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Bangabandhu-army spar over probe into Bengali massacre

DHAKA, March 16, 2015(BSS) - As the Mujib-Yahya talks entered the second day (March 17, 1971), the atmosphere was suddenly charged with news of army opening fire on Bengali civilians in Chittagong.

Apparently a riot had broken out, instigated by armed forces' personnel dressed in civvies, and they had opened fire on a pro-Awami League procession while it was passing by a "Bihari" neighborhood.

The whole country was outraged at the incident and everybody knew that it was a "probing" tactics of the Pakistanis. Consequently, it was not to be taken lightly.

To assuage feelings or to "cover-up", actually, the Martial Law Administrator Zone B announced a probe "to go into the circumstances which led to the calling of the Army in aid of civil power in various parts of East Pakistan between March 2 and March 9.

Bangabandhu promptly rejected it and sent his colleagues: Capt. Mansur Ali, leader of the parliamentary party in the East Pakistan Assembly, Khandaker Mushtaque Ahmed, vice-president, East Pakistan Awami League and Abidur Reza Khan, MNA-elect to Chittagong to make an on-the-spot inquiry into the recent firings and other incidents there.

Following is the full text of Bangabandhu's rejection printed in newspapers

MUJIB DECLINES TO ACCEPT PROBE BODY

No useful purpose could be served: limited.

Text of the statement by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on March 18, 1971 at Dacca.

The Awami League Chief Sheikh Mujibur Rahman today rejected the commission of enquiry set up by the Martial Law Administrator Zone B "to go into the circumstances which led to the calling of the Army in aid of civil power in various parts of East Pakistan between March 2 and March 9".

In a statement issued here today the Awami League chief declared the people of Bangla Desh shall not co-operate with such a commission in airy (any) respect. He also said no one should nominate any member to this 'commission ' nor serve as its members.

According to the Martial Law Administrator's Order, the commission will be headed by a judge of the High Court of East Pakistan who is to be nominated by the Chief Justice.

Following is the full text of the statement:

"I regret that the Commission of Inquiry " which has been announced, on the face of it cannot satisfy the demand voiced by me on behalf of the people of Bangla Desh. Its very institution by a Martial Law Order and the provision for submission of its report to the Martial Law authority are highly objectionable.

The terms of reference themselves betray the intention of pre-judging the most fundamental issue and to shut out inquiry into the real issues. The only term of reference is: "To go into the circumstances which led to the calling of the Army in aid of civil power in various parts of East Pakistan between March 2 and March 9". The fundamental issue is thus pre-judged, since what has to be inquired into is whether the deployment and use of force was in aid of ulterior political purposes and not at all in aid of civil power.

The 'commission' is further shut out from inquiring into the actual atrocities, which have been reported from various parts of Bangla Desh, involving thousands of casualties. Thus, even the number of casualties and the circumstances in which unarmed civilians were shot down cannot be enquired into. "Such a ‘commission' can serve no useful purpose. Indeed such an inquiry would not at all (satisfy) the genuine inquiry aimed at arriving at the truth, but would be a mere device to mislead the people.

"We cannot, therefore, accept such a ‘commission'. The people of Bangla Desh shall not co-operate with such 'commission', nor serve as its members. "On behalf of the people we had (have) made a four-point demand on the 7th of March, 1971, one of those demands was (that) for a fair, impartial and public inquiry with proper terms of reference. The nominal and piecemeal acceptance of one of those points and that too in the manner described above, cannot contribute to the solution of the grave crisis that faces us ".

Mujib(')s Probe

Meanwhile, Sheikh Mujib has sent Capt. ` Mansur Ali, leader of Parliamentary party in the East Pakistan Assembly, Khandaker Mushtaque Ahmed, Vice-President, East Pakistan Awami League and Abidur Reza Khan, MNA-elect to Chittagong to make an on the spot enquiry into the recent firings and other incidents there. They will assess the situation and report accordingly.

It may be mentioned that Maulana Bhashani had(s) also sent him a telegram to this effect.

(THE DAWN, Karachi-March 19, 1971)