Wednesday, February 2, 2011

India had things to hide

IT IS, indeed, a shocking piece of news that the Indian authorities concerned have destroyed, and that too deliberately, ‘most of the official records’ as regards the Bangladesh war in 1971, which was fought with the assistance from India against Pakistani military occupation of our country. According to a Times of India report published on Sunday, which was printed in many newspapers in Bangladesh the next day, the war-related documents, particularly including ‘those on the creation of Mukti Bahini (liberation force)’ and its sensitive ‘operational details’ were destroyed ‘immediately after the 1971 war’.

The Bangladesh war physically involved at least three countries – Bangladesh, Pakistan and India; naturally, each country had different objectives and, therefore, different perspectives to look at the war. For the people of Bangladesh, liberating the country from Pakistani occupation forces was a life and death issue involving political aspiration for creating a nation state of their own. For India, it was more of a geopolitical strategic issue vis-à-vis Pakistan of the day, and its primary objective behind supporting the cause of Bangladesh was to weaken Pakistan by dividing it. For Pakistan, particularly its ruling coterie, it was the matter of retaining control over Bangladesh, or preventing secession of Bangladesh in other words, and continuing political and economic exploitation of the Bengalis. Understandably, the needs of Bangladesh and India for fighting against Pakistan coincided, although the objectives for the fight were distinctly different.

Under this circumstance, India provided multidimensional assistance to the Bangladeshis – ranging from providing guerrilla training to our freedom fighters to organising international opinions against the military oppression of Pakistan, besides providing shelter and food to thousands of Bengali refugees in the bordering states of India – in liberating Bangladesh. While doing so, India obviously tried, and to a large extent succeeded in their attempts, to politically control the course of Bangladesh’s freedom struggles. However, at one stage of the war between Bangladeshi freedom fighters and Pakistani occupation army, India officially joined the war and the Pakistani forces got defeated on December 16, 1971. Bangladesh emerged as an independent country.

During the nine months of the struggle, since the beginning of Pakistani military’s crackdown on the unarmed Bangladeshis in March to the surrender of the Pakistani army in Dhaka in December, innumerable political, diplomatic and military happenings have taken places in this Bangladesh-India-Pakistan subcontinent, and historians and researchers are still busy discovering as well as analysing them from different perspectives. As regards forming different kinds of guerrilla forces and planning military operations, it is only obvious that the erstwhile Eastern Command of the Indian Army, which was in-charge of the war from the Indian side, has a lot of historically important documents at its disposal. The documents, needless to say, would have someday provided important angels to the historians to analyse the enormously important time and events leading to the independence of Bangladesh. But the destruction of those documents would stand in the way of getting a complete picture of those events.

Over the past decades, the Bangladesh-India relations have undergone difficult phases, thanks particularly to the latter’s hegemonistic attitude towards the former. The result is obvious: a lot of mistrust between the two countries. The revelation that the Indian authorities have ‘deliberately’ destroyed documents related to the formation of Mukti Bahini would further contribute to the deepening of the mistrust, as the destruction suggests that the Indian authorities had things to hide from the peoples concerned, particularly the people of Bangladesh.

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