Bangladesh Liberation War

conflict that led to the independence of the majority-Bengali country

The Bangladesh Liberation War (Bengali: মুক্তিযুদ্ধ Muktijuddho), also known as the Bangladesh War of Independence, or simply the Liberation War in Bangladesh, was a revolution and armed conflict sparked by the rise of the Bengali nationalist and self-determination movement in what was then East Pakistan and the 1971 Bangladesh genocide. It resulted in the independence of the People's Republic of Bangladesh. The war began after the Pakistani military junta based in West Pakistan launched Operation Searchlight against the people of East Pakistan on the night of 25 March 1971. It pursued the systematic elimination of nationalist Bengali civilians, students, intelligentsia, religious minorities and armed personnel. The junta annulled the results of the 1970 elections and arrested Prime minister-designate Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. The war ended on 16 December 1971 after West Pakistan surrendered.


  • Our government has failed to denounce the suppression of democracy. Our government has failed to denounce atrocities. Our government has failed to take forceful measures to protect its citizens while at the same time bending over backwards to placate the West Pak[istan] dominated government and to lessen any deservedly negative international public relations impact against them. Our government has evidenced what many will consider moral bankruptcy, (...) But we have chosen not to intervene, even morally, on the grounds that the Awami conflict, in which unfortunately the overworked term genocide is applicable, is purely an internal matter of a sovereign state. Private Americans have expressed disgust. We, as professional civil servants, express our dissent with current policy and fervently hope that our true and lasting interests here can be defined and our policies redirected.
    • Archer Blood, "The Blood Telegram" (U.S. Consulate (Dacca) Cable, Dissent from U.S. Policy Toward East Pakistan, April 6, 1971, Confidential, 5 pp. Includes Signatures from the Department of State. Source: RG 59, SN 70-73 Pol and Def. From: Pol Pak-U.S. To: Pol 17-1 Pak-U.S. Box 2535;) DISENT FROM U.S. POLICY TOWARD EAST PAKISTAN (PDF) April 6, 1971
  • The very first Hindu grievance is that Hindus are being killed: in Pakistan and Bangladesh, in Kashmir, during bomb attacks... Among lesser-known types of anti-Hindu aggression, note the use of riots, targeted assassinations and minor forms of pestering... The Hindu death toll in post-Independence riots in East Bengal already outnumbers the Muslim death toll in Hindu-Muslim clashes in the whole of South Asia by far. ... All these riot data are, moreover, dwarfed by the East Bengal genocide of 1971. The first Bangladesh Government estimated the number of people killed by the Pakistanis... at three million. (...) Moreover, Western as well as Indian observers notices that the prime target group were Hindus. (...) The Nehru-Liaqat Pact of 1950, concluded with Pak Prime Minister Liaqat Ali Khan amid mass killing of Hindus in East Bengal, prevents the Government of India from any form of interference when Hindus are maltreated in Pakistan and its partial successor state Bangladesh.
    • Elst, Koenraad (2001). Decolonizing the Hindu mind: Ideological development of Hindu revivalism. New Delhi: Rupa. pp 507-509, 519
  • "Genocide" means the intentional attempt to destroy an ethnic community, or by extension any community constituted by bonds of kinship, of common religion or ideology, of common socio-economic position, or of common race. The pure form is the complete extermination of every man, woman and child of the group... Hindus suffered such attempted extermination in East Bengal in 1971, when the Pakistani Army killed 1 to 3 million people, with Hindus as their most wanted target. This fact is strictly ignored in most writing about Hindu-Muslim relations, in spite (or rather because) of its serious implication that even the lowest estimate of the Hindu death toll in 1971 makes Hindus by far the most numerous victims of Hindu-Muslim violence in the post-colonial period. It is significant that no serious count or religion-wise breakdown of the death toll has been attempted: the Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi ruling classes all agree that this would feed Hindu grievances against Muslims.... While India-watchers wax indignant about communal riots in India killing up to 20,000 people since 1948, allegedly in a proportion of three Muslims to one Hindu, the best-kept secret of the post-Independence Hindu-Muslim conflict is that in the subcontinent as a whole, the overwhelming majority of the victims have been Hindus. Even apart from the 1971 genocide, "ordinary" pogroms in East Pakistan in 1950 alone killed more Hindus than the total number of riot victims in India since 1948.
    • Koenraad Elst, "Was There an Islamic "Genocide" of Hindus?" [1], and in Elst, K. (2010). The saffron swastika: The notion of "Hindu fascism". p 818 ff.
  • [It is] almost entirely a matter of genocide.
    • On June 15, 1971. Kenneth B. Keating, ambassador to India, to R. Nixon and Kissinger. quoted in Gary J. Bass. The Terrible Cost of Presidential Racism Sept. 3, 2020 [2]
  • Field reports to the U.S. Government, countless eye-witness journalistic accounts,reports of International agencies such as World Bank and additional information available to the subcommittee document the reign of terror which grips East Bengal (East Pakistan). Hardest hit have been members of the Hindu community who have been robbed of their lands and shops, systematically slaughtered, and in some places, painted with yellow patches marked "H". All of this has been officially sanctioned, ordered and implemented under martial law from Islamabad. ..'
