Some moments in history do not fade away, especially those from our 1971 War of Independence. It was another chapter in our country’s fight against the Pakistani occupation forces.
Some 50 years ago when myself and my comrade Freedom Fighters were in a bunker at the village in Sringanir, Manikganj on an operation in which we lost a close friend, Akhter alias Ratan, in an exchange of fire with the Pakistan Army.
At 11:00 p.m. on 3 December we heard on the transistor radio that Pakistan has attacked India. The then Prime Minister of India Indira Gandhi will address the Indian public. The story runs as follows.
Indira Gandhi was addressing a public meeting at the Brigade Parade Ground in Kolkata. Defense Minister Jagjivan Ram, Finance Minister Y. B. Chavan are out of Delhi. Suddenly, Pakistan Air Force planes had entered Indian Territory and bombed several airports.
The premier was talking with West Bengal intellectuals at the Raj Bhavan in Kolkata after the brigade’s public meeting. At that time, the news came that Pakistan had attacked India. The Prime Minister got up, said goodbye to everyone gathered and immediately rushed to New Delhi.
Arriving in the capital, she chaired a cabinet meeting and ordered the Indian army to retaliate. President VV Giri followed the recommendations of the cabinet and declared a state of emergency in the country. It was announced from Akashvani that the Prime Minister will address the nation at midnight. The speech started at 12:20 pm.
Indira Gandhi said, “I am speaking to you at a time of crisis for our country and nation. Pakistan has bombed our Amritsar, Pathankot, Srinagar, Avantipur, Jodhpur, Ambala, Agra airbases. ….. The war in Bangladesh today has become a war in India. War has been imposed on us.”
Declaring war on India was a ploy by Pakistan toy portray the liberation war of Bangladesh as a war between Pakistan and India which would soon lead to a ceasefire under the auspices of the United Nations. UN observers will come over and the Pakistani army will be able to stay on the soil of Bangladesh for an indefinite period. We all know their plot failed.
On March 25, 1971, the barbaric Pakistani aggressors attacked the unarmed people of East Bengal with modern weapons. The freedom struggle of the Bengalis started from that day. India has been training the freedom fighters for so many days. Provided weapons and allowed the freedom fighters to use the Indian soil in their guerrilla attacks on the invading forces.
“I believe that the people of India and our heroic fighters will collectively resist this attack. India has stood by the people of oppressed Bangladesh for the sake of its traditional policies and ideals. We will respond appropriately to Pakistan’s attack,” said Indira Gandhi.
The Prime Minister concluded her speech by urging the people to remain united during this crisis.
The next morning, Akashvani reported that the Indian army had been instructed to enter Bangladesh and fight the invading forces of Pakistan side by side with the freedom fighters. The battle of the joint forces against the barbaric Pak army began.
The news caused a flood of joy among the freedom-loving people of India and Bangladesh. That glorious role of the Indian Army, the wisdom and courage of Indira Gandhi, all the political parties of India united to stand by the side of the government, encourage the heroic fighters and win the war shoulder to shoulder with the Bangladeshi freedom fighters has become a part of history today.
Bangladesh had to wait three more days to be recognized as an independent sovereign state. On December 6, Bhutan was the first country in the world to recognize Bangladesh. A few hours later, the long-awaited Indian recognition came.
Today is all history, but in this month of victory, let us remember that golden history again. Let us not forget the history of our country.
I do not know how much the present generation knows about the history of the Liberation War of 1971. This history is the glorious history of the people of India and the nation of freedom-loving Bengalis – the Bangladeshis.