Muslim Press in India and the Bangladesh Crisis /*/

The crisis in Bangladesh lasted roughly the entire year of 1971. The various events related to it went through a progression that culminated in a brief war and a resolution of the crisis in favour of the people of that land. Our purpose in this article is to examine how Muslim public opinion responded to those events, how those responses compare with the reactions in Pakistan, and whether that crisis left any lasting effect on the thinking of Indian Muslims.

The data consists of editorials and articles in the Muslim press in India, from a number of Urdu dailies and weeklies of more than local circulation and from one English news weekly, Radiance./1/ The data gain significance from the fact that these journals enjoy relatively wider circulation than most, and the Urdu-speaking Muslims of North India have been politically the most active of all Muslims of the subcontinent. Their fears and aspirations are in that sense highly significant. For better or for worse, they do direct the thinking of the community as a whole. The Pakistani data are from Urdu sources alone./2/

To facilitate the study we have set up four phases of the crisis. The first encompasses the period preceding 23 March 1971, during which negotiations went on between Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Yahya Khan; the second, the period from 25 March 1971, when the Pakistani military action started in East Bengal, to 3 December 1971, when actual hostilities broke out between India and Pakistan; the third, the short period of war which ended on 17 December 1971, with a ceasefire; and the fourth, the period of some three weeks after the ceasefire when a kind of stock-taking took place in both the countries.

Phase One (Prior to 23 March 1971)

During the first three months of 1971, Muslim public opinion in India was uniformly against the military dictatorship in Pakistan and favoured an early return to democracy in that country. Yahya Khan was criticised for delaying the transfer of power to the newly elected National Assembly and catering to the whims of Z. A. Bhutto, who was looked upon as the real villain behind the scenes. Conversely, the attitude toward Sheikh Mujib was on the whole quite sympathetic and approving; he was viewed as being sufficiently committed to conservatism as well as democracy. The following quotation from Radiance (Delhi; 14 March 1971) nicely conveys the general reasoning. "The people of East Pakistan," the editorial said, "have risen as one man in support of Sheikh Mujib. The only force which stands in the way of a totally Marxist and independent East Bengal is Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. As such he deserves to be welcomed with open arms by the Western wing, notwithstanding his six points and four conditions."

In Pakistan (the erstwhile West Pakistan), only one major political party, the National Awami Party (NAP), was sympathetic to the Six Points of Sheikh Mujib. Its own political base was strictly regional and its political goal was a similar regional autonomy./3/ Some support for the Six Points was also vocalised by the votaries of the Jiye Sindh movement at their convention in February 1971./4/ The Pakistan People's Party (PPP) of Mr. Bhutto was, of course, totally opposed to the demands of the Bengali leaders; its supporters believed that the Six Points were a threat to the integrity of Pakistan. The Jama'at-e-Islami,on the other hand, kept shifting its position. Earlier its leaders were equally opposed to both the PPP and the Awami League, but by March 1971 they had come round to a position similar to that expressed by Radiance in India. The 22 March 1971 issue of Zindagi (Lahore) carried an editorial that included the following remarks:

"We would be acting like an ostrich if we were to ignore the changes that have occurred in national politics after the elections of December 1970. Before the elections we opposed Sheikh Mujib because his opponents were Nurul Amin and Ghulam Azam. We supported Nural Amin and Ghulam Azam. But now, under the present circumstances, if prudence is not displayed in resolving the issues, the reins of state are likely to fall into the hands of extremists and communists. We foresee Bhashani and Ataur Rahman taking over if Sheikh Mujib were to fail at this juncture. That is why we support Sheikh Mujib."
How fickle that support was became clear very shortly.

Phase Two (23 March - 3 December 1971)

We shall study the issues of this phase under four separate headings.

(1) The military action: Once Yahya Khan let loose his troops in East Bengal, both the PPP and the Jama'at-e-Islami in Pakistan came out with unequivocal support for the military action, which they regarded as absolutely necessary for the preservation of the unity of Pakistan. "The dangers that threatened the integrity and security of our beloved country have disappeared, if only temporarily," declared Zindagi on 5 April 1971. "Suitable treatment is being meted out," it continued, "to those who wanted to change East Pakistan into 'Bangladesh.' The Awami League has been banned, Sheikh Mujib is in prison, and our army is busy crushing the enemies of the country and the millat. Without any fear of contradiction, President Yahya Khan was left with no other choice but to order military action in East Pakistan."

