khan secured this for him from M ujib” (Rehman, 1971, p. 234). The Political Charade Mujib and Yahya Khan had a round of talks on 19 Mar. Later, Bhutto joined them; he flew to Dacca at Yahya K han’s invitation. Immediately after his arrival, Bhutto announced to the press, on 22 Mar. that a tripartite understanding regard­ ing the transfer of power, between the two “ major political parties” on the one hand, and the army, on the other, (DAW N, 23 March 1971) had been reached. It implied the acceptance of two separate Prime Ministers—one for each wing—with Yahya Khan as President. Then, he, at once, conferred with the President, so also with other political leaders of West Pakistan. Pressed by the Bhutto-Yahya Parley, Mujib too had an un­ scheduled meeting with General Yahya Khan, the same day. On 23 March, “ the gap between the Government and AwamiLeague positions was no longer one of principle but remained merely over the precise phrasing of the proposals” (Tajuddin, Press Statement, 17 Apr. 1971, reproduced in “ Bangladesh Documents” , p. 295). Then, following the final meeting between the advisers of General Yahya Khan and the Awami League, on 24 Mar. a call was being awaited from General Peerzada, regarding the holding of final session, where the draft was to be finalised. But, suprisingly, no such call materialised. Rather, it was learnt that Mr M.M. Ahmed—the Central figure in the negotiations—had suddenly left for Karachi on the morning of 25 Mar. “ Without any warning to the Awami League team” (“ Bangladesh Documents” , p. 296). The journalists, covering the negotiations, had been report­ ing optimistically upto 24 Mar. AFP reported, on 24 Mar. quoting an “impeccable source” , that Yahya Khan was to pro­ claim virtual autonomy for Bangladesh under a new Pakistan federation within 24 hours (Washington Post, 25 Mar. 1971). Then, following the departure of Mr M.M. Ahmed, General

Bangladesh is Awake


Yahya K han also surreptitiously flew back to Karachi, even without Bhutto’s knowledge. Before flying back, Yahya Khan gave the green signal to the army “ to sort them out” . Conse­ quently, the army got into positions and awaited Yahya’s safe arrival a t Karachi. Then immediately, it was to begin a slaugh­ ter in Dacca and Chittagong. During talks, General Yahya Khan had given an impression that a negotiated settlement was in the offing. But, on the contrary, the army was sitting in positions, ready to hit at a moment’s notice. Ironically, the press was receiving a statement, signed by the Sheikh that had been prepared in anticipation, that “ our talks with the President were over. We have reached an agreement for the transfer of power and I hope that the President will now make the announcem ent” (Mascarenhas, 1971, p. 97). What an irony of fate East Pakistan was reeling under a trauma and the world was feeling relieved by the agreement, reached. The Bengali personnel, in the defence forces, sensing the trouble, had approached Sheikh Mujib for seeking guidance from him between 3 and 25 Mar. a number of times (Loshak, David; 1971, p. 82); but, an over-confident Mujib, preoccupied with political problems, failed to appreciate the "social implica­ tions of his movement and politely spurned their timely advances” . Later, it turned out to be a fundamental cause of a major set back which the Bengalis had to face on 25 Mar. Yahya Announces Crackdown On 26 Mar. General Yahya Khan, publicly announced the crackdown in a broadcast, twenty hours after it had been effect­ ed. He charged Sheikh Mujib for demanding two regional commitees of the Constituent Assembly. He blamed Mujib, also for certain plans which were advanced during talks and which were unacceptable to the wing-leaders. According to him, the talks had failed which, actually, was a “bundle of lies” . Yahya Khan charged Mujib for “ treason” and banned his party. He ordered the armed forces of Pakistan “ to do their duty and fully restore the authority of the Government” (DAW N, 27 Mar. 1971). “This extraordinary broadcast rang the death knell of the ‘integrity’ of Pakistan, for «Punishment’ of the movement which


Spotlight: Freedom Fighters o f Bangladesh

won most of the votes in December clearly spelled the end of any voluntary union between the two wings. But also finished any claims to 'integrity’ of President Yahya Khan as a national leader” (Loshak, David; 1971, p. 82). The “ White paper” , published by Pakistan, in Aug. 1971, “ On the Crisis of East Pakistan” , termed the army’s action, of the night of 25-26 Mar. as “ pre-emptive” in nature; because, “ reports had be­ come available of Awami League plans to launch an armed rebellion in the early hours of 26 March” (p. 27). The paper further read that in the opinion of President Yahya Khan: It became quite evident that the intention. o f the Sheikh and his advisers was not to come to an understanding on the basis o f one Pakistan but was somehow to extract from me a pro­ clamation which would in effect divide the National Assembly into two separate constituent Assemblies, give birth to a con­ federation and, by the removal o f the authority o f Martial Law, create complete chaos in the country. Through this plan they expected to establish a separate state o f Bangla Desh ( P • 27). The lifting of M artial Law had already been cleared by the legal luminary, Mr A.K. Brohi, on the basis of the Indian Independence Act of 1947. Following it, Yahya Khan could easily implement his new dispensation by a presidential proclamation; and, at the same time, he could lift M artial Law. It meant a transfer of power in the provinces to the majority parties, and at the centre, Yahya Khan would stay as President until the time the constitution was framed. Three leaders of the minority parties of West Pakistan, in a statement, on 24 Mar. had alleged, in Dacca, that Bhutto was demanding separate regional meetings of the Assembly so that he could consolidate his hold over Pakistan. He had attempted to revive the “ dead horse of one unit” through a scheme of bifurcation of the state power into the two wings (Morning News, 25 Mar. 1971). But, in fact, “Contrary to the distortions now put out by both Yahya and Bhutto, the proposal for separate sittings of the Assembly was suggested by Yahya to accomodate Bhutto” (Bangladesh Documents, p. 295). The military regime, on its

Bangladesh is Awake


part, had underestimated the quantum of the Bengali resistance. Peter Preston observed: “ Yahya has taken a move for autonomy and made it into a revolution . . . It is an act of a mindless sergeant major” , (Guardian, 29 Mar. 1971). The Awami League miserably failed to assess the intentions of Yahya Khan, so also to understand the harsh realities of the tactfully played “ political charade” , at the Government House, at Dacca. Ill omens had begun to appear before its eyes. The army had been moving under its very nose. PI A aircraft had been ferrying men and material from West Pakistan to East Pakistan round the clock for weeks together—very much within its knowledge. Dacca airport had been put under strict surveil­ lance and heavy guard within its sight. Tanks were being transported from border areas to the cities and were fitted with soft tracks, for use on metalled roads, in the cities. Army con­ tingents and vehicles had been making constant movements. The Bengali element, present in the EPR and EBR, had already been systematically separated from its units and other key posi­ tions. Some such personnels had even been fraudulently disarm­ ed. The Awami League was fully aware of these incidents. Now, it will be naive to presume ignorance on the part of the Awami League. At least, the Joydevpur clashes, which occurred be­ tween the army and Bengali people, on 19 Mar.—only 22 miles > away from Dacca—must have alerted the Bengali leadership. The immediate cause of the Joydevpur clashes was an attempt to disarm a sub-unit of EPR which was guarding a Chinese-built ordnance factory: 120 lives were lost there (Mascarenhas, 1971, p. 108). Otherwise also, Sheikh Mujib had been warning his people to guard against the artificial crisis which the military regime was trying to create for sabotag­ ing the framing of the constitution. He warned them also of the “conspiratorial forces” that were “ getting ready to strike again” . As early as 3 Mar. Mujib had categorically stated that “it is tragic that planes which might have carried the elected representatives from the Western Wing should instead be engaged in lifting military personnel and arms” (Mascarenhas, 1971, p. 109). Moreover, Sheikh Mujib’s ten directives had already included the establishment of Sangram Parishads,


