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Bangladesh History
Home >> Bangladesh >>Bangladesh History

Etymology

The exact origin of the word Bangla or Bengal is unknown, though it is believed to be derived from the Dravidian-speaking tribe Bang/Banga that settled in the area around the year 1000 BCE.[1][2]

Other accounts speculate that the name is derived from Vanga(b˘ngo), which came from the Austric word "Bonga" meaning the Sun-god. According to Mahabharata, Purana, Harivamsha Vanga was one of the adopted sons of king Vali who founded the Vanga kingdom. The Muslim Accounts refer that "Bong", a son of Hind (son of Hām who was a son of Prophet Noah/Nooh]]) colonized the area for the first time.[3] The earliest reference to "Vangala"(b˘ngal) has been traced in the Nesari plates (805 AD) of Rashtrakuta Govinda III which speak of Dharmapala as the king of Vangala. Shams-ud-din Ilyas Shah took the title "Shah-e-Bangalah" and united the whole region under one government for the first time.[citation needed]

 

[edit] Ancient period

 

[edit] Pre-historic Bengal

Stone tools provide the earliest evidence of human settlements. Prehistoric stone implements have been discovered in various parts of West Bengal in the districts of Midnapur, Bankura and Burdwan. But it is difficult to determine, even approximately, the time when people using them first settled in Bengal. It might have taken place ten thousand years (or even more) ago. The original settlers were the non-Aryan ethnic groups— Nisadas or Austric or Austro-Asiatics — who are now represented by the primitive peoples known as Kola, Bhil, Santal, Shabara, Pulinda etc. At a subsequent age, peoples of two other ethnic stocks settled in Bengal, whose languages were Dravidian and Tibeto-Burman.Archaeological discoveries during the 1960s have furnished evidence of a much higher degree of civilisation in certain parts of Bengal even at such a remote period as the beginning of the first millennium BC, perhaps even earlier. The discoveries at pandu rajar dhibi in the valley of the Ajay river (near Bolpur) in Burdwan district and in several other sites on the Ajay, Kunar and Kopai rivers have thrown fresh light on Bengal's prehistory. Pandu Rajar Dhibi represents the ruins of a trading township, which carried on trade not only with the interior regions of India, but also with the countries of the Mediterranean.

 

[edit] Janapadas

Bengal was divided into various indigenous tribes kknown as the Janapadas: Vanga (south Bengal), Pundra (north Bengal), and Rarh/Suhma (West Bengal) according to their respective Totems.Bengal was unified only on the 6thcentury AD bt Shashanka.

 
 
Mahasthangarh the oldest archaeological site of Bangladesh (dates back to 700 BCE) was the ancient capital of the Pundra kingdom

the earlist people said to be dwelt in this region were the austric-asiatic people known as the Nishads.the austric-asiatic people were conquered by the Dravidians who were known as the Damils.Finally the austric-Dravidian people were conqered by the Aryans.It was only in the 4th century BCE when Aryanism started to flow into this region with the Mauryan conquest.

 

[edit] Bengal in mythology

Not much is known about this civilization. Some deprecatory references indicate that the primitive people in Bengal were different in ethnicity and culture from the Vedic beyond the boundary of Aryandom and who were classed as 'Dasyus'. The Bhagavata Purana classes them as sinful people while Dharmasutra of Bodhayana prescribes expiatory rites after a journey among the Pundras and Vangas.Mahabharata speaks of Paundraka Vasudeva who was lord of the Pundrasand who allied himself with Jarasandha against Krishna.Mahabharata also speaks of Bengali kings caled Chitrasena and Sanudrasena who were defeated byBhima,Kalidas menrions raghu defeated a qoalition of Vanga kings who were defeated by Raghuand Raghu established a victory column in the Gangetic delta.

 

[edit] overseas colonization

Bengal had overseas trade relattions with Java, Sumatra and Suvarnabhumi. According to Mahavamsa, Vijaya Singha, a Vanga prince, conquered Lanka (modern day Sri Lanka) in 544 BC and gave the name "Sinhala" to the country. Bengali people migrated to the indonatian archipelago and Suvarnabhumi establishing their own colonies over there.