In India the Muslim press generally condemned the severity of the military action, but not always in such unequivocal terms as were used by the national press. Some Muslim journals felt the government of Pakistan had no other recourse left to it to obtain a modicum of law and order in East Bengal. They supported their stance with reports of the atrocities perpetrated by Bengali mobs in Dacca, Rajshahi and Chittagong in the days immediately before the military action and which had been glossed over in the national press in general. When an unequivocal condemnation of the Pakistani action was issued by Maulvi As'ad Madani, a Congressite Muslim, the Jamiat Times, for example, wrote this rejoinder (Delhi; 23 April 1971): "You don't know what brutalities were committed by the Bengalis against the non-Bengalis. You should ask the grieving relatives in Delhi. Destiny never forgives a tyrant." A similar opinion was expressed by Maulana Minnatullah Rahmani of Monghyr (Bihar) when he refused to sign the statement of condemnation circulated by Jayaprakash Narayan on behalf of the Insani Biradari. The Maulana said, "Why must you now condemn Pakistan when earlier you did not condemn India for communal riots? The Bengalis did more brutal things to the non-Bengalis." (Reported in the Jamiat Times of 11 June 1971.)

(2) India's role in the crisis: The government of India maintained throughout the crisis that the entire issue was an internal matter for Pakistan, to be settled through negotiations between the two parties involved, the people of East Bengal and the government of Pakistan. Even the joint statement issued in October 1971 by Premier Kosygin and Prime Minister Indira Gandhi took that position. In this regard, the Muslim press was in full accord with the expressed sentiment of the government of India and the more sober elements in the national press, and against the war cries of some of the extremists. The Muslim press quoted with approval the statements of such persons as Piloo Modi, General (Retd.) Cariappa and the late C. Rajagopalachari, who advised against any recognition of the Bengali government in exile.

Though no one in India publicly suggested any element of conspiracy on the part of the government of India, much of Muslim public opinion as well as a significant part of the national press felt that India had displayed undue interest in the affairs of East Bengal. In pursuance of such feelings they urged upon the government of India a policy of "wait and see." On 4 April 1971, Radiance wrote with approval of India's "balanced policy," and urged continued discretion. An editorial in the Jamiat Times (9 April 1971) was, however, a bit more critical, even somewhat cynical. It equated the issue of Bangladesh with that of Kashmir, twitted the government of India for showing concern for the Muslims of East Bengal but neglecting the Muslims of India, and suggested that the government of India should either act in this instance the same way it did vis-a-vis communal riots in India, i.e. do nothing, or else it should recognise the Bangladesh Government in Exile and "turn Pakistani lies into truth."

Some other suggestions, made in the initial stages as well as later in the year, were: (i) the government of India should actively discourage the East Bengalis lest their example come to be imitated by the dissidents in West Bengal and Tamil Nadu; (ii) the government of India should hold direct talks with Yahya Khan on all issues in order to settle them bilaterally; (iii) the government of India should avoid open hostilities at all costs and thus prove itself worthy of the heritage of Mahatma Gandhi. The government of India was not unaware of the nature and significance of the opinions expressed in the Muslim press. At various times it issued veiled threats, and, as a counter-measure, in June 1971, sponsored a conference of some sixty-five Muslim Urdu journals and newspapers, which were handpicked for supporting the official line all the way but which in fact had only local and restricted circulations. Later, in November 1971, restrictions were placed on the publication of Nasheman (Bangalore), the only Urdu political weekly with a nationwide circulation. Still later, after the war started in December, the editors of Nasheman (Bangalore), Da'wat (Delhi), Radiance (Delhi), Sangam (Patna), and the Jamiat Times (Delhi) were taken into custody under the Internal Security Act and held without trial for several weeks.

For the Pakistan press the crisis was naturally an internal issue to be resolved by the Pakistanis themselves. They were, from the very beginning, suspicious of the motives of the government of India in giving shelter to the refugees. They accused India of sending money, arms, and infiltrators into East Bengal. According to them the crisis was the product of a conspiracy between the government of India, the Hindus of East Bengal, and the top echelon of the Awami League. One example will suffice to convey the spirit of these unanimous accusations. The following excerpt is from an editorial in Nusrat (Lahore; 4 April 1971), which was at that time edited by Mr. Hanif Ramay, who is now the Chief Minister of the Punjab in Pakistan:

