It is extremely sad and distressing to observe that the liberation war fatality figure has become a political ping-pong game between the two political parties. It had been purposely turned by the vested interests into a test of patriotism! If anyone expresses any scepticism on the fatality figure of three million, then he or she is scorned as anti-Bangladeshi, pro-Pakistani, pro-BNP etc. person and even as a traitor by the ruling party propagandists. On the other hand, even politely listening to 3 million fatality figure in an objective fashion is considered as irrational kowtowing by the vested interests.
Let me declare my position clearly in this debate, right at the outset, for the benefit of the readers that I am not a political animal – I do not side with Pakistan, Jamaat-e-Islam, the Awami League or the BNP. In fact, I am as anti-Pakistani and anti-BNP and anti-Awami League as one can get within the realm of decency.
So, why am I raising this figure of three million deaths in Bangladesh (the then East Pakistan) in nine months of liberation war? The reason is that this figure seems to me unsubstantiated, abnormally high, beyond any reasonable estimate and devoid of real situations. I am striving to get a true estimate of the death figure, not the concocted figure satisfying someone’s ego or politically inspired, politically motivated figure. Needless to say that this fatality figure representing our sacrifice will eventually be incorporated in our history and we do not want a manufactured number to be the central plank of our liberation history.
If this 3 million deaths is accepted as true estimate over a period of 270 days, then the average comes to just over 11,000 deaths every day. Most of the fatalities would have been in Dhaka as Pakistani soldiers, the instruments of killing, did not dare to go to outlying districts of the country. If those dead bodies were brought to Dhaka and put them in the Dhaka stadium, then in every three days the whole stadium would be jam-packed with dead bodies! This would be the scale of such deaths.
Where have all these dead bodies gone? Nobody can give any rational explanation. Even the Bangladeshi people are asking now, where have they been buried? Where are the mass graves of thousands of people? Even if there are mass graves of, say 10,000 people, there would be 300 such graves – almost every district would have five such super massive graves!
Moreover, in a war situation, it had been found that for every single dead person (soldier or civilian) there are two to three injured persons. So in Bangladesh it was expected that well over 6 million people (between 6 to 9 million) would have been injured. Where were those injured people? Where were they treated?
There were 92,000 Pakistani armed personnel in the then East Pakistan (who surrendered and eventually repatriated to Pakistan). Within these service personnel, there were engineers and technicians (looking after tanks, machineries etc.), medical doctors and nurses, administrators and so forth. Normally, in a battle front, no more than two third is active service personnel. So there would be 60,000 Pakistani soldiers who had been active in killing Bangladeshis. So each one of them would have killed 50 people during the war time. How many Pakistani soldiers were killed during these massacres? Probably no more than a hundred or so. A death figure of 100 on one side against 3,000,000 on the other side – is it credible? Even Palestinian civilians throwing bricks and stones can kill more heavily armed Israeli soldiers – the death toll is about one Israeli to 20 Palestinians.
In Syria, nearly 400,000 people (combatants and civilians) have died over four and half-years of most brutal war and nearly 900,000 people are injured. But in Bangladesh, with no full scale war in less than one sixth of the time of the Syrian war, nearly eight times of fatality had been sustained! It is simply incredible. In Cambodia, under the brutality of Khmer Rouge in the 1970s, 1.7 million people were killed in 10 years. In Bangladesh, more than 2.5 times of that number is stated to have died in less than one twelfth of the time! Another incredible assertion.
We need the true figures or credible figures. The Awami Leaguers might feel that higher the fatality figure, the better credit they can claim, as if the ownership of the war is their alone. On the other hand, BNP may feel that discrediting any fatality figure is to their advantage that their Pakistani brothers never killed or mistreated the Bangladeshis and fatality is nothing but a myth! Between these extremely polarised political perspectives lies the real fatality number.
The liberation war is over and done with. It is obscene to perpetually squabble on the fatality figure, as if the nation’s future depends on it. It is time to reflect on those traumatised days, build our nation and our history. Our history must tell the truth, not manufactured stories. The history we are seeking is for our own sake and for our posterity.