Myth of 300,000 raped in Bangladesh

WHISPERS TO VOICES: Gender and Social Transformation in Bangladesh

Asif Haroon Raja

It has been alleged that Pakistani troops raped 300,000 women on and after March 25, 1971 in former East Pakistan. This allegation has generally been accepted by the world at large and even by some Pakistani secular pseudo intellectuals like Tahira Abdullah, Asma Gilani and others. Sheikh Mujib was the inventor of this themes fed to him by India. This was phenomenal exaggeration which has no parallel in history.Rather than blindly buying the bloated figures, it should have been coolly analyzed by saner elements whether it was humanly possible to perform those unholy acts at such a gigantic scale. No one questioned as to how the Indians had gathered the data since the Army had gained total control over the province from May 1971 onwards. Direct linkage between the people and rebels housed in India had been broken.

The version of refugees who had fled to India after the military operation couldn’t be relied upon, being entirely at the mercy of Indian Army and BSF living in unsavory conditions. Foreign journalists based in Dacca had been asked by Lt Gen Tikka Khan to leave because of their biased reporting. Jilted journalists moved to Calcutta where they were lavishly entertained by Indians. Nursing ill-feelings, they went out of the way to magnify the stories fed to them by Indian media and broadcasted exaggerated news the world over.

Even if the entire Army and paramilitary forces numbering 12000 on 25 March 1971, later increased to 45000 had only one objective in mind of raping any female coming their way day in and day out, even at the cost of sleep and other essential daily rituals, it was still impossible to reach anywhere near the stated figure. It can now be safely concluded that the rapes committed by Awami League (AL) urchins in March-April 1971, and again in November- December 1971, as well as by Indian staff supervising refugee camps from March 1971 till February 1972 were all lumped in the account of Pak Army. Indian Army soldiers and officers had also indulged in daily sex for the entire period of their stay in Bangladesh after 16 December 1971.

Roman Catholic Relief Agency put the figure of rapes to as low as 4000. (New York Times, January 30, 1972). In fact, only ten cases of rapes had been reported till August 31, 1971, and the culprits tried and punished. These few cases were swollen to the exasperating figure of 300,000. The falsity of Sheikh Mujib’s repeated allegation of rape of 300,000 Bengali women was exposed when the abortion team he had commissioned from United Kingdom in early 1972 found that there were no more than a hundred or so pregnancy cases they could deal with throughout their stay in Bangladesh. (Bangladesh Papers, Vanguard, Lahore, page 287). The AL government opened many centres in Bangladesh and gave wide calls to the rape victims named as ‘heroines’ to come forward and register their names so that they could be rehabilitated. Not more than one hundred or so who reported to the centres were given into marriages and perforce the centres had to be closed down. These cases were also in all probability the victims of rapists in Indian refugee camps.

Dr. M. Abdul Mumin Chowdhry, a Bengali nationalist who actively participated in the separatist cause, writes in his book ‘Behind the Myth of Three Million’, writes, It was reported that on arrival in Dhaka on 10 January 1972, the lobby behind the fabrication of the absolutely impossible figure promptly briefed the returning Bangladesh leader Sheikh Mujib with added ‘fact’, of 300,000 women raped, who in turn immediately went on parroting it. Thus the fiction of three million killed and 300,000 women raped was created’. He gives research-based details of each major incident that was blamed on Pakistan; and the rapes of 300,000, now enhanced to 400,000 women, resulting in 200,000 pregnancies.

One of Pakistani prisoner of war (PoW) Maj (now retired Brig) M. Azad on his way to India after the surrender had stayed a night in transit along with others at Krishanagar in West Bengal. The camp in which they were housed was well laid out and didn’t like a hurriedly made make-shift arrangement. The in-charge of the camp, a Sikh major, in usual Sikh style of light-heartedness and frankness, got chummy with Azad and told him that the camp had not been prepared for Pak PoWs but was meant to keep rebellious Bengalis who refused to participate in guerrilla war. He added that sissies were taken to task and made to perform allotted tasks, while their womenfolk were kept as hostages to serve their carnal needs. He boasted that he and his colleagues had thoroughly enjoyed raping thousands of Bengali women during their nine-month confinement. Laughingly he added that many virgins were impregnated. He divulged that many more suchlike camps for unwilling Bengalis had been established in other areas. This inadvertent disclosure would give an idea to independent readers that who were the actual rapists of Bengali women.

