Professor Anwarul Karim, Ph.D :
From LDC to a Developing Nation : This year Bangladesh celebrates the 47th anniversary of Independence with pride and joy. Pride gives us a feeling that we are now mature and have the capability of solving our own problems with our own limited resources. The world has recognised and appreciated our strength as we could move from the least developed country (LDC) to a Developing Nation much ahead of the time schedule. It took several years to achieve full recovery from a shattered economy caused by the War of Liberation. Before our Independence, our motherland was virtually looted out by West Pakistan and our economy was totally shattered. It is the leadership of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman under whose guidance the country was liberated after a 9-month War of Liberation. The task was indeed very difficult because of acute shortage of foodstuff following severe crop failures in the early years of our Independence due to drought and flood. The per capita income in 1975-76 was Tk. 695 and it was still lower than in 1969 -70 (Tk.710). Since then a moderate growth in per capita income at the rate of 2.4 per cent per annum has been achieved. (Ahmed, QK 2016:11.) Again, immediately after Independence, Bangladesh experienced famine and acute shortage of food and housing problem. With such moments of critical situation, Bangladesh, however, gradually has been able to recover and now she has emerged out as a nation capable of solving her problems with her resources. Now the world understands that Bangladesh, despite her multifarious problems, had been able to join the lower middle income country in 2015 and since then Bangladesh has so quickly made her position felt by the world for her unique success in ameliorating poverty and acute food shortage. Bangladesh has now been able to rebuild her economy, transforming gradually the human resources into a skilled manpower. It is now held that Bangladesh is now on way to attain the status of the Developing Nation because of the fact that presently the rate of GDP is quite higher than the usual one following sustained inflow of remittances for stable exchange rates. Bangladesh has been moving very fast to meet the entire technical requirement in the coming years. The country has already met the LDC graduation criteria for the first time in 2018 and will be able to reach another significant milestone when it graduates in 2021. This year's Independence Day celebrations thus has left a tremendous impact on the mind of people because of the country's achievement from LDC to Developing Nation. Bangladesh would not have achieved such a glorious position had the country been under Pakistani rule.
Historic speech by Bangabandhu on March 7, 1971: A world heritage : More laurels have been added to the glory of Bangladesh as the World recognized the historic March 7, 1971 speech of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the person who was the elected representative of the country securing absolute majority in Pakistani election for forming legal government as Prime Minister, at the then Race course field and now Suhrawardy Udyan. It was not merely a speech but a kind of vigorous and most powerful thunderous waterfall that swept all powers of Pakistani Army junta who illegally usurped power. It was a speech that made Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the uncrowned king who braving death and defying all powers of the then army government, delivered instructions to the millions of the people of East Pakistan to follow. It was a kind of speech .that the world never heard of. Ralph Waldo Emerson rightly termed the speech of Bangabandhu in the following words: "Speech is power, speech is to persuade, to convert, to compel".
Bangabandhu : A Poet of Politics: News Week April 5, 1971 : The international News Week magazine termed Bangabandhu as a 'Poet of Politics' in the cover story of its 5 April 1971 issue. It was certainly a recognition of struggling Bangladesh for freedom internationally. Bangabandhu believed like Thomas Carlyle that initially, "Every noble work is at first impossible." But with Allah's grace Bangabandhu made the impossible possible. "The Sheikh was a large, tall man and he looked very impressive with his long back-brushed hair and spectacles. He was intelligent and stubborn, but had very high political charisma. His political stature was legendary." In fact, his great charisma combined with political acumen made him the greatest of the world leaders.' …. 'He had been a beacon of resistance' even when he was taken to custody by Pakistani army. Nobody could understand what had happened to him in Pakistani jail, 'Was he alive or dead'? But the movement continued and millions of people embraced death for him, suffered inhuman torture, women raped and killed, houses were burnt into ashes. Bangabandhu led the nation with his singular charisma, vision and willpower and made the country free, the world has given him his due honor after his death recognizing speech as the world heritage. He was one of the most remarkable persons of the last century that the world had ever seen. Still the people of Bangladesh remember him as a visionary who embraced death for his countrymen. He was a gifted speaker, a revolutionary unlike others, an untiring political leader who dedicated his life to the cause of his country. He made himself an institution, a cult to the millions of the people of the world, an icon for freedom. The world thus admires him.
In the words of Herodotus "It is better by noble boldness to run the risk of being subject to half the evils we anticipate than to remain in cowardly listlessness for fear of what might happen" is quite true about Bangabandhu.
