Remembering the 16 December 1971: Part 1/2

Eastern Bengal part of India and Western Punjab and valleys region were formed together as The dominion of Pakistan when India got its freedom from British Colonial rule on 14 August 1947. Though both regions were under the Pakistan regime, the regions were not only distant from each other by miles but also the cultural, political and economic conditions were significantly different. The period between 1947 to 1971 saw a biggest turmoil in East Pakistan in terms of culture as well as politics.

East Pakistan economic and political degradation

After four months since Khwaja Nazimudin was appointed as a Chief Minister of East Bengal, University of Dhaka demanded Bengali to be recognized as an official language of Pakistan considering the prominent ethnicity in East Pakistan. However, the demand saw a backlash from Md. Ali Jinnah denying Bengali and persisting with Urdu as official language which got official confirmation on 26 January 1952. Exactly a month after the incident, Urdu was declared as official language, the outbreak in Dhaka was resulted in death of ten individuals which could be one of the first violence incident against the government forces. Powers shifted from Awami Muslim League to United Front Coalition in April 1954. A couple of years later, on 29 February 1956, a new constitution came into effect describing Pakistani Republic with Urdu and Bengali as official languages. However, clashes between government forces and different political parties continue to happen till winter of 1968 with hundreds of people losing their lives.

The violence between Government and East Pakistan political parties led to a formation of combined force called Democratic Action Committee (DAC) which rose to prominence. In just a span of a year, more than 600 people were killed in East Pakistan. On the backdrop of Awami League coming into power in 1970 in Pakistani National Assembly as well as East Pakistan Assembly, political violence took hundreds of lives until March 1971 in Syedpur, Jaydevpur, Chittagong, Rangpur, etc.

Conflict and How the events unfolded

Post effects of parliamentary elections saw resurgence of voices from intellectuals, civilians, students, religious minorities in East Pakistan. In order to suppress these voices and political parties in East Pakistan, West Pakistan launched a military offensive on the night of 25 March 1971 which is referred to as “Operation Searchlight”. Having lost voices and lives throughout since 1947, East Pakistan declared their independence on 26 March 1971, since then the war broke out which went down in history as one of the horrific wars in human history.  China, Malaysia, Turkey and Iran expressed support for the West Pakistani troops who were proliferating inside East Pakistan territory. Mukti Bahini, a liberation army was founded by East Bengali nationalists against the General Tikka Khan led West Pakistani troops. On 5th of May 1971, West Pakistani troops broke through in Gopalpur to kill Mukti Bahini members.

Read Part 2/2 here

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