Bangladesh today celebrates the 48th Victory day with pomp and grandeur after the country was liberated from the hands of the Army Junta of Pakistan led by infamous General Yahya Khan, the President of Pakistan on the 16th of December, 1971 following surrender of Pakistan army headed by A.A. Niazi to the joint command of Bangladesh and Indian army. For nine months the devils 'Beelzebub and Mephistopheles' in the shape of heinous Satan as of General Yahya Khan and his Army Junta danced in glee and made the then East Pakistan a hell of fire and full of human blood. Their crime against innocent people, men, women and children not less than 3 million went back to them as big rebuff following a very humiliating surrender to the freedom fighters of Bangladesh. December 16, 1971 is Red Letter Day in the truest sense of its term.
Midnight Massacre in Dhaka on 25 March, 1971
The Pakistani Army Junta made a crackdown on the night of March 25, 1971. This ominous night was considered as 'Operation Searchlight' by Pakistani army. On this night, the army fell upon the unarmed people, set fire to houses and shops and killed people in a 'fiendish frenzy' and raped girls and women. Renowned teachers of Dhaka University, journalists of repute, poet and writers were among millions were killed. They were dragged down from their houses when they were in deep sleep with the members of the family, quite unaware of such massacre. It was a crime against humanity and that the world never had any such experience of it. The attack was also directed towards the Hindus living in old Dhaka. In fact, Dhaka experienced the heaviest casualties on the occasion. The Pakistani army came with hit lists and systematically killed people who professed Bengali nationalism.
As the clock struck 12 ominously on the fateful midnight of March 25,1971, and when most of the people in Dhaka except a rare few, were on sleep, the occupied Tikka Bahini of Pakistan consisting of non-Bengali Armed forces were on the streets of Dhaka and elsewhere in the then East Pakistan and let loose a reign of terror killing innocent people, men, women and children along with members of East Pakistan Rifles and Police who were Bengali by birth and the city turned into a vast sea of blood. Curfew was imposed. There was no resistance as everybody was caught unaware for such kind of sudden action of Pakistani Army Junta. The News Week in its issue of April 5, 1971 published a report by Genkin Lorens. He stated : "From our windows in Dhaka's Modern Intercontinental Hotel, we watched a jeep full of soldiers roll up to a shopping centre and with a heavy machine gun opened fire on crowd. While the firing was still going up, some fifteen young Bengalee appeared in the street about 200 yards away and shouted defiantly at the soldiers. The youths seemed to be empty handed; but soldiers turned the machine-guns on them anyway." They were all killed by the Pakistani army. They shouted 'Joy Bangla'-Long live Bangla. Time Magazine, in its issue of April 5, 1971 made a report by Dan Coggin in the following words : "Before long, howitzer, tank, artillery and rocket blast rocked half a dozen scattered sections of Dhaka. Tracers arched over the darkened city. The chatter of automatic weapons was punctuated with grenade explosions and tall columns of black smoke towered over the city. There is no doubt that the word massacre applies to the situation. It is veritable blood-bath. The troops have been utterly merciless." The Sunday Times published a report by Anthony Mascarenhas from Dhaka on the occasion. The report was entitled as 'Genocide'. Anthony thus reported that the Pakistanis were motivated to take it as a war between the pure and impure. The people here were mostly Hindus or Hindu at heart. It was indeed most unfortunate and a travesty of truth that East Pakistan was considered a land of the Hindus by the Pakistani army junta. General Tikka Khan was then the Governor of East Pakistan and he it was who ordered the army to kill people and the army made a havoc killing and destroying people. Dhaka was made a city of blood bath. Such criminal actions took place in other areas also. The Dhaka Massacre and elsewhere by the Pakistani army was a kind of retaliation by Pakistan after Sheikh Mujibur Rahman made a historic speech on March 7, 1971 and the Civil disobedience movement started against Pakistan, spontaneously. Sheikh Mujib became the uncrowned King of East Pakistan. On this occasion, Sheikh Mujb exposed the West Pakistani leaders, Particularly the PPP leader ZA Bhutto and General Yahya Khan who was then President of Pakistan, of their heinous conspiracy against Sheikh Mujib who was elected to the National assembly of Pakistan in 1970 securing absolute majority in the Parliament. And he was supposed to form the government. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman as the Head of Awami League also received a huge number of votes of the general people both in East and also in West Pakistan. It was Bhutto and his PPP party who betrayed the cause of democratic government and in collaboration with General Yahya Khan made the conspiracy to deny the rights of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman to be the Prime Minister of Pakistan. At that time, General Yahya was the President of Pakistan. It should be mentioned here that a good number of people of Pakistan were never against Sheikh Mujib. Had it been so, they would not have voted for him and his party. The Jallianwala Bagh massacre was nothing in comparison to the brutality of Pakistani army in Dhaka. It was no act of insane frenzy. Rather, it was organised and deliberate to subdue people of their right to take decision. The Pakistani Army Bureaucrat took East Pakistan as the colony. But the massacre forced many of the loyalists into nationalists.