 

[edit] Gangaridai Empire

Though north and west Bengal were part of the Magadhan empire southern Bengal thrived and became powerful with her overseas trades.In 326 BCE, with the invasion of Alexander the Great the region again came to prominence. The Greek and Latin historians suggested that Alexander the Great withdrew from India anticipating the valiant counter attack of the mighty Gangaridai empire that were located in the Bengal region. Alexander, after the meeting with his officer, Coenus, was convinced that it was better to return. Diodorus Siculus mentions Gangaridai to be the largest and the most powerful empire in India whose king possessed an army of 20,000 horses, 200,000 infantry, 2,000 chariots and 4,000 elephants trained and equipped for war. The allied forces of Gangaridai and Prasii (Nanda Empire) were preparing a massive counter attack against the forces of Alexander on the banks of Ganges. Gangaridai according to the Greek accounts kept on flourishing at least up to the 1st century AD.

 

[edit] Early Middle Ages

The pre-Gupta period of Bengal is shrouded with obscurity. Before the conquest of Samudragupta Bengal was divided into two kingdoms: Pushkarana and Samatata. Chandragupta II had to defeat a confederacy of Vanga kings. Bengal became a part of the Gupta Empire.

 

[edit] Gauda Kingdom

By the sixth century, the Gupta Empire ruling over the northern Indian subcontinent was largely broken up. Eastern Bengal became the Vanga Kingdom while the Gauda kings rose in the west with their capital at Karnasuvarna (Murshidabad). Shashanka,a vassal ofthe last Latergupta empire became independent and unified the smaller principalities of Bengal (Gaur, Vanga, Samatata) and vied for regional power with Harshavardhana in northern India. But this burst of Bengali power did not last beyond his death, as Bengal descended afterwards into a period marked by disunity and foreign invasion.

 

[edit] The Pala Empire

     
 
Pala Empire under Devapala

The first independent Buddhist king of Bengal, Gopala, came to power in 750 in Gaur. Gopala founded the Buddhist Pala dynasty which lasted for four centuries (750-1120 AD), ushering in a period of relative stability and prosperity.

At its peak, under Dharmapala, the empire extended into much of Bihar and once more wrestled for control of the subcontinent. He conquered Bhoja (Berar), Matsya (Jaipur), Madra (Central Punjab), Kuru (Thaneswar), Yadu (Mathura and Dwaraka), Avanti (Malwa), Yavana (Muslims of Sindh/Multan), Gandhara (Kabol valley), Kambojja and Kira (Kangra).

Devapala, successor of Dharmapala, expanded his empire farther up to Assam and Utkala in the east, Kamboja in the north-west and Deccan in the south.According to Pala copperplate inscription He exterminated the Utkalas, conquered the Pragjyotisha (Assam), shattered the pride of the Huna, and humbled the lords of Gurjara, Pratiharas and the Dravidas.

 

 
 
Paharpur Vihara the greatest Buddhist Vihara in the sub-continent built by Dharmapala

The Pala Empire can be considered as the golden era of Bengal. Never had the Bengali people reached such height of power and glory and never had they influenced the outside world to that extent. Palas were responsible for the introduction of Mahayana Buddhism in Tibet, Bhutan and Myanmar. The pre-dominant Pala sculptures and the proto-Bangla scripts of the Sailendra Empire (Malaya, Java, Sumatra) of the late 8th century attest that the Sailendra dynasty was connected to Bengal.

The death of Devapala ended the period of ascendancy of the Pala Empire and several independent dynasties and kingdoms emerged during this time, including the Khadgas, Devas, the Chandras, and Varmanas.

Mahipala I rejuveneted the reign of the Palas. He recovered north Bengal from the Kambojas and survived the invasions of Rajendra Chola and the Chalukyas. Mahipala I did not join the Hindu confederacy against Mahmud of Ghazni.

After Mahipala I the Pala dynasty again saw its decline until Ramapala, the last great ruler of the dynasty, managed to retrieve the position of the dynasty to some extent. He crushed the Varendra rebellion and extended his empire farther to Kamarupa, Orissa and Northern India.

 

[edit] Sena dynasty

The Palas were followed by the Sena dynasty who brought the East and West Bengal under one ruler only during the twelfth century.Vijaya sena the founder of this dynasty defeated the last pala emperor Madanpala and established his reign.Vallal sena introduced caste system in Bengal.the last king of this dynasty Lakshman sena was defeated by the Turks and fled to eastern Bengal were he ruled few more years. The Sena dynasty brought a revival of Hinduism and cultivated Sanskrit literature.

 

[edit] Late Middle Ages - arrival of Islam

Islam made its first appearance in Bengal during the twelfth century AD when Sufi missionaries arrived. Later occasional Muslim invaders reinforced the process of conversion by building mosques, madrassas and Sufi Khanqahs. Beginning in 1202 a military commander from the Delhi Sultanate, Ikhtiar Uddin Muhammad bin Bakhtiar Khilji, overran Bihar and Bengal as far east as Rangpur, Bogra and the Brahmaputra River. The defeated Laksman Sen and his two sons moved to a place then called Vikramapur (Present Munsiganj district), where their diminished dominion lasted until the late thirteenth century.

