Awami League : Rise of Bengali nationalism against Pakistan


Awami League : Rise of Bengali nationalism against Pakistan
By Matiar Chowdhury

Bengali nationalism started to grow in the backdrops of Pakistani colonial attitude and cultural aggression. There grew a spirit inside the Bengali people within few days of partition,that was further triggered by the language movement in 1952, leading to the ultimate rise of Bengali nationalism. Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, regarding this movement, wrote in his Unfinished Memories, “I was undergoing treatment at Dhaka Medical College then. Everything was fixed in a secret meeting there. It was decided that I will start a hunger strike on 16 February and the protest will begin on 21st.” Since then, Chhatra League and other student and cultural organizations were becoming vocal for protecting the rights to speak in the mother tongue, which then spread out across the country, resulting in a mass rally on February 21 in 1952 defying Section 144. But the Pakistani military shot fired on the unarmed people who took to the streets. These drops of blood ultimately united the whole nation, sparking an outrage and mass movement of people of all religions and races. The 1954 provincial election saw its impact quite well.

With Huseyn Shahid Suhrawardy as President, the All Pakistan Awami Muslim League was founded on June 23 in 1949 and Maulana Bhashani became the President of East Bengal Awami Muslim League. As Bangabandhu was in prisonhis opinion, being an influential young leader, was sought about formation of the new organization Awami Muslim League. Later, he was made founding joint-secretary of the party. He was elected the party’s general secretary in 1953.

Awami League initiated to form United Front ahead of the provincial election in 1954. This election put the last nail in the coffin of religion-centric politics of the Muslim League with winning only nine seats out of 237 in East Bengal. That time too, they sought votes by using religion. On the contrary, Suhrawardy-Bhashani-Sheikh Mujib-led Awami Muslim League won the majority of the seats by pledging to protect language and culture, ensure non-communal and discrimination-free human life, and economic freedom. The boat symbol became the symbol of people’s dreams and aspirations. Though the cabinet was abolished within two weeks by the conspiracy from the Pakistan central government, the election begot the sense of nationalism among Bengali people against the colonial behaviour of Pakistani and their heinous politics with the religion. This, in the following year, also led to a non-communal spirit among people and turned Awami Muslim League into Awami League with unanimous support.

In 1956, Bangabandhu joined the provincial cabinet, but he resigned from it in the next year to coordinate his party across the country to drum up the support for the independence of the nation. He ran from districts to districts and talked about the exploitation and discrimination of the Pakistan government, and helped the whole nation realize its rights with Bengali nationalism. Consequently, students and ordinary people waged protests despotic military government in 1962-63. After the death of Suhrawardy during this period, Bangabandhu came to the limelight of the whole national movement and became the torchbearer of Bengali dreams. The hidden national spirit got to rise in full swing with the slogan of ‘Jago Jago, Bangali Jago (Wake Up, Wake Up, Bengali, Wake Up)”.

On his journey to wake up the nation, Bangabandhu announced his historic ‘Six Point Charter’, also known as the charter for Bengali’s freedom, in early 1966 highlighting the autonomy, economy and defence. As he was elected the President of Awami League then, he staged rallies and programmes throughout the country and gathered massive support for the Six Point charter, leaving the Pakistani in fear. However, he was arrested repeatedly from 32 rallies and served 90 days in jail. But he was again arrested and kept in jail for a long term as the Pakistani military government got frightened at the brave leadership, popularity and acceptance of Bangabandhu among mass people. But the seed of national liberty was spread already across the country and was not halted even during the physical absence of Bangabandhu during his jail term. The whole nation was inspired and started longing for independence centring on the Six Point charter.

Against this backdrop, while staying in jail, Bangabandhu was sued and shown arrested in a treason charge titled ‘State vs. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Others’ which is popularly known as the Agartala Conspiracy Case in early 1968. The charge sheet of the case stated: “Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and others hatched a conspiracy against united Pakistan.” Clearly speaking, Bangabandhu had continuous communication with the Bengali army, naval officials and other professionals for creating Bangladesh state, and the Pakistan military government treated it as a conspiracy and pressed charge against Bangabandhu and 34 others. But a slogan then broke out saying ‘Jeler Tala Bhangbo, Sheikh Mujibke Anbo (We will break the lock of the jail and bring back Sheikh Mujib)’ across the country. Thus, Bangabandhu and Bangladesh got inseparable with the rise of nationalism among the Bengali nation.

