June 23, 2024
what happened in 1971
This unique bifurcation, with approximately 1,600 kilometers of Indian territory separating the two wings, was rooted in the complex socio-political landscape of the Indian subcontinent. Let's explore what happened in 1971.

The independence of Pakistan on August 14, 1947, marked the emergence of a new nation divided into two geographically and culturally distinct regions: West Pakistan (present-day Pakistan) and East Pakistan (present-day Bangladesh). This unique bifurcation, with approximately 1,600 kilometers of Indian territory separating the two wings, was rooted in the complex socio-political landscape of the Indian subcontinent. Let’s explore what happened in 1971.

Declaring Urdu as a National Language

The decision to declare Urdu, in Arabic script, as the national language of Pakistan shortly after its independence in 1947 was driven by several considerations, rooted in the political, cultural, and ideological landscape of the time:

1. National Unity and Identity

  • Cultural and Linguistic Diversity: Newly born Pakistan is a diverse country with multiple ethnic groups and languages. However, Urdu played a crucial role in the Freedom of Pakistan Movement. Allama Muhammad Iqbal, the national poet of Pakistan, who visioned Pakistan as an independent Islamic State, wrote poetry in Urdu to inspire awareness among Muslims of the Indian subcontinent.
  • Unifying Symbol: The leaders of Pakistan, including Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, believed that having a single national language would serve as a unifying symbol for the newly formed country, fostering a sense of national identity and cohesion among its diverse population. Urdu was not associated with a particular region, while there were several regional languages including Punjabi, Bangali, Pashtun, Sindhi, and Baluchi. Urdu, already associated with the Muslim identity in South Asia, was seen as an appropriate choice.

2. Historical and Cultural Significance

  • Cultural Heritage: Urdu has played a significant role in the cultural and literary history of Muslims in the Indian subcontinent. It was the language of many prominent Muslim writers, poets, and intellectuals, and thus carried a sense of historical and cultural prestige.

3. Political and Administrative Considerations

  • Administration and Governance: A single national language was perceived as essential for effective administration and governance. Urdu was expected to facilitate communication across different regions of Pakistan, helping to streamline governmental processes and education.

4. Religious and Ideological Factors

  • Islamic Identity: Urdu was closely associated with Islamic culture and was used by many Muslim communities in India. The leaders of Pakistan, envisioning the country as a homeland for Muslims, considered Urdu to be an embodiment of the Islamic cultural heritage and values they wanted to promote.

Opposition of Urdu as a National Language

An undergraduate Bangali student leader, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who got his early education from Gopalganj Missionary School, was known for his political activism since the birth of Pakistan. However, when the Government of Pakistan decided to impose Urdu as its national language he opposed this unanimous decision. Mujib was deeply involved in the Bengali Language Movement of the early 1950s, which protested the imposition of Urdu as the sole national language of Pakistan.

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s Role

  • Leadership and Mobilization: Mujib, who was then a young student leader and an emerging political figure, played a crucial role in organizing and mobilizing the Bengali youth. He was actively involved in the Dhaka University Central Students’ Union and other student bodies that were at the forefront of the agitation.
  • Formation of Political Alliances: Mujib helped to build alliances between various political and student groups, enhancing the drifting movement’s cohesion and strength. His ability to galvanize support across different sections of society was instrumental in sustaining the momentum of the protests.
  • Recognition of Bengali: The persistent efforts of the language movement eventually bore fruit. In 1956, the government of Pakistan relented and granted official status to Bengali, alongside Urdu, as one of Pakistan’s national languages.
  • International Agenda: The language movement was more than a fight for linguistic recognition; it was an international agenda to sow the seeds of hatred among the two wings of Pakistan. The appearance of Pakistan as an Islamic state in the region was not only a constant pain for India but also for international forces. So they constructed a wall of hatred between East Pakistan and West Pakistan in the form of language.

Mujib’s Political Trajectory

  • Stepping Stone: Mujib’s leadership during the language movement established him as a prominent political leader in East Pakistan. His advocacy for Bengali nationalism earned him widespread support from East Pakistan and laid the foundation for his future leadership of the Awami League and the movement for the independence of Bangladesh.
  • Awami League: Sh. Mujib founded a secular party with name Awami League for political struggle in the name of Bengali nationalism. Awami League always fanned the fire to instigate Bengali people in the name of their rights. Sh. Mujib intended to separate from Pakistan in the early 60s. His intention for separation is depicted in his so-called Six-Point Movement which he did in 1966.

The Six-Point Movement in 1966 was a political campaign spearheaded by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the Awami League in East Pakistan. The movement apparently called for greater autonomy for East Pakistan. It is notable that only two provinces existed at that time, East Pakistan and West Pakistan.