 

[edit] Turkic rule

 

[edit] Khilji maliks

The period after Bakhtiar Khilji's death in 1206 devolved into infighting among the Khiljis - representative of a pattern of succession struggles and intra-empire intrigues during later Turkish regimes. Ghiyasuddin Iwaz Khalji prevailed and extended the Sultan's domain south to Jessore and made the eastern Bang province a tributary. The capital was made at Lakhnauti on the Ganges near the older Bengal capital of Gaur (Malda district of West Bengal, India). He managed to make Kamarupa, Orissa and Trihut pay tribute to him. But he was later defeated by Shams-ud-Din Iltutmish.

 

[edit] Mameluk rule

The weak successors of Iltutmish encouraged the local governors to declare independence. Bengal was sufficiently remote from Delhi that its governors would declare independence on occasion, styling themselves as Sultans of Bengal. It was during this time that Bengal earned the name "Bulgakpur" (land of the rebels). Tughral Togun Khan added Oudh and Bihar to Bengal. Mughisuddin Yuzbak also conquered Bihar and Oudh from Delhi but was killed during an unsuccessful expedition in Assam.Two Turkish attempts to push east of the broad Jamuna and Brahmaputra rivers were repulsed, but a third led by Mughisuddin Tughral conquered the Sonargaon area south of Dhaka to Faridpur, bringing the Sen Kingdom officially to an end by 1277. Mughisuddin Tughral repulsed two massive attacks of the sultanate of Delhi before finally being defeated and killed by Ghiyas ud din Balban.

 

[edit] Mahmud Shahi dynasty

But Balban's own Nasiruddin Bughra khan declared endependence in Bengal. Thus Bengal regained her independence back. Nasiruddin Bughra Khan and his successors ruled Bengal for 23 years finally being incorporated into Delhi Sultanate by Ghyiasuddin Tughlaq.

 

[edit] Ilyas Shahi dynasty

Shamsuddin Iliyas Shah founded an independent dynasty that lasted from 1342-1487 which successfully repulsed attempts by Delhi to rein them in. They continued to reel in the territory of modern-day Bengal, reaching to Khulna in the south and Sylhet in the east. The sultans advanced civic institutions and became more responsive and "native" in their outlook, cut loose from Delhi. Considerable architectural projects were completed in Gaur including the massive Adina Mosque and the 1479 Darasbari Mosque which still stands in Bangladesh near the border. The Sultans of Bangalah were patrons of Bengali literature and began a process in which a common Bengali culture and identity would coalesce.

The Ilyas Shahi Dynasty was interrupted by an uprising of the Hindus under Ganesh. However the Ilyas Shahi dynasty was restored by Nasiruddin Mahmud Shah, which was finally overthrown by the Habshi (Abyssinian) slaves of the sultanate.

 

[edit] Hussain Shahi dynasty

The Habshi rule gave way to the Hussain Shahi dynasty that ruled from 1494-1538. Alauddin Hussain Shah, considered as the greatest of all the sultans of Bengal for the cultural renaissance during his reign, conquered Kamarupa, Kamata, Jajnagar, Orissa and extended the sultanate all the way to the port of Chittagong, which witnessed the arrival of the first Portuguese merchants.

Nasiruddin Nusrat Shah gave refuge to the Afghan lords during the invasion of Babur though he remained neutral. However Nusrat Shah made a treaty with Babur and saved Bengal from a Mughal invasion.

The last Sultan of the dynasty, who continued to rule from Gaur, had to contend with rising Afghan activity on his northwestern border. Eventually, the Afghans broke through and sacked the capital in 1538 where they remained for several decades until the arrival of the Mughals.

 

[edit] Pashtun rule

 

[edit] Suri dynasty

Sher Shah Suri established the Sur dynasty in Bengal. After the battle of Chausa he declared himself independent Sultan of Bengal and Bihar. Sher Shah was the only Muslim Sultan of Bengal to establish an empire in northern India.The Delhi sultan Islam Shah appointed Muhammad Khan sur as the governor of Bengal. After the death of Islam Shah Muhammad Khan Sur became independent. Muhammad Khan Sur was followed by Ghyiasuddin Bahadur Shah and Ghyiasuddin Jalal shah. The Pashtun rule in Bengal remained for 44 years. Their most impressive achievement was Sher Shah's construction of the Grand Trunk Road connecting Sonargaon, Delhi and Peshawar.

