NEW DELHI: The history of the 1971 India-Pakistan war will never be fully written. Most of the official records of the war that led to the liberation of Bangladesh have been destroyed.
The destroyed files include those on the creation of the Mukti Bahini — the Bangladesh freedom fighters — all appreciation and assessments made by the army during the war period, the orders issued to fighting formations, and other sensitive operational details.
Authoritative army sources said all records of the period, held at the Eastern Command in Kolkota, were destroyed immediately after the 1971 war. This has remained secret until now.
According to at least two former chiefs of the Eastern Command and other senior army officers TOI spoke to, the destruction may have been deliberate.
They say the destruction may have happened when Lt General Jagjit Singh Aurora, the Indian army’s commanding officer on the eastern front, headed the Eastern Command. If true, this would be at odds with Aurora’s image as the hero who led his men to victory and thePakistan army’s surrender in Dhaka.
The sensational fact that the files were missing became known only recently when the Eastern Command was searching for details of the Mukti Bahini camps in order to organize a reception for Bangladeshi veterans.
The Indian Army had housed the freedom fighters in different camps across India, where army instructors trained them in warfare. Later, Mukti Bahini fighters were part of the operations led by the eastern command.
A senior army source told TOI, “We were looking for the details of Mukti Bahini camps. We wanted to know where all were the camps, who were in charge etc. When those files were not available, the eastern army command launched a hunt for the records of the war. That is when we realized that the entire records are missing.”
Lt Gen (retd) JFR Jacob, who was chief of staff of the eastern command during the war and later its head, admitted the records were missing, when asked if this were true. ”When I took over as Eastern Army commander in August 1974 I asked to see the records. I was told that they have been shredded,” he told TOI. He refused to discuss who ordered the destruction of the records.
The army headquarters and various units of the army may have some records of the war, a senior army officer said.
But the picture will never be complete, he said, adding that military records maintained at the nerve center of operations are crucial if one is ever to construct the full picture.
The details are significant as this operation is one of the great success stories of Indian intelligence and the army.