Foreign friends of 1971 in retrospect
As the country celebrates the golden jubilee of the national Victory Day today, The Business Standard revisits the contributions of some of the many foreign friends who directly and indirectly joined the quest for liberation in 1971
No war is fought alone. If there is an opponent, there is also an ally.
The disposition and the contribution of the allies are supremely significant, especially, when the independence of a nation is at stake.
The role of foreign allies are generously mentioned in the history of attaining the independence of the People's Republic of Bangladesh.
The true friends of Bangladesh have been acknowledged over the years for their tremendous service during the period of need.
In 2011, the country made a list of 650 foreign friends and institutions. 338 of them from 21 countries were awarded in seven phases until 2013. They were: 225 Indians, 29 Americans, 17 Pakistanis, 13 British, 11 Russians, nine Nepalese, eight Japanese, and two French.
These people were awarded in three categories: Bangladesh Freedom Honour, Bangladesh Liberation War Honour, and Friends of Liberation War Honour.
The formal award ceremony, however, didn't take place since 2013 with the only exception in June 2015, when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi received the award on behalf of BJP leader and former Indian prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, during his official visit to Bangladesh.
As the country celebrates the golden jubilee of the national Victory Day today, The Business Standard revisits the contributions of some of the many foreign friends who directly and indirectly joined the quest for liberation in 1971.
Indira Priyadarshini Gandhi, the prime minister of India during the liberation war of Bangladesh in 1971, was the one extended official assistance to take down military occupation in East Pakistan while giving shelter to some 10 million refugees who crossed the border.
She opened India's eastern borders allowing streams of refugees to take shelter. When the elected representatives of people formed a government in exile, with imprisoned Sheikh Mujibur Rahman becoming the President and Tajuddin Ahmed the Prime Minister, India helped settle the provisional government and finally got involved in the war — first indirectly but later directly, when Pakistan opened another front in India's western region.
Besides providing the training and logistic support for the freedom fighters, the Indian army actively started supporting attacks by the Mukti Bahini (Bengali freedom fighters) on Pakistani border posts from early October of 1971. In the second week of October, the eastern command of Indian army ordered its formations not only to defend the border but also to carry out offensive operations up to ten miles inside East Pakistan. The idea was to capture important salients in East Pakistan that would assist the eventual full-fledged military intervention. The captured territory was, however, held by the Mukti Bahini, with Indian troops retreating behind the borders.
Indira Gandhi travelled across the world to mobilise support for the beleaguered people of Bangladesh and appealed world leaders to intervene and pressurise Pakistan to stop its brutalities in East Pakistan.
In mid-November Indira Gandhi ordered a further escalation of military action along the borders with East Pakistan. By 21 November that conflict had escalated to a new stage. India formally formed the joint command composed of the Indian Armed Forces and the Bangladesh freedom fighters, also called the Mukti Bahini, and placed it under Lieutenant General Jagjit Singh.
As the tempo of operations rose, it became increasingly difficult to deny Indian military involvement alongside the Mukti Bahini. In the last week of November, the prime minister gave the go ahead for a full-scale attack. The D-Day was set for 4 December 1971. The surgical military action forced the Pakistan military to surrender in just 14 days on December 16, 1971.
On 6 December 1971, she announced in Parliament that India had accorded recognition to the Bangladesh Government.
Indira Gandhi, the third Prime Minister of India, was born on 19 November 1917, in then Allahabad and passed away on 31 October 1984.
Anthony Mascarenhas was one of those who showed the world the real scenario and helped turn the world public opinion in favour of our Liberation War in 1971.
Mascarenhas, who was the assistant editor at The Morning News in Karachi, was sent to East Pakistan by the government to promote the Pakistani propaganda.
Overwhelmed by the atrocities, he fled to London on 18 May with the collection of massacre images. On 13 June 1971, he published a 16 column (2-page) report titled "Genocide" in The Sunday Times of London. The world was stunned by the revelation made by the report
In that report, the brutality of the West Pakistani troops, the asylum of refugees in India, the death of countless people in the famine, the stories of rape of thousands of women, the killing of children – all were unfolded.
