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December 16- Day of Pain and Grief

It was a cold morning of December in the city of Dacca (Dhaka); clock was striking 9; chilly air was blowing; I was standing in the balcony of the second floor of our house in Mohammadpur Colony, which was inhabited by mostly Urdu speaking people who came from India after partition.

The previous night we kept hearing heavy gun shots without any reprieve; in the morning also, gun shots were audible intermittently.

Suddenly a few lads came running from the main road towards our house and were shouting “Indian army aagaee hai” (Indian army has arrived).

I immediately went inside to my Nana (grandfather) and father and told them what the boys were saying; with an angry look at me, nana simply dismissed the news saying,“Don’t behave like BBC News, get lost”.

The Urdu speaking community did not appreciate the news reporting of BBC during the crisis in East Pakistan as they thought that the broadcaster was misleading the world against Pakistan.

I went out side; by then the news of the Indian army had spread all around. I went onto the main highway and saw truck after truck loaded with soldiers, who were wearing uniform of different colors, passing by. I stood speechless, my heart pounding, I came running back home to inform my elders of what I saw but when I entered I found our baithak (living room) filled with elderly neighbors.

Some of them were wailing “Pakistan toot gaya” (Pakistan is split), some were sobbing and some were sitting quiet and serious. Tears were flowing from my father’s eyes. I knew how much he loved Pakistan.

One of his regular advice to us was, “Never do anything that brings bad names to your motherland”. It was December 16, 1971; first time I saw him breaking down.

I slowly moved to a stool lying in the corner and sat on it. My thoughts started wandering backward.

It all started on the night of December 3, when  we woke up with deafening sounds of the fast flying planes and explosions; the elders ordered us to stay indoors and announced that India had attacked.

On December 3, at around 10 AM, we saw three fighters were flying fast in the sky at a low altitude seemingly a furlong away from our balcony.

Bullets were emitting from the aircraft; suddenly, flames engulfed one of the aircraft and it fell nose down on the ground.

Pakistani fighter plane had shot down an Indian fighter plane.

For the first few days it was a regular sight that the fighter planes were flying in the air and emitting fires and bullets from fronts as well as tails; it was obvious that Pakistani fighter planes were chasing the Indian ones.

But soon Indian fighter planes would be seen in the sky moving conveniently, and rarely any Pakistani fighter would chase them except anti air craft guns,which would fire towards them with thunder but in vain.

I heard one of my relatives, who was working in PIA, telling my family elders that the airport runway had been partially damaged due to bombardments.

Every night at around 8 pm, friends of my father and grandfather would gather at our residence and listen to BBC News followed by Sairbeen.

As per BBC, East Pakistan was gradually collapsing and Indian army was advancing. On 13th or 14th December, Indian air force planes, which were flying almost freely in the air, dropped pamphlets in which India asked ordinary citizens to leave Dacca to secure themselves as they would be pounding bombs on the city.

This image shot by Associated Press photographers Horst Faas and Michel Laurent – part of Pulitzer prize-winning series – shows newly independent Bangladesh guerrillas in Dacca use bayonets to torture and kill four men suspected of collaborating with Pakistan

Urdu speaking inhabitants remained unimpressed with this threat; as they relied more on what Pakistani radio was relaying –the news that how Indian army at both eastern and western fronts was being humbled and also that Pakistan’s best friend America had sent the 7th fleet towards the Bay of Bengal to protect East Pakistan.

Pro-Pakistanis continued to remain in a state of relief till the shocking sight of Indian army strolling on the streets unhindered, unobstructed on 16th December 1971.

To add to their mental and psychological disruption, the news started filtering in on the same afternoon that East Pakistan had become Bangladesh and that the relevant documents had been signed by army generals of both Pakistan and India.

Bengalis were buoyant in all respects; they could be seen rejoicing on streets; recording of Mujeeb’s fiery speeches could be heard on loud speakers; jubilation was in the air. Indian army in their trucks and jeeps would be seen on roads, Bangladeshi soldiers would also accompany them; for pro-Pakistanis it was indeed a painful sight.

Urdu speaking people who were settled in Mohammadpur and Mirpur were restricted in their areas and could not go to their offices, business places, banks or markets; those who were living in other parts of the city had already been escorted to concentration camps in Mohammadpur. Environment was tense. Fear prevailed for their lives and honor.

Shaikh Mujib-ur-Rehman, who was under arrest in West Pakistan, was set free by the Pakistani government and was facilitated to fly to London on 9th January 1971.

Mujib landed at Dhaka airport on 10th January. Bengali nation gave him a grand reception imbibed with passionate tribute. But as the irony of fate would have, four years later he was killed by his own army personnel; entire family was killed, only two daughters survived, one of them is Haseena Wajid who is currently the Prime Minister of Bangladesh.

As the time passed by, Urdu speaking people started moving around but would avoid speaking Urdu in public and camouflaged themselves as Bengalis.

Those who could afford, proceeded to India by road or by air and from there managed to reach Kathmandu, Nepal.

Pakistani Embassy there provided respite for the displaced Pakistanis who struggled through to Kathmandu.  Embassy staff facilitated them, gave moral support and arranged their repatriation to Pakistan with the help of Red Cross.

A huge number of people were repatriated direct from Bangladesh also. Still a chunk of pro-Pakistani Urdu speaking people are rotting in concentration camps in Bangladesh with the hope that one day they would be repatriated to Pakistan.

Their plea is that they or their forefathers opted for Pakistan (few came to East wing and few went to West wing) at the time of Partition. Hence any piece of land which is identified as Pakistan is their homeland and they will go there. They refused to accept citizenship of Bangladesh and once again opted for repatriation to present day Pakistan.How naïve of them!

Pakistani soldiers fought valiantly with given resources; they had to fight against internal insurgency and external aggression. The fronts where India remained unchallenged were political acumen and international diplomacy.

Foot Note:

Bengalis in general were never anti-Pakistan; what they wanted was recognition of their identity-which wasa blend of their rich literature, art and culture.

Nazrul Islam (the revolutionary poet), Rabindranath Tagore (Nobel award winner), Sarat Chandra (author of the famous novel Devdaas), ZainulAbedin (the painter), Jaseemuddin (author), Nazrul Geetia nd above all their mother tongue were the essence of their legacy.Bengalis just wanted theirlegacy to be respected; they wanted the rulers to respect their poll verdict.

Alas! Since the early days of Pakistan, myopic approach and power lust of those who were in the helm of affairs gave way to Bengalis to march inch by inch towards the demand of Bangladesh.

Mujeeb fully exploited the blunders committed by the rulers and was able to instill in East Pakistani Bengalis a sense of deprivation and injustice.

India took full advantage of the circumstances and maneuvered to the extreme to damage Pakistan- the creation of which was captained by Muhammad Ali Jinnah.

The triumph on 14th August 1947 was dwindled to the mourning on 16th December 1971.


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