Role of Psychological Warfare in Bangladesh’s Liberation War – Part 3

A group of young singers used to sing inspiring songs. Many poems and songs were written for this broadcasting.

5 mins read
Commando training for members of the Mukti Bahini (Bangladeshi National Liberation Army) during the Bangladesh Liberation War, in Syaldaa Nadi, East Pakistan, 22nd November 1971. [Photo by Bettmann Archive/Getty Images]

American Joan Baez – sang her heart out for Bangladesh

Highly reputable American musician Joan Baez wrote and performed the song “The Story of Bangladesh” at the Concert for Bangladesh, Madison Square Garden in 1971. This song was based on the Pakistan Army crackdown on unarmed sleeping Bengali students at Dhaka University on 25 March 1971, which ignited the nine-month Bangladesh Liberation War. The song was later entitled “The Song of Bangladesh” and released in the chart-topping ‘Come From the Shadows’ album on May 1972 which is as follows:

“Bangladesh, Bangladesh

Bangladesh, Bangladesh

When the sun sinks in the west

Die a million people of the Bangladesh.

The story of Bangladesh

Is an ancient once again made fresh

By blind men who carry out commands

Which flow out of the laws upon which nation stands

Which is to sacrifice a people for a land.

Bangladesh, Bangladesh

Bangladesh, Bangladesh

When the sun sinks in the west

Die a million people of the Bangladesh.

Once again, we stand aside

And watch the families crucified

See a teenage mother’s vacant eyes

As she watches her feeble baby try

To fight the monsoon rains and the cholera flies.

And the students at the university

Asleep at night quite peacefully

The soldiers came and shot them in their beds

And terror took the dorm awakening shrieks of dread

And silent frozen forms and pillows drenched in red.

Bangladesh, Bangladesh

Bangladesh, Bangladesh

When the sun sinks in the west

Die a million people of the Bangladesh.

Did you read about the army officer’s plea

For donor’s blood? It was given willingly

By boys who took the needles in their veins

And from their bodies every drop of blood was drained

No time to comprehend and there was little pain.

And so, the story of Bangladesh

Is an ancient once again made fresh

By all who carry out commands

Which flow out of the laws upon which nations stand

Which say to sacrifice a people for a land.

Bangladesh, Bangladesh

Bangladesh, Bangladesh

When the sun sinks in the west

Die a million people of the Bangladesh.”

The song’s message was loud and clear. This powerful message further highlighted the Bangladesh cause to the international masses. It was a great feat to have a renowned star like Joan Baez stood right beside the people of Bangladesh to uphold our constitutional right and seek justice for an oppressed nation. The song was a source of inspiration and strength to the 75 million people in those dark days of turmoil, uncertainty, pain, courage and innumerable deaths that brought independent Bangladesh.

In 2011, the Government of Bangladesh came up with a list of over 500 foreign friends who have made immense contribution during the Muktijuddho and the initial years of Bangladesh. Each one of them would receive honourary award from the government in recognition of their contribution. The awards would be given in two categories – “Bangladesh Muktijuddho Sammanana” (Bangladesh Liberation War Honour) and “Muktijuddho Moitri Sammanana” (Friends of Liberation War Honour).

This list included as many as 24 international organisations, including Red Cross, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Indian radio broadcaster Akash Bani, Geneva-based International Commission of Jurists, World Health Organisation, and International Labour Organisation.

The late Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was the first ‘foreign friend’ to be conferred with the honourary award. She was awarded ‘Bangladesh Freedom Honour’ posthumously in July 2011. Her daughter-in-law and ruling Congress president Sonia Gandhi received the honour on her behalf at a special ceremony in the Bangabhaban (President’s House) in Dhaka.

Allen Ginsberg

Famous British poet Allen Ginsberg visited the refugee camp in India during the liberation war in 1971. He wrote several poems, especially ‘September on Jessore Road’ which supported and gained fame in favour of the liberation war of Bangladesh.

