Mukti Bahini

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Mukti Bahini
Freedom Fighters
Participant in the Bangladesh Liberation War
Flag of Bangladesh (1971).svg
Revolutionary Flag of Bangladesh in 1971
Active March – December, 1971
Ideology Bengali nationalism
Groups Bangladesh Army (Z Force, K Force, S Force), Bangladesh Navy, Bangladesh Air Force, Gonobahini, Mujib Bahini, Kader Bahini, Hemayet Bahini
Leaders M. A. G. Osmani, Commander-in-Chief
M. A. Rab, Chief of Staff
A K Khandker, Deputy Chief of Staff
Area of operations West Pakistani-occupied Bangladesh
Strength 150,000[1]
Allies India
Opponents Pakistan
Battles and wars Battle of Gazipur, Battle of Goalhati, Battle of Garibpur, Battle of Dhalai, Battle of Rangamati, Battle of Kushtia, Battle of Daruin, Operation Barisal, Operation Jackpot (partial list)

The Mukti Bahini (Bengali: মুক্তি বাহিনী[2] meaning Freedom Fighters or Liberation Forces;[3] also known as the Bangladesh Forces) is a popular Bengali term which refers to the guerrilla resistance movement formed by East Pakistani military, paramilitary and civilians during the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971. Following the start of Operation Searchlight and the 1971 Bangladesh Genocide by the Pakistan Army on 25 March 1971, Bengali military and paramilitary units revolted across East Pakistan. They were joined by thousands of Bengali civilians from a wide strata of society, including villages and elite urban areas. The Bangladeshi Declaration of Independence was proclaimed from Chittagong by members of the Mukti Bahini on behalf of Prime Minister-elect Sheikh Mujibur Rahman- who was detained by the military junta in West Pakistan.

A formal military leadership took shape in April 1971 under the Provisional Government of Bangladesh. The military council was headed by General M. A. G. Osmani and eleven sector commanders. The Bangladesh Armed Forces were established on 4 April 1971. Aside from regular units like the East Bengal Regiment and the East Pakistan Rifles, the Mukti Bahini also consisted of the civilian Gonobahini (People's Force). The most prominent divisions of the Mukti Bahini were the Z Force led by Major Ziaur Rahman, the K Force led by Major Khaled Mosharraf and the S Force led by Major K M Shafiullah. Awami League student leaders formed militia units like the Mujib Bahini, the Kader Bahini and Hemayet Bahini. Communists led by Comrade Moni Singh and activists from the National Awami Party also operated several guerrilla battalions.

The Mukti Bahini has been compared with the French Resistance, the Yugoslav Partisans and the Viet Cong.[4] Using guerrilla warfare, it controlled large parts of the Bengali countryside during the war. It conducted successful ambush and sabotage campaigns.[5] It included the nascent Bangladesh Air Force and the Bangladesh Navy. The Mukti Bahini received extensive support from India and operated bases in West Bengal and Northeast India, where people shared a common Bengali linguistic and ethnic heritage with East Pakistan.

During the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, the Mukti Bahini became part of the Bangladesh-India Allied Forces. It was instrumental in securing the Surrender of Pakistan and the liberation of Dacca and other cities in December 1971.

Early resistance[edit]

Location of West Pakistani (marked green) and rebel Bangladeshi (marked red) military units in March 1971

When the Pakistan Army started the military crackdown on the Bengali population, they did not expect prolonged resistance.[6] Five battalions of the East Bengal Regiment mutinied and initiated the Bangladesh War of Liberation. The East Pakistan Rifles (EPR) and the East Pakistan Police suffered heavy casualties while challenging the Pakistan Army in Dhaka, where West Pakistani forces began the 1971 Bangladesh Genocide with the Dhaka University massacre. Civilians took control of arms depots in various cities. They began resisting Pakistani forces with the local weapons supply. Chittagong witnessed heavy fighting between rebel Bengali military units and Pakistani forces. The Bangladeshi Declaration of Independence was broadcast from Kalurghat Radio Station in Chittagong by Major Ziaur Rahman.

