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4 September, 2018 00:00 00 AM

Research on Liberation War

Traditions, their making, unmaking, and re-making, have been constantly debated throughout the history of the region nation
Dr. Arun Kumar Goswami
Research on Liberation War

The significance of the research has further enhanced due to ‘disinterest’ and ‘adverse’ outlook of a particular section of the post-1971 generation towards the liberation war. On the other hand, no serious and significant studies could be found in this regard. A Bangladeshi Professor of Ball State University of the USA Dr. Rahamatullah Emon confronted with question, ‘why there was not much research works on the huge occurrence like Liberation War 1971?’  Even though, the potentials of such research on different aspects of liberation war are immense. However, sadly and truly, research on this area is very much insufficient. Rahmatullah Emon (2016) termed it as “utterly reprehensible”. On the other hand, National Professor Anisuzzaman observed,

‘…within one era, the country has lost all main characters of Bangladesh’s liberation war.  Besides, the principles and ideology of liberation war have been abandoned. May be this is also a cause for not so much writing on liberation war.’

Recently, the demand for research on 1971 liberation war has been raised by many scholars. While delivering his speech as chief guest in an international seminar, Prof Gowher Rizvi said,

‘Scholars and historians should help keep the 1971 liberation war alive through their research for generations to come. …Such research on liberation war should continue for the future generations who will be able to know about the hostilities that Pakistani army wreaked on our ancestors’.

The research works on Bangladesh Liberation War has different focus of study. The generations of post-1971 Bangladesh have many things to learn from the life and works of Father of Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. When Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was young, his father gave him one insightful advice—“If you have sincerity of a purpose and honesty of purpose, you will never be defeated in life”.Throughout his life, he never diverted from that course. And that made all the difference, helped him become an astute and compassionate leader and the greatest son of this soil, who was destined to lead the nation to freedom. We came to know all these information from the book titled “Sheikh Mujibur Rahman : The Unfinished Memoirs”.

Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman is not merely a name but an inspiration to millions of youths of Bangladesh and the world as well. Many of us want to know how the man, whom Newsweek magazine once described as the poet of politics, mastered the nitty-gritty of politics and acquainted himself with different state-operating mechanisms.

However, Bangabandhu had written diaries during his stints in state prisons during a two-year period in the late 1960s, when he was incarcerated as ‘accused number one’ in the infamous Agartala conspiracy case initiated by the Pakistani government.  The task of getting the handwritten memoirs typed was probably given to another leader of liberation war and Bangabandhu’s nephew Sheikh Fazlul Huq Moni and the notebooks were kept in his office. It was in Moni’s office drawer that the notebooks were discovered, testimony to a task left incomplete.  Four notebooks containing his remembrances, written in his (Bangabandhu’s) own hand, were found by his daughter, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, nearly three decades after his killing in August 15, 1975.

 It may be mentioned that three separate attacks on August 15, 1975 left 24 people killed. Bangabandhu’s two daughters — Sheikh Hasina and Sheikh Rehana — could escape the bloodbath as they were abroad at the time. The victims also including wife of Bangabondhu Begum Fazilatunnesa Mujib, sons Sheikh Kamal, Sheikh Jamal and nine-year-old Sheikh Russell, daughters-in-law Sultana Kamal and Parveen Jamal, brother Sheikh Naser, nephew Sheikh Fazlul Huq Moni and his wife Begum Arju Moni (she was expectant), brother-in-law Abdur Rab Serniabat, 13-year-old Baby Serniabat, Serniabat’s son Arif and four-year-old grandson Babu, three guests, Bangabondhu’s four domestic helps, and his security chief Col Jamil Uddin Ahmed. This coup engineered by defeated Pakistani communal elements of 1971 Liberation War and it was masterminded by a deep conspiracy in home and abroad.

However, the book that has emerged from the above mentioned discovery (of Bangabandhu’s diaries from Sheikh Fazlul Huq Moni’s drawer) is a breathing, throbbing and consistently readable document that brings Bangabandhu’s vision alive for all those that are interested in post-colonial south Asian history. Nevertheless, Sheikh Hasina, with the help of her younger sister Sheikh Rehana, had the brittle and fraying pages meticulously transcribed and then translated from Bengali to English.  ‘The Unfinished Memoirs’ goes on to trace the painful dynamics of the Partition, the mounting disillusionment of the people of the eastern wing of Pakistan with the authorities in the west, the formation of the Awami League (in 1949) in response to the Muslim League’s growing alienation, and the concerted movement against the imposition of Urdu as the state language, which eventually sowed the seeds of the liberation struggle.

