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Independence Day 2017

Thoughts on our Liberation War

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26th-Mar-2017       
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Md. Shairul Mashreque and M. Abul Kashem Mozumder :
War of Liberation  in 1971 was the culmination of  a series of seminal events like  language movement(1952), 1954 election, Agartala conspiracy case against Sheikh Mujibur Rahman,  Six-point movement, 1970 election, the heat of march 1971, Bangabandhu's clarion call and Operation search light in 25 march 1971 and the formation of Mujibnagar government. The intellectuals, students as youth, journalists, peasants, industrial workers, public officials and staff, police, EPR and  East Bengal regiment and women and other sections fought Liberation War. Their sacrifice, their zeal, their heroism and their gallantry form an essential part of our liberation history. Our intellectuals and their followings were always politically conscious nourishing differing ideologies. Their thought process shapes our perceptions about culture and Bengali identity with a sense of history. The Dhaka based intellectuals comprising of Varsity Professors, prominent journalists, lawyers, high profile officials and diplomats in their sharp writings and group discussions created concept notes on our identity, cultural and political rights and the need for socio-economic emancipation. They in fact set the tone of our great tradition bringing the people of all walks of life under its fold. Two economy theory guiding Six point movement in 1966 was the brain child of Dhaka University intelligentsia. They all even with different ideologies were progressive in mindset (pro-liberation social forces).
Nevertheless the main actors in our liberation struggle happened to be common masses. They rallied behind our vernaculars elites fighting for parity and justice lending spontaneous support to Bangabandhu  in  every stage of Bangladesh movement. They have had the glaring examples of scarifying their lives for the cause of mother tongue, democracy and independence.  Their contributions to the history of liberation were heavy, yet missed out in historical records. Only leaders as cults led them with rising consciousness occupy important positions in history. Even then we pay homage to the martyrs when occasions arise and there is a long list of freedom fighters including the shaheeds.  Thousands of freedom fighters including the martyrs joined the Liberation War to free our country from the hands of occupation forces.  Our common masses as freedom fighters by their undaunted bravery created a glorious history. It was the determined will of the masses that could defy the atrocious dare devil military forces and their cohorts  even with antiquated weapons.
 History as a way of learning always keeps the common masses out of reckoning.  The historical experience should not be one describing the role of heroes and leaders as icons.    Historians with a broader spectrum of illustration from the micro realities may turn out to transform history into a living tool for the present and future.
"Historians with a very long-term view of the past that provides one kind of context for 1971 would emphasize that people in the land that became Bangladesh had declared independence many times, in many idioms, over the centuries. Political theorists and historians would also point out that even in the 20th century; the term "independence" has not been used only to mean national state sovereignty. Historically, proclamations of independence have taken many forms, each appropriate in its own setting. And so they did in the land that became Bangladesh until in March 1971, when the idea of independence acquired a new context, which never existed before and gave proclamations of independence new meaning."(Ludden).
Whatever may be the context of the movement for independence at different stages of our social and economic history it turns out to become a zero sum game as the freedom lovers and fighters became disillusioned as it only symbolizes national sovereignty full of state symbols and emblems.  Popular emancipation continues to remain a distant dream. The rising popular expectations transform into rising frustration.  
Only the observance of Victory Day will not bring about liberation of commoners from the deluge of exploitation. Only change of political map may do a little in changing the nature of the state.  The Independence has to be meaningful to smoothe way to popular emancipation. We need to change our mind-set for an affirmative Bangladesh growing out of a Liberation War. The goal to achieve economic emancipation is a far cry. Unfortunately more than 4 decades   have passed since independence; the toiling masses continue to fight for social justice and democratic rights. Most of them are still living in abject poverty. Each successive regime that ruled the country failed to fulfill the expectation of the people. Wanton corruption and abuse of power rather add to economic crisis adversely affecting the disadvantaged groups. The journey to corruption-free society started on a firm footing during the incumbency of army back Care taker government. But euphoria started evaporating very soon as the abuse of power by some helmspersons messed up things. We have another problem. Side by side with political divide we have digital divide. This is to be addressed to prevent widening of rural-urban gap.
Grim socio-economic realities in the countryside and other aberrations afflicted peasants. Socially aware anguished observers look at social and political vortex that overtime developed in the country due largely to the onslaught of misgovernance. Socio-economic implications of political transformation in the country lie in its exclusionary effects on 'a large segment of the population.' the exclusionary effects on the community are damaging. The ordinary masses without wealth or patronage resources have little prospect of surviving even in the independent country. This perspective in independence has the implication of disempowering the poor leaving them at the level of non-participation in public affairs. Policy environment displays an 'exclusionary relation' from the system of distribution. The disadvantaged groups are structurally excluded from ownership and access to resources. Legislative measures in line with on going policies or new policy options hardly improve state intervention as the bureaucratic machinery determines forward course of action at the implementation stage. There has been a very little alliance between public administration implementing public policies and ordinary masses.
Most of the benefits of development even after Liberation have yet to reach the poor. In other words development initiates barely touch the bottom end of the distribution profile. Various instruments of public policy even pro-poor ones nowhere led to 'greater economic equality and lessening of concentration of economic power'. There is capitalistic concentration in the capital intensive development intervention. The position occupied by the 22 families during pre-liberation time was replaced by emerging bourgeoisie elements. This sort of development intervention has eliminated the vulnerable that lack or fail to mobilize the minimum resource base. The lopsided distribution pattern is related to differing wealth, status and power in a semi-feudal capitalist society.
The people cannot pin hopes on lofty goals of the populist politicians. They might have expected that independence or liberation would feed them in milk and honey. But the politicians and administrative elites had enjoyed much of honey and milk deriving from the lack of misgovernance.
 However Bangabandhu dreams of an affluent and enlightened society. "Mujib dead is stronger than Mujib alive" Bangabandhu tried to shape perceptions of countless admirers and supporters around his long cherished dream of golden Bengal. He pioneered nation building albeit with reformation line in a new country as a new beacon in the realm of nation building. His vision of development is mass oriented with the programmes of nationalization, removal of private ownership of the means of production, land reform and land redistribution, revamping rural economy, and changes in revenue system, especially tax exemption up to 25 bighas of land.  
(The writers are Professor, Department of Public Administration Chittagong University and Member, PSC respectively)

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