Saturday, August 11, 2012

An Iraqi-Indian Jew wins the Indo-Pak war over Bangladesh?

Something new everyday is a terrible understatement in my life.  Every day is yet another revelation of how little I know about the world and, yet, how much I pontificate at this blog and elsewhere!

Yesterday, after getting mighty disappointed that a prominent public intellectual, and a fellow Indian-American to boot, had engaged in plagiarism, and that too perhaps not the first instance, I kept jumping through hyperlinks and ended up reading this piece.  The story of Jack Jacob "born into Calcutta’s Baghdadi community, bluffed the Pakistanis into surrendering 93,000 troops in 1971."  How can such a teaser not pique my curiosity, eh!
Jack Farj Rafael Jacob, wildly accomplished and widely respected, is best known for his decisive role in the 1971 Bangladesh war. Indians and historians generally agree that his courage, strategic thinking and hutzpa changed the course of South Asian history.
So, why "hutzpa" and not "chutzpah" I don't understand.  Is "hutzpa" the accepted way to spell it in English in Iaraeli publications? 

Anyway, how did Jacob write history in that war in 1971?
Jacob, then chief of staff of the Indian Eastern command, knew that a protracted war, of which he was the Indian commander, would claim countless more lives. As the war began, trudging through swamp terrain, his troops enacted a daring plan to capture Dhaka, the capital of East Pakistan
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.
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.
Multitudes were likely saved by this surrender, still studied by military students. Recognizing his role, last month the Islamic Republic of Bangladesh awarded Jacob a certificate of appreciation for his “unique role” in the formation of the nation.
 How fascinating.  An Indian, descended from Jews who had emigrated from Iraq, plays a decisive role that saved thousands of Hindu and Muslim and Sikh and Christian lives--odds are slim that there was even another Jew in that war neighborhood.  

But then, the skeptical mind that I have wondered about the possibility that a story like this might be too good to be true.  So, following the same "trust, but verify" rule that I suggest to students (which most don't care for anyway!) I ended up reading this, in which I found the following couple of sentences to add that much more to Jacob as a person:
Now, like then, he lives alone (apart from loyal staff). The governors’ mansions he once occupied were grander than his modest flat in the capital, with its piles of books—mostly on military affairs—on the living room table. He serves tea in exquisite china, salty crackers on the side. He has never married. “I did not remain single by choice,” he says, “I tried twice, but failed.” The first of his former loves now lives in Jerusalem. The other, The One, still tugs at his heart, the memories like postcards, vivid yet flat.
 The more I read the piece, the more I now wonder if the Israeli publication had plagiarized extensively "borrowed without citing" from here, which is dated June 2012.  Even the photograph is the same; I suppose Jacob could have shared his stock portrait photograph with the reporters.  But, ...

Oh well, why get distracted from a wonderful story about an Iraqi-Indian Jew and his decisive role in the Indo-Pak war that gave birth to Bangladesh!

1 comment:

Ramesh said...

Wow. Didn't know that. I always thought it was Jagjit Singh Arora who got that surrender.