The birth of Bangladesh in 1971 is a significant historical event in this region. It represents the culmination of the Bengali nation’s long-term socio-political and economic struggle, allowing them to establish themselves as a nation-state after a thousand years of quest for recognition. This paper will explore the theoretical aspects of Bangladesh’s birth, specifically focusing on the nine-month-long liberation war.
This study aims to explore the causes and key figures involved in the liberation war of Bangladesh, which took place from March to December 1971. It also aims to assess the historical significance and consequences of this war. The initial segment of the investigation will analyze the political and economic factors that contributed to this major conflict. Furthermore, a concise summary of the struggle for independence will be presented.
This paper will discuss the importance, significance, and outcome of the liberation war. It will also analyze this historical event using a theory of conflict described by a famous scholar. We have observed a significant challenge for novice researchers and observers in regards to the abundance of literature on the liberation war. This overflow of information primarily focuses on describing the event as a historical event, with very few addressing the socio-political aspects.
Choosing the correct information about the history of the liberation war can be challenging due to numerous instances of manipulation by different political parties over different regimes. It is also time-consuming to find the most insightful analysis from the extensive collection of literature. However, it is crucial to understand that the liberation of Bangladesh in 1971 holds immense significance. It marked the birth of the world’s last large populated country, granted the United Nations its 33rd member state, and introduced another player in the region of South Asia.
By the liberation war in 1971, freedom-loving people were finally free from Pakistan’s domination, marking the end of Bangladesh’s long struggle for freedom. The liberation war played a significant role in establishing an independent identity for the people of Bangladesh and the Bengali nation. Various actors and factors contributed to this war, and this paper aims to delve into its causes and highlight its importance in the life of Bangladesh.
The Conflict Profile of Bangladesh includes historical events that are just as significant as the liberation war, through which Bangladesh gained independence. These events are described below:
- 1948 March 21: During a civic reception in Dacha, the founder of Pakistan, Mohammad All Zinnia, declared that “Urdu and only Urdu will remain as the state language of Pakistan.” In response to this declaration, the students of Dacha University protested in front of Zinnia.
- 1952 February 21: Language…
Movement – International Mother Language Day: The government of Pakistan forcefully suppressed the Bengali people’s demand for “Bangle” to become one of Pakistan’s official languages. This resulted in the deaths of protesters and a large-scale street protest, which played a significant role in igniting Bangladesh nationalism during the movement.
1966 March 23: Sheikh Maximum Raman fought for Binnacle’s right to live through his 6-Point Formula.
1968 January: Sheikh Maximum Raman was arrested due to his involvement in the Garland Conspiracy Case.
969 January – February: Violent clashes erupted across Pakistan between those protesting Baby Khan’s martial law regime and the police. In an effort to restore peace, the Garland Conspiracy Case was dismissed and Sheikh Music was released by the GOP. However, during a procession against Baby Khan’s rule, police fired upon it, resulting in the deaths of Sad (a student leader) and high-school student Matter Raman. This incident fueled resentment among Bengalis and triggered the Mass Uprising of 1969 (goon-Pythagorean) in East Pakistan.
970 December 7: Despite winning the election, Miami League denied Sheikh Music from becoming Prime Minister.
In 1970, Miami League achieved a landslide victory in national elections by securing 167 out of 169 seats designated for East Pakistan and a majority of the 313 seats in National Assembly.The Miami League obtained the constitutional right to establish a government, while the Qualifier All Bout of APP secured second place with 81 seats in the National Assembly.
The war lasted from 26th March to 16th December 1971, for a total of 2 weeks and 2 days. It took place in various locations including Bangladesh (formerly East Pakistan), the Bay of Bengal, the West Pakistan Border, and the Arabian Sea. The outcome was the collapse of the Pakistan Eastern Command and the independence of East Pakistan, which became Bangladesh.
The parties involved were Bangladesh led by Must Bambini, India who joined on 3rd December, and Pakistan represented by e-lilacs and Pakistani Armed Forces. The paramilitary forces included Jamaica-Shanty Committee and AY-Shams. The forces had the following strengths: Bangladesh – 175,000 troops; India – 500,000 troops in East Pakistan; Pakistan – armed forces with a strength of 25,000 for paramilitary forces.
Significant casualties occurred during the war. Bangladesh suffered around 300,000 to 500,000 casualties among its forces and civilians. India had official figures of 1,426 dead and 3,611 wounded. Civilian deaths numbered at least56 ,694 including those from armed forces (12 ,192), paramilitary forces (24 ,114),and civilians(20 ,388).
Table1 provides an overview ofthe liberation warof1971.This text does not mentionthe root causesofthiswar.
