Foreign Friends of 1971
Published: 09:45 PM, 15 December 2019 Updated: 12:40 PM, 2 January 2020
Liberation War was not a blessing for us. We got our independence through lots of sacrifices from all classes of people in our country. It is the result of three million lives and so many uncountable things. Besides our indigenous freedom fighter, there was direct and indirect participation of many peace-loving citizens from all over the world in Bangladesh’s bloody liberation war.
The news of the genocide, torture and unilateral war of the unarmed Bangladeshis was delivered through their pen, someone by the camera, someone wrote poem, and someone sang songs to aware the people all over the world. Some foreign friends who raised their hand of friendship towards Bangladeshis during the War of Liberation are our topic of discussion here.
William AS Ouderland
Dutch-Australian William AS Ouderland, popularly known as W. AS Ouderland was the only foreigner who was honored with the state insignia of ‘Bir Pratik’ by the government of Bangladesh for his contribution to the liberation war in 1971.
On 6th December 1917, the Australian national Ouderland was born at Amsterdam in Netherland. He was in Bangladesh for his job in Bata Shoe Company during the liberation war. He came to Dhaka first in late 1970 with an assignment as the Production Manager of Bata Shoe Company.
Ouderland was a guerilla commando in the Second World War. And when the liberation war began, he fined an ex-soldier inside himself who has faced a new war here. With the help of his experience in participating direct battlefield, he became an active member of a guerilla branch of Sector No. 2, though he helped the freedom fighters as ‘secret intelligence service’ in his first phase of involvement in the liberation war.
At the same time, he trained the freedom fighters to prepare for the guerilla warfare at different secret camps in Tongi.
Apart from his active participation in the direct war, he also gathered information on atrocities and genocide, collected photographs of brutalities of the Pakistani military and send it to the world news media for creating public opinion in favor of the Liberation War. He took it as his responsibility to inform the rest of the people of the world about the atrocities and genocide happening in Bangladesh.
After conquering the independence, he continued his job in the Bata Shoe Company in Dhaka as Managing Director till 1978. The true friend of Bangladesh left the earth forever on 18th May 2001 in Australia.
US Senator Edward Kennedy, known as Ted Kennedy, visited the Bangladeshi refugee camps in India as he didn’t get the visa to enter East Pakistan in times of liberation war. After visiting the refugee camps, citing his remarks in the London Times, “This is probably the biggest tragedy of our time for mankind.”
Senator Edward Kennedy urged the administration to put pressure in Pakistan to allow Red Cross International Committee representatives to meet Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, saying that genocide is taking place in East Pakistan.
He came to the country after the war in 1972. He replanted the banyan tree of the University of Dhaka, involved in the history of Bangladesh, which was destroyed by Pakistani forces. On his return home, he called for international support for the repatriation of refugees and the speedy implementation of the food aid program under PL480 in recognition of the US government.
Edward Moore Kennedy, the ‘Icon of Democracy’, also known as the ‘Lion of the Senate’, was the younger brother of President John F. Kennedy. He was born in 1932 and at the age of 77, he died in 2009. He was elected senator from Massachusetts for 47 years.
Simon Dring, a reporter of ‘The Daily Telegraph’, is working in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. He was called from his London headquarters and told him, “The political situation in East Pakistan is unstable. Something is going to happen there, go to Dhaka and cover the issue.”
Simon has been there in Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam area for many years. He had no idea about Pakistan or East Pakistan. In such a situation, he arrived in Dhaka from Cambodia on 6th March. The next day, he witnessed the historic 7th March Speech of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman at the Racecourse Ground. He did not understand even a Bangla word, but seeing the reaction of millions of people, their eyes, and their expression he could understand that it would become a huge political event.
After coming to Dhaka for a week, Simon could not think of returning. His direct experience in the politics of Pakistan and the struggle of the people of East Pakistan has begun. He was introduced to several Awami League leaders including Sheikh Mujibur Rahman at that time. And he began to send regular reports on the latest political events of Pakistan in London.
