While it isn’t a light topic, I’d like to share a bit about the liberation war that gave Bangladesh its freedom from being East Pakistan.
Despite the geographical boundary of the large mass of India between them, Pakistan and Bangladesh were originally one nation. In 1957 there was the Partition of India, in which they were lumped together because both areas were predominantly Muslim in their religious beliefs. They didn’t speak the same language and they were over a thousand miles apart, but became East and West Pakistan none-the-less.
Eventually West Pakistan, what is current day Pakistan, tried to convert East Pakistan, modern day Bangladesh, to speak Urdu rather than Bengali. The Bengali’s were very proud of their mother tongue and weren’t willing to give it up. This was the sparking point that made them more aware of the lack of government support and all of their natural resources going to support a foreign land. To top it off, the Pakistan army was wielding violence against the Bangladeshis and they had had enough.
In March of 1971 Bangladesh declared independence and a bloody battle broke out between the Bangladeshis and the Pakistanis. Technically it was one nation at the time, so it was considered a civil war. The Indians did come to support the Bangladeshis from the massacre that ensued from the Pakistanis.
In the next nine months that followed, an estimated three million people were killed. Another eight to ten million people fled the country. It was a very brutal time in recent history.
The Liberation War Museum here in Dhaka is very graphic. Going to the War Remnants Museum in Vietnam they warn that you might be prone to loosing your lunch. While that museum was certainly vicious, particularly the aftermath of the affects of agent orange, it was mild in comparison to this museum.
Note: Just avoid this paragraph if you are eating your breakfast. This museum had very vivid pictures of deaths all over the place. Bodies slashed and hanging from rickshaws. Dogs eating out corpses. Bodies floating and bloated with snakes crawling over them. Piles of women and children. The pictures just didn’t seem to end.
The crazy part about learning more about the Bangladesh’s liberation is how void our education system is from including parts of history that are of relative unimportance to the US. Very sad indeed. I figured I’d pass on my learnings with others as a way to raise awareness about issues that seem far away in nature.
The other thing I recognize is how sterile the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are. If there were pictures covering the front page of our newspapers every day with the realities of war we might be more willing to stand up against it. My colleague from our office told me that he has pictures from the recent bombing in Kabul that would churn your stomach. Yet the news reports will only cover the numbers of dead and wounded and it will be just another day of violence in Kabul.
Sadly some things don’t change.