The demands were as follows:

The Six Points

  1. Federal Structure: Establish a federal and parliamentary system of government with supreme legislative powers vested in the directly elected legislature of Pakistan.
  2. Currency Control: The federal government would only handle foreign affairs and defense, while the provincial governments would have control over all other aspects. Either two separate but freely convertible currencies should be introduced for the two wings of Pakistan, or one currency with separate fiscal policies to prevent capital flight from East to West Pakistan.
  3. Trade Regulation: East Pakistan should have the authority to control its own trade and commerce with foreign countries, and set its own tariffs and trade policies.
  4. Taxation: Each wing of Pakistan would independently collect taxes, allowing East Pakistan to control its own revenue and finances.
  5. Foreign Exchange and Reserves: The federal government would only have control over foreign exchange earnings derived from West Pakistan, while East Pakistan would maintain a separate account of their foreign exchange earnings.
  6. Militia and Paramilitary Forces: Each province should be entitled to maintain its own militia or paramilitary forces to ensure security and maintain order within its borders.

It is evident from these demands that only the first point is valid and reasonable, none of the rest five points could be justified by any federal government. The demand for separate currency, revenue, trade, militia, and paramilitary forces was evidence of the separation movement. So Sh. Mujib had planned for the separation movement in the early 60’s.

Awami Leagues’s website introduces the Six-Point Movement in these words:

The historic Six-Point Demand or the Six-Point Formula has been widely credited as the “charter of freedom” in Bangladesh’s struggle for self-determination from Pakistan’s domination. Indeed, the six-point movement in 1966 was the turning point in our quest for independence. On June 7 in 1966 the Awami League called a countrywide hartal in the then East Pakistan to press home the six-point demands. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman along with many others was arrested. Since then 7th June is observed as the historic six-point day.

So they openly admit that the Six-Point Movement was a separation movement in its essence, that was cunningly tagged “Demand for Autonomy” at that time, to twist the reality.

Awami Leagues’s website notes further:

Immediately after the provincial autonomy plan based on the six-point formula was unveiled by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman at the Lahore conference of opposition political parties in early February 1966, Ayub Khan was quick to denounce it as a separatist or secessionist move. Aimed at browbeating the dedicated champions of greater provincial autonomy, Ayub Khan had started discrediting both the message and the messenger of the six-point program. Appearing in the final session of the Pakistan (Convention) Muslim League in Dacca on March 21, 1966, fully attired in the army general’s khaki uniform with full display of all of his regalia and medallions, the self-declared president of Pakistan had condemned the six-point plan in the harshest possible terms.

Reaction to the Separation Movement

President Ayub Khan, the then military ruler of Pakistan, rightly denounced the Six-Point Movement led by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman as a separatist movement, viewing it as a direct threat to the unity and integrity of Pakistan. Ayub Khan and his administration perceived the demands for greater autonomy for East Pakistan as an attempt to undermine the central authority and pave the way for secession.

  • Denunciation as Separatist: Ayub Khan’s government labeled the Six-Point Movement as a separatist agenda, arguing that it aimed to weaken the federal structure and foster disunity between East and West Pakistan. The central government feared that granting such autonomy would lead to the eventual breakup of the country.
  • Crackdown on Political Activities: In response to the growing support for the Six-Point Movement, the government intensified its crackdown on political dissent. Public gatherings, political rallies, and demonstrations advocating for the Six Points were banned. The authorities employed stringent measures to suppress any activities that were seen as promoting the movement.
  • Arrest of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman: On May 9, 1966, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was arrested under charges of sedition and engaging in anti-state activities. His arrest was part of a broader campaign to silence political opposition and deter the unfair demand for so-called autonomy in East Pakistan. Mujib was charged with conspiring to fragment Pakistan and inciting rebellion against the state.
  • Imprisonment and Trials: Following his arrest, Mujib was imprisoned and subjected to trials, including the Agartala Conspiracy Case, where he and other leaders were accused of plotting with India to achieve East Pakistan’s secession.

Awami League continued their anti-state activities and instigated the Bengali nation to get independence from Pakistan. The seed of hatred that Sh. Mujib sowed in the Bengali Language Movement, now has grown into a tall tree, resulting in a separation movement. It was the environment in which the 1970 General Elections were held.

1970 General Elections

  • Electoral Outcome: In the general elections held in December 1970, the Awami League won a landslide victory, securing 160 out of 162 seats allocated to East Pakistan in the National Assembly. This gave them an overall majority in the 300-seat National Assembly. Unfortunately, they got the ballot for separation, without foreseeing its consequences. The greedy and selfish Mujib always fueled the fire for his interests.
  • Political Deadlock: Despite the Awami League’s electoral mandate, the ruling authorities in West Pakistan, led by President Yahya Khan and political leaders like Zulfikar Ali Bhutto of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), refused to transfer power to a rebellion and separatist Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the Awami League. How could they give the whole homeland to the people who were determined to break Pakistan apart? Breaking an Islamic state into parts is a major crime that deserves capital punishment.
  • Mujibur Rahman’s Speech: On March 7, 1971, Sh. Mujubur Rahman addressed a protest at Suhrawardy Udyan, then he said: “Ebarer Shongram Amader Muktir Shongram, Ebarer Shongram Shadhinotar Shongram….Our struggle this time is a struggle for our freedom, our struggle this time is a struggle for our independence….”

Military Crackdown and Civil War

  • Operation Searchlight: On March 25, 1971, the Pakistani military launched Operation Searchlight, a brutal crackdown on political activists, students, intelligentsia, and civilians in East Pakistan to suppress the burgeoning independence movement. This crackdown was a response to a two-day ultimatum by Mujib to announce autonomy in East Pakistan.
  • Bengali Resistance and Independence Declaration: In response to the crackdown, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman declared the independence of Bangladesh on March 26, 1971. This was followed by the formation of the Mukti Bahini (Liberation Army) and a full-scale guerrilla war against Pakistani forces.
  • Indian Involvement: India, led by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, provided substantial support to the Bengali nationalist movement, both in terms of training and supplying the Mukti Bahini and hosting millions of refugees fleeing the conflict.

Indo-Pakistani War of 1971

The Indo-Pakistani War of December 1971, culminating in the fall of Dhaka and Pakistani forces’ surrender on December 16, 1971, was the result of multiple interrelated factors. Strategic and operational reasons, including the relative strength of the Indian military, the geographical separation of East and West Pakistan, and the internal dynamics within East Pakistan influenced the conflict’s escalation and the ultimate surrender.

Causes of Pakistani Forces’ Surrender

  1. Military Imbalance and Indian Support:
    • Indian Military: The Indian Armed Forces were better equipped, better trained, and larger in number compared to the Pakistani military contingent in East Pakistan. India had the advantage of a well-coordinated and comprehensive military strategy. Indian Military had direct access to East Pakistan, but West Pakistan did not.
    • Support to Mukti Bahini: India provided extensive support to the Mukti Bahini, the guerrilla resistance movement comprising Bengali nationalists. This support included training, supplies, and strategic guidance, which bolstered the insurgency against Pakistani forces.
  2. Geographical Disadvantage:
    • Separation by 1,600 Kilometers: East and West Pakistan were separated by approximately 1,600 kilometers of Indian territory, which posed significant logistical and strategic challenges. The geographical distance made it difficult for Pakistan to reinforce and resupply its troops in the East.
    • Isolation of East Pakistan: The Indian Navy’s blockade of East Pakistani ports and the Indian Air Force’s control of airspace further isolated Pakistani forces, cutting off essential supplies and reinforcements from West Pakistan.
  3. Internal Factors and Resistance:
    • Bengali Insurgency: The widespread resistance and insurgency by the Mukti Bahini and the general population of East Pakistan created a hostile environment for Pakistani forces. The local support for independence severely undermined Pakistani military operations.
    • Civil Administration Collapse: The administrative and civil infrastructure in East Pakistan had largely collapsed due to the conflict. This collapse hindered effective governance and military coordination.
  4. Operational Challenges:
    • Extended Supply Lines: The long and vulnerable supply lines from West to East Pakistan were frequently targeted and disrupted by Indian and Mukti Bahini forces, straining the Pakistani military’s operational capabilities.
    • Lack of Local Support: The Pakistani military faced significant challenges due to the lack of local support and the animosity of the Bengali population, which further complicated their military efforts.

This tragic end of East Pakistan was based on Sh. Mujubur Rahman’s greed and selfishness always deepened the crack between two complementary parts of Pakistan. He is directly responsible for the tragic end. He was the traitor and mastermind of separation.

The Traitor’s Fate

Mujib was released from prison and returned to an independent Bangladesh on January 10, 1972. He assumed leadership as the first President and later as the Prime Minister of Bangladesh. Mujib’s tenure faced significant challenges, including economic difficulties, political instability, and widespread corruption. In 1975, he established a one-party system to stabilize the situation, which led to controversy and dissent.

On August 15, 1975, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, along with most of his family members, was assassinated during a military coup. The coup was orchestrated by a group of junior army officers. The traitors meet the same fate.

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