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We recognise that businesses in Tower Hamlets are facing a unique challenge due to the coronavirus pandemic. To support those businesses for whom we are the landlord, we have launched a rent deferral scheme.

It is aimed at allowing businesses to manage their cash flow, relieving stress during this unprecedented period and making it easier to meet immediate financial commitments such as paying staff and suppliers and meeting running costs.

The scheme will enable tenants to delay the payment of their rent for three calendar months from 1 April 2020.  

The expectation is that the deferred rent payments should be paid in full by 31 March 2021, however we understand that there may be some businesses that require an extension due to hardship and in such circumstances, we will give consideration to special arrangements.   

Businesses will be eligible to apply for a rent deferral if they meet one or more of the following criteria:

  • The premises have been closed in accordance with the government guidance on closing certain businesses and venues.
  • The premises have been closed by the council due to the coronavirus pandemic.
  • The business cannot trade.
  • The business has been granted business rates relief as part of the government relief scheme.
  • The business is considered micro or SME in accordance with current government guidance.

Apply now

If you have questions about the scheme, please email rentdefermentscheme@towerhamlets.gov.uk

The government has also announced new protections for commercial tenants, other than those for whom the council is the landlord, that are not able to pay their rent during the next three months, as a result of COVID-19.

Network Rail has announced it is cancelling all first quarter (25 March to 23 June 2020) rent payments due from tenants in their commercial estate portfolio, providing significant relief for small businesses.

It has been announced that small and medium businesses on TfL's estate, which make up 86 per cent of tenants, are to get 100 per cent rent relief. This will start from start from 25 March for the next three months.

What has changed?

From 11January in England, people who receive positive lateral flow device (LFD) tests for coronavirus (COVID-19) will be required to self-isolate immediately and won’t be required to take a PCR test to confirm they are positive.

Why has this changed?

When there are a very high numbers of cases of COVID-19 in the population a, a positive lateral flow test is close to the reliability of a PCR test in telling you if you are infected.

Find out more on the .GOV website.

What does this mean for you?

Under this new approach, anyone who receives a positive LFD test result should report their result on GOV.UK and must self-isolate immediately but will not need to take a follow-up PCR test.

After reporting a positive LFD test result, they will be contacted by NHS Test and Trace so that their contacts can be traced and must continue to self-isolate.

Find out more on the .GOV website.


Other councils are not unique in their duty to promote and defend public health, the same as Tower Hamlets. Similar control measures have been introduced across London, and the country. Other councils have also been forced to close, then reopen, their parks in response to visitors ignoring government guidance on social distancing – including the London boroughs of Southwark, Lambeth and Hammersmith & Fulham, to name a few.

  • From 4am on Friday 7 January, people who are fully vaccinated and those under-18 years old will no longer need to take a test two days before travelling to England from countries outside the UK. On arrival, they will have to take a PCR test but they will no longer have to self-isolate while awaiting the result

  • Then from 4am on Sunday 9 January people who are fully vaccinated will only have to take a lateral flow test instead of a PCR test on day two. But this test must be bought from a private test provider - free NHS tests are not allowed.

  • Unvaccinated passengers will need to continue to take a pre-departure test, PCR tests on day two and day eight, and self-isolate for 10 days.

This year, Bangladesh and the Bengali diaspora in the UK are celebrating the Golden Jubilee of Bangladesh's independence. The celebration starts on 26 March 2021 and ends on 26 March 2022.

1947 Partition of British India 

In 1947, partition gave way to two new states. These were India, with a Hindu majority population and Pakistan, with a Muslim majority population. Pakistan is comprised of two distinct areas, separated both culturally, and geographically. India filled the thousand miles of land between these two regions. Political power was concentrated in West Pakistan, which led to grievances in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh).

1947 – 1971 Pakistan period - Bengali language movement

In 1948, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Pakistan's Governor-General, declared that "Urdu, and only Urdu" would be Pakistan's state language. This decision was unacceptable to Bengalis and led to birth of the language movement. Urdu was hardly spoken by anybody in the East.  The decision led to protests. On 20 February 1952, the Pakistani Government issued Section 144, restricting gatherings and rallies.

