East Pakistan (now Bangladesh)

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Chittagong has been a seaport since ancient times. The region was home to the ancient Bengali Buddhist Samatata and Harikela states. It later fell under of the rule of the Gupta Empire, the Pala Empire and the Vesali kingdom of Arakan till the 7th century. Arabs traded with the port from the 9th century AD. An account by historian Lama Taranath has revealed a Buddhist king Gopichandra had his capital at Chittagong in the 10th century, and according to Tibetan tradition, Chittagong was the birthplace of 10th century Buddhist Tantric Tilayogi. In the Fourteenth Century, explorer Ibn Battuta passed through Chittagong during his travels.

Sultan Fakhruddin Mubarak Shah of Sonargaon conquered Chittagong in 1340 AD. Sultan Giasuddin Mubarak Shah constructed a highway from Chittagong to Chandpur and ordered the construction of many lavish mosques and tombs. After the defeat of Mahmud Shah in the hands of Sher Shah in 1538, the Arakanese Kingdom of Mrauk U regained Chittagong. From this time onward, until its conquest by the Mughals, this region was under the control of the Portuguese and the Magh pirates (a notorious name for Arakanese) for 128 years.

The Mughal commandar Shayestha Khan and his son Buzurg Umed Khan expelled the Arakanese from the area in 1666 and established Mughal rule there. After the Arakanese expulsion, Islamabad, as the area came to be known, made great strides in economic progress. This can mainly be attributed to an efficient system of land-grants to selected diwans or faujdars in order to clear massive areas of hinterland and start cultivation. The Mughals, similar to the Afghans who came earlier, also built mosques having a rich contribution to the architecture in the area. What is called Chittagong today also began to have improved connections with the rest of Mughal Bengal. The city was occupied by Burmese troops shortly in First Anglo-Burmese War in 1824 and the British increasingly grew active in the region and it fell under the British Empire. The people of Chittagong made several attempts to gain independence from the British, notably on November 18, 1857 when the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th companies of the 34th Bengal Infantry Regiment stationed at Chittagong rose in rebellion and released all the prisoners from jail but were suppressed by the Kuki scouts and the Sylhet Light Infantry (10th Gurkha Rifles).

Chittaong grew at the beginning of the twentieth century after the partition of Bengal and the creation of the province of Eastern Bengal and Assam. The construction of the Assam Bengal Railway to Chittagong facilitated further development of economic growth in the city. However, revolutionaries and opposition movements grew during this time. Many people in Chittagong supported Khilafat and Non-Cooperation movements.

Revolution was never far from the surface and one group of Bengali youths under the leadership of Surya Sen formed the secret Republican Army. He set up camps for revolutionary youths to train in guerilla tactics against the British occupation of India. The members of the revolutionary groups believed in armed uprisings for Indian independence to liberate India from the oppressive and exploitative British colonial rule. Their leader was Masterda Surya Sen. The group included Ganesh Ghosh, Lokenath Bal, Nirmal Sen, Ambika Chakrobarty, Naresh Roy, Sasanka Datta, Ardhendu Guha, Harigopal Baul, Tarakeswar Dastidar, Ananta Singh, Jiban Ghoshal, Anand Gupta, Pritilata Waddedar, Kalpana Dutta and Suresh Dey. Also among them was 14-year-old Subodh Roy (d. 27 August 2006). He too was jailed in the Andaman Islands but released in 1940.

Surya Sen devised the strategy of capturing the two main armouries in Chittagong and then destroying the telegraph and telephone office, followed by capital punishment of the notorious members of the "European Club", the majority of whom were government or military officials involved in maintaining British Raj in India. Firearms retailers were also to be raided; and rail and communication lines were scheduled to be disrupted. The plan was put into action at 10 o'clock on 18 April 1930. As per plan, the armoury of the police was captured by a group of revolutionaries led by Ganesh Ghosh and another group of ten, led by Lokenath Baul took over the Auxiliary Force armoury. Unfortunately they could not locate the ammunition. The revolutionaries also succeeded in dislocating telephone and telegraph communications and disrupting the movement of the trains. Total sixtyfive revolutionaries took part in the raid, which was undertaken in the name of the Indian Republican Army, Chittagong branch. After the successful raids, all the revolutionary groups gathered outside the police armoury where Surya Sen took a military salute, hoisted the National Flag and proclaimed a Provisional Revolutionary Government. The revolutionaries left Chittagong town before dawn and marched towards the Chittagong hill ranges, looking for a safe place

