Forty years ago last month [16 December 1971] Dhaka fell. The laying down of arms by the Pakistan Army to the Indian Lieutenant-General Jagjit Singh Aurora was the biggest military surrender in post-Second World War history. It was in the period when a revolutionary storm swept across the planet in the years 1967-74.

The episode of the signing of the instrument of surrender on 16 December 1971, at Paltan Maidan, Dacca and the subsequent breakup of Pakistan has been the subjection of controversial historical interpretations for the last thirty-nine years. A vast majority of this analysis reflects the interests of the different wings of the ruling classes of the south Asian subcontinent. Hence the official historians have grossly distorted the events and the real aspirations of the oppressed masses during the social blizzard that swept across the region between 1968 and 1972.

Bangladesh has attracted investment from multinational corporations, particularly in the textile industry, because of its supply of very cheap labour. Now, however, this new working class is starting to flex its muscles and a wave of militant strikes has spread across the country. The conditions have been created where the left could unite and struggle for the overthrow of capitalism.

In breaking away from Pakistan, the founders of Bangladesh in 1971 proceeded top set up a “Bengali” state, but this ignored the fact that there were other peoples also living within the borders of the country. The tribes of the Chittagong Hill Tracts are an example of this. They have suffered terribly with tens of thousands being killed over the years, fighting back against national oppression.

One of the issues confronting the G20, and one the official communiqué is likely to duck, is the threat of climate change making parts of the globe uninhabitable. Nowhere is the peril more present and manifest than Bangladesh, home to more than 130 million people. The G20 leaders may smile for the cameras as their conflab closes, but the working people of Bangladesh are at the sharp end of capitalism’s failure to deal with threat of climate change.

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