The country that inspired the Concert For Bangla Desh
. The reasons for this concert were less cool than the concert, though.
বাংলাদেশ), officially known as the People's Republic of Bangladesh (Bengali:
গণপ্রজাতন্ত্রী বাংলাদেশ Gônôprôjātôntrī Bāṅlādeś), (Harrison wrote it separately since that was how it was spelt at the time, but it’s only one word) can be considered the Crapsack World
of South Asia and rightly so, having endured some of the worst stuff nature and humanity has to throw to us.
Initially part of India, it was partitioned along with the northwestern provinces of British India to become Pakistan because of religious differences with the rest of the subcontinent. Bangladesh became East Pakistan, separated geographically from West Pakistan by... all of India. This awkward federation was off to a bad start from the beginning when the West imposed Urdu as the official language of Pakistan, which irked the Bengali-speaking population of the East, which was also the more populous of the two Pakistans. Not only that, but all political, martial and economic power was located in the West, leaving the East powerless and relatively expendable, as was made clear in 1965 when Pakistan's then-dictator, Field Marshal Ayub Khan, declared that "the best defense of East Pakistan laid in West Pakistan".
Obviously that didn’t do too well with the Bengalis, and they began demanding autonomy by requesting that Pakistan become a loose confederation rather than the unitary republic that it was at the time. After a great deal of negotiation, this was agreed to and in 1970, the general elections put the pro-Bengali Awami League in power. The West did not accept the result, however, and soon Sheikh Mujibur Rahmar, leader of the Awami League, was arrested. And as if that's not enough, a typhoon hit the country around the same time
. Angered by political betrayal as well as Islamabad's incompetent relief efforts, resulting in hundreds of thousands
of flood deaths, a popular movement seeking complete autonomy from West Pakistan gained momentum. In retaliation, West Pakistan cracked down on East Pakistan in an infamous attack on the capital city, Dhaka and other centers of population. The Pakistani Army rolled into the city and began massacring people by the thousands, key target the army and police headquarters and the campus of the University of Dhaka, a focal point of political activity. East Pakistan declared independence in response and became Bangladesh, striking off the Liberation War of 1971. The Pakistani Army began a reign of terror and tried to paint the conflict as a religious one, targeting religious minorities. A mass exodus of refugees uprooted by Pakistani atrocities began, moving towards the neighboring Indian province of West Bengal. India, fearing a mass influx of Bengalis into West Bengal, but also for humanitarian and strategic reasons, originally provided shelter for many refugees and training camps for Bengali guerrilla troops, the Mukti Bahini (literally, Freedom Fighters). Towards the end of 1971, India entered the war in force, with Indian forces joining in with the Bangladeshi troops. Often the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 (which had a front on the western borders of India and Pakistan) and the Bangladesh Liberation War are conflated, some believing that India fought the war for Bangladesh. As it stands, India supported the Bangladeshi efforts with equipment and a safe location for the majority of the war, only committing their military forces when the international situation demanded it, some seven months after the War had started.
On the 16th of December, Bangladesh won the War, with the surrender of the Pakistani troops to General Osmani and Aurora, of the Bangladesh and Indian Armies respectively.
In the newly independent state, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was its founder as well as first President. He ruled for the first few years but was soon deposed in a military coup that led to his death. Two counter-coups later, General Ziaur Rahman (no relation to Mujib) became the military ruler of Bangladesh, a position he held from 1976 to 1981 before he too was assassinated. The military continued its control over the state until the 1990s, when the widow of General Rahman and the daughter of Mujib became the leaders of the two largest parties in the country, and setting up a rivalry that continues to the present.
Bangladesh is still very poor and fairly corrupt. It also has a ridiculously high population for its size - 164 million and counting, making it the world's most densely peopled region and the 7th most populous country! (that's more people than Russia
.) However, it has been making strides as of late and now seems to be better off in many respects from Pakistan. For one thing, it has become a favored country for cheap manufacturing especially by western clothing companies, but because of extremely low wages considering any union organizing is viciously attacked. Furthermore, work and safety standards are dangerously lax with no meaningful enforcement that contributed to tragedies like the 2013 factory collapse that forced some Western consumers to ponder the true price at the cheap goods made there.
It lies at the intersection of two of the world's great rivers, the Ganga and Brahmaputra, which create a lush, very fertile delta. This rich farmland supports said huge population, although its low elevation also makes it highly vulnerable to cyclones and floods. It also boasts a history as one of India's artistic and cultural hotspots, though it shares that honor with neighboring West Bengal (the two were one region, Bengal, before Partition).
As an interesting fact the border region with West Bengal is somewhat... confusing. In an arrangement dating back to the Princely states there are sections of Bangladesh surrounded entirely in West Bengal and parts of West Bengal entirely in Bangladesh. To make matters more confusing these enclaves can have enclaves within them. It gets so bad there are parts of Bangladesh, inside part of India, inside part of Bangladesh, inside India. Given that this causes problems for people living in these areas the two governments (as of late 2011) have decided to abolish these areas completely and allow those living there to either change citizenship or be given funds to relocate.
The Bangladeshi flag
The green field stands for the lush greenery of Bangladesh, while the solar disc, slightly placed towards the hoist side so it would appear centered when flying, is stained red with the blood of its freedom fighters.