Amidst the background of the nationalistic struggle against British colonial rule in India since the mid 20′s of the last century, Hindu-Muslim communal tensions led in 1947 to the partition of India and Pakistan was created as a separate homeland for Muslims. This unnatural separation of the Bengali society on the basis of religion created deep fissures in a society – which had hitherto been pluralistic in character. The Province of East Pakistan was physically separated from West Pakistan by a thousand miles. This physical separation, as well as total cultural isolation between the two peoples caused Pakistan to become an unrealistic state from the very beginning.
Since its inception, the Pakistani rulers had denied the democratic aspirations of the Bengalis and their national rights. The country declared itself as an Islamic Republic in 1956 and military rule was imposed from 1958. The Pakistani rulling elite together with the military rulers tried to subjugate the Bengalis politically, culturally and economically and naturally the disillusionment of the Bengalis with the new nation was not surprising. The struggle for a separate homeland manifested itself right from 1948 through a continuous, united and popular struggle for democracy, autonomy and for the continuation of its secular cultural identity. Successive Pakistani governments exploited the Bengalis and although most of the country’s export revenues were generated in East Pakistan, less than 20% of the country’s budget allocation was given to the Bengalis.
In the first-ever national Parliamentary elections held in 1970 based on a one man-one vote basis, the Bengali nationalist forces led by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman won landslide victory and his party, the Awami League became the majority party of Pakistan as a whole. However, the Pakistani military-machine refused to accept this electoral verdict; which led to a non-violent non-cooperation movement in East Pakistan.
In an attempt to crush the nationalistic movement in East Pakistan, the Pakistani Military Junta unleashed a systematic genocide against Bengali population on the fateful night of March 25, 1971. The junta received support from a handful religion-based local parties and religious fundamentalists.
The Pakistani carnage resulted in the worst genocide since the Second World War, and an estimated 3 million people were killed, some 278,000 women were raped and 10 million had to take refuge in neighboring India. Besides, 45 million people suffered from internal displacement, throughout the 9 months.
In this background, the independence of Bangladesh was declared and the elected East Pakistani representatives of 1970’s election formed the Bangladesh Government in Exile on the 10th of April, 1971. The Cabinet took oath of office on April 17, 1971 at Baiddyanathtala in Meherpur, later renamed as Mujibnagar. Young people from the villages and students took military training and the Mukti Bahini (freedom fighters) fought back the occupation forces under 11 Sectors, adopting guerilla tactics and thus kept the Pakistani army in a harassed state and constantly on the defense. International condemnation of Pakistan’s atrocities came from governments, public leaders, cultural personalities and the media. Unfortunately, the Nixon administration of United States and China supported Pakistan government, more for pursuing their common global strategic goals, while India and The Soviet Union supported the Bangladesh cause. India provided humanitarian aid to the refugees as well as trained the freedom fighters and also led an intensive diplomatic campaign for the rights of the Bengalis. By September these half-trained young men had infiltrated deep inside Bangladesh and a large part of the land was virtually self-ruled.
On December 3, after Pakistan attacked and bombed airfields in the western part of India, The Joint Command of the Indian Army and the Muktibahini (Bangladesh Freedom Fighters) was formed and they started the formal armed assault. The first men of the Joint Command marching from the northern border reached the outskirts of Dhaka on Dec 15. The Pakistan Armed Forces ignominiously surrendered to this Allied Command on December 16, 1971 and independent Bangladesh was born as democratic and secular state.