The economic causes of discontent in East Pakistan stemmed from government actions that left the people feeling deprived of their needs. This feeling of deprivation arose from the perception of discrimination by the central government of Pakistan, leading to a sense of relative deprivation. These discriminations can be categorized into three distinct areas.
- Sense of Relative Deprivation in Inter-region Economic Practices
- Sense of Relative Deprivation in Inter-region Economic Policies
- Discrimination in East Pakistan: Bengali vs.. Non-Bengali
- These categories are described below with a nonchalant aspect of analysis.
According to numerous historians, the sense of relative deprivation played a vital role in Bangladesh’s history, specifically during the liberation war. They argue that the government of Pakistan at that time failed to address and alleviate this feeling among the people of East Pakistan. It is believed that while Bengali sectionalism was the main ideological basis for the war, its root cause lied in economic deprivation and the resulting sense of relative deprivation felt by East Pakistani citizens. The discrepancy in per-capita income between East and West Pakistan was largely due to discriminatory government policies, limited job opportunities, industrialization disparities, and unequal access to state resources.
The table below showcases the difference in per-capita income between East and West Pakistan, highlighting a significant disparity. Initially, the gap was minimal but by 1970, it had risen to 61%. The discrepancy in income can be attributed to discriminatory policies and unequal distribution enforced by the central government of Pakistan.
The life standards of Pakistani people in both East and West Pakistan were affected by this disparity, resulting in a common impact. Consequently, people in West Pakistan had a higher consumption of goods compared to those in East Pakistan, who lacked purchasing power to afford essential items. Consequently, the distribution crisis led to poverty among the people of East Pakistan. Discrimination in government expenditure is evident from 1959 to 1970, whereby only 23% of total government expenditure was allocated to East Pakistan, with the remaining 77% going to West Pakistan.
The reason for this discrimination is that, in professional administration at the time, the statistics of 1966 showed that only 30% of officers were from East Pakistan while the remaining 70% were from West Pakistan. Additionally, there was discrimination in the business sector within united Pakistan, where the government failed to provide a safe and healthy environment in East Pakistan, resulting in the inability for a national capitalist class to emerge. Historical evidence reveals that 43 families controlled the entire economy of Pakistan. Furthermore, discrimination also existed at the policy level, particularly in economic policy, which was a crucial sector facing discrimination in Pakistan.
The discrimination against East Pakistani people resulted in various discriminatory policies. One such policy, known as the Trade and Commerce Policy, had a negative impact on the jute industry in East Pakistan. During that time, East Pakistan was a renowned producer of jute and India served as its largest market. However, trade between Pakistan and India came to a halt in 1949 due to the devaluation of Pakistani currency. This decision severely affected jute businessmen and led to a significant crisis. By 1950, the jute price index dropped to 71% from its original value of 100%. Another discriminatory policy was the Exchange Rate Policy implemented by the central government of Pakistan, which ultimately caused inflation.
East Pakistani businessmen faced two problems. Firstly, the importer of West Pakistan received government subsidiary, which created a trade imbalance with the East Pakistani business community. Secondly, businessmen from East Pakistan received comparatively low prices for their imported goods. As a result, the economy of East Pakistan suffered severely from this policy. Additionally, there was a disparity in the non-governmental sectors of East Pakistan, with non-Bengalis dominating. Prior to 1957, only 42.2% of loans in DIP and PICK were allocated to Bengali people, despite them being the majority in this region.
Foreign direct investment in East Pakistan, prior to 1969, allocated only 38% of total funds from Pakistan Development Foreign Investment (PDA) to the Bengali people. The remaining 62% was given to non-Bengali individuals. The trade sector of East Pakistan saw a similar trend, with 93% of the largest importers being non-Bengali. Furthermore, the industrial sector of East Pakistan was largely controlled by non-Bengali individuals, with 47% of the total industries falling under their ownership. In terms of shipping, both ship-yards in East Pakistan were owned by non-Bengali owners. Additionally, non-Bengali owners controlled 28 tea gardens in the tea forest industry and produced and exported 19% of the total tea production. In the export sector, Bengalis only controlled 33% of total business, while non-Bengalis controlled 25%. The remaining control was in the hands of foreigners and government officials.
The political cause of the Liberation War was primarily a nation-building crisis in Pakistan. The lack of a sense of territorial nationality among the common people and political and economic elites was a fundamental problem. This lack stemmed from power discrimination between the two parts of Pakistan, where the central authority did not represent the majority of Pakistani people. In East Pakistan, where the majority lived, around 56% of the total population were Bengali.
