UPSC Exam Preparation: This Day in History – Mar 26

26 March 1971

Bangladesh Liberation War


What happened?

On 26 March, Bangladesh was proclaimed an independent nation by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, after which a guerilla war ensued between Pakistan and Bangladesh liberation forces with Indian support. The war culminated in December 1971 with the defeat of Pakistan.

Background

In this article, you can read about the Bangladesh Liberation War in which India played a big role. This topic is important to understand the present relations between India, Pakistan and Bangladesh for the UPSC exam.

  • Ever since the 1947 partition of India into India and Pakistan (comprising present-day Bangladesh), the residents of East Pakistan felt their culture and status were being undermined by the forces in West Pakistan.
  • The Language Movement was started in 1948 meant to assert the rights of the Bengali-speaking population of Pakistan and also for the equal status of Bengali with Urdu, which alone was declared as Pakistan’s federal language.
  • There were also disparities in the economic status of both sides. The western side received more money from the common budget.
  • The Bengali attempt to increase their status and earn respect for their language was met with severe suppression from the authorities.
  • After the general elections in Pakistan in 1970, Mujibur Rahman’s Awami League won a clear majority. But, the military in Pakistan (which had only about 5% of Bengali officers) was opposed to him becoming the country’s supremo.
  • The military government of Yahya Khan was unwilling to give up power to Mujib. Bengali nationalism was on the rise.
  • On the night of 25th March, 1971, the Pakistani army started the now infamous ‘Operation Searchlight’ in which they killed students, intellectuals and civilians in Bangladesh. Thousands of Bengali women were raped by the Pakistani army. The idea was to brutally crush the Bengali resistance.
  • Since it was obvious that the West Pakistan authorities would not give legitimate power to Mujib, he declared the country’s independence on 26 March.
  • After this, guerrilla war started between the Pakistani army and their collaborators who were called Razakars and the Bangladeshi liberation forces. The latter forces were called the ‘Multi Bahini’.
  • When the Pakistani forces started attacking civilians in Bangladesh, millions of refugees came to India, especially to West Bengal and Assam.
  • Many Bengali soldiers from the Pakistan army defected to the Bengali side to fight for independence.
  • Indian forces were helping by giving arms and training to the soldiers of the Mukti Bahini. India entered into combat officially on 3 December 1971 when Pakistan attacked Indian Air Force Bases. This 1947 partition of India into India and Pakistan
  • Pakistan was unable to defend Dhaka once India entered into war. On 16 December 1971, Pakistan surrendered. India won the war and Bangladesh became a free country.
  • India played a key part in Bangladesh achieving recognition from other countries of the world. The then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had toured several countries to publicise the atrocities conducted by the Pakistani military in Bangladesh. This ensured that India’s entry into the war did not cause international rebuke and also helped the new nation gain quick international recognition.
  • Bangladesh celebrates 26th of March as its independence day.
Also on this day
1974: The Chipko Movement began.

See previous ‘This Day in History’ here.

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