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24 March, 2019 00:00 00 AM
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Independence of Bangladesh — its different character and ideals

By killing the founding father and his trusted associates a section of army officers showed that they were still loyal to the past colonial masters and the old religious and political cliques. Having captured power after blood bath, the country underwent a long communal and religious period
Abdul Gaffar choudhury
Independence of Bangladesh — its different character and ideals

Just after two days it is the 48th anniversary of our independence and just after another two years we will be observing its golden jubilee. Every year we remember the martyrs of the independence war and our pundits have been writing on the different aspects of our independence and achievements. The different countries of our subcontinent achieved independence after long fights against the British colonial rule. Still there is a big difference between the struggles of Bangladesh and its neighbouring countries. Indian Congress launched movement after movement against the British Raj and at the end went to the negotiation table to gain their independence. Pakistan was created by opposing the Congress, not the British Raj. British colonial rulers helped Jinnah to divide India and Jinnah accepted their gift, a truncated Pakistan. In Nepal, Bhutan and Myanmar power was transferred peacefully. It is only Bangladesh which was a stronghold of armed guerrilla movements against British rule and afterwards its people took up arms to liberate their country from the new colonial rule of Pakistan.
So, it can be safely said, in undivided India there were some armed movements against British occupation in different parts of the subcontinent but it did not succeed. In the case of Bangladesh however, it was a full-fledged war between Pakistan's invading army and the liberation forces of Bangladesh. Naturally, the independence movement in Bangladesh has a totally different characteristic. Where India and Pakistan earned their independence by negotiation, Bangladesh earned it through revolution. 30 Lakh martyrs sacrificed their lives and almost 4 lakhs women had to sacrifice their honour to make the country free. After 24 years of the division of India and creation of Pakistan, an independent Bangladesh was born.
The structure and foundation of Bangladesh is also completely different from its other two big neighbours. Though founding fathers of India from Gandhi to Nehru were secular, India was divided on the basis of religion and it affected the structure of both India and Pakistan. Though the leaders of both countries promised their country will follow the pattern of Westminster democracy, it gradually fell into the trap of religious division. Jinnah promised he wanted a democratic country but where Muslims would be the majority. With his death the country turned first into a religious country and then a Shariah state. In India Gandhi was killed by religious fanatics. So long Nehru and Indira were in power the secular form of India was intact. But it collapsed like a house of cards after their deaths and Hindutava is now reigning in that part of the subcontinent.
Commenting on the division of the country on the basis of religion, an Indian leader of left once said that Gandhi and Nehru expected to make their countries secular ones. They sowed the seeds of banana and expected mangoes from it. Jinnah made the same mistake. Both the countries are now suffering from the rise of religious extremism. In this case the history of the independence movement of Bangladesh is different. From the very beginning the young leadership of the-then East Pakistan realised that they were trapped in a medieval communal statecraft. In that structure there was no possibility of establishing democracy and this obsolete theocracy was worse than the British rule.
In British India the movement for independence occurred under religious hegemony. Congress claimed to be a secular party but encouraged the Indian Muslims to start a Khilafat movement whose ideals were not secular. This movement gradually encouraged Indian Muslims to demand division of India and establish a separate state accepting code and conduct of a religion. Just before the division of the country there were vicious communal riots which killed millions of people and displaced millions of minority people from both countries.
In Bangladesh movement for independence was first of all for linguistic and cultural independence. All the religious communities participated in it unitedly. The nationhood was not based on religion but on the language and culture which assimilated them under one name ‘Bengali’ and they fought for establishing a nation state on the foundation of secularism. The founding father of the country Sheikh Mujibur Rahman pronounced before independence that the basic principles of the state will be nationalism, democracy, secularism and socialism. The rise of Bangladesh had a profound effect on the whole of South-Asia. Bangladesh came out from the American military pact, and took an anti-imperialist policy. On the other hand, it broke away from a country which was under outdated military dictatorship.
By killing the founding father and his trusted associates a section of army officers showed that they were still loyal to the past colonial masters and the old religious and political cliques. Having captured power after blood bath, the country underwent a long communal and religious period. The military dictators General Ziaur Rahman and General Ershad are both responsible for altering the country's fundamentals by changing its constitution arbitrarily. It took 21 years to get rid of military and pseudo military rules. Those movements were also long and fearful. Hundreds of people were tortured and killed and the democratic forces under the leadership of the daughter of Bangabandhu, Sheikh Hasina tried to bring back the country under its original foundation.
The main problem is the rise of religious extremism and corruption in the country now. To eliminate terrorism, Hasina had to fight a long battle and the corruption is still rising. To clean this Augean stable created by the autocratic rulers will take time because the whole society is polluted now. When Margaret Thatcher first took power in Britain, she said, 'I will not be able to clear the mess created by Callaghan government in one term.
I need at least three terms'. In Bangladesh the mess left by anti-people government may take 4 terms for Hasina government to clean. For 21 years our independence was under cloud. The war criminals had been roaming the streets of Dhaka with the national flag on their cars. Now they are no more. The newly-formed Hasina government started her battle against corruption. People expect a new dawn in this Independence Day. Sheikh Mujib is dead. Long live Bangabandhu.

London, Thursday 21 March, 2019

 

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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.

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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