March 7

This Day in History

General Interest

Mar 7, 1973:

Bangladesh's first democratic leader

Sheikh Mujib Rahman, a leader of the Bangladeshi independence movement and first prime minister of Bangladesh, wins a landslide victory in the country's first general elections.

At the end of British rule in the Indian subcontinent in 1947, East Pakistan was declared a possession of Pakistan to the west, despite the fact that the two regions were separated by over 1,000 miles of Indian territory. Although the two Pakistans shared the Islamic religion, significant cultural and racial differences existed between the regions, and by the late 1960s East Pakistan began to call for greater autonomy from West Pakistan. In March 1971, the independent state of Bangladesh was proclaimed and West Pakistani forces were called in to suppress the revolt. An estimated one million Bengalis--the largest ethnic group in Bangladesh--were killed by the Pakistani forces during the next several months, while more than 10 million took refuge in India.

In December 1971, India, which had provided substantial clandestine aid to the East Pakistani independence movement, launched a massive invasion of the region and routed the West Pakistani occupation forces. A few weeks later, Sheikh Mujib was released from a yearlong imprisonment in West Pakistan and returned to Bangladesh to assume the post of prime minister. In March 1973, the Bangladeshi people overwhelmingly confirmed his government in democratic elections, and in the next year Pakistan agreed to recognize the independence of Bangladesh.

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