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26 March, 2018 00:00 00 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 26 March, 2018 01:45:17 AM
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Growth of nationalism and independence of Bangladesh

Subhrendu Shekhar Bhattacharjee
Growth of nationalism and independence of Bangladesh

The demand for the independence of Bangladesh does not spring up merely after the creation of Pakistan in 1947. The Bengali Muslims began to feel their alienation when urdu had been  promoted as the lingua franca of the Indian Muslims by politicians and the clergy as, Sir Syed Ahmed, Sir Salimullah and others. But the Muslims of Bengal used Bengali language and in 1937, delegates from Bengal rejected the idea of making Urdu as the lingua franca of Indian Muslims in the Lucknow session of Muslim League. Muslim League advanced ‘two nations theory’. The communal separatists mainly the upper class, Zamindars and the clergy (mullahs) play vital role in forming the Muslim League and this ‘theory’ to retain their vested interests. This theory claimed that the Muslims and the Hindus in the subcontinent constituted two different nationalities. But it did not explain how despite vast class, linguistic, ethnic, social and cultural differences, Indian Muslims constituted one nation.

Immediately after the birth of Pakistan, the Bengali people began to realize very soon the absurdity of  creating a  noncontiguous East Bengal being separated from the capital by 1,600 km of Indian territory. In no time, the intrigue was becoming clear. The ulterior motive was to create a new colony in the resourceful East Bengal by exploiting the majority people abolishing their national identity. Bengali language became their first target in crushing the identity. Thus Ignoring the language of the 44 millions of the Bengali out of 69 millions population of Pakistan, it was ordained by the government as Urdu shall be the sole state language of Pakistan denouncing the legal, scholarly and mass objection of the Bengali people. This Urdu only policy was finally confirmed by Mr. M.A .Jinnah in 1948 when he declared amidst instantaneous protests headed by Sheikh Mujib from the audience that only Urdu shall be the state language of Pakistan both in Race course and Curzon hall, Dhaka university.

This declaration of Jinnah is the catastrophe of the melodrama ignoring the Bengali language, as a first step to mar Bengali nationalism. However, public outrage spread everywhere against ‘Urdu only’ policy and it was reignited when the central government proposed to write Bengali in Arabic scripts. This sparked public sentiments furiously and All Party Central Language Committee called for an all-out protest on 21st February,1952. On the day, the students violating144 Crpc broke out procession. At one stage, during procession a group of students became violent hearing the news of arrest of some students and sought to storm the Legislative building. Police opened fire and killed a number of students including Salam, Barkat,Rafiq and Jabbar.

In this way, after the years of conflict, the government relented and granted official status to the Bengali language in 1956. Meanwhile, the economic colonization and the expropriation of wealth of East Pakistan had begun . The export earning of Eastern part was used to finance the development of Karachi and other big cities Of the West. The administrative scenario was that the government, as civil services and military being dominated by the personnel from minority population of western wing, was virtually run by the power structure of West Pakistan. In the backdrop of these disparities and exploitations towards the Bengalis and getting impetus from language movement, the United Fronts having composed mainly of Awami League and Krishaksramik party won the election in 1954 begging an overwhelming majority of 222 seats out of which Awami League only won 142 seats on the basis of 21 point programme emphasizing the provincial autonomy. This victory of the Fronts reflected the brewing grievances of the people. But the UF government lasted only for 14 days and fell down as a result of conspiracy of the Muslim League and internal frictions of the Front allies.

In the background of growing economic disparity, cultural aggression and political hegemony Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, President of Awami League proclaimed a 6-point plan in 1966 titled as our charter for survival at a National Conference of the opposition leaders at Lahore, in which he demanded self-government and considerable political, economic and defense autonomy for East Pakistan. This led to the historic 6-point movement. Sheikh Mujib launched a massive campaign throughout East Pakistan to apprise the people of these demands and received unprecedented responses from all sections of people. Observing the surge of the movement, President Ayub khan, in order to suppress the movement, filed Agartala conspiracy case against Sheikh Mujib with the acquisition that the leader was planning to liberate East Pakistan.

However, as the trial progressed a mass uprising formed in protest against the fabricated charges  which compelled the government to withdraw the acquisitions and released Sheikh Mujib along with the co-accused. This public outrage culminated in the uprising of 1969 got a momentum in the history of our struggle for independence.

Thereafter, the situation took a dramatic turn and moved forward very rapidly. General Ayub stepped down on 25th March,1969 and handed state power to General Yahiya khan who announced an election date in December, 1970 under Legal Framework Order(LFO). Under LFO the newly elected assembly would formulate a constitution for the country within 120 days of its first session subject to the satisfaction of the president. MaulanaBhasani raised objection to participate in the election under LFO.. But Sheikh Mujib took decision to participate thinking election as the only means of rightful transfer of power as well to implement 6-point demands . Moreover Awami league thought the election as a referendum on the autonomy issue. In the election Awami League won 167 seats out of 169 seats and became a majority party in the Pakistan National Assembly being eligible to form government in the centre with Bangabandhu becoming the legal claimant as the prime minister of Pakistan. All on a sudden, on 1st March, Yahiya postponed the assembly session scheduled to be held on 3rd March at the Machiavellian counselling of Bhutto. With this postponement order, the fading hope of united Pakistan vanished. In the next phase  non-cooperation and non violence movement ensued.

Virtually the country’s administration was run by Bangabandhu’s directions. It was electrifying 18 minutes. The speech was extempore. At the beginning, with a heavy heart, he declared a programme of non-cooperation unless their demands were met. But Bangabandhu did not disappoint the waiting millions, and said what he had to in an intelligent and statesman-like way. He concluded his speech conveying: “the struggle this time is for emancipation, the struggle this time is for independence”. The sagacious leader knew by his farsightedness that straight declaration would have branded him a secessionist and he would have lost world sympathy.

 Analyzing the genesis of our independence movement it can be said that it started first in the form of  defending Bengali national identity. When Urdu was regarded as lingua franca of Indian Muslims, setting aside Bengali , the language of majority people of would-be Pakistan, the Bengali leaders felt that their national feelings were hurt. Finally when Pakistan was created, in a peculiar geographical location, on the basis of religious identity alone, the germs of discord between the two wings began to expose. It became clear that this pretext in the fervor of religion was just contrived to subdue Bangalis for making the eastern wing a colony by discarding Bengali nationalism.

It can be augured with certitude that initial linguistic imposition was not merely an endeavor to extirpate language alone, this was the first attempt in a long-drawn cryptic design of Pakistan to mar Bengali national identity. 21st February catalyzed the assertion of Bengal national identity of East Bengal, and became a forerunner to Bengali national movement.

This awareness invigorates our realization of provincial autonomy, 6-point movement and subsequently leading to the declaration of independence which was achieved by the victory in the liberation war on 16 December, 1971 at the cost of millions of lives of Bangalis and other sacrifices

The writer is a former Director,  Bangladesh Muktijoddhakalyan Trust, MuktijoddhobishoyokMantranalay                                          

 

 

 

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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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