Bangabandhu, Bangladesh and Independence are synonymous

26 March 2023, 12:05 am | Updated: 07 June 2023, 02:55 pm

Bangabandhu, Bangladesh and Independence are synonymous

After nearly two hundred years of British rule, the states of India and Pakistan were formed based on the two-nation theory in 1947, and East Bengal was declared a part of Pakistan. Apart from the religious identity, the two parts of Pakistan had nothing in common. So after partition, the Pakistani ruling class first attacked the language and culture of the country's majority population, despite being of the same religion. The West Pakistani ruling class became very active in making Urdu the state language of Bengal instead of Bengali, the mother tongue of Bengalis.

But the movement declared by the competent and strong leadership reflects the continuous resistance and redress of brave Bengalis. At one stage, the Pakistani ruling group was forced to change its decision in exchange for the lives of the innocent protesters of East Bengal. Bangla was forced to recognize as one of the state languages of Pakistan.

Bengali nationalism was strengthened mainly based on the language movement. After the victory of the United Front in the general elections of 1954, the entire Bengali nation and other minor ethnic groups stood united in favour of the 6-point demands of 1966 and the 11-point demands of 1969 and the mass uprising. Exploitation, oppression and contempt of the Pakistani regime helped them to unite. This was reflected in the massive victory of the Awami League in the 1970 elections under the leadership of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Finally, in 1971, the independence of Bangladesh was achieved through the nine-month bloody liberation war led by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

Mohammad Ali Jinnah visited East Pakistan in 1948. In a student gathering at Dhaka University, he announced that Urdu, only Urdu, will be the national language of Pakistan. Protests and resistance began. In 1949, the Muslim League split and a new party called 'Awami Muslim League' was formed with liberal leaders.

In February 1952, relations between West Pakistan and East Pakistan were almost severed due to the language movement. The sacrifice of Bengalis for the country started with blood donation for the language. A new trend of Bengali nationalism began.

In the provincial elections of 1954, the United Front formed the government with a landslide victory. The ruling elite of West Pakistan conspired to topple the United Front government. Thus began the struggle between East Pakistan and West Pakistan. At the beginning of this struggle, young Sheikh Mujib and the final stage Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, led from the front. We got independent Bangladesh under his leadership.

The 1954 election is significant among many events in the development of Bangabandhu, independence and Bengali nationalism. East Pakistani leaders formed a united front against the ruling Muslim League and participated in the elections. Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was then a young leader and General Secretary of the Awami League. Along with other United Front leaders, he travelled all over East Pakistan. Sheikh Mujib made the people of Bengal aware of the exploitation and persecution of the Pakistani ruling class. His eloquence, leadership, public engagement and organizational skills greatly influenced the election outcome.

In the 1954 elections, the United Front won 228 out of 309 seats. Not only the electoral victory but under the hypnotic leadership of the young Sheikh Mujib, the Bengali nationalist spirit prevailed among the people of East Pakistan.

Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman struggled throughout his life to building public opinion against the exploitation and oppression of the Pakistani ruling class. During Pakistan's 23-year rule, he spent almost 12 years in prison.

Bangabandhu announced a 6-point program in 1966 to free the people of this country from exploitation, oppression and discrimination. By raising this demand, the Bengali nation understood its position and became more vocal about its rights. The historic 6-point program had all the ingredients for developing Bengali nationalism. He visited every police station, subdivision (now district), larger district and division in East Pakistan to build public opinion in favour of the Six Points. He united students, teachers, farmers, workers, professionals and intellectuals in favour of six points.

In the 1970 general elections, he sought a mandate in favour of six points. These six points were later transformed into one point of independence. After the Six Point Proclamation, Bangabandhu was arrested under the Security Act. His trial in the historic Agartala case began at the Speedy Trial Tribunal. In 1968, the anti-Ayub movement spread across the country, demanding the release of Bangabandhu. Students, teachers, intellectuals, professionals, workers and other political parties participated in this movement. A mass movement was formed.

