Bangladesh, officially the People’s Republic of Bangladesh is one of the youngest countries in the world, becoming independent only in 1970. Bangladesh is also the country that shares the longest boundary with India. Bangladesh forms the sovereign part of the historic and ethnolinguistic region of Bengal, which was divided during the Partition of India in 1947.
Bengal was the first region to come under British rule after the Battle of Buxar in 1964 which gave the British East India Company diwani rights (right to collect taxes) to the region. Bengal was one of the most prosperous provinces during Mughal reign and was the capital of the British Raj till 1911. It was partitioned on 1905 as a part of the ‘divide and rule’ policy but this decision was later undone in 1911.
In 1947, East Bengal became the most populous province in the Dominion of Pakistan. It was renamed as East Pakistan with Dhaka becoming the country’s legislative capital. In 1950, the East Bengal Legislative Assembly enacted land reform, abolishing the Permanent Settlement and the zamindari system.
In 1952 the Bengali language movement which is a political movement in former East Pakistan advocating the recognition of the Bengali language as an official language of the then-Dominion of Pakistan. This was seen as the beginning of the dispute since West Pakistan was the politically dominant division of the Pakistani union, despite East Pakistan making up more than half of its population.
The Government of Pakistan in 1954 launched the ‘One Unit’ programme to diminish the differences between the two regions, which merged the four provinces of West Pakistan into a single province to parallel the province of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). Pakistan adopted a new constitution in 1956.
In 1958 Pakistan Army took over power and declared Military rule in the country and introduced a new constitution in 1962 replacing parliamentary system with presidential system.
In 1962 Dhaka was made the seat of the National Assembly of Pakistan, in order to appease increased Bengali nationalism. However, the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965 which resulted in India blocking the cross-border transport links which essentially became a second partition. In 1966 a six-point movement was launched in East Pakistan calling for greater autonomy and the establishment of a federal parliamentary democracy.
In response to the rising demands from East Pakistan, the Pakistani Army initiated sedition charges against the leaders of East Pakistan in a case which came to be known as Agartala Conspiracy Case. Facing such oppression from the Army, in 1969 a populist uprising happened in East Pakistan which resulted in the withdrawal of Agartala Conspiracy Case and the release of all leaders arrested under it.
The calls for freedom reached a boiling point by 1970 general elections, in which the East Pakistani political parties won a majority and they were set to form a government and draft a new constitution. The army and the West Pakistan establishment realising their tenuous hold on power was about to be eroded, refused to validate the elections.
This resulted in massive civil uprisings in the East Pakistan and millions took to the streets. In response to this, the Pakistani army launched a massive military campaign against the people of East Pakistan under the code name of Operation Searchlight. This led to the largest genocide since the Holocaust during which states 3,000,000 people were killed as per the Government of Bangladesh.
Bangladesh Liberation War
The massive killings, instead of suppressing the revolts, made them more intense. People who were protesting peacefully, took up arms and revolted. On 26 March 1971 Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (the founding Father of Bangladesh) declared the independence of Bangladesh.
Provisional Government of Bangladesh was formed on 10 April 1971 and they created the Mukti Bahini which was the guerrilla resistance movement consisting of the Bangladeshi military, paramilitary and civilians. They received support from Indian intelligence agencies and were given weapons and training in India.
On 3rd December 1971, Pakistani Air Force launched a pre-emptive air strike against Indian Airbases of Amritsar, Ambala, Agra, Awantipur, Bikaner, Halwara, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Pathankot, Bhuj, Srinagar and Uttarlai and air defence radars at Amritsar and Faridkot under Operation Chengiz Khan.
This led to an existence of a state of war between the two countries even though neither government had formally issued a declaration of war. 13 days after the unprovoked attack i.e., on 16th December 1971, Pakistan Army forces located in East Pakistan signed the Instrument of Surrender. Over 93,000 Pakistani troops surrendered to the Indian forces and Bangladesh Liberation forces, making it the largest surrender since World War II.
In 1972 the Shimla Agreement was signed between India and Pakistan ensuring Pakistan recognised the independence of Bangladesh in exchange for the return of the Pakistani Prisoners of War.
People’s Republic of Bangladesh-
The following period was filled with military coups and assassinations starting with the assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 1975. This political game continued for decades and the country went through multiple governments till a mass uprising in the 1990 forced the military to take political reforms seriously.
The country returned to a parliamentary form of government and initiated a major program to liberalise the Bangladeshi economy. They also signed the Chittagong Hill Tracts Peace Accord in 1997 which allowed for the recognition of the rights of the peoples and tribes of the Chittagong Hill Tracts region and ended the decades-long insurgency between the Shanti Bahini and government forces.
Currently Bangladesh has emerged as one of the fastest-growing economies in the world and has become one of the centers of textile manufacturing in the world. They have also successfully brought a large number of their citizens out of poverty.