 

[edit] Karrani dynasty

The Sur dynasty was followed by the Karrani dynasty. Sulaiman Karrani annexed Orissa to the Muslim sultanate permanently. Daud Shah Karrani declared independence from Akbar which led to four years of bloody war between the Mughals and the Pashtuns. The Mughal onslaught against the Afghan Sultan ended with the battle of Rajmahal in 1576, led by Khan Jahan. However, the Pashtun and the local landlords (Baro Bhuyans) led by Isa Khan resisted the Mughal invasion.

 

[edit] Mughal period

 
 
The Lalbagh Fort was developed by Shaista Khan.

Bengal came once more under the suzerainty of Delhi as the Mughals conquered it in 1576. Not far from Sonargaon, Dhaka rose from the mists of obscurity as a Mughal provincial capital. But it remained remote and thus a difficult to govern region--especially the section east of the Brahmaputra River--outside the mainstream of Mughal politics. The Bengali ethnic and linguistic identity further crystallized during this period, since the whole of Bengal was united under an able and long-lasting administration. Furthermore its inhabitants were given sufficient autonomy to cultivate their own customs and literature.

In 1612, during Emperor Jahangir's reign, the defeat of Sylhet completed the Mughal conquest of Bengal, except for Chittagong. At this time the capital was established at Dhaka. Chittagong was later annexed in order to stifle Arakanese raids from the east. A well-known Dhaka landmark, Lalbagh Fort, was built during Aurangzeb's sovereignty.

History repeated itself as the frontier Bengal province broke off from a Delhi-based empire around the time Aurangzeb's death in 1707. Murshid Quli Khan ended Dhaka's century of grandeur as he shifted the capital to Murshidabad ushering in a series of independent Bengal Nawabs. Nawab Alivardi Khan showed military skill during his wars with the Marathas. He completely routed the Marathas from Bengal. He crushed an uprising of the Afghans in Bihar and made the British pay 150,000 Tk for blocking Mughal and Armenian trade ships.

 

[edit] Europeans in Bengal

Portuguese traders and missionaries were the first Europeans to reach Bengal in the latter part of the fifteenth century. They were followed by representatives of the Dutch, the French, and the British East India Company). The Mughal Subahdar of Bengal Kasim Khan Mashadi completely destroyed the Portuguese forces in the Battle of Hoogly (1632). About 10,000 Portuguese men and women died in the battle and 4,400 were sent captive to Delhi.

During Aurangzeb's reign, the local Nawab sold three villages, including one then known as Calcutta, to the British. Calcutta was Britain's first foothold in Bengal and remained a focal point of their economic activity. The British gradually extended their commercial contacts and administrative control beyond Calcutta to the rest of Bengal. Job Charnock was one of the first dreamers of a British empire in Bengal. He almost waged war against the Mughal authority of Bengal which led to the Anglo-Mughal war of Bengal (1686-1690). Shaista Khan, the Nawab of Bengal, defeated the British in the battles of Hoogly, Baleshwar, and Hijly and expelled the British from Bengal. Captain William Heath with a naval fleet moved towards Chittagong but it was a failure and he had to retreat to Madras.

 

[edit] British rul

 
 
Robert Clive, 1st Baron Clive, meeting with Mir Jafar after Plassey, by Francis Hayman

The British East India Company gained official control of Bengal following the Battle of Plassey in 1757. This was the first conquest, in a series of engagements that ultimately lead to the expulsion of other European competitors, the defeat of the Mughals and the consolidation of the subcontinent under the rule of a corporation -- an unique event in imperialistic history. Kolkata (Anglicized as "Calcutta") on the Hooghly became a major trading port for Bamboo, Tea, Sugar cane, Spices, Cotton Muslin and Jute produced in Dhaka, Rajshahi, Khulna and Kushtia and parts of the rest of Bengal.

Scandals and the bloody rebellion known as the Bengal Mutiny prompted the British government to intervene in the affairs of the East India Company. In 1858, authority in India was transferred from the Company to the crown and the rebellion was brutally suppressed. Rule of India was organized under a Viceroy and continued a pattern of economic exploitation. Famine racked the subcontinent many times, including at least two major famines in Bengal. The British Raj was politically organized into seventeen provinces--of which Bengal was one of the most significant--most headed by a governor. For a brief period in the early twentieth century, an abortive attempt was made to divide Bengal into two zones, West Bengal and East Bengal & Assam.

