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March 26: General Jacob and the Liberation of Bangladesh

March 25, 2015

DSC05615Bangladesh declared its independence from Pakistan on this date in 1971, leading to an atrocious nine-month war pitting East Pakistan against West Pakistan and involving massive displacement, starvation, rape, and death. After some 10 million refugees had poured into India, that country’s military intervened, under the command of Major General Jacob-Farj-Rafael “JFR” Jacob — a Jew, born in Calcutta in 1923, whose family hailed from Baghdad. He defeated Pakistan as follows, according to Aimee Ginsburg in the Times of Israel: “Two weeks into the war, Pakistan’s commander in East Pakistan, Gen. A.A.K. Niazi, invited Jacob to lunch to discuss a cease-fire. Jacob wrote up an ‘instrument of surrender’ document for his counterpart and flew with it across enemy lines, unarmed and accompanied only by one staff officer.... Niazi was given a stark choice: Surrender unconditionally and publicly, and receive the protection of the Indian Army for all minorities and retreating troops, or face an Indian military onslaught. Jacob gave Niazi 30 minutes to decide... Jacob, as he retells it, went out to the veranda, pacing for the full half hour. Exhibiting his legendary self-control, the general appeared relatively calm while puffing his pipe and asking the Pakistani sentry about his wife and children. But knowing that he had been bluffing, ‘I appealed to God for help and said the Shema Yisrael,’ he told JTA.... Niazi agreed to the terms. The next day, 93,000 Pakistani soldiers surrendered. Jacob had but 3,000 Indian troops, 30 miles away, behind him.” Jacob had a 36-year military career that included service in World War II. After retiring, he served as governor of the Indian states of Goa and Punjab.

“India has always been very good to us. I am very proud to be a Jew, but am Indian through and through. I was born in India and served here my whole life; this is where I want die.” —JFR Jacob