Bengali forces took control numerous districts in the initial months of the war, including Brahmanbaria, Faridpur, Barisal, Mymensingh, Comilla and Kushtia among others. With the support of the local population, many towns remained under the control of Bengali forces until April and May 1971. Notable engagements during this period included the Battle of Kamalpur, the Battle of Daruin and the Battle of Rangamati-Mahalchari waterway in the Chittagong Hill Tracts.[7] The Pakistan Army retook control of most district capitals by the beginning of the monsoon, after air strikes by the Pakistan Air Force on major Bengali towns; and the arrival of reinforcements across the Bengal delta. Pakistani forces pursued the mass murder of pro-independence citizens, students, intelligentsia and activists to subdue the Bengali population and self-determination movement. War rape, electric shock torture, deportation and persecution of minority Hindus were among the activities perpetrated by the Pakistani military against the liberation movement.

Organization[edit]

Mukti Bahini propaganda posters

M. A. G. Osmani, a Bengali veteran of British Raj forces in World War II, established the Bangladesh Armed Forces on 4 April 1971. The Provisional Government of Bangladesh placed all Bangladeshi forces under the command of Osmani, who was appointed defense minister with the ranks of Commander-in-Chief and a four star general. Osmani designated the composition of the Mukti Bahini into several divisions. It included the regular armed forces which covered the army, navy and air force; as well as special brigades like the Z Force. Paramilitary forces, including the East Pakistan Rifles and police, were designated as the Niyomito Bahini (Regular Forces). They were divided between forward battalions and sector troops. A further civilian force was raised and known as the Gonobahini (People's Forces). While the majority of the Gonobahini were lightly trained civilian brigades under military command; it also consisted of battalions set up by political activists from the pro-Western Awami League, the pro-Chinese National Awami Party and the pro-Soviet Communist Party.[8]

The guerrilla movement was composed of three wings: well-armed Action Groups which took part in frontal attacks; military intelligence units; and guerrilla bases. The first conference of sector commanders was held in the week of 11-17 July 1971. Prominent sector commanders included Major Ziaur Rahman, Major Khaled Mosharraf, Major K M Shafiullah, Captain A. N. M. Nuruzzaman, Major Chitta Ranjan Dutta, Wing Commander M Khademul Bashar, Major Nazmul Huq, Major Quazi Nooruzzaman, Major Abu Osman Chowdhury, Major Abul Manzoor, Major M. A. Jalil, Major Abu Taher and Squadron Leader M. Hamidullah Khan.[9] The Mujib Bahini was led by Sheikh Fazlul Huq Moni, Tofael Ahmed and Abdur Razzak. The left-wing politician Kader Siddique led a guerrilla force in the Tangail zone. Hemayet Uddin operated guerrilla forces in Faridpur. Moni Singh raised a special guerrilla force of Bengali radical left-wing guerrilla fighters. The Australian war veteran William A. S. Ouderland organized guerrilla warfare in Dacca and provided vital intelligence to the Bangladesh Forces.

The Independent Bangladesh Radio Station was one of the cultural wings of the Mukti Bahini. The Bangladesh liberation movement released five prominent propaganda posters which promoted the independence struggle irrespective of religion and gender. One of them famously portrayed Pakistan's military ruler Yahya Khan as a demon.

Indian support[edit]

The genocide by Pakistani forces led to the outflow of 10 million refugees into neighbouring India, where the regions of West Bengal, Tripura and the Barak Valley shared strong Bengali ethnic, linguistic and cultural links with East Pakistan. Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi authorized diplomatic, economic and military support to the Mukti Bahini in April 1971.[7] The Indian Armed Forces provided substantial training and the use of its bases for the Bangladesh Forces.

