People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


Vol. XXXIV

No. 14

April 04, 2010

Bangladesh Celebrates 40th National Day

                                                                                                       Gautam Das

 

BANGLADESH observed its 40th National Day on March 26 in a changed political scenario. The freedom loving, secular and democratic people of Bangladesh massively supported the Awami League, pioneering political force of the liberation struggle, and its allies in the National Assembly elections held on December 29, 2008. However, inside or outside the country, the political forces that were against its independence have never stopped conspiring against it. On February 25 last year, just 55 days after the new government led by Sheikh Hasina assumed office, these forces conspired to overthrow the government by engineering a revolt in the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR), the country’s largest paramilitary force. They plotted to instigate bloody clashes between the army and the BDR with the aim of plunging the country into a civil war. The plot killed 57 top ranking army officers. The Sheikh Hasina government tackled the stormy situation with utmost patience. But, even now, the anti-independence forces are constantly conspiring in all possible manners and the government has to move forward very cautiously.

 

SIGNIFICANT

DEVELOPMENT

The liberation of Bangladesh in 1971 was one of the most significant developments in the second half of the last century. The seeds of the conflict lay in the evil decision of British imperialism to divide India on religious lines. Going against the will of the secular Indian masses, the British struck a deal with the leadership of the Congress and the Muslim League and created Pakistan by dividing India in August 1947, before relinquishing power. East Bengal was then made a part of Pakistan even though it had no geographical contiguity with the other provinces of Pakistan, viz West Punjab, Balochistan, Sindh and North West Frontier Province. Nor had East Bengal any linguistic or cultural affinity with West Pakistan. Rechristened as East Pakistan, East Bengal was the largest province of Pakistan in population, but the country’s capital was in West Pakistan. Subsequently, leaders of the ruling Muslim League gave a big blow to the national sentiments of Bengali speaking people of the newly created East Pakistan by imposing Urdu as the state language of Pakistan.

On the other hand, after the departure of the British, US imperialists started increasing their influence in Pakistan. From the very beginning, they made all out attempts to use Pakistan against India and establish their hegemony by egging on the army there to take over power.

The attempt to impose Urdu on the Bengali speaking population gave rise to sharp protests, particularly from students and youth. In 1952, students of Dhaka University started a fierce agitation demanding due recognition for Bengali language. The Muslim League government of Pakistan used the army and police to suppress this movement. On February 21, 1952, four students --- Salam, Barqat, Rafiq and Jabbar --- sacrificed their lives in the streets of Dhaka.

This incident gave rise to a wildfire of protest movements across East Pakistan. During this movement for Bengali language, the consciousness dawned upon the people that their mother tongue’s prestige was not safe if East Pakistan was not made an independent nation.

 

UNDER YANKEE

INFLUENCE

Meanwhile, US imperialism succeeded in establishing its control on Pakistan. General Ayub Khan proclaimed military rule in the country in 1958 and the military junta under him sought to legitimise their autocracy by imposing a peculiar “Basic Democracy” in the first half of the 1960s. The democratic people of East Pakistan strongly protested. Controlled by US imperialists, the junta opted for creating vicious anti-India sentiments on the Kashmir issue to derail the language movement and the movement against military autocracy. The US conspiracy even led to a war between India and Pakistan in 1965. But soon after the war ended the democratic movement against dictatorship intensified once again. Maulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhasani and Sheikh Mujibur Rahman became undisputed leaders of the united movement of the democratic, secular and Left forces in East Pakistan. In 1969, due to an intense movement of the Dhaka University students and common masses throughout East Pakistan, Ayub Khan had to quit. Submitting to the demand of the mass upsurge for National Assembly elections, General Yahya Khan, another military ruler, assumed office.

At last in 1970, elections took place to the National Assembly and the provincial assemblies. In the National Assembly elections the Awami League led by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman secured an absolute majority. But, true to their character, the junta under Yahya Khan denied Sheikh Mujib, leader of the majority party in National Assembly, the chance to form a government. This created turbulence in the whole of East Pakistan; people resorted to massive agitations demanding transfer of power to their elected representatives. There were waves of hartals and general strikes throughout. However, Sheikh Mujib soon realised that the junta would not accede power to the elected representatives willingly. So there was no option left but to call for an independent East Pakistan. On March 7, 1971, in a massive rally of lakhs of people Sheikh Mujib made the historic declaration: The struggle this time will be the struggle for freedom. He called upon the citizens to get prepared for the struggle. His fiery seventeen minutes speech marked the beginning of the liberation struggle.

Instead of handing power over to the elected representatives, the junta took to the path of repression, plunging the democratic movement in a pool of blood. They arrested Mujib on the fateful night of March 25, 1971 from his Dhaka residence, flew him out and detained him in Karachi Jail. At the same time, the army carried out merciless massacre in Dhaka University and other parts of the country throughout the night.

But the junta failed to suppress the liberation struggle of the Bengali people. On March 26, 1971, the people of East Pakistan declared themselves as citizens of an independent Bangladesh and jumped into the liberation struggle against the junta. Tajuddin Ahmed, Sayyed Nazrul Islam and other comrades of Sheikh Mujib led the provisional government of People’s Republic of Bangladesh in his absence.