Spotlight : Freedom Fighters o f Bangladesh

throughout East Pakistan. On 16 M ar. he had again instructed his Bengalis to “ turn every house in Bengal into a fortress” . Against this background, it is difficult to deduce that the Bengali leadership had no indication of the insincerity of military regime in finding out a "political solution” to the problem of East Pakistan. It is difficult to believe that the Awami League could not contemplate that the army was pre­ paring to strike and that they were taken unawares on the night of 25-26 Mar. But, unfortunately, Sheikh Mujib and his advisers still allowed themselves to be swayed by the farci­ cal negotiations which were being conducted by the negotiating team of General Yahya Khan and which, ultimately, ended in fiasco. Therefore, it is evident that the Bengalis were not caught unawares on the night of 25-26 Mar. otherwise, how could the Bengali element o f the EBR, EPR and the armed police have borne the initial brunt of the military crackdown? It was, obviously, beyond the perception of the, then, Major Zia-urRahman and Major Khalid Musharraf* who were endowed with only on average intelligence quotient, to have gauged the inten­ sity of the military crackdown. In fact, their alertness, valour and firm determination saved the day for the Bengalis. They virtually prevented the forces of repression from sweeping the board. The instincts of the orders of Sheikh Mujib were largely right, but his orders were not executed meticulously, e.g., the hoisting of the Bangladesh flag, at Paltan Afaidan, on 23 Mar. was a “heart-warming sight for the Bengalis. It would have been more satisfying if they had. the prudence to dig a moat around it and, at least, counter, if not match, the war pre­ parations which were in progress only five miles away, in the Cantonment” . . . ‘‘Even at that late hour it would have chang­ ed the story of Bangladesh.” The Disobedience movement, launched by the Awami League, had “ lacked the essential ingredients of success. Maximum pressure and minimum prepar­ edness was a costly error” (Mascarenhas, 1971, p. 110), for which the Bengali-freedom fighters paid very dearly. Mujib Declares Independence On 26 Mar. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman declared the indcpen-

Bangladesh is Awake


dence of Bangladesh. The Swadhin-Bangladesh Government of the freedom fighters proclaimed it twenty-two days later, i.e., on 17 Apr. 1971. Then, it sought its recognition from the nations of the World on 23 Apr. 1971. As often as not, adver­ sity breeds solidarity and determination. Josif Stalin had, once, remarked: “ It is not the heroes that make history, but history makes heroes. It is not heroes that create a people, but the people who create heroes and move history forward” (Bhatnagar, 1971, p. 233). Stalin’s dictum found full expression in the Bangladesh crisis where people created heroes who moved the history of Bangladesh forward. As for Bhutto, he always treated Yahya and his generals with contempt as “superficial minds without any elementary knowledge of politics, without any sense of history who have made fundamental political decisions which have brought Pakistan close to ruin” (Bhutto, 1971, p. 84). His own guilt was to allow himself to be a pliant tool in the hands of the military junta and also to use the junta for his selfish ends and then make them a scapegoat. Ultimately, he himself ended up as a scapegoat at the hands of the military junta and, thus, complet­ ed a circle, seven years later, with his execution, in 1979. In April 1971, Bhutto had conceded in an interview to an IPA correspondent, that Yahya was vacillating about East Pakistan till 22 Mar. just two days before the army onslaught began. When Yahya Khan realised, that if he went in for a political solution about East Pakistan, he would be immediately ousted by the Pakistan army’s ruling-clique headed by General Hamid, he ordered the army to start action on 25 Mar. (IDSA, Apr. 1971). China’s support, to General Hamid, by induction, had implied, if General Yahya Khan was ousted, Bhutto would be installed in power; of course, at the instance of the armylobby (The Patriot, 13 Apr. 1971). The same happened, but, nine months later, and in altogether different circumstances.

4. The Mukti Bahini It is not heroes that make history, but history that makes heroes. J o sif S t a l in

The Evolution Tyranny begets resistance in the natural scheme of things. In the case of Bangladesh, the docile, but, oppressed people of Bengal, got fuelled with patriotic ferver and were consumed by an avenging spirit. They were bent upon disproving the denigrating “ libel in the field of action against those very traducers” . They took up arms against their own colonial rulers to drive them out of their motherland. The first reaction to Pakistan’s extermination drive was the proclamation of independence and the establishment of a government by the people of Bangladesh. The column of Pakistani tanks, rumbling into the streets of Dacca, on 25 Mar. 1971, completely obliterated the concept of Pakistan’s unity and gave birth to a new nation. “ Yahya Khan and Bhutto perhaps deserve more ‘credit’ for the emergence of Bangladesh than do Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the Awami League” (Ayoob, 1972, p. 111). Consequently, the Mukti Fouj sprang up to strug­ gle for the liberation of Bangladesh. Late Colonel Muhammed Ataul Ghani Osmany*—an Awami Leaguer—was formally appointed the Commander-in-Chief of the Mukti Bahini a t the first meeting of the provisional Bangladesh Government which was held at Mujibnagar on 17 April 1971. Later, he admitted: I f the Pakistanis had only limited their action against selected politicians, Bengalis in the army and the police might have ♦Died in a London hospital on 16 Feb. 1984. He was Commander-in-Chief of the Mukti Bahini and chief of the Jatiya Janata Party of Bangladesh (National Herald, 17 F e b . 1984).

The M ukti Bahini


stayed neutral. It was only when the information went around that the Pakistani army was out to kill Bengali intellectuals and servicemen as well that we revolted to a man. The M ukti Bahini was manufactured overnight by the Pakistani Army. ( S in g h , 1971 b, p. 222.) Therefore, this overkill—the “ elitocide” campaign which was aimed at exterminating the professionals, intellectuals and army officers, i.e., the cream of the Bengali society, forced them into revolt. Until then, the Bengali element of Pakistan’s security forces had continued to owe allegiance to the Pakistan Govern­ ment. But, prior to the military crackdown, on 25 Mar. 1971, sveere tension, between Bengalis and West Pakistanis, was fast building up which tended to engulf into its vortex Pakistan's security forces also. The inequitable rank-structure in the class composition of defence forces which afforded tremendous weightage to West Pakistanis, provided little opportunity to the Bengalis for rising to the coveted positions of high command. Also, certain unusal incidents, occurring daily, aroused the suspicion of the Bengalis-in-arms, which later, developed into acute disaffection amongst Pakistan’s Armed Forces. The orders, directing to abruptly detach the Bengali officers from their units and key positions on frail pretexts, acted as a catalyst to the increasing antagonism which had already existed between the Bengalis and West Pakistanis. M ajor Khalid Musharraf, a Bengali staff officer in a forma­ tion headquarters, at Dacca, was sent to patrol the Tripura border on a false pretext of mounting tension which had been allegedly caused the concentration of Indian troops, only 3 days before the army struck the Bengali population in East Pakistan. Finding no tension on the border, when he sought permission to return to Dacca, he was ordered to stay put there only. This aggravated his suspicion that his men might be disarmed during his absence from Dacca. By tactfully returning, he began to form a rebel group of the Bengali element of his unit around himself clandestinely and also succeeded in outwitting the orders, asking him to surrender his automatic weapons. Mean­ while, he kept busy quietly drawing plans to launch guerrilla operations.


