In the terrible violence of a fratricidal war, the victims were from every ethnic and religious group and from both sides of the political divide and so were the perpetrators...Both sides had legitimate political arguments and their idealistic followers, along with those who indulged in opportunism, expediency and inhumanity.Many Bengalis - supposed to be fighting for freedom and dignity - committed appalling atrocities.And many Pakistani army officers, carrying out a military action against a political rebellion, turned out to be fine men doing their best to fight an unconventional war within the conventions of warfare...A long-standing theme is the state of denial in Pakistan: A refusal to confront what really happened in East Pakistan.However the study revealed a greater state of denial in Bangladesh.
"pushing her conclusions to an extreme" by arguing that the war was fought between two equally violent sides, "with the Pakistan army using only justified and temperate amounts of retaliatory force".
She also relies heavily on Hamoodur Rahman Commission Report, which was done by the post-1971 Pakistan government with the intention of white-washing the war.Dr Bose takes some gaps in the popular narrative, and then pushes it to an extreme to argue that 1971 was a war between two equally violent sides, with the Pakistan army using only justified and temperate amounts of retaliatory force.
There is clear evidence, Dr Bose says, of the violence suffered by "non-Bengali victims of Bengali ethnic hatred".
In one notorious incident examined by the author in the south-western town of Khulna on 28 March 1971, Bengalis "slaughtered" large numbers of Biharis in the town's jute mills.
Describing the three million figure as a "gigantic rumour", she says it is "not based on any accounting or survey on the ground".
Her conclusion over how many died has been roundly rejected by Mr Mohaiemen, who pointed out that Bangladeshis have themselves publicly dissected the problem of "numbers", going back to 1972 when the three million number was first cited.
"Researchers like Zunaid Kazi documented 12 different media estimates of death tolls. Thus, the implied 'hook' of Dr Bose's book, a claim to being the 'first' to dissect the death toll, rings hollow and is self-promotional.
She says: "Ultimately neither the numbers nor the labels matter. What matters is the nature of the conflict, which was fundamentally a complex and violent struggle for power among several different parties with a terrible human toll."
The Bangladeshi government has so far not commented on her book - but the country's attitude towards those who express dissenting views about the 1971 war was clearly seen in April when a film about a woman's love affair with a Pakistani soldier during the conflict was speedily withdrawn amid suggestions it distorted history.
First published in BBC online, 16 June 2011
The Indian edition of Sarmila Bose's book is being published by Hachette India and is due to be released in mid-June. The book is published by C Hurst and Co in the UK and by Columbia University Press in the US.