21 February 1952 – Martyrs’ DayMartyrs’ Day gathering (laying wreaths) by young people at Altab Ali Park, Shahid Minar. Credit: Ansar Ahmed Ullah/ Swadhinata Trust

On 21 February, Bengali students gathered, defying Section 144. The police opened fire, killing four students, one other person and injuring many. The language movement led to the realisation that the Bengalis constituted a separate nation. Their destiny lay not with Pakistan but elsewhere as an independent country.

Abdul Gaffer Choudhury

Abdul Gaffar Choudhury, journalist and Freeman of Tower Hamlets, wrote the well-known Martyr’s Day song Amar bhaier rokte rangano Ekushe February.

Shahid Minar in Altab Ali Park

The Shahid Minar in Altab Ali Park was erected in 1999 through a partnership between the local Bengali community and Tower Hamlets Council. It was funded by contributions from 54 local Bangladeshi community organisations. The calls from community leaders prompted the council to allocate space within the park to accommodate the memorial monument.

In the same year, UNESCO recognised the Bengali language movement, declaring 21 February as International Mother Language Day. This is now a day observed globally in recognition of the martyrs and to preserve linguistic diversity.

Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Credit: Photographer Abul Lais Shyamal/Swadhinata TrustBangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman – independence leader (1920–1975)

Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman challenged the disparity between the regions. He demanded self-autonomy for East Pakistan.

In 1969, at a million strong public rally in Dhaka, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was given the affectionate title of Bangabandhu. This means friend of Bengal.

In the 1970s general election his political party, Awami League, won a landslide victory. The ruling elite in West Pakistan refused to allow Sheikh Mujibur Rahman to form a government. In protest Bangabandhu initiated the non-cooperation movement against Pakistani rule in 1971.

7 March 1971 speech

Bangabandhu School Credit: Kois MiahOn 7 March 1971, as the military and the West's political leadership was conspiring not to hand over power to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, he delivered a fiery speech at the Racecourse Ground against the ruling elite. He urged ‘his people’ to turn every house into a fort of resistance. He closed his speech by saying,

"Our struggle is for our freedom; our struggle is for our independence. Joi Bangla!"

This powerful speech inspired the Bengali nation to fight for its independence. In 2016 the speech was recognised by UNESCO and archived in its Memory of the World Programme.

In Tower Hamlets, a school in Bethnal Green, Bangabandhu Primary, is named in his honour.  The ‘7 March Foundation’ was set up in 2018 to propagate Bangabandhu’s ideals.

This year Bangladesh is also observing Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's 100 birth anniversary.

25 March 1971 - Genocide Day

On the night of 25 March, the Pakistani military began a violent crackdown to suppress the Bengali opposition. Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was arrested and taken to West Pakistan. British journalist Simon Dring, in hiding, reported a massacre unfolding.

26 March 1971 - Declaration of independence

Before his arrest, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman called upon his people to resist Pakistani forces of occupation in a declaration that read,

“This may be my last message, from today Bangladesh is independent. I call upon the people of Bangladesh wherever you might be and with whatever you have, to resist the army of occupation to the last. Your fight must go on until the last soldier of the Pakistan occupation army is expelled from the soil of Bangladesh and final victory is achieved.”

This declaration of independence marks the beginning of the Bangladesh Liberation War and is observed as Bangladesh Independence Day.

10 April 1971 - A government in exile

Following the Pakistani military crackdown, Awami League leaders crossed over to India for safety. On 10 April, the People's Republic of Bangladesh Government, was formed in exile with Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahaman as the President and Tajuddin Ahmed as the Prime Minister.

Colonel MAG Osmani, Commander-in-chief of Bangladesh Forces Credit: Abul Lais Shyamal/Swadhinata Trust26 March 1971 – 16 December 1971, The Liberation War of Bangladesh

There were spontaneous uprisings throughout Bangladesh following the declaration of independence on 26 March 1971. On 12 April 1971, Colonel MAG Osmani was appointed Commander-in-chief of Bangladesh Forces known as the Mukti Bahini. In addition to Mukti Bahini, guerrilla groups led by individual leaders successfully controlled some areas within Bangladesh.