Besides resorting to series of atrocities, Indian security forces are using rape as a weapon of war to subjugate the Kashmiris demanding their birth right of self-determination. Kashmiris want independence from India at all cost. Incidents of rapes and gang rapes in Indian occupied Kashmir (IOK) are on the increase, but no Indian soldier or policeman has ever been punished. While there was lot of hue and cry over gang rape of an Indian woman in New Delhi, no voice has ever been raised in India over rapes of thousands of Kashmiri women, as if they are not human beings. It is puzzling as to why the ever vigilant western media has never mentioned a word about thousands of rapes committed in IOK? Or is it that it has different yardstick for Muslims and non-Muslims?

The writer is a retired Brig, author of several books and a defence analyst.

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  • Najma  On April 8, 2013 at 1:59 am

    It is easy and convenient to claim that the atrocities committed in East Pakistan/Bangladesh were a myth, 42 years after nature’s greenery has proliferated and covered all the ugly physical evidence, and the survivors themselves — mostly poor and not all very educated — have aged and hidden behind government shelter in undeserved shame and isolation, essentially waiting for death and delivery more than anything else. But there were and still are countless witnessess who escaped the worst who the Pakistanis have avoided talking to in all these decades. The mass rape and genocide was bad enough, but it was shameful enough when an Indian writer was co-opted to portray the Bangladeshis as a whole as liars and to paint the culprits to be as white as driven snow. – NS

  • Alberto  On April 8, 2013 at 1:57 pm

    One soldier alone, not forced to “show off” in front of his mates, doesn’t usually commit rape. But it is known, the world over, that lots of rapes are committed during war times, invasions, etc. Now, why waste time discussing how many rapes were committed? if instead of 300,000 you said 100, it would be as bad.

    The inflated figure of 300,000 only serves to boost the ego of Pakistanis. “What men we are!!!” “how macho we Pakistanis are”.

    Government calls to rape victims cannot be used as reference. If only 10 came forward, it is not because there were only that figure of raped women, but rather the fact that no woman wanted her society to know she was no longer virgin. Promises to be “rehabilitated” were meaningless to raped women. (Masterclasses)

    • Naveed Tajammal  On April 8, 2013 at 2:33 pm

      It is your assumption,about the Ego aspect,of our army personnel,
      kindly re-read,Whereas, the accusation,of rape’ was levelled as such by BD Govt.
      And the article clearly states, of the Ten men found guilty,They had been tried
      and punished.About the figure of 100,that were the total number of ‘Heroines’,as declared by their,own government, who could,be put forth,to be rehabilitated.
      The references have all been given,in the article,Hasina wajid,is up to her own
      evil designs to purge,from her state,by her self created hype,based on false grounds,the resistance groups,through her Kangaroo courts,on charges amongst other, for siding with a rapist army.Which in reality were the Sikh personnel of her beloved Indian army.

      Naveed Tajammal,

      • Syed W. Rahim  On April 8, 2013 at 9:23 pm

        People ignorant about reality will beat about the bush. I know Niazi and his cohorts were having new girls brought to them frequently. I know soldiers and their officers picked up girls, took then to the cantonment and raped them until they were unconscious and then threw their naked bodies on to the streets for the locals to pick up. Truth is bitter. What Hasina is doing noew should have been done 40 years ago.Shame to all who cry foul.

  • Freda Shah  On April 8, 2013 at 1:57 pm

    Some events are too painful and can never be forgotten.
    Yasmeen, I fully agree with you. It is painful to see these attention-seekers scurrying to receive controversial awards from an anti-pakistan government.

  • Syed W. Rahim  On April 8, 2013 at 2:15 pm

    The Author, what ever his credentials and stature in the Pakistan Army, is far from the truth. If the number of Pakistan Army was 45,000 only, then how could 93,000 be taken prisoner by India. The actual number of Pakistani Army personnel in East Pakistan was well over 120,000. I was in the was myself and I have seen the atrocities carried out by the marauding soldiers in Pakistani Uniform. their Commander-in- Chief and their president has asked the Army “Kill three million of them and the rest of them will eat out of our hands”. A tall talk.
    Three million women raped in East Pakistan may be a bloated figure, but that does not absolve these butchers of the crime they committed against humanity. In fact they were worse than animals. That is the legacy they left behind in the troubled land.
    Syed Waheed Rahim
    Wing Commander (Retired)

    • laila  On July 20, 2014 at 10:37 pm

      hello sir. can I talk to you about this topic in person. Please kindly reply me.