    • report dated November 1, 1971 Senator Edward Kennedy. Crisis in South Asia - A report by Senator Edward Kennedy to the Subcommittee investigating the Problem of Refugees and Their Settlement,Submitted to U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, November 1, 1971, U.S. Govt.Press, pp.6-7. Quoted in Benkin, Richard L. (2014). A quiet case of ethnic cleansing: The murder of Bangladesh's Hindus., p. 75.
  • The impression that there exists a firm resolve to deny the Hindus even their martyrs is strengthened when we consider cases of mass-slaughter of Hindus, esp. the East Bengal genocide of 1971, of which the death toll was estimated by the first Bangladesh government at 3 million. Cautious researchers estimate the death toll at "one to three million" and list "Hindus" first among the targeted groups. "One to three" million is exactly the range in which the death toll of the Khmer Rouge's Killing Fields is estimated, but thre is just no comparison between the degree to which the Killing Fields entered the collective consciousness .. and that of the East Bengali genocide. And even those who are aware that one of the biggest mass murders of the last half century took place in East Bengal, rarely realize its anti-Hindu character... The best-kept secret of communalism-watching is taht vastly more Hindus than Muslims have been killed.
    • Elst, K. (2010). The saffron swastika: The notion of "Hindu fascism". p 807 ff.
  • The anti-Hindu character of the 1971 massacres is systematically obscured in publications by the Bangladesh Government... as well as by Indian secularists. In the absence of proper research into the exact magnitude of the 1971 massacres, it is perhaps safest provisionally to settle for a cautious estimate of half a million or so Hindus killed. This would still mean that the victims of Hindu-Muslim violence in South Asia since the Partition massacres can be divided asymmetrically in well over 90% Hindus and substantially less than 10% Muslims. Contrary to a widespread impression, the typical victim of Hindu-Muslim violence is a Hindu... Indeed, to readers of the general press, it should come as a surprise: the best-kept secret about South Asia's religious conflict (not mentioned by even one recent non-Hindu author in the copious literature on the Hindu-Muslim conflict) is that the vast majority of victims consists of Hindus. Moreover, the fact that no accurate count is available, is highly significant in itself: the problem in arriving at accurate estimates is that the goverments of Pakistan , India and Bangladesh (and, I am afraid, not only they) discourage serious research into the Hindu death toll in order not to foster anti-Muslim feelings... The net result is that the victimization of Hindus remains unknown.
    • Elst, K. (2010). The saffron swastika: The notion of "Hindu fascism". p 807-12.
  • Nandan Vyas has argued convincingly that the number of Hindu victims in the 1971 genocide was approximately 2.4 million, or about 80%. In comparing the population figures for 1961 and 1971, and taking the observed natural growth rhythm into account, Vyas finds that the Hindu population has remained stable at 9.5 million when it should have increased to nearly 13 million (13.23 million if the same growth rhythm were assumed for Hindus as for Muslims). Of the missing 3.5 million people (if not more), 1.1 million can be explained: it is the number of Hindu refugees settled in India prior to the genocide. The Hindu refugees at the time of the genocide, about 8 million, all went back after the ordeal, partly because the Indian government forced them to it, partly because the new state of Bangladesh was conceived as a secular state; the trickle of Hindu refugees into India only resumed in 1974, when the first steps towards islamization of the polity were taken. This leaves 2.4 million missing Hindus to be explained. Taking into account a number of Hindu children born to refugees in India rather than in Bangladesh, and a possible settlement of 1971 refugees in India, it is fair to estimate the disappeared Hindus at about 2 million.
    • N. Vyas (("Hindu Genocide in East Pakistan", Young India, January 1995)) quoted in Koenraad Elst, "Was There an Islamic "Genocide" of Hindus?" [3] and in Elst, K. (2010). The saffron swastika: The notion of "Hindu fascism".
  • The victims of the Pakistani repression in East Bengal in 1971 (of whom the big majority were Hindus, while the Bengali Muslims too were killed for anti-Hindu reasons, viz. for being "half-Hindu renegades"), like those of the Sultanate and Moghul regimes, have never been properly counted; careerwise, it is suicidal for a scholar to calculate the magnitude of Islam's crimes against humanity. The figure of 3 million is probably too high, but as it was given by a Muslim secularist (Bangladesh founder Mujibur Rahman), and as the secularists themselves have thrown their full weight against a proper study of the magnitude of Islamic massacres of Hindus, they cannot fault us for provisionally sticking to it.
    • Elst, Koenraad. (1997) BJP vis-à-vis Hindu Resurgence
  • On the borders of what was to become East Pakistan, Hindu-Muslim violence in 1947 was far smaller in scale. What happened there was that after a relatively peaceful transition to independence, the Partition process of religious cleansing took place anyway but drawn out over decades. During this "prolonged Partition", there has been a constant trickle of Hindu refugees from East Bengal to India, which became a flood in times of crisis. The biggest crisis was of course the Bangladesh war of 1971, when the Pakistani army and its Bengali and immigrant-Bihari collaborators hunted down Hindus along with Muslim Bengali nationalists. The official death toll as claimed by the Bangladeshi government was 3 million; foreign observers settle for 1.5 million. All disinterested observers agree that Hindus were the first and largest among the victim groups. As for the Muslim victims, they were not killed by Hindus but by Pakistanis and their Jamaat-i-Islami collaborators who killed them for not being Muslim enough.
