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Bangladesh Studies

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The main text covers military and guerilla actions and touches upon political as well as other related matters. Comparatively wider coverage of the armed actions does not imply greater importance or precedence of military actions over the long-drawn struggle of the vast majority of the people. The significance of freedom movements cannot be comprehended by studying military actions or guerrilla activities alone. To understand the true dimension liberation wars one must be aware of the aspirations of the millions of people; aspirations that span over hundreds of years and are nurtured and passed on from generation to generation. Although armed action is just one aspect of a freedom movement, the totality of such a movement encompasses human societies so overwhelmingly that all liberation wars leave permanent imprints not only on the history of the nation concerned, but on mankind as a whole. As such, while reading the book it should be remembered that – Liberation Wars are not mere military campaigns. They essentially are people’s wars. Without people’s participation there can be no victory and no freedom in the long run.

About the Author
Rafiqul Islam B. U. was born in Comilla in Sept. 1943. After finishing college education he studied Economics at Dhaka University. He was an active participant in the students’ movement in 1962 against Pakistan’s President Ayub Khan. While a student at the university he worked for sometime as a correspondent with the U.P.P which is a news agency. In 1963, he left the university before completing his studies and joined the Pakistan Army. He was commissioned in the Corps of Army Engineers and later served in the Corps of Artillery. In the beginning of 1970 he was deputed to EPR Sector Head-Quarter at Chittagong as Adjutant of the sector. In March 1971, he joined the Bangladesh Liberation War, and was one of the pioneer freedom fighters. During the Liberation War, he was Commander of Sector No. 1 of Bangladesh Forces. Along with others, he was awarded the Bir Uttam (B.U.), Bangladesh’s highest decoration (non-posthumous) for bravery.

On April 29, 1972, he was released from military service. Thereafter he worked as Associate Editors of The People’s View, an English daily newspaper from Chittagong. He received higher education on management development (PMD-41) at Harvard Business School in the U.S.A. in 1981. From 1977 to 1990, he was Chairman, Dhaka Water Supply Authority; Chairman, Bangladesh Handloom Board; and Lastly, Chairman, Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Corporation (BIWTC). In December, 1990, he was appointed Advisor to the Acting President of Bangladesh in the caretaker neutral government, and held the charges of the Ministry of Ports and Shipping, and the Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism. He is elected as an Honorary of Member of Parliament of Bangladesh in the election of 2008.

About The Book
A Tale of Millions is a breathtaking account of the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971 that saw countless fierce and bloody battles during the nine months of fighting. It is a prosaic account of how the trigger-happy Pakistani Frankensteins were let loose to kill three million Benglalis and force over 10 million to flee to India. The author is a pioneer freedom fighter, and as commander of Sector No. 1 of Bangladesh Forces, conducted the war in his sector. And here the book assumes an added significance because it has been penned first ever by a sector commander of the Bangladesh Liberation War. First published in 1974, an enlarged second edition was brought out in 1981. Some of the actions not covered earlier have been added to the 1994 edition. In this invaluable document of Bangladesh Liberation War, the author narrates the genesis of the movement for independence, its trials and tribulations, hopes and frustrations; and finally triumph brought about by grit, determination and death-defying vow of the 75 million people.

It reveals, in minute details, how a peace-and-freedom-loving people – deprived, exploited and oppressed ruthlessly for ages – rose in unison to wrest freedom from the savage tentacles of the Pakistan Army. The author has unveiled many hitherto unknown events of the Bangladesh Liberation War and, at the same time, painstakingly ensured the correctness and authenticity of facts. For such reliability, the book has carved for itself a very special place as a ‘Reference Book’ for the history of Bangladesh Liberation War. References were made to the records in the A Tale of Millions by the Bangladesh Parliament in June 1981 during discussions on some historic events of the Liberation War. The publication of the book has been widely accepted as timely as it has filled a void where the real history of the Bangladesh Liberation War could have been distorted and its glory tarnished in the process. Thus the book will find its place as a true and historic document for the posterity for a flashback.

Background of Liberation War
The Background of Bangladesh Liberation War 1971, was ‘years of Treachery and Exploitation’. There were disparities in every spheres of Bengalis life. The days when Bengalis ruled themselves and enjoyed the fruits of their hardship belong to so distant a past that these seem have lost even historical significance, and are recollected only as myths and legends. For many generations, the people of this region were subjected to the indignity and oppression of British colonial rule. Such colonial rule followed by the creation of West and East Pakistan soon after the Independence from the British Rule. It seemed like the Bengalis in the East were subjected to exploitation and colonial rule for time being of nature.

