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General Jacob appeared on a TV talk show and shared the breathtaking moments of the last days of Bangladesh liberation war

May 24, 2011

On the eve of the victory day of Bangladesh, TARA News broadcast a special Indo-Bangladesh Dialogue where Bangladesh War Veteran General Jacob along with Major Prashun Chatterjee, Mainuddin Khan Badal MP and Major Rafiqul Islam took part. The program was first aired on the 15th December and repeated on the 16th December. I recorded key parts of that talk-show on my mobile phone and I can’t help sharing the transcript of those key parts in this group.

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General Jacob's Autobiography Courtesy:Roli Books

[General Jacob on the backdrop of 1971 and on the contribution of the Muktis]

Mainuddin Khan Badal MP:….my question is to you Sir, in 1971 around the 25th March, how do you visualize those days?

General Jacob: Well, I’ll tell you this first it was a political struggle and it was Mujib whose six points and he was declaring independence. Yahya did not like that and he did not want to transfer power to Mujib. So he ordered an army reinforcement into East Bengal. He also, shall I say, changed the commander in there and put Tikka Khan who is known for his brutality. The crack down, to convert from a political struggle into a massacre. There was a massacre at Dhaka University. They slaughtered the young men and they went for the intellectuals. And the East Bengal Battalions and the young boys migrated towards India for help. Let me tell you this once and for all, the struggle to liberate Bangladesh was a joint one. It was a joint effort, a joint command between India and Bangladesh. It was a joint operation, a joint command. On my left, (pointing at Mainuddin Khan Badal and Major Rafiqul Islam PSC)our two brilliant sector commanders who took a major part in the freedom struggle, now members of parliament. I salute them. They fought and faced great odds to liberate their countries. So I think when I look back it was a struggle for freedom for which the whole nation of Bangladesh took part and should get credit for. I want to tell something more…the role and contribution of Muktis and East Bengal Battalion was pivotal. They attacked the Pakistanis wherever they saw them. They created an environment of fear throughout the Pakistani army, such a power of fear they were unable to move about. We should not forget the contribution of Mukti Fauj, it was major. They played a major role in liberating their country and due credit must be given to them. —————————————————————–

[General Jacob on his role to bring an end to the war]

Mainuddin Khan Badal MP: Would you please tell the public why did you take such decision ( bypass the major towns and capture Dhaka) and why other generals cannot realize this?

General Jacob: Please understand this the UN is a very powerful force. There were so many resolutions on the table Indians to withdraw. So The war has to be quick. If we started attacking towns, see what Americans did , we would go nowhere, we would bog down. Dhaka was the geo-political center of East Pakistan. It was absolute imperative that Dhaka fell. But unfortunately, the orders we got from Army HQ were not that, orders were only to take Chittagong and Khulna. Generals could have set up an area for the operatives to fight a long war. I said ignore it we don’t want a war. We want to finish it and only way to finish it was attacking Dhaka……. But center of gravity is Dhaka. Without Dhaka, the East Pakistan would not fall. Therefore go for Dhaka, GO Go Go.

Mainuddin Khan Badal MP: So Capital has to be captured.

General Jacob: No It was the center of gravity. So that what we did. …I took the decision Dhaka was mine.

Mainuddin Khan Badal MP: Can I ask you a question about your childhood friend Lt. General Niaji?…they have blamed you that you blackmailed Niaji. I mean you outwitted him, which is a part of diplomacy and war. There my question is there were some basic loopholes in the Pakistani strategy—the pillbox strategy. What I want to say they were demoralized. At the same time there military policy was wrong. Do you think so?

General Jacob: Let me tell you something. On the 13th of December, the American fleet was on the straits of Malacca. There was a resolution from USA for withdrawal, vetoed by Russia. We were in difficulty and I have been blamed. From the Russian side no more veto. We have nothing to assure. What will you do now? We we got orders from Army HQ saying that ….we would capture every single town you bypassed except Dhaka. It was copied down to our force. I ignored it. I knew they were wrong. Now let me give you my version. On the 14th we ordered the bombing of government house. The governor resigned. Niaji and Farman Ali went to the American Consul and gave him the following … …please listen.

“Ceasefire under UN. Withdrawal under UN. Handover of government to UN No reprisals”

no mention of India. American Consul sent it to New York. At that night, Bhutto said at UN,

“Outright, (tearing the resolution) We will fight on. No more question of surrender or ceasefire.”

