May 1971

May 3: Letter of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of East Pakistan (Bangla Desh) on the situation in Bangladesh:

“A just struggle:

(i) The present struggle of the people of Bangla Desh is the culmination of their struggle for democracy and autonomy which they were conducting since 1948 against the reactionary ruling classes which had ruthlessly suppressed democracy and national rights of the various nationalities.

(ii) The people of Bangla Desh and their leaders had never wanted the secession of East Pakistan. But they had always tried to establish their democratic and national rights through democratic struggles and through the election held in 1970. Even after a sweeping victory in the election and securing an absolute majority in the National Assembly, the Awami League and its Chief Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had wanted nothing more than a constitution based on the six-point programme. Sheikh Mujib had also repeatedly tried to come to a political settlement with the ruling military junta.

(iii) But it was the ruling military junta, which had earlier held the election but had ultimately refused to transfer power to the elected representatives of the people, that launched a treacherous armed attack against the people. In fact, the military junta had no intention of transferring power. The Yahya-Mujib talks, etc., were nothing but ruse by the junta to gain time for preparation of the armed attack.

It was only after this armed attack by the ruling military junta that the popular struggle for democracy and autonomy had turned into an armed battle for the liberation of our motherland.

(iv) This liberation battle is fundamentally a battle for the just right of self-determina­tion of the 75-million Bengalis waged against the reactionary ruling classes composed of the monopolists and feudalists who are backed and armed by the imperialists, especially the U.S. imperialists.

(v) In no case it is a struggle against the people of West Pakistan. Rather this liberation struggle of Bangla Desh against the reactionary ruling classes which are also suppressing and oppressing the people of West Pakistan will help their struggle for democracy and autonomy.

(vi) The liberation struggle is being carried on by the Mukti Fouz (Liberation Army) and the people of Bangla Desh. Therefore, the propaganda by the ruling military junta of Pakistan that it is an ” India-inspired struggle “, ” by Indian armed intruders ” and that ” India is interfering in the internal affairs of Pakistan “, etc., is nothing but a canard. Similarly, the propaganda by some pro-Peking groups that this liberation struggle is inspired by the imperialists is a dire falsehood.

Judging all the above facts, all democrats of the world should be fully convinced that the present struggle for the liberation of our motherland is a just struggle against native and foreign reactionaries who are enemies of humanity and peace. The defeat of these reactionaries in Bangla Desh will strengthen the forces of democracy and peace in the South-east Asia region.”

May 4: Telegram from the Embassy in India to the Department of State on the subject of alleged Indian support to Freedom Fighters and other observations:

“Foreign Secretary Kaul referred me to the reports of Frank Moraes in the Indian Express as well as to those of British and American journalists regarding the organization and training of the liberation forces inside East Pakistan. Kaul said the refugees were in no state to fight. They were hungry, sick and at times almost naked.”

May 5: Memorandum from The Acting Secretary to Christopher Van Hollen:

“In the last ten days we have received through clandestine reports and journalists’ accounts increasing evidence of Indian involvement with the Bengali separatists and of India’s own contingency planning in the event of war. The Indian Government has reinforced Border Security Force units and has moved regular Indian Army units to within three kilometers of the border. The BSF has established camps at which 2,000 Bengalis are reportedly receiving training in guerilla and sabotage tactics. Limited quantities of arms and ammunition have been provided to the Bengali separatists and some Indian forces have infiltrated into East Bengal to provide assistance and training to the separatists.”

May 7: Letter From President Nixon to Pakistani President Yahya expressing concern but using soft tone.

May 10: A conversation among economic advisor to President Yahya Khan (M.M. Ahmed), Assistant to the President (Kissinger), Ambassador of Pakistan(Agha Hilaly), NSC staff (Harold H. Saunders).

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Nixon and Kissinger confer with Ambassador Hilaly

(Image credit: Doc Kazi from Flickr)

Nixon declared to a Pakistani delegation that “Yahya is a good friend.” Rather than express concern over the ongoing brutal military repression, Nixon explained that he “understands the anguish of the decisions which [Yahya] had to make.” He said that the US is not going to become involved.

May 13: The Indian Government requested that the United States make available four C-130 transport aircraft and the crews to fly them to help ferry refugees from East Pakistan from the over-burdened state of Tripura to Assam (Telegram 7325 from New Delhi)

Letter from Indian Prime Minister Gandhi to President Nixon:

“Until the 12th May, 1971, the number of fugitives who were registered on their crossing the border into India was 2,328,507. We believe that there is a fair number who have avoided registration. Refugees still continue to pour in at the rate of about fifty thousand a day. We are doing our utmost to look after them. But there is a limit to our capacity and resources. Apparently, Pakistan is trying to solve its internal problems by cutting down the size of its population in East Bengal and changing its communal composition through an organised and selective programme of eviction; but it is India that has to take the brunt of this.

It is our earnest hope that the Government of the United States of America will impress upon the rulers of Pakistan that they owe a duty towards their own citizens whom they have treated so callously and forced to seek refuge in a foreign country.”

May 14: The Embassy in Islamabad warned that Pakistan would react unfavorably to a United States decision to participate in an airlift of East Pakistani refugees.

(The Department of State announced on June 12 that the United States would participate in the airlift. The airlift exercise, which was code-named Bonny Jack, was terminated on July 14. source)

May 17: Memorandum to Henry A. Kissinger about halting military assistance to Pakistan. Kissinger responded with a handwritten comment in the margin that reads: “Al-See me. The end result of this will be to terminate the relationship.”

May 18: A research study on Pakistan by Bureau of Intelligence and Research.

May 20: Interview with Bangladesh home Minister A.H.M. Kamaruzzaman.

