Dead Reckoning by Sarmila Bose: This ground-breaking book chronicles the 1971 war in South Asia by reconstituting the memories of those on opposing sides of the conflict. 1971 was marked by a bitter civil war within Pakistan and war between India and Pakistan, backed respectively by the Soviet Union and the United States. It was fought over the territory of East Pakistan, which seceded to become Bangladesh. Through a detailed investigation of events on the ground, Sarmila Bose contextualises and humanises the war while analysing what the events reveal about the nature of the conflict itself. The story of 1971 has so far been dominated by the narrative of the victorious side. All parties to the war are still largely imprisoned by wartime partisan mythologies. Bose reconstructs events via interviews conducted in Bangladesh and Pakistan, published and unpublished reminiscences in Bengali and English of participants on all sides, official documents, foreign media reports and other sources. Her book challenges assumptions about the nature of the conflict, and exposes the ways in which the 1971 war is still playing out in the region.
Product code: 455601, ISBN13: 9781849040495, 288 pages, paperback, Published by C Hurst & Co Publishers Ltd in 2011
SARMILA BOSE is Senior Research Fellow in the Politics of South Asia at the University of Oxford. She was a political journalist in India and combines academic and media work. She was educated at Bryn Mawr College and Harvard University.
Here is a dose of sanity from Sarmila Bose:
Ms. Sarmila Bose in her paper entitled “Losing the Victims: Problems of Using Women as Weapons in Recounting the Bangladesh War” paints a picture of the Pakistani military as a disciplined force that spared women and children. She writes:
During my field research on several incidents in East Pakistan during 1971, Bangladeshi participants and eyewitnesses described battles, raids, massacres and executions, but told me that women were not harmed by the army in these events except by chance such as in crossfire. The pattern that emerged from these incidents was that the Pakistan Army targeted adult males while sparing women and children.
She also quotes the passage from the Hamoodur Rahman Commission Report that I cited above to support her assertion that so many rapes could not have occurred. 20,000-34,000 could not have raped 200,000 to 400,000 women in the space of nine months.
She states in the introduction:
That rape occurred in East Pakistan in 1971 has never been in any doubt. The question is what was the true extent of rape, who were the victims and who the perpetrators and was there any systematic policy of rape by any party, as opposed to opportunistic sexual crimes in times of war.
To try to bolster her argument that the Pakistani forces in Bangladesh could not have raped so many women, she claims:
The number of West Pakistani armed forces personnel in East Pakistan was about 20,000 at the beginning of the conflict, rising to 34,000 by December. Another 11,000 men — civil police and non-combat personnel — also held arms.
For an army of 34,000 to rape on this scale in eight or nine months (while fighting insurgency, guerrilla war and an invasion by India), each would-be perpetrator would have had to commit rape at an incredible rate.
There are numerous reports out there now which negates the well-established beliefs. The declassified US reports, Indian military officers’ account, Pakistan military officers’ account, General Niazi’s memoirs, Sharmila Bose, Hamoodurahman commission report.
Pakistan Military officers fought hard. Many foreign correspondents speak well of their bravery. It is the bravery of a Muslim soldier that Indian Military got tough fight. These Pakistani Mard-e-Momin fought so hard that they had almost regained the control of East Pakistan from the dirty hands of Mukti-Bahini. When India saw this, She then started the military action which resulted in the fall of Dhaka.
Then Mujib showed his true colors after the formation of Bangladesh with his BAKSAL party. How he became authoritative and usurped democracy is not a secret anymore. He was going to make Bangladesh part of India that he was killed timely by the Pakistani military officers (yes those Bengalis who never gave up allegiance to Pakistan. I stand in honour for them).
In the end, 1971 was an ephemeral event for Bharat. It forced Pakistan to go Nuclear, and the events of 1971 created parity between Bharat which is 9 times bigger than its neighbour, and Pakistan. It also focused Pakistan towards Central Asia, blocking trade of Bharat with the region north of the Amu Darya. The events of 1971 created turmoil in Afghanistan, and an overconfident USSR, encouraged by Bharati policy makers ventured into Afghanistan. Exactly 20 years after the events of December 16th, 1971, the USSR imploded. On 17th December 1971 the USSR ceased to exist. Pakistan had exacted its revenge on the Soviet Union for assisting Bharat. The events of 1971 also created a huge schism between Bharat and China which has not been bridged, despite the fact that China uses Bharat as a mining colony taking raw materials and exporting back shoddy Chinese goods which it cannot export to the West.