  • Shaheen  On April 9, 2013 at 1:30 am

    Freda…..that is our bane…these pseudo-intellectuals…

  • Jamil Mukhtar  On April 13, 2013 at 2:01 pm

    There is absolutely no truth in the numbers in the currency about the Bengalis killed or their women raped by the army in erstwhile East Pakistan during and after the military action undertaken to restore the writ of the lawful government. There were 10 to 12 (If I remember correctly 10) cases of rape reported till 31 August 1971 (mostly in reprisal) in which the offenders were severely dealt with. Numerous independent foreign correspondents have quoted this figure. As per figures of Hamoodur Rehman Commission Report, whatever of it is in circulation, the Bengalis killed were about 26000. This figure is stated to be on a much higher side. In fact, the figure of 3 million Bengalis killed or 300000 women raped, at the hands of Pakistan armed forces is to hide what the rebels themselves did. What Sarmila Bose has written on pages 166 and 167 of her book “Dead Reckoning-Memories of the 1971 Bangladesh War” will give sufficient insight to what is the truth. It is re-produced below.
    The “demonisation’ of the enemy also involves concealing or minimizing
    “monstrous”acts committed by one’s own side. In the dominant narrative of the
    1971conflict until now, the portrayal of Pakistan Army as “demons’ is matched by exclusive depiction of “Bengalis” (used as synonymous with “pro-liberation Bengalis”) as “victims”. This has led to a tendency to deny, minimize or justify violence and brutalities perpetrated by pro-liberation Bengalis.
    As has been shown in this book, the Bengali nationalist rebellion in East Pakistan was openly militant and quickly turned into xenophobic violence against non-Bengalis—Biharis, West Pakistanis and foreigners— of whom the Biharis, who arguably ‘ belonged’ to East Pakistan the most as they had migrated from India to settle there, ironically suffered the most. In the ethnic violence unleashed in the name of Bengali nationalism, non-Bengali men, women and children were slaughtered, for instance in housing colonies in Chittagong, in the Karnaphuli Mills, in the jute mill colonies at Khulna, in the railway town of Santahar; West Pakistani businessmen were massacred in Jessore; in mutinous East Bengal regiments, Bengali officers and men killed the greatly outnumbered and even disarmed West Pakistani fellow-officers and their families in many units. The killing of non-Bengalis continued after Bangladesh became independent., as for example in the jute mill colonies of Khulna. As this study has shown, non-Bengali victims of ethnic killings by Bengalis numbered hundreds or even thousands per incident-an indication of the scale of these crimes. Men, women and children were massacred on the basis of ethnicity and the killings were executed with shocking bestiality.
    Some of the worst brutalities were also among Bengalis themselves—between those who were defending the unity and integrity of Pakistan and those who were fighting for the liberation of Bangladesh.. The killing of pro-liberation professionals by pro-regime death squads in the dying days of the war stands out as the worst crimes of the conflict. Yet brutalization and elimination of those with a different political viewpoint seemed to be the hallmark of the nationalist Bengalis too, as evidenced by numerous instances during the year and afterwards.
    I do not agree with the suggestion that we should forget about this ugly history.The nations which do not learn from their history (ugly no matter how) are likely to be consigned to history one day.

  • SheikhKhan  On February 15, 2014 at 4:47 am

    To the apologetists who responded – to accept that there were rape camps (undeniable) established by the paki faggot armies and in the same breath to play footsy with the numbers is the biggest load of cowardice bullshit you pakis have come up with.

    Be a man, stop fucking each other up the ass with your ‘we are not guilty’ pats on the back, step up to the plate as a new generation and accept responsibility for what your country has done to another country.

    Don’t be what your parents were.

  • Mushtaq Ali  On January 27, 2015 at 6:44 am

    According to reports Pak army Killed 3 million people and raped 300,000 Bangali women. Now I put some questions to the reporter of these figures:
    If the Pak army was in a position to Kill and rape then why did they surrender? Pak Army surrender showed that Mukti bahni and Indian army guerrillas were on the hold in Bangladesh. If they were on the hold at that time then how did they allowed Pak army to kill and rape? If Indian Govt and Army intervened on 1971 on humanitarian grounds then why these human rights champions are occupying the kashmir since 1948 and killing innocent people?

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