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Fall of Dhaka 1971

Fall of Dhaka 1971

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Published by Jaffar Ali

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Published by: Jaffar Ali on Apr 06, 2011
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Fall of Dhaka 1971IntroductionBangladesh is a state in an ancient land. It has been described by an American political scientist as "acountry challenged by contradictions". It is neither a distinct geographical entity, nor a well-definedhistorical unit. Nevertheless, it is the homeland of one of the largest nation in the world whose gropingsfor a political identity were protracted, intense and agonizing. The key to these apparent contradictionslies in her history.Historically, the word Bangladesh is derived from the cognate "Vanga" which was first mentioned in theHindu scripture Aitareya Aranyaka (composed between 500 B C and 500 A D). It is derived from: - The Tibetan word "Bans" which implies "wet and moist". According to this interpretation, Bangladeshliterally refers to a wetland. Bodo (aborigines of Assam) words "Bang" and "la" which connote "wide plains."I have divided the history of Bengal in the three periods: -1. Ancient Bengal (326 B.C. to 1204 A.D.)2. Mediaeval Bengal (1204 to 1757)3. British Rule in Bengal (1757 to 1947)Political Dynamics in Ancient Bengal (326 B.C. TO 1204 A.D.)The earliest historical reference to organized political life in the Bangladesh region is usually traced tothe writings on Alexander's invasion of India in 326 B.C. The evidence from various sources refers to therise and fall of a large number of principalities in the region. There are two schools of opinion regardingthe political evolution of ancient Bengal: -1. According to one school, the Bangladesh region in the ancient period was an integral part of mightyempires in north India. These historians maintain Gangaridai and Prasioi empires were succeeded by theMauryas (4th to 2nd century B.C.), the Guptas (4th-5th century A.D.), the empire of Sasanka (7thcentury A.D.), the Pala Empire (750-1162 A.D.), and the Senas (1162-1223 A.D.).2. The revisionist historians maintain that epigraphic evidence suggests that only some of the areas,which now constitute Bangladesh, were occasionally incorporated in the larger empires of South Asia. Intheir view, political fragmentation and not empire was the historical destiny of Bangladesh region in theancient times. Inscriptions attest to the existence of a succession of independent kingdoms in southernand eastern Bengal. These local kingdoms included the realms of Vainyagupta (6th century), theFaridpur kings (6th century), the Bhadra dynasty (circa 600-650 A D), Khadaga dynasty (circa 650-700AD), Natha and Rata dynasty (750-800 A D), the rulers of Harikela (circa 800-900), Chandra dynasty (circa900-1045 A D), Varman dynasty (circa 1080-1150 A D), and Pattikera dynasty (circa 1000-1100 A D).The weakness of social, political and economic institutions provided a suitable environment for freedomof religion. Throughout history, small kingdoms blossomed and withered like wild flowers in this region.Contribution of Bangladesh to Ancient CivilizationBangladesh is the frontier of South Asian civilization. It is the natural bridge between South and SouthEast Asia. Because of its location, Bangladesh was the intermediary in trade and commerce between theSouth Asian sub-continent and the Far East. Bangladesh region also played a seminal role indisseminating her beliefs, art and architecture in the wider world of Asia. Ancient Bangladesh alsowitnessed the flowering of temple, stupas and monastic architecture as well as Buddhist art and
sculpture.Evolution of Mediaeval Bengal (1204-1757)The Middle age in Bengal coincided with the Muslim rule. Out of about 550 years of Muslim rule, Bengalwas effectively ruled by Delhi-based all India empires for only about two hundred years. For about 350years Bengal remained virtually independent. The Muslim rule in Bengal is usually divided into threephases: -1. The first phase, which lasted from 1204 to 1342, witnessed the consolidation of Muslim rule inBengal. It was characterized by extreme political instability.2. The second phase, which spanned the period 1342 to 1575, saw the emergence of independent localdynasties such as the Ilyas Shahi dynasty (1342-1414), the dynasty of King Ganesha (1414-1442) andHussein Shahi dynasty (l493-1539).3. The third phase, which lasted from 1575 to 1757, witnessed the emergence of a centralizedadministration in Bengal within the framework of the Mughal Empire. The Mughal viceroys in Bengalcurbed the independence of powerful landlords and suppressed the Portuguese pirates who frequentlyinterfered with the flow of foreign trade.Following were the major achievements of Muslim rule in the region: -1. The political unification of Bengal was a gift of the Muslim rulers.2. The political unity fashioned by the Muslim rulers also promoted linguistic homogeneity.3. The gradual expansion of Islam in this region. The gradual process of conversion to Islam in Bengalresulted in an intense interaction between Islam and Hinduism. At the folk level, however, there wasless confrontation and more interaction between