"Events have turned a somersault. The armed forces of Pakistan, which had until now patiently suffered the obduracy of Sheikh Mujib, moved into action and within hours put out the fires of anarchy in East Pakistan. Sheikh Mujib had thought that the time had come for him to declare the independence of Bangladesh, and that everyone who had voted for him was like him a traitor and an enemy of the integrity of Pakistan. He had forgotten that among those who supported the Awami League there were not just those ten million Hindus who provided him with money and gangsters, there were also millions of other Bengalis who for centuries had suffered under the exploitation by Hindu banias and who had staked their lives and property for the creation of Pakistan. Such Muslims could never desire to tear apart the Pakistan which they and their fathers had toiled to bring about. The blatant manner in which Bharat has been supporting Mujib makes it evident that he was an agent of that country. No matter how much Mujib and his ten million Hindu supporters hold India in favour and desire trade with her, the common Bengali and non-Bengali Muslims of East Pakistan can never regard Bharat as their friend."

Such analyses and accusations were repeated ad nauseam by all Pakistani papers. What should be noted here is the charge levelled so unequivocally against all the Hindus of East Bengal, a charge that was never made, for obvious reasons, by any Muslim journal in India, though some of them were quite unequivocal in their condemnation of East Bengali Muslims, as we shall see later.

(3) The question of the refugees: It is often forgotten that of the ten million or so refugees who came to India, not all were non-Muslims; nor were all of them Bengalis. A substantial number of non-Bengali Muslims also sought refuge in India at various times. Those who did so in the early months of the crisis generally returned to East Bengal when and if they got a chance, or escaped into Nepal. But those who came later in the year, after the various Bahinis had started their retributive action, were kept in camps separate from other refugees. They were little reported upon in the world press or in the press in general. A section of the Muslim press in India did, however, report occasionally on their plight. Sangam of Patna, in particular, carried a few articles about the so-called "Bihari" camps. These articles were then commented upon or reprinted in other Urdu journals.

The Pakistani press, on the other hand, gave little or no coverage to the exodus of refugees from East Bengal, except to minimise the enormity of the problem and suspect the humanitarian motives of India. The figures as they grew were always questioned; the reports that appeared in international press were denied or ridiculed; the refugees, when they did get any mention, were alleged to be all Hindus, who, having failed in their alleged subversive activities, were fleeing to India with their Indian instigators.

But the truth that there were also Muslim Bengalis among the sufferers came out in other ways. A few eye-witness accounts by non-Bengalis published in Urdu journals in Pakistan mentioned that fact, if only in passing. They indicated that atrocities were perpetrated by both sides, not so much on the basis of religious antagonism as on the basis of linguistic and political differences. The lawless activities of the so-called "Peace Committees" and of the Al-Badr and Al-Shams youth groups set up by the Jama'at-e-Islami in East Bengal were brought to light and condemned by the political opponents of the Jama'at in Pakistan. Such statements were issued by Z. A. Bhutto, Asghar Khan and the leaders of the Muslim League (Qayyum Group) and the Jamiat-ul-Ulama-i-Pakistan./5/ Some of this was indirectly acknowledged even by the Bengali chief of the Jama'at-e-Islami in East Bengal. Professor Ghulam Azam, who now lives in Pakistan, published an article soon after the ceasefire in Eshiya (Lahore; 30 January 1972), in which occur the following most telling remarks. "Even when military action had been decided upon," he declared in his analysis of the causes of the debacle in East Bengal, "the government's half-hearted policy continued. What reason was there to show such weakness once that decision had been made? The local people who stepped forward should have been taken into confidence and their advice should have been sought in forming all policies. Yahya Khan, however, neither accepted their advice nor made any correct decision of his own." (Emphasis added.) One only wonders what "whole-hearted" action the Professor had in mind if the carnage that actually occurred was, according to him, the result of a "half-hearted" action.

(4) The role of the Bengalis: The government of India favoured the view that the struggle in East Bengal was supported by all Bengalis, Hindu and Muslim alike. Much the same view was held by the national press in general. Of the Muslim press, a significant section held a rather curious view of the struggle, which shall be discussed a little later.

