How does Bangladesh see India

50 years ago: Bangladesh declared independenceThe bloody birth of the "Land of Bengal"

Remember, since we've shed so much blood, we'll shed even more blood. With the grace of Allah we will set the people of this land free. Joy Bangla, victory for Bengal. "So Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, leader of the" Awami League ", in Bengal, the eastern part of Pakistan. At the beginning of March 1971 he called for an uprising against the ruling military government in Islamabad both parts of Pakistan.

The heavy legacy of British India

With the division of British India into two successor states - India and Pakistan - in 1947, the British colonial power had left a difficult legacy. The two parts of the country, West and East Pakistan, more than 1,500 kilometers away, were united in an artificial state structure, with massive political and economic contrasts. The South Asia expert Michael Mann from Berlin's Humboldt University:

"East Pakistan was seen from the beginning as an annex, also as backwoods. That went down to the religious level, in West Pakistan practically pure Islam was represented; up to the fact that East Pakistan was also seen as an agricultural region."

A cyclone came to the political crisis

The language policy pursued by West Pakistan also had a fatal effect. The Urdu spoken there should be declared the national language, the majority Bengali-speaking population in East Pakistan felt ignored. Their mouthpiece, the Awami League under the farmer's son Sheikh Mujibur, therefore called for more autonomy for East Pakistan.

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman is revered as the father of the independence of East Pakistan and the founder of Bangladesh (picture alliance / CPA Media)

The Awami League emerged victorious from the first general and direct elections in December 1970, but the West Pakistani regime did not accept the result. A natural disaster worsened the crisis: a cyclone claimed hundreds of thousands of lives, and countless were left homeless. And, according to Michael Mann:

"There was no support from West Pakistan for the needy population. Of course, that made the whole situation worse."

Possibly three million deaths from the conflict

When the regime in Islamabad suspended negotiations on the political future of East Pakistan, postponed the first session of the newly elected National Assembly indefinitely and sent troops to the east, Sheikh Mujibur said on the radio on March 26, 1971:

"The Bengali people want their freedom, the Bengali people want to survive, the Bengali people want their rights." Bangladesh - literally the land of the Bengali - had thus de facto declared its independence. West Pakistan's response was immediate. Sheikh Mujibur was arrested, the military launched a major offensive, Bengali paramilitary troops and guerrilla fighters defended themselves. Michael Mann:

"Systematic attempts were made to terrorize the population. According to estimates, we are dealing with between 300,000 and three million deaths. In any case, one has to assume that massacres have taken place on a massive scale and that the population should be terrorized."

(imago / Xinhua) The conflict between India and Pakistan - the trauma of eternal enmity
A line on the map sealed the fate of millions in 1947: districts with a Muslim majority were to belong to Pakistan, the rest to India. Mahatma Gandhi's struggle for freedom ended in violence, death and displacement. To this day, Pakistan and India are enemies - and yet so close.

Millions fled to neighboring India, and cholera and hunger spread in the devastated country. Finally, at the end of 1971, the Indian military intervened on the side of Bangladesh in the bloody war. Shortly afterwards the West Pakistani troops surrendered, Sheikh Mujibur was released from prison, took over the office of Prime Minister in January 1972 and severed all ties between Bangladesh and Pakistan.

In the semi-official historiography of Bangladesh, the year 1971 appears as the end of foreign rule, after the British colonial rulers since the middle of the 18th century and after the Pakistani colonial rulers since 1947, according to Michael Mann:

"What comes up now above all in memory of 50 years of independence is that a new cult of remembrance is practically cultivated in a glorification of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman." Numerous monuments as well as the new museum of the war of liberation in Dhaka commemorate the founding father, who led the "heroic struggle of the Bengali nation for democracy and national rights".