The secular non-communal Bengalis both Hindus and Muslims did realise even then that Pakistan might be short-lived as the people of East Pakistan were being subjugated by the central government.
The civil and military bureaucracy that governed Pakistan had a few from East Pakistan who could not raise their voice in matters of governance policies. The consequence was economic disparities between the two wings — East and West. It was so obvious that the people of East Pakistan did take little time to realise the reality. A brave Bengali youth Sheikh Mujib did timely realise the issues and became the champion of autonomy movement.
The language movement of 1952 was enough to prove that Pakistan was not for the Bengalis of East Pakistan. It was the Punjabi electorates who ruled Pakistan with entente of the military regimes of General Ayub who captured power in 1958 through imposition of Martial Law. A decade’s rule by Ayub Khan was naked exploitation of the people of East Pakistan. Ayub’s military rule was challenged by the iron leader of Bengal Sheikh Mujib. Sheikh Mujib challenged Ayub through his six-point movement.
The movement was so vigorous that the military junta of Ayub got frightened and he started talking in terms of weapons to replace the six-point programme of Sheikh Mujib. In 1970 election it was proved that Mujib’s six points were stronger than the language of weapons of Ayub. The six-point movement prepared the Bengalis for independence.
Although the six points had the option to save Pakistan, the civil and military junta, did not follow that. The use of arms was then solution to settle the issue of regional autonomy. They resorted to armed violence and crackdown on the unarmed Bengalis on 25th of March 1971 and killed thousands of innocent people.
Bangladesh earned independence at the cost of 3 million
lives in 1971. We paid a heavy price for the independence.
A brave leader like Sheikh Mujib did make it a success
Before that, the scheduled parliament in which Sheikh Mujib’s Awami League got majority seats were not allowed to hold session. President Yahya at the advice of minority leader Zulfiqar Ali suspended the parliament session on 1 March. It was then the movement of the people of East Pakistan under the leadership Sheikh Mujib that proved before the world that Mujib had the moral and legal right to rule East Pakistan. In fact Mujib as the head of state did rule the East Pakistan from 3rd March to 26th March letting the world know that Pakistan has lost all legal rights to rule East Pakistan.
During the non-cooperation movement in 1971, Sheikh Mujib, having been elected as the majority party leader, Sheikh Mujib became the head of the government and ruled Bangladesh before its birth. In fact, Sheikh Mujib became the legitimate authority of governance and Pakistan did lose its control over Bangladesh. It was just after Pakistan attacked Bangladesh on 25th March night, Bangabandhu declared the independence of Bangladesh in the early hours of 26th March.
Bangladesh earned independence at the cost of 3 million lives in 1971. We paid a heavy price for the independence. A brave leader like Sheikh Mujib did make it a success. We had been under British colonial rule for over 200 years and under sub-colonial rule of Pakistan for about a quarter century.
It was said that the independence of Pakistan would make the Muslim free. But the reality was otherwise. Pakistan continued for 23 years. During these years, West Pakistani rulers considered people of East Pakistan as second-class citizens and the Hindus as agent of India. The driving force of Pakistan was religion. In the name of Islam, the majority population of East Pakistan was subjugated by the West. They used Islam as a tool to exploit the people of the East. It was the religion of Islam that they utilized for creating division among the Hindus and Muslims of the East Pakistan.
Islam means peace but the rulers of Pakistan used it as an instrument for exploitation till the last day of its existence. The Muslims of East Pakistan opted for Pakistan only for the belief that the Hindus and Muslims are two communities of the sub-continent and since then these two communities were at daggers down. They could not live peacefully together in an independent manner. Of course, the situation during 40’s was so horrible that such kind of belief was normal consequence of reality. The British ruler divided India base on the two-nation theory.
The division of Bengal was not accepted to Bengali leaders. Sheikh Mujib could not accept it although Congress and Muslim League supported this division. So the way India got divided based on religion, Hindustan for Hindus and Pakistan for Muslims did automatically sew the seeds of communalism that still haunt the mind of the two communities.
Our independence was not result of an international lobby. The people had to earn at the cost of extreme sacrifice. India and especially its Prime Minister Indira Gandhi did help us a lot. We are grateful to them. Friendship towards all and malice towards none is our foreign policy.
Unfortunately, the independent Bangladesh lost its father only three and half years after the attainment of freedom. The 1975 counter-revolutionary forces did the mishaps. Since then till 1998 the country was ruled by the counter-revolutionary forces. It is Sheikh Hasina, the daughter of the founding father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman who returned to Bangladesh as president of Awami League and started to change the scenario.
Following the 14 years arduous struggle against General Zia, Ershad and Begum Zia, Sheikh Hasina got elected to premiership and the country really started its journey towards peace and progress. It is the leadership of Sheikh Hasina that did bring the country from disaster to prosperity. Her only aim is to build Shonar Bangla as dreamt by her father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the Father of the Nation.
The writer is former Political adviser to the Prime Minister, Member of Parliament, General Secretary of Bangabandhu Parishad and Columnist.