Backdrops of Liberation War
An Era of Darkness (1947-1971
East Pakistan was a Muslim country and the majority of the people were Muslims and in the creation of Pakistani leaders of the Eastern wing- Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy, Sher- e-Bangla AK Fazlul Haque and Mawlana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhasani played a great role. The historic Lahore resolution was moved by Sher-e-Bangla AK Fazlul Haque. And as soon as Pakistan came into being, the West Pakistan leaders deliberately forgot their contribution and Jinnah, when he came to Dhaka in 1948, declared in Dhaka, "Urdu and Urdu shall be the State Language of Pakistan." East Pakistan, particularly the then students of Dhaka University, vehemently protested in the very face of Jinnah and rejected his declaration. And from then onward, the Movement for Bangla as one of the State Languages continued unabated. Pakistan started exploitation of East Pakistan economically, taking advantage of 'Urdu' as the State Language of Pakistan. The "Urdu speaking people migrated from India to East Pakistan after the country was divided and here in East Pakistan they were absorbed in government and private jobs as the official language was Urdu. There had been many Pakistani Entrepreneurs and they engaged these Urdu speaking people in their business. In East Pakistan, Bengali speaking people were the majority. But they were denied the rights to the seeking of jobs.
One of the most decisive issues which confronted Pakistan initially was the question of what the official language of Pakistan was to be. Mohammad Ali Jinnah was reportedly yielded to the demands of refugees from the Indian states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, 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 Unruly 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.
The Language movement in East Pakistan began immediately when Jinnah made a declaration about Urdu as the State Language in 1948. East Pakistan excepting the Muslim League all in one voice revolted against the autocratic decision of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the then Head the State. In fact it was a land mark in the history of Pakistan. It was a socio-economic and cultural movement for the existence of Bengali people as a nation. Language is the most important aspect or an instrument for economic exchange and production. During the British, the Hindus got the upper-hand over the Muslims socially and economically when they learnt English and the Muslims did not. They got jobs during the British regime and was in a secured position than the Muslims. The West Pakistani leaders considered Urdu as a source of economic and cultural exploitation also. This in fact threatened the livelihood of Bengali people. And the Movement started for the survival of Bengali nation. However, the fight for the Mother Language attained success through bloodshed and Bengali was also considered as the State Language of Pakistan. But the matter did not end there. West Pakistan found out various other courses for exploitation.
Gross disparity between East and West Pakistan
Karachi was made the capital of Pakistan. And this gave West Pakistan a lift over East Pakistan for development in different sphere. Money started flowing to the capital for development. Dhaka was neglected. In the economic and educational field the two wings of Pakistan clearly speak of a gross disparity and it was a kind of an unmistakable pattern of colonial exploitation of the East by the West. The impact of this gross discrimination is reflected in the disparities between the per capita income in the two wings. In 1959-60, the per capita income in the west was 32 per cent and it was higher then the East. And it came to over 60 per cent higher than in the East Pakistan in1969-70. In ten years the income gap was doubled. It was a colonial exploitation by the west over East Pakistan. There was no doubt that East Pakistan was made a colony of West Pakistan. All the offices of the central government were located in the West including the army, navy, air force and the military academies. All central Banks were in the West.