See also: Bengal renaissance


 

 

[edit] Creation of Pakistan

As the independence movement throughout British-controlled India began in the late nineteenth century gained momentum during the twentieth century, Bengali politicians played an active role in Mohandas Gandhi's Congress Party and Mohammad Ali Jinnah's Muslim League, exposing the opposing forces of ethnic and religious nationalism. By exploiting the latter, the British probably intended to distract the independence movement, for example by partitioning Bengal in 1905 along religious lines. The split only lasted for seven years. At first the Muslim League sought only to ensure minority rights in the future nation. In 1940 the Muslim League passed the Lahore Resolution which envisaged one or more Muslim majority states in South Asia. Non-negotiable was the inclusion of the Muslim parts of Punjab and Bengal in these proposed states. The stakes grew as a new Viceroy Lord Mountbatten was appointed expressly for the purpose of effecting a graceful British exit. Communal violence in Noakhali and Calcutta sparked a surge in support for the Muslim League, which won a majority of Bengal's Muslim seats in the 1946 election. Accusations have been made that Hindu and Muslim nationalist instigators were involved in the latter incident. At the last moment Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy and Sarat Chandra Bose came up with the idea of an independent and unified Bengal state, which was endorsed by Jinnah. This idea was vetoed by the Indian National Congress.

British India was partitioned and the independent states of India and Pakistan were created in 1947; the region of Bengal was divided along religious lines. The predominantly Muslim eastern half of Bengal became the East Bengal (later renamed East Pakistan) state of Pakistan and the predominantly Hindu western part became the Indian state of West Bengal.

Pakistan's history from 1947 to 1971 was marked by political instability and economic difficulties. In 1956 a constitution was at last adopted, making the country an "Islamic republic within the Commonwealth". The nascent democratic institutions foundered in the face of military intervention in 1958, and the government imposed martial law between 1958 and 1962, and again between 1969 and 1971.

Almost from the advent of independent Pakistan in 1947, frictions developed between East and West Pakistan, which were separated by more than 1,000 miles of Indian territory. East Pakistanis felt exploited by the West Pakistan-dominated central government. Linguistic, cultural, and ethnic differences also contributed to the estrangement of East from West Pakistan.

When Mohammad Ali Jinnah died in September 1948, Khwaja Nazimuddin became the Governor General of Pakistan while Nurul Amin was appointed the Chief Minister of East Bengal. Nurul Amin continued as the Chief Minister of East Bengal until 2 April 1954. The abolition of the Zamindari system in East Bengal (1950) and the Language Movement were two most important events during his tenure.

 

[edit] The Bengali Language Movement

The question as to what would be the state language of Pakistan was raised immediately after its creation. The central leaders and the Urdu-speaking intellectuals of Pakistan declared that Urdu would be the state language of Pakistan, just as Hindi was the state language of India. However, Bengalis strongly resisted attempts to impose Urdu as the sole official language of Pakistan, and the students and intellectuals of East Pakistan, demanded that Bengali (Bangla) be made one of the state languages, arguing that it was in any case the native language of the majority (54% native speakers as opposed to 7% native Urdu speakers) in the whole of Pakistan.

The Bengali Language Movement began in 1948 and reached its climax in a demonstration on 21 February 1952 at which several demonstrators were killed by police. After a lot of controversy over the language issue, the final demand from East Pakistan was that Bangla must be the official language and the medium of instruction in East Pakistan, and that for the central government it would be one of the state languages along with Urdu. The first movement on this issue was mobilised by Tamaddun Majlish headed by Professor Abul Kashem. Gradually many other non-communal and progressive organisations joined the movement, which finally turned into a mass movement, and ended in the adoption of Bengali as one of the state languages of Pakistan.

 

[edit] Politics: 1954 - 1970

The first election for East Bengal Provincial Assembly was held between 8 March and 12 March 1954. The Awami Muslim League, Krishak-Sramik Party and Nezam-e-Islam formed the United Front, on the basis of 21-points agenda.

Notable pledges contained in the 21-points were:

  • making Bengali one of the main state languages
  • autonomy for the province
  • reforms in education
  • independence of the judiciary
  • making the legislative assembly effective

The United Front won 215 out of 237 Muslim seats in the election. The ruling Muslim League got only nine seats. Khilafat-E-Rabbani Party got one, while the independents got twelve seats. Later, seven independent members joined the United Front while one joined the Muslim League.

There were numerous reasons for the debacle of the Muslim League. Above all, the Muslim League regime angered all sections of the people of Bengal by opposing the demand for recognition of Bangla as one of the state languages and by ordering the massacre of 1952.