After a few days, the police traced some of the revolutionaries. They were surrounded by several thousand troops while taking shelter in the Jalalabad hills on the outskirts of Chittagong on the afternoon of 22 April 1930. Over 80 British troops and 12 of the revolutionaries were killed in the ensuing gunfight. Surya Sen decided to disperse into neighbouring villages in small groups and the revolutionaries escaped accordingly. Very few revolutionaries fled to Calcutta while some revolutionaries were arrested in Chittagong.

Many of the revolutionaries managed to reorganize the broken group. On 24 September 1932, 8 young rebels led by Pritilata Waddedar attacked the European Club. Twenty-two officials and 220 non- officials were killed by the revolutionaries in separate incidents during 1930-32.

The so-called "first armoury raid case" (i.e. The Great Chittagong Uprising) concluded in January 1932 and the judgement was delivered on 1 March 1932. The sentences were deportation for life for 12, three years' imprisonment for 2 and the rest of a total of 32 persons on trial were acquitted. The Chittagong revolutionaries suffered a fatal blow when Masterda Surya Sen was arrested on 16 February 1933 from Gairala village, because of a tip-off from a traitor in the group. The traitor, Netra Sen, was stabbed to death at his home by the revolutionaries before he could collect his Rupee 10,000 reward. Masterda Surya Sen was tried and was hanged on 12 January 1934[6] after immense torture. His body was not cremated but thrown into Bay of Bengal by the British.

A Bengali movie Chattagram Astragar Lunthan was made on the Great Chittagong Uprising of 1930 or Chittagong armoury raid in 1949. It was directed by Nirmal Chowdhury. A Hindi movie, Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey was made on the Chittagong armoury raid in 2010. It was directed by Ashutosh Gowarikar starring Abhishek Bachchan and supported by Deepika Padukone. It was based on the book Do and Die: The Chittagong Uprising 1930-34 by Manini Chatterjee. Another Hindi film, Chittagong was made in 2010 and released in October 2012. It was directed by Dr. Bedabrata Pain, a former scientist in NASA who resigned from NASA to make this film. Manoj Bajpai was the lead actor and played the role of Surya Sen.

During World War II, the British used Chittagong as an important military base. Frequent bombardment by the Japanese Air Force,[clarification needed] notably in April 1942 and again on 20 and 24 December 1942, resulted in military relocation to Comilla. Nevertheless, the war had a major negative impact on the city, with the growth of refugees and unevenness in fortune, reflected in the Great Famine of 1943.

After the war, rapid industrialisation and development saw the city grow beyond its previous municipal area, particularly in the southwest up to Patenga, where Chittagong International Airport is now located. The former villages of Halishahar, Askarabad and Agrabad became integrated into the city.

The Chittagong Development Authority (CDA) was established by the government of East Pakistan in 1959 to manage this growth and drew up a master plan to be reviewed every five years to plan its urban development. By 1961 the CDA had drawn up a regional plan covering an area of 212 square miles (550 km2) and a master plan covering an area of 100 square miles (260 km2). Over the decades, especially after the losses of 1971, the master plan developed into several specific areas of management, including the Multi-Sectoral Investment Plan for drainage and flood-protection of Chittagong City and a plan for easing the traffic congestion and making the system more efficient.

In 1971, during the Bangladesh Liberation War, Chittagong suffered massive losses in people and buildings given that they denied the occupation army access to the port. The first public announcement was made over the radio from the Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra located at Kalurghat, Chittagong. Following the independence of Bangladesh, the city underwent a major rehabilitation and reconstruction programme and regained its status as an important port within a few years.

“Ah, Chittagong , King George , anchored off, bucket of giant prawns for two packs B & H. Cooked by the Bandari and eaten Abdul fashion on the aft deck, accompanied of course by lilting chords of the sitar from on shore.”

Stephen Westwood

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