 In a tribute to Colonel MAG Osmani, there are four organisations named after him:

  • Osmani Primary School in Vallance Road
  • A community venue, Osmani Centre in Underwood Road
  • A dance music outfit Osmani Soundz
  • Bongobir Osmany Trust, a community organisation.

16 December 1971 - Victory Day

On 21 November 1971, Bangladesh Muktu Bahini and the Indian forces formed an Allied Command and went on to defeat the West Pakistani army. The resulting surrender was the largest in the number of prisoners of war since World War II. Victory against Pakistan was declared on 16 December 1971.

Genocide in Bangladesh

During the war, there were widespread killings and other atrocities carried out by the Pakistan military. Bangladesh authorities state that three million people were killed. Bangladeshi sources cite a figure of over 200,000 women killed, tortured and/or raped, giving birth to thousands of war babies.

On 16 December 2002, George Washington University's National Security Archive published declassified communications between US embassy officials, the United States Information Service centers and officials in Washington DC. These documents show that US officials working in diplomatic institutions used the terms selective genocide and genocide to describe events at the time.


There was an internal displacement of 30 million civilians within Bangladesh, with a further 10 million people fleeing the country to seek safety in neighbouring India.

14 December 1971– Martyred Intellectuals Day

On 14 December 1971, just two days before the surrender, the Pakistan Army and local Razakar militia (collaborators) abducted and murdered hundreds of Bengali intellectuals. 14 December is observed as Martyred Intellectuals Day.

8London, England, 8 January 1972, Bangladesh leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (right) is greeted by British Prime Minister Edward Heath as he arrives at 10 Downing Street for talks. Credit: © Popperfoto /Getty Images January 1972 - Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s release

Following Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s release from Pakistan, he came to London on 8 January 1972. In London, he was warmly greeted by the British Prime Minister Edward Heath and Labour leader Harold Wilson.

4 February 1972 - The UK recognises Bangladesh

On 4 February 1972, the UK officially recognised Bangladesh. This led to recognition from other European and Commonwealth nations and Bangladesh's induction into the Commonwealth on 18 April 1972.

Researched and compiled by the Swadhinata Trust

The Swadhinata Trust is a Tower Hamlets based, non-partisan, secular Bengali heritage organisation. It was established to raise awareness about Bengali history, culture and heritage. It has created resources for the British Bengali and wider communities in the fields of education, research and the creative arts.


This section offers a snapshot of UK activism at the time.  Engaging interviews with people living in the borough reveal their reflections and memories. 

The Liberation War of Bangladesh was not just fought in the Bengal delta. By 1971 a small but growing Bengali community was established in the UK, including in Tower Hamlets.

During war, the community played an important role.  They highlighted the atrocities taking place in Bangladesh. They lobbied the British Government and the international community.

Fundraising for refugees as well as Bengali freedom fighters also played a key part. It is said that some people donated their entire week’s salary.

One woman donated her entire wedding gift of gold jewellery. Many went to Bangladesh via India to assist in the struggle and join in the fight to free Bangladesh.

Tunu MiahTunu Miah, Cannon Street Road, 2021 Credit: Ansar Ahmed Ullah

Tunu Miah was a boy at the time. He spoke of his experiences in 1971 by saying, 

“I was a school student at that time. I was living in Brick Lane, and studying at the Montefiore Secondary School, now named Osmani School. I was year 5 student at that time, and then the Independence War started.

We were few in numbers at that time, my father and many other people who led, joined the independence movement. I also joined the movement and participated as much as I could.

I was very much sensitive about my country, my language, because the Pakistanis treated us very badly as if they were superiors and we were their servants. I could not tolerate that. So, as the independence movement started, we all joined in.

Huge number of people joined the campaign, we were all involved, as we were a bit young, we were not in the front line, but we supplied the elders with sticks, in case of any trouble.”

He talked about the difficulty of communication with Bangladesh from the UK during the war. “We had no direct communication with Bangladesh, there were no letters coming. At the beginning, a few letters came, but in the end, there were no letters. At that time, some men came to the UK, first going to India or Pakistan, and then coming to UK. We all went to see anyone who came from Bangladesh, maybe he is not from my village, or even from my district but still everybody wanted to meet him. We all gathered around him to get the latest news of Bangladesh.”

