history : What should every Indian know about Bangladesh?
Answer by Balaji Viswanathan:
A few years ago, I went to Dhaka by bus for a programming contest (ACM's ICPC regionals). Spent a few days traveling and understanding them. Here are somethings I know:
- Bangladesh was called East Pakistan until 1971. Due to the bad treatment they received from West Pakistan (current Pakistan) they revolted. India armed the rebels and fought a war with Pakistan. Pakistan army surrendered and gave birth to Bangladesh.
- Unlike Pakistan, there is a sizable Hindu population (over 15 million) there in Bangladesh and are treated much better. I went to temples in Dhaka (that had been destroyed/vandalized but recently restored) and found non-Muslims have a fair bit of religious freedom.
- Not unexpectedly, our ancient histories are the same. We were ruled by the same set of kings since antiquity – Nandas, Mauryas, Shungas, Guptas, Harsha, Mughals and British. Until 1947, there was nothing different in the histories of India and Bangladesh.
- Like India, they use a poem by Rabindranth Tagore as their national anthem.. The song was written in 1905, when British partitioned Bengal into East & West Bengal. Riots erupted forcing Lord Curzon to revert back. The song is about Bengali unity that transcends religion.
- Bangaldesh has many territories within West Bengal and same for India. These enclaves are a source of persistant problem.
- Unlike the newspaper stories that we often hear about Indians & Bangladeshis constantly in fight, the ground reality is a little different. The educated populace of Bangladesh are very respectful towards India & Indians.
- Bangladesh is the world's most densely populated nation (if you ignore small city-states).
- Like the people of West Bengal, Bangladeshis speak Bengali (duh!).
- Along with West Bengal, Bangladesh shares Sunderbans – world's largest mangrove forest and the home of Bengal tiger (the real ones, not Sourav Ganguly).
- Apart from the issue of enclaves, India and Bangladesh have two main sticking issues. 1.(a dam that diverts part of Ganges water to Hoogly of Calcutta). Bangladesh accuses us of stealing their water. 2. (a big chunk of Bangladeshis have immigrated into India's northeast and West Bengal, causing wide ethnic tensions)
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