Spotlight: Freedom Fighters o f Bangladesh

When the genocide began and twenty thousand innocent civilians had been killed, he hoodwinked his senior officers and overpowered three West-Pakistani officers of his unit, and escaped with his rebel group Northwards from Brahmanbaria and set-up his headquarters near Sylhet. He hinjgelf assumed the charge of the Commander-in-Chief of those forces and rose the banner of revolt. From there, he put up stiff resistance to , the Pakistani forces. The Awami-League volunteers began to take charge of the border posts. He set personal examples by the systematic destruction of bridges, roads and rail-track, and managed to successfully isolate Sylhet from Dacca for a con­ siderably long period of time. This eventually turned out to be a great help to major Shaffiullah, another Bengali officer. He was leading other freedom fighters in Sylhet and conducting guerrilla operations all around. Once, his guerrillas almost captured Sylhet airfield. Another day, he received information of a Pakistani contingent that was advancing from Dacca to Joydevpur (22 miles north of Dacca) to disarm his regiment. With full preparedness, he clashed with Pakistani troops and pushed them back with the support of Awami-League volunteers. Then, he shifted his headquarters to the Mymensingh area and fought from there also (Bhatnagar, 1971, p. 235). Major Zia-ur-Rahman, another Bengali officer of the Pakistan Army, was informed in Chittagong of the dock workers’ refusal to unload an arms cargo, and also, that a Hindu officer of his regiment had been placed under arrest. Sensing foul play, he turned his guns against Pakistani troops. Hours before the military crackdown was scheduled to comm­ ence, he evaded a trap which had been laid by his commanding officer to liquidate him and formed a group of rebels which controlled Chittagong port and its radio station for some time. From there, he delivered his famous message to the Bengali soldiers of Pakistan Defence Forces that Bangladesh was inedpendent and that they must defect at the first available opportu­ nity to join the freedom fighters. He himself firmly held the Chittagong port and its radio station until the Pakistan Army, with close air and tank support, had attacked him in strength. Then he lost control over both of these establishments (Palit, 1971, p. 54). Three majors independently evaded or resisted all

The M ukti Bahini


attempts at disarming or liquidating their sub-units. Later also, they assembled their men at three different sectors where they formed individual groups which were separated from each other and which fought independently, without any knowledge of other rebel-bands for over 13 days. Then they deliberately met to chalk out a co-ordinated relentless campaign against Pakistan-Security Forces which were devoid of the Bengali substance. They revitalised freedom fighters of the erstwhile EPR (East Pakistan Riflles), EBR (East Bengal Rifles) and the armed police, thus, enabling them to form the potential van­ guard of the liberation struggle. Amrit Bazar Patrika reported an attempt on the eva of the crackdown to deport a huge contingent of EBR on a false pretext of duty from Chittagong by the sea-route. But, the suspicious Bengali soldiers mutinied on the way, took control of the ship and forced the Captain (at bayonet point) to sail back to the Chittagong port. This served to spark-off Bengali nationalism in the Pakistan Defence Forces also (Palit, 1971, p. 54)'. M ukti Fouj : on 23 Mar. the East-Bengali political leaders, while hoisting the flag of revolution, had pinned high hopes on the efficacy of the Bengali element which was present in EPR, EBR and the armed police for meeting the challenge of the anticipated showdown. All of them were to defect to the move­ ment’s side and they actually deserted to a man. But, their resistance-potential had been over-estimated. Although they performed beyond anybody’s expectations; yet, the ferocity of Yahya’s treachery and the huge war-potential of Pakistan’s war machine which was supported by the most modern and sophisticated tanks and war planes and which was commanded by the “ Butcher of Baluchistan” , could not be accurately gauged. Much below their expectations, the stiff and bold resistance, offered by the Bengali components of Pakistan’s security forces, in East Pakistan, to the military crackdown of Tikka Khan “ which sprang up with full fury of tanks, machine guns, mortars and jet fighters” , on 25 Mar. could last only a few hours. Brave Bengali freedom fighters fought gallantly to the last man on the ground and the last round in the magazine.


Spotlight: Freedom Fighters o f Bangladesh

The survivors, quickly collecting the remnants of “ Bengal Tigers” (EBR), the EPR, the police and some loose armydetachments, which, till then, had remained away from Dacca on that fateful night, reorganised themselves into an effective force—an integrated, well-knit organisation. It soon formed the regular wing of the M ukti Fouj that expanded fast and advanced the freedom struggle. Colonel Osmany’s Dacca residence had been demolished during the sweeping moves of the Pakistani defence forces, on the night of 25 Mar.; because, he had, earlier, organised an ex-army personnel’s convention there to register their solid support to the freedom movement of Sheikh Mujib. He hastily organised these forces into the effective M ukti Fouj and directed their operations with exemplary leader­ ship, courage, skill and determination (Singh, 1972, p. 98). Although, ominous military movements were in sight, the first positive evidence of any impending military action against the Bengali populace arrived at 8 p m on 25 Mar., with an unsigned chit of some nationalist-army person. He warned Sheikh Mujib that his house would be raided that night. Consequent to it, Mujib alerted his associates to be cautious and ready to go underground, instantaneously. Himself he chose to stay at his Dhandmandi residence to avoid any possible retribu­ tion which might be caused by his personal absence from there. Mujib was already waiting for his captors, there. He was driven away at 1.30 am on 26 Mar. Even after that, Pakistani soldiers kept “ savaging his residence” , in the style of a wounded tiger, attacking a tree. Moments after Yahya's safe arrival in Karachi was con­ firmed, the army went into action to execute the military crackdown, mercilessly. EPR’s residential quarters at PEILKHANA were ravaged with rocket launchers, automatic rifles and even tanks. Rajar Bagh police lines also met the same fate. At both these places, 5000 armed men of Bengali origin had put up gallant resistance with whatever they could lay their hands on (Mascarenhas, 1971, p. 114). The army, attacking with an added advantage of superior numbers and fire power over the inadequately armed and ill-equipped free­ dom fighters, fully exploited the element of surprise. It tilted the balance of gains in its favour and the army advanced to

The M ukti Bahini


consolidate it further. Pre-selected targets, in the city, were greeted with the fury of flame throwers, rocket launchers, automatic rifles, machine guns and sometimes, even tanks. A pro-Awami League-Journal’s office was raided and blown to pieces with grenades and mortar bombs. The fleeing workingstaif was liquidated from point blank range. As a parting gift, its building was set ablaze with gasoline. Hundreds of university students—in hostels, and professors—in staff quarters, were mercilessly massacred (Mascarenhas, 1971, p. 114). Iqbal Hall— housing Muslim inmates, and Jagannath Hall sheltering Hindu students in its vicinity, witnessed ghastly scenes of Pakistani antipathy to the Bengali race. After surrounding both the buildings successively, machine guns and automatic rifles were opened up, first, to dislodge the inmates, and then, to kill them systematically. The bodies of the Hindus were inhumed into hurriedly dug-in pits, outside the hostel compound. Those of the Muslim students, from Iqbal Hall, were either dragged away and left at some distance or dumped over roof-tops, to rot and be devoured by vultures. Intelligentsia—doctors, lawyers, professors, literateurs, and artistes —were transported to the military headquarters on a false pretext of interrogation. There, they were liquidated overnight. Such was the systematic “elitocide” in Bangladesh (Mascarenhas, 1971, p. 115). Pakistan army, in its “ cleansing process” , churned the flower of Bengali society into dust, within the next two days. On 26 Mar., at dawn, it sprayed innumerable Bengalis with bullets, on false charges of violating an unannoun­ ced curfew which it had clamped down at 10 am. The purpose of such a curfew was to exploit the immobile, home-bound and pre-determined targets. In Shankari Path, Tanti Bazar and residential houses, outlying the two temples, at the edge of the Race Course grounds, thousands of Hindus were murdered in cold blood. The technique of killing, employed in Shankari Path, was strange and ghastly. It itself could surpass its own peculiarity. Both the ends of a narrow-winding alley were blocked and the army hunted down 8000 crying men, women and children, house by house. An ex-naval officer who had turned politician and was an accused in the infamous Agartala Conspiracy Trial of 1968, was nastily dragged out into the