BBC News's Mark Drummett dubbed it "the article that changed history" in his 2011 Victory Day article. The BBC writes: "There is little doubt that Mascarenhas' reportage played its part in ending the war. It helped turn world opinion against Pakistan and encouraged India to play a decisive role." Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi stated that Mascarenhas' article led her "to prepare the ground for India's armed intervention".
Later, he published two books highlighting the brutality of Pakistan military during the 1971 independence movement of Bangladesh, titled: 'The Rape of Bangladesh' and 'Bangladesh: A Legacy of Blood' the war.
Born on 10 July 1928, the great man left the earth forever on 6 December 1986.
Lieutenant General Jack Farj Rafael Jacob aka JFR Jacob was the Chief of Staff of the Indian Army's Eastern Command during 1971.
Jacob came up with the "war of movement" plan which was adopted to invade East Pakistan when the war was at its peak. The plan made the Indian Army's incursion of Dhaka successful in just 15 days.
His plan was to bypass intermediary towns altogether to neutralise Pakistan's command and communication infrastructure, and use secondary routes to reach Dhaka, which was the geopolitical centre of the region.
JFR Jacob was the man who carried the historic "instrument of surrender" on 16 December 1971 and made the counterpart Pakistani Army' Eastern Commander Lieutenant General AAK Niazi to accept the conditions in 30 minutes.
General Jacob made Niazi and his 26,000 troops stationed in Dhaka surrender in a historic public capitulation at the Racecourse Ground, as well as providing a guard of honour.
Moreover, he played a vital role in the unparalleled contribution of Indian forces to the establishment of camps for the freedom fighters, reconstruction of refugee camps, training, providing arms and logistics that contributed to the desired victory of Bangladesh.
Born in Kolkata in 1923, Jacob pursued his education from Darjeeling and the United States. He joined Indian Army and took part in the Second World War and the Pakistan-India War in 1965. He started his political career by joining Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and later served as the governor of Goa and Punjab. JFR Jacob died on 13 January 2016, at the age of 93.
William AS Ouderland
Dutch-Australian William AS Ouderland was called the true friend of Bangladesh for his active participation and heroic contribution to the war of liberation in 1971.
He was the only foreign national to be honored with the fourth highest gallantry award, the Bir Protik, by the Government of Bangladesh.
Born on 6 December 1917 in Amsterdam, Ouderland started his career in the Bata Shoe Company as Shoe-shiner (1934) but soon left the job to join National Service (1936). He left the service in 1940, and participated in the Second World War (1939-1945) as a guerilla commando of the Dutch army.
Ouderland first came to Dhaka in late 1970 with an assignment as the Production Manager of Bata Shoe Company. Within a few months of his joining the war of liberation began and Ouderland discovered in him the ex-soldier facing a new war.
Initially, he worked as a secret intelligence agent for communicating the plans and actions of the occupation army to the freedom fighters since he had easier access in the army headquarters as a foreigner. With the help of his experience in the Second World War as a guerilla commando, he then became an active member of a guerilla branch of Sector 2. He provided regular training to the freedom fighters at different secret camps in Tongi, including the Bata Shoe Factory premises.
Besides, he did the excellent job of documenting war days by collecting photographs on the incidence of atrocities and genocide by the occupation army, and sending them to the world news media thereby creating public opinion in favour of the Liberation War.
He continued his job at the Bata Shoe Company in Dhaka as Managing Director till he retired in 1978 and left the earth forever on 18th May 2001 in Australia.
In 1971, when the Pakistani rulers forcibly evicted the foreign journalists, the only one managed to escape and witness the genocide was Simon Dring.
Before the infamous 'Operation Searchlight' (the barbaric genocide in Dhaka), Pakistan Army locked up some 200 foreign journalists at the Hotel Intercontinental so that they cannot witness the atrocity. Later they were sent to Karachi.
The one who stayed back was the 27-year old British reporter Simon Dring.
Dring was 'The Daily Telegraph' reporter, when he was assigned to cover the tumultuous political situation in East Pakistan. He arrived Dhaka on 6th March and witnessed the historic 7th March Speech of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman at the Racecourse Ground.