On the final victory he said, “I am very much proud of my homeland, Bangladesh. I can’t explain exactly how much proud I felt when we got the victory! I can’t define my emotions in words”

(Extract from an Interview conducted by Jamil Iqbal and Ansar Ahmed Ullah for Swadhinata Trust on 17 January 2006.)

Tunu Miah mentioned pro-Bangladesh liberation meetings and activities taking place in most Bengali households in Tower Hamlets. Bengalis would also gather in many venues such as Bangladesh Welfare Association, Dilchad Restaurant in Artillery Lane, Oriental Travel agency opposite Brick Lane Mosque and the Sonal Bangla restaurant in Hanbury Street.

He remembers hearing the news of Pakistan’s surrender and celebrating by eating out with a friend at a restaurant called Brick Lane Yard, off Old Montague Street. On reflection, Miah is pleased to learn that Bangladesh is now considered a developing country with huge projects being realised. (Talking to Ansar Ahmed Ullah, Swadhinata Trust on 6 March 2021)

Abdus SamiAbdus Sami Credit: Swadhinata Trust

Abdus Sami lived in Chicksand Estate and remembers one of the biggest demonstrations held at Hyde Park. He donated money and campaigned against the Pakistani military rule in Bangladesh.

He cited the Bengali language issue as the first seed of resentment, “Our country was East Pakistan in those days. We demanded Bengali to be the state language. It divided us (East & West Pakistan), and the friction begun. We had to fight with them because of this demand. The fight of state language became bigger and bigger. Afterwards, the Agartala incident took place and Sheikh Mujib declared independence.”

On mobilisation, he said, “We demonstrated in Hyde Park on so many occasions. We also contributed money for the war. I personally gave £100, and, on another occasion, I gave £50 as donation for the War in Bangladesh. We went to Hyde Park by coach from Whitechapel and people from all regions came to Hyde Park. People came from Birmingham, Manchester, Oldham, and Bradford and so on. Huge number of people gathered. I think people wouldn’t respond today the way they did in 1971 in the UK. They did it for the country, for the people who were being killed and massacred by the Pakistani Army. Everyone was for independence and for an independent Bangladesh.”

(Extract from an interview carried out by Jamil Iqbal for Swadhinata Trust on 12 June 2006)

Val HardingImage of Val Harding and Caroline Adams in the refugee camp. Credit: Val Harding/Swadhinata Trust

In 1971 Val Harding worked as a nurse in the Bangladesh Refugee Camps in West Bengal. When the war broke out, she was volunteering in a hospital in Nepal. On hearing the news of the war, she decided to help with her qualification as a nurse. She went to Kolkata and participated in the Cathedral Relief by joining a medical team caring for the wounded.

“I volunteered for an Indian organisation, Cathedral Relief Service, that was based in Kolkata. I worked with a mobile medical team in Kalyani district, West Bengal, that travelled between nine large camps spread out over the area.

I distributed medicines and dressed wounds. I also helped organise activities for children in the camps, including games and drawing and painting activities.

I was involved in fund raising from the UK, when local groups here fundraised and sent us donations. We used these donations to buy clothing for children and other everyday items that families needed”.

(Val Harding talking to Ansar Ahmed Ullah, Swadhinata Trust on 8 March 2021).

South London’s Val Harding is now a trustee with the Swadhinata Trust.

A key feature of this period was also the support provided by members of the white British majority.

Peter Shore, MP and Donald ChesworthDonald Chesworth Credit: Copyright Toynbee Hall

The genocidal attack on 25 March 1971, led UK Bengalis to organise protest rallies in major cities of the UK including a huge rally on 4 April in London’s Hyde Park. A memorandum was submitted to Prime Minister Edward Heath’s office at 10 Downing Street.

Notable figures such as Tower Hamlets MP Peter Shore and the Warden of Toynbee Hall Donald Chesworth supported Bangladesh’s struggle for independence in 1971. The Bangladesh Government formally recognised their contribution by honouring them in 2012.