In Pakistan, the crisis was viewed, for most of the year, as merely a breakdown of law and order, caused by the Hindus of East Bengal, a minority of the Muslim supporters of Sheikh Mujib, and alleged Indian infiltrators. It was expected that with the help of loyal Bengali and non-Bengali Muslims the army would soon have things properly under control. Though both the news and the victims of Bengali mob violence reached Pakistan in sufficient numbers, a surprisingly low-key coverage was given to them. Even after the military action was started, all major political parties tried to maintain an attitude of condemnation only toward Sheikh Mujib and his supporters, and not toward all Bengalis. Nobody called all Bengalis traitors, at least in public. No doubt for obvious reasons, East Bengal remained a part of Pakistan till the very end of 1971, while such prominent Bengalis as Nurul Amin, Ghulam Azam and Mahmood Ali were visibly active on the national political scene and were also used by the government to present the Pakistani side of the issue at international gatherings./6/ Also, the results of the supplementary elections held in East Bengal to replace the Awami League members of the proposed National Assembly gave a semblance of Bengali Muslim support for a united Pakistan. We earlier quoted from Mr. Hanif Ramay's editorial of 4 April 1971 as one example of the prevalent attitude in Pakistan. That view was only slightly modified by the end of the crisis, as is evident from the editorial that appeared on the front page of the highly regarded daily Imroz (18 December 1971) immediately after the ceasefire:

"Our people (in West Pakistan) had suspicions that the people of East Pakistan were groaning under exploitation, and that the latter believed, rightly or wrongly, that West Pakistan would not share power with them. These suspicions were temporarily allayed by the propaganda machinery of the government; we were told that what was happening was simply the doing of a small number of subversives and extremists. But the recent tragedy has aroused those doubts again. New we believe that though our Bengali brethren may not have been against the integrity of a united Pakistan, a very large number of them were indeed so disaffected that Bharat succeeded in catching them in her snares."

As opposed to such interpretations, a more dogmatic one was offered by a significant section of the Muslim press in India. According to this group, the crisis in East Bengal was a rebellion against a Muslim government and therefore reprehensible in terms of their interpretation of Islam. The learned editor of Sidq-i-Jadid (Lucknow), Maulana Abdul Majid Daryabadi, wrote in the issue of 11 June 1971, that "the Islamism of Pakistan deserves little comment, yet the government there was after all a Muslim government, rebellion against which cannot be forgiven." He maintained this stance even a year later. "Pakistan is after all a Muslim state," he wrote, "like Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Indonesia, and Malaysia. Those who rebel against it are to be condemned as are all those who rebel against a Muslim state. This is a shar'i fact which cannot be glossed over by using such labels as 'Mukti Fauj' and 'Freedom Fighters'" (Sidq-i-Jadid; 2 July 1972).

In November 1971, at the time of the Eid-ul-Fitr, the three hundred and fifty-odd members of the Bangladesh mission in Calcutta chose to say the Eid prayers by themselves, instead of joining the local congregation, as a protest against what they felt to be the unsympathetic attitude of Indian Muslims. In response to this news, the Jamiat Times of Delhi editorialised as follows:

"We wrote earlier, and we do not fear to write again, that whether it be the present tension between India and Pakistan or the massacre of Bengalis and non-Bengalis in East Pakistan or the influx of lakhs of homeless refugees, the responsibility for everything lies squarely with the leaders of East Pakistan. One man can set fire in a moment to an entire garden. We curse all traitors, be they in India or in Pakistan. A man should concern himself with the welfare of the country where he lives, otherwise he should leave it and go some other place" (3 December 1971).
That issue of the Jamiat Times also reprinted with approval an editorial from the daily Da'wat (Delhi; n.d.) which said in part:
"The Muslims of India consider many complaints of these angry (Bengali) elements to be just. Yet they also totally disapprove the way these elements have torn apart their own state. Those who committed that crime may have gained some temporary honour, but Muslim public opinion will always regard them as subversives, and history shall describe them as those who tore to pieces the integral unity of the millat."
The same editorial went on to lament the fact that "no leader like the late Maulana Muhammad Ali arose at this time in India to wage a campaign like the Khilafat Movement and thereby protest the dissolution of the millat-e-Islamiya."

Phase Three (The War)

Outright hostilities between India and Pakistan began on 3 December 1971. Prior to that, on 26 November 1971, Mufti Zia-ul-Haq had written in his Jamiat Times: "When our own borders are endangered we are ready to forget our complaints and make every sacrifice for our country." Radiance, on 5 December 1971, carried an editorial that expressed much the same sentiments, as did the editorials in the Hindustan Times of the previous week, namely that Yahya Khan should be given a chance to get out of the mess in some rational manner, and that there should be direct talks between India and Pakistan on the issue of refugees. In spite of such sentiments and avowals, on 8 December 1971, the government of India arrested, under the Internal Security Act, several prominent Muslims, including Mufti Zia-ul-Haq of the Muslim Majlis and the Jamiat Times, Maulana Abul Lais and Maulana Muhammad Yusuf of the Jama'at-e-Islami (Hind), the leaders of the Tamir-i-Millat and the Ittihad-al-Muslimin of Hyderabad, and the editors of Dawat, Radiance, Sangam, and Nasheman. Some of them were kept in prison, without trial, for as many as forty-one days! No one from the national press protested against these arrests, which were entirely unnecessary besides being, to say the least, legally questionable. 