On 25th March 1971, when the Pakistan Army was trying to block world media from doing any news coverage, Dring hid himself at the Hotel Intercontinental for more than 32 hours, risking his life only to inform the world about the atrocity.
When the curfew was lifted on 27th March, he left the hotel avoiding the military patrol. He traveled the city and collected the evidence of genocide at the Dhaka University area, Rajarbagh Police Line and various parts of old Dhaka. Later he managed to board a flight to West Pakistan. Until he finally reached Bangkok, the security had stopped him several times but somehow his documentation was unharmed.
Dring penned his famous report 'TANKS CRUSH REVOLT IN PAKISTAN' which was published in the front page of The Daily Telegraph on March 30, 1971, as the first account of the brutal genocide in Bangladesh.
The award-winning British foreign correspondent, television producer, and presenter was born on 11 January, 1945, in Norfolk's Fakenham city in England.
Sydney H Schanberg
Sydney H Schanberg was the first foreign journalists who break the news of genocide committed by the Pakistani army in West Pakistan to the world in 1971. He was the South Asian correspondent of 'The New York Times' during the liberation war.
He alerted the world by sending shocking stories including the massacre in his media after the genocide started on 25th March 1971.
In his words, this is how he described the night of "Operation Searchlight": "Every time newsmen in the hotel asked officers for information, they were rebuffed. All attempts to reach diplomatic missions failed. In one confrontation, a captain grew enraged at a group of newsmen who had walked out the front door to talk to him. He ordered them back into the building and, to their retreating backs, he shouted, 'I can handle you. If I can kill my own people, I can kill you."
He was one of those many foreign newsmen who were confined at a hotel, completely cut off from reaching any information about the genocide and received orders to leave Dhaka by 6:15pm of March 26.
However, that didn't stop him from performing his duty. He continued to strive and play the crucial role of uncovering the brutalities on Bangalees in East Pakistan from Kolkata and New York.
In June 1971, Schanberg filed several eyewitness accounts from the towns of East Pakistan for The New York Times. As a result, Pakistan expelled him from the country on 30th June 1971.
Schanberg was born in Massachusetts on 17 January 1934 and he died in New York on 9 June 2016, at the age of 82.
Sir William Mark Tully
Sir William Mark Tully was BBC's India correspondent in 1971.
He had been the former New Delhi bureau chief of BBC, a position he held for 20 years.
During the war of 1971, when the news media controlled by the then Pakistani junta used to carry out government propaganda, Mark Tully's coverage of the war on BBC radio was the people's chief source of authentic information.
He extensively covered the war days for the BBC and had the opportunity to document them from close quarters.
Tully was born in Kolkata on 24 October 1935 and lived in India until the age of nine.
Edward Kennedy, also known as Ted Kennedy, is one of the longest serving senators in the US who supported Bangladesh in 1971 against his government that sided with Pakistan.
Kennedy traveled to India to inspect the situation. After visiting the refugee camps in India, as couldn't enter East Pakistan in times of liberation war, he issued a scathing report to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Refugees.
He wrote: "Nothing is more clear, or more easily documented, than the systematic campaign of terror — and its genocidal consequences — launched by the Pakistani army on the night of March 25th…."All of this has been officially sanctioned, ordered and implemented under martial law from Islamabad. America's heavy support of Islamabad is nothing short of complicity in the human and political tragedy of East Bengal."
Although the Nixon administration maintained its stance, Kennedy remained persistent which resulted in a bill sanctioned to ban arms sales to Pakistan.
Edward Moore Kennedy was the younger brother of President John F. Kennedy. He was born in 1932 and he died in 2009, at the age of 77.
Irwin Allen Ginsberg, an American poet, composed his famous poem 'September on Jessore Road' in min-September of 1971 that depicted the heart-wrenching emotional journey of those nine long months of liberation war.
"September on Jessore Road" is a 152-line long poem on the harrowing portrayal of mass-misery. The month 'September' here is basically a metaphorical period of the 1971 liberation war and 'Jessore Road' is an unyielding passage beholding the solid struggle of refugees.
Ginsberg wrote the poem after visiting the refugee camps located in the bordering areas of Jessore of Bangladesh and Kolkata of India in mid-September, 1971. He recited the poetry at Saint George Church in New York on 20 November 1971 to draw the world's attention to the sufferings of Bangladeshi refugees.
