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People fought in Sheikh Mujib's name: Indira Gandhi

by Ashik Chowdhury ---

DHAKA, March 6, 2015 (BSS) - People of Bangladesh fought in the name of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman during the War of Liberation in 1971, wrote former Indian premier Indira Gandhi in her biographical book "My Truth".

"Whatever they (people of Bangladesh) did, they did in his name and for him," the book reads, which also includes a very candid expression of a personal feeling of Gandhi about the Father of the Nation: "He was a very sentimental, warm-hearted person: more of a father figure than a legislator."

Based on interviews and other sources, My Truth is a rare and vitally important book, which portrays Indira Gandhi's life in her own words. The first edition of the book was published simultaneously in India and France in 1980 when Gandhi was out of power.

Merely a week before the black night of March 25, Gandhi on March 18, 1971 was elected the leader of the Congress Parliamentary Party and the prime minister of India for the third time in succession.

At that time, India was at a different situation as Gandhi described in the book: "The Congress crisis, the consequent competitive radicalism, the election campaign and its results have all combined to politicise the country to a great degree and to raise hopes difficult to satisfy."

She, however, was well aware about what was happening in the then East Pakistan: "At first, the only thing we knew that the Pakistanis were fighting instead of accepting Mujib (Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman) as the elected Prime Minister."

Soon Gandhi realized that something extraordinary was going to happen in the then East Pakistan as she described in her book that the war in 71 was not an ordinary war and it was a political matter rather than a religious one.

However, she wrote, "We kept out of it as long as we possibly could" though "there was a persistent demand for action and some people felt that we should have moved our troops there."

In September 1971, Gandhi visited Moscow followed by a three-week official tour in October to European countries "to tell people there that if they had any influence on the Pakistanis, they should try and get them to act more reasonably."

From the very beginning of the war, Gandhi was confident about the independence of Bangladesh: "I had no doubt in my mind that the Bangladeshis would win their freedom. Not the slightest doubt. The only question was when would it happen and which side of the fence we would be on ... if only for geographical reason, we couldn't afford to be on the wrong side.

"Besides, if they were about to win, what was the point of greater bloodshed especially bearing in mind the atrocity stories told by refugees and by the foreign and our own press."

Gandhi also wrote that India was never interested in being a leader or being dominated in Asia. On the contrary, she says: "We did our best in international forums to encourage the smaller countries. We always proposed the same of Sri Lanka or Nepal, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and so on".

"So nobody would think that being big in size we were pushing ourselves. But we did, of course, stand firmly by what we considered to be our hard principles and objectives which is that each country should be truly free, strong in itself, free to develop as it whishes."

She also believes that no country could be absolutely independent of another: "It is a world of interdependence. One can be interdependent only if one is secure in one's freedom. If one gives up one's freedom, the relationship changes; it is no longer interdependence, it becomes something else - a form of colonialism creeps in."