The Bengalis confronted disparity in every sphere in their so called own country, East Pakistan. Though overwhelming majority in the East was the Bengalis while the Punjabis were in the majority in the West, the majority in Population was in the East. But the West was held with ‘central command’ of Pakistan. The joke of fate was that, except the majority in religion – Islam, nothing was common between the two wings of Pakistan. There were confusions in the philosophers whether a state based on such weak foundation could survive without cooperation, brotherhood and political skill. But the confusion was getting clearance through years of treachery, hatred exploitation and deprivation. The resources in East Pakistan were utilized for development of the West Pakistan but the Bengalis in the East have to suffer the prolonged hardship since British Rule.

Chapter wise Significance
Chapter 2 – Code Words:
It is found that, the author, who was a Deputy and Adjutant of EPR (East Pakistan Regiment) Sector HQ. At Chittagong, organized almost 1500 EPR men to seize and arrest the West Pakistani forces silently to capture the Port City, Chittagong. But the initiative was vetted by a Lt. Col. And a Major of the then Pakistan Army, two Bengali Army Personnel. Both these officers were confused about the seizure of the City in case of long run, if that they fail to execute their plan accordingly. Besides, they hardly could imagine that the Pakistan Govt. would go so far to launch GENOCIDE. In words of the Lt. Col. – “They (Pakistan Govt.) won’t do anything serious against us. After all, there is world opinion which they cannot overlook.” In words of the Major – “Don’t worry, they will not go to that extent.” The author had some arguments with these two army personnel but could not convince them to join him for the initiative. But both of them, consisting to EBRC (East Bengal Regimental Centre) and 8 East Bengal Regiment, came to a decision that if anything goes wrong from the other side they would capture their own centers and then join the author in the Tactical HQ. Railway Hill, Chittagong to capture the port city. So for that night, March 24, 1971, the operation got set back. And the author cancelled the second Code Message “Bring Some Wood For Me”. The code messages meant:

“Arrange Some Wood For Me” – This was a warning to remain on stand-by at half an hour’s notice. “Bring Some Wood For Me” – This second message was an order for all troops to arrest, and if necessary, to eliminate all hostile forces. Thereafter, the Bengali troops were to move to the city and go to pre-selected battle locations.

Chapter 3: The Years of Treachery and Exploitation
The author has successfully drawn the picture for the background of Liberation War. The statistical data and comparison shown earlier were embedded sequentially here. All since the separation of India in 1947 to 1971, period of treachery and exploitation of Pakistan Govt. either Jinnah’s reign or Ayub Khan’s reign or it be Yahya’s, the reasons for Bengalis’ unison discussed thoroughly by Rafiqul Islam B.U. After the death of Jinnah Pakistan Govt. saw a number of Leaders but none of them were at good charm for East wing. The author, in a simple but efficient literature, has described every ins and out for the happening of a war. Chapter 4 & 5: Political Turmoil & History in the Making Description of the political unrest grown up since every movement of aggression of mass people especially students and politicians against all odds of the Govt. of Pakistan. Situations always worsened by Hypocrisy of the Feudal Rulers. Their provocative actions enabled the Bengalis in History Making. Chapter 6 to Last: Preparations to Epilogue

Since President Yahya left East Pakistan secretly, it made the concerns smelling the evil plan of the Govt. The author, Rafiqul Islam B.U. was also confident that the Pakistanis are going to launch Genocide on Bengalis. The M.V. Swat carrying 10,000 tons of ammunitions, the excessive troops marching from West to the East wing, immediately relieving the Bengali Officials in Pakistan Army without any notice; all these made the author nerved that led him to plan a mutiny with his Bengali troops. Though the author was refrained from taking any action earlier but ordered his men to remain vigilant. Accordingly, he started his hit before being hit and arrested around 1,000 West Pakistani officers and soldiers in various BOPs (Border Out Posts) and Sector HQ with his men. He started his journey of Liberation War at 8:30pm of March 25, 1971 from his Sarson Road residence. Being one of the pioneer freedom fighters was an eye witness of the brutality of the West Pakistani Frankenstein let loose on the unarmed Bengalis. The women were tortured, raped until death has taken them away. Men were made naked to check their identity whether they were Muslims or not.

The properties of the Hindus as well as Bengali Muslims were looted without any hesitation. Small children could not yet get rid of those Hyenas belonging to West Pakistan. Passers by were killed without any reason. Youths were taken to an unknown location and never returned to their family. Anyone caught during migrating in fear towards India or any border location, firstly checked Muslim or not, were looted then lined up and shot with bullets. And if in such a situation there is any female, girl or women; became a feast object for the Pathans or Punjabis. Even the elderly women were not out of those vultures’ lust. In August, the Guerrilla movement gained attention of the Pakistan Authority. They were again in fierce situation that these Guerrillas were from the youths in the Bengal. So they took up initiatives to capture and kill as more youths as they can. Consequently, they took the youths from houses, streets, wherever they could get. It is mentioned by the author here that the Pakistan Army started to use these youths for the supply of blood for their soldiers’ casualties. Youths those are healthy enough were kept in custody at a unknown place, to take out their bloods.