On 24 April, at a meeting held at Coventry, the Steering Committee of Bangladesh Action Committee for the People’s Republic of Bangladesh was formed with Justice Abu Sayeed Chowdhury as Chairman. They also formed a Trust Fund with Justice Abu Sayeed Chowdhury, John Stone House MP and Donald Chesworth as Trustee.

Donald Chesworth, the Chairman of War on Want, organised a trip to Bangladesh in May 1971.  The delegation comprised of himself and three others including Bruce Kent, chairman of CND, and a Roman Catholic priest, John Horgan. The visit was humanitarian and the delegation went to places like Swandip in Chittagong. They also met members of the Bangladesh Government in exile.

Peter Shore MP, also visited Bangladesh. He was outraged by what had happened, having been well informed by many of his constituents. The Bengali community gave him first-hand accounts of what their families and relatives were enduring.

Peter Shore MP, Ian Mikado MP and Abdul Quddus. Others unknown. Credit: Courtesy of Julie Begum, personal collection

Following his visit to Bangladesh, he reported his findings to the House of Commons. Through debates, questions and Early Day Motions, the issue was kept alive.



Local British newspapers reported daily on the Bangladesh Liberation War during the whole nine-month-long conflict. The war started in late March 1971 and ended on 16 December of the same year. The purpose of this section is to give a flavour of the war and how local newspapers kept the British people informed. Rather than providing a comprehensive account of these reports, it looks at one or two reports per month.

First three months: April - June 1971

'Resistance in East Pakistan Crumbles Fast’ 

About two weeks into the war, on 13 April 1971, the Coventry Telegraph ran a headline called 'Resistance in East Pakistan Crumbles Fast’. It reported that ‘columns of President Yahya Khan’s Pakistan army’ were ‘fanning out in all directions'. They were 'swiftly advancing' and 'causing the resistance of the ‘Break-away East Pakistan’ to crumble.

According to the newspaper, a ‘reported shipment of Indian arms to the secessionist forces' would be unlikely to 'prolong the... the liberation'. From the perspectives of the newspaper, there was very little sign of ‘preparations for a lengthy guerrilla campaign’.

The newspaper reported the fears of many prominent Awami League leaders of a prolonged conflict. If that were to happen, they thought, the liberation war will ‘inevitably fall under the communist leadership’. One reason cited was that the communists have a tough discipline and they are 'backed by Marxists in neighbouring India’.

‘Bitter fighting in East Pakistan’

On 14 April 1971 the Reading Evening Post, based on information from the Press Trust of Indian, reported that there was 'bitter fighting’ in East Pakistan. There were some losses, some gains and some positions still controlled by the Bengali liberation forces.

‘Pakistan troops had gained control of two towns while Bangla Desh liberation fighters had captured the jute centre of Sylhet. Pakistani Air Force planes bombed and strafed Bengalis as they fought for Sylhet’. But they were 'forced to withdraw to Shalutikor airfield five miles away’.

The Indian Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, was asked about the “open support” of Pakistan ‘announced by China'. She said that this ‘would not deter India from her stand on the issue'. On the question of India recognising ‘Banga Desh', she said, 'the matter would receive due consideration’.

According to the Free Bangla Desh Radio, the ‘Prime Minister of the provisional Government, Mr Tajuddin Ahmed said that: “Our resistance has created a new and bright example in the history of freedom movements. It is an example for all”.

‘Mediaeval butchery in East Pakistan’

Three weeks into the war, on 16 April 1971, the Belfast Telegraph reported an Indian Government official who accused ‘Pakistan of indulging in “savage and medieval butchery” in East Pakistan'. This was in response to certain Pakistani media broadcasting that 'indulged in “false and fallacious propaganda” against India’.

He thought that Pakistan was trying to divert the attention away from what they were doing in East Pakistan to present it as a dispute between India and Pakistan. They would fail to ‘persuade the world' that there was 'no struggle by the 75 million people of East Bengal'. He described the Pakistani action as ‘pre-planned carnage and systematic genocide in East Bengal’.