The Bangladesh liberation forces operated out of jungles in the Indian states of Nagaland, Meghalaya, West Bengal, Mizoram and Assam.[10][11]

Equipment[edit]

The Mukti Bahini benefited from the early control of Pakistani arms depots, which were overtaken by Bengali forces in March and April 1971. It purchased large quantities of military equipment through the flourishing arms market in West Bengal, including Italian howitzers, Allouette helicopters, Dakota DC-3 aircraft and Otter DHC-3 fighter planes. It received a limited arms supply from the Indian military, as New Delhi allowed the Bangladesh Forces to operate an independent weapons supply through Calcutta Port.[12]

July-November[edit]

Italian howitzers used by the Mujib Battery; now preserved at the Bangladesh Military Museum

The Mukti Bahini divided the war zone into eleven sectors. The war strategy included a huge guerrilla force operating inside Bangladesh. A key objective was to cripple Pakistan's ability to exploit Bengali economic resources. Groups of five to ten Mukti Bahini guerrillas were often assigned with specific missions. They targeted Pakistani installations through raids, ambush and sabotage. They paralyzed West Pakistani-controlled shipping, power plants, industries, railways and warehouses. The wide dispersion of Pakistani forces allowed guerrillas to target smaller groups of troops. Bridges, culverts, fuel depots and ships were destroyed to cripple the mobility of the Pakistan Army.[13]

The Mukti Bahini failed in its Monsoon Offensive. Pakistani reinforcements successfully countered Bengali engagements in July. Attacks on border outposts in Sylhet, Comilla and Mymensingh met with limited success. The training period slackened the momentum of the Bangladesh Forces, which began to pick up after August.[14]

Conventional Bangladesh forces mounted successful offensives from October. They captured 90 out of 300 border outposts. The Mukti Bahini intensified guerrilla attacks inside Bangladesh; while Pakistan increased reprisals on the civilian population.[15]

Bangladesh-India Allied Forces[edit]

The launch of Operation Chengiz Khan by West Pakistan on North India finally drew India into the Bangladesh conflict. A joint command was established between Bangladeshi and Indian Forces. Three corps of the Indian Armed Forces were supported by three brigades of the Mukti Bahini and the vast Bengali guerrilla army. They greatly outnumbered the three Pakistani army divisions of East Pakistan. The Battle of Sylhet, the Battle of Garibpur, the Battle of Boyra, the Battle of Hilli and the Battle of Kushtia were major joint engagements of Bangladeshi and Indian forces. The Allied Forces swiftly overran the country by selectively engaging or bypassing heavily defended strongholds. For example, the Meghna Heli Bridge airlifted Bangladeshi and Indian forces from Brahmanbaria to Narsingdi over Pakistani defenses in Ashuganj. The cities of Jessore, Mymensingh, Sylhet, Kushtia, Noakhali and Maulvi Bazar quickly fell to the Allied Forces. In the occupied Bengali capital Dhaka, the Pakistan Army and its supporting militias began the mass murder of Bengali intellectuals and professionals, in a final attempt to eliminate the Bengali intelligentsia. However, the Mukti Bahini liberated most of Dhaka District by the second week of December. They surrounded the capital city. In the western theater, Indian forces advanced deep into Pakistani territory; while the Port of Karachi was subjected to a naval blockade by the Indian Navy. Pakistani generals succumbed to surrendering to the Allied Forces in Dhaka on 16 December 1971.[16]

Naval commandos[edit]

The Bangladesh naval forces took shape in July. Operation Jackpot was launched by the Bangladesh Forces on 15 August 1971. Bengali naval commandos drowned 26 vessels of the Pakistan Navy in Mongla, Chittagong, Chandpur and Narayanganj.[17] The operation was a major propaganda success for Bangladeshi forces, as it exposed to the international community the fragile hold of the West Pakistani occupation. The nascent Bangladesh Navy commandos targeted patrol craft and ships carrying ammunition and commodities. It extensively mined the Passur River in the Sundarbans, which crippled the ability of Pakistani forces to operate from the Port of Mongla.

