While the popular narrative of Bengal history tends to begin in the British colonial era of the 18th century, a rich history existed for many centuries prior to this. With its wealth of natural resources, Bengal was arguably the most prosperous region of the sub-continent up until it was colonised. In 1757, the East India Company occupied the region, beginning with their victory at the Battle of Plassey in 1757. This brought a seismic shift in the socio-political and economic state of the region, and within a few decades Bengal became one of the poorest regions in South Asia. This turning point in the country’s history is a significant chapter in the relationship of the Bengali people and Britain; an early chapter on the place of the Bengali Diaspora in Britain today.
The 1947 partition of united India created Pakistan and India. Yet the newly formed Pakistan with its Eastern wing (later, Bangladesh) and Western wing (present day Pakistan) had only begun to experience its birth pangs. Within five years, the Bengali Language Movement began, in response to the refusal by its central government, based in West Pakistan, to recognise Bengali as an official language. In the subsequent years, increasing dissatisfaction towards West Pakistan for its policy of injustice towards its Eastern wing culminated in a tumultuous nine-month war. On 26 March 1971 an independent Bangladesh was finally born and 16 December 1971 saw the signing of the Instrument of Surrender by the Pakistani Army. The valiant language movement was recognised by the international community with the UNESCO declaring 21 of February as ‘International Mother Language Day’. To commemorate those who lost their lives, and to support the many struggling survivors, George Harrison, along with numerous other renowned artists, hosted a charitable Concert for Bangladesh in August 1971.
Bangladeshi Ahmadis wholeheartedly believe that they had gained freedom from various authories over the years of struggle due to a prophecy of Promised Messiah and Imam Mahdi (as) – “the hearts of Bengali will be won” (Tadhhkira P720). As Khalifatul Masih V (aba) reminded the world that true freedom can only be obtained by accepting and following the divine messengers sent by Allah. By accepting the Promised Messiah and Imam Mahid (as), the true and ardent follow of Holy Prophet (sm), Bengalis will obtain their ultimate freedom. Inshallah.