Dhaka: 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.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.
Therefore, 26 March is observed as Independence Day to commemorate the fact that Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (the first president and one of the leaders of the independence movement) declared independence in the late hours of 25 March 1971 (or the early hours of 26 March). The people of East Pakistan no longer considered themselves a part of Pakistan but rather citizens of the new country of Bangladesh.
This didn’t imply that all countries of the world recognized Bangladesh as an independent nation, nor that Bangladesh had “effective” sovereignty (e.g. control over its land, ability to organize a government and state affairs, etc) . That took another nine months. The Bangladesh Liberation War ensued from 26 March onward as the Pakistani military (under orders from their president Yahya Khan) tried to restore the West Pakistani government’s authority over Bangladesh.