The historic surrender ceremony on 16th December 1971

The heroic tells, sacrifice and bravado of the Mukti Fauj and People got lost under the dark shadows of the so-called friendly forces.

On 16th December a surrender ceremony was arranged at the Dhaka RaceCourse. Col. Osmani as the Commander-in-Chief of Mukti Bhahini and the top man in the joint command should have invited the friendly force’s commander Gen. Arora to come to Dhaka to attend the surrender ceremony and sign jointly the instrument of surrender. This is what was most logical but ironically things happened other way round.

It was only Gen. Arora who signed the instrument of surrender on behalf of the Joint Command. Not only that due to some mysterious reasons, Col. Osmani the Commander-in-Chief of the Mukti Bhani and the head of the Joint Command could not have the privilege to attend the historic surrender ceremony at the Race Course on 16th of December 1971. Why Col. Osmani on that historic occasion was deprived of his legitimate presence? On the contrary why Gen. Arora was projected in front of the nation and the whole world as the sole conqueror? These riddles are yet to be unfolded to the people of Bangladesh.

Col. Osmani as the Commander-in-Chief of the Mukti Bahini wanted to invite and welcome Gen. Arora at Dhaka on behalf of the Bangladesh government. This would have established the fact before the world that basically it was due to the liberation war, fought by the people, Bangladesh got its independence. Indian army merely helped as a friendly force. But his proposal was not acceptable to the Indian government. They demanded that instrument of surrender should be signed by the Commander of the Indian army. The intention was very clear. Let the whole world know Bangladesh was the out come of India’s victory over Pakistan. Bangladesh was a gift of India. The spineless provisional government conceded to the Indian demand. Non-compromising Banga Bir Col. Osmani was conveniently side tracked.

On 16 December Dhaka people saw Indian troops as the victors. They were surrounded by the Mujib Bhaini and the ‘Sixteen Division’ which suddenly sprang up like mushrooms from nowhere. These were not the genuine freedom fighters. Actual freedom fighters were not allowed to enter Dhaka and other big cities and towns. The policy was to show that Indian army was the liberator. The freedom fighters lost their initiative and were completely over shadowed by the presence of large Indian force.

Their heroic tells, sacrifice and bravado got lost under the dark shadows of the ‘friendly forces’. The spirit of the liberation war suddenly got a jolt. The dream of national emancipation was shattered because of the direct Indian intervention. The nation was denied the time to purify and temper itself. The spirit of nationalism could not flurish. As a result, a mad race can be seen to sell off the nation at a very cheep price. On the other hand if the liberation war was allowed to charter its natural course then gradually every house hold would have been affected. Every family would have sacrificed in some way or the other. Independence so acheived would have been very dear to every one. Thus, any conspiracy to sell off national interest would have been nipped in the bud by the tested freedom fighters and the people together. However, it was most unfortunate that due to the betrayal of the political leadership and the design of the mentors the nation could not develope that character.

In 1972 at London a long 4 hours conversation took place between Mr. Maidul Hassan a renowned journalist and Air Vice Marshal Khandakar. I deem it appropriate to give out the gist of that discussion so that the readers can understand better about the love-hate relation that existed between the Mukti Bahini and Indian authorities throughout the liberation war.

During the war, A.V.M. Khandakar was the Deputy Chief of staff at the Mujibnagar headquarters. Mr. Maidul Hassan then was an advisor to the Prime Minister of the provisional government on policy matters. From the discussions it appears that Indian authorities used to bypass Col. Osmani quite often and maintained closer links with A.V.M. Khandakar and Mr. Tajuddin. Most of the matters related to the war used to be discussed with A.V.M. Khandakar. Gen. Jagjit Singh Arora, Brig. Jacob, Brig. Gupta were their main counter parts from the Indian side. India never wanted to give due recognition to the spontaneous initiative that was taken by the people and the freedom fighters to organize the liberation war right from the very beginning. Although Col. Osmani was made the C-in-Cand a headquarters was established at No. 8 Theatre Road, his power was limited. Till July the sector commanders did not receive much assistance from the headquarters to fight the war. Most of the commanders had to rely on their own resources obtained through their own initiatives. A.V.M. Khandakar said to his effect, "When I reached Calcutta I found that the sectors and the sub sectors were hardly having any communications with the Mujibnagar headquarters and at this stage India had provided not much of assistance. They did not have any clear perception about our liberation war, as a result they could not evolve any concrete policy regarding our struggle. But they were wanting that this independence movement should remain alive as an issue. The Indian policy makers wanted to understand well about this war and the freedom fighters from the flow of events before formulating any firm policy. Till they formulate their policy they were very keen to keep the whole affairs under their control. Due to this attitude of the Indian authorities and Indian army gradually a kind of misunderstanding, haterate developed between the Mukti Bahini and the Indian army and the government. And thus after independence anti Indian feelings in the armed forces of Bangladesh comprised of the freedom fighters had crystallized from the days of liberation war. He further said, "The contradiction between the Mukti Fauj and Indian forces started growing from the very beginning of our struggle.That feeling further aggravated through many events, disappointments, sensitive decisions as the time passed". While talking about the Indian help and assistance in the war, A.V.M Khandakar said, "Till July/August Indian involvement was very negligible. The little assistance that were received were mostly some small arms, ammunitions, light equipts and some logistic support nothing more than that. The FF commanders were continuing their war mostly with the arms, ammunitions and other materials that were captured from the enemy forces". The readers are aware of the July conference of the commanders. The decision was to raise a guerrilla force of 200,000.

