In 1971, when the war was going on in Bangladesh, a neighboring country, India and the common people of the country extended a helping hand. The history of the cooperation of the people of India is significant and glorious. About one crore people migrated and took refuge in India. Not only that, India got involved in a bloody war for the liberation of the people of another land. The soil and people of West Bengal, Tripura, Assam, and Meghalaya were directly involved in the liberation war of Bangladesh. On one hand, the Government of India gave shelter to the refugees, on the other hand, various places in the state became training centers for the Liberation Army. This is how India started directly contributing to the liberation war of Bangladesh in 1971.Bangladesh’s border with India is the fifth largest international border in the world. Most of the refugees entered India due to brutal Pakistani army operations. From March 1971 to December 16, a total of 98 lakh 99 thousand 305 refugees entered various Indian states from Bangladesh. The government of India has to take responsibility for this huge number of uprooted people. It was a big challenge for the common people and the government of India.
The struggle of Bengali people against 23 long years of military oppression and injustice took place in 1971. Inevitably, the greatest devastation in history and the liberation war of Bengali, which was achieved at the cost of millions of lives, began. At the same time, seventy-one years are very respectable for the people of neighboring India. Although all the activities of the liberation war were conducted on the soil of East Bengal, former East Pakistan or Bangladesh, the preparations for the war were completed on the land bordering India, with the full cooperation of the government and people of all levels. About one crore people of Bangladesh took refuge on Indian soil to escape the indiscriminate killings and brutal persecution by the invading Pakistani troops, which was the largest refugee crisis in world history. The contribution of the Indian government under the leadership of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi as well as the people and armed forces of the country in this historical event is an integral part of the history of the liberation war of Bangladesh.
In 1971, various states of India, including West Bengal, held regular marches and meetings in support of the liberation war of freedom fighters against the repression of Pakistan forces in Bangladesh. Not only that; but rather, the people of India played a vocal role in demanding the recognition of Bangladesh. Every day, groups of men and women came to India as refugees with a bun on their heads. Providing food, clothing and food for these people was quite a challenge. An average of 40,000 refugees enter India every day. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi landed at Bagdogra Airport on May 16, 1971 and visited Haldibari and Dewanganj refugee camps from there. She told the refugees that India is a poor country and the people of India are also poor; Still, India will serve these refugees to the best of its ability. The prime minister uttered those words while visiting the Haldibari refugee camp at that time. The Prime Minister spoke very briefly at the refugee camps. But there was no excess in her speech. She did not forget to remind the refugees that they have become one of India’s many problems, Yet India considers it its own affair.
Common people and political leaders of the said region extended their helping hand. In addition to providing accommodation, food is provided. In India in the 1970s, those who worked all day in refugee camps. Analyzing the overall situation, India became the last refuge of thousands of refugees in 1971. Along with the West Bengal state administration, the rich, the poor and the caste religion stood by the side for the independence of Bangladesh. This contribution is not insignificant; Rather, it is the biggest in history.Most of the political parties in India and the general public expressed their sympathy and support quite strongly for the liberation war of Bangladesh. The Indian government, its people and various voluntary organizations provided overall support to the people of Bangladesh during the liberation war, including shelter, food and medical care. At the same time, the brave freedom fighters of Bangladesh cooperated in various ways including training and building world opinion. Almost all of India’s poets, writers, educationists, and artists became involved in the liberation war. India recognized Bangladesh on December 6, 1971, 10 days before the victory in the Great Liberation War. India is one of the first countries to establish diplomatic relations with Bangladesh.
We can describe India’s cooperation in the liberation war of Bangladesh in several ways. Firstly, providing asylum to Bangladeshis seeking asylum in India. Providing food, medicine etc. for them. Secondly, help in setting up youth camps and initial camps and training of youth participating in Mukti Bahini. Thirdly, all kinds of support including training, arms, and logistics to the regular forces sector commander troops.Fourthly, cooperation in setting up the independent Bengali radio station. Fifthly, mass communication and mass media help promote Bangladesh’s freedom struggle, the rationale for establishing an independent sovereign state, and the unjustified and unjustified attacks against us by Pakistani forces. Sixth, to provide all kinds of support to the People’s Republic of Bangladesh government in exile Mujibnagar government. Seventhly, to cooperate with the regional administration under this government. Soon after the genocide started on March 25, 1971, the demand for recognition of Bangladesh as an independent state became strong throughout India. On March 27, members of all parties, including the then Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi, spoke condemning the brutality of Pakistani soldiers in both houses of the Indian Parliament, Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.
The Prime Minister of India Indira Gandhi said in a speech in the joint session of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha on March 27, “Our people cannot but strongly condemn the unprecedented torture of unarmed and innocent people very close to our territory. The support and heartfelt sympathy for this great struggle and sacrifice of the people of East Bengal will continue.On March 31, 1971, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in the Lok Sabha of India congratulated the uprising of seven and a half crore people of East Bengal and assured them of all kinds of cooperation. The Lok Sabha resolution said that India is demanding Pakistan stop using force on the people of Bangladesh, showing respect for peace and human dignity.