Phase Four (After the War)

For a majority of Indian Muslims, the pervasive mood in the days immediately after the war was a mixture of despair, confusion, and anger. In terms of actual acts and deeds, of course, they behaved no differently from their non-Muslim compatriots, but emotionally, unlike the latter, they could be neither jubilant nor sanguine. The following quotation from Haqeeqat (Lucknow: n.d.) conveys well the feelings at that time:

"The chief reason for the resentment of the Muslims is that the event of the independence of Bangladesh and her severance of all ties with Pakistan was generally celebrated in India as if the 'victory' had been gained against the Muslims themselves. Insulting and provocative slogans were raised against them in public meetings in this country. A second reason is that the Muslims in general do believe that the war was primarily fought for the purpose of destroying the integral unity of Pakistan. Our Ministry of Information hands out all sorts of propaganda but does nothing to dispel the dejection and resentment of Indian Muslims" (Quoted in Sidq-i-Jadid; 21 January 1972).
How confused and desperate their thinking was at that time can also be gauged from a most outrageous explanation offered by Nida-i-Millat of Lucknow. In its issue of 16 January 1972, it reprinted prominently an item from the Akhbar-al-Alam-al-Islami, the official journal of the Rabita-al-Alam-al-Islami (Muslim World League), published from Mecca. According to the undisclosed sources of the organisation, 300 Zionist agents were sent by Israel to Bangladesh for the purpose of fomenting trouble and training Bengali rebels. It was also asserted that Rahman Sobhan, a prominent economist and radical of Bangladesh, had met in Paris with Daniel Cohn-Bendit ("a Jew"), who then went on to Israel to arrange for the agents while Rahman Sobhan himself came to India to coordinate plans with Indian communists. After reprinting this illuminating report, the worthy editor of Nida-i-Millat added the following comment: "We are abstaining from commenting on this article because only the future will tell what the facts were and what actually caused the secession of East Pakistan. We only desire our country to be aware of the delicate (nazuk) sentiments and feelings of the Muslim world, especially of the Arabs."

But by far the most telling thing in this respect was the publication, within a week of the ceasefire and in both India and Pakistan simultaneously, of the alleged prophesies of Shah Ni'matullah Wali. These prophesies occur in two poems ascribed to the famous 15th century Iranian saint and are by all accounts total forgeries. They are not found in any authentic collection of his verses; their language is full of Indianisms of recent origin; and they made their first appearance in the late 19th century in India. They have, however, a most curious hold over the minds of average Indian Muslims. It is a measure of the latter's ignorance and emotional insecurity that these verses begin to circulate among them any time an event occurs that they regard as a blow to their peculiar vision of a triumphant Islam. The fascination of these poems lies perhaps not so much in the fact that their verses can be interpreted to have foretold events of recent history, as in their implication that what was happening was part of a grand scheme ordained by the Almighty and therefore to be accepted sanguinely. Further, since they promise near the end a resurgence of Muslim authority in India and the arrival of the promised Mahdi, they help soothe the wounds of the psyche. These poems first appeared in minor journals but were soon reprinted in major magazines, including the Shabistan Digest, one of the most popular Urdu magazines in India. What is so amazing -- and so revealing of a uniform prevalence of ignorance -- is that these poems appeared in print within a week of the ceasefire in both India and Pakistan, and quite independently.

The commentators in the Muslim press adopted various tacks to shore up this collapse of morale. One theme that was repeated incessantly by all journals was that it was Pakistan, a country, and not Islam, an ideology, that had suffered defeat in the recent war; that it was one variety of nationalism that had lost to another; and that the ideology of Islam still remained as meaningful and relevant as before. Pakistan met with this calamity because the Pakistanis failed to make Islam a reality in their social and political life. The implied thrust of such arguments was that there had been nothing wrong with the original separatist and exclusivist interpretation of Islam; that those values still held true and would certainly come to the fore again in both Pakistan and Bangladesh; and that what was lacking were true believers who would put those values into effect.