Their bloods were taken until they were dead. Pakistan Army, before launching Operation Searchlight, did not imagined that there would be massive resistance. They thought the Bengalis would be silent for a long time when they kill some thousands people on March 25. But the repulse and resistance by the Bengalis unnerved them. Though the Bangladesh Force had to retreat first from their positions because of absence of reinforcement and ammunition supply, they did not easily let it go. Many of the soldiers fought since last bullet and have life in within. Soon after getting supply of ammunition and civilians coming ahead to join the war, backed up the Bangladesh Force. And the Liberation War then got oranized manner. The Bangladesh Force then started giving training to the untrained manpower forming groups of Guerrilla and inducting them to various zones. The Liberation War is divided into Four Phases here by the author: First Phase: From March 25 to the third week of June:

Battles were fought sometimes in a planned manner, and at other times without careful planning.

Second Phase: From the last week of June to September:
This was the phase of reorganization and coordination. The Guerrilla tactics was switched on by this time and brought succession onwards.

Third Phase: From the last week October to December 3:
In this phase guerrilla operations were stepped up. The regular battalions and the sector troops all over the country achieved limited victory in minor actions against the enemy during this phase. Fourth Phase: From December 3 to December 16:

It was the period of joint operation against the Pakistan Army by the Bangladesh and Indian Forces. This phase culminated in victory against the Pakistan Army on December 16, 1971.

The Mujib Nagar Government
On 17 April 1971, in the village of Vardyanathtala in the Meherpur district, Bangladesh formed its first government, with Mujibnagar as that became the capital of the Provisional Government. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was elected president, but he was in a Pakistani jail, vice President Syed Nazrul Islam became Acting President. Other important members of the government were: Prime Minister : Tajuddin Ahmed

Foreign Minister : Khandakar Mushtaq Ahmed
Finance Minister: Captain (Retd.) Mansur Ali
Home Minister : A. H. M. Quamruzzaman
Colonel Muhammad Ataul Ghani Osmani became commander-in-Chief of the Mukti Bahini. Professor Yusuf Ali, Awami League member of National Assembly, read out a statement declaring 26 March 1971 as Independence Day. Acting President Syed Nazrul Islam and Prime Minister Tajuddin Ahmed appealed to other countries to recognize Bangladesh’s independence. The Response Of The World

The first country to support Bangladesh in the War of Liberation was India. Around ten millions Bengalis were forced to seek refuge in India when Pakistani forces started their genocides campaign. The Government of Indira Gandhi and the people of India extended support to all who took refuge in India. The Soviet Union also supported Bangladesh and in August 1971 signed a Treaty of Peace, Friendship and commerce with India. The govt. of USA and China, did not support Bangladesh in the Liberation War, while the common in people many countries sympathized with the hardships of the people of Bangladesh and provided them with practical assistance. Bhutan was the first country to recognize Bangladesh as an independent sovereign country followed by India.

Finally, in December 3, the Indian Army called as Mitra Bahini joined Mukti Fouz (Bangladesh Force) formed a joined force and Indian Air Force (IAF) launched shelling on locations of Pakistan Army. This actions made the Commander Eastern Command of Pakistan, Niazi confused of their ability in the situation. Finally the morale of the Pakistan Army was broken down due to the consistent lose of their territory in East. At last, Niazi made up his mind to set back and agree to the Unconditional Surrender Offer made by General Manekshaw of Indian Army on behalf of the Allied forces of Bangladesh and Indian Forces by December 16, 1971. That followed the Victory of the Bengali Nation, for what they had to pay a very heavy cost that can be hardly borne by such a small nation then. No one can ever actually calculate it out, that the number of Martyrs of Bangladesh Liberation War, 1971.

Those who survived the war being within the country are the real spectators of the brutality, of the sacrifice, of the misery. That’s why any of the citizen of Bangladesh, whenever hears of 1971 or simply ’71 instantly remembers of the liberation war. It’s the significance of the nation to remember, that the night of untold miseries like March 25, 1971 came just after a normal and beautiful sunset. And the freedom also came as victory just after sunset same as the previous one at 6:30pm of December 16, 1971. But between those two sunsets there were many more sunsets which are the witness of the brutality faced by the nation, ‘earned being called Bengalis’.

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