On 25th March 1971, just before the bloodthirsty Pakistan Army launched the infamous ‘Operation Searchlight’, they locked up some 200 foreign journalists at the Hotel Intercontinental so that they cannot witness how the atrocious army was setting fire and killing innocent mass people mercilessly using their heavy weapons.
When every journalist was thinking about their safety, no journalist could gather any information and evidence of the atrocities, British journalist Simon Dring who hid at hotel’s lobby, kitchen and roof-top for more than 32 hours risking his life only to inform the world about the barbarity of Pakistan Army.
When the curfew was lifted on 27th March, avoiding the military patrol he left the hotel, traveled the city and collected the evidence of genocide at the Dhaka University area, Rajarbagh Police Line and various parts of old Dhaka. Then he managed to board on a flight to West Pakistan skipping the red eyes of the army. Security personnel stopped him a couple of times, but he somehow preserved his necessary notes until he reached Bangkok. Consequently, Dring penned up his famous report ‘Tanks Crush Revolt in Pakistan’ which was published on the front page of The Daily Telegraph on 30th March 1971, as the first account of the brutal genocide in Bangladesh.
He was always devoted to the helpless people of Bangladesh at that time. Pakistan’s administration forced him to leave Pakistan then. And after that, in November 1971, he came to India and gathered information from there and published it neutrally. He came to Bangladesh with the freedom fighters after conquering the war on 16th December 1971.
Sydney H Schanberg
Sydney H Schanberg was the first foreign journalists who break the news of genocide committed by the Pakistani army in West Pakistan to the world in 1971. He was the South Asian correspondent of ‘The New York Times’ during the liberation war.
Sydney H Schanberg was shocked to see the brutalities and massacre carried out by the Pakistani forces and alerted the world by sending shocking stories including the massacre in his media after the genocide started on 25th March 1971.
In June 1971, Schanberg filed several eyewitness accounts from Bangladeshi towns for The New York Times. As a result, Pakistan expelled him from the country on 30th June 1971.
Schanberg was one of the leading journalists among the ones who played a crucial role to uncover the brutalities in Bangladesh. He visited Bangladesh several times despite the expulsion order by the Pakistan authorities.
Schanberg was born in Massachusetts on 17th January 1934 and he died in New York on 9th June 2016 at the age of 82.
The US government was allies of Pakistan during our liberation war and they sent their 7th fleet to intimidate India for not interfering with any events in East Pakistan. But the peace-loving people of the United States created the forum ‘Americans for Bangladesh’ and arranged a poetry recital event on 20th November 1971 at Saint George Church in New York. Poets like Allen Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky, and Ed Sanders performed that program.
Ginsberg recited his legendary 152-line poem ‘September on Jessore Road’, which he had written to draw the world’s attention to the sufferings of Bangladeshi refugees after visiting refugee camps in India and witnessing the plight of millions fleeing wartime violence. He wrote the poem after observing the refugee camps in India during the liberation war.
Allen Ginsberg, a highly praised poet of his generation was one of the most respected and leading figures of the Beat writers. He was born into a Jewish family on 3rd June 1926 in New Jersey.
J F R Jacob
India’s Lt. Gen. J F R Jacob is one of the most important persons among all the foreigners who played a significant role in the liberation war.
Jacob was born in Kolkata and passed his education life in Darjeeling and the United States. He was the Chief of Staff of the Eastern Command of the Indian Army at that time. He made outstanding contributions to our liberation war by utilizing the experience of participating in the Second World War and the Pakistan-India War in 1965.
During the War of Liberation, General Jacob played a vital role in the unparalleled contribution of Indian forces to the establishment of camps for the freedom fighters, reconstruction of camps, training, providing arms and logistics that contributed to the desired victory of Bangladesh.