The United Front got the opportunity to form the provincial government after winning absolute majority in the 1954 election. Of the 222 United Front seats, the Awami Muslim League had won 142, Krishak-Sramik Party 48, Nezam-i-Islam 19, and Ganatantri Dal 13.

The major leaders of the United Front were Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy and Maulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhasani of Awami Muslim League and A. K. Fazlul Huq of Krishak-Sramik Party. Suhrawardy and Bhasani did not take part in the election and Fazlul Huq was invited to form the government. But a rift surfaced at the very outset on the question of formation of the cabinet. The unity and solidarity among the component parties of the United Front soon evaporated. Finally, on 15 May, Fazlul Huq arrived at an understanding with the Awami Muslim League and formed a 14-member cabinet with five members from that party.

But this cabinet lasted for only fourteen days. The Muslim League could not concede defeat in the elections in good grace. So, they resorted to conspiracies to dismiss the United Front government. In the third week of May, there were bloody riots between Bengali and non-Bengali workers in different mills and factories of East Bengal. The United Front government was blamed for failing to control the law and order situation in the province.

Fazlul Huq was then quoted in an interview taken by The New York Times correspondent John P Callaghan and published in a distorted form that he wanted the independence of East Bengal. Finally, on 29 May 1954, the United Front government was dismissed by the central government and Governor's rule was imposed in the province, which lasted till 2 June 1955.

Curiously enough within two months of his sacking, Fazlul Huq was appointed the central Home Minister. As Home Minister, Fazlul Huq utilised his influence to bring his party to power in East Bengal. Naturally, the United Front broke up. The Muslim members of the United Front split into two groups. In 1955 the Awami Muslim League adopted the path of secularism and non-communalism, erased the word 'Muslim' from its nomenclature and adopted the name "Awami League".[4]

Great differences began developing between the two wings of Pakistan. While the west had a minority share of Pakistan's total population, it had the largest share of revenue allocation, industrial development, agricultural reforms and civil development projects. Pakistan's military and civil services were dominated by the fair-skinned, Persian-cultured Punjabis and Afghans. Only one regiment in the Pakistani Army was Bengali. And many Bengali Pakistanis could not share the natural enthusiasm for the Kashmir issue, which they felt was leaving East Pakistan more vulnerable and threatened as a result.

 

[edit] Independence

After the Awami League won all the East Pakistan seats of the Pakistan's National Assembly in the 1970-71 elections, West Pakistan opened talks with the East on constitutional questions about the division of power between the central government and the provinces, as well as the formation of a national government headed by the Awami League.

The talks proved unsuccessful, however, and on March 1, 1971, Pakistani President Yahya Khan indefinitely postponed the pending National Assembly session, precipitating massive civil disobedience in East Pakistan.

On March 2, 1971, A group of students, led by A S M Abdur Rob,Student leader & VP of DUCSU (Dhaka University Central Students Union) raised the new (proposed) flag of Bangla under the direction of Swadhin Bangla NUCLEUS.

On March 3, 1971, Student leader Sahjahan Siraj read the Sadhinotar Ishtehar (Declaration of independence) at Paltan Maidan in front of Bangabandhu Shaikh Mujib along with student and public gathering.

On March 7, there was a historical public gathering in Paltan Maidan to hear the guideline for the revolution and independence from Shaikh Mujib, the frontier leader of movement that time. Although he avoided the direct speech of independence as the talks were still underway, he influenced the mob to prepare for the separation war. The speech is still considered a key moment in the war of liberation, and is remembered for the phrase, "Ebarer Shongram Muktir Shongram, Ebarer Shongram Shadhinotar Shongram...." ("This revolution is for victory, this revolution is for freedom....")

 

[edit] Formal Declaration of Independence

After the military crackdown by the Pakistan army began on the night of March 25, 1971 Sheikh Mujib Mujibur Rahman was arrested and the political leaders dispersed, mostly fleeing to neighbouring India where they organized a provisional government afterwards. The people were at a loss. At that time Major Ziaur Rahman was the senior most Bengali army officer. So at the request of other Bengali officers he declared independence of Bangladesh on behalf of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

""I, Major Ziaur Rahman, declare independence of Bangla Desh, on behalf of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman""

The Bangladesh Government was formed in Meherpur, (later renamed as Mujibnagar) adjacent to the Indian border. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was announced to be the head of the state. Tajuddin Ahmed became the prime minister of the government. There the war plan was sketched.

A war force was established named "Muktibahini". M. A. G. Osmani was assigned as the Chief of the force. The land sketched into 11 sectors under 11 sector commanders. Major Ziaur Rahman was the sector commander of Chittagong-Comilla region.