A corollary to the attempts to vindicate Islam were the breast-beating and self-condemnation that found expression in so many editorials, commentaries and letters from the readers. Perhaps the most vivid expression was the commentary by Maulana Abdul Majid Daryabadi. Writing under the heading "Four Divine Slaps" (Sidq-i-Jadid; 3 March 1972), he began by stating that the Muslim nation (qaum), like other nations, was not exempted from divine judgement and retribution. The Muslims, in their long history, have had to suffer punishment several times for their folly and transgression. He then went on to list four such occasions that he had himself witnessed in his life:

"In 1924, not any non-Muslim but Mustafa Kemal abrogated the 1,300-years old, venerable and exalted institution of Caliphate while the entire Muslim world watched helplessly. In 1948, after a three-day battle, the lamp of the Saltanat-i-Asafiya was extinguished; an earthshaking transformation destroyed it [the State of Hyderabad] and changed 'Muslim' into 'secular.' In 1949, Israel was created. And now, the latest calamity of this nature has occurred in the guise of the establishment of Bangladesh and the destruction of a united Pakistan. Who is at fault? Who is the guilty person? Such questions do not concern us. What matters for us is the consequence, the fact that millions of Muslims cut themselves off from their origin (asl), and that enmity has come to exist between two Muslim communities. Common to all the four calamities are the disintegration of the ummat and the guilt and sinfulness of the Muslims. It is a time to feel ashamed, recognise our faults, seek forgiveness of God, and improve our condition through deeds and acts."
A less hysterical analysis was the editorial in Aza'im (Lucknow; 28 December 1971). It laid emphasis on the fact that the emergence of Bangladesh as a separate nation was by no means a unique event in world history, or, for that matter, in the history of Muslim countries -- after all, Sudan separated from Egypt, and Singapore from Malaysia. What was unique to the case of Bangladesh was the vastness of brutality done against innocent people. In a later editorial (7 February 1972), Aza'im was a bit more categorical:
"Pakistan was created through the efforts of the Muslims who lived outside of the Pakistan regions. Consequently, we (the Indian Muslims) have had to pay the price for the partition of the country. In India we have paid it for the past twenty-four years; in Bangladesh we are paying it now; and, God forbid, we may have to pay it even in Pakistan in the coming years, or so it becomes more clear every day."
Another tack to counter the dejection was offered by Shah Muinuddin Nadvi, a well-known scholar at the Dar-al-Musannafin, Azamgarh. In a note in Ma'arif, the monthly journal of the scholarly academy, he wrote:
"The laws that Allah has ordained for the rise and fall of nations are identical for all the nations of the world. In the battle of Uhud the Muslims committed a mistake and the result was their defeat. The revolutionary change in Pakistan is also a consequence of that divinely ordained tradition. The people of Pakistan proved themselves unworthy of the boon they had received. No matter what kind of government is formed in East Bengal it will remain for all purposes a Muslim majority country. If, on the one hand, its secession caused injury to a united Pakistan, on the other there has now emerged one more independent state of Muslims. Wisdom demands that forgetting the past we should try to come together. Bangladesh should treat the non-Bengalis with kindness. Her leaders cannot forever remain indifferent to Islam and Muslims" (Reprinted in Aza'im; 21 January 1972).
For a final, and rather comprehensive, example we should look at a lengthy unsigned article that appeared in two installments in Nida-i-Millat (Lucknow; 20 & 27 February 1972), under the heading "Bangladesh, an Analysis." It vividly displays all the conflict that beset the Muslim mind at that time, as well as the full range of defences put up against those fears and doubts. The following is a summary of the points raised by the anonymous author (probably the editor himself).
(1) Pakistan came into existence through the sacrifices of Indian Muslims, who then had to pay dearly for it. They were abandoned by their erstwhile leaders. Many of them had to leave their relatives and properties and go to live in an alien land, where they were now in grave danger. Those who stayed behind have had to suffer similarly in communal riots.

(2) The Muslims of India, when they raised the cry for Pakistan, had not been duped by the leaders of the Muslim League. Their demand was a deliberate political move. The majority that supported that demand felt that in a separate Muslim state their one religion, one language, and one culture would flourish, and a kind of Islamic renaissance would take place. At that time, there was no demand for separate regional cultures. If such a demand had been raised, Pakistan would have been rejected by all the Muslims.

(3) The creation of Bangladesh does in no way negate the validity of the original movement for Pakistan. Even in India a strong nationalism has not succeeded in keeping intact old state boundaries.

(4) Bangladesh is a Muslim country, like Iran or Jordan.

(5) If the East Bengalis are so keen about a separate Bengali culture they should not have joined the Pakistan Movement in the first place. Further, if their Bengali nationalism is so important for them they should now merge their country with the Indian Bengal.

