Monday, March 26, 2007
Independence day is celebrated today in Bangladesh. After Indian independence from British colonial rule the Indian subcontinent was split into two nations. During partition of India 1947 into East and West Pakistan millions of Hindus and Muslims fled across the borders, resulting in violent and bloody clashes between the two groups. Until 1971 Bangladesh, then East Pakistan, was under Pakistani rule with the government and main institutions placed in West Pakistan. When the West Pakistani government proclaimed that the national language would be Urdu, a language hardly spoken in East Bangladesh, riots and struggle between students and the Pakistani army took place on the streets of Dhaka. After a cyclone killed about 500.000 people in 1970, resistance towards the distant government grew stronger. In the beginning of March 1971 at a rally in Dhaka a political leader talked about Bangladesh as an independent state. Soon thereafter the Mukti Bahini, Bangladesh Freedom Fighters, took charge of a radio station in the Chittagong region. Troops were sent from West Pakistan and a slaughter of supporters of the freedom movement followed. In June, the freedom fight had turned into a full scale guerilla war. Many civilians joined the violent fighting. Napalm was used by the Pakistani government against villages and systematic rape was widespread. During the fighting, in Bangladesh called "the Liberation War", about 10 million fled to across the border to India. In the beginning of December, India had had enough of refugees and fighting around its borders and decided to put an end to the turmoil. The Indian army stepped in and shortly thereafter West Pakistan surrendered. Bangladesh soon thereafter was declared an independent state.