The hopes and expectations of East Pakistani people, specifically the Bengalis, were disregarded by Pakistan’s central government in both policy and practice. Consequently, the perceived essence of Pakistan was deemed unreal for the East Pakistani population. The nation failed to create a basic agreement among its leaders and citizens, as their main focus was on personal positions and power rather than the welfare of the country. All Pakistani leaders adhered to a consistent policy throughout their political lives. Ultimately, Pakistan did not cultivate inclusive institutions and behaviors that would benefit all sub-national groups within the nation.
Leaders prioritized concentrating authority, maintaining law and order, and ensuring economic development at the center. However, they failed to promote unity among the various subnational and tribal groups. The leaders did not make an effort to replace primordial sentiments with civil sentiments, and as a result, they were unable to establish a nation state from diverse subordinate groups. Although leaders in Pakistan managed to build some state-building institutions, this came at the expense of national integration and the process of nation-building. The gap created by this failure ultimately led to the liberation war of Bangladesh in 1971.
Pakistan faced challenges in its nation-building process, including a dual crisis. Firstly, there was a failure to establish a national ideology, create a national elite, and form national institutions. Secondly, there was an inability to integrate the various newly emerged groups into the national system.
Furthermore, geography and population played a role. Pakistan consisted of two uneven regions with East Pakistan covering 55,126 square miles and West Pakistan covering 310,403 square miles out of the total area of 365,529 square miles. The significant geographical separation between these two parts hindered communication and mobility of population and resources, making development of territorial unity difficult.
Military participation also highlighted discrimination between East and West Pakistan resulting in a sense of deprivation. The table below shows the disparity in defense forces’ participation in 1963:
|Force name||East Pakistan||West Pakistan|
|28 .8% |
In addition to these causes , chronological events occurred during the development of Paki stan .
These events are significant milestones in the liberation war of Bangladesh. They include the great language movement of 1952, which sparked a sense of unity among Bengalis based on their language and culture. Other events like the 21 point movement, anti-military government movement, education commission movement of 1962, 6 point movement of 1966, Granola Conspiracy Case, mass upsurge of 1969, election of 1970, and the operation Search Light on 25th March 1971 also played crucial roles. Together, these events created an environment that led to the historic liberation war. The war began on 25th March 1971 when the Pakistani military junta, under General Yah Khan, launched a military operation against Bengali nationalists, civilians, students, intellectuals, religious minorities, and armed personnel who were demanding self-determination and recognition of the 1970 election results.
The junta arrested Prime Minister-elect Sheikh Maximum Raman, banned major political parties, imposed strict press censorship, and extended martial law. To counter this, defecting Bengali military and paramilitary groups formed the Must Bambini, led by M. A. G. Samoan and eleven sector commanders. Together, they waged guerrilla warfare against Pakistani forces, liberating several towns and cities. However, the Pakistan Army temporarily regained momentum. On April 17th, the Provisional Government of Bangladesh was established in the free district of Improper and later relocated to Calcutta, India as a government in exile.
The Bangladesh movement received extensive support from the Indian government and military during the nine-month liberation war. The Bangladesh Forces gained control over large parts of the countryside. On 3 December 1971, India entered the war in response to preemptive air strikes by Pakistan on North India. The ensuing Indo-Pakistani War involved engagements on two fronts, as well as in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea. Bhutan, the Himalayan Kingdom, was the first country to officially recognize Bangladesh on 6 December 1971. Pakistan surrendered to the Allied Forces of Bangladesh and India in the East on 16 December 1971, resulting in 90,000 Pakistani soldiers being taken as prisoners of war under the Geneva Convention – the largest such capture since World War II.
The end of the war resulted in the emergence of Bangladesh, which was the world’s seventh-most populous country at that time. The majority of UN member states acknowledged the new country in 1972. The liberation war of 1971 was a severe conflict, and it can be analyzed through Johan Gallant’s BBC triangle theory. According to this theory, conflicts go through three phases: attitude, behavior, and contradiction. Each phase is used to analyze conflicts. In the first phase, contradiction, the underlying conflict situation is examined, which involves the actual or perceived incompatibility of goals between the conflict parties.
Figure 1: BBC conflict triangle (Gallant, 2000:1 3) In the context of the liberation war, this situation arose from the very beginning, meaning from the formation of West and East Pakistan, as the people of Pakistan were aware of their differences in language, culture, religion, etc., and the people of East Pakistan realized their need for autonomy or independence. Attitude encompasses the perceptions and misunderstandings that the parties have of each other and themselves. This was the situation in Bangladesh after the 1970 election. In the third phase, behavior may involve cooperation or coercion, as well as gestures indicating either conciliation or hostility.