1J 6

Spotlight: Freedom Fighters o f Bangladesh

street and brutally murdered within the sight of his wailing wife who only gazed at the scene in despair and horror (Mascarenhas, 1971, p. 114-115). Similarly, hundreds of Awami Leaguers and students were indiscriminately butchered because they had exposed their political ambitions. Any girl student who could be branded militant, was quickly registered as the army’s selected target. Army personnel had carried lists of the potential victims during the mass-killings which were carried out after 25 Mar. The retribution for damaging a bridge, turned out to be the extermination of the entire local population and ruin of the whole village. After the crackdown, before deserting a village, the Bengali inhabitants always departed after hoisting thousands of small Pakistani flags to propitiate the annoyed war god, hinting that those flags would do little for most people (Mascarenhas, 1971, p. 118). Fortunate refugees succeeded in crossing into India; less fortunate ones got rounded up only to disappear for good. Most unfortunate Bengalis left their bodies behind decomposed, perforated with bayonets and gun shots, while many mutilated bodies were rotting on waysides. The caracasses lay in the fields, ditches and “ in between cocoanut palms gently swaying in the breeze” . Out of this carnage, the M ukti Bahini was “ manufactured” . The extermination campaign was launched with a definite purpose. The Hindus were branded “ Indian agents” . They were projected as subverting the Bengali Muslims. The Bengali members of the security forces were the sole trained cadres in East Pakistan who could be supposed to offer resistance to the military regime. Others, who were professedly burning with political ambitions, supposedly posed a direct threat to the national integrity of Pakistan. They included political leaders of all shades and colours, students of any age or sex who could be imagined possessing the qualification of being marked militant, and the Bengali intellectuals who could be punchmarked as partisans. All of them presented ideal targets to the army and all deserved liquidation, by their assessment. This horrendous carnage was publicised as a “Justifiable retaliatory action” against a “ mutinous Bengali population” which had been undertaken to preserve the integrity of the state. These

The Afukti Bahini


atrocities were perpetrated “ to cleans East Pakistan once and for all of the threat of secession” even if it meant the slaughter of “two million people” . That would enable them to rule East Bengal as a “colony for 30 years” to come. But it failed to provide Yahya with “final solution” . Gradually, it began to dawn upon the Bengalis that the killing-pattern indicated a definite profile of a “ genocide” campaign which was cautiously planned with surgical precision in military headquarters and which was boldly executed by Yahya’s “ illustrious soldiers” . The full impact of indiscriminate killings, in East Pakistan, was realised in India only after the genocide campaign had gone into full swing. Early, in March’71, Bangladesh-liberation forces were scantily equipped. They had only small arms which had been procured through the BSF whenever it could be contacted, at the borders. Their principal weapons comprised rifles, sub-machine guns and a small quantity of captured mortars and machine guns. At that time, the Pakistan defence forces were hanging around the borders in small pockets of resistance and the M ukti Fouj was striking at their strategic road points, lines of communication and supply routes. It succeeded in isolating them from higher headquarters, at Dacca, so also from neighbouring detachments that were located at the borders. It rendered them out of contact with each other. This isolation and marooning in own positions bred detrimental desolateness and a feeling of despair amongst Pakistani troops which soon transformed into widespread demoralisation. The total estimated strength of the armed Bengalis who were serving Pakistan’s security forces, in East Pakistan, before 25 March, had amounted to 70,000. It comprised approxi­ mately 6,000 regulars—in EBR’s 6 battalions which were raised to fulfil the compelling demands of Bengali soldiers who were located in the Eastern Wing; about 15,000 men in EPR—a Border Security Force Organisation, and 50,000, Razakars who had been trained and organised as homeguards. Besides these military and para-military forces, about 45,000 Bengalis were serving the police also—both armed and semi-armed (Palit, 1971, p. 53). Though many of them were unarmed, their political motivation which had been built during the critical days of


Spotlight: Freedom Fighters o f Bangladesh

February and March, drove them crazy to take up arms against the military regime on the fateful night of the crackdown. The political motivation of the Bengalis, in the armed forces, was built-up in a sharp contrast to that of the police. Here, it was not an upshot of the critical days of February and March. That was why, the police eventually became a pre-selected target of Pakistan army, during the initial extermination drive that commenced on 25 Mar. This day, the Pakistani forces attacked a number of police stations and police posts in urban areas and massacred the policemen en bloc. The magnitude of their nationalism had already been gauged by the military regime. The election results had registered Mujib as the future Prime Minister of Pakistan. Thus, the Bengali element of EBR, EPR and the armed police formed the nucleus for the M ukti Bahini; around it, the eight battalions of Bangladesh Regiment were speedily organised. Out of the eight battalions of the erstwhile East-Bengal Regiment, two were located in West Pakistan, much before the liberation struggle began. The survivors of the holocaust of 25 M ar., who could steal their way out, included Major Zia-ur-Rahman, who, with his 8th battalion, along with the elements of EPR, was in Chittagong; M ajor Shaukat Aliv, with the remants o f the 8th battalion and EPR, was holding Chittagong Hill-Tracts; Major Khalid Musharraf, with the 4th battalion, was in Commilla; Major Shafiullah was in Dacca, with his 2nd battalion; and Major Chittaranjan Dutta was leading a motley group of EPR and the armed police in Sylhet (Mankekar, 1972, p. 135). Two of the EBR battalions, located in East Pakistan which included a large number of unfortunate soldiers such as those of the 3rd battalion—were slaughtered while asleep, in RangpurDinajpur area. Here, its remnants fought their way out. Their First battalion also met the same fate at Jessore: Its 122 men had escaped under Capt Hafizuddin. A t Dacca’s Rajar Bagh police lines, the armed police held at bay, for 4 hours, one full Pakistani battalion which was supported by tanks. Ulti­ mately, the outnumbered and the outgunned defenders had been overpowered and decimated (Mankekar, 1972, p. 136). During the initial stages, the personnels of the erstwhile EBR could offer only sporadic resistance; because, scattered Bengali

The M ukti Bahini

119 \ \

soldiers had been hastily reorganised. After the crackdown,} these loosely organised and disjointed resistance groups had lost co-ordination, and finally, the contact with each other. Gradually, they regained aplomb, established contact with other groups, developed communication-channels and reorganised themselvfes into a compact whole so that they could offer resistance to the enemy’s regular troops; e.g., during Apr. 1971, the 2nd battalion of the erstwhile EBR gave a tough fight to the enemy’s two regular battalions at Ashuganj for 4 hours, that too without any external support. Finally, they were forced back by superior numbers; but, only after denying the enemy the river passage (Mankekar, 1972, p. 136). M ukti Bahini's total estimated strength had reached the proximity of one lakh; of which 30,000 were regular and 70,000 irregular guerrillas. It consisted of young patriots who had flocked around the banner of freedom and who hailed from the cross section of the Bengali society. Zealous to receive the required training and impatient to fight the despicable Pakistani out of Bangladesh, and also to avenge the atrocities, they soon gathered into various training camps. An illustrious freedom fighter was the youngest M ukti Bahini—guerrilla, Saidul—a 10-year old boy (Govt, of India, 1972). The Border Security Force, India’s Border Security Organisation which was holding the Indo-East Pakistan border, extended a ready hand to train and transform these young men into potential guerrillas. Most of these young men were bold and zealous and ready to abrogate all taboos. They got concentrated into 50 training camps which had been hastily established to impart urgent training to the M ukti Fouj. A number of non-official— in most cases—and certain semi-official agencies, provided urgent support to train these insurgents along the border areas. Though the first batch of 700 trained guerrillas had been inducted into Faridpur area by mid-May, a trained force of significant strength and quality could be prepared by midAugust only (Mankekar, 1972, p. 135). By April-end, the operations of the M ukti Fouj had assumed enough significance and value. The next phase started with the long process of recruiting, training, equipping, organising them into effective guerrilla-bands and then, allocating them their tasks and areas