Air operations[edit]

A Canadian Otter plane of the 1971 Bangladesh Air Force

The Bangladesh Air Force (BAF) was established on 28 September 1971 under the command of Air Commodore A K Khandker. It initially operated from a jungle airstrip near Dimapur in Nagaland. When taking over liberated territories, the Bangladesh Forces gained control of World War II airstrips in Lalmonirhat, Shalutikar, Sylhet and Comilla in November and December. The BAF launched "Kilo Flights" under the command of Squadron Leader Sultan Mahmud on 3 December 1971. Sorties by Otter DHC-3 aircraft destroyed Pakistani fuel supplies in Narayanganj and Chittagong. Targets included the Burmah Oil Refinery, numerous ships and oil depots.[18] Bangladeshi air force raids continued for two weeks and contributed to the achievement of air supremacy by Allied Forces in December.

International politics[edit]

A Bangladeshi propaganda poster in 1971 against Pakistani military ruler General Yahya Khan

In the United States, the Nixon administration enjoyed close ties with Pakistani military junta due to its policy of rapprochement with Communist China after the Sino-Soviet split. Pakistan's dictator Yahya Khan acted as a mediator between the US and China. However, Washington was aware that the independence of East Pakistan was inevitable.[19] The Soviet Union threw its weight behind the Bangladesh Forces and India after being convinced of Pakistan's unwillingness for a political solution.[20] Separately, US efforts to woo China through Pakistan led to India signing friendship treaty with Moscow in August 1971. For India, the treaty was an important insurance policy against a possible Chinese intervention on the side of Pakistan. China had fought a brief war with India in 1962. Both the US and China, however, ultimately failed to mobilize adequate support for Pakistan.[10][11]

When India launched a two-front war against Pakistan in support of the Bangladesh Forces, US President Richard Nixon dispatched the USS Enterprise to the Bay of Bengal as Pakistan's defeat seemed certain. The US was concerned over a possible full-scale Indian invasion of West Pakistan and Soviet domination of South Asia; both of which proved to be highly inaccurate. The Soviet Union sent a group of warships armed with nuclear missiles from Vladivostok. They trailed a US naval task force in the Indian Ocean.

The Soviet Union also used its veto in the UN Security Council against US and Chinese backed calls for a ceasefire in favor of Pakistan.

The genocide by Pakistani forces caused widespread international outrage against West Pakistan. Within the US, Democratic senator Ted Kennedy castigated the Nixon administration for ignoring the genocide against Bengalis in East Pakistan.

The Mukti Bahini enjoyed significant international public support. The Bangladeshi provisional government considered setting up an "International Brigade" with European and North American students.[20] French Minister of Cultural Affairs Andre Malraux was one of those who vowed to fight alongside the Bangladesh Forces.[21]

Honours[edit]

Bir Sreshtho (The Most Valiant Hero) is the highest military honor in Bangladesh and was awarded to seven Mukti Bahini fighters. They were Ruhul Amin, Mohiuddin Jahangir, Mostafa Kamal, Hamidur Rahman, Munshi Abdur Rouf, Nur Mohammad Sheikh and Matiur Rahman.

The other three gallantry awards in decreasing order of importance are Bir Uttom, Bir Bikrom and Bir Protik.[22]

Women[edit]

Women were at the forefront of the Bangladesh liberation struggle. The Mukti Bahini trained several female battalions for guerrilla warfare. Taramon Bibi is one of the two female wars hereos of the Bangladesh Liberation War. Captain Sitara Begum is noted for setting up field hospitals for injured Mukti Bahini fighters.[23]

Post-war[edit]

The Mukti Bahini was succeeded by the Bangladesh Armed Forces, the Bangladesh Rifles and the Bangladesh Police. Civilian fighters were provided with numerous privileges, including reservations in government jobs and universities. The Bangladesh Freedom Fighters Assembly was formed to represent former guerrillas. The widespread availability of arms created serious law and order concerns for the Bangladesh government after the war. All units of the Mukti Bahini were ordered by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman to surrender their arms by March 1972. Some militia units are alleged to have taken part in reprisal attacks against Biharis after the Pakistani surrender.