A motion of concern and censure was raised in the Lok Sabha and passed unanimously. Apart from strongly condemning the genocide in Bangladesh by Pakistan, the hope of victory in the just struggle of the people of East Bengal was expressed.India’s renowned musician Pandit Ravishankar was in Los Angeles, USA at that time. He and George Harrison organized the Bangladesh Concert and raised $100,000 for UNICEF for children in refugee camps. Internationally renowned artists like Maqbool Fida Hussain painted pictures of Bangladesh’s liberation war and roamed the streets of Mumbai to inspire common people to help refugees.
Renowned artists like Bikash Bhattacharya, Prakash Karmakar, Shyamal Dutta Roy, Ganesh Pine stood on the footpath for months after drawing pictures of Bangladesh and delivered the money received from the sale to the refugee camps. Artist Bandhan Das gave up painting and went to a refugee camp to open a medical center with a doctor friend.Annadashankar Roy, Maitreyi Devi, Dipendranath Bandyopadhyay, Shantimoy Roy, Subhash Mukhopadhyay, Pranab Ranjan Roy, Tarun Sanyal, Professor Dilip Chakraborty, Nirmal Chakraborty, Dr. Fullernu Guha, Dilip Basu, Ila Mitra, Ramen Mitra, Abdur Rahman, Dr. Renowned poets, writers and intellectuals like Gani, Gautam Chattopadhyay collected money from the house to house. Artists like Neeren Sengupta, Dhiraj Chowdhury, Jagdish Dey, Bimal Dasgupta exhibited in Delhi, Bombay and Kolkata and donated money from the sale of their pictures to the Bangladesh Fund.
India should come out of such a combative attitude. In other words, America could not support India’s plan to declare war against Pakistan. At that time, Kissinger did not exactly come to India. He was going to China. Nixon is trying to thaw the ice with China.In 1971, Indira Gandhi met the statesmen of various countries to give full support and recognition to Bangladesh as a sovereign state and to tell the world why India was doing it. She prepared her field so that other countries also came to her side in support of India.On December 6, 1971, Indira Gandhi announced a very significant decision in the birth history of Bangladesh amid huge cheers in the Parliament of the country. She said India has decided to recognize the People’s Republic of Bangladesh after careful consideration. She further said, “We have not taken this decision in a hurry or impulsively.”
Seeing the spontaneous uprising and the all-out resistance struggle of the masses, we feel that Pakistan will never be able to control the people of Bangladesh again. Before Gandhi’s speech was over, all the Indian representatives present in the Parliament shouted ‘Joy Bangla’, and ‘Joy Bangladesh’ in unison. Everyone congratulated the new state.Bangladesh was recognized by India on December 6, 1971, through the armed war of Bengali freedom fighters led by the first government of independent Bangladesh. During the liberation war, 1 crore Bangladeshi refugees took refuge in India to save their lives from the torture and torture of the Pakistani forces and their domestic allies. India’s formal recognition on 6 December 1971 was regarded as a diplomatic masterstroke.
On January 10, 1972, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman stopped for a few hours on his way back home from London after being released from a Pakistani prison at the request of Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. He expressed deep gratitude to Indira Gandhi for supporting Bangladesh in the liberation war, creating international pressure, and shaping public opinion.Addressing a public meeting organized in honor of Bangabandhu, Indira Gandhi said to the people of India, “Sheikh Mujibur Rahman promised his people freedom and he gave it.” I promised to repatriate the Bangladeshi refugees with dignity, to give all possible help to the freedom fighters and to release the undisputed leader of Bangladesh Sheikh Mujibur Rahman from the Pakistani jail. I have also kept my promise.”
Bangabandhu said in his historic speech at the inaugural session of the Bangladesh Constituent Assembly on April 10, 1972, “If I do not speak about the Government of India, injustice will be done.” When the people of our country left their homes in fear of their lives and went to India on foot with their small children, we remember with respect the people of India, the people of West Bengal, the people of Meghalaya, Tripura and Assam, especially the government of Indira Gandhi. Because they have pulled our public. Remembering all the soldiers of the Indian Army, who fought alongside our freedom fighters.
The liberation war of Bangladesh created an unprecedented stir throughout India. The appeal of the non-sectarian democratic spirit of the Bengali freedom struggle was very strong in contrast to the torture and persecution of the Pakistani forces. Which motivates Indian political parties, the general public, socio-cultural organizations, and various voluntary organizations. The Government of India took the necessary initiatives to assist the Indian Allies in the War of Liberation, to provide India’s overall support to the Government in Exile, and to resettle the refugees.
Hiren Pandit is a columnist
and a researcher.