Spotlight: Freedom Fighters o f Bangladesh.

of operation; “ barring a handful of quislings who live under the protection of the Pakistani bayonets in cities of Dacca, Commilla and Chittagong, all other sections of the people the intellectuals, the bourgeoisie, the peasants and working class, all are united in their aim to struggle to achieve Swadhin Bangla'’ (Subrahamnyam, 1972, p. 42). Even then, the Bangladesh-liberation movement was lacking a demographic base; because, its principal constituents were students, intellect­ uals and middle classes (Palit, 1972, p. 50). A people’s base was conspicuously absent. The M ukti Fouj gave considerable impetus to the move­ ment by organising Gram Parishads—village insurgency cells in all the 62,000 villages of East Pakistan (Palit, 1971, p. 49). Though their limited number could actively support the freedom struggle by limited guerrilla activity, their contribution lay chiefly in forming rural-guerrilla sanctuaries. Here, guerrilla bases could be established and the scope of guerrilla opera­ tions expanded. A redeeming feature of these insurgents was that they could not be terrorised to the point of desertion. Hardly any defections from the freedom struggle had ever occurred. Organising Gram Parishads was a peaceful guerrilla activity. As its activities gave a fillip to the freedom movement, they constituted Guerrilla Political Operations. They were launched by the M ukti Fouj. Sanctuaries, recruiting and training-centres had sprung up all along the border with India. Here, thousands of Hindus and Muslims who could evade the “ elitocide” campaign of the military regime got trained, armed and organised. M ukti Bahini was “ one of the most highly educated armed forces ever” . It principally con­ sisted of the guerrillas who had hailed from schools and colleges and also from the upper-middle stratum of the Bengali society; imparting training to them was relatively easy. Their training period could also be reduced drastically. Every 6 weeks, 2,000 trained guerrillas were turned out for operational use (Palit, 1972, p. 57). People having different shades of opinion about the objec­ tives and the modus operandi of the struggle sank their differ­ ences, swallowed their pride, and renounced prejudices in the wake of the crackdown. They came forward to form a united

The M ukti Bahini


front and forged a compact war-machine so that they could liberate their motherland with it. The critics of Mujib’s socio­ economic and political views, including Maulana Bhashani, had flocked under one banner to consolidate Mujib’s “ spontane­ ous mass uprising” ; while, they were pursuing the UnitedFront ideology at grassroots level. They formed themselves into Sangram Samitis (Revolutionary Councils) in each village (Subrahmanyam, 1972, p. 42). The freedom fighters progres­ sively carried the movement forward. The pattern of people’s war, as laid down by Lin Biao in his famous thesis “ long live the victory of the People’s War” , was fully adopted in Bangladesh; but, the leadership was non-commUnist. “The countryside was overwhelming the cities” (Subrahmanyam, 1972, p. 43) all over Bangladesh, throughout the liberation struggle. With the expansion of the movement, the procurement of arms and ammunition became a critical impediment which, in September, began to fizzle out with the availibility of liberal funds and other aid in kind from the Bangladesh Friendship Society of D r Triguna Sen (Mankekar, 1972, p. 135). With the help of many other organisations, some special hospitals and temporary convalescence-homes were established on the Indian side of the border to nurse the sick-and-wounded freedom fighters of Bangladesh. The flow of arms had increased by then and the M ukti Bahini, consequently, had stepped up its guerrilla activities by launching open attacks at Dacca. Upto September, the M ukti Bahini's casualty-ratio, compared to the Pakistan Army’s, was 1 : 4. Later, it increased to a figure as high as 1 : 15. By September’s end, the M ukti Bahini had inflicted 25,000 casualties upon Pakistan’s army who were rapidly replaced with the para-military Frontier Force, Tochi Scouts and Khyber Scouts (Mankekar, 1972, p. 135). Besides the re-arming of guerrillas, the defected Bengali element of Pakistan’s security and armed forces was regrouped and re-equipped to form Bangladesh-regular units which would operate in conjunction with the Indian Army whenever such a need arose. Otherwise also, immediately after attaining liber­ ation, the country would need certain regular forces for its internal security, initially; and for providing a nucleus for the regular armed forces of independent Bangladesh, subsequently.


Spotlight: Freedom Fighters o f Bangladesh

The Transformation After April’s end, the Mukti Fouj was transformed into the M ukti Bahini to embrace the three services of the defence forces. The M ukti Bahini—the military arm of this resistance move­ ment—had, in addition, the Ansars and the Mujahids, as an auxiliary force to their regular units, which had undergone a short course of political and general education to learn the historical background of the movement and an understanding of the political aims which were to be achieved (Singh, 1972, p. 101). The Mukti Bahini, under Colonel Osmany, began to emerge as a cohesive force. Systematic recruitment for all ranks had started. Promising young Bengalis were selected and trained for the officers’ cadre. Vigorous efforts were made to raise a 100,000 strong militia from the 16-25 age-group, in addition to the existing force comprising several EBR and EPR battalions as also the Ansars and Mujahids. The Bangladesh Government, in exile, on 14 April, had established a full-fledged operational base so that the liberation army could be organised into an effec­ tive operational force. Then, it named the commanders for its well-defined liberated zones. Col. Osmany, a retired officer from the Bengal Regiment, was appointed the Commander-in-Chief. Prime Minister, Tajuddin Ahmed, then announced over Free Bengal Betar Kendra (Radio) names of the regional comman­ ders as Major Khalid Musharraf in the Sylhet Comilla Sector; Major Zia-ur-Rahman—in the Chittagong-Noakhali Sector; Major Shafiulla—in the Mymensingh and Tangail Sector; and Major MA Usman—in the South-West Sector (News Review, 4/71, p. 12). According to Mankekar, the whole of Bangladesh was divided into 10 operational sectors. The newly welded liberation forces, comprising 8 battalions, were accordingly distributed amongst these zones as under 1. 2. 3.

Chittagong and Chittagong Hill Tracts, and a portion of Feni; Sylhet and most of Comilla and a large chunk of Dacca; A portion of Comilla, part of Sylhet, the Kishoreganj subdivision of Mymensingh and a section of Dacca;

The M ukti Bahini 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10.


The Eastern portion of Sylhet; North and North-West of Sylhet; The districts of Rangpur and Thakurgaon subdivision of Dinajpur; The Southern portion of Dinajpur; the district of Rajshahi, Pabna and the bulk of Bogra; The districts of Kushthia and Jessore and the bulk of Faridpur and a portion of Khulna; The bulk of Khulna and the districts of Barisal and Patuakhali; and Mymensingh minus the Kishoreganj subdivision and the bulk of Tangail (Mankekar, 1972, p. 137).

