"The green-and-white Pakistani flag has vanished from Dacca. Fluttering in its place is the Bangla Desh flag, proclaiming a new State, based, not on religious fanaticism and communal hatred, but on democracy and secularism." Thus begins the Free Press Journal's front page on December 17, 1971, under a massive headline that proclaims Bangladesh has been liberated.
The Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 that ended on December 16 also brought the Bangladesh Liberation War to a successful conclusion. The Pakistani Instrument of Surrender was signed on December 16 - an occasion marked as Vijay Diwas by the Indian Army. This also brought about the surrender of 93,000 soldiers of the Pakistan Armed Forces, and the creation of a new country known as Bangladesh.
A quick perusal of the FPJ edition from December 17, 1971 shows that most of the newspaper had been dedicated to the victory - from congratulatory advertisements to how Bombay celebrated the news.
"Bangla Desh Liberated: Unconditional surrender by Pak troops in Dacca," read the front page headlines, also featuring a photo of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and a map of Bangladesh with the new flag emblazoned across it. As the FPJ notes, the occasion had been marked with "a solemn ceremony on the historic race course in Dacca" on the evening of December 16.
The US reaction
The US had not been very supportive of India's clash with Pakistani troops, and this too finds a mention on the FPJ front page. The FPJ article quotes the Associated Press to write that United States President Richard Nixon wants "a total Indian withdrawal from conquered East Pakistan".
In a front page article titled simply as "Get Back - Nixon" the report adds that his Security Affairs Advisor, Henry Kissinger had also called for foreign forces to withdraw from foreign territory".
For those unfamiliar with history, the US had stood by Pakistan during the conflict, refusing to intervene in the brewing civil war and even providing support.
How did Mumbai react to the news?
According to the FPJ Archives, Mumbai had celebrated with sweets, crackers, flag hoisting functions and more. The Municipal Corporation condemned the "anti-India stand adopted by the USA and China in helping Pak dictatorship" and Chief Minister Naik hailed the surrender of occupation forces in Bangladesh as the "victory of democracy".
Not just the news articles, even the advertisements on this day appeared to make an effort to congratulate the armed forces and Bangladesh, rather than simply promote themselves. "Congratulations to our heroic armed forces on liberating Bangladesh," began an advert by Power Cables.
(To receive our E-paper on whatsapp daily, please click here. We permit sharing of the paper's PDF on WhatsApp and other social media platforms.)