‘30,000 Migrants Believed Killed’

On 8 May 1971, Belfast Telegraph reported on the non-Bengali victims of the war. They were identified as Biharis who only recently arrived in East Pakistan during the partition of India violence. The welcome they received early on did not last long. When the war started, they became the target of hate. Many Bengalis considered them to be Pakistani collaborators.

The newspaper reported that about 30,000 non-Bengalis were believed to have been killed across East Pakistan since 1 March 1971. Most of them were said to be ‘Moslem Biharis… but many Hindus were also reported massacred’. About ‘90 miles from Dacca,’ a systematic slaughtering ‘between Bengalis and non-Bengalis’ was reported. This ‘left many thousands dead before the order was restored’.

Based on an account of a survivor who told ‘newsmen’ that out of 5,000 non-Bengalis where he lived there were now only ‘25 survivors’. The soldiers who brought the survivor denied ‘that women and children were knowingly killed by soldiers'. But said that 'hundreds of men were killed in the fighting since 26 March’.

The survivor showed his neck wound to the newsmen and described ‘where he said Bengalis shot him through the throat before knifing him and dumping him in the river'. While he was describing how his sister’s breast was mutilated before she was killed, he broke into tears'. He was led away by soldiers who had brought him to speak to the newsman.’

‘Cholera Strikes Again in Bengal’

On 17 June 1971, the Coventry Evening Standard reported that ‘Cholera Strikes Again in Bengal’. This new cholera infection was said to have broken out in a new place in West Bengal as refugees continued to pour out of East Pakistan and into India. Cholera was ‘raging in Burdwan district near the industrial town of the same name, 55 miles north-west of Calcutta’.

The refugee flow that was ‘halted for about 12 days’ had started again. The authorities had earlier announced that they had 'brought the cholera epidemic under control that had already killed 5,000 people'. The new inflow of refugees has not reached the magnitude of ‘the mass flight last month when about 100,000 people crossed into India each day’. India was sending ‘six ministers around the world to seek more aid for nearly six million refugees’.

The mid three months: July-September 1971

'India Accuses U.S. Over Supply of Arms to Pakistan' 

On 13 July 1971 the Belfast Telegraph reported India's strong opposition to the decision by the 'United States... to supply Pakistan with a total of 35 million dollars of military equipment’. Mr Swaran Singh, the Indian Foreign Ministers, considered such action by America ‘in the present context amounted to condonation of genocide in Bangla Desh'. And he ‘left the United States Government with no doubt about the dangerous implications of such a policy’.

According to a ‘highly placed diplomat', the 'Americans have decided to continue to supply Pakistan with arms'. They believe that they will be able to continue to talk to President Yahya Khan and persuade him to accept a realistic political settlement’.

‘Bengali hearts are with Bangla Desh’Bengali hearts are with Bangla Desh

On 17 August 1971, the Aberdeen Press and Journal published a piece called ‘Bengali hearts are with Bangla Desh’. The newspaper's London staff, Ralph Shaw, went on ‘a fact-finding tour' of the divided Pakistan. He wrote that when he was talking to a UN official at the Intercontinental Hotel, he was told that he would be safe there as it was heavily guarded. But this sense of safety was an illusion. It got shattered very soon by the bombing of the ‘men’s lavatory’ by a ‘plastic’ explosive, which also ‘practically destroyed the spacious lobby’.

When he went around the city, he observed fear everywhere. He wrote that ‘recently there was heavy fighting between the Pakistani Army and the East Bengal secessionists. Many people, including a shop keeper and a Bengali government official, also whispered in his ears, “we want Bangla Desh”, and “don’t believe what they say. They all lie… We want Bangla Desh” ‘. 

His roaming of 'Dacca' also took him to the old part of the city. He walked ‘alone in the… narrow, muddy tracks' with 'bullock carts, cows, donkeys, dogs, beggars and the ubiquitous open-faced shops'. He described the place as 'the home of the poverty-stricken masses’.

Ralph Shaw saw ‘Dacca’ at night ‘deserted apart from the police and army patrols’. He observed that the ‘Liberation Fighters’ had ruined the ‘cooking facilities at the Intercontinental recently by blasting the strategic gas pipeline into the city’. They also blew 'up a generating station’, which had ‘plunged a large part of the town into darkness'.