Under his leadership, freedom fighters took control over Dhaka. His wise-advice and cleverness forced the Pakistani Captain Lieutenant Niazi and his 26,000 troops stationed in Dhaka to surrender. The surrender at the Racecourse Ground on 16th December was the only open surrender in the history. He shared this experience later in his book ‘Surrender at Dacca: Birth of a Nation’.
He started his political career by joining Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and later served as the governor of Goa and Punjab. He died on 13th January 2016.
Anthony Mascarenhas, an Indian Guyanese by birth and a Pakistani journalist by education and living. In April 1971, he worked for a few days in West Pakistan as a journalist of ‘The Morning News’ in Karachi. Pakistani government sent him to East Pakistan with the purpose of covering the situation of East Pakistan and spread the news positively throughout the world.
But Anthony Mascarenhas cannot do the planned thing after being the witnessed of the brutality of Pakistani armies. After seeing the brutal murder by the Pakistan army, he could not go against his conscience and fled to London on 18th May by collecting the images of these massacres.
On 13th June, the first page of ‘The Sunday Times’ of London published a report titled ‘Genocide’ on the murder of East Pakistan and dropped its attention to the international arena. That report awakening the conscience of the entire world, it played a leading role in gathering support for the Bangladeshis. In that report, the brutality of the West Pakistani troops, the asylum of refugees in India, the death of countless people in the famine, the stories of rape of thousands of women, the killing of children - all began to unfold.
Later, he published two books, ‘The Rape of Bangladesh’ and ‘Bangladesh: A Legacy of Blood’ highlighting the war, genocide and subsequent events in Bangladesh.
On 6th December 1986, this kind-hearted man standing next to us left the earth forever.
Andre Malraux was a man of versatile talents; a French novelist, art theorist, the author of The Human Condition, the commander of a Squadron in the Spanish Civil War, the French resistance fighter, General de Gaulle’s, Minister for Culture and a winner of the prestigious Prix Goncourt. In addition to that, he is one of the dearest friends of Bangladesh.
In 1971, he actively raised about awareness of three million Bengali deaths by the end of the war. He declared that he was ready to go to fight on their side, but his plans did not come to fruition. His announcement, however, helped to grab the attention of many countries around the world. Malraux was instrumental in shaping France’s stand towards the Liberation War of Bangladesh. He visited Bangladesh in 1973.
When Pakistani invaders were brutally killing innocent people in Bangladesh, they had crossed the border to save their lives. Indira Gandhi came to see the humanitarian disaster in the refugee camp in 1971.
Millions of people have taken shelter in different parts of India to save their lives. During the War of Liberation, she became the native guardian of Bangladesh. She gives maximum assistance to the innocent people of Bangladesh by providing food and shelter across the border.
Concert for Bangladesh
The Concert for Bangladesh was a pair of benefit concert organized by former Beatles lead guitarist George Harrison and Indian sitar player Ravi Shankar. The shows were held at 2:30 pm and 8:00 pm at Madison Square Garden in New York City on Sunday, 1st August 1971, to raise international awareness and fund relief for refugees from East Pakistan.
The event was the first-ever benefit of such a magnitude and featured a super-group of performers that included Harrison, Ringo Starr, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Billy Preston, Leon Russell, and the band Badfinger. In addition, Ravi Shankar and Ali Akbar Khan had performed an opening set of Indian classical music at that concert.
The concerts were attended by a total of forty thousand people approximately, and the initial gate receipts have risen close to the US $250,000 for Bangladesh relief, which was administered by UNICEF.
The basic purpose of the show was to raise international awareness and fund relief for the refugees from East Pakistan. The Concert for Bangladesh in 1971 has become one of the most ambitious humanitarian efforts in music history.
Though Bangladesh was not very popular at that time, the peace-loving people all over the world started supporting Bangladeshis. Like them, there are many other people around the world who had supported Bangladesh during the liberation war without any benefit from them. Their support inspired our freedom fighters as well as it helped to grow the public sentiment for the refugees. The general people of Bangladesh are grateful to them and they will always remember them with great honor and dignity.
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