Bangladesh war graves: India 'to help locate fighters' remains'

Mukti Bahini troops on the Indian side of the border in 1971 Mukti Bahini fought against Pakistan in Bangladesh's liberation war in 1971

India has said it is "committed" to finding the graves and handing over the remains of fighters who perished in Bangladesh's 1971 independence struggle against Pakistan.

Officials confirmed to the BBC that it had appointed staff to begin work.

More than 2,000 fighters are believed to be buried in remote areas on India's side of the border with Bangladesh.

India's intervention during the nine-month war of secession helped the creation of an independent Bangladesh.

Bangladesh independence war, 1971

  • Civil war erupts in Pakistan, pitting the West Pakistan army against East Pakistanis demanding autonomy and later independence
  • Fighting forces an estimated 10 million East Pakistani civilians to flee to India
  • In December, India invades East Pakistan in support of the East Pakistani people
  • Pakistani army surrenders at Dhaka and its army of more than 90,000 become Indian prisoners of war
  • East Pakistan becomes the independent country of Bangladesh on 16 December 1971
  • Exact number of people killed is unclear - Bangladesh says it is three million but independent researchers say it is up to 500,000 fatalities

Civil war erupted in East Pakistan (as Bangladesh was known then) in March 1971 as people demanded autonomy and independence.

The true number of people killed during that war is still unknown, but Bangladesh puts the figure at three million. Other researchers say that between 300,000 and 500,000 died.

Dhaka has given a list of 2,416 people, most of them Bangladeshi fighters, who it believes are buried in "India and in no-man's land" on the border.

A team led by a senior officer of Bangladesh's Ministry of Liberation War Affairs visited India last June. The team met Indian officers from various high profile ministries to frame a mechanism to identify the graves.

The team visited eastern Indian states of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and West Bengal where the sites are believed to be located.

"We are committed to it," said Syed Akbaruddin, India's foreign office spokesman.

He cited an example of how such graves could be identified.

"People who participated in the last rites of the war hero Hamidur Rahman 40 years ago helped us to locate his grave recently. Locals may help now."

He added that DNA testing could also be an option to establish their identities.

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