The training and most of the arms-ammunitions were arranged by the Meherpur government which were supported by India.

As fighting grew between the Pakistan Army and the Bengali Mukti Bahini ("freedom fighters"), an estimated ten million Bengalis, mainly Hindus, sought refuge in the Indian states of Assam, Tripura and West Bengal.

The crisis in East Pakistan produced new strains in Pakistan's troubled relations with India. The two nations had fought a war in 1965, mainly in the west, but the refugee pressure in India in the fall of 1971 produced new tensions in the east. Indian sympathies lay with East Pakistan, and on December 3, 1971, India intervened on the side of the Bangladeshis. On December 16, 1971, Pakistani forces surrendered, and Bangla Desh ("Country of Bangla") was finally established the following day. The new country changed its name to Bangladesh on January 11, 1972 and became a parliamentary democracy under a constitution. Shortly thereafter on March 19 Bangladesh signed a friendship treaty with India.

 

[edit] Post-independence

 

[edit] Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, 1972-75

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman came to office with immense personal popularity but had difficulty transforming this popular support into the political strength needed to function as head of government. The 1972 constitution adopted as state policy the Awami League's (AL) four basic principles of nationalism, secularism, socialism, and democracy.[5]

The first parliamentary elections were held in March 1973, with the Awami League winning a massive majority. The new Bangladesh government focused on relief, rehabilitation, and reconstruction of the economy and society. In December 1974, in the face of continuing economic deterioration and mounting civil disorder, Mujib proclaimed a state of emergency, limited the powers of the legislative and judicial branches, banned all the newspaper except four government supported papers, and introduced one-party system baning all the parties which is the destruction of all the democratic norms and finally become an autocratic.

Despite some improvement in the economic situation during the first half of 1975, criticism of Mujib grew. In August 1975, Mujib, and most of his family, were assassinated by mid-level army officers. A new government, headed by former Mujib associate Khandakar Moshtaque, was formed.[5]

 

[edit] Ziaur Rahman, 1975-81

Successive military coups resulted in the emergence of Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ziaur Rahman ("Zia") as strongman. In the historic 7th November, "Jatiyo Biplob O Shanghoti Dibosh" the army & people jointly captured the power freed Major Zia. He pledged the army's support to the civilian government headed by President Chief Justice Sayem. Acting at Zia's behest, Sayem dissolved Parliament, and instituted the Martial Law Administration (MLA).[5]

Zia reintroduce the multi party democracy, freed judisiary and sought to revitalize the demoralized bureaucracy, to begin new economic development programs, and to emphasize family planning. In November 1976, Zia became Chief Martial Law Administrator (CMLA) and assumed the presidency upon Sayem's retirement five months later, promising national elections in 1978.[5]

As President, Zia announced a 19-point program of economic reform and began dismantling the MLA. Zia won a five-year term in June 1978 elections, with 76% of the vote. Democracy and constitutional order were fully restored when the ban on political parties was lifted, new parliamentary elections were held in February 1979. The AL and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), founded by Zia, emerged as the two major parties.[5]

In May 1981, Zia was assassinated in Chittagong by dissident elements of the military. The conspirators were either taken into custody or killed. Vice President Justice Abdus Sattar was sworn in as acting president, and elected president as the BNP's candidate six months later. Sattar followed the policies of his predecessor and retained essentially the same cabinet.[5]

 

[edit] Hussain Mohammed Ershad, 1982-90

In March 1982 Army Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. H.M. Ershad suspended the constitution and declared martial law citing pervasive corruption, ineffectual government, and economic mismanagement. The following year, Ershad assumed the presidency, and won overwhelming public support for his regime in a national referendum in March 1985, although turnout was small. Political life was liberalized through 1985 and 1986, and the Jatiya (National) Party was established as Ershad’s vehicle for the transition back to democracy.[5]

Parliamentary elections were held in May 1986, but were boycotted by the BNP, now led by President Zia's widow, Begum Khaleda Zia,. The Jatiya Party won a modest majority of the 300 elected seats in the National Assembly. The participation of the Awami League -- led by the late President Mujib's daughter, Sheikh Hasina Wajed -- lent the elections some credibility, despite widespread charges of voting irregularities.[5]

Ershad retired from military service in preparation for the presidential elections in October 1986, and won 84% of the vote. Protesting that martial law was still in effect, both the BNP and the AL refused to put up opposing candidates.[5] In November 1986, martial law was lifted, and the opposition parties took their elected seats in the National Assembly.[5]

