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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

The Bengali genocide: Setting the record straight

The 1971 War, which led to the birth of Bangladesh, has been one of the most difficult histories for Pakistan to contend with. While India and Bangladesh commemorate December 16 as Victory Day and mourn the Bengali genocide, a Twitter user explains with factual evidence how "the 3 million" killed in the Bengali genocide is a distorted figure and an attempt to malign the Pakistan Army.

On December 16, 1971, Pakistan lost a war with India, leading to the creation of Bangladesh. On this day, the chief of the Pakistani forces, General Amir Abdullah Khan Niazi, along with 93000 others including Pakistani troops, surrendered to India and its allied forces in Dhaka.

The 1971 War, which culminated in the birth of Bangladesh, has been one of the most difficult histories for Pakistan to contend with. While India and Bangladesh commemorate December 16 as Victory Day, they also frequently highlight that Bangladesh experienced one of the worst forms of genocide in the history of mankind.

Bangladesh, on several occasions, has claimed that in the 9-month-long civil war against Pakistan about three million innocent people were killed and more than 200,000 women were violated.

To instigate hatred against Pakistan, the claims of the Bengali genocide and the three million dead are regularly repeated by South Asia’s academia. However, it must be noted that the number of killings is disputed. Twitter user Fidato examined this issue in 2021 on Bangladesh’s 50th Independence Day in detail in a string of posts based on literature evidence.

Read more: Bangladesh’s independence: a history marked with India’s tirade against Pakistan

He shared an excerpt from a book by Richard Sisson and Leo Rose called War and Secession: Pakistan, India, and the Creation of Bangladesh where the authors have carried out detailed research on the birth of Bangladesh.

The authors interviewed two Indian officials in 1971 on the actual figures of deaths in Bangladesh. Upon questioning, one of the officials changed his statement on the spot.

On another occasion, a Bengali nationalist who participated in the separatist cause has written in his book Behind the Myth of Three Million that in order to be a true “Bengali patriot” the people back then were required to accept the whole truth without any questions. He even called the claims that the Pakistan Army killed three million people “fiction.”

Read more: Creation of Bagladesh: will the true scale of the tragedy ever be know?


Why 3 million?

The Twitter user shared an article by Serajur Rahman explaining the genesis of the three million figure. According to the article, the dispute in numbers was mainly due to Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s confusion. The disputed numbers were then portrayed as official figures by publishing agencies.

Close associates of Sheikh Mujeeb were also skeptical of the 3 million figure quoted and have expressed their disbelief.

Read more: Bangladesh Politiking to Commemorate March 25 as ‘Genocide Day’

After the fall of Dhaka, Sheikh Mujib formally instituted a 12 member Inquiry Committee to prove the validity of his claims. However, the draft report came with a casualty figure of 56,743 which included the mass killings of Biharis by Mukhti Bahinis. This made Mujib furious.

William Drummond explains why Mujib ur Rehman raised the fallacious claim of the genocide and killings of three million Bengalis. Fidato also shared a paragraph from Sarmila Bose’s book where it has been stated that South Asian and Western Academia quote the three million dead in Bengali genocide without any verification.

Bengali genocide and the real Holocaust

Lt Gen Jagjit Singh Aurora, Commander in Chief of the Eastern Command of Indian Army during the 1971 war, rejected the three million figure. He said that Mujib’s figure was ‘absolutely impossible’ because the Pakistan Army has ‘simultaneously fought within the country and at the borders.

However, Sheikh Mujib refused to take account of the Bihari killings by his own Mukti Bahini, despite eye-witness account.

Sarmila Bose further explains in her book how the Bengali genocide is being falsely associated with the Holocaust which is an insult to the victims of the Nazi Holocaust. This exaggeration is exploitation by India.

The killing of Biharis

Fidato highlights the killing of Biharis in East Pakistan by Mukti Bahini who are also known as Bangladesh forces. As per the 1951 census, there were 671,000 Biharis in East Pakistan and up to 20 per cent of the Bihari population was massacred by the Mukti Bahini. The Twitter user further states how this is an actual genocide.

Fidato concludes this extensive research by stressing how both Pakistan and Bangladesh should present well researched and factual accounts that lead to the liberation of Bangladesh as it is the only way forward.

Read more: How Pakistan was ‘Created & Lost’: A journey of ‘Blood & Tears’