Formation of Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra (‘Free Bengal Radio Centre’)

It was the radio broadcasting centre of Bengali nationalist forces during the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971. This station played a vital role in liberation struggle, broadcasting the Declaration of Independence and increasing mental state of Bangladeshis during the war. In 1971, radio was the only media reaching to the far ends of Bangladesh. It ran a propaganda campaign throughout the war.

The end of British rule in India in August 1947, accompanied by the Partition of India, gave birth to a new country named Pakistan which constituted Muslim-majority areas in the far east and far west of the Indian subcontinent. The Western zone was popularly (and for a period of time, also officially) termed West Pakistan and the Eastern zone (modern-day Bangladesh) was initially termed East Bengal and later, East Pakistan. The two zones were separated by over thousand miles of Indian territory in the middle, and had vastly different culture. It was the fact that the west zone dominated the country, leading to the effective marginalization of the east zone. Growing disenchantment among the people of East Pakistan finally led to civil disobedience followed by Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971.

During the period of Liberation War of Bangladesh, media supported mass sentiments. They aired patriotic songs and talk shows. In the process of achieving our independence by trouncing the atrocities of the Pakistani military forces, the war-time broadcasting station ” Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra” played a vital role in increasing the mental state of the whole Bangali nation by informing us how well we are advancing towards the victory. Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra reached its pinnacle during the liberation war being acclaimed as the stool pigeon of war news updates through ‘Chorom Potro’. In those days when radio was the only media reaching to the far ends of Bangladesh, Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra eventually turned as the orator of the Bangladesh government in exile. It ran the nationalist campaign throughout the war in gearing up our freedom fighters’ moral and also mobilizing world opinion in favour of Bangladesh.

Thus, during the whole period of Liberation War, Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra successfully carried out its intellectual war like an organized front and aired patriotic songs which greatly inspired the freedom fighters in their relentless fight against the Pakistan-led occupation forces, war news and talk shows to boost up people’s spirits.

Regular Features of Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra

Chorompotro’ was the most popular program hosted by M. R. Akhtar Mukul. Here, he used to describe the uncomfortable position of Pak army in a funny voice and made his dialogues in Old Dhaka dialect. Chorompotro was planned by Abdul Mannan. Another popular program “Jallader Darbar” was run by Kalyan Mitra where approaches of Yahya Khan, known in the programme as “Kella Fateh Khan” were described in a funny manner. “Bojro Kontho” was the programme where speeches of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman were presented.

A group of young singers used to sing inspiring songs. Many poems and songs were written for this broadcasting. One of those songs Joy Bangla Banglar Joy (Victory of Bengal) was the signature tune of the radio. Many songs of Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra like Purbo Digante Surjo Uthechhe, Ekti Phoolke Bachabo Bole, Salam Salam Hajar Salam of Gobinda Haldar, became immensely popular. Singers of the station raised funds singing their songs in different parts of West Bengal.

News broadcasts were made in Bengali, English and Urdu.  Secretary of the Swadhin Bangla Betar Convener Committee Kamal Lohani recalled, “For us at the radio, it was a psychological warfare so we could say things to boost up people’s morale…”

Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra (‘Free Bengal Radio Centre’) was the radio broadcasting centre of Bengali nationalist forces during the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971. This station played a vital role in liberation struggle, broadcasting the Declaration of Independence and increasing mental state of Bangladeshis during the war. In 1971, radio was the only media reaching to the far ends of Bangladesh. It ran a propaganda campaign throughout the war.

Shadheen Bangla Betar Kendra reached its pinnacle during the liberation war being acclaimed as the stool pigeon of war news updates through ‘Chorom Potro’. In those days when radio was the only media reaching to the far ends of Bangladesh, Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra eventually turned as the orator of the Bangladesh government in exile. It ran the nationalist campaign throughout the war in gearing up our freedom fighters’ moral and also mobilizing world opinion in favour of Bangladesh.

(Concluded)

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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