    • Koenraad Elst: Religious Cleansing of Hindus, 2004, in: Elst, K. The Problem with Secularism (2007)
  • To make you cry I’ll tell you about the twelve young impure men I saw executed at Dacca at the end of the Bangladesh war. They executed them on the field of Dacca stadium, with bayonet blows to the torso or abdomen, in the presence of twenty thousand faithful who applauded in the name of God from the bleachers. They thundered "Allah akbar, Allah akbar." Yes, I know: the ancient Romans, those ancient Romans of whom my culture is so proud, entertained themselves in the Coliseum by watching the deaths of Christians fed to the lions. I know, I know: in every country of Europe the Christians, those Christians whose contribution to the History of Thought I recognize despite my atheism, entertained themselves by watching the burning of heretics. But a lot of time has passed since then, we have become a little more civilized, and even the sons of Allah ought to have figured out by now that certain things are just not done. After the twelve impure young men they killed a little boy who had thrown himself at the executioners to save his brother who had been condemned to death. They smashed his head with their combat boots. And if you don’t believe it, well, reread my report or the reports of the French and German journalists who, horrified as I was, were there with me. Or better: look at the photographs that one of them took. Anyway this isn’t even what I want to underline. It’s that, at the conclusion of the slaughter, the twenty thousand faithful (many of whom were women) left the bleachers and went down on the field. Not as a disorganized mob, no. In an orderly manner, with solemnity. They slowly formed a line and, again in the name of God, walked over the cadavers. All the while thundering Allah–akbar, Allah–akbar. They destroyed them like the Twin Towers of New York. They reduced them to a bleeding carpet of smashed bones.
  • 'Bangla Desh, Bangla Desh
    Where so many people are dying fast
    And it sure looks like a mess
    I've never seen such distress
  • And the students at the university
    Asleep at night quite peacefully
    The soldiers came and shot them in their beds
    And terror took the dorm awakening shrieks of dread
    And silent frozen forms and pillows drenched in red
    Bangladesh, Bangladesh
    Bangladesh, Bangladesh
    When the sun sinks in the west
    Die a million people of the Bangladesh
  • 200,000, 300,000 or possibly 400,000 women (three sets of statistics have been variously quoted) were raped. Eighty percent of the raped women were Moslems, reflecting the population of Bangladesh, but Hindu and Christian women were not exempt. ... Hit-and-run rape of large numbers of Bengali women was brutally simple in terms of logistics as the Pakistani regulars swept through and occupied the tiny, populous land ...Rape in Bangladesh had hardly been restricted to beauty... Girls of eight and grandmothers of seventy-five had been sexually assaulted ... Pakistani soldiers had not only violated Bengali women on the spot; they abducted tens of hundreds and held them by force in their military barracks for nightly use.... Some women may have been raped as many as eighty times in a night
    • Susan Brownmiller, Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape
  • I covered the war and witnessed first the population's joyous welcome of the Indian soldiers as liberators .. Later I toured the country by road to see the Pakistani legacy first hand. In town after town there was an execution area where people had been killed by bayonet, bullet and bludgeon. In some towns, executions were held on a daily basis. This was a month after the war's end (i.e. January 1972), ... human bones were still scattered along many roadsides. Blood stained clothing and tufts of human hair clung to the brush at these killing grounds. Children too young to understand were playing grotesque games with skulls. Other reminders were the yellow "H"s the Pakistanis had painted on the homes of Hindus, particular targets of the Muslim army.
    • The Pakistani Slaughter That Nixon Ignored, Syndicated Column by Sydney Schanberg, New York Times, May 3, 1994. Quoted in Benkin, Richard L. (2014). A quiet case of ethnic cleansing: The murder of Bangladesh's Hindus., p. 75.
  • The human death toll over only 267 days was incredible. Just to give for five out of the eighteen districts some incomplete statistics published in Bangladesh newspapers or by an Inquiry Committee, the Pakistani army killed 100,000 Bengalis in Dacca, 150,000 in Khulna, 75,000 in Jessore, 95,000 in Comilla, and 100,000 in Chittagong. For eighteen districts the total is 1,247,000 killed. This was an incomplete toll, and to this day no one really knows the final toll.
    • R. J. Rummel, Death By Government, p. 331.
  • Hindus were sought out and killed on the spot. As a matter of course, soldiers would check males for the obligated circumcision among Muslims. If circumcised, they might live; if not, sure death.
    • R.J. Rummel, I. Horowitz, Death by Government. 1977. p. 323, quoted in Mohit Roy 2009, quoted in R. Benkin, A quiet case of ethnic cleansing (p. 35) Benkin, Richard L. (2014). A quiet case of ethnic cleansing: The murder of Bangladesh's Hindus.

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