However, in face of public outrage, the Pakistani junta had to withdraw the case on February 22, 1969, and released the leader of the nation Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. He was awarded ‘Bangabandhu’ title in a huge rally at Suhrawardy Udyan on the next day of February 23 as the supreme leader of the Bengali people. Seeing the enthusiastic Bengali people full of the spirit of nationalism, Bangabandhu made his stance more strictly to demand the resignation of the Pakistani military junta and fight in the general election. As a result, Pakistan military ruler General Ayub Khan was overthrown on March 25, 1969, through a mass revolt by the Bengali nation. Yahya Khan took over the power and had to give the announcement of holding a general election. It was an unprecedented chapter for the nation to wage mass protests joined by farmers, labours, students and people of all walks of lives with the spirit of Bengali nationalism to release Bangabandhu from jail and made the Pakistani military ruler resign.

But Pakistani junta refused to hand over the governing power to the Bengali nation and started wasting times, and hatching a conspiracy. Consequently, the situation became volatile in January 1971. The slogans like ‘Bir Bangali Astro Dhor, Bangladeshi Shwadin Kor (Brave Bengali, hold the weapons and free the country),’ ‘Tomar Neta, Amar Neta, Sheikh Mujib, Sheikh Mujib (Your Leader, My Leader, Sheikh Mujib, Sheikh Mujib)’, and ‘Tomar Desh, Amar Desh, Bangladesh Bangladesh (Your country, My Country, Bangladesh, Bangladesh)’ etc spread everywhere in the country. The entire seven crore Bengali people became desperate to make the country free from the Pakistani junta with the slogan ‘Joy Bangla’. This slogan ‘Joy Bangla’ played a vital role to unite the whole nation for a common demand and it was freedom. The term ‘Joy Bangla’ refers to the victory of the Bengali language, victory of Bangladesh and victory of the Bengali nation; and the slogan is above any sort of communalism as it became the nationalistic slogan for all the people.

Following the election, Bangabandhu did not fall into the trap of Pakistan as he remained cautious so that the long achievement in the last 23 years would not go in vain by any mistake. He also made the other elected representatives promise at a public rally at the Suhrawardy Udyan not to betray the people. When the Pakistani military started the crackdown and genocide on the innocent people at midnight of March 25, Bangabandhu declared independence. With a nine-month ferocious battle leading to maximum sacrifice and bloodshed, the Bengali nation finally earned its much-awaited victory and independence.

In the whole Indian subcontinent, a new state was established solely based on the spirit of nationalism. The idea of creating Bangladesh is not new. Bangabandhu thought of it soon after the 1947 partition and he shared the idea on many occasions too. On December 5 in 1969, while speaking at the death anniversary of Huseyn Shahid Suhrawardy, Bangabandhu finalized the name of the new state as ‘Bangladesh’. Since then, the land was unofficially getting popular as Bangladesh and Bangabandhu, from a young leader, appeared to be the supreme leader of the nation and made his place in the mind of people with his selfless love and deep patriotism for Bangladesh. He became the only leader in the history of Bengal who spread the spirit of Bengali nationalism among the nation, which ultimately gave birth to Bangladesh.

Pakistan has now much to learn from Bangladesh. Concerned over the miserable economic condition of Pakistan a former World Bank adviser said that if Pakistan continues with its dismal performance there is a possibility that Islamabad could be seeking aid from Bangladesh by the year 2030 when Bangladesh could be an economic powerhouse if it grows in the same rate.

The Transparency International has ranked Pakistan at 124 out of 180 countries. This implies that corruption has increased substantially during Imran Khan’s regime. Despite tall claims of uprooting menace of corruption, it has increased during the last two years. The government has regrettably not been able to pay attention to the whole issue in its true perspective. The evil of corruption is rooted in the psyche and cannot be dealt with by making statements alone. There is no end to corruption in sight despite Imran Khan’s tall promises.

Despite being one of the most populous countries in the world, Bangladesh has become self sufficient in food production. Its ready-made garment industry ranks among the top two in the world, just after China. Its ship-building, pharmaceutical and IT industries are fast emerging to be counted in a major way in the international scene. Present political discords and uncertainties are expected to give way to a happier time with democracy and rule of law, accountability and transparency of government, parliament etc., becoming stronger to secure future of the country.

Bangladesh’s GDP per capitagrew by 9% over the past year rising to $ 2227 whereas Pakistan’s per capita income is $ 1543. In 1971 Pakistan was 70% richer than Bangladesh. Today Bangladesh is 45% richer than Pakistan.

Concerned over the miserable economic condition of Pakistan a former World Bank adviser said that if Pakistan continues with its dismal performance there is a possibility that Islamabad could be seeking aid from Bangladesh by the year 2030 when Bangladesh could become an economic powerhouse.

Pakistan is already facing dissent and separatism from Baloch and Sindhi pro-freedom organizations. In a recent statement to the media Baloch Khan, Spokesman of Baloch Raji Ajoi Sangar (BRAS) said “Sind and Balochistan are equally affected by the expansionist and oppressive designs of China. Through the CPEC, China aims to subjugate Sindh and Balochistan with the help of Pakistan. Pakistan’s economy has stagnated while Bangladesh has been making rapid progress.

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