Greatly touched by the depth of the poem, his friend pop musician Bob Dylan turned it into a musical piece. He then performed it in a concert that was arranged to collect funds for the help of Bangladeshi refugees. Later, Singer Mousumi Bhaumik also gave a famous rendition of this poem in Bengali.
Allen Ginsberg, a highly praised poet of his generation, was born on 3 June 1926 in New Jersey, USA and died on 5 April 1997 in the USA.
George Harrison MBE
George Harrison, a celebrated name in the history of independent Bangladesh, was an English singer, songwriter, music and film producer who achieved international fame as the lead guitarist and occasional lead vocalist of the Beatles.
On 1 August 1971, former Beatles guitarist George Harrison and Indian sitar player Ravi Shankar organized a pair of benefit concerts titled "The Concert for Bangladesh". The shows were held at 2:30 and 8:00 pm at Madison Square Garden in New York City, to raise international awareness and fund relief for the refugees of East Pakistan.
The concerts were followed by a bestselling live album, a boxed three-record set, and Apple Films' concert documentary, which opened in cinemas in the spring of 1972.
The event was the first-ever benefit of such a magnitude and featured a super-group of performers that included Harrison, Ringo Starr, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Billy Preston, Leon Russell, and the band Badfinger. In addition, Ravi Shankar and Ali Akbar Khan had performed an opening set of Indian classical music at that concert.
The concerts were attended by a total of forty thousand people approximately, and the initial gate receipts have risen close to the US $250,000 for Bangladesh relief, which was administered by UNICEF.
In his biography "I Me Mine" Harrison said: "So I did get involved, and for three months I was on the telephone sitting up what became the concert for Bangladesh, trying to talk people into it, talking to Eric and all those people who did do it."
In Ravi Shankar's words: "In one day, the whole world knew the name of Bangladesh. It was a fantastic occasion."
An estimated $12 million had been sent to Bangladesh by 1985 which was raised through the revenue from the Concert for Bangladesh live album and film. Sales of the live album and DVD release of the film continue to benefit the George Harrison Fund for UNICEF.
Harrison was eternalized in the hearts of Bangladeshis for his song "Bangladesh", which he would close both the concerts:
"My friend came to me, with sadness in his eyes
Told me that he wanted help, before his country dies
Although I couldn't feel the pain, I knew I had to try
Now I'm asking all of you, to help us save some lives…"
The famous musician was born on 25 February 1943 and left us forever on 29 November 2001.
Andre Malraux is one of the dearest friends of Bangladesh who decided to join the Liberation War physically with the Mukti Bahini (the Bangalee freedom fighters).
Malraux was instrumental in shaping France's stand towards the Liberation War of Bangladesh.
In July, 1971, India's non-violent movement hero Jayaprakash Narayan contacted Andre Malraux for an international convention to address the global community about the wartime brutalities in Bangladesh. It has been said that Bangladeshi novelist, writer and filmmaker Zahir Raihan also invited Malraux to join the convention on behalf of the 'Bangladesh Intellectuals Liberation War Council'.
In his response to the invitation Malraux wrote: "What matters is the military organization of Bangladesh. Either it will accept pitched battles with Pakistan and will be wiped out or it will organize its guerillas and Pakistan will be defeated."
Malraux also wrote a letter to President Richard Nixon immediately after the Pakistan army massacred the innocent people in Bangladesh to exercise his good offices in Pakistan to stop genocidal killings. Apart from this, Malraux proposed formation of an international brigade to fight for the cause of oppressed people in erstwhile East Pakistan
He was given honorary citizenship by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, then Prime Minister of Bangladesh, during his visit from 23 – 24 April, 1973.
Malraux, the man with many talents, was a French novelist, philosopher, art theorist, author of The Human Condition, the commander of a Squadron in the Spanish Civil War, the French resistance fighter in WWII, Minister of Information and subsequently the first French Minister of Cultural Affairs and a won of the prestigious Prix Goncourt.
Georges Andre Malraux was born on 3 November 1901 and died on 23 November 1976.