Cultural legacy[edit]

The National Martyrs' Memorial in Bangladesh

The Mukti Bahini has been the subject of numerous artwork, literature, films and television productions in Bangladesh.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The Daily Star". The Daily Star. Retrieved 25 March 2015. 
  2. ^ Jahan, Rounaq (1 February 1973). "Bangladesh in 1972: Nation Building in a New State". Asian Survey 13 (2): 31. doi:10.2307/2642736. 
  3. ^ Eyal Benvenisti (23 February 2012). The International Law of Occupation. Oxford University Press. pp. 189–. ISBN 978-0-19-163957-9. Retrieved 20 December 2012. 
  4. ^ Agnes F. Vandome (28 April 2010). "Mukti Bahini". Bookadda.com. 
  5. ^ http://www.cdrb.org/journal/2008/4/1.pdf
  6. ^ Pakistan Defence Journal, 1977, Vol 2, p2-3
  7. ^ a b "Notable battles in the 11 Sectors - Dhaka Tribune". dhakatribune.com. 
  8. ^ Rahman, Hasan Hafizur (1984). বাংলাদেশের স্বাধীনতা যুদ্ধ, দলিলপত্রঃ দশম খণ্ড / HISTORY OF BANGLADESH WAR OF INDEPENDENCE DOCUMENTS, VOL-10. Hakkani Publishers. pp. 1–3. ISBN 984-433-091-2.
  9. ^ List of Liberation War Sectors and Sector Commanders of Bangladesh (Gazette Notification No.8/25/D-1/72-1378), Ministry of Defence, Government of Bangladesh, December 15, 1973
  10. ^ a b "Victory Day Special 2012". thedailystar.net. 
  11. ^ a b "1971 — A Global History of the Creation of Bangladesh". The Daily Star. 
  12. ^ "1971". google.com.bd. 
  13. ^ Rahman, Hasan Hafizur (1984). বাংলাদেশের স্বাধীনতা যুদ্ধ, দলিলপত্রঃ দশম খণ্ড / HISTORY OF BANGLADESH WAR OF INDEPENDENCE DOCUMENTS, VOL-10. Hakkani Publishers. pp. 1–3. ISBN 984-433-091-2.
  14. ^ Roy, Mihir, K (1995). War in the Indian Ocean. 56, Gautaum Nagar, New-Delhi, 110049, India: Lancer Publisher & Distributor. p. 154. ISBN 978-1-897829-11-0.
  15. ^ "The World: Bangladesh: Out of War, a Nation Is Born". TIME.com. 20 December 1971. 
  16. ^ Jacob, Lt. Gen. JFR, 'Surrender at Dacca,: Birth of a Nation (ISBN 984-05-1395-8)
  17. ^ "Operation Jackpot". banglapedia.org. 
  18. ^ Administrator. "Muktijuddho (Bangladesh Liberation War 1971) part 37 - Bangladesh Biman Bahini (Bangladesh Air Force or BAF) - History of Bangladesh". Londoni. 
  19. ^ "Myths and Facts Bangladesh Liberation War". google.com.bd. 
  20. ^ a b "1971". google.com.bd. 
  21. ^ "Bernard-Henri Levy: Andre Malraux’s Bangladesh, Before the Radicals - The Daily Beast". The Daily Beast. 
  22. ^ The Bangladesh Gazette, 15 December 1973.
  23. ^ "The women in our liberation war: Tales of Endurance and Courage". mukto-mona.com. 

Further reading[edit]