BANGLADESH'S INDEPENDENCE from Pakistan in 1971 was seen by many as the logical division of two disparate wings of a country united only by Islam, a mutual concern about India, and--partly facetiously-- the routes of Pakistan International Airline, but divided by language and social customs. Pakistan had fought to keep alive the fiction that all Muslims in the subcontinent belonged to a separate nation, distinct from Hindus, that should be united under a separate government and had struggled to retain its unity, preserving the ties between the two wings in the face of vast cultural differences that could not be covered up by the single thread of Islam. Indeed, the cultural differences between East and West Pakistan were so great that the division might be described as a second "Two-Nation Theory," based this time on culture rather than religion as in 1947. 1 To a few outsiders the Pakistani leadership in 1971 seemed to be acting as Abraham Lincoln had done in the United States in the 1860s to preserve the Union; to others, surely a majority, the leadership was seen as emulating George III, but in a singularly vicious manner. In this chapter we will discuss the society of Bangladesh and the causes of its demand for separation from Pakistan. As we will discover, there are vast differences between Bangladesh and Pakistan that, in themselves, contribute to cultural differences.
Much of Bangladesh is in the delta of two of the world's major river systems: the Ganges (called the Padma in Bangladesh) and the Brahmaputra ( Jamuna). Both arise in the Himalayas: the Brahmaputra on the northern slopes in Tibet and the Ganges in India on the southern side of the moun-