Myth of 3 Million Killed, 200,000 Raped in 1971

(Dr. Junaid Ahmad, Karachi)

Since the creation of Bangladesh it has been propagated that Pakistan Army killed more than 3 million Bengalis and raped 200,000 Bengali women in 1971. Many such myths have been repeated ad nauseam over the years by various Bangladeshi and Indian politicians and functionaries to defame Pakistani armed forces. Tracing the origin of the myth of killing of 3 million, it is revealed that the figure first appeared as on Decemer 23, 1971in an editorial piece of Pravda, well known then for anti Pakistan postures of the Kremlin. This “figure”, was endorsed by Mujib in his interview with BBC’s David Frost on January 18, 1972 while he was intoxicated.

Here is the first testimony from Serajur Reman, the former deputy head of the BBC Bangla Programme in the UK contesting Mujib’s claim. In a letter to The Guardian on May 24, 2011 he wrote, “On 8th January 1972, I was the first Bangladeshi to meet independent leader Sheikh Mujib-ur-Reman after his release from Pakistan …. I [Serajur Rehman] explained that no accurate figure of the casualties was available but our estimate, based on information from various sources, was that up to “Three lakh” (300,000) died in the conflict. To my surprise and horror, he told David Frost later that “three million of my people “were killed by the Pakistanis. Whether he mistranslated “lakh” as “million” or his confused state of mind was responsible, I don’t know, but many Bangladeshis still believe a figure of three million is unrealistic and incredible”.
 
Sayyid Karim, Bangladesh’s first foreign secretary, as reported by David Bergman, a Bangladesh based British Journalist in 2011, wrote, “As for the number of Bengalis killed in the course of the liberation war, the figure of 3 million mentioned by Mujib to David Frost in January 1972, was a gross overstatement. This figure was picked up by him from an article in ‘Pravda’ the organ of the communist party of the Soviet Union”.

In order to cherry pick proof for the plucked-out-of-thin-air 3 million figure, Mujib constituted a Commission on January 29, 1972 to locate mass graves or other verifiable evidence. Chowdhary Abdul Mumin in his book Behind the Myth of Three Million, published in 1973, reported that this Commission comprised of representatives from the Army, Border Security Force, Rangers, Police and Civil Administration. Despite their best efforts, this Commission completely failed to locate any mass graves or other evidence of any kind. The Commission gave a newspaper advertisement offering 1,000 Taka to anyone who comes forward with figures of the dead. Only 38,000 came forward. The Commission then conjured up a figure of a 56,743 deaths. Mujib showed great displeasure at the Commission’s findings and disbanded it, stating, “I have declared three million dead, and your report could not come up with three scores thousands! What report you have prepared? Keep your report to yourself. What I have said once shall prevail”.
 
Western independent sources too solidly rubbish this 3 million figure. The Peace Research Institute in Norway along with Uppsala University of Sweden in their findings in 1972, estimated that about 58,000 people died in 1971. In addition to this, in June 1972, William Durmmond in the LA Times reported that “……. the figure of 3 million deaths is an exaggeration so gross as to be absurd …… no more than 25,000 people died.” On March 1st, 1973, Swedish journalist Ingvar Oja reported in Dagens Nyheter, the largest daily of Stockholm: “The allegation regarding the killing of 3 million people is highly exaggerated, not more than 50,000 people died in East Pakistan”. Sarmila Bose the famous Bengali Indian writer and Research Associate at Oxford University, in her book, Dead Reckoning in 2011, writes “…. the number 3 million appears to be not more than a gigantic rumor”. She estimated that around 50,000 – 100,000 people including Bengalis, Beharis and West Pakistanis may have perished in the conflict in East Pakistan.
 
The repeated claims of 3 million killed and the rape of 200,000 Bengali women were stopped after a tripartite agreement between Pakistan, India and Bangladesh in April 1974. During the regimes of Gen Zia, Gen Husain, Mohammad Ershad and later Khaleda Zia, the Bangladesh government was more pragmatic and made friendly overtures to Pakistan. However, the present government of Haseena Wajid of Awami League continues to use this exaggerated lie of 3 million killed to hatemonger if not to evoke the baser emotions of its electorate to cultivate support and also to court favors from India.
 
Even basic arithmetic, which seems to be beyond the grasp of the Bangladeshi establishment, shows the unabashed absurdity of the 3 million killed and 200,000 women raped myths. To illustrate, perhaps at the expense of disgusting my readers, the Army action in East Pakistan started on 26 March and lasted till 16th December, 1971 - a total of 262 days. This implies that about 11,450 Bengalis would need to have been picked-up, killed and buried every day. When compared to the 2nd World War for instance, the 6 million Jews killed by Nazi Germany in 6 years comes to only 2,740 killed every day – markedly less. Both the figures of the daily killings are fantastically preposterous and defy common sense.

The other myth regarding 200,000 Bengali Women raped by Pakistani Army in 1971 was also investigated by the above Commission. This time they had offered 3,000 Taka for any informant of rape. Only 2,680 cases came forward. The Commission rounded it to 25,000 victims. This was also not acceptable to Mujib. This estimate 200,000 rapes has also been rejected by an Austrian based academic, Bina D’Casta, who had researched this area and who believes that the number is too high. Further, Tajamul Hussain, Bengali freelance journalist in his book “Bangladesh victim of Black Propaganda Intrigue and Indian Hegemony”, writes that General Manikshaw was seriously felt embarrassed at the figures and thinks that 3 million killed and 200,000 women alleged to have been violated seem fictitious, baseless and far removed from the truth.

The fall of East Pakistan was a deeply painful episode for an entire generation of East and West Pakistanis. To channel that pain in the manner that the Awami League in Bangladesh continues to do for courting favors from its powerful neighbor and to keep their electorate emotionally charged, borders on criminality. They really ought to have the sense to see that no other reasonable individual, institution or government (besides India of course) takes their myths seriously. Not even Wikipedia. I feel a degree of confidence that no intelligent Bangladeshis do either. What the Awami League needs to do, is to base their politics on real and meaningful issues that their populace faces - stark poverty, a justice deficit and an institutional corruption of the most nefarious type. Be reasonable PM Hasina Wajid, stop lying to yourself and your people and move on.

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23 Mar, 2017 Views: 420

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