On January 4, 1969, under the leadership of the Chhatra League, several student organizations of East Pakistan formed the 'Sarbadliya Chhatra Sangram Parishad'. On January 18, 1969, the 11-point program was announced by the Parishad. The popular uprising of 1969 spread throughout East Pakistan. Students participated in this movement together.

Sergeant Zahurul Haque and the proctor of Rajshahi University are one of the defendants in the Agartala case. When Shamsujoha was shot dead, the movement spread like wildfire. In the face of the agitation, Ayub Khan was forced to announce that he would not contest the next election as President. In front of solid resistance, the government was forced to withdraw the Agartala case and release Bangabandhu and the other accused.

Bangabandhu led the 1970 elections. Awami League won almost all seats (national and provincial) in East Pakistan. In this election, Awami League won 288 out of 300 seats in the Provincial Council and won 167 out of 169 seats in the National Assembly (East Pakistan). This victory took Bangabandhu's leadership to unique heights.

Bangabandhu's 23 years of agitation and struggle resulted in the emergence of the Bengali nationalist spirit. This was reflected in the results of the 1970 elections. Sheikh Mujib did not suddenly become 'Bangabandhu'. He stands by people in every need and earns trust.

In 1970, a catastrophic storm and tidal wave hit southern Bangladesh. About 500,000 people died in this devastation. The Pakistani ruling class did not stand by the helpless people. But Bangabandhu and his party Awami League helped the people as much as possible. This is how he has become a symbol of the hopes and aspirations of the masses.

Despite getting a single majority in the 1970 elections, the West Pakistani ruling group hesitated to hand over power to Bangabandhu and the Bengalis. President Yahya Khan adjourned the National Assembly several times. The Bengalis were also slowly getting angry.

In this context, Bangabandhu gave a historic speech on March 7, 1971, at the former Race Course Maidan (now Suhrawardy Udyan). His speech served as the motto of Bengali nationalism. In his speech, he called for a non-cooperation movement. At the same time, he announced the outline of the freedom movement. Bangabandhu's speech gave the nation compelling motivation and clear instructions for the liberation war. Considering its importance and impact, after 46 years, UNESCO recognized the March 7 speech as a 'World Heritage Document'.

After March 7, the political situation in East Pakistan became more turbulent. In the name of negotiation, the ruling group started preparing for war. On the night of March 25, Pakistani forces carried out a brutal massacre of unarmed Bengalis. Bangabandhu was arrested. Before his arrest, he announced the independence of Bangladesh in the early hours of March 26.

The Bengali liberation struggle began. 'Mujibnagar Government' was formed during the Liberation War on April 10. Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was elected as this government's President while imprisoned in Pakistan. The long nine-month war of independence was fought in his name.

For 23 long years, he prepared Bengalis for an independent nation-state step by step. This time they responded to the call of Bangabandhu and jumped into the liberation war. After nine months of bloody fighting, Bangladesh became independent on December 16, 1971.

Sheikh Mujib was a young student leader during the partition in 1947. He came to Dhaka from Kolkata on January 4, 1948, and established the Chhatra League. After that, he became a national leader through the language movement, the United Front election, leadership in Awami League, and the six-point movement. Agartala case, Bengalis united in the 1969 uprising. Sheikh Mujib became the 'Bangabandhu' of Bengalis.

An absolute victory in the 1970 elections made Bangabandhu the undisputed leader of Bengal. His speech on March 7, his declaration of independence on March 26 and his unwavering love and commitment to Bengal, Bengalis and Bangladesh, even from the prison of Pakistan, earned him the status of Father of the Nation. Bangabandhu's entire life was devoted to Bengal and Bengalis, the soil and people of Bengal. And for this reason, independence, liberation war, Bangladesh, and Bangabandhu are synonymous.

Dr Matiur Rahman: A researcher and development worker

Category : Opinion