Saturday, July 2, 2022

A View of the Bangladesh War

On 16 December 1971, the India army marched into Decca. When the news reached Lahore that the Pakistani army was defeated, the newspapers there turned apocalyptic. In a series of editorials they tried to seek consolation from the long history of Islamic conquests. 

On 18 December 1971, the editorial in Musawat, an Urdu newspaper in Lahore, 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.” The editorial in newspaper 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 asserted 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.”

Several such articles are quoted in the book by C. M. Naim, Ambiguities in Heritage: Fictions and Polemics, (Chapter 14, “Muslim Press in India and the Bangladesh Crisis”). 

India was forced to fight the war in 1971 because millions of refugees from East Pakistan were pouring into Indian territory to escape from the civil war raging there. But India made no geopolitical or financial gains from the war. The new nation of Bangladesh that came into being after the 1971 war views itself as first of all an Islamic nation and it identifies with Pakistan and other Islamic nations, and it views India as its rival and enemy.

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