        It is obvious from these pages that Bangabandhu was a formidable writer. He wrote with great acuity and precision, mincing no words in describing events and people. That quality makes ‘The Unfinished Memoirs’ an invaluable source of information and analyses from a man who staked his all to transform himself from an ordinary student activist to a leader of an entire nation.

Nevertheless, ‘Sheikh Mujibur Rahman : The Unfinished Memoirs’ shines a light on crucial aspects of the ground realities that led to the split of Pakistan into two in less than 25 years of its creation. It needs to be investigated what the post-1971 generation of Bangladesh thinks about the memoirs of Bangabandhu.

The European Foundation for South Asian Studies (EFSAS) has accomplished and published a study on “1971 Liberation war, birth of Bangladesh and comparison with present day Pakistan”. On the way of analysis it recognised that the 1971 liberation war of Bangladesh against Pakistan would shape the mindset of Bangladeshi people until present day. However, the research paper provides a profound overview of the historical narratives and draws a comparison between present day Bangladesh and Pakistan.   The study is not meant to enquire into the attitudes of the post-1971 generations of Bangladesh. Nevertheless, even though, for remarkable socio-economic development of Bangladesh, it becomes a curious thing to compare it with the developmental situation of Pakistan. However, the study has not specifically dealt with attitudes of post-1971 generation of Bangladesh.  Hence, the requirement of the objectives of our present study remains unfulfilled.

Association for Research on South Asia (ARAS) published a special issue of South Asia Multidisciplinary Academic Journal for Bangladesh. This special issue emerges out of four years (from 2010 to 2014) of conversations, meetings and discussions between scholars working on Bangladesh.  However, Zeitlyn, Janeja and Mapril  (2014) introduced the issue with contested narratives on imagining Bangladesh. Initially, question has been raised regarding the renewed interest in Bangladesh and its reasons. Lewis (2011: 4-6) suggests four reasons why there is renewed interest in Bangladesh, and celebrates this, claiming that Bangladesh is widely ignored in international media and academia, compared to the level of geopolitical interest in Pakistan and the towering presence of India in western registers of imagination. However, the four reasons about the recent international attention about Bangladesh are, (i) availability of natural gas amidst new global concern over energy scarcity; (ii) achievement in attaining targets of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs); (iii)as third most populous Muslim majority country Bangladesh has gained importance within US foreign policy for ‘war on terror’ in post-9/11 era; (iv) Bangladesh has become a key site and symbols of sea level rise and climate change adaptation. Bangladesh’s problems are being felt also as part of ‘our’ problems in the west’.  

Lala Rukh Selim (2014) has enquired into the art of Bangladesh within the larger context of its history of transformation and fragmentation. Traditions, their making, unmaking, and re-making, have been constantly debated throughout the history of the region/nation. The fundamental principles of state policy of Bangladesh have also been revised to a point where they almost seem to backtrack. The fragmentation of identities at different junctures of history has led to the formulation and assumption of new identities and the intelligentsia, of which artists are a part, have played a significant role in this activity. This study has not made any focus on the attitudes of post-1971 generations on the liberation war. However, it enlightened us to delve into the historical events and tragedies that helped ‘to the formulation of new identities in Bangldesh’.

In his book ‘A History of Bangladesh’, van Schendel (2009) gives us the gradual movements towards independent Bangladesh such as 1966 six point movement, 1969 mass unrest, 1970’s election and then Liberation War of 1971. Schendel has also focused on the socio cultural reasons behind the war. Title of the chapter 17 in part iv of the book is ‘A state is born’. This chapter mainly focuses on war torn state building process including war victims, war damages with moderate government. The author tried to give a vision to the readers about an imaginary new society. The culture and tradition was same among all Bengalis, religion becomes a barrier only during British raj. After independence Bengalis got a new national culture that includes national fruits, currency, Flower, Fish.

In his another article, Willem van Schendel (2017) has mentioned about three narratives on the Liberation War of 1971: the war as a national triumph, the war as betrayal and shame, and the war as a glorious campaign. According to Schendel, these are all ‘first-generation narratives’. In a later period, more layered interpretations have superseded these interpretations. However, comparing Bangladesh’s liberation war with other struggle for survival, Schendel has mentioned  ‘second-generation narratives’ that challenge the historiographical apportioning of blame and the national/ethnic framing of the conflict.  Accordingly and finally, Schendel presents the idea of  ‘war within a war’ regarding the narratives of Bangladesh’s liberation war. This narrative unsettles common assumptions about the struggle. However, from the brief review of literature we can conclude without uncertainty that there is a strong necessity to enquire into the ‘state of nation and post-1971 generations’ attitude towards liberation war 1971 of Bangladesh in 21st century.

The writer is Chairman, Department of Political Science and Director, South Asian Study Circle, Jagannath University, Dhaka



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Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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