What happened on Friday, July 23, 1971
On Lt. Mahbub’s orders, a 15-member commando platoon of the Mukti Bahini (freedom fighters) launched a surprise attack on the Pak army’s Mia Bazar camp. In the hour-long battle, 20 Pak soldiers were killed and 10 wounded. At the end of the successful operation, the freedom fighters returned to their bases safely.
An ambush team of the Mukti Bahini in Kasba attacked a large contingent of Pak soldiers near Kalyan Sagar. In this attack, 20 Pak soldiers and 1 collaborator were killed and 8 others were injured. After 2/3 hours of fighting, the Pak army soldiers dispersed and the freedom fighters returned to their bases.
A guerrilla group of the Mukti Bahini attacked the Barakhata base of the Pak army at Kurigram. This led to a fierce battle between the two sides. Sepoy Anwar Hossain, a freedom fighter, was martyred in this battle.
Under the leadership of Commander Abdul Haque, 41 freedom fighters destroyed the Nagla Bridge built on the Phulpur-Haluaghat road. At around midnight, the freedom fighters approached the Nagla Bridge and open fire, causing the Razakars guarding the bridge to flee. The freedom fighters destroyed the Nagla Bridge without any resistance.
At noon, an important power line in Siddhirganj was successfully destroyed. The guerrillas first defused 45 anti-personnel mines planted by the enemy.
Democratic Party Senator Stuart Simmington accused the US Senate administration of deliberately not stopping the supply of arms to Pakistan. He said that the arms shipments to Pakistan that had begun could be stopped as a matter of legal right. But the administration had not made that decision on purpose.
Muslim League leader Kazi Quader said, “Pakistan will remain indivisible forever; there is no power able to divide Pakistan. Sheikh Mujib wanted to divide Pakistan. That is why the Muslim League has always opposed the Awami League. Sheikh Mujib’s ‘Joy Bangla’ slogan will not last on Pakistani soil.”
Syed Manjurul Ahsan, secretary of the parliamentary board of the Nezam –e- Islami Party, and Maulana Abdul Matin, joint secretary, called on the ulema community to actively cooperate with the armed forces and to preach the country’s fundamental ideology to the people. In a joint statement, they praised the timely action taken by the Pakistan Armed Forces to thwart the conspiracy to divide Pakistan and lauded their important role in eradicating anti-state elements. “Gratitude alone will not solve our problems,” the two leaders said in a statement. “What is most needed at the moment is our full cooperation with the administration to expedite the progress of the national reconstruction work.” In the statement, they praised the sense of responsibility of the Razakars.
A lengthy report appeared on the front page of the “Mail” in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Writing about the millions of refugees in Bangladesh, the correspondent Som Sort asked: “What more could have happened than what had happened in Bangladesh? I don’t think there is a need for more evidence to understand or believe that something terrible has happened and is still happening in Bangladesh,” the report said. “I understand that there is a terrible conspiracy behind the policies and activities of the Pakistani government,” said Som Sort, who had witnessed the events in Bangladesh. “The brutality of the West Pakistanis is increasing; the longer the war lasts, the more destruction and death will there be in Bangladesh. People in all countries of the world now know a little bit about what is happening here, but why can’t we force our respective governments to put pressure on Pakistan? – Is there no end to this bloodbath?”
