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Independence Day of Bangladesh

Authored by Nishah Malik
Published on 26th March, 2023 2 min read

Independence Day of Bangladesh

Poster for the Independence Day of Bangladesh

On 26th March 1971 Bangladesh declared its independence from Pakistan. When Pakistan was created in 1947 it consisted of East Pakistan, present day Bangladesh and West Pakistan, present day Pakistan. The two areas were not just geographically distant, but were also vastly different in terms of culture and language. Due to this Bengali nationalist movements had been rife for many years. 

Bangladesh independence had been a long time coming. In the 1970 General Election in Pakistan the East Pakistan political party Awami League, which was led by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, won a clear majority in East Pakistan. However, West Pakistani leadership did not trust him, therefore Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and the president at the time, Yahya Khan, refused to hand over power to Sheikh Mujibur. This act further insighted the struggle for independence in East Pakistan. Independence was declared by Sheikh Mujibur on the 26th March 1971. After this the people of Bangladesh partook in a 9 month bloody war against the Pakistan Army, known as the Bangladesh Liberation War. 

The night before Bangladesh declared independence, Pakistan initiated the military operation called Operation Searchlight, in an effort to curb the Bengali nationalist movement by taking control of the major cities. This operation saw the Pakistan Armed Force murder many Bangladeshi nationalists and between 200,000 to 400,000 Bengali women became the victims of mass rape by many Pakistani troops. This widespread violence resulted in the Bangladesh Liberation War. The 9 month war saw major bloodshed, in particular the capital city Dhaka saw many massacres, such as the Dhaka University massacre. India joined the war on 3rd December 1971, on Bangladesh’s side, and on 16th December 1971 Pakistan surrendered. This act remains the largest surrender of armed personnel since the Second World War. The Bangladesh Liberation War resulted in Bangladesh’s independence from West Pakistan, but this was at an enormous human cost of over 3 million lives. 

The result of the Bangladesh Liberation War altered the geopolitical landscape of South Asia and marked the emergence of Bangladesh as a free independent nation. Independence Day is a national holiday in Bangladesh and is often celebrated by parades, speeches, fairs, gun salutes and ceremonies.

Authored by Nishah Malik

Nishah Malik

Nishah Malik is Collections Editor at British Online Archives. Nishah gained a Masters in History from the University of Derby in 2020. Her research interests centre around South Asian culture and heritage, as well as the history and experiences of the South Asian diaspora. She also has a keen interest in women's history.

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The British Online Archives Notable Days diary is a platform intended to mark key dates and events throughout the year. The posts draw attention to historical events and figures, as well as recurring cultural traditions and international awareness days, in both religious and secular contexts.

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