In July 1987, after the government hastily pushed through a bill to include military representation on local administrative councils, the opposition walked out of Parliament. As the opposition organized protest marches and nationwide strikes, the government arrested scores of opposition activists. After declaring a state of emergency, Ershad dissolved Parliament and scheduled fresh elections for March 1988.[5]

The elections were held despite an opposition boycott, and the ruling Jatiya Party won 251 of the 300 seats. The Parliament passed a large number of bills, including in June 1988 a controversial constitutional amendment making Islam Bangladesh's state religion.[5]

On December 6, 1990, following general strikes, increased campus protests, public rallies, and a general disintegration of law and order,[5] Ershad resigned. On February 27, 1991, an interim government headed by Acting President Chief Justice Shahabuddin Ahmed oversaw what most observers believed to be the nation's most free and fair elections to that date.and..[5]

 

[edit] Khaleda Zia, 1991-96

The madar son BNP won a plurality of seats and formed a government with Khaleda Zia, widow of Ziaur Rahman, becoming prime minister. The electorate approved changes to the constitution, formally re-creating a \In March 1994, controversy over a parliamentary by-election, which the opposition claimed the government had rigged, led to general strikes and an indefinite boycott of Parliament by the opposition. In late December 1994, the opposition resigned en masse from Parliament, and pledged to boycott national elections scheduled for February 15, 1996.[5]

In February, Khaleda Zia was re-elected by a landslide in voting boycotted by the three main opposition parties. In March 1996, following escalating political turmoil, the Parliament amended the constitution to allow a neutral caretaker government to assume power and conduct new parliamentary elections.

 

[edit] Sheikh Hasina, 1996-2001

Elections were held in June 1996 which were found by international and domestic election observers to be free and fair. The Awami League won a plurality of the seats, and formed the government with support from the Jatiya Party of deposed president Ershad. AL leader Sheikh Hasina became Prime Minister.[5]

In June 1999, the BNP and other opposition parties again began to boycott Parliament, and stage nationwide general strikes. A four-party opposition alliance formed at the beginning of 1999 announced that it would boycott parliamentary by-elections and local government elections.[5]

In July 2001, the Awami League government stepped down to allow a caretaker government to preside over parliamentary elections. In August, Khaleda Zia and Sheikh Hasina agreed to respect the results of the election, join Parliament win or lose, foreswear the use of hartals (violently enforced strikes) as political tools, and if successful in forming a government allow for a more meaningful role for the opposition in Parliament. The caretaker government was successful in containing the violence, which allowed a parliamentary general election to be held on October 1, 2001.[5]

 

[edit] Khaleda Zia, 2001-2006

The four-party alliance led by the BNP won over a two-thirds majority in Parliament. Begum Khaleda Zia was sworn in on October 10, 2001, as Prime Minister for the third time.[5]

On August 17, 2005, near-synchronized blasts of improvised explosive devices in 63 out of 64 administrative districts targeted mainly government buildings and killed two persons. An extremist Islamist group named Jama'atul Mujahideen, Bangladesh (JMB) claimed responsibility for the blasts, which aimed to press home JMB's demand for a replacement of the secular legal system with Islamic sharia courts. Hundreds of senior and mid-level JMB leaders were arrested.[5]

In February 2006, after sporadic boycotts, the AL returned to Parliament, demanded early elections and requested significant changes in the electoral and caretaker government systems to stop alleged moves by the ruling coalition to rig the next election. Dialogue between the Secretaries General of the main ruling and opposition parties failed to sort out the electoral reform issues.[5]

 

[edit] Caretaker Government, October 2006-present

On January 3, 2007, the Awami League announced it would boycott the January 22 parliamentary elections. The AL planned a series of country-wide general strikes and transportation blockades.[5]

On January 11, 2007, President Iajuddin Ahmed declared a state of emergency, resigned as Chief Adviser, and indefinitely postponed parliamentary elections. On January 12, 2007, former Bangladesh Bank governor Fakhruddin Ahmed was sworn in as the new Chief Adviser, and ten new advisers (ministers) were appointed. Under emergency provisions, the government suspended certain fundamental rights guaranteed by the constitution and detained a large number of politicians and others on suspicion of involvement in corruption and other crimes. The government announced elections would occur in late 2008.[5] As of November 19, 2008, elections were scheduled for December 8, 2008.[6]

In the summer of 2007 the government arrested Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia, Bangladesh's two most influential political leaders, on charges of corruption. Hasina and Zia have challenged the cases filed against them under the Emergency Power Rules, which deny the accused the right to bail. While the cases are under judicial review, the two leaders continue to be imprisoned as of March 2008.[5]

 

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