The Pakistani armed forces and the armed opponents of the liberation struggle, e.g the Muslim League, Jamaa’t-e-Islami and its terrorist razakars bearing the name of Al Badar, Al Shams etc, unleashed a reign of mass killings against the Mukti Bahini (Liberation Army) and the common people, while raping and gangraping thousands of women. Their barbarism can be compared only with that of the fascist forces under Hitler and Mussolini during the World War II.

 

ASSISTANCE

FROM INDIA

During the bloody days after March 25, 1971, more than a crore of Bengali people came to India as refugees. The people of the tiny north-eastern state of Tripura, too, gave shelter to numerous refugees who were twice its own population. Led by late Comrade Jyoti Basu, the “Bangladesh Aid and Solidarity Committee” collected huge amounts of aid, relief and blood for the refugees and continued to pressurise the government of India to recognise the provisional government of Bangladesh.

US imperialists could not tolerate the formation of an independent Bangladesh and in order to help the Pakistani forces to suppress the liberation struggle, they sent their Seventh Fleet close to the Chittagong port. But the people of India and Bangladesh came out in fierce opposition to this US imperialist threat. Under tremendous popular pressure, the government of India recognised the Bangladesh government and assured it of all help.

In the face of joint combat by the Indian army and Mukti Bahini, Pakistani forces were compelled to retreat. On December 16, 1971, Pakistanis surrendered before the joint military command of India and Bangladesh. The latter attained its independence at the cost of 35 lakh lives. About 17,000 jawans and officers of Indian Army and many Indian civilians sacrificed their life for the independence of Bangladesh, which is a rare phenomenon.

At last the junta of Pakistan was compelled to free Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. On January 10, 1972, he returned to Dhaka amid a huge public reception and took charge of the independent government of Bangladesh.

 

CONSPIRATORS

AGAIN AT WORK

Under Sheikh Mujib’s leadership, the National Assembly adopted a constitution to establish a secular, modern and democratic Bangladesh. But the anti-liberation forces could not tolerate this secular constitution and continued to conspire. These conspirators tagged with them some middle ranking officers of the army and assassinated President Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and his family members on August 15, 1975. Later they also murdered four close aides of Sheikh Mujib, including prime minister Tazuddin Ahamed and vice president Sayyed Nazrul Islam, in Dhaka Central Jail. Thus, in Bangladesh too, a section of the army captured the state power under the leadership of General Ziaur Rahman, proclaiming military rule. From 1975 to 1990, Bangladesh thus remained in the grip of a military rule, till the democratic people of Bangladesh again staged a massive upsurge in 1990 to overthrow the military rule of General H M Ershad.

In 1975, if Sheikh Hasina, the eldest daughter of Sheikh Mujib, and her sister escaped the massacre, it was because both of them were outside Bangladesh at the time. Hasina returned to Bangladesh and assumed the leadership of Awami League which in 1996 returned to power after 21 years and undertook a number of steps to re-establish democracy. It started the trial of Sheikh Mujib’s murderers. In 2001, led by Begum Khaleda Zia, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) forged an alliance with Jamaa’t-e-Islami that had opposed the liberation struggle, to win the National Assembly elections. This helped the militant Islamic fundamentalists to launch attacks on the ideals of secularism. Militant terrorism sought to establish its reign all over the country, forcing the democratic, secular masses to launch a movement against the evil BNP-Jamaa’t coalition government. The coalition hatched a conspiracy to stick to power by making a mockery of the elections. But the intense democratic movement foiled their game plan. However, making use of this opportunity, the army again captured power through backdoor and proclaimed an internal emergency. But the democratic movement fought tooth and nail to attain the demand of democratic elections, which took place on December 29, 2008. The people re-elected the Awami League and decisively defeated the BNP-Jamaa’t coalition.

The BNP-Jamaa’t coalition not only encouraged Islamic militancy but also gave shelter and all other kinds of assistance to the secessionist militant groups from India, conspiring against our sovereignty by letting them use the Bangladesh soil. Pakistan based Islamic fundamentalists also used Bangladesh as their safe haven during the BNP-Jamaa’t regime. Since Sheikh Hasina led Awami League government assumed office in January 2009, anti-independence forces have started conspiring against it anew. They instigated the BDR revolt, resorted to fundamentalist violence in educational institutions like the Dhaka, Rajshahi and Chittagong universities, and tried to instigate ethnic conflicts in the Chittagong Hill Tracts by attacking the tribal populace in a bid to overthrow this government. They are trying to create a reign of anarchy.

Meanwhile the trial of the Sheikh Mujib’s assassins has completed. The Hasina government has also set up a tribunal to try the war criminals of 1971. Trials against the perpetrators of various murder cases have started. The government has taken steps to democratise the education system and adopted a new education policy. Steps have been initiated to reinstate the secular constitution of 1972. During Hasina’s visit to New Delhi in January, bold measures were initiated to resolve some disputes with India. Hasina has declared firm resolve to demolish the bases of anti-India militant groups and Islamic fundamentalists; some steps in this direction have already been taken. Her government has already started a number of programmes to raise the living standard of the toiling poor masses of Bangladesh. Efforts are being made to give democracy an institutional form so that military autocracy may not call the shots again. Though the situation is tough and complex, we may hope that, with the support of the powerful secular democratic people of Bangladesh, the Hasina government will be able to transform her country into a modern, democratic and developed one.