Bangladesh #8 (1971)

Bangladesh #8 (1971)

Bangladesh #8 (1971)

The name Bangladesh was originally written as two words, Bangla Desh (বাংলাদেশ), which means “the country of Bengal”. Starting in the 1950s, Bengali nationalists used the term in political rallies in East Pakistan. The term Bangla is a major name for both the Bengal region and the Bengali language. The earliest references to the term date to the Nesari plate in 805 AD. The term gained official status during the Sultanate of Bengal in the 14th century. Shamsuddin Ilyas Shah proclaimed himself as the first “Shah of Bangala” in 1342. The word Bangla became the most common name for the region during the Islamic period. The Portuguese referred to the region as Bengala in the 16th century.

Currently, the People’s Republic of Bangladesh (Gônôprôjatôntri Bangladesh — গণপ্রজাতন্ত্রী বাংলাদেশ), is a sovereign country located in South Asia at the apex of the Bay of Bengal and is bordered by India and Myanmar. It’s separated from Nepal and Bhutan by the narrow Siliguri Corridor. With a population of 166.2 million, it is the world’s eighth-most populous country, and the official Bengali language is the seventh-most spoken language in the world, which Bangladesh shares with the neighboring Indian states of West Bengal, Tripura and Assam (Barak Valley).

Three of Asia’s largest rivers, the Ganges (locally known as the Padma), the Brahmaputra (locally known as the Jamuna) and the Meghna, flow through Bangladesh and form the fertile Bengal delta — the largest delta in the world. With rich biodiversity, Bangladesh is home to 700 rivers, most of the world’s largest mangrove forest; rainforested and tea-growing highlands; a 370-mile (600 kilometers) coastline with the world’s longest beach; and various islands, including a coral reef. Bangladesh is one of the most densely populated countries in the world, ranking alongside South Korea and Monaco. The capital Dhaka and the port city of Chittagong are the most prominent urban centers.

Greater Bengal was known to the ancient Greeks and Romans as Gangaridai. The people of the delta developed their own language, script, literature, music, art and architecture. Early Asian literature described the region as a seafaring power. It was an important entrepot of the historic Silk Road. Bengal was absorbed into the Muslim world and ruled by sultans for four centuries, including under the Delhi Sultanate and the Bengal Sultanate. This was followed by the administration of the Mughal Empire. Islamic Bengal was a melting pot, a regional power and a key player in medieval world trade. British colonial conquest took place in the late-18th century. Nationalism, social reforms and the arts developed under the British Raj in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when the region was a hotbed of the anti-colonial movement in the subcontinent.

The first British partition of Bengal in 1905, that created the province of Eastern Bengal and Assam, set the precedent for the Partition of British India in 1947, when East Bengal joined the Dominion of Pakistan and was renamed as East Pakistan in 1955. It was separated from West Pakistan by 870 miles (1,400 kilometers) of Indian territory. East Pakistan was home to the country’s demographic majority and its legislative capital. In 1970, a massive civil disobedience movement erupted across East Pakistan, with open calls for independence. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman addressed a huge pro-independence rally in Dacca on 7 March 1971. The Bangladeshi flag was hoisted for the first time on 23 March 1971, Pakistan’s Republic Day. 

On 26 March 1971, the Pakistani military junta launched a sustained military assault on East Pakistan and detained the Prime Minister-elect under military custody. The Pakistan Army, with the help of supporting militias, massacred Bengali students, intellectuals, politicians, civil servants and military defectors during the 1971 Bangladesh genocide. Several million refugees fled to neighboring India. Estimates for those killed throughout the war range between 300,000 and 3 million. Global public opinion turned against Pakistan as news of atrocities spread with the Bangladesh Movement gaining support from prominent political and cultural figures in the West. The Concert for Bangla Desh was held at Madison Square Garden in New York City to raise funds for Bangladeshi refugees. It was the first major benefit concert in history and was organized by Beatles star George Harrison and Indian Bengali sitarist Ravi Shankar.

During the liberation war, Bengali nationalists announced a declaration of independence and formed the Mukti Bahini (the Bangladeshi National Liberation Army). The Provisional Government of Bangladesh operated in exile from Calcutta, India. Neighboring India and its leader Indira Gandhi, a longstanding nemesis of Pakistan, provided crucial support to the Bangladesh Forces and intervened in support of the provisional government on 3 December 1971. The Soviet Union and the United States dispatched naval forces to the Bay of Bengal amid a Cold War standoff during the Indo-Pakistani War. Lasting for nine months, the entire war ended with the surrender of Pakistan’s military to the Bangladesh-India Allied Forces on 16 December 1971. Under international pressure, Pakistan released Mujib from imprisonment on 8 January 1972, after which he was flown by the Royal Air Force to a million strong homecoming in Dhaka. Indian troops were withdrawn by 12 March 1972, three months after the war ended.

By the time of its admission for UN membership in August 1972, the new state was recognized by 86 countries. Pakistan recognized Bangladesh in 1974 after pressure from most of the Muslim world. A short-lived one party state and several military coups in 1975 established a presidential government. The restoration of the parliamentary republic in 1991 led to improved economic growth and relative stability. Bangladesh continues to face challenges of poverty, corruption, polarized politics, human rights abuses by security forces, overpopulation and global warming. However, the country has achieved notable human development progress, including in health, education, gender equality, population control and food production. The poverty rate has reduced from 57% in 1990 to 25.6% in 2014.

While the initial postage stamps were being produced upon the declaration of independence in early 1971, local postmasters were authorized to overprint the Pakistani stamps that they had in stock with the name of their new country. This practice led to a large number of varieties, not catalogued in the major stamp catalogues. These issues ceased to be valid in 1973. The first Bangladesh issue was a set of eight released on 29 July 1971 with various pro-independence themes, including a map of the country.  They were issued in values from 10 paisa to 10 rupees, lithographed perforated 14×14½ on unwatermarked paper.  Scott #8 is the 10 rupee high value from this set, portraying the map of Bangladesh in gold on a lilac rose background with the legend “Support Bangla” in dark blue and “Desh” in lilac rose.

On 20 December 1971, the first eight stamps were re-issued with BANGLADESH / LIBERATED overprinted in black or red in both English and Bengali.  Only the 10 paisa, 5 rupee and 10 rupee values were issued in Dacca while the remainder weren’t put on sale in Bangladesh.

A new currency was introduced in 1972 with 1 taka equal to 100 poisha.  All stamps issued since them have been in these denominations. The Bangladeshi postal authorities have maintained a conservative issuing policy since 1971 with the majority of themes locally-based; these are interspersed with occasional general thematic issues (fish and birds, for example) and those for worldwide events such as the Olympic Games, football and cricket World Cups.

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