He judged that if left alone the ‘Bengalis' were 'no match for the Pakistani army’. But then it would become a colonial rule on British pattern for the foreseeable future. As  West Pakistan largely depended on draining resources from the East Pakistan economy, he thought, President Yahya Khan would do whatever he can to ‘preserve the integrity of what now a geographical absurdity’.

Photo credit: The Aberdeen Press and Journal, 17 August 1971:  Bengali hearts are with Bangla Desh. 
Image/article courtesy of https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/

‘Honeymoon became nightmare’

On 17 September 1971 The Kent & Sussex Courier ran a story on how a honeymoon became a nightmare for a newly married couple. Mr Martin Crorie who owned an Indian restaurant called Mumtaz in Tonbridge ‘got married to his childhood sweetheart’. Her name was Dolly, and she was twenty years old at that time.

The paper said that they got married in October 1970, but it was only now that the ‘military government in Pakistan finally allowed them to leave their own country’. This suggests that the couple were both East Pakistanis. If so, Martin must have been to the UK earlier, set up a business and gone back to East Pakistan to marry his childhood sweetheart, Dolly. But this is speculation as the newspaper provides no details about their origin. 

The couple reported that they had encountered horrific scenes while trying to flee the ‘avenging West Pakistani troops sent to subdue the breakaway East Pakistan’. This included ‘young children bayoneted, houses burned with families inside, teenage girls violated and murdered’. They faced questions from the army everywhere, saw ‘bodies on the roadside’, and learnt that some of the murdered were thrown into the rivers. 

With the ‘aid of influential friends', eventually, they got a flight from Dacca and Karachi’. There was a final act before they could leave East Pakistan. They had to promise that they ‘would not spread unfavourable propaganda about the army’ when they got back to ‘England’.

The last three months: October-December 1971

‘Pakistan massing forces claim’

On 16 October 1971, the Coventry Telegraph reported that there was an increase in tension along the border between India and Pakistan. Border areas has been experiencing ‘constant artillery attacks for the past fortnight’. A Pakistani 'official... in Dacca' announced that this resulted in civilians from border areas ‘moving to regions deeper insider Eastern Pakistan’. It was also announced that Indian shelling so far has ‘killed 38 villagers and wounded 57 in 34 border villages’.

India ‘said that Pakistani forces appeared to be massing on the border’. This was two days after Mrs Indira Gandhi, the Indian Prime Minister, ‘accused Pakistan of threatening to go to war with India’. ‘Pakistani forces had moved closer to the Indian border in both East and West Pakistan', and 'there were indications of a large-scale military build-up in the last few days’. The Indian Defence Ministry said that they were ‘taking necessary precautionary measures’.

'15-hour curfew in capital’ 

On 18 November 1971 the Reading Evening Post ran a headline called ’15-hour curfew in capital’. The curfew was designed to deal with the ‘apparent escalation of guerrilla attacks’ in the city. The guerrillas aimed at a range of targets, including shopping centres, mosques, schools, commercial buildings, public utility and industrial complexes. 

The curfew sought to comprehensively comb the city to stop the ‘sympathetic population’ supporting the guerrillas to slip through the net. As such, on 17 November 1971 troops went ‘house-by-house in search of Bangla Desh guerrillas and arms’. Pakistan radio reported that ‘138 people were detained and four killed when they “resisted arrest”, and that 'people were co-operating in pointing out “miscreants”. The city's population 'had been told to place arms and ammunition in front of houses and no questions would be asked’. 

‘Indians Invade Pakistan’ 

On 4 December 1971 Aberdeen Evening Express reported that India had invaded Pakistan earlier on the same day.

The commander of the Indian forces, Lieutenant General Jagjit Singh Arora, said that they had two purposes. To ‘force the surrender of the 80,000 Pakistani troops in the area and establish an independent government of Bangla Desh’. They had orders to attack ‘enemy warship and cut lines of communication between East and West Pakistan’.

