The early 1970s was a troubled period for the Indian subcontinent. The two nations culled out of the country through a bloody Partition were at odds with each other. The one on the east no longer wished to belong to the one on the west. Two landmasses, separated by geography had come together in the name of religion in 1947. In a matter of two decades though, language overtook religion, and East Pakistan demanded the autonomy to claim Bangladesh, a nation based on Bangla.
It was on March 26, 1971, that agitating forces in East Pakistan, under the leadership of the charismatic Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, declared independence from the Pakistani administration. The declaration coincided with a ruthless show of strength by the Pakistani military, wherein they rolled out tanks on the streets of Dhaka and butchered students and intellectuals. Rahman was arrested and taken to West Pakistan. “Every section of the people of Bangla Desh are asked to resist the enemy forces at any cost in every corner of Bangla Desh. May Allah bless you and help in your struggle for freedom from the enemy. Joy Bangla,” declared Rahman through a telegram.
In the ensuing months, the atrocities carried out by the army of West Pakistan have been written and re-written about on several occasions. Thousands murdered, raped, tortured and displaced. The war was no longer just between the two wings of Pakistan. At the initiation of Indira Gandhi, India provided full support to Bangladesh’s independence movement, resulting in the creation of an autonomous government headed by Mujibur Rahman in January 1972. In the next three years when Rahman held the prime ministerial post in Bangladesh, he became a celebrated icon in India as well, admired for his moving speeches and charismatic personality. As we look back at the day when Bangladesh officially asserted its independence, we decided to dig out some of the finest photographs in the Indian Express archives of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in the company of prominent Indian personalities.
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman introducing members of his cabinet to the Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on her arrival in Dacca on March 17, 1972. (Express archive photo)
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman with Indira Gandhi (Express Archive Photo)
The President VV Giri at the Tejgaon Airport where he was accorded a warm welcome by the President of Bangladesh Mohammadullah, the Prime Minister Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Diplomats and a large number of people on June 6, 1974 (Express archive photo)
Mujibur Rahman conversing with the Union Minister for External Affairs YB Chavan when the latter called on him in Dacca on December 8, 1974. (Express archive photo
The President VV Giri receiving Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, when the latter called on him at Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi on May 14, 1974. (Express archive photo)
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Mahendra Kapoor (2nd from left) and Hema Malini (extreme right). (Express archive photo by BJ Panchal)
Actor and filmmaker Sunil Dutt holding a poster of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. (Express archive photo)
Singer Shyamal Mitra, Satyajit Ray and Sheikh Mujibur Rehman. (Express archive photo)