The Diaspora engagement in the war

India

blc-poster.jpgThe Bangladesh Liberation Council of the Intelligentsia was an organization of displaced teachers, scientists, poets, artists, writers, journalists and actors of Bangladesh who managed to escape the wrath of the Pakistani army during the war. The council was formed with the objective of supporting the war efforts of the Bangladesh Government, to press to the attention of the world our case for independence, to document crimes of the Pakistan Army, to do educational work among our freedom fighters, and to find for their members means of subsistence while they work for the liberation movement.

The documents are hosted in Virtual Bangladesh courtesy of Dr. Bilayet Hussain, then reader of Physics at Dhaka University, and the Joint Secretary of the Council.

UK

On receipt of information of genocidal attack on 25th March, non-resident Bengalees organized protest rallies in major cities of UK. A huge rally was held on 4th April at Hyde Park in London and memorandum was submitted to Prime Minister Edward Heath’s office at 10, Dawning Street. On 24th April at a meeting held at Coventry, Steering Committee of Bangladesh Action Committee for People’s Republic of Bangladesh was formed with Justice Abu Sayeed Chowdhury as Chairman. They also formed a Trust Fund with Justice Abu Sayeed Chowdhury, John Stone House MP and Donald Chesworth as Trustee. Fund was sent to help refugees and support freedom fighters. (Liberation War Museum)

Political organisations had been set up in London in the 1960′s, and with the ‘Agarthala Conspiracy Case’ (a false case framed by the Pakistani Government to imprison Sheikh Mujibur Rahman who was advocating the rights of Bengalis) in 1966, they were able to send British lawyer and QC Sir Thomas Williams to defend Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and others charged with treason. Mass demonstrations held all over the then East Pakist an and Britain eventually led to their unconditional release.

The centre of activity during this period was London where most of the Bengali community lived. From March to December 1971, activities organised closely reflected the events unfolding in Bangladesh.

The height of activity in London came after the election victory of Awami League (the party demanding autonomy for the Bengalis) in Pakistan. The worst fears of the Bengali people were realised as it became evident that West Pakist an wasn’t going to hand over power to the democratically elected leaders of East Bengal (East Pakistan). The West Pakistani regime was willing to kill and torture the people of Bangladesh into compliance.

In response to this wave of brutality , wherever there was a Bengali community in the UK, an action committee appeared to support the freedom movement in Bangladesh.

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Crowd of protestors at a rally in Trafalgar square, London, calling for an end to the genocide in Bangladesh.

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During the long summer and autumn months leading to victory on the 16th of December 1971, weekly demonstrations, rallies and fundraising event s were held throughout the UK. The main aim was to raise the plight of the Bengali people. MPs, conference delegates and the public were lobbied; funds were raised for the refugees in India and supplies sent to the war front.

During this time, there were many heroic acts, sacrifices and hardships endured by the Bengalis in the UK. Supporters went on hunger strikes and held all night vigils outside the Pakistani Embassy and the British Parliament. Whole weeks’ wages, food and clothing were given for the cause.

Suffering verbal threat s and physical attack for standing up for their beliefs was part and parcel of the Bengali peoples’ struggle in Britain. The Pakistani Government took away student grants, passport s and did all in its power to intimidate the Bengalis in Britain. But their commitment, courage and determination to free the people of Bangladesh from Pakistan’s tyranny couldn’t be shaken. Many went to fight in the war, willing to give their lives for an independent Bangladesh.

- Bangladesh Freedom Movement in the UK – Razia Shariff

USA

On 21st March 1971, East Pakistan League of America was renamed as Bangladesh League of America. A huge rally was held on 29th March at pavement of Capital Hill in Washington DC. Memorandum was submitted to President Nixon and UN Secretary General U Thant. They sent letters to all leading Senators and Congressmen presenting Pakistan atrocities and for supporting independence of Bangladesh. Funds were collected and sent to support liberation war. They also regularly published Newsletters on updated informations of liberation war of 22 Bengalee diplomats working in Pakistan Embassy defected expressing allegiance to Bangladesh government with. (Liberation war Museum)

Under the joint sponsordhip of Bangladesh League of America, Bangladesh Friendship Association and Joint Committee of Indian Organization, a mass rally for the support of the cause of Bangladesh was held in New York in June 12, 1971. An estimated 1000 people attended the rally. (Source)

Copy of letter sent to different American newspapers by the Bangladesh League of America – Page 1, Page 2.

Japan:

“Japan was one of the foremost countries to accord earl iest recognition to Bangladesh. Formal diplomatic relations between Japan and Bangladesh were established on February 10th 1972. During those nine-month of liberation struggle Japan was so supportive of Bangladesh that even the school children saved their Tiffin money for the suffering Bangladeshi people in a rare gesture of friendship and compassion for the distressed humanity.

However, all this support and sympathy was not generated overnight. As for increa sing public support and mobilizing public opinion in Japan, one man played a great catalyst role. He was Mr. Sheikh Ahmed Jalal. He studied in Japan in the 1960s under Japanese government scholarship. Upon receiving instructions from the Bangladesh Government in Exile as early as May 1971, he vigorously participated in the public opinion mobilization campaign. During this time, he active ly maintained unofficial contacts with the Japanese government authorities, and carried out energetic lobbying among the civil society and general masses of Japan, contributing immensely to early recognition of independent Bangladesh by the Government of Japan. He did his utmost to mobilize support in Japan in favor of the war, the freedom fighters, the displaced people and the refugees of Bangladesh.

A man with deep patriotism and diverse talents, he was at the same time a scholar and a journalist with Radio Japan’s Bengali Service for 12 years and wrote regular columns on Japan for leading East Pakistan dailies from 1962 to 1970.”

- From the address of H.E. Mr. Matsushiro Horiguchi, Ambasador of Japan in Bangladesh