Niamit Bahini: Gona Bahini: The M ukti Bahini kept on swelling beyond expectation with the result that a number of promising incumbents had to be refused enrolment for want of arms and equipment. The M ukti BahinVs voluminous land force was divided into two groups: 1. The Niamit Bahini— regular force. 2. The Gona Bahini—irregular force. The tasks of both the groups were specially earmarked: The Niamit Bahini was to wage guerrilla war against the enemy’s regular troops, principally in frontal attacks. The Gona Bahini was entrusted tasks like laying mines and ambushes (which, sometimes, were undertaken by the Niamit Bahini as well) and sabotage operations such as blowing up bridges, culverts, power-houses and strategic-nerve centres, as an aid to Gona Bahini (Singh, 1972, p. 100). Their modus operandi, simple though, was pragmatic. The moment a Pakistani contingent was spotted, the Gona-Bahini guerrillas would sneak into its rear and dislocate its supply channels and lines of communication, thus, isolating the contingent from its base headquarters and paving way for the Niamit-Bahini assault which inflicted heavy casual­ ties. The method of ambushing a sailing boat was slightly diffe­ rent. After sighting it, a Gona-Bahini guerrilla would fire a shot into the air as a result of which the sailing boat would, sudden­ ly, steer for safety towards the opposite bank where other Gona-


Spotlight: Freedom Fighters o f Bangladesh

Bahini guerrillas ambushed it. The immediate upshot was that the boat invariably landed into their ambush. The fate of the prisoners of war was quickly decided. They were tried and decimated on the spot, because the guerrillas could ill-afford prisoners taking for obvious reasons. Reflecting the situation in Bangladesh, The New York Times, on 20 November 1971, stated : As time passes, casual­ ties on both sides grow ever heavier, and feelings bitter. Killing by both sides seems motivated more and more by vengeance rather than by tactics. However as matters turn out, this is not a war in which the loser can expect much mercy. Besides the M ukti Fouj—comprising EBR, EPR and the Police elements—several other organisations also gave their last ounce to the liberation struggle. The role of Communists, in north Dacca, was no less significant. Divided into two distinct streams, the Moscow-oriented Toha group was constantly operating in the sprawling forests, immediately North of Dacca and the difficult terrain of Nokhali; while, the Bejing-oriented communist group of Maulana Bhashani (much larger than the Toha group) was also omnipresent very actively. But, surpris­ ingly, none of these communist groups could, by itself, acquire any substantial quantity of weapons either from Moscow or from Bejing, though, they were able to get a trickle through clandestine channels from across the border. Thus, with the transformation of the M ukti Fouj into the Mukti Bahini, in April’s end, the resistance movement entered its next phase, i.e., from being a solely land-forces organisation it expanded into an all-service structure which included, among other technical wings, the elements of the Navy and Airforce also. Bengali naval and air-force personnels who were stranded in West Pakistan had defected to the movement’s side. They tactfully slipped into India where they were given two options— either to join the refugee camps or enhance the war effort of the liberation fofces. Luckily, each one of them preferred to supple­ ment the liberation struggle in his humble way. Many of them being skilled sailors, qualified pilots and specialists in various trades, quickly got assimilated into the mainstream of the free­ dom struggle whence they expanded the scope of guerrilla oper­ ations into a menace to all hostile shipping in the Bangladesh

The M ukti Bahini


waters. Those, present in East Pakistan, when the armed uprising commenced, had already joined the M ukti Fouj. Razakars: The Razakars, who were the military regime’s chief collaborators, comprised two catagories (Palit, 1971, p. 53). 1. Mujahids—partly armed with obsolete shot guns. 2. Ansaris—armed only with LATHIS and indigenous spears. The Mujahids encompassed all Bihar is and other non-Bengali Muslims; whereas, the Ansaris represented principally a blending of certain Bengalis. They defected to a man to the movement’s side a t the commencement of the uprising. The Mujahids remained the henchmen of the colonial rulers throughout the genocide campaign. Later, they supported Pakistan’s regular forces. They carried out their tasks with savagery and brutality under the guise of Pakistan soldiers on an organised scale. The Ansaris were less fanatic than the Mujahids and, during organis­ ed operations, most of them surrendered to the Indian Army, and thus, constituted the auxiliary arm of the M ukti Bahini. The Al-Badr and Al-Sham Wings of the Razakars were successfully carrying out varied assignments in the Rangpur district inde­ pendently as well as in conjunction with the regular troops of Pakistan. Lt General Niazi had conceded this fact in Novem­ ber ’71 (The Pakistan Observer 3 Nov. 1971). •

Guerilla Exploits: The Gona Bahini's activities rendered several units of the Pakistan army in absolute disarray; and these were devoured by the Niamit Bahini, later. From June onwards, Gona-Bahini guerrillas created a virtual hell for marauding Pakistani troops by launching raids in and around Dacca, by knocking out power houses, raiding an ordnance factory and damaging beyond repair a plant which was conver­ ting motor-launches into gun boats—meant for the use of Pakistani troops. Tea processing units in and around Sylhet and a number of Jute mills in Narayanganj, as also the Nabarun jute mills in Dacca, Eastern oil refinery in Chittagong, Tita’s Gas pipe line from Brahmanbaria to Dacca, three sugar


Spotlight: Freedom Fighters o f Bangladesh

mills of Pachagarh, Darsana and Thakurgaon, paper mills in Khulna, steel mills and fertilizer factories in Chittagong, were thoroughly wrecked and brought to a grinding halt. Dacca town remained plunged in darkness for several days because of the disrupted electric supply (Singh, 1972, p. 102). Saboteurs, wearing plain clothes and disguised as poor villagers, carried out partisan activities in small bands of 3-4 men in rural areas in the face of stringent security measures. Consequently, all important government buildings, like radio stations, national and state banks and the entire military-industrial complex, had to be protected by an eight-metre high perimeter. An illustrious feat of the Gona Bahini was to derail a passenger train which was packed with Pakistani soldiers by bombarding it 2 kilo­ metres away from FULGAZl railway station in East Bengal (Govt, of India, 1972). Besides the Gona BahinVs partisan operations, the M ukti Bahini's regular guerrillas also constantly liquidated Pakistani soldiers on a mass scale. “ East Pakistan freedom fighters claimed to have killed between 15 and 20,000 West Pakistani troops and wounded many others so seriously that they must have succumbed to their injuries in the hospital” (London Times, 23 Jul. 1971). By 1 Aug., Dacca’s military hospitals had been so overcrowded with outdoor patients, presumably the wounded Pakistani soldiers, that the PIA, can­ celling its several scheduled international flights, had to trans­ port wounded soldiers from Dacca to Karachi. It diminishes the suspicion that these figures had been abnormally inflated. The M ukti Bahini, principally a land force, had added to its com­ plement the naval wing also, in June 1971. The defected Bengali sailors, earlier stranded in West Pakistan, managed to escape and capture some Pakistani vessels. These formed the nucleus around which a viable naval wing was organised to conduct maritime operations. Using these vessels, the Mukti Bahini’s naval guerrillas succeeded in sinking a number of Pakistani vessels—including coasters, oil-tankers, barges, river steamers, boats and launches—which included many Americanmade barges and motor tugs. This menace prevented or discour­ aged many foreign ships from visiting the ports of East Bengal. Thus, the regular flow of essential commodities, to the Pakistani forces, was seriously hampered. By August 1971, the M ukti

