We are at the dawn of the golden jubilee year of India’s spectacular victory against Pakistan in an all-out war, fought on two fronts, bringing an end to the atrocities and carnage perpetrated by Pakistan on a peace-loving people in erstwhile East Pakistan. It is time to remember and reflect upon the sacrifices, complexity of stakes and decisions that altered the course of the Indian sub-continent’s history, besides redrawing its geography. Significantly, India catapulted itself as a power to be reckoned with in the world order. On December 16-17, 1971, over 92,000 West Pakistani soldiers, sailors, airmen, paramilitary personnel, policemen and civilians surrendered to India in East Pakistan, ending 24 years of Pakistani rule. Bangladesh was finally liberated!
The sacrifices were immense: 12,189 personnel of India’s armed forces were either killed, reported missing or wounded with lifelong disabilities.
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The estimate of Bangladeshi people killed ranges from three lakhs to three million. The death toll of Bangladeshis rose steeply in the months preceding the war, due to the genocide committed by Pakistani Army, aided by pro-Pakistani militias. This planned military crackdown, codenamed Operation Searchlight, was directed by Pakistan President Yahya Khan to crush the Bengali nationalist movement, with the ‘H hour’ set at 0100 hours on March 26, 1971. Almost concomitantly, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman declared independence.
Another disastrous fallout of Pakistan Army’s massacre was the massive influx of refugees from East Pakistan to India—the number touched 10 million in just four months. By June 3, 1971, the 509 refugee camps set up...