They were to be inducted inside Bangladesh after training. In this respect A.V.M. Khandakar’s statement is very interesting. He said,

"After the commander’s conference one day Gen. Arora come to our headquarters. There was a meeting between Col. Osmani and Gen. Arora. I was also present in that meeting. The main subject was about the guerrillas. How many guerrillas will be trained, what kind of training, where they will be trained, recruitment policy, duration of their training etc. Gen. Arora proposed that 5 thousand guerrillas would be enough. I just spoke out, what are we going to do with such a small number? Gen. Arora replied, that they are the people who will go inside, bleed the enemy and all those things. Col. Osmani firmly informed Gen. Arora that he wants 200,000 guerrillas to be trained as this had been decided in the just finished commander’s conference. However, training started. The guerrillas started returning after their training. But a big problem was created. Indian government was entirely responsible for this problem. The Indian army wanted to have full control on these trained guerrillas. This generated an adverse reaction. The guerrillas were recruited from various sectors. Their desire was to go back to their respective sectors after training and fight under their beloved commanders. They refused to fight under Indian commanders. The Indian army had decided to launch these guerrillas inside Bangladesh under their command unilaterally. This was not even communicated or discussed with our headquarters

initially. In some cases Indian army inducted some guerrillas forcefully basically to loot and plunder. The logic they put up was that money was needed to fight a war. Those freedom fighters refused to accept orders of the Indian commanders and fled to their respective sectors. The overall reaction and result even at later date was very bad as the freedom fighters did not like the way Indian army wanted them to be used. Shortly a bitterness spread over in all the sectors. Thus a mistrust was created between the FFs and the Indian forces. Once the whole affair became known to all on demands from the commanders we put pressure on the provincial government and Indian authorities. If these guerrillas are not placed under Bangladeshi commanders then there will be a disaster and catastrophe. They have to be placed under the Mukti Bahini commanders. Although the Indian Army High Command had much reluctance from the very beginning, the political leadership finding no other alternative grudgingly had to agree with our demand under pressure. Later ofcourse the Indian intelligence RAW had decided to create BLF as a counter balance against the freedom fighters. This is another story. There can be two reasons for such attitude of the Indian leadership.

1. The field commanders and the FFs were not fully trusted by the Indian authorities. They always thought these Mukti Bahinis can never be relied on.

2. They had a preconceived idea that Bangladesh will be made independent through their direct intervention only. Therefore, Mukti Bahini and the guerrillas will be used under their control to achieve limited aims and objectives. But the Mukti Bahini wanted to liberate the country themselves if necessary through a prolonged war. I think this is where there was a credibility gap between the two sides. That is between the Mukti Bahini and the Indian leadership and Indian army. Our military leaders position was very clear. We shall free our motherland ourselves. If India extend an helping hand in our struggle we shall welcome it. But necessarily this is our struggle and we shall have to fight ourselves. But for that matter why India alone. We shall welcome any country or nation whoever wants to help us. In short regarding the liberation war there was no approach of mutual confidence and it never grew because of their overall policy. It is also true many activities of the Indian commanders raised doubts in the minds of the FFs. There had been many misunderstandings as well. It is a fact that till Indo-USSR treaty was signed on 9th August liberation war was fought by the Mukti Bahini alone. It is only after 9th August that Indian army started their preparations to get involved in the war. And the army started taking clear interest". Mr. Maidul Hasan asked A.V.M. Khandakar,

"If Indian Army would have not intervened physically then Bangladesh would have not been independent, what do you say?" Mr. Khandakar deferred with Mr. Maidul Hasan and said,

"It is true many at Mujibnagar even many among the cabinet used to suffer from passive frustration. Many even thought to go back taking the advantage of the general amnesty that was declared by Yahya Khan. These lot had no confidence on the Mukti Bahini and its ability to win the war. This was the reason for their frustration. They used to get very scared to hear about a protracted war. They thought they shall never get the opportunity to return. Under such situation also I firmly believed that those who tried to put up the logic that if the intensity of the activities of the freedom fighters increase drastically then Pakistan will find justification to declare war on India and hence the activities of the FFs should be controlled, were totally wrong and they had ulterior motives. On the contrary if we could intensify our activities from the very beginning then Pak army in East Pakistan had to surrender to our freedom fighters within a very short time as they would have not been in a position to withstand the fierce encounters of the Mukti Fauj. Because they had no cause to fight. Their moral was completely shattered and losses would have been unacceptable to them". Mr. Maidul Hasan replied,

"Your thinking has merits but the Indians thought otherwise" (Daily Sangbad 26th March 1990). Very true. The Indian had a different motive and agenda. They wanted to down play the Mukti Bahini. They wanted to show it to the world that Bangladesh was the out come of Indo-Pak war. By establishing this India wanted to kill two birds with one stone. Firstly they could take the revenge of 1965 war and establish itself as the dominating military power in the sub continent. Secondly they also earned the legitimacy to have the control over Bangladesh.