VII. The Contemporary Period, 1945–2000 > F. South and Southeast Asia, 1945–2000 > 1. South Asia, 1945–2000 > e. Bangladesh
  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
e. Bangladesh
Bangladesh, literally meaning “land of the Bangla (Bengali) speakers,” was born out of the civil war in Pakistan in 1971–72 (See 1971, March 1). Pakistan's very creation had been rooted in its claim to serve as a homeland for Muslim South Asians, but it proved unable to incorporate Muslim Bengalis into the polity. The major sources of conflict included language—Bangla bore little resemblance to the ideological, conceptual frameworks created for Urdu and Punjabi, the main languages used in the West wing—and rather different cultural understandings of the practice of Islam. Muslim reformists had acquired significant influence in the West wing, whereas the East still revolved around certain shared Bengali assumptions about devotionalism and related emphases on saints and goddesses. As the Muslim League of Pakistan and the state itself (dominated especially by Urdu-speaking, reformist Muhajirs) pushed the Urdu language and strove for a purist definition of Islam as the basis of the Pakistani state, Bengali speakers turned to their own language and regional identity as the foundation for a separate nation.  1
These cultural and linguistic conflicts were aggravated by severe economic inequality between East and West Pakistan. Development policies, framed by leaders in the West wing, generally favored the West. Moreover, although significant support for the state of Pakistan resulted from exports cultivated in the East, almost none of these remittances were devoted to economic development of that wing.  2
As a result of the civil war, in which India intervened decisively on the side of Bangladesh, the new state faced overwhelming needs in rebuilding itself and creating a new infrastructure to support an independent nation-state.  3
1971, March 26
Declaration of Bangladeshi independence, in direct response to a fierce army crackdown on the previous day. Large numbers of Bengalis were massacred. Mujibur Rahman was arrested and taken to West Pakistan. Many of his colleagues fled to India and established a government in exile. Millions of refugees flooded into India.  4
Dec. 4
India invaded in support of the Mukti Bahini (“freedom fighters”) and other irregular Bengali groups operating inside East Pakistan (See March 31). The successful campaign led Pakistan's military and civilian authorities to surrender on Dec. 16.  5
The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Maps by Mary Reilly, copyright 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.