When she won the 1971 Indian-Pakistan war, she created the new nation of Bangladesh, separating Pakistan into two states.
Remarkable tolerance and moderation were shown by Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Over 60 percent of Pakistan’s population was relocated to the new nation of Bangladesh after she won the war.
On a number of levels, the triumph in 1971 was important. The East Pakistani populace was antagonistic to the Pakistani military and civil service, but Mukti Bahini was welcomed with open arms.
Indira Gandhi had near-universal support in India. For example, Syed Shahabuddin, a ‘hawk’ among Muslim intellectuals, became a prominent advocate for Bangladesh’s formation. Indian Foreign Service (IFS) officer, he subsequently wrote extensively on how 1971 was a turning point for Indian Muslims.
They realised that Pakistan had no future for them for the first time since the fall of the country in 1971. Indian Muslims have and continue to believe that the fulfilment of their aspirations depends solely on their standing in India,” Shahabuddin wrote. “That realisation not only put Indian Muslims on the right track but also gave them the courage and determination to face their situation squarely, to stand up and assert themselves.”
Indian Muslims became a political force in India after the establishment of Bangladesh, according to Shahabuddin.
It wasn’t until after 1971 that Indian Muslims started to give voice to their thoughts and become a part of the national mainstream that they began to speak up.
Assassination of Indira Gandhi in 1984 left her son, Rajiv, prime minister. Indira Gandhi had given her defence chiefs unlimited latitude and sufficient time and money to prepare for combat. It was her sole request that the war be short and avoid causing diplomatic problems and drawing others into the conflict.
While the real conflict begun on December 3, 1971, Indira Gandhi had addressed the Lok Sabha as early as on March 27, 1971: “In a critical period like this, the little we as a government say, I believe the better it is.”
At Rajya Sabha, she said, “A mistaken move or a mistaken remark might have an impact quite different from the one which all desire.”
Indira Gandhi addressed letters to international leaders for more than six months, from March to October 1971, informing them of the situation on India’s border.
She traveled to Moscow, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Belgium, and the United States in a 21-day trip. To raise awareness about the atrocities committed against civilians in East Pakistan and the brutality of General Tikka Khan, she lobbied governments all over the globe.
At Teen Murti House, Indira Gandhi had a good time with the folk dancers. The year was 1972 when this picture was shot. Images courtesy of India Today may be seen here. The Awami League was allowed to set up a government-in-exile near Calcutta (now Kolkata), but Indira Gandhi refused to give it any official recognition.
There were those in the country who tried to make political capital out of the Bangladesh issue; however, this is no occasion for irresponsible action. The government will take any such step [recognition of Bangladesh] only after careful consideration of all aspects of the question,” Indira Gandhi said in August 1971 when the Opposition became more vocal in their demand.
For much of 1970-71, Pakistan was torn apart by civil and military conflict between the country’s western and eastern regions, with authorities from the western area showing little respect for Bangla culture, language, or legacy.
While the Awami League won 169 of Pakistan’s 313 parliamentary seats in 1970 under Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the post of Pakistan’s prime minister was denied him. General Yahya Khan, Pakistan’s military ruler, detained Mujibur Rahman and declared martial law in East Pakistan.
Between 3,00,000 and 5,00,000 persons are estimated to have perished during this time period. The Bangladeshi government estimates that there are three million people in this category.
Many academics believe that the Bangladesh War of Independence was the first time rape was used as a weapon of war purposefully.
Over 300,000 Bengali-speaking women were raped according to one estimate.
After guerilla warfare was started by Mukti Bahini, the Pakistan Army began an obscene assault, blowing up bridges and railway lines.
Even when Yahya Khan and Tikka Khan became impatient, Indira Gandhi remained calm and patient. Eight airfields from Srinagar to Barmer were targeted in a preemptive strike on December 3rd, 1971. As a result, India was spared the need of starting a war.