MARCH 29, 1971: Bangabandhu flown to Karachi

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As the world began taking notice of Bangladesh’s war for independence and Pakistan’s horrendous actions against the Bangalees, on this day in 1971, the second East Bengal Battalion completed their rally in Mymensingh. They gathered together and pledged their support for Bangladesh and this congregation was convened by Major KM Shafiullah.

Meanwhile, the Pakistan army gathered outside Chittagong cantonment near the Medical College and surrounding areas to launch their first attack in the evening. The Mukti Bahini, a guerrilla resistance movement formed by the Bangladeshis during the war, retaliated and won.

In the evening, Bangabandhu was flown via helicopter from the cantonment, where he was detained, to the Tejgaon Airport. Afterwards, he was flown to Karachi by a special military aircraft.

That night about 100 Bangladeshi East Pakistan Rifles (EPR) men, who had turned against the Pakistan army, were barbarically murdered near the Ramna Kalibari.

Police officers were executed in Mohammadpur and elsewhere as the army considered them to be potential threats. 800 policemen were killed in surprise attacks. The EPR camp in Pilkhana had 1000 men present. 700 of them were killed, 200 were overpowered, while 100 had managed to escape.
Searches had begun from house to house, and any Bangalee policeman was shot at sight.

Around the world, the spread of news regarding Bangladesh’s fight for liberation had gained momentum.

New York Times (NYT) published a report headlined “Sticks and spears against tanks”.

“The people of East Pakistan, armed with sticks, spears and homemade rifles, are mounting a resistance movement against a military force from West Pakistan that is armed with planes, bombs, tanks and heavy artillery. It seems certain thousands of Bengalis will be killed, but their dedication to the self-rule movement and to their leader, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, is deep…” they wrote.

NYT said 5,000-7,000 people were killed in Dhaka. The Sydney Morning Herald said 10,000 – 100,000 were killed. While there was already confusion over the death-toll, in Dhaka, rain exposed two mass graves — one at Zahurul Huq Hall and the other at Rokeya Hall.

The US department of State’s secret memo predicted India’s future response to the situation:

“A. Tolerate privately provided cross-border assistance to the East Bengalis; this assistance could range from propaganda support to weapons and explosives.

B. Permit East Bengal dissidents to use India as a refuge and to conduct cross­border activities from within India.

C. Covertly provide supplies, including weapons, and perhaps some training to East Bengal dissidents.”

Ambassador Keating, the then US ambassador to India, expressed his dismay and concern at the repression unleashed by the Martial Law administrators with the use of American military equipment. He called for the U.S. to “promptly, publicly, and prominently deplore” the brutality.

Source: The Daily Star archive, Bangladesh Genocide Archive, US Department of State Archive

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