The mass killings in Bangladesh (then East Pakistan) in 1971 is still remembered to be one of the most gruesome genocides in the twentieth century. The West Pakistan (now Pakistan) military unleashed a barbaric campaign of brutality, including murder and rape of millions of Bengalis to crush the forces seeking independence of East Pakistan.
East vs West
During the 1970 election in Pakistan, Awami League led by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was elected and this party supported the separation and independence of East Pakistan from the rule of West Pakistan. West Pakistan was against the break-up and hence in 1971, they launched Operation Searchlight, a military crackdown on East Pakistan to suppress Bengali calls for self-determination. Between March 25 and December 16, 1971, three million Bengalis were murdered by the Pakistani army.
Demography behind the destruction
During the partition in 1947, Pakistan was geographically and ethnically split into two territories — West Pakistan, which had the larger section of new country with 46% of the country’s population. East Pakistan was a smaller Muslim country, however, it had a population of 54% of Pakistan.
The Muslim military elites who ruled West Pakistan viewed the Bengali Muslim residents of East Pakistan as insufficiently militaristic and insufficiently Muslim.
The gruesome genocide
The killings began on March 25th, 1971. The West Pakistan army, along with reinforcements, set out on a cleansing campaign targeting East Pakistanis. The military campaign against cities and towns not only led to large-scale civilian casualties but also displaced 30 million people from the cities into the countryside, while another 10 million East Pakistanis (Bengalis) fled to India. The action provoked widespread resistance among the Bengali officers and soldiers and rendered the entire population hostile. Nevertheless, the massacre continued. Soldiers raped over two million Bengalis. Indian forces came to support the East Bengali underground. Both Hindus and Muslims were murdered brutally causing a bloodbath in Bengal.