On the 16th I got an order from General Manekshaw to go and get a surrender. I sent the surrender document a few days earlier. I asked them to reconfirm. It was not reconfirmed. I went to Dhaka, unarmed, carrying with me my draft that I sent to Delhi. It was my draft, my personal draft. At night, I met Mark Henry and Reland… they said they were coming with me to takeover the government. I said, no thank you. … eventually we went to HQ. He said I lied to him. He (Niaji) said who said I’m surrendering. He then quoted from the commission of enquiry, Hamidur Rahman Commission. It should clarify everything. Listen:

“ General Niaji when you have 26400 troops in Dhaka you could have fought at least few more weeks, the UN resolution session, and have you fought on even one more day, the Indians would have to go back. Why did you then accept a shameful unconditional public surrender……..? He said I was compelled to do by Jacob who blackmailed me and threatened me bayonet”

….and all sorts of rubbish. He wrote this on his book. Suppose he fought 10 more days Indians would have to go back. I did not blackmail him. I think his nerve broke.

Major Prashun Chatterjee: Even if you blackmailed him. All is fair in war and love.

General Jacob: I did not blackmail him. I put pressure on him.

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[General Jacob on the figure of fallen Indians]

Mainuddin Khan Badal MP:…. I’ve seen on my own eyes a young Indian soldier he got bullet on his head and he was bleeding profusely. Now in the old days I’m thinking “Voh to koi Maa ka Lal tha”. He was shedding blood, he was not a Bengali, he was a Rajput, he was a Shikh, he was Gurkha, but he was shedding his blood for my country, so I think it is high time when both the forces are coming closer exchanging delegation, these fallen soldiers should be remembered. Now I’m asking from my government if my govt. get the list of how many Indian soldiers died….

General Jacob: We lost 1400 jawan-officer-men killed and 4000+ wounded. We should never forget their sacrifice. From the Muktis side and people of Bangladesh you lost much much more you lost a large portion of your population. Your Mukti forces fought very well. I do not have the figure but they contributed greatly with their blood.

Mainuddin Khan Badal MP:Oh yes that is the price they have to give for their country.

Major Rafiqul Islam: There were many young boys who have shed their blood for the country.

Mainuddin Khan Badal MP:There I’m coming to the point general if we get a proper list I will ask my govt. and I would like to go to every family..the Punjab …

General Jacob: also Jharkhand. The Bihari regiment fought brilliantly.

Major Rafiqul Islam: From the people of Bangladesh, we would like to thank, first Mrs. Gandhi and then Indian Political leadership.

General Jacob: Mrs Gandhi and Jagajiban Ram. Mrs. Gandhi has guts, Jagajivan Ram is efficient. I pay tributue not only to Mrs. Gandhi, Jagajivan Ram and the the leadership but the jawans who fought so well. For me it is the soldiers who get credit for this. ———————————————————————————————————————————————————– [General Jacob on Sheikh Mujib and Tajuddin Ahmed]

Major Rafiqul Islam: I thank Mrs. Gandhi and the Indian political leadership and also thank our great leadership, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib and people of my country.

Mainuddin Khan Badal MP: Mr Tajuddin Ahmed also.

General Jacob: Tajuddin was very close to me . I’m very fond of him. We worked together. I’ve the highest admiration for him.

Major Prashun Chatterjee: I was specially sent by…. to hand over it to Mr. Tajuddin..You won’t believe where the Prime Minister lived…He had only a cot , a chair and his tool in his room at Shakespeare Avenue. When he saw me he told me Major Chatterjee please sit down. …….

General Jacob: I know I’m aware of it. Tajuddin was a great man. So was Mujib. Mujib took a political stand and Tajuddin organized a freedom movement.

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[General Jacob praised the Muktis and the people of Bangladesh]

General Jacob:….the 16th December, the only public surrender on the race course of Dhaka. In a way I was apprehended people want to lynch him. It was difficult to get him out of there. It was the people of Bangladesh they took part and resisted, they should get credit and then the Muktis, the EPR battalion played a pivotal role and then the Indian army. It was a joint cooperation between all of us. All worked hard to defeat the Pakistani army and to get the freedom of Bangladesh. We all worked together and we succeeded. Credit should go to all of them.

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