(6) In 1946, when the erstwhile North Western Frontier Province and the united Punjab had shown little enthusiasm for Pakistan, it was the Bengali Muslims who came out so strongly for a united Pakistan. It is now meaningless, therefore, for the Bengalis to claim that they have won their independence from West Pakistan. It should perhaps be put the other way around.

(7) It is incorrect to say that the old East Pakistan did not make sufficient progress. After all, it was, to begin with, a most backward region.

(8) The leaders of East Bengal displayed a lack of patience and forbearance. They responded too emotionally and thereby caused great loss of life. They should have known that the Pakistani army would be tough in its reprisal.

(9) It is wrong to blame the Pakistani army for all the destruction. Were not, in the early stages of the crisis, the various Bahinis being praised for their guerrilla activities?

(10) Finally, if the initial partition of the country was all that bad, as the Bengali leaders now claim, then Bangladesh should now join India. That may persuade even Pakistan to do the same. That would indeed be a glorious day for Indian Muslims.

Let us turn now to Pakistan. What were the responses there immediately after the ceasefire? There was sorrow and despair, but mixed with such intense anger that disregarding all caution people poured out into streets to demand Yahya Khan's head, and for the first time in many years newspapers published bold critiques of the military rulers. Their shock was the greater for their having been kept in the dark about the realities of the events in East Bengal. On 14 December 1971, only two days before the debacle, they had been told by their government:

"Two brigades of Indian paratroopers that had landed at Dacca and Tangel have been wiped out. Hand-to-hand fighting goes on in the vicinity of Khulna between the Indian army and Pakistani soldiers and civilians. Fighting also continues in Jessore. All arrangements have been completed to send fresh troops and supplies to East Pakistan.  Ships of the American fleet are on the alert in the Strait of Malacca, waiting for further orders. According to an Australian radio report four Chinese battleships are steaming toward the Bay of Bengal to challenge the Indian naval blockade" (Reported in Zindagi; Lahore, 20 December 1971).
But on the 16th came the surrender in the East, followed on the 17th by Yahya Khan's acceptance of the Indian offer of a ceasefire in the West. "We are not willing to accept," wrote Nawa-i-Waqt of Lahore on 18 December 1971, "that we have lost the war or that the war has ended. The nation can never accept that an army which was regarded as the finest in the world could hand over Dacca to the enemy without offering any resistance. What has happened in East Pakistan is not a defeat of the army, or of the people. It is a defeat of certain very high officials; it is a defeat of the bureaucracy; it is a defeat of our channels of communication; it is a defeat of those official spokesmen who kept the nation in the dark and are still doing so."

A signed editorial in Zindagi (20 December 1971) was titled "The Entire Gang Should Resign. The Entire Gang Should be Tried." It began by calling the defeat "a breach in the fortress of Islam," and blamed Yahya Khan and his cohorts exclusively for all the events, while reminding its readers that though Muhammad Ghori lost the first battle of Tarain he came back "with renewed determination to unfurl the banner of Islam over the Kafir land of India."

Somewhat better thought-out was the front-page article by the editor in Imroz (18 December 1971). It called the debacle "the most shameful chapter in our history," but added that the defeat was of "our politics, not our army." It urged its readers to engage in self-criticism and not try to find scapegoats, to ask fundamental questions instead of petty bickering among themselves. "The inner fault," wrote the editor, "the major fault, the most fundamental fault lies in the fact that soon after the death of the Quaid-i-Azam, Pakistan gave up the path of people's government and people's trust." He then went on to accuse the leadership of the old Muslim League, the bureaucrats who gained ascendance under the former's encouragement, and those army officers who eventually took advantage of the circumstances to grab power and serve their own selfish ends.

The editorial in the daily Musawat (Lahore; 18 December 1971), a mouthpiece of the PPP, began: "Today the entire nation weeps tears of blood.Today the Indian army has entered Decca. Today for the first time in 1,000 years Hindus have won a victory over Muslims. Today we are prostrate with dejection." It then went on to say: "If the people are not told why the war was stopped in East Pakistan they would be forced to conclude that the only purpose of the recent war was to lose East Pakistan on the battlefield." It demanded to know: "When will the remaining part of Pakistan be returned to her people? Why did nearly one lakh regular troops and the same number of Razakars lay down their arms when not more than a few thousands of them had laid down their lives for their country? What are the plans now of those who were responsible for this defeat?" It ended by calling upon Z. A. Bhutto: "Quaid-i-Awam, come quickly to the masses. They await you. Come and lead them. Come and take up the reins of the nation. Come and consolidate people's power, to turn this defeat into a victory."