In the words of Egon Schiele, "All beautiful and noble qualities have been united in him; he shall be the fruit which will give eternal vitality behind even after its decay. How great must be our joy, therefore, to have given birth of a great son to us." Bangabandhu took politics not as a profession. He took it as a noble cause for his people. The politics of Bangabandhu should be taken as a kind of politics that has been well studied and pursued as an enduring good to the community, as an application of great and unchangeable principles to public affairs, and it is thus a noble sphere of thought and action." From the rising to the setting sun, may his presence come to our life every day; every time to inspire us and to build a golden Bangladesh in line with his spirits. "Better to die fighting for freedom then be a prisoner all the days of our life" was the principal motto of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman throughout his life as pointed out by Bob Marley. Malcolm X Said: "Sometimes you have to pick the gun up to put the gun down" and this is true with Sheikh Mujibur Rahman who followed the same path and gave a clarion call to his people, he loved and respected. The historic speech of March 7, 1971 is now a proud possession of the world.
It is the most brave, thunderous wartime speech in the last several thousand of years. It is a kind of inspirational speech that induced millions of people in Bangladesh to embrace death for freedom is rightly considered as the world's best. It is the speech that gave Freedom and Independence to his people.
Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was one who was the most celebrated of all leaders in the world in respect of dynamic leadership and courage. In 1973 in a meeting of the Non-Aligned Summit, held in Algiers, Cuba's Fidel Castro remarked: "I have not seen the Himalayas, but I have seen Sheikh Mujib. In personality and in courage this man is the Himalayas. I have thus had experience of witnessing the Himalayas."
Bangla language and International Mother Language Day : One more laurel have been added to the country's glory as a fighting nation for establishing the 'Mother Tongue' as the language of a nation whose people shed blood and braved death for the cause of mother tongue and it has been well recognized as World Heritage by UNESCO
On the occasion of our 47th anniversary of Independence we salute to the memory of Bangabandhu as a leader of all time. Bangladesh will never forget him as long as the land and people of the country exist.
Our struggle for Independence : Our struggle for Independence began when the historic Lahore Resolution written by Muhammad Zafarullah Khan and presented by A. K. Fazlul Huq, the Prime Minister of Bengal, was a formal political statement adopted by the All-India Muslim League on the occasion of its three-day general session in Lahore on 22-24 March 1940. The resolution called for independent states in eastern and northwestern zones in India with Muslim majority areas.
The Lahore Resolution states:"That geographically contiguous units are demarcated into regions which should be constituted, with such territorial readjustments as may be necessary that the areas in which the Muslims are numerically in a majority as in the North Western and Eastern Zones of India should be grouped to constitute 'independent states' in which the constituent units should be autonomous and sovereign".
The name 'Pakistan' had been proposed afterwards by Choudhury Rahmat Ali at the Lahore Conference. Muhammad Ali Jinnah in his address at Lahore Conference accepted the proposal of Pakistan and on his instruction, the Lahore resolution was modified and approved afterwards. Eastern and Western zones were made united under one Pakistan. Muhammad Ali Jinnah became the unanimous leader of Pakistan. Jinnah thus deviated from his former position as a proponent of Hindu-Muslim unity and became the chief exponent of Pakistan taking the Muslim dominated Eastern zone into Pakistan.
The British created India on August 15 and Pakistan on August 14, 1947 on the basis of the Two Nation theory which the Congress and the Muslim League agreed following bloodshed in Calcatta and elsewhere. Pakistan came into being with East Bengal on the eastern zone and Sind, Baluchistan, Northwest Frontier province, parts of the Punjab and Kashmir on the northwestern zone.
Language Movement : One of the most decisive issues which confronted Pakistan initially was the question of what the official language of Pakistan was to be. Muhammad Ali Jinnah was reportedly yielded to the demands of refugees from the Indian states of Bihar and Uttar Prodesh, who insisted that Urdu be Pakistan's official language. People of West Pakistan- Punjabi, Sindhi, Pushtu, and Baluchi who did not speak Urdu as their mother tongue were upset that their languages were given second-class status. However, they accepted this Urdu language because during the British regime Urdu was almost a common language in India for the people other than Bengali speaking people of East Pakistan. In East Pakistan, the dissatisfaction quickly turned into violence. Jinnah visited East Pakistan on only one occasion after Independence, shortly before his death in 1948. Speaking in Dhaka on March 21, 1948, he announced that, "Without one state language, no nation can remain tied up solidly together and function." Jinnah's views were not accepted by the Bengali speaking people in East Pakistan. There had been revolts against such kind of unilateral decision by the Head of the State. The Muslim League backed the then government of East Pakistan under its Chief Minister Nurul Amin who made attempts to crush the revolt but he could not. On February 21, 1952, a demonstration was carried out in Dhaka in which students demanded equal status for Bengali. The police reacted by firing on the crowd and killing many students, most of whom remain unidentified to this day. Those who were identified include: Rafique, Salam Jabbar and Barkat (A memorial, the Shahid Minar, was built later to commemorate the martyrs of the language movement.) Two years after the incident, Bengali agitation effectively forced the National Assembly to designate "Urdu and Bengali and such other languages as may be declared" to be the official languages of Pakistan.