According to a report in the New York Wall Street Journal, “The war in East Pakistan, regardless of religion, caste or poverty, is a dilemma, with no impending solution at the moment. The citizens are struggling to survive, the Bengali people are being brutally oppressed under military rule, but what the problem is, there is no answer to that question. In a town in East Pakistan, a doctor sits in his roadside chamber every day, occasionally looking outside in the hope of a patient, where there is now only dust, looted shops and broken bits and pieces of houses. Occasionally some vehicles with UNICEF signs, but loaded with West Pakistani troops that patrol the streets, but no other people are seen on the streets. The doctor himself is still sitting in the chamber, only because he has been instructed (by the army) to do so. His family is hiding somewhere outside the city. He whispers when he speaks because any passerby on the street could be a spy. At night, when the army knocks on the doors of different houses in the neighborhood, he fears that one day his name may be on that list. Talking about what is happening in the city now, about the rotting corpses lying on the streets, fires engulfing house after house, the looting, the rapes and the ongoing terror, the doctor said in a whisper, ”We are afraid, to tell the truth. Those who tell the truth are punished, and the only punishment is death,” he said. This doctor is furthermore concerned for his former colleagues because he is a former army officer. But his real crime is to be born in a land known as the land of the Bengalis, but which is also a part of Pakistan. Now, this land is just a kingdom of death and fear. The civil war in East Pakistan has been going on for less than four months, but the cause of the war has become more or less well known. The geographical, historical source of this war, the causes – everything has been washed away in a flood of blood. There is no exact figure of how many people have died in East Pakistan since March 25. Western diplomats say the numbers range from a minimum of 200,000 to a maximum of 1 million. It was a political movement of the Bengalis, rooted in opposition to the continuation by the West Pakistanis of economic and political exploitation going on for nearly two decades. This became even more pronounced in March when the Awami League party won the elections and a prospect of autonomy for East Pakistan arose. But on the night of March 25, fearing that the Bengalis were demanding independence, the Pakistani army attacked the East Pakistani capital, Dhaka. They killed Bengali students, arrested politicians and banned the Awami League. Panicked Bengalis are being ruled by the army and living under strict martial law. West Pakistani authorities keep saying that everything is normal. But the financial situation is in dire straits, factories are out of order, schools are closed, roads are mostly empty, and most of the city dwellers have left the city. Millions of Bengalis, especially Hindu and middle-class Muslim families are hiding in the villages. Even now around fifty thousand refugees are fleeing to India every day. The Mukti Bahini or the Bengali guerrilla liberation forces, which have the intense support of the Bengali people, are constantly engaged in clashes with the army. Poverty, neglect, and despair led to similar wars in the Congo and Algeria. People are killing each other not only for political reasons but also in the name of religion and caste. As per Muslim philosophy, ancient precepts like an eye for an eye, or a tooth for a tooth may also be said to be the cause of such hatred. The army is killing the Bengali people; about 2 million non-Bengali minorities support the army. In turn, the Bengalis are killing the Biharis (non-Bengali minority). About 10 million minority Hindus are being slaughtered at the hands of the army. Even some Bengali Muslims are happily participating in this massacre. Taking advantage of this scattered unrest, many villages, factions, or individuals are attacking each other in the hope of financial gain or pursuit of personal vendettas. This information comes straight from people who have been inside East Pakistan. Like the doctor, Bengalis are erasing their previous identities or their addresses in the city. Bengalis do not even speak to journalists for fear of losing their lives. Most do not open their mouths, not even a beggar dares to beg from a stranger. These Bengali people, naturally one of the most vocal and hospitable in the world, now communicate most of the time through eye contact.
In a statement to the Senate on the situation in East Pakistan, Senator McGovern said, “Mr. President, we should be aware of the current situation of bloodshed and repression in East Pakistan. The land, devastated by last year’s cyclone, is now the scene of officially conducted violence. The current chaotic state of East Pakistan, where most people are hiding in rural areas and more than 7 million people have fled the country, is very liable to suffer from famine. At the moment, the most appropriate American step is not to continue financial aid, but to provide medical equipment, grains and other food items for the Bengalis under the auspices of the Red Cross or any other international organization. This huge influx of refugees has damaged India’s resources. We should extend our support to these humanitarian activities in India to help the Bengali refugees. Food and medical supplies for Indians and allocated refugee relief funds should be approved so that they can address the deep crisis they face.”
According to World Press Review on Bangladesh, an English language program which aired on Shadhin Bangla Betar Kendra, “On the night of March 25, the army came, surrounded Bangabandhu’s house and started firing. Strong in moral character, Sheikh Mujib came out on the balcony and told the army officer to arrest him and stop this meaningless shooting. Pakistan will wreak even greater havoc here when they realize that they can no longer control Bangladesh. They have barely managed to control the cities of Bangladesh by spending a lot of money and troops. But the Mukti Bahini, which has become increasingly aggressive, is making the cost of doing so ever more miserable.”
Translated by Mohammad Towhidul Islam
Editorial contribution by Arghya Raihan
Researched, compiled & Edited by Sagar Lohani
Other days of Roaring 1971: