A T M Nurun Nabi :
When All-India Muslim League dominated by Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Liaquat Ali Khan and other leaders representing the bourgeoisie class was working for a separate state with Muslim majority areas in the northwest and the east of undivided India, the Bengal Muslim League leader Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy on April 27 in 1947 again raised the issue of independent and sovereign United Bengal in accordance with the Lahore Resolution. Bengal Muslim League Secretary Abul Hashim and Forward Bloc leader Sarat Bose, and intellectual Kiron Sankar Roy supported Suhrawardy, but did not get positive response from the All India National Congress.
MK Gandhi in a letter, rather, asked Sarat Bose to join Congress, abandoning the plan. On the other hand, Muslim League leader M A Jinnah was not vocal on the issue, rather working with his own mission. Both Suhrawardy and Sarat Bose agreed that the Muslims and the Hindus would perform their religious rites and rituals free of encroachment by the other, and would work together socially, economically and politically for a prosperous Bengal. But Suhrawardy finally had to shelve his plan of an independent and sovereign Bengal in the face of Congress's opposition. Finally Suhrawardy together with Abul Hashim and Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (later architect of Bangladesh) turned to Pakistan. There is no doubt that the people of Bengal overwhelmingly supported Pakistan, but it did not take time for them to believe that new state had fallen into the trap of the civil and the military bureaucrats. Political leaders were sidelined. The bureaucrats from the West Punjab in particular began to treat East Bengal (EB) as their colony and never wanted to give the people of EB their due share. They were very powerful. Just one example will clear the matter.
Governor General M A Jinnah wrote a letter from his sick bed to Suhrawardy seeking his company for sometime to discuss several important national issues. Astonishingly the letter returned undelivered marked 'the addressee was not traceable.' The first strike came on the Bengali language. Though the All India Muslim League assured the Bengal Muslim League in 1946 that Bengali would be made the State Language of East Bengal, there was no sign of it in reality. Dr. Md. Shahidullah demanded the status of State Language for Bengali in the whole of Pakistan. In 1948, M A Jinnah came to Dhaka in his first official visit. An ovation was arranged for him at the then Race Course (now Suhrawardy Udyan). There he was asked what would be the State Language of Pakistan. Forgetting the given promise, he declared, Urdu and Urdu shall be the State Language of Pakistan."
The declaration proved his shortcoming in politics, as just three per cent people of Pakistan spoke in Urdu compared with 56 pc in Bengali and 27 in Punjabi. Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan repeated it in September 1950 before 13 months of his assassination on October 16 in 1951 in Rawalpindi. His successor Khawaja Nazimuddin too recited the same statement on January 30 in 1952. Such move did not bring good result for the people of Pakistan, which the former West Pakistani leaders never tried to realise.
Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy landed in Dhaka in 1948 but he was not allowed to stay long. Alternatively he decided to settle in Karachi and vowed to break the backbone of the Muslim League. In 1949, Maulana Bhasani, H S Suhrawardy and Sheikh Mujibur Rahman formed a new political party named Awami Muslim League. Maulana Bhasani, Tangail's Shamsul Haque and Sheikh Mujibur Rahman became the party's President, General Secretary and Joint-Secretary respectively. The Muslim League (ML) ruled East Bengal until the United Front (UF) overwhelmingly won the 1954 provincial legislative election. The component parties of UF were Awami League, AK Fazlul Haque's Krishak Sramik Party, Nizam-e-Islami and Ganotantrik Party, winning 300 seats out of 309, with boat as election symbol. A 14-member Cabinet was formed with A K Fazlul Haque as the Chief Minister, Ataur Rahman, Abu Hossain Sarker, Kafiluddin Chowdhury, Abul Mansur Ahmad, Syed Azizul Haque, Abdus Salam Khan, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Abdul Latif Biswas, Muazzem Hussain, Hamid Uddin, Yusuf Ali Chowdhury, Rezzaqul Haider Chowdhury and Ashraf Uddin Chowdhury. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was assigned as Agriculture, Cooperative and Rural Development Minister.
The Chief Minister kept the Home in his hand. But the Cabinet could not stay long as Governor General Ghulam Mohammad (a former ICS Officer) dissolved it on October 14 on the plea of failure to check the riot between the Bengali and the non-Bengali at Adamjee in the then Dhaka district. Fazlul Haque was interned and about 3,000 leaders and workers, including Sheikh Mujib, were arrested.
Meanwhile, the 2nd Constituent Assembly of Pakistan presented the first Constitution, declaring Pakistan an Islamic state. East Bengal was renamed East Pakistan, while the West Punjab, Sind, Frontier Province and Beluchistan lost their separate identities into newly formed province of West Pakistan.
In the month of March in 1956, A K Fazlul Haque became Governor of East Pakistan and on September 6 summoned Ataur Rahman Khan to form a cabinet. The other members were Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Manoranjan Dhar, Mashiur Rahman, Abdur Rahman, Khairat Hossain, Kafiluddin Chowdhury, Mohammad Ali, Mansur Ali, Dhirendranath Dutta and Sarat Chandra Majumder. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was made Commerce, Labour and Industry Minister. Within five days of it on September 12, Pakistan Awami League President, H.S. Suhrawardy, was sworn in as the Prime Minister of Pakistan. His coalition partner was Republican Party of Dr. Khan. The first session of the National Assembly was held in Dhaka on October 8.
In the month of July, Maulana Bhasani differed with Suhrawardy on his foreign policy and quit Awami League to form a new party named National Awami Party with the leftists and the Marxists. Maulana Bhasani in the party's first conference held at Kagmari of Santosh in Tangail district bade farewell to West Pakistan and denounced the West Pakistani leaders for their colonial frame of mind.
On October 16 in 1957, Suhrawardy was forced to resign and a year later on October 8 President Iskander Mirza proclaimed Martial Law in the whole of Pakistan. General Ayub Khan became the Chief Martial Law Administrator, who, however, did not wait long to become the President of Pakistan. It was October 27.
But the brave people of Pakistan became united to launch anti-martial law movement in 1961. On January 24 in 1962, Suhrawardy and other political leaders met in the residence of Ataur Rahman Khan to discuss next steps of action . Surprisingly the news leaked out and the government arrested him in Karachi, and Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Tofazzal Hossain manik Mia, Abul Mansur Ahmad, Kafiluddion Chowdhury, Tajuddin Ahmad, Syed Altaf Hossain and Korban A1i in Dhaka.
After release from jail, Sheikh Mujib revived Awami League in 1964 and placed his famous Six-Point demand on February 13 in 1966 in Lahore at a Round Table Conference participated by the political leaders. The main features were:
1: There will be a federal parliamentary system based on direct adult franchise and representation of provinces would be on the basis of population in the federal legislature.
2: The federal government will be restricted only to foreign affairs, defense and currency. And even regarding foreign affairs, the dealings of economic matters would rest with the provinces.
3: There will either be two different currencies for the two wings or a single one with separate Federal Reserve systems for each wing.
4: The power of implementation and collection of taxes will lie with the provinces. The federal government will be given enough shares to fulfill its tasks of foreign affairs and defense.
5: There would be separate accounts of foreign exchange earnings for each wing.
6: The East Pakistan would be given the authority to have a militia or paramilitary force solely under its provincial government.
Sheikh Mujib returned from Pakistan and received great response. His journey for full autonomy based on 6-point began. But the extreme right and the left wing political leaders vehemently opposed him, calling his demand a step towards secession. The government arrested him on May 8 in 1966 and accused him of seceding from Pakistan in association with some naval and civil bureaucrats. A sedition case, otherwise called 'The 'Agartala Conspiracy Case' was filed in January 1968. Lieutenant Commander Moazzem Hossain of Pakistan Navy was made the second accused. The Pakistan Army killed him in Faridpur soon after crack down on March 26 in 1971. He is hardly remembered despite his contribution to Independence.
The trial of Agartala Conspiracy case started in 1968 at Dhaka Cantonment. Just then, four student organisations namely East Pakistan Students League (EPSL), East Pakistan Students Union (EPSU-Menon Group), East Pakistan Students Union (EPSU-Motia) and pro-government National Students Federation (NSF-Dolon Group) formed All-Party Students Action Committee (SAC) and drafted historic 11 points for the realisation of autonomy and economic rights. The main features of 11-point were:
I. Return to the Parliamentary democracy and introduction of direct election based on adult franchise.
2. Cancellation of Hamidur Rahman Education Commission and National Education Policy
3. Granting of full autonomy to East Pakistan.
4. Making of West Pakistan a sub-federation, uniting the small regions.
5. Nationalisation of banks, insurance companies, jute trading and big industries.
6. Reduction of taxes and land development taxes.
7. Giving of fair wages and bonus to the workers, granting facilities of ducation, medicine, housing, and right to strike and to form trade union.
8. Steps to control flood in East Pakistan and proper use of manpower.
9. Withdrawal of emergency, special security and other repressive laws.
10. Withdrawal from SEATO and Cento, and to rescind US-Pakistan military pact,
1I. Release of all political leaders including Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and all accused in the Agartala Conspiracy Case.
The student leaders were Abdur Rouf and Khaled Mohammad Ali of EPSL, Mahbubullah and Mostafa Jamal Haider of EPSU (Menon), Saifuddin Ahmad Manik and Shamsuddoha of EPSU (Motia), Mahbubul Haque Dolon and Fakhrul Islam of NSF, and Tofael Ahmad and Nazim Kamran Chowdhury of DUCSU.
Meanwhile, the killing of Surgent Zahurul Haque of Pakistan Navy and Dr. Shamsuzzoha, Proctor of Rajshahi University, sparkled the mass uprising. Finding no second option, the government withdrew the sedition case and released all the accused in the case on February 22 in 1969. The SAC gave a rousing reception to Sheikh Mujibur Rahman at Race Course and DUCSU VP Tofael Ahmad gave him the title 'Bangabandhu.'
In the first ever general election held on December 7 in 1970, Awami League swept East Pakistan, winning 167 out of 169 while Z A Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party secured 88 seats out of 144 in West Pakistan. Conspiracy began. Bhutto representing the West Pakistani civil and the military bureaucrats and the bourgeoisie class demanded two Prime Ministers for two wings of Pakistan, with an ill motive of stopping Sheikh Mujib from becoming the Prime Minister of the whole of Pakistan. President Yahya Khan asked him to soften his Sx-Point but he rejected. Then as part of the conspiracy, the president postponed NA session, which was scheduled to be held on March 3.
In protest, the AL leader called for hartal in Dhaka on March 2 and in the whole of East Pakistan on March 3. He also said that he would give some important directions to the nation from a public meeting to be held at the Race Course on March 7.
East Pakistan Students League President Noore Alam Siddiqui, General Secretary Shahjahan Siraj, DUCSU Vice-President A S M Abdur Rab and General Secretary Abdul Quddus Makhan formed the Students Action Committee (SAC). On March 2 at a large meeting held at Dhaka University, the DUCSU VP hoisted the Bangladesh flag, having the map of East Pakistan in its red ball surrounded by green colour on all sides. EPSL General Secretary Shahjahan Siraj read out the declaration of Independence.
In the mammoth public meeting held on March 7 at the Race Course, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman said: The agitation of this time is the agitation for liberation. The agitation of this time is the agitation for independence. He also said: If I become unable to give you direction fight against your enemies with whatever weapons you have. The great leader of Bengal called for non-cooperation movement and established his full authority in the then East Pakistan. The non-cooperation movement of Sheikh Mujib has no second example. This is the best ever non violent movement that changed the history of the world. The 7th March can be recognised as the Independence day because he was the de facto administrator of Bangladesh.
However, as a last step towards reconciliation, he put some conditions before joining the NA session summoned by Yahya Khan. These included withdrawal of martial law, formation of probe committee to investigate killings of civilians by the Army, transfer of power to the people's representatives and return of military to cantonment.
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