December is the glorious month in the history of Bangladesh. We earned victory on this month on 16 December, 1971 following 23 years of political struggle and the nine months war at the cost of 3 million martyrs and violence against 4 lakhs Bengali women. Occupation army surrendered after nine months armed struggle. Some 95 thousands army with generals had to face the worst defeat at the hands of freedom fighters of Bangladesh and armed forces of India who joined our War of Liberation. The then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi sheltered the MPs and one crore people displaced by the war and allowed to form Mujibnagar Sarker at 8 theatre Road, the revolutionary government that conducted the War of Liberation from Kolkata as its head quarter. The brutal army of Pakistan killed 3 million innocent, unarmed Bengalis during the nine months long bloody war. The elected representatives of Bangladesh who won the general election in 1970 with overwhelming majority, just after the crackdown on 25th March crossed the border and entered India to form a government to conduct the War of Liberation from there. That was the right decision in the sense that had they been in Bangladesh, they would have been killed along with 3 million martyrs. Those who say that the MPs left the people to save their own life is not correct. It was inevitable for the MPs to leave the country to form the Mujibnagar government and conduct the War of Liberation and free the country. And it is Mujibnagar Sarker which saved the people and the country. All the Bengali army officers crossed the border and formed different sectors with 1.5 lakhs freedom fighters under Mujibnagar Sarker to fight against the occupation army. It was India that trained them and provided with arms and ammunitions. Was it appropriate to stay home without taking any preparation and training for the War of Liberation? Those who say that Awami League leaders deserted the people in crucial time, they say that only to achieve their political desire. Those who say that Major Zia took the right decision at right moment should be answered that Zia did declare independence on behalf of the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. They should know that Zia had no right to declare independence of Bangladesh. It was Bangabandhu who earned the right to declare of independence through the 23-year-long arduous struggle and election of 1970. As of 26 March 1971, Zia had no role to play. Rather he was a loyal soldier of Pak army. He was moving to Chittagong port to evacuate arms from Soat ship. It were the Awami League leaders who obstructed him and took him to Kalurghat radio station for declaring the independence of Bangladesh on behalf of Bangabandhu.
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It was General Zia who usurped state power allowed the enemies of the state to be co-sharer of power and politics to consolidate his position as the head of an unlawful government. In fact General Zia is the person who changed the character and quality of governance of independent Bangladesh. He is the person who brought Golam Azam back, the number one enemy of our War of Liberation, offered citizenship and gave rebirth to his party Jamaat. General Zia who claims to be a freedom fighter did everything to negate our independence following the killing of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. The concept of our independence, very much integrated in our 1972 constitution made at the cost of a sea of blood, was distorted and defamed by Zia during the tenure of his six years rule. Consequently values earned at the cost of our blood were rejected due to the anti-liberation role of General Zia. The man, the followers of whom claim to be the declarer of independence how could he reject those values that were earned through the sacrifice of 3 million martyrs.
The Father of the Nation and the leader of the revolution Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib did not conceive of only a flag and national anthem. He dreamt of a radical change to emancipate our people totally free from all kinds of exploitation and also brought about a radical change in pseudo religious culture. He wanted to bring a secular culture in place of communalism. By secularism he meant no discrimination against anybody in the name of religion. In doing that he did never undermine religion. What he meant by secularism was to keep the state free from the interference of religion and also to keep the religion functioning independently. Religion must not influence the state organ. He learnt it from the realities of East Pakistan where in the name of Islam the majority population of East Pakistan i.e., Bengalis were subjugated by the West. They used Islam as a tool to exploit the people of the East. The God fearing Muslims of then East Pakistan was condemned by the Pakistan as second class citizens and the Hindus as agents of India. It was the religion of Islam that they utilized for creating division among the Hindus and Muslims of the East Pakistan. They wanted to integrate the Muslims of East Pakistan as Pakistanis denying Bengali nationalism that developed over thousand years in East Pakistan by the people - the Hindus, the Buddhists and Christians and the Muslims.
It was Sheikh Mujib who truly realized the conspiracy and united almost all the people of East Pakistan to frustrate the heinous conspiracy of the West. His six-point programme gave them a befitting reply. The demand for autonomy virtually turned into a movement against the West and ultimately paved the way for emancipation. Against this backdrop the six-point programme became a mandate in 1970 election. Sheikh Mujib’s Awami League secured 167 out of 169 seats in East Pakistan. It was actually a mandate for six-point against exploitation of West. The central government refused to hand over power to Sheikh Mujib, the leader of the majority party. Bangabandhu called for non-cooperation movement. It continued from March 3 to March 26. The kind of movement that Bangabandhu launched against the military junta against Ayub was unparalleled in the history of politics. It were the dictates of Sheikh Mujib that became the governing law. Beginning from primary school to highest court of law followed the dictates making the central government totally defunct. The entire world observed the scenario. Sheikh Mujib proved that the central government had no legitimacy to rule East Pakistan. What a strange reality, East Pakistan was then ruled by Sheikh Mujib even before it became independent. In retaliation to that the Pakistani military junta attacked on Dhaka city on 25th March and 25,000 innocent Bengalis in one night. Immediately after the attack, Bangabandhu declared independence of Bangladesh in the early hours of 26th March. The war continued for long 9 months and on 16th December 1971, the Pakistani occupation army surrendered to the joint forces—the Indian army and the Mukti Bahini. Bangladesh came into being as an independent Bangladesh in the world map.
The creation of Bangladesh is the outcome of long arduous struggle under the leadership of Bangabandhu against the Pak rulers. He was fortunate enough to see the result of his life long struggle for emancipation of the Bengalees. Bangladesh is now an independent country. The people are the owners of its resources. None could take them from serving the people from Bangladesh. We are determined to build the country by its resources. None could exploit us if we are alert.
Dr S A Malek is former Political adviser to the Prime Minister, Member of Parliament, General Secretary of Bangabandhu Parishad and Columnist