Yahya Khan, the ‘West Pakistan President’, said to his people that ‘the present war will be the final war with India’.

The newspaper reported on both sides and perspectives of the war. General Arora had been set no limit on ‘his operations’. But his order was not to ‘cause unnecessary damage to the infrastructure of East Pakistan’. President Yahya Khan said that ‘his country was fighting for its integrity and honour’. He believed that God was on Pakistan’s side in the face of the enemy, the Indian Government, who launched a ‘full-scale war’ on Pakistan. 

‘Indians take key towns in the east’ 

The Coventry Evening Telegraph reported on 7 December 1971 that ‘Indian forces today overran the Pakistani military base at Jessore and captured strategic town in Sylhet'. Jessore was about 80 miles from ‘Dacca’ and contained ‘one of the province’s three main military bases'. It was the 'first major East Pakistan town to fall to India’.

Indian naval aircrafts attacked 'the ports of Khulna, Chalna and Mangla'. They destroyed 'two gunboats' and damaged 'two others’. Pakistan ‘admitted that troops had vacated their position in Benapol’. Their ‘troops were trying to establish alternative positions’. At the same time, sources in India reported that Pakistani troops had ‘launched a “massive attack” on the Kashmir front’.

President Yahya Khan had asked Zulfikar Ali Bhutto of West Pakistan and ‘Nurul Amin, a right-wing East Pakistan political leader, to form a coalition government. Meanwhile ‘a UN spokesman in New York’ reported that ‘military planes had attacked a Canadian C130 Hercules transport’. It was sent to see if it was safe to land in ‘Dacca’ airport to evacuate ‘265 diplomats and officials’. UN efforts ‘to get a ceasefire’ proved unsuccessful.  

‘After 12 days of Indian attack, Now Dacca surrenders’ 

On 16 December 1971 the Reading Evening Post reported that the surrender documents signed after the Pakistan commander, Lieutenant General A. L. “Tiger” Niazi, asked for a senior Indian staff officer to go to the capital of East Pakistan. ‘Major General J. F. R. Jacob, chief of staff of India’s eastern command, arrived by helicopter from Calcutta to receive the surrender'.  

 Joy for Mrs Indira GandhiJoy for Mrs Indira Gandhi

The newspaper reported that ‘Bedlam broke out in the Indian Parliament today as Mrs Indira Gandhi announced that Indian troops entered Dacca this morning. Jubilant members of all parties jumped from their seats and started shouting and pounding their desks in glee’. At the parliament, ‘members from West Bengal, which has strong cultural ties with neighbouring East Pakistan, rushed to phones to order rasagula, the traditional Bengali sweet distributed on festive occasions’. They said, ‘when Dacca falls, we’ll start distributing’.  

‘We'll regain East, pledges Bhutto’ 

On 21 December 1971 the Aberdeen Evening Express reported that Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the new president of Pakistan, pledged to regain East Pakistan.  In 'Rawalpindi shortly after taking power' he said 'East Pakistan would be regained and warned of “a house to house fight” if India tried to impose its will.

At a 'news conference following a nationwide broadcast' Bhutto promise 'to restore democracy’. He described ‘West Bengal, the Indian state bordering East Pakistan as a slum: my Bengal, East Pakistan, will not go to the slum of India’. At another point, he declared: “Half of our country is under foreign occupation, but we are not down and out. We will regain it.” Mr Bhutto said new ties must be established with East Pakistan no matter how loose’.

Photo caption :Reading Evening Post, 16 December 1971: After 12 days of Indian attack, Now Dacca surrenders 
Image/article courtesy of https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/


It will be up to leaseholders to determine the appropriate charges to set for each hub with an expectation by the council that the charges will be reasonable in all cases.   


The agreement with leaseholders will include a mechanism for monitoring rates charged and it is expected that there will be differences between hubs in different areas reflecting local circumstances including the costs of other facilities.


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The information you provide will be used by the London Borough of Tower Hamlets’ Public Realm, to process your request. The service is provided jointly with the council’s waste and cleansing contractor “Veolia” under the statutory responsibility the council holds to collect and manage waste within the borough and Tower Hamlets Council is the Data Controller.

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