Recently, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in a grand conference of Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL) at Ganabhaban neatly explained the philosophy behind the formation of Bangladesh Krishak Sramik Awami League (BAKSAL). Bangabandhu declared his second revolution programme and amended the constitution incorporating formation of single party BAKSAL to consolidate the unity of those who believed in independence of Bangladesh and its principles of governance.
The Prime Minister has rightly explained the reason that induced Bangabandhu to declare such programme that apparently seemed to be an undemocratic approach. The question is why Sheikh Mujib who framed for the newly independent Bangladesh a constitution in 1972 and held election in 1973 based on that constitution to form the parliament and the parliamentary form of government first in the country. What was the reason that impelled Bangabandhu to go for such an apparently undemocratic step? The country had been ruled under the parliamentary system for three and half years. The enemies of independence took advantage of the democratic environment prevailing in the country. On one hand, there was full-fledged democracy and on the other terrorism and armed rebellion. The result was anarchy. The situation was made so horrible that Bangabandhu had to resort to a single party to unite the entire nation excepting the enemies of the people. There was then restricted democracy. Those who contend that Bangabandhu throttled democracy never spelt out what could have been done to combat terrorism led by Siraj Sikder, Tipu Biswas and the JSD. Being the Father of the Nation, it was not possible for him to be a silent spectator, so he had to act as per the need of the hour. What he did was to make a comprehensive national unity of all except the collaborators and the enemies of the people. It was then badly needed to advance the country forward. Those who say that Sheikh Mujib killed democracy by forming a single party denying his opponent the right to do politics are not correct as the programme of forming one party was not going to be a permanent arrangement. He told the parliamentary party meeting that the measure taken then was temporary and once the situation was brought under control he would revert to democracy. He even wanted to go for a referendum on that issue. But all MPs, including me, told Bangbandhu that steps taken by Bangbandhu were final as none would oppose him. This is how the 4th amendment of the Constitution was made operative.
It was not true that Bangabandhu did it alone ignoring the will of the Members of Parliament. Thus the 4th amendment became a reality. Those who still say that BAKSAL was the root cause for his assassination and the downfall of his regime are not correct. It is really undesirable when even some Awami League leaders do not hesitate to speak in the same language several decades after his death.
The 4th amendment of the Constitution was an attempt to bring about a radical change in the then social, economic and political order. Many call it a Marxist programme but Bangabandhu made it clear that he did not follow any system of any other country like the Soviet Union or even the Western hemisphere. What he did exactly was a system introduced by himself that suited the people of the country. Democracy and social justice were the core principles of his second revolution. Probably he regarded the armed struggle through which the country was liberated as revolution no 1 and the 4th amendment through which he wanted to bring a radical socio-economic change was called by him as the second revolution. He did not do away with individual right to property nor did he curb the individual liberty. He knew well that his party Awami League was not a proletarian one. It was a political party democratic in nature and he had to follow democracy for the same reason. What he wanted to do was to bring an end to the colonial system of governance and exploitation. He wanted to do it in his own way. What he did got support from the elected parliament members. So, the members of parliament could not evade their responsibility because they voted for it. It was better if he, as per his desire could go for a referendum to settle the issue. The MPs knew it well that if that kind of referendum was held Bangbandhu was sure to get 95% of the votes of the people. So they agreed and voted for the programme. This is the real story of the 4th amendment of the Constitution.
Those who say that BAKSAL was the menace must answer how BAKSAL could be the root cause of all disasters that followed the 4th amendment of the Constitution. When Bangabandhu was assassinated, BAKSAL was then not operation. At the very outset of launching of BAKSAL programme, he was brutally assassinated. How could a system that did not come into effect be responsible for the entire mishap?
We never claim that Bangabandhu committed no mistake. But to say that he deliberately committed mischief to his people is just unthinkable. If these critics write it on record that Sheikh Mujib, by introducing BAKSAL, did cause harm to the nation and those contention become the components of history, what the future readers of this country would learn. This is the reason why his real followers must rise to the occasion and disown the opinions that his opponents have long been trying to establish.
Unfortunately there are a few pro-Awami League intellectual who tried to deal with this issue properly. Most of them write many things but remain silent about the second revolution as if they deem it to be a sensitive issue. So they prefer to avoid it. But many of his followers still feel it to be the most glorious event of Sheikh Mujib’s political life. Why should there be no research on this vital issue? If Bangabandhu did some splendid jobs for his people, why should he be blamed for that? Bangabandhu is the leader who created Bangladesh. He is the man who awoke our consciousness. He transformed us into Bangalees from Pakistani. It is because of his birth that we are free and live in an independent country. He could do no wrong to his people. In fact, he took into consideration the objective realities prevailing then in independent Bangladesh and did exactly what was needed to do. A densely-populated Bangladesh with very limited agricultural and arable land with limited scope for employment could only be developed through multipurpose compulsory cooperatives. That was a kind of cooperative that dealt with all socio-economic problems. Every unit had to be self-sufficient. The landless farmers could get opportunity to be the co-sharer of crops. Every opportunity could be made available to the people. It was so to say an independent unit of development. It was by increasing production through scientific measures that the need of all people could be met through this system. The entire nation had to be brought under this system. Every cooperative could accommodate some 1000 farmers. He wanted to spread the cooperative throughout the entire country.
As for the administration, the district governor system was introduced with one elected person who was to be the district governor. In that council, government officers were duly represented. Representatives of all sections of the people had to be accommodated in the council. Representatives of farmers and labourers were there. The administration was really decentralized and democratized. The governor was answerable to this council. None could act arbitrarily. It was an ideal local system of governance. This sort of decentralization and democratization were badly needed to bring about an end to the colonial system. The common people had to be involved in the state affairs and in the process of production.
The system of judiciary had to be changed in a way so that the poor could get justice. The system of election had to be changed in a way that there could be no rigging. Candidates could only be elected on the basis of individual merits.
All service sectors had to be under state control. In economy, the market had to be duly regulated. Education was made compulsory on the basis of equality. There could be only one system of education ensuring the entire nation equal opportunity.
Those who say BAKSAL was there to undermine democracy should know that the entire system was aimed at achieving social justice and equality. It was then badly needed to bring to an end to all sorts of exploitations prevailing in the society.
In fact the way Sheikh Hasina has explained the concept of BAKSAL to the BCL leaders and activists who would be the future leaders of the country was necessary to explain the ideology of Bangbanadhu, the Father of the Nation. At a time when many Awami League leaders are silent about the second revolution or some of them seem to be unaware about the purpose of the second revolution, the party chief and the daughter of Bangabandhu, the head of the government has rightly instructed the BCL youths to follow the philosophy of Bangabandhu as their only guide for future. If they are really determined to build Sonar Bangla, the only dream of Bangabandhu and of Sheikh Hasina, they have no alternative but to follow Bangabandhu. In the past Sheikh Hasina did ask them to do the same once and again. But this time she has made it categorically clear. It is the next generation who will build the future of our nation. They need a philosophy and that philosophy is certainly the Philosophy of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib. It is not that Bangabandhu did correct a mistake by introducing BASAL programme. Rather he has shown the way that would carry forward the nation. It is her daughter who is determined to fulfill the dream of her father. Let us unite under the leadership of Sheikh Hasina to achieve our national objectives.
Dr S A Malek is former political adviser to the Prime Minister, Member of Parliament, Secretary General of Bangabandhu Parishad and columnist