May 21: Dr. Kissinger told Indian Ambassador Jha “you can’t go to war over refugees.”

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(Image credit: UNHCR)

May 23: President Yahya said that he tended to disagree with GOI’s current estimate that there were now over two and one-half million East Pakistani refugees in India, but that the GOP was aware of the fact that a substantial number of people had crossed the border and that the problem was both real and substantial.

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Mrs. Indira Gandhi, premier of India, with her popularity again elected as Prime Minister in March, 1971

(Image credit: Kana_ratnam from Flickr)

May 24: Indira Gandhi’s statement in Lok Sabha on the situation in Bangla Desh:

“It is mis­chievous to suggest that India has had anything to do with what happened in Bangla Desh. This is an insult to the aspirations and spontaneous sacrifices of the people of Bangla Desh, and a calculated attempt by the rulers of Pakistan to make India a scapegoat for their own misdeeds. It is also a crude attempt to deceive the world community. The world press has seen through Pakistan’s decep­tion. The majority of these so-called Indian infiltrators are women, children and the aged.

We are proud of our tradition of tolerance. Our nation, our people are dedicated to peace and are not given to talking in terms of war or threat of war.

We are convinced that there can be no military solution to the problem of East Bengal. A political solution must be brought about by those who have the power to do so.”

Letter from President Yahya to President Nixon:

“The secessionist elements in East Pakistan were encouraged and assisted by India. The Indian Parliament, in an unprecedented move, officially extended sympathy and support to these elements. The question of “recognising” the rebellious movement has also been under consideration of the Indian Government. Infiltrators and saboteurs from across the border have violated our territory and indulged in activities to dislocate and destroy East Pakistan’s economic and industrial life, including the vital communications system.

It is most unfortunate that due to disturbed conditions and for other reasons, a large number of people left their homes in East Pakistan and crossed into India. I have, therefore, in a public statement urged the law abiding citizens of East Pakistan who were compelled to migrate, to return to their homes and resume their normal duties. I am afraid, however, that I cannot extend a welcome to those persons who committed murders, indulged in rape and arson, destroyed private and public properties and looted Government treasuries and food stores. No Government can condone such crimes against the people and the State.”

May 25: 50KW Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendro (Independent Bangladesh radio) opened in Baliganj, Kolkata by Bangla Desh PM Tajuddin

May 26: The State Department gave a memorandum to President Nixon expressing fears of an imminent Indo-Pak war. The memorandum noted 3 points that would be the cause of the war.

1. Continued military repression in the East (Bangladesh), economic dislocation and lack of political accomodation in East Pakistan (Bangladesh)

2. The very heavy flow of refugees to India (over three million according to the Indians) which is imposing a great burden to India.

3. And the Indian cross-border support to Bengali guerrillas (Mukti Bahinis).

India Government decision on Pakistan crisis:

The following decisions were made:
a. Defer recognition of Bangla Dash for the immediate future.
b. Maintain constant military readiness.
c. Take every diplomatic step to force the major powers to take action to force the GOP to atop the refugee flow and to repatriate those who have crossed into India, including hints that Mia might bke unilateral military action.
d. Seek financial aid from all sources to temporarily support the refugees.
They also decided to release off-the-record press comments that India is reaching the point where some sort of action, possibly military, was possible if there is not immediate relief for the refugee problem.”

Conversation between Nixon and Kissinger:

Nixon: But we don’t say anything against Yahya?
Kissinger: No, no. You just say you hope the refugees will soon be able to go back to East Pakistan. He will then reply to you that’s exactly what he wants.
I’ve got it all arranged with the—
Nixon: Good. Go ahead.
Kissinger: —Embassy. Then you can take credit. You can tell the Indians to pipe down—
Nixon: Yeah.
Kissinger: And we’ll keep Yahya happy.
Nixon: The Indians need—what they need really is a—
Kissinger: They’re such bastards.
Nixon: A mass famine. But they aren’t going to get that. We’re going to feed them—a new kind of wheat. But if they’re not going to have a famine the last thing they need is another war. Let the goddamn Indians fight a war [unclear].

May 27: The East Bengal tragedy: (THE GUARDIAN, London)

The total picture of what has been happening in East Bengal is clear to us without any shadow of doubt. There are scores of survivors of firing-squad line-ups. Hundreds of wit­nesses to the machine-gunning of political leaders, prefessors, doctors, teachers and students. Villages have been surrounded, at any time of day or night, and the frigh­tened villagers have fled where they could, or been slaughtered where they have been found. or enticed out to the fields and mown down in heaps. Women have been raped, girls carried off to barracks, unarmed peasants battered or bayoneted by the thousands.

The pattern, after seven weeks, is still the same. Even the least credible stories, of babies thrown up to be caught on bayonets, of women stripped and bayoneted vertically, or of children sliced up like meat, are credible not only because they are told by so many people, but because they are told by people without sufficient sophistication to make up such stories for political motives. We saw the amputation of a mother’s arm and a child’s foot. These were too far from the border, and gangrene developed from their bullet-wounds. Many saw their daughters raped and the heads of their children smashed in. Some watched their husbands, sons, and grandsons tied up at the wrists and shot in more selective male elimination.

About 400 were killed at Chaudanga while on their way to India, surroun­ded and massacred. Why? Lest they take tales to India? Or because choosing a certain democratic system under Sheikh Mujib means forfeiting the right to live in any country?”

May 28: Letter from President Nixon to Pakistani President Yahya talks about humanitarian aids not about the Pak atrocities.

May 29: Interview with PM Tajuddin Ahmed

May 30: Bangladesh Home Minister reacts on President Yahya’s speech

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