The M ukti Bahini


Bahini's frogmen operations had turned the East-Bengal waters into a zone of peril for hostile shipping which was ferrying war materials, especially to Chittagong and Chalna. Here, limpet mines had been freely planted. In September, two British ships, CHAKDINA— a 10,000-ton freighter and TEVIO T a 16,000ton tanker, were badly damaged by sabotage operations. In those operations, the saboteurs were always far away from their bases. Many other ships were also damaged or sunk in Chittagong and Chalna ports (Palit, 1972, p. 59), On 12 October, naval guerrillas performed a daring feat by steering out a Mukti-Bahini gunboat into the open sea, all by itself, with no rivercraft accompanying it and singly attacked a British cargo boat, the 7,000-ton C ITY OF ST. ALBANS, “ peppering out its hull” . It was finally forced to limp back to Calcutta (Palit, 1972, p. 59). Kader Bahini: In addition to the Mukti Bahini, three other guerrilla organisations also went a long way to give their last bit to the freedom struggle. The Kader Bahini was named after its leader, Kader—a 23-year old charismatic, fearless and undaunted student of a local college who was a geyser of vitality and inflamed with revolutionary fervour. He had raised an effective guerrilla force of 16,000 (Mankekar, 1972, p. 137). The Guerrillas of Abdel Kader Siddiqi controlled the whole countryside, sprawling over 70 miles, between Dacca and Tangail, by infesting the whole area. Self-styled “ Brigadier” , also known as the “ Tangail Tiger” , though shy by nature, Kader, was earlier serving the Pakistan Army. His elder brother, an Awami Leaguer, brought him back to East Pakistan to complete his interrupted education. Here, he became the secre­ tary of the local students league. As a guerrilla leader, he personally led all operations of his Bahini. He played havoc with the enemy’s communication system, ambushed enemy columns, blew up supply and ammunition dumps and assaulted a number of enemy-convoys, even beyond Tangail, and up to Mymensingh district and some parts of Dacca too. His guerrillas played a crucial role as a minor adjunct to the Indian Armed Forces, during the regular campaign, after 3 December. Every sixth mile in the area was interspersed by a river which was


Spotlight: Freedom Fighters o f Bangladesh

flowing under a bridge. Each one of them became an identified target for Kader’s guerrillas and was blown up in quick succes­ sion. His undaunted courage made him a legend in the whole area, encompassing the entire Tangail district—four thanas of Mymensingh, five thanas of Dacca and three thanas of Pabna. He had refused to owe allegiance to Colonel Osmany; therefore, he fought independent of him. The Kader Bahini included some scattered members of the EPR, EBR and a few wandering peasants also. Their principal source of supply of arms and equipment was from the ambushed steamers of the military regime, ferrying war material for Pakistani soldiers. The Kader Bahini's exploits dominated the entire Tangail area on both sides of the road: 50 successful ambushes were laid which substantially advanced the cause of the movement; one speed boat and 16 plain boats were sunk, while, 2 speed boats and 17 country-boats were capturcd during the two summer months of May and June. Its biggest haul was the capture of a triple-decker steamer at Matikta, near Tangail. Here also, Kader personally led his guerrillas. The steamer was loaded with 1000 tons of ammunition, for Pakistani troops, and it took the Bahini 10 hours to unload it and 99 boats to tranship the booty. Thereafter, Kader’s arsenal swelled to 5000 arms and a huge quantity of ammunition. The Kader Bahini's total score of heroic achievements ran into huge figures. It accounted for 3,000 Pakistani soldiers killed including two majors and cap­ tured alive 850, including two Brigadiers, 4 Colonels and 18 Majors. Only two days after Niazi’s surrender Kader lynched 3 Al-Badr collaborators in Dacca in full public view. Mujib Bahini: Another such guerrilla force was the Mujib Bahini which consisted of the radical Students’ League and was led by leaders like Toffail Ahmed, Sheikh Moni, Nurul Alam Siddiqui and Siraj Toffail who later became the political secretary to Sheikh Mujib in independent Bangladesh. Sheikh K am al- Mujib’s eldest son—also fought as a daring guerrilla. The Mujib Bahini had swelled into 20,000 guerrillas, out of which a hard core of 6,000 had fought as regular guerrillas. Equipped with relatively sophisticated weapons the Mujib Bahini turned out to be the most militant and formidable

The M ukti Bahini


group. Its pre-dominant role was to infíltrate the strategic areas, consolidate its hold over them and continue to control them until the arrival of the Indian Army troops “and then fight the enemies of Bangladesh” (Mankekar, 1972, p. 140). Gona Bahini: Another guerrilla organisation, consisting chiefly of such extreme ideological elements—as the National Awami Party which contributed 20 per cent while the CPI of Moni Singh contributed 10 per cent guerrillas besides contri­ buting 10 per cent to the Mujib Bahini and 16 per cent to Kader Bahini was led by Sheikh Moni. This Bahini was fighting under the name of Gona Bahini (Mankekar, 1972, p. 140). All these organisations possessed a huge quantity of arms and ammunition. They had collected them through various sources. The principal source was the raided-Pakistani arsenals. Some of them were also acquired through clandestine channels from across the border or from overseas. An enormous mass of arms had been salted away into, caches all around East Pakistan, to be taken out at the eleventh hour. This quantity was so massive that “ for every weapon surrendered there would be easily five hidden away” . When the Pakistani Army surrendered on 16 Dec. some 200,000 unlicenced weapons were lying about the whole country—about a lakh of them were held by the guerrillas and 50,000 were picked up from the out-going Pakistan Army while the arms looted from Pakistan arsenals and dumps before 16 Dec. totalled 50,000. Over a lakh of them had already been distributed by the Pakistan adminstration among the loyal non-Bengali population of East Pakistan, so also, amongst Razakar and Al-Badr organisations (Mankekar, 1972, p. 140). With the onset of the monsoon, Pakistani troops remained closetted in the cantonments and towns. At times, they had to be maintained by paradrops. With the end of the monsoon, Yahya Khan had expected his troops to come out in strength to crush the M ukti Bahini’s strongholds which had sprung up in rural areas. But, how could four and a half divisions even cover, leave aside occupy, all the 62,000 villages of East Pakistan? Moreover, the Mukti Bahini's strength and its striking power had considerably increased by the time the


Spotlight: Freedom Fighters o f Bangladesh

monsoon receded. “ The situation in East Pakistan grows perceptibly worse each day as the M ukti Fouj increase the number and efficiency of their troops. The West-Pakistani troops are tired. They have had no break for over four months and they operate in a strange environment” —The Daily Telegraph reported quoting Claire Hollingworth: Many a times, the Pakistan troops, during encounters, took to their heels and left behind their arms and equipment. At other times, they left behind their dead also which indicated their sagging morale. They went to the extent of looting ordinary provision stores and confectionary stalls in East Bengal and departed with the compliment “ Send the bill to Indira Gandhi” . In sharp contrast, the local inhabitants always welcomed Mukti-Bahini guerrillas. At their sight, Bengali people rushed out to the streets waving Bangladesh banners to greet and embrace them. Sheikh M ujib’s tape-recorded speeches were often played on such occasions. The Mukti Bahini’s overall operations (owing to the lack of a demographic base) were destined to remain confined to hit-and-run raids mainly. Consequently, it fought with definite disavantages. An American newspaper reported: “ M ukti Bahini are everywhere—in hotels, banks, shops, foreign con­ sulates, business and even in Government offices” (New York Times, quoted by Singh, 1972, p. 104). As days went by, the M ukti Bahini expanded the scope and frequency of its hit-andrun raids, ambushes and attacks on small isolated enemy positions which resulted in liberating the occupied territory and bringing more and more areas into the control of the Bangladesh Government, in exile. Several impartial foreign correspondents and observers had testified that by midNovember, the Mukti Bahini had been able to liberate about one-third of Bangladesh and was dominating most of the remaining areas, during the hours of darkness. Pakistani soldiers, afraid of treading liberated areas even during day­ light hours had “ Walled themselves physically and psycho­ logically” . By mid-November, the Mukti BahinVs ranks were swelling to 100,000 from its initial strength of 25,000. The Pakistan-armed forces, totalling between 28,000 and 40,000, before 25 Mar., had attained the level of 50,000 by mid-April

