High Time to Objectively Analyze the Distorted Indo-Bengali Version of 1971 War

Distorted Indo-Bengali Version of 1971 War

It is the responsibility of intellectuals to speak the truth and to expose lies

Noam Chomsky

Since the gloomy evening of 16 December 1971, the relationship between Pakistan and Bangladesh (erstwhile East Pakistan) has remained to be a topsy-turvy terrain. This relationship has remained to be a prisoner of the past that has been replete with historic misconceptions and misperceptions that lack truthful and objective analysis. From that day up till now, Pakistan has been relentlessly blamed for anti-Bengal posture and the acts that caused alienation of Bengalis. The propagandas constructed by India and promoted by Awami League have been internalized in the mindset of the public of Bangladesh and has become the national narrative. Not only this, but the exercise of historical revisionism in Bangladesh under the auspices of Awami League’s pro-India government has masked the role of India and its proxy in the events that led to the dismemberment of Pakistan but has also erased the part India played in exploiting the pre-existing fault lines since 1971. 

India shrewdly used 1971 incident as a tool to demonize Pakistan. Instead of being considered as a victim of Indian proxy war, Pakistan has been made to appear as a culprit.

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Objective history is based on facts. However, the subjective history based on mere narratives never reflects the actual realities. Similarly, the narratives constructed by Bangladesh -pertaining to 1971 incident and the role of Pakistan- present subjective rather fractured history of the event. The commonly held misperception that three million Bengalis died has never been backed by any proof. The atrocities unleashed by Indian forces have been omitted from the chapter of history. The fact that India ignited the fire of socio-ethnic marginalization has never been discussed openly. The Indian attack on Pakistan and the sufferings of Pakistan have never been highlighted. Furthermore, the history of 1971’s dark night has never been supported with strong evidences and proofs. Bangladesh came into being after the eve of 1971, before that it was a part of Pakistan and who gave India the right to intervene in the jurisdiction of Pakistan? India has never been lambasted for undermining the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Pakistan. It appears that India should be held accountable for war crimes and for igniting the fire of genocide which only killed Muslims. Instead of getting genocidal museum inaugurated by Indian Prime Minister, India is to be held responsible for that genocide. However, on contrary, India shrewdly used 1971 incident as a tool to demonize Pakistan. Instead of being considered as a victim of Indian proxy war, Pakistan has been made to appear as a culprit.

The pro-India tilt of Awami League has prejudiced the history as well. Postmodern school of thought opines that every text or subtext is impacted by the socio-cultural or other prejudices. Therefore, history is prejudiced and so, the historic narrative held by Bangladesh can also be biased. To solve this mayhem of biased texts and subtexts, postmodernists propose the deconstruction and then reconstruction of the history using the lens of objective analysis instead of subjective one. Hence, there is a dire need of research based and objective analysis of 1971 incident, so the actual reality could be unmasked and the real culprits are to be blamed. 

Bangladeshis remember the war after the events of March 25 — the night Operation Searchlight began in Dhaka — while remaining silent before that when violence was reported in Chittagong and Biharis and West Pakistanis were persecuted and killed, India’s reaction and the involvement of the Mukti Bahini.

It is high time for Bangladesh government to sideline the national patriotic prejudices and view history from a neutral lens. There is the supreme need of more work like that of Sarmila Bose’s. In her book Dead Reckoning: Memories of the 1971 Bangladesh War, she explains the fact how history has been distorted and exaggerated by the Bangladesh government. In her article published in Al-Jazeera she answers the criticism against her book by saying, “As soon as I started to do systematic research on the 1971 war, I found that there was a problem with the story which I had grown up believing: from the evidence that emanated from the memories of all sides at the ground level, significant parts of the “dominant narrative” seem not to have been true. Many “facts” had been exaggerated, fabricated, distorted or concealed.” She further states, “Part of the answer lies also in that the book corrects some of the absurd exaggerations about the army’s actions with which Bangladeshi nationalists had happily embellished their stories of “villainous” Pakistanis for all these years. But an important reason for falsely claiming that the book exonerates the military is to distract attention from the fact that it also chronicles the brutalities by their own side, committed in the name of Bengali nationalism. Its discovery spoils the “villains versus innocents” spin of Bangladeshi nationalist mythology.”

Bangladesh shall stop using the prejudiced lens of past and view Pakistan with a progressive and positive lens for both the countries share common base of Islamic brotherhood.

Furthermore, Anum Zakria in her recent book named, 1971: A People’s History from Bangladesh, Pakistan and India, highlights the fact that, Bangladeshis remember the war after the events of March 25 — the night Operation Searchlight began in Dhaka — while remaining silent before that when violence was reported in Chittagong and Biharis and West Pakistanis were persecuted and killed, India’s reaction and the involvement of the Mukti Bahini. Hence, objective and scientific analysis of 1971 incident is to be carried out. More scholarly work like that of Sarmila Bose and Anam Zakria is to done. At the foreign front the role of Mukti Bahini and Indian army should be unveiled, while at the internal front, the socio-political and cultural causes of Bengali alienation are to be studied in a neutral manner. Instead of beating about a bush pertaining to the past misperceptions, research based detailed course of study shall be followed. Bangladesh shall stop using the prejudiced lens of past and view Pakistan with a progressive and positive lens for both the countries share common base of Islamic brotherhood.

About the Author: Miss Merwah Hamid Qureshi holds an M. Phil Degree from QAU, Islamabad and is also a visiting lecturer for International Relations at National Officers Academy (NOA), Pakistan. She is a freelance writer for online portals including Global Village Space, Geopolitica and Sydney News. Her area of specialization is the changing world International Relations.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are authors own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of The Reader’s Review.

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