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A Ringside View Of History

T.C.A. Rangachari

By Rehman Sobhan
Sage, Delhi, 2016, pp. 444, Rs. 450.00

VOLUME XL NUMBER 9 September 2016

Pakistan lies dead and buried under a mountain of corpses. Tajuddin Ahmed in the Proclamation of Independence after his swearing-in as PM of the Interim Government of Bangladesh at Kushtia, 17 April 1971. The idea of a pre-planned Indian conspiracy to break-up Pakistan appeared to us, from our direct exposure to the responses of those in authority in India, to be a figment of the Pakistani imagination. Sobhan, p. 362.   An entire generation—over six hundred million in India and a hundred million in Bangladesh—has been born since the Liberation of Bangladesh forty-five years ago. They have no personal memories of those times and events. Rehman Sobhan’s autobiography is, thus, a timely narrative that should be widely read on both sides of the border as a reminder of the agony and the elation that we went through together in those epochal times. Pakistan was an artificial entity since inception. 1000-miles of Indian territory separated the two wings. The majority of the population lived in the East but the country was ruled from the West. The majority spoke Bengali but the official language was Urdu. The earnings were in the East but it was the West that got enriched. Essentially, one part of the country was progressively turned into a colony of the other with, ironically, the minority in control. Islam—the basis for the creation of Pakistan—was not adequate as the glue that would hold the country together. Everyone except the politico-military establishment could see that this was unsustainable. The idea that Bangladesh could, or would, emerge as an independent entity was weird or wonderful depending on which side of the divide one was. It was certainly not a commonly accepted one. There were doubts about the Bangladesh leaders having the stomach to stay the course as also their ability to sustain a battle long enough to succeed. What if a political compromise was worked out either as a result of the Awami League’s desire for a compromise or an enlightened vision of the Generals in Pakistan to ensure the integrity of the country or something brokered by external forces? That it did succeed—the last chapter of the book is fittingly titled ‘Fulfillment: the Liberation of Bangladesh’—was largely due to the efforts of millions of Bangali, as the author refers to them throughout. India remained on the sidelines even in the immediate aftermath of the Pak Army ...

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