History of Bangladesh. Rise of European Influence

Early history. Ancient Hindu epics indicate that thousands of years ago, tribal people inhabited a kingdom called Vanga in the region that is now Bangladesh. Historians know little aboutthe region before about the zoo's B.C, when it formed part of the Mauryan Empire. This empire broke up about 185 B.C, and local kings then ruled Bengal. From about A.D. 320 to 500, the region was part of the Gupta Empire. See Mauryan Empire; Gupta dynasty.

Buddhist rulers gained control of eastern Bengal in the mid-700's. Buddhist culture spread throughout the region. After about 300 years of Buddhist rule, Hindu kings came to power. Beginning in the 1200's, Turkish Muslims who had conquered northern India extended their control into eastern Bengal. Independent Muslim rulers governed parts of Bengal until 1576, when the Mughal emperor Akbar conquered the region.

Mughal rule. Bengal became part of the Mughal Empire, which spread across most of what is now Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan. Muslim art and architecture flourished under Mughal rule. By about the 1600's, most of the people of eastern Bengal had converted to Islam.

The Mughal emperors appointed governors called nawabs to rule the provinces of the empire. In the early 1700's, the empire began to break up, partly because powerful Hindu groups in central and western India rebelled against Muslim rule. At the same time, Bengal and other provinces became increasingly independent as the nawabs took more power for themselves.

The growth of European Influence. During the 1500's, British, Dutch, French, and Portuguese traders competed for control of the profitable trade between the East Indies and Europe. By the 1600's, European trade settlements had been established in Bengal. At first, the Europeans met strong resistance from the provincial nawabs, who demanded taxes in return for trade privileges. But after the Mughal Empire began to weaken in the 1700's, the Europeans increased their influence. Ambitious Mughal nawabs, nobles, and generals competed for power. The Europeans took sides in many of these conflicts, offering their support in return for monopoly trade privileges and other rewards.

The East India Company was chartered by the English government in 1600 to develop trade with India and the Far East By the mid-1700's, the company had become the strongest trade power in Bengal, in 1757, company forces led by Robert Clive defeated the nawab of Bengal in the Battle of Plassey. Clive put a puppet nawab in office, but the East India Company actually ruled Bengal. See East India Company.

Corrupt company officials made huge profits on jute production in eastern Bengal, but they did little to improve the welfare of the people. Opposition to the company spread, not only in Bengal, but also in other areas of India that the firm controlled. The discontent led to the Indian Rebellion in 1857. The revolt failed, but it caused the British government to take over the company in 1858. All the Indian territory that the firm had governed became known as British India.

British India. Bengal became a province of British India. Under British rule, industrial development and educational reforms advanced rapidly in western Bengal, where most of the people were Hindus. Many Hindus gained economic and political power. But eastern Bengal, where most people were Muslims, remained backward and agricultural. In 1905, the viceroy (governor) of British India divided Bengal into two sections—West Bengal and East Bengal. East Bengal became part of a new province. Many Hindu Bengalis objected to the division. They feared a loss of their economic and political power. But Muslims favored the division because they made up the majority of the province's population. The conflict led to bloody rioting between Hindus and Muslims in Bengal. The British reversed the division in 1911, and Bengal again became a single province. But the bitterness between Hindus and Muslims remained.

Throughout British India, independence movements began to gain strength in the 1900's. The Muslim League, a political organization formed in 1906, became the voice of India's Muslim minority. By 1940, league leaders were demanding that a Muslim nation—to be called Pakistan—be created out of Indian territory. Riots between Hindus and Muslims in the 1940's convinced government leaders that India would have to be divided. In 1947, Britain granted independence to India and established Pakistan as an independent nation. The British divided Bengal between the two countries. Western Bengal became a state of India. Eastern Bengal became East Pakistan. See Pakistan (History).

East Pakistan was separated from West Pakistan by about 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) of Indian territory. The people of the two parts of Pakistan shared a common religion, but they had little else in common. They spoke different languages and had different cultures, traditions, and physical traits. East Pakistanis made up more than half the population of Pakistan, but West Pakistanis controlled the nation's government, economy, and armed forces. Only about a fourth of the money spent by the government went to East Pakistan. The per capita annual income of East Pakistan was less than three-fifths that of West Pakistan.