Hinduism and Islam.4. The share of Muslims in the total population was higher in areas remote from the seats of Muslimrule.5. Islam was propagated in the Bangladesh region by a large number of Muslim saints who were mostlyactive from the fourteenth to sixteenth centuries. Among these missionaries Hazrat Shah Jalal, RastiShah, Khan Jahan Ali, Shaikh Sharafuddin Abu Tawamah, Shah Makhdoom Ruposh, Shaikh Baba AdamShahid, Shah Sultan Mahisawar, Shaikh Alauddin Alaul Huq, Shah Ali Bagdadi, etc. deserve specialmention.6. Islam ultimately succeeded in penetrating deeply into Bengal because the social environment of thisregion was congenial to the diffusion of a new religion.7. The Muslims in Bengal were concentrated in the eastern areas and the share of Hindu population wasmuch higher in western areas.8. The Muslim rule in Bengal contributed to economic polarization and cultural dichotomy.The Glory that was Mediaeval BengalThe Bangladesh region reached the peak of economic affluence during the mediaeval period. It wasknown as one of the most prosperous lands in the world. The Moorish traveler Ibn-e-Batuta who visitedBengal in the fourteenth century described Bengal as the wealthiest and cheapest land of the world andstates that it was known as "a hell full of bounties".Because of its fertile land and abundance of seasonal rainfall, Bengal was a full of agricultural products.Famines and scarcity were virtually unknown as compared to other areas of Asia. Bengal was the focalpoint of free trade in the Indian Ocean since the 14th century. It was the virtual storehouse of silk andcotton not only of India and neighboring countries but also of Europe. The Dhaka region used to produce
the finest cotton in the world. A very large quantity of cotton cloth was produced in different areas of Bengal. Bangladesh also had extensive export of silk clothes. The Bangladesh region was also one of thelargest producers of sugar. The sugar from this region used to be exported to other parts of South Asiaand the Middle East.British Rule in Bangladesh (1757-1947)The greatest discontinuity in the history of Bengal region occurred on June 23, 1757 when the East IndiaCompany - a mercantile company of England became the virtual ruler of Bengal by defeating NawabSiraj-ud-Daulah through conspiracy. Territorial rule by a trading company resulted in thecommercialization of power. It had never suffered from a system, which touched their trades, theiroccupations, their lives so closely. The plunder of Bengal directly contributed to the industrial revolutionin England. The capital collected in Bengal was invested in British industries. Lack of capital and fall of demand, on the other hand, resulted in de-industrialization in the Bangladesh region. In the long run,the British rule in South Asia contributed to transformation of the traditional society in various ways: -1. The introduction of British law, a modern bureaucracy, new modes of communication, the Englishlanguage and a modern education system, and the opening of the local market to international tradeopened new horizons for development in various spheres of life.2. It also created a universal empire that brought different areas of the sub-continent closer to eachother.3. The city-based Hindu middle classes became the fiery champions of all-India based nationalism.4. The British rule brought to surface the rivalry between the Hindus and Muslims, which lay dormantduring the five hundred years of Muslim rule.5. The rivalry between Muslim and Hindus first surfaced in the political arena, when the Britishpartitioned the province of Bengal in 1905 for administrative reasons. The Hindus viewed it as a sinisterdesign to weaken Bengal, which was the vanguard of struggle for independence. The partition of Bengalultimately turned out to be a defeat for all. The partition was annulled in 1911.To the Muslims, the annulment of the partition was a major disappointment. It virtually shook their faithin the British rulers. The communal problem was not unique to Bengal; it became the main issue in allIndia politics.The Road to PakistanThe Pakistan Resolution of 1940 at Lahore was the outcome of the political confrontation betweenHindus and Muslims. The Lahore Resolution demanded that geographically contiguous units "bedemarcated into regions which should be constituted with such territorial readjustments as may benecessary so that the areas in which the Muslims are numerically in a majority should be grouped toconstitute "Independent States" in which the constitutional units be autonomous and sovereign".The vernacular Muslim elites in Bengal maintained that from the constitutional point of view, the LahoreResolution asserted that South Asia consisted of many nations and not of two nations. It was, in effect, ablueprint for the balkanization of South Asia and not merely for its partition into two units and that theLahore Resolution was legally a charter for a Muslim dominated independent and sovereign Bengal. Thepartition of the South Asian sub-continent into two independent states inPolitical Background (1947-1970)Transition to Nationhood (1947-58)Pakistan was born in bloodshed and came into existence on August 15, 1947, confronted by seemingly

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