1971 was the worst form of terror in this century. The fact that the West tolerated the Bharati plan of sending 80,000 armed terrorists disguised as Pakistani soldiers into Bengal to create havoc with the local population is a fact that lives in ignominy. The West sanctified Bharati aggression and stood back and watched the disintegration of a state which the US had two Executive Defense pacts and was also tied into defense agreements in SEATO and CENTO.
1971 led to Pakistan’s JF-17 Thunder and Nuclear and Missile programs which have created colossal headaches for Bharat and others that have supported it. Because of the nuclear weapons, the US could not invade Pakistan, like it invaded Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. The American defeat in Afghanistan is a direct result of the events of 1971 and Pakistan’s nuclear status. As the US begins to leave the area before 2014, the inevitable union of Afghanistan and Pakistan will ensure robust trade with Central Asia and strategic depth for Pakistan and Afghanistan both.
1971 halted economic growth in South Asia. Bharat was a pariah nation for a decade after that–and the entire region has still to recover from the effects. Bangladesh has half the GDP of Pakistan. Bharat has been unable to convince Pakistan to allow it a land route to Iran and Europe. The economic cost of the barrier to Bharati trade is colossal.
1971 galvanized Kashmir and tied down 800,000 Bharati soldiers and the militancy rages on affecting the rest of Bharat. The entire region became radicalized, and Asama dn the Naxals control large swathes of Bharati territory where there is no writ of the Central Government.
1971 gave rise to fundamentalism in Bharat. With the rise of the BJP and RSS, the nature of the Bharati landscape has changed. Its clash with the West is inevitable and will bring tragic results to South Asia.
The events of 1971 brought about the Oil embargo on the West with a decade of recession and malaise which radicalized America and moved it to the right. The events of 1971 radicalized Arab youth, and created the OBLs of the world. The events of 971 brought about two Martial Laws in Pakistan which led to various issues in the society and for the region. It allowed the US claim a stake in the neighbourhood.
1971 radicalized Bharati society and created militant Muslim groups in Bharat. The Indian Mujahideen and SIMI and others will continue to grow in the slum infested waters of penury and poverty.
The events of 1971 galvanized the Naxal insurrection in Bharat and the Maoist insurgency in Nepal, deeply affecting Bharat.
The vents of 1971 forced Pakistan to look westward. It now thinks of South Asia as its past the Central and West Asia as its future.
1971 consolidated Pakistan as never before, and with the discovery of Coal and Gold reserves, the country is re-evaluating its political landscape and bringing in new leadership to deal with the new realities of prosperity and growth.
In the end Bangladesh also became a belligerent state for Bharat, deeply impacting the demographics of West Bengal, which is now headed towards Muslim majority status. Bangladesh itself is in a Civil war with itself. Right after 1971, Mujib, the Indian agent declared himself dictator for life and banned all the political parties that existed. On 14th August 1974 patriotic patriots killed Mujib and threw his body in the streets for days. They killed all members of the Mujib family. In a dramatic reversal of events, Bhart’s “Rakhi Bahni” which had planned to incorporate Bangladesh into an Indian province was thrown out of Bangladesh, the treaty of friendship was torn up and Delhi’s dream of taking over Muslim Bengal never materialized.
The events of 1971 laid bare the intentions of the US, and its lack of support. This has led to a colossal tide of anti-Americanism in Pakistan and the region which is detrimental to America and Europe. Eventually China and Russia were the beneficiaries of this sort of avoidable negativity.
The Bangladeshis resurrected the Two Nation Theory, and refused to join West Bengal. Despite persecution of the Islamic forces, Bangladesh remains a deeply religious nation and has better relations with Islamabad than it has with Delhi. The suppression of Islam in Bangladesh has created a time-bomb that will affect the entire Northeast region.
The events of 1971 have led to a large presence of Chinese forces and possibly bases in Pakistan. Islamabad constructed two new ports, an effort unparalleled in the history of the world.