Through the years. East Pakistanis grew increasingly dissatisfied with the government of Pakistan. In November 1970, a cyclone and tsunami struck East Pakistan and killed about 266,000 people. Many East Pakistanis accused the government of delaying shipments of relief supplies to the devastated areas.

In December 1970, elections were held throughout Pakistan to choose an assembly that would serve as a legislature and write a new constitution. The Awami League, a party led by East Pakistan's Sheik Mujibur Rahman (known as Sheik Mujib), won a majority of the seats. The party strongly supported increased self-government for East Pakistan.

On March 1, 1971, President Yahya Khan of Pakistan postponed the first meeting of the assembly. East Pakistanis protested, and Yahya Khan sent army troops to East Pakistan to put down the protests. Sheik Mujib was imprisoned in West Pakistan.

Civil war soon broke out The fighting began in East Pakistan. Then, on March 26, 1971, the East Pakistanis declared East Pakistan an independent nation called Bangladesh. They formed a guerrilla army to fight the government troops. Thousands of civilians died in the bloody fighting that followed, and millions of refugees poured into India.

During the early months of the civil war. East Pakistani guerrillas also crossed into India. The government forces shelled Indian territory and followed the guerrillas across the border. Indian troops fought border clashes with the Pakistani government soldiers. In December 1971, the Indian Army advanced into East Pakistan and joined the guerrillas. The combined forces of the Indians and guerrillas overpowered West Pakistan, which surrendered on Dec. 16, 1971.

The new nation. Sheik Mujib was released from prison in January 1972. He returned to Bangladesh in triumph and became the nation's first prime minister.

Bangladesh faced staggering problems as an independent country. Millions of its people were homeless. Trade, transportation routes, and communication lines had to be restored. Hospitals, factories, and schools had to be rebuilt Reconstruction began quickly. But floods and food shortages caused much suffering, and charges of corruption weakened the government.

In January 1975, Bangladesh amended its Constitution to give the president all executive power. Mujib resigned as prime minister and took office as president He soon suspended all opposition political parties and declared Bangladesh a one-party state. In August 1975, military leaders killed Mujib. They dissolved the Parliament, took control of the government, and began to rule under martial law. Ziaur Rahman (known as Zia), an army officer, became head of the martial law government in November. He took the title of president in 1977. In 1978, the people elected Zia president In 1979, Zia became head of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), which had formed after the 1978 elections.

In 1979, the military leaders ended martial law, and the people elected a new Parliament Zia remained president In 1981, rebels led by a military officer killed Zia. Vice President Abdus Sattar was elected president later that year. In 1982, military leaders again took control of the government Lieutenant General H. M. Ershad suspended the Constitution and established martial law. From 1982 to 1984, Ershad banned the activity of political parties. He took the title of president in 1983.

In May 1986, Ershad allowed the first parliamentary elections in Bangladesh since 1979. In August Ershad resigned from the army in order to run as a civilian candidate for president He became head of the Jatiya Dal, a party formed by his supporters. In November 1986, the people elected him president Soon after, the Parliament passed a law protecting Ershad from prosecution for actions taken during the period of martial law. He then ended martial law and restored the Constitution.

In late 1990, thousands of people held violent protests against Ershad's government Ershad resigned as president in December. He was later tried and convicted of abuse of power, corruption, and other charges.

Elections were held in February 1991. The BNP gained control of Parliament, and its leader, Khaleda Zia, became prime minister. Zia, the widow of President Zia, was the first woman prime minister of Bangladesh. In September 1991, Bangladesh amended its Constitution and returned executive power to the prime minister. The position of president became mainly ceremonial.

Recent developments. The BNP won parliamentary elections held in February 1996. But the elections were marred by charges of election fraud, violence at the polls, and low voter turnout The country held elections again in June 1996. In that vote, the Awami League won the most seats in Parliament and its leader, Sheikh Hasina Wajed, became prime minister. Wajed is the daughter of the country's first prime minister. Sheik Mujib.


Date added: 2022-12-12; views: 375;

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