The people of Bangladesh discovered their identity through the Language Movement in 1952. The struggle to establish their identity and national spirit began soon after 1947 when they realized that under Pakistan, created on the two nation theory, there was little scope for the distanct culture of Banglees to flourish. The refusal of the central government to grant status to the Bangla language became the focal point of struggle because language was the most important vehicle of the cultural expression of the people of this land.
The contradiction of the two Pakistans, the racial oppression and exploitation of the West over the East was gradually unveiled. The struggle for the consciousness of identity and cultural freedom, which began with the advent of the student movements of the 1960′s, gained momentum in the mass movement of 1969. Though it brought about the fall of a mighty military ruler like Ayub Khan, the ultimate goal was not achieved. Soon after, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman of the Bangalee Awami League was elected Prime Minister of Pakistan in 1970.
In the elections of December 7, 1970 the Awami League won 160 out of 162 seats in East Pakistan and would have had a clear majority in the new assembly had it been convened. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman became the majority party leader of the Pakistan National Assembly.
The military ruleer of Pakistan refused to allow the Awami League to form a government. Major General Ziaur Rahman, on behalf of Sheikh Mujib, declared independence. A full scale movement of non-cooperation with the military government began on March 26, 1971 – which is now celebrated as the Bangladeshi Independence Day. Thus Bangladesh plunged into a civil war.
The Pakistan Army began their genocide by attacking the innocent Bangalees of Dhaka. The Pakistani army massacred 35,000 Bengali intellectuals and unleashed a brutal war against the Bangalees of East Pakistan to prevent their secession.
During the 9-month struggle which ensued, an estimated 3,000,000 Bengalis died, 250,000 women were raped, 10,000,000 refugees fled into India and Sheikh Mujib was imprisoned in West Pakistan. A Bangladesh Government in exile was established and the Indian Army launched a massive offensive against the Pakistani forces to support the Bangladesh movement. On December 16, 1971, the Pakistani army surrendered.