SDHF Newsletter No.386 Japan Awakened Asia Part 8, Chapter 7 : A short history of Bangladesh
Japan Awakened Asia―A Miracle of the 20th Century
The Road to the Independence of India
―A Story to Be Passed Down to the Next Generation
Pribir Bikash Sarker
Part 8, Chapter 7: A short history of Bangladesh
Bengal produced many prominent people in various fields and greatly contributed to the Indian independence movement. However, India gained its freedom not as a united country, as Tagore, Rash Behari Bose, Subhas Chandra Bose had eagerly hoped, but ended up divided into two independent states, Pakistan and India.
Bengal refers to the region of East India, which includes the present West Bengal district and Bangladesh. This region was arbitrarily divided by the British colonial policy in 1905.
During the 18th century, the Bengal Governor of the Mughal Empire in power Siraj-ud-Dawlah protested the illicit trade by the East India Company and demanded that tariffs should be duly paid. The British side refused this request. Upon the refusal, Siraj attacked the British troops stationed in Calcutta and made them flee. Britain counterattacked and in 1757, in the Battle of Plassey, Siraj was defeated, captured, and killed. Through this battle, the British East India Company gained full control of the Bengal district. Afterwards, Britain succeeded on colonizing the entire India through the Anglo-Mysore War (1767-1799), the Anglo-Maratha Wars (1775-1818) and the Anglo-Sikh War (1845-1849) by the middle of the 19th century.
In August 1947, India became independent, and Bangladesh with its Islamic majority population was incorporated into Pakistan and came to be called East Pakistan, far apart on the opposite side of India.
However, it was extremely difficult to run a state composed of two peoples completely different from each other in culture and language and geographically divided into east and west, the only common factor being religion. In addition, at that time, nearly 20 to 30 percent of the population in East Pakistan was Hindus and the Muslims there were culturally affected by Hinduism.
Moreover, the Pakistan Government implemented language control over the Bengali speakers in East Pakistan, designating Urdu as the only official language. Students at the University of Dhaka began protesting against this linguistic discrimination. The movement to protect the Bengal language developed into an enthusiastic movement for the independence of Bangladesh.
In December 1970, in the general election, the Awami League, asserting the solid autonomy of East Pakistan, won 160 seats out of 162 allocated to East Pakistan. With this overwhelming approval rating in the background, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman asked that East Pakistan be granted higher level of autonomy.
However, the Pakistan government did not accept this request and on March 25, 1971, the Pakistan Army attacked East Pakistan and declared martial law. Many intellectuals and anti-government activists were brutally murdered. The leader Rahman was arrested and then taken to West Pakistan.
On the next day, March 26, Major Ziaur Rahman read the statement of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on his behalf on the radio, “Today, Bangladesh became independent. Let us resolutely fight until we win the final victory.” On April 10, the Awami League officially declared the independence of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh and Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, still in custody, became President. After nine months of an independence war with the aid of India, Bangladesh became independent. Japan recognized the Bangladesh statehood on February 10, the first among the Western countries.
After the independence, the political situation had been very unstable, with a coup d’ tat following a coup d’ tat, but in 1990, people’s discontent against the military dictatorship developed from a student’s movement into a nationwide movement for democracy. President Ershad was forced to resign. It was one of the successful events for establishing democracy in Asia, which happened concurrently with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Then, the political stability continued and under Sheikh Hasina’s government, the country entered a phase of high economic growth.
MOTEKI Hiromichi, Chairman
Society for the Dissemination of Historical Fact