For More...

History


Modern Bangladesh emerged as an independent nation in 1971 after breaking away and achieving independence from Pakistan in the Bangladesh liberation war. The country’s borders coincide with the major portion of the ancient and historic region of Bengal in the eastern part of the Indian subcontinent, where civilization dates back over four millennia, to the Chalcolithic. The history of the region is closely intertwined with the history of Bengal and the history of India.


The area’s early history featured a succession of Indian empires, internal squabbling, and a tussle between Hinduism and Buddhism for dominance. Islam became dominant gradually since the 13th century when Sunni missionaries arrived. Later, Muslim rulers reinforced the process of conversion by building masjid (mosques) and madrassas.


The borders of modern Bangladesh were established with the partition of Bengal and India in August 1947, when the region became East Pakistan as a part of the newly formed State of Pakistan following the Radcliffe Line.[1] However, it was separated from West Pakistan by 1,600 km (994 mi) of Indian territory. Due to political exclusion, ethnic and linguistic discrimination, as well as economic neglect by the politically dominant western-wing, popular agitation and civil disobedience led to the war of independence in 1971. After independence, the new state endured famine, natural disasters and widespread poverty, as well as political turmoil and military coups. The restoration of democracy in 1991 has been followed by relative calm and economic progress.


The exact origin of the word Bangla or Bengal is unknown. According to Mahabharata, Purana, Harivamsha Vanga was one of the adopted sons of King Vali who founded the Vanga Kingdom. The earliest reference to “Vangala” (Bôngal) has been traced in the Nesari plates (805 AD) of the south Indian ruler Rashtrakuta Govinda III, who invaded northern India in the 9th century, which speak of Dharmapala as the king of Vangala. The records of Rajendra Chola I of the Chola dynasty, who invaded Bengal in the 11th century, speak of Govindachandra as the ruler of Vangaladesa. Shams-ud-din Ilyas Shah took the title “Shah-e-Bangalah” and united the whole region under one government for the first time.


War and Peace
At the racecourse rally of 7 March 1971 in Dhaka (at what is now Ramna Park), Sheikh Mujibur (Mujib) stopped short of declaring East Pakistan independent. In reality, however, Bangladesh (land of the Bangla speakers) was born that day. Sheikh Mujib was jailed in West Pakistan, igniting smouldering rebellion in East Pakistan.
When the Mukti Bahini (Bangladesh Freedom Fighters) captured the Chittagong radio station on 26 March 1971, Ziaur Rahman, the leader of the Mukti Bahini, announced the birth of the new country and called upon its people to resist the Pakistani army. President Khan sent more troops to quell the rebellion.
General Tikka Khan, known to Bangladeshis as the ‘Butcher of Balochistan’, began the systematic slaughter of Sheikh Mujib’s supporters. Tanks began firing into the halls of Dhaka University. Hindu neighbourhoods were shelled and intellectuals, business people and other ‘subversives’ were hauled outside the city and shot.
By June the struggle had become a guerrilla war. More and more civilians joined the Mukti Bahini as the Pakistani army’s tactics became more brutal. As documented in media reports at the time, and in several book-length studies since, napalm was used against villages, and rape was both widespread and systematic, although the actual number of women affected remains disputed.
By November 1971 the whole country was suffering the burden of the occupying army. During the nine months from the end of March 1971, 10 million people fled to refugee camps in India.
With border clashes between Pakistan and India becoming more frequent, the Pakistani air force made a pre-emptive attack on Indian forces on 3 December 1971, precipitating a quick end. Indian troops crossed the border, liberated Jessore on 7 December and prepared to take Dhaka. The Pakistani army was attacked from the west by the Indian army, from the north and east by the Mukti Bahini and from all quarters by the civilian population.
By 14 December the Indian victory was complete and West Pakistan had been defeated, but at what cost? According to Bangladeshi sources around three million people were killed in the nine month war, 200, 000 women raped and 10 million people forced from their homes. Pakistani sources claim that 26, 000 deaths occurred, whilst the international community quote anything from 200, 000 to three million deaths.


The future is brighter
The past eight or nine years have seen no respite in the political twisting and turning. Khaleda Zia’s Nationalist Party and its three coalition partners won the 2001 elections. Arguing that the elections were rigged, the now-opposition Awami League began parliamentary boycotts. In August 2003, two opposition Awami League politicians were murdered, triggering a spate of hartals. In February 2004, the opposition called a series of general strikes in a failed attempt to force the government from power.

Comments are closed.