The M ukti Bahini


(The Times of India, 30 Apr. 1971). But they fought with the disadvantages of unfavourable terrain, a foreign language and a hostile local population. After 3 Dec. they, in fact, faced two enemies viz., the Indian Armed Forces and a hostile Bengali population. The terrain, in Bangladesh, is identical to the Mekong river-delta in Vietnam where Americans had to make extensive use of helicopters to neutralise the disadvantages of terrain. In Bangladesh, the Pakistan forces had only a limited number of helicopters. Although, they had bought US-designed helicopter-gunships through Iran (News Review, 1971 Apr. p. 11), their number was very small. Thus they largely failed to overcome the terrain difficulties in East Pakistan. Psychologi­ cally also the Pakistani forces were ill-equipped to fight a guerrilla war because of their fundamental belief that God remained with large and well-equipped battalions. They un­ successfully tried to exploit the services of the Razakars—local anti-Hindu, anti-Awami and anti-Indian extremists who were the descendants of fanatic elements like the Jamaat-e-Islami—and its military arm—the A1 Badr—a hoodlum organisation, meant to perpetrate barbarity over innocent unarmed Bengalis. Abdul Khalique—a political-science graduate who was heading this professedly civilised and religious organisation—mercilessly slaughtered hundreds of journalists and intellectuals in East Pakistan. Later, he was arrested to face the process of law in independent Bangladesh. The M ukti Bahini too was fighting with certain odds against it. To it, nothing was adequate excepting the community-support. It faced an acute shortage of arms and explosives and initially had to fight with absolete indigenous weapons like the Dao, spears, and old fashioned crude shotguns against the welloiled Pakistani war-machine. The training also was inadequate, yet with stepped-up guerrilla operations, the enemy’s morale did drop perceptibly with each confrontation undertaken. Later, the guerrilla armoury came to be equipped with some sophisticated weapons like mortars, automatic rifles, LMGs, bombs, shells and rocket-launchers as a consequence of successful attacks. Some of the guerrillas fought in dhotis (a loin cloth worn by Hindu men in India), lungis (a loin cloth akin to dhoti), and long-pants because each one of them could not be uniformly


Spotlight: Freedom Fighters o f Bangladesh

outfitted. The liberation forces had to fight with a conspicuous absence of any medical facilities. The sick and wounded were roaming about in the wilderness. They lived at the mercy of the nature; but, by then, they had learnt to live with it. Their Partisan Operations yielded positive results. The assassination of the former Governor, Abdul Monem Khan—a collaborator of the oppressive regime—and the fatal assult on Maulana Ishaque—a minister of the East-Pakistan Government—formed brilliant record of their Partisan Operations (Singh, 1972, p. 106). Afraid of such activities, hundreds of Razakars began to shift their loyalty to the liberation movement or stop collaborating with their Pakistani masters. Razakars were reported thus, in November: “ The Pakistan Government has attempted to combat insurgents with Razakars, local teenage hoodlums raised to the status of para-military force. But the Razakars harm the good cause more than they help it. They think that they are God because they have guns” (Christian Science Monitor, 16 Nov. 1971). Villagers had complained that blanket powers of Razakars which they had acquired from military rulers “ to make life hell” for the rebels had encouraged them to be high-handed. Under its cover they terrorised those Bengalis who refused to deliver them articles of use or any young girl who resisted their lewd advances. A Press reporter of the Christian Science Monitor, touring Bangladesh, was intercepted at a temporary pontoon bridge: “ poking the barrel of their guns through the window” of his car, the Razakars demanded an ilegal toll to cross any bridges. Such activities further alienated the sullen populace of East Pakistan from the Pakistan Government. The movements of the road-bound Pakistan troops, moving as mechanised units, were severely hampered not only by the rugged terrain but also by disrupted communications. Local labourers either refused to repair damaged communications or simply remained out of sight (Singh, 1972, p. 106). The brunt of repairing unserviceable bridges and culverts had to be borne by Pakistan troops themselves. The dislocation of communi­ cations further herded them into isolated pockets which presented ideal targets for guerrilla raids. Foreign diplomats, press secretaries in various embassies

The M ukti Bahini


which were located at Dacca and many journalists who chose to remain there during the perilous days which preceded the outbreak of war, had amply lauded the M ukti Bahini's achieve­ ments. Their views testified to the fact that the colonial rulers of Bangladesh could not endure much longer. A FP’s Dacca correspondent, analysing an official communi­ que, had concluded that “all the 19 districts of East Pakistan had been hit by guerrilla operations.” The official communiques revealed their field of action as “ stretching from Chittagong, in the South, to Dinajpur, in the North, and from Sylhet district, in the East, to Khulna and Kushtia, in the West” (Times of India, 16 Nov. 1971). They catalogued a series of guerrilla exploits—a portion of the railway station at Darsana— in Kushtia district—was blown off; a wave of violence hit Narayanganj, a fire in Khulna and bomb explosions and shoot­ ing incidents galore in the capital city of Dacca. An outstanding achievement of the Mukti-Bahini guerrillas was a raid on an army position, near the railway station and Bazar. It occurred as a result of intensive pounding with heavy artillery and mortars carried out by the Pakistan Army. Guerrillas figured in a report also which confirmed that they had smashed 40 Pakistani bunkers and killed 30 Pakistani soldiers, there (Mankekar, 1972, p. 131). In another report, an APA correspondent cabled from Dacca: “ The M ukti Bahini men are the strongest in the areas where they are helped by geography. In the maze of creeks, rivers and hidden islands along the Bay of Bengal, the M ukti Bahini fighters roam about freely. According to eyewitnesses, freedom fighters with sten guns and helmets occupy schools and barracks and walk unhindered along the main road skirting the paddy swamps of the central Faridpur district—home of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman” (Mankekar, 1972, p. 131). Another time, Malcolm Brown, while reporting guerrilla activities, stated that every now and then they kept on cutting roads, bridges and waterways, sabotaging electricity, water-gas and petroleum supplies, sinking government supply ships and assassinating officials and collaborators. Similarly, an AP cor­ respondent, reporting about Dacca, stated: “ The M ukti Bahini fighters operate more intensely and openly in Dacca. The eastern part of the city has become a daily target of bombings and


Spotlight: Freedom Fighters o f Bangladesh

shootings.. Green Road, near Dhanmandi residential areas, has become a ‘No Man’s land’ where the liberation forces and Razakars exchange fire in the night. The guerrillas, in hijacked gunboats, stolen from Khulna, have shelled ships, coming to the jute port of Chalna. This threat to shipping has a major economic implication. The liberation forces continue to com­ mand loyalty. Hostility in the army is undisguised” (Mankekar, 1972, p. 131). According to the testimony of Maulana Jessori, the people in Rangpur, had laid booby traps for a rushing Pakistan-army convoy where the first five carriers fell into them in quick succession and were consequently smashed; while the sixth vehicle checked the momentum of those following behind. In retribution, thousands of local Bengalis were killed there (Bhatnagar, 1971, p. 236). A Bengali fisher wife who met Shibdas Banerje, at Padma river, in the vicinity of Faridpur town, was carrying bullets instead of fishes. She told him “ I belong to Bangladesh and Bangladesh belongs to me.” This incident amply demonstrated the mesmeric influence of Sheikh Mujib over all the 75 million people of East Pakistan. It also exhibited the intensity of motivation which was teeming in them. Once, after a heap of corpses had been amassed at Faridpur, by Pakistani troops, the