March 30 & 31, 1971
THE BATTLE OF KUSHTIA
At 4:00am on March 30, 1971, Bangladeshi forces, comprising East Pakistan Rifles (EPR), police and civilians under the leadership of Abu Osman Chowdhury, then a major and commander of the fourth wing of EPR, attacked the Pakistan occupation army in Kushtia from three sides. The Pakistani soldiers apparently panicked at the thought of being engulfed by so many thousands of furious Bangalees. They started fleeing the outposts and, subsequently, took shelter at the district headquarters. The Pakistan army suffered heavy casualties in their retreat. By the end of the day Bangladeshi forces took control of the whole of Kushtia except district headquarters and its adjacent areas. The war continued next day. Bangalee forces reclaimed Kushtia, and only a few Pakistan army men managed to escape the district town alive.
A detailed report on this furious resistance was published in the Time magazine on April 19, 1971.
INDIRA PLEDGES SUPPORT FOR BANGLADESH
On March 31, Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi moved a resolution in parliament strongly criticising the military action in Bangladesh. She demanded an immediate end to the violence "which amounts to genocide". She also promised "whole-hearted sympathy and support" for the people of "East Bengal".
Earlier, Indian Foreign Minister Swaran Singh's tepid tone as to India's response to the events in Bangladesh was criticised in parliament. There was growing pressure, both inside and outside the parliament, on the government to do something. The demand for recognising Bangladesh as an independent state was also quite strong. But Indira's government took a cautious approach. Indira insisted on following "proper international norms" since any hasty step against Pakistan, a member of the UN, would be unlikely to find favour internationally.
Over the next two weeks, India's policy on the Bangladesh crisis began to take shape within this cautious framework. [Srinath Raghavan, 1971: A Global History of the Creation of Bangladesh, Permanent Black, 2013, pg. 61]
TAJUDDIN ENTERS INDIA
Tajuddin Ahmad and Amirul Islam crossed over to India in the early hours of March 30, 1971. They met senior Border Security Force (BSF) officer in West Bengal, Golok Majumdar, at the border post. Tajuddin briefed on the situation in Bangladesh and handed over a list of Awami League leaders and members of the National Assembly. Later they were driven to the airport in Kolkata where they met Director General of BSF KF Rustamji, who had arrived posthaste from Delhi.
On March 30, 1971, American Consul General Archer K Blood in Dhaka, sent a telegram to the US State Department. After providing gory details of the Pakistan army's brutality in Dhaka University, the telegram read: Question of whether university professors subject of pre-planned purge still unanswered although actively being looked into. Academics met since military crackdown fearful for safety and in hiding. They believe they [are] subject to elimination. Systematic destruction of academic records at university suggests campaign underway to erase all traces [of] current "trouble making" generation at Dacca university. Figure of thousand dead at university nonetheless strikes us as exaggerated, although nothing these days is inconceivable.
Shamsuddoza Sajen is a journalist and researcher. He can be contacted at email@example.com