An Analysis of the Causes and the Flow of Events Leading to Bangladesh Liberation War!

Analysis | Causes | Bangladesh Liberation War | 1971 | 07th July 2022 | Virtual Wire



The Bangladesh Liberation war also known as the Bangladesh war of Independence was an armed conflict simultaneous with a revolution that played a crucial role in sparking of Bengali Nationalist and Self-determination movement which resulted in the movement of Bangladesh.

The triggering point of the war was when under the orders of General Yahiya Khan West Pakistan started Operation Searchlight on midnight of 25th March 1971, which is considered as one of the most brutal history of human genocide recorded in the Indian subcontinent. The terrible Man-slaughter Operation spared no one, the students , the intelligentsia, the Government Officials whoever tried to resist the Operations was executed then and there, there was terrible and horrendous treatment done with the Bangladeshi women with they being raped by the West Pakistan army men in front of their husbands and then being killed with the whole family. The rural and urban areas of the East Pakistan saw extensive military and air strikes to suppress the wave of civil disobedience. The West Pakistan had the backing of all the religious heavy-weights of the time the Razakars , the Ulemas, the Al-shams, the Al-Badrs to act as a supportive militia to help the West Pakistan Army to raid on the local population.


The East Pakistan was fighting with their army named as Bangladesh Mukti Bahini, the assistance of the religious militia only showed the religious fanaticism of Pakistan , it was their priority that Bangladesh should not be set to be a secular state and Islam should not lose its dominance over there. Just as West Pakistan was led by Yahiya khan, East Pakistan was led by M.A.G Osmani and 11 sector commanders. The East Pakistan showed an extensive strategy of Guerilla warfare against the Pakistani army. The East Pakistan’s success was short as in the initial phase of the war they were successful in liberating a portion of rural towns of Bangladesh from the clutches of West Pakistan Army but the opponents gained momentum in the monsoons. Operation Jackpot was launched by the Bangladeshi army against the West Pakistan Army.

Sorties where flown over the Pakistan Military Bases by the nascent Bangladesh Air force. By November the Bangladeshi Militia successfully combated the enemy forces to a great extent. As a mark of success on 17th April 1971 Provisional Government was formed in Mujibnagar but it had to be moved to Calcutta as a government in exile. Innumerous Bengali families were captured during the raids of Operation Searchlight were deported to West Pakistan as war prisoners out of which some of them escaped to Afghanistan. The broadcast of the war was mainly done through Mukti Bahini Freelance Radio Station operated by the rebel workers of East Pakistan Radio Station.

Agha Muhammad Yahiya Khan , commonly known as Yahiya Khan, was a Pakistani army general who served as the 5th Commander-in-Chief of Pakistan Army and Chief Martial Law Administrator of Pakistan from 25 March 1969 until 20 December 1971.During his dictatorship, he ordered Operation Searchlight in an effort to suppress Bengali nationalism which triggered the Bangladesh Liberation War. He was central to the perpetration of the Bangladesh genocide, the genocide of the populace of modern-day Bangladesh which resulted in death of 300,000–3,000,000 Bengalis. Having participated in the Mediterranean theatre of World War II on behalf of Great Britain's British Indian Army, he opted for Pakistani citizenship and joined its military after the United Kingdom partitioned India in 1947, and helped in executing the covert infiltration in Indian Kashmir that sparked the war with India in 1965.

The war played a decisive role in changing the geo-political landscape of the south east Asia , as Bangladesh emerged as the 7th most populous country in the world. The majority of the nations recognized Bangladesh as an independent nation by 1972. The various causes that shook the very base of patience among the East Pakistan people are given as below.

1.Financial Disparities


Bangladesh Liberation War or Bangladesh Muktijuddho was one of another examples where the sheer determination of the common people, the distressed people , the tortured people won over the arrogant oppressors. Since the partition of India in 1947 Pakistan was divided into two blocks East Pakistan and West Pakistan. The West Pakistan dominant populations were mainly Pashtuns, Pakhtunwas and Punjabis also comprising of ethnic groups of Afghans , Bundelis and Samarkhandis. The East Pakistan mainly comprised of the Bengalis who were allotted lands from the 1905 partition of Bengal and mainly Urdu speaking Biharis who went for working there and slowly developed familiarity with the dominant population there. There was a stark difference between the cultures of the two blocks , however the West Pakistan considered itself as a major Pakistan and the East Pakistan was considered as the minor Pakistan the allocated budgets were based on this partiality only. The budget allocations done over the years for West Pakistan and East Pakistan are as follows-

There were already economic disparities looming over East Pakistan as after the partition the West Pakistan never looked upon with an eye of equality and they were always at the spare of West Pakistan who had concentrated all the powers with itself. Factors included not only discrimination among the developmental state policies but also that the countries capital was directed towards the Western province as more businesses and trade allocations took place there, this caused a depreciation in the number of business transactions happening in Bangladesh as a result of which there was only negligible foreign investment happening there. There was a polar difference between the two economies, whereas the West Pakistan Economy was urban and Industry based the Bangladesh economy was mainly founded on the Agrarian supplies. The partiality was to such an extent that Bengalis had only 2% representation in the army. This under-representation came from the logic that Bengalis did not have the physical vitality for being in the army nor did they possess the physical felicity which was comparable to the Afghanis, the Pashtuns or the Punjabis. This West Pakistan administration concept was taken as a ridicule to the Bengali community. In fact in the 1965 Indo-Pak war only 15 aircrafts without any tanker were deputed at the East Pakistan border to combat any retaliations.

2. Language Enforcement


In 1948 it was declared by Governor-General of Pakistan Muhammad Ali Jinnah that Urdu would be the federal language of Pakistan. However, Urdu was originally spoken in north, central, and western region of the Indian subcontinent, whereas in East Bengal , the native language was Bengali, one of the two most easterly branches of the Indo-European languages. The Bengali Speaking people of Pakistan constituted more than 50% of the country’s population. The enforced language was seen as an attempt to suppress the culture of East block. It was a natural demand among the people of East Pakistan that the Bengali language be given the same status as Urdu. The movement for establishing the equality for language began on 1948 and reached its peak in 1952, on 21st February 1952 several of the activists along with some students were fired by the police causing deaths in the movement rally. This day was seen as a Black day in Bangladesh and was commemorated as Bhasha Diwas. UNESCO has identified this day as International Mother’s Language Day since 1999.

Muhammad Ali Jinnah (25 December 1876 – 11 September 1948) was a barrister, politician and the founder of Pakistan. Jinnah served as the leader of the All-India Muslim League from 1913 until the inception of Pakistan on 14 August 1947, and then as the Dominion of Pakistan's first governor-general until his death. He is revered in Pakistan as the Quaid-i-Azam ("Great Leader") and Baba-i-Qaum ("Father of the Nation"). His birthday is observed as a national holiday in Pakistan. In these early years of his political career, Jinnah advocated Hindu–Muslim unity, helping to shape the 1916 Lucknow Pact between the Congress and the All-India Muslim League, in which Jinnah had also become prominent.

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (17 March 1920 – 15 August 1975), often shortened as Sheikh Mujib or Mujib and widely known as Bangabandhu was a Bangladeshi politician, statesman and Founding Father of Bangladesh who served as the first President and later as the Prime Minister of Bangladesh from April 1971 until his assassination in August 1975. Mujib is credited with leading the successful campaign for Bangladesh's independence from Pakistan. He is revered in Bangladesh with the honourific title of "Bangabandhu" (Bôngobondhu "Friend of Bengal") which is used around the world. He was a founding member and eventual leader of the Awami League, founded in 1949 as an East Pakistan–based political party in Pakistan.

Language Movement Day, also called State Language Day or Language Martyrs' Day is a national holiday of Bangladesh taking place on 21 February each year and commemorating the Bengali language movement and its martyrs. On this day, people visit Shaheed Minar to pay homage to the movement's martyrs and arrange seminars discussing and promoting Bengali as the state language of Bangladesh. To commemorate this movement, Shaheed Minar, a solemn and symbolic sculpture, was erected in the place of the massacre. Following the formation of local government by the United Front in April 1954, the anniversary of 21 February was declared a holiday.

Field Marshal Sam Hormusji Framji Jamshedji Manekshaw (3 April 1914 – 27 June 2008), widely known as Sam Manekshaw and Sam Bahadur ("Sam the Brave"), was the Chief of the Army Staff of the Indian Army during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, and the first Indian Army officer to be promoted to the rank of field marshal. His active military career spanned four decades and five wars, beginning with service in the British Indian Army in World War II. Under his command, Indian forces conducted victorious campaigns against Pakistan in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, which led to the creation of Bangladesh in December 1971.

3. Cyclone Bhola

Cyclone Bhola which made its land-fall on Bangladesh Coxbazar coastline on 12th November 1970 added to the perils of the already being mistreated Bangladeshis. The cyclone killed an estimated 3,00,000 people . A weeks after the whirlpool was gone president Yahiya Khan admitted that there was a mistake in anticipating the enormity of the storm. A political statement released by the political Community of Bangladesh accused the administration of gross negligence and indifference to the suffering of the people. It was also proven that Yahiya Khan had shortened the number and the amount of casualty while declaring the figures in the News broadcast in Pakistan. With the intensifying conflict between the blocks of Pakistan a civil was imminent. The rescue measures were extremely slow to be supplied to exact location, the number of storm casualties increased mainly because most of the people did not get the proper ration and medical supplies on time. On the protest of these slow affectivity of the Government there was a two week continuous strike among the East Pakistan Government workers putting the relief measures to a standstill.

The 1970 Bhola cyclone (Also known as the Great Cyclone of 1970) was a devastating tropical cyclone that struck East Pakistan (present-day Bangladesh) and India's West Bengal on November 11, 1970. It remains the deadliest tropical cyclone ever recorded and one of the world's deadliest natural disasters. At least 300,000 people lost their lives in the storm, possibly as many as 500,000,primarily as a result of the storm surge that flooded much of the low-lying islands of the Ganges Delta. Bhola was the sixth and strongest cyclonic storm of the 1970 North Indian Ocean cyclone season. The storm surge devastated many of the offshore islands, wiping out villages and destroying crops throughout the region. In the most severely affected Upazila, Tazumuddin, over 45% of the population of 167,000 was killed by the storm.

4. Political Imbalance

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (5 January 1928 – 4 April 1979) was a Pakistani barrister and politician who served as the ninth Prime Minister of Pakistan from 1973 to 1977, and prior to that was the fourth President of Pakistan from 1971 to 1973. His government drafted the Constitution of Pakistan in 1973, which is the current constitution of the country. He was also the founder of the Pakistan people’s party and served as its chairman till 1979 when he was assassinated . In 1957 Bhutto became the youngest member of the Pakistan’s delegation to the United Nations. He addressed the UN sixth committee on October that year and led Pakistan’s delegation to UN 1st Conference on the law of sea in 1958.

Since the date partition was ratified by the two south-Asian Governments Pakistan had tried to concentrate the power in its hand. It made measures such that East Pakistan remained deprived in power and developments, one of the measures was the one unit scheme which concluded that all the West Pakistan would be a single region this was done mainly to counterbalance and absolutely negate the electoral rights of East Pakistan. After Liaquat Ali Khan was assassinated the Governor –General post was abolished and the post of president of Pakistan was started eventually giving army the power to sack the prime minister post as and when it wished , the prime minister’s post was made to be a very nominal one. The East Pakistani leaders suspected that the West Pakistan would never allow any East Pakistan Political figure to make the administrative protocol. In the flow of events the East Pakistan national elections were held and Sheikh Mujibur Rahaman’s Awami league won by 167out of 169 seats in the parliament but concretizing the doubt of the Awami League leaders Zulfikar Ali Bhutto the foreign minister of West Pakistan refused to recognize the Mujib Government.

5. Operation Searchlight

In order to completely demolish the exponentially growing resentment among the commons of the East Pakistan a final act of demolition was started. In the words of Anthony Mascarehas (A Pakistani journalist hired by Pakistan to give a good review on their Governance to the Western world so that it could attract more Foreign Investments)- “ A Massive Genocide”

Neville Anthony Mascarenhas (10 July 1928 – 3 December 1986) was a Pakistani journalist and author. His works include exposés on the brutality of Pakistan's military during the 1971 independence movement of Bangladesh, The Rape of Bangla Desh (1971) and Bangladesh: A Legacy of Blood (1986). In 1972, he was awarded the Granada's Gerald Barry Award for lifetime achievement in journalism (ceremony on What The Papers Say), as well as the International Publishing Company's Special Award for reporting on the human rights violations committed during the Bangladesh Liberation War. His article "Genocide" in The Sunday Times on 13 June 1971 is credited with having "exposed for the first time the scale of the Pakistan” The BBC writes: "There is little doubt that Mascarenhas' reportage played its part in ending the war. It helped turn world opinion against Pakistan and encouraged India to play a decisive role." Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi stating that Mascarenhas' article led her "to prepare the ground for India's armed intervention".

Asia Times reported General Yahiya Khan as saying- “Kill 3 million of them and the rest will eat out of our hands." Accordingly, on the night of 25 March, the Pakistani Army launched Operation Searchlight to "crush" Bengali resistance in which Bengali members of military services were disarmed and killed, students and the intelligentsia systematically liquidated and able-bodied Bengali males just picked up and gunned down. 6. Increasing Pressure on India of the Bangladeshi Refugees As the war intensified it was becoming difficult for India to take the load of all the refugees coming in as migrants from Bangladesh in the Bangladesh West Bengal border, it was decided at the cabinet meeting by Indira Gandhi that India would be well off if it lodged its army in the East Pakistan if war can save the Indian economy and as well its citizens so be it.

General Sam Manekshaw was consulted following which the preparations of the war started, in fact at the International Conference of Indo-Soviet Fraternity 1971 Mrs. Indira Gandhi said that article by Anthony Mascarenhas had played an important role in influencing her to decide that a counter warfare was required to be launched in order to crush the audacity of Pakistan. It took nearly seven months for India to prepare for the war, by December under the leadership of Gen Sam Manekshaw India went to be the final decision maker of the war, off course with the Soviet support.

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