Not Bengalis, Hindus were Pakistani targets in 1971 Bangladesh War, claims new book

Oct 16 2013, 15:28 IST
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SummaryGary J Bass's 'The Blood Telegram' details the genocide carried out ahead of the war.

Ahead of Bangladesh's liberation in 1971, the Pakistani Army systematically committed genocide" of the Hindu community in the then East Pakistan and the Nixon Administration kept a blind eye to it, a new book says.

While the Indian Government was aware of it, it tried to play it down and instead referred to it as genocide against the Bengali community in Bangladesh so as to avoid an outcry from the leaders of the then Jan Sangh, the predecessor of the today's main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, says Gary J Bass, author of the book 'The Blood Telegram: Nixon, Kissinger and a Forgotten Genocide', which recently hit the book stores.

"Rather than basing this accusation primarily on the victimisation of Hindus, India tended to focus on the decimation of the Bengalis as a group," Bass, who is professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton University, says.

"The Indian foreign ministry argued that Pakistan's generals, having lost an election because their country had too many Bengalis, were now slaughtering their way to 'a wholesale reduction in the population of East Bengal' so that it would no longer comprise a majority in Pakistan," said Bass.

As the Pakistan Army continued with the systematic targeting of the Hindu community, the book says, Indian officials did not want to provide further ammunition to the irate Hindu nationalists in the Jana Sangh party.

"From Moscow, D P Dhar, India's ambassador there, decried the Pakistan army's preplanned policy of selecting Hindus for butchery, but, fearing inflammatory politicking from rightist reactionary Hindu chauvinist parties like Jana Sangh, he wrote, 'We were doing our best not to allow this aspect of the matter to be publicised in India'," Bass writes in his book.

The then US Consul General in Dhaka, Archer Blood, according to the book, thought, no logic to this campaign of killings and expulsions of the Hindus, who numbered about ten million - about 13 per cent of East Pakistan's population.

"They were unarmed and dispersed around East Pakistan. But the Hindus were tainted by purported association with India, and were outliers in a Pakistani nation defined in Muslim terms," he wrote.

"Lieutenant General Tikka Khan, the military governor leading the repression, argued that East Pakistan faced enslavement by India. He said that the outlawed Awami League would have brought the destruction of our country which had been carved out of the subcontinent as a homeland for Muslims after great sacrifices," the book said.

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