As we know, Yahya Khan resigned, but in his last act helped perpetuate one-man rule and disregard for constitutional processes by transferring power not to the duly elected National Assembly but to Mr. Z. A. Bhutto, whom he personally appointed as Chief Martial Law Administrator. Within a short time bureaucratic tyranny, regional separatism, politics of vendetta, and other ills of the previous days returned to dominate the scene as if nothing of import had ever occurred. The radical change in politics and society that one could have expected to follow a traumatic national experience of such magnitude did not take place./7/


No radical change occurred in the thinking of the Indian Muslims either. Their immediate reaction to the various developments in the crisis were, as we saw above, more imbued with fundamentalism in some respects than the responses of the Pakistanis. One got the feeling that the thinking of a significant and large group of Indian Muslims was still very much governed by two potentially most dangerous notions, namely: (1) there is one Muslim nation, one Muslim language, and one Muslim culture; and (2) those who are not with them in these beliefs are against them, and, therefore, against Islam itself.

It was similar irrational thinking that had led them, prior to 1947, to give overwhelming support to the demand for Pakistan, a demand that allegedly arose out of a desire to protect Muslim minorities but which in its fulfillment left them high and dry. That demand got the support that it did because it appealed to the Indian Muslims' belief that, having "ruled over India for one thousand years," they could only be either kings (in Pakistan) or king-makers (in India). Mr. Jinnah asked the Indian Muslims to unite for Pakistan, without offering them any details of what that Pakistan was going to be like. "Unite and remain separate from the non-Muslim, who should have no say in Muslim affairs," that was the cry in those days. That still seems to be the cry raised by a large number of the leading elements in the community.

It is a dismal picture indeed. 


/*/ Originally published in Quest (Bombay), #94 (March-April 1975).
/1/ The following Indian Urdu journals were directly consulted: Jamiat Times (Delhi), Nida-i-Millat (Lucknow), Aza'im (Lucknow), and Sidq-i-Jadid (Lucknow). The material from Sangam (Patna), Nasheman (Bangalore), and Da'wat (Delhi) was indirectly obtained from the files of Organizer (Delhi) and Zindagi (Lahore). These Urdu journals, together with the English news weekly Radiance (Delhi) and a couple of other journals from Hyderabad and Bombay, comprise the Muslim press in India. Needless to say, only a small sample of the data has been included in the article.
/2/ The Pakistani material is from the following Urdu journals: Eshiya (Lahore) and Zindagi (Lahore), which are closely identified with the Jama'at-e-Islami in Pakistan; Nusrat (Lahore) and Musawat (Lahore), which are close to the PPP; and Chatan (Lahore), which is rather independent in its views. Zindagi has the largest circulation of all political weeklies. I have also used scattered issues of Dihqan (Lahore). Again, only a small sample of the material is presented here.
/3/ One leader of the NAP, Mir G. B. Bizenjo, declared soon after the ceasefire that Pakistan was a country of four nationalities. "We are one Muslim nation (qaum);" he said, "but within it there are four separate nationalities (qaumiyat): Baluch, Punjabi, Pushtun and Sindhi." (Zindagi; 3 April 1972). According to Mr. Bizenjo, "a group which has linguistic and cultural unity and lives within one geographical area is a qaumiyat." What he thinks of the Urdu-speaking muhajirs and Sindhi-speaking Hindus is not available for record.
/4/ Though the Jiye Sindh movement began in 1945, it gained strength only in recent years. At its convention in February 1971, one of its leaders declared that the muhajirs were "Pakistani 'Jews'," and should be treated accordingly! (Zindagi; 8 March 1971).
/5/ The Al-Badr group consisted entirely of Bengali Muslim supporters of the Jama'at-e-Islami and acted as a paramilitary group. The condemning statements appeared in Nusrat, 24 October 1971; Dihqan, 11 October 1971; and Nawa-i-Waqt, 14 October 1971.
/6/ The presence of Raja Tridev Roy did not, however, stop the fanatic elements from denouncing the Hindus of East Bengal in unequivocal terms!
/7/ Within a few weeks of the ceasefire the "Islamists" and the "non-Islamists" were at loggerheads about such issues as Mr. Bhutto's fondness for champagne, or the habit of some of his supporters to dance bhangra on occasions of celebration. One of the most ridiculous debates was about whether the colour of Islam is red or green. One scholar on the PPP side pointed out that the Prophet used henna to dye his beard and not some green colour! (For details see the various issues of Zindagi and Nusrat for the first six months of 1972.)


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