From Language Movement to War of Liberation and Independence of Bangladesh : Finally the Language Movement paved the way for East Pakistan of her right to self determination as a Nation under the leadership of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the Leader of Awami League when he was denied the right to form the government of Pakistan although he was victorious obtaining votes of the absolute majority.
Juktofront (United Front) Government, 1954 : In 1954 there was a united movement against Muslim League government in East Pakistan and the election that followed, the Muslim League faced a total defeat in 1954 Provincial Assembly Election by the United Front coalition of Bengali regional parties anchored by A. K. Fazlul Huq's Krishak Proza Party and the Awami League (People's League) led by H. S. Suhrawardy, and Maulana Bhashani. The victory of Juktofront was a clear rejection of West Pakistan's dominance over East Pakistan and also a step towards provincial autonomy. However, Juktofront Government could not continue for long.
Ayub regime (1958 -1966) : On October 7, 1958, Iskander Mirza issued a proclamation that abolished political parties, abrogated the two-year-old constitution, and placed the country under martial law. But Mirza could not continue with his office. On October 27, Ayub Khan took over as the President and Chief Martial Law Administrator. Until 1962, martial law continued and Ayub purged a number of politicians and civil servants from the government and replaced them with army officers. Ayub called his regime a "revolution to clean up the mess of black marketing and corruption. The new constitution promulgated by Ayub in March 1962 vested all executive authority of the republic with the President. Throughout the Ayub regime, East Pakistan and West Pakistan grew farther apart. The death of the Awami League leader H.S. Suhrawardy in 1963 was, though a blow to the Awami League, it, however, paved the way for Sheikh Mujibur Rahman to take the leadership of the party.
The conspiracy by Pakistan against people of East Pakistan continued as the conflict between Awami League and Muslim League was imminent. There was Agartala Conspiracy Case. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was in jail in 1958 for his alleged involvement during the military coup.
Six Point program launched by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman : In 1966 at Lahore Conference, the Awami League leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman announced his Six-Point political and economic program for East Pakistani provincial autonomy. He demanded that the government be Federal and Parliamentary in nature, its members to be elected by universal adult suffrage with legislative on the basis of population; that the Federal government have principal responsibility for foreign policy and defense only; that each wing have its own currency and separate fiscal accounts; that taxation would occur at the provincial level, with a Federal government funded by constitutionally guaranteed grants; that each Federal unit could control its own earning of foreign exchange; and that each unit could raise its own militia or paramilitary forces. Mujib's Six Points ran directly counter to President Ayub's plan for greater national integration. Ayub interpreted Mujib's demands as tantamount to a call for Independence. The Government arrested Mujib in January 1968. There were severe movement against Ayub and West Pakistan Government. Finally Ayub resigned in March, 1968 and handed over the administration to the commander in chief, General Agha Mohammad Yahya Khan. Once again the country was placed under martial law.
General Yahya assumed the titles of Chief Martial Law Administrator and President. Yahya announced plans for a national election on December 7, 1970; the elections were the first in the history of Pakistan in which voters were able to elect members of the National Assembly directly. In a convincing demonstration of Bengali dissatisfaction with the West Pakistani regime, the Awami League won all but two of the 162 seats allotted East Pakistan in the National Assembly. Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party came in a poor second nationally, winning 81 out of the 138 West Pakistani seats in the National Assembly. The Awami League's electoral victory promised its control of the government, with Sheikh Mujibur Rahman as the country's Prime Minister, but the assembly never met and Bangabandhu was denied his right to become the President of Pakistan.
General Yahya Khan along with Z.A. Bhutto and others betrayed the cause of East Pakistan. Talks between Yahya and Mujib collapsed, and on March 23, people of East Pakistan following Mujib's directives defiantly celebrated 'Resistance Day' "instead of 'Republic Day'. Yahya Khan who came to East Pakistan for talks with Sheikh Mujibur Rahman flew back to Islamabad on the evening of March 25, 1971... The military crackdown in East Pakistan began on the same night. The Pakistan Army launched Operation Searchlight. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was again arrested and sent to West Pakistan for imprisonment. Before being arrested by Pakistani army Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman declared March 26 as the Independence of Bangladesh and authorized Syed Nazrul Islam, Tajuddin Ahmed and other leaders to work on his behalf. Subsequently, Mujibnagar government was established with Syed Nazrul Islam as the Acting President and Tajuddin Ahmed as the Prime Minister of Bangladesh. Recognition came from different countries. A 9-month freedom struggle started with Pakistan army and finally Pakistan was defeated and the whole country became free on December 16, 1971.
(Professor Dr Anwarul Karim was the former Visiting Scholar, Center For the World Religion, Divinity School, Harvard University(1985) and presently, Pro-Vice Chanceller, Northern UniversityBangladesh, Banani, Dhaka. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org)