Yes, Young Narendra Modi was Arrested for Participating in Satyagrah for Bangladesh Liberation

Prime Minister Modi’s speech at the Closing Ceremony of the 50th Anniversary of Bangladesh, at the National Parade Square in Dhaka, stirred up a hornet’s nest’. He said that he was arrested while taking part in a Satyagraha movement in 1971, seeking the liberation of Bangladesh. This caused a social media meltdown amongst Congress leaders like Sashi Tharoor and Congress-minded intellectuals like a historian, Srinath Raghavan, who took to Twitter to castigate Prime Minister Modi saying that he lied because it was Indira Gandhi who liberated Bangladesh and the hon’ble was lying. 

The Congress is infamous for playing by the book and of burning their fingers by giving knee jerk reactions without verifying facts, which again reveal their lack of knowledge of India and her history due to their lack of engagement with our nation and its pulse. The reality goes thus – The Jana Sangh did organize a satyagraha between 1st to 11th August 1971 to press the demand for India to support the Liberation War of East Pakistan. This was in the wake of untold brutality being meted out to the Hindus of East Pakistan, a huge chunk of whom had started migrating to India. 

The volunteers of the Jana Sangh organized a massive rally in front of the Parliament, on 12th August 1971 and the leader of the opposition, Atal Behari Vajpayeeji took a firm stand seeking Indian as well as international support for the Liberation of East Pakistan. Their agitation was also against US President Nixon’s Pro Pakistan stand on the issue. Several Jana Sangh leaders and volunteers were arrested at that time. There was a huge chunk of young volunteers from Gujarat who took part in the Satyagraha and PM Modi was one of them. The arrest for Satyagraha in favour of liberating Bangladesh was the starting point of Modiji’s political career, as stated by the author, Nilanjan Mukherjee, the man who penned his biography ‘Narendra Modi: The Man, The times’.

By that time, the 1971 war was on. I would come to New Delhi during that period. A Satyagraha was going on for some time. I participated in the Satyagraha to go and join the war there. But instead of sending us to the war front, the government arrested us and sent us to Tihar Jail,” PM Modi is quoted in the book.

According to the official history of the 1971 war, the Jana Sangh had also organized a demonstration on 24th May 1971, demanding the liberation of East Pakistan and thousands of its volunteers, MPs and MLAs from various parts of the country were arrested during the agitation. The role of the Jana Sangh in supporting Bangladesh’s liberation war was recognized by the neighbouring nation and they even awarded the then Jana Sangh leader and the ex-Prime Minister of India, Atal Behari Vajpayeeji for his tireless efforts in support of the ‘Mukti Joddhas’ of East Pakistan. The citation for the award to him mentions the ‘Gana Satyagraha’ organized by the Jana Sangh in 1971. 

India’s war against Pakistan for the liberation of Bangladesh began on 3rd December 1971, which is a clear indicator of delay in taking the plunge for war. The same has been stated by the exiled Bangladesh author, Tasleema Nasrin through a Facebook post. Though the reason for this delay was attributed to the advice of Field Marshall Maneckshaw to Mrs. Indira Gandhi – that it would be convenient for India to begin her offence against Pakistan in winter because the snows in November-December would render a possible Chinese intervention difficult. However, the question that one may still ask is that why the wait till the end on 1971, when the Liberation struggle of East Pakistan began in the 1950s and there was news of continuous support of Pakistan towards the North East insurgent elements in Nagaland and Mizoram, via the East Pakistan route, making the secession of East Pakistan imperative for India. New Delhi’s soft stance towards Pakistan post the latter’s humiliating defeat in the 1971 war, the subsequent Simla Pact and the release of the POWs vindicate the above questions even more.

Though Sashi Tharoor later apologized for his Twitter meltdown that cannot take away the fact that he had triggered a social media chain reaction of unfairly branding PM Modi as a liar. He also overlooked the fact that PM Modi did acknowledge Mrs Gandhi’s role in liberating Bangladesh. They also need to confess in front of the Indian populace that their knowledge of history is limited to that part of the history that was written by their loyalist historians to make them appear ‘great’. The above questions add to the so many unanswered questions posed to Congress, since their inception. 

By Ranita Chandra

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