Sunday, April 9, 2017

Bangladesh liberation was "inevitable", West Pakistanis were bullies, assaulted Bengali pride : 1971 war veteran

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto must have felt guilty having wronged Bangabandu Mujibur Rahman after the elections and denied power to the Awami League leader. -- So says a surviving 1971 War Veteran Brigadier Onkar S Goraya.
A proud Indian soldier, Brig Goraya still retains an original newspaper of December 18, 1971 -- that carried the banner headline -- 'Yahya accepts Ceasefire'. In fact, the first lead story of 'Hindustan Times' carried a UNI (United News of India) filed copy -- with the first sentence reading: "Pakistan President Yahya Khan today ordered his troops to ceasefire along the western front......".
Brig Goraya (Retd) of 57 Artillery, who had moved to the forward areas in Agartala during the war as part of his unit's Operation 'Nut Cracker', said, the Independence of Bangladesh was inevitable as "there was no cultural and historical affinity between West Pakistan and East Pakistan". 

He said Late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi pursued "diplomatic offensive" very well making the global community understand India's role in the conflict between East Pakistan and West Pakistan very well. "Militarily, the strategic planning at every level was very good. Right from Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw and higher echelons down to Brigade commands, it was all very good planning.....The units advancements and formation and the vital artillery support....all went off very well," Brig. Goraya told me in a brief interview. 
Rare Document signed by Mujib and Hasina
"It was finally proved to the world that Mohammed Ali Jinnah's two-nation theory based on religious divide was only a fallacy. Religion cannot unite people. People ultimately long for cultural affinity, they adore the affinity of language," said Brig Goraya, who was in Delhi to meet the visiting Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

"Moreover, West Pakistanis were bullies. They tried to impose Urdu language. The Bengali culture was assaulted and rightly so the Bengalis revolted," he said, adding, even if 1971 was avoided -- East Pakistan would have one day come out of the West Pakistan "sooner than later". 

Recalling his role in the War, Brig Goraya said, "I was a Major those days and as part of our unit's deployment was in Agartala as Staff Officer to Brigade Commandant Janggi Singh Baba. We all got involved in Operation Nut Cracker. It was a fierce battle as from December 1 to 4, the enemy gave us a good fight; but then we took over and they  were on run".
He still has clear memories of helicopter movements braving the darkness of night and often inclement weather over River Meghna and Indian Army subsequently entering strategic locations like Brahmanbari and Bhairavbazar.

"It was like living through a different era. May be unthinkable in present times. Everyone wanted to contribute to the war. People of Bangladesh were very cooperative amid multiple challenges. They knew we were there to help them. They felt proud of Indian Army and BSF's role," he said.
Besides the battle front, another exciting part of his involvement during the Liberation War of Bangladesh, Brig Goraya said was the "uncertainty" for sometime on whereabout of  Bangabandhu Mujibur Rahman. 
Brig Goraya with Hasina, April 7, 2017, New Delhi
"After the great victory, the new-born country was caught in the mad euphoria of rejoicing and celebrating. But there was a subtle deficiency - the absence of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the father of the new born baby," he said, adding, people knew that Mujibur Rahman was arrested by West Pakistani forces on March 25, 1971 and taken to West Pakistan.
"There were doubts, whether he would return at all," said Goraya, who has also penned a book on the 1971 War.

Brig Goraya, now based in Chandigarh, said he was in the national capital also to handover a copy of his book,
'Leap Across Meghna - Blitzkreig of 1V Corps 1971' to Sheikh Hasina.
In fact, Ms Hasina was "excited" in seeing the book which has a few rare photographs and a nice narration of  arrangements for 10th January, 1972 grand parade at Dhaka, he said.
Answering questions, Brig Goraya said Indira Gandhi's 'diplomatic offensive' had long term impact as after the 1971 War, "the global image of India of a laid back and dithering nation changed overnight".
"It is unfortunate that the nation reverted back to this image after a decade or so. But we are changing now and these are good trends," he said making it clear - however - that his comments should not be interpreted in political context.
Blogger outside Manekshaw Centre
To a question, war veteran Brig Goraya said ultimately "better sense" prevailed on Zulfikar Ali Butto and Mujib was released.
"There were certainly apprehensions that as 90,000 Prisoners of War were held by India, whether Mujib too will be held as hostage. But slowly public opinion in Pakistan turned against Yahya Khan," he said, adding the onus then fell on Bhutto to act.
"Compelled by the urgency to focus on rebuilding the broken pieces of Pakistan and also mounting international pressure, Bhutto took the pragmatic decision and released Mujib....I strongly feel Bhutto also must have felt guilty having wronged Mujib after the elections and denying power to Bangabandhu," he said.

In tribute to 'cooperative federalism', PM Modi plays "host" to West Bengal Chief Minister

New Delhi, Apr 8 (UNI) Indian democracy and the federal polity have their own beauties. The strength of that uniqueness and 'cooperative federalism' came to the fore today when Prime Minister of India played a humble host to the Chief Minister of West Bengal. Mercurial Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee must have come to Lutyen's city innumerable times -- but for rare occasion had she been designated as an "honoured guest" of the incumbent Prime Minister.
"I am very happy that the Chief Minister of West Bengal is my honoured guest today," Mr Modi said in his statement at Hyderabad House after meeting with his counterpart from Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina. "I know that her (Mamata's) feelings for Bangladesh are as warm as my own. I assure you and the people of Bangladesh of our commitment and continuing efforts," Mr Modi said in a reference to the stalled Teesta Water sharing treaty. "I firmly believe that it is only my Government and Excellency Sheikh Hasina, your Government, that can and will find an early solution to Teesta Water Sharing," Prime Minister said in the presence of Mamata Banerjee.
Ms Banerjee -- clad in a green bordered off-white sari -- also posed for joint photograph with both the Prime Ministers with Mr Modi in the middle.

Mr Modi also pointed out in no unambiguous term that the Teesta Water Treaty would be vital for India-Bangladesh relationship. Prime Minister Modi is believed to be trying to get the Treaty approved -- that remained in cold storage for decades. The pact was almost through during the tenure of Dr Manmohan Singh but Mamata Banerjee's opposition to it in 2011 did not allow the Treaty to materialise.

West Bengal has about 123 km stretch of Teesta flowing through it and farmers in Jalpaiguri, South Dinajpur and Darjeeling are dependent on its water for irrigation. For Bangladesh, its rice belt is largely dependent on Teesta and farmers of Rangpur, Nilphamari, Gaibandha, Kurigram and Lalmonirhat are affected by it.

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