Role of Psychological Warfare in Bangladesh’s Liberation War — Part 2

Indians and Bengali guerrillas fought in support of attaining Bangladesh.

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Indian soldiers rejoice 12/16 after entering the capital of East Pakistan. One soldier holds up a picture of Awami League chief Sheikh Mujibur Rahman who was arrested here last March. The war between India and Pakistan on the eastern front formally came to an end as Pakistani forces surrendered unconditionally. (Getty Images)

Anthony Mascarenhas

Initially, as per their plan, the Pakistani army decided it would be a good idea to invite some Pakistani reporters to the region to show them how they had successfully dealt with the “freedom fighters.”

Foreign journalists had already been expelled, and Pakistan was also keen to deliberately publicise deceptive, untrue atrocities committed by the other side.  Eight journalists, including Mascarenhas, were given a 10-day tour of the province. When they returned home, seven of them duly wrote what they were told to.

But one of them refused. Yvonne Mascarenhas remembers him coming back distraught: “I’d never seen my husband looking in such a state. He was absolutely shocked, stressed, upset and terribly emotional,” she says, speaking from her home in west London. “He told me that if he couldn’t write the story of what he’d seen he’d never be able to write another word again.”

Clearly it would not be possible to do so in Pakistan. All newspaper articles were checked by the military censor, and Mascarenhas told his wife he was certain he would be shot if he tried. Pretending he was visiting his sick sister, Mascarenhas then travelled to London, where he headed straight to the Sunday Times and the editor’s office.

Mukti Bahini fighters on their way to the front line in the-then East Pakistan during the 1971 fight against the savage Pakistani Army and their local brutal mango-twigs to attain Bangladesh.

Indians and Bengali guerrillas fought in support of attaining Bangladesh. Evans remembers him in that meeting as having “the bearing of a military man, square-set and moustache, but appealing, almost soulful eyes and an air of profound melancholy”.

“He maintained that what the army was doing was altogether worse and on a grander scale,” Evans wrote. Mascarenhas told him he had been an eyewitness to a huge, systematic killing spree, and had heard army officers describe the killings as a “final solution”. Evans promised to run the story, but first Yvonne and the children had to escape Karachi.

They had agreed that the signal for them to start preparing for this was a telegram from Mascarenhas saying that “Ann’s operation was successful.” Yvonne remembers receiving the message at three the next morning. “I heard the telegram man bang at my window and I woke up my sons and I was: ‘Oh my gosh, we have to go to London.’ It was terrifying. I had to leave everything behind.

“We could only take one suitcase each. We were crying so much it was like a funeral,” she says. To avoid suspicion, Mascarenhas had to return to Pakistan before his family could leave. But as Pakistanis were only allowed one foreign flight a year, he then had to sneak out of the country by himself, crossing by land into Afghanistan.

The day after the family was reunited in their new home in London, the Sunday Times published his article, under the headline “Genocide.”

It is such a powerful piece of reporting because Mascarenhas was clearly so well trusted by the Pakistani officers he spent time with. I have witnessed the brutality of ‘kill and burn missions’ as the army units, after clearing out the rebels, pursued the pogrom in the towns and villages. I have seen whole villages devastated by ‘punitive action’.

And in the officer’s mess at night, I have listened incredulously as otherwise brave and honourable men proudly chewed over the day’s kill.

‘How many did you get?’ The answers are seared in my memory. His article was – from Pakistan’s point of view – a huge betrayal and he was accused of being an enemy agent. It still denies its forces were behind such atrocities as those described by Mascarenhas, and blames Indian propaganda. It seems as if rogues supplant justice.

In Bangladesh, of course, he is remembered more fondly, and his article is still displayed in the country’s Liberation War Museum. “This was one of the most significant articles written on the war. It came out when our country was cut off, and helped inform the world of what was going on here,” says Mofidul Huq, a trustee of the museum.

His family, meanwhile, settled into life in a new and colder country. “People were so serious in London and nobody ever talked to us,” Yvonne Mascarenhas remembers. “We were used to happy, smiley faces, it was all a bit of a change for us after Karachi. But we never regretted it.”

Indian Ravi Shankar and Ustad Ali Akber Khan & British George Harrison – the world’s first aid event and the concert for Bangladesh

On 1 August 1971, Indian sitar maestro Ravi Shankar and ex-Beatle George Harrison organised two benefit concerts in Madison Square Garden in New York City, USA, entitled ‘Concert for Bangla Desh’ (as ‘Bangladesh’ was spelt then) to bring awareness and aid to the plight of the Bengalis.

Many worlds famous and leading musicians participated in the Concert for Bangla Desh, including Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, Ringo Starr, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Billy Preston, Leon Russel and the band Badfinger.

The concert for Bangladesh is a result of a joint afford of Pandit Ravi Shankar and George Harrison. Together they made plan for three months to finalize the concert. The concert was attended by Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, Don Preston, Billy Preston, Leon Russell, Ringo Starr, Ravi Shankar, Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, Ustad Alla Rakha. George Harrison composed and sang the song entitled ‘Bangladesh’ in the Concert for Bangladesh, which was staged at NewYork’s Madison Square Garden in 1st August 1971 in front of 40,000 people. The concert raised close to US$250,000 for Bangladesh relief, which was administered by UNICEF.

Argentine Victoria Ocampo

In 1971, Victoria Ocampo even though aged 90 waged a campaign in her country Argentina seeking justice and freedom for the people of Bangladesh, and an end to the oppression carried out by the Pakistani government. What made her stance even more remarkable was that she was 90 years old. Tender, frail, and barely able to look after her own self, Victoria Ocampo used her high status to focus world’s attention to the Bangladesh tragedy and led a passionate campaign to help the Bengalis.

American Joan Baez – sang her heart out for Bangladesh

Joan (Chandos) Baez, American folk singer, songwriter, musician, and a prominent activist in the fields of human rights, peace, and environmental justice. Has a distinctive vocal style, with a strong vibrato.

(To be continued…)

Anwar A. Khan

Anwar A. Khan is an independent political analyst based in Dhaka, Bangladesh who writes on politics, political and human-centred figures, current and international affairs

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