The bulk of the Defense expenditure and also the bulk of foreign assistance including PL 480 were spent in West Pakistan. According to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, 80% of the foreign aid received by Pakistan had been spent in the West and a meager only 20% in the East Pakistan. In matters relating to industry, West Pakistan got priority over East for reasons known only to the West. The ratio would be around 80% and 20% per cent between the two wings. In every field, West exploited the East. In fact, there was no limit in exploitation.
Language movement was a necessity for our socio-economic and cultural existence. In the name of national integration, Urdu stole the lime light over Bengali. In the East Urdu was a part of our curriculum but in the West, Bengali had no room in academic world. It was not a part of curriculum in the West. Language movement was thus sinequanon for our survival as a Bengali nation. Language movement was both secular and democratic. East Pakistan was not only the land of Muslims; it was the land of Hindus, Buddhists and Christians as well as all ethnic groups or tribals.
War of Liberation and Independence of Bangladesh
Following are the backdrops of our historic movement for liberation. Immediately after India was divided on the basis of Two Nation Theory and Pakistan came into being, religion played a great role in uniting people belonging to same faith. But religion never speaks that people belonging to other religion shall not live together. We wonder when this attitude is challenged or not shared by others. Islam believes in co-existence and Allah has said in the holy Quran not to condemn other religious faith in gods and goddesses. West Pakistani leaders considered East Pakistan as a country where Muslims are like Hindus and they treated East Pakistan as almost a colony to West Pakistan. These leaders were greedy of gain, over-running with fire and sword, murdering, annexing and stealing and plundering as much as they could for 24 years. In power, the Pakistanis were ruthless and started looting the resources of East Pakistan.
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 Sramik Samajbadi Dal (Peasants and Workers Socialist Party) and the Awami League (People's League) led by H.S.Suhrawardy. 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, 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. 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 Mlitia or Paramilitary forces. Sheikh 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 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.
East Pakistan suffered at the hand of West Pakistani army deployed in Dhaka and elsewhere in the country. There had been protests against the deployment of army. In many places there had been sporadic violence and people were killed by the Pakistani army. And all these forced Bangabandhu to come out with open challenge against the illegal holding of power by the Pakistani army. Bangabandhu made a speech on March 7, 1971 against the gross violation of Democratic norms by the Pakistani army who usurped power and did not allow the elected representatives to form the government. Bangabandhu secured a landslide victory and absolute majority in the National Assembly Election held in 1970.
Mass upsurge in 1969
The 1969 uprising in East Pakistan was a Democratic political movement in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). There had been an uprising following a series of mass demonstrations and sporadic conflicts between Pakistani armed forces and the demonstrators of the then East Pakistan. Although the unrest began in 1966 with the Six Point Movement of Awami League, it got momentum at the beginning of 1969 and culminated in the resignation of Field Marshal Ayub Khan, the first military ruler of Pakistan. The uprising also led to the withdrawal of Agartala Conspiracy Case and acquittal of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and his colleagues from the case.https:/en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/1969_Mass_uprising_in_East_Pakistan - cite_note-pedia-1 Bangabandhu's speech of March 7
On March 7, 1971, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman gave a speech at the Racecourse Ground (now called the Suhrawardy Udyan). In this speech he mentioned a Four-Point condition to consider the National Assembly Meeting on March 25 :
The immediate lifting of Martial Law.
Immediate withdrawal of all military personnel to their barracks.
An inquiry into the loss of life.
Immediate transfer of power to the elected representatives of the people before the Assembly meeting March 25.
He urged his people in East Pakistan to fight unitedly and to turn every house into a fort of resistance. He closed his speech saying, "The struggle this time is for our freedom. The struggle this time is for our independence". It was a direct challenge to the Army rulers who were holding power illegally. Bangabandhu asked the Military Junta to hand over power to the elected representatives of the people. On this occasion while he made the speech he took the control of East Pakistan as the uncrowned leader of the nation and made an open Declaration of Liberation War against Pakistani Army Junta in an unequivocal term for Independence.
The speech left a tremendous impact on the mind of the people who immediately reacted and prepared themselves for Liberation. East Pakistan followed his command. Offices, Banks and educational institutions were closed down by his order. The speech was immensely successful as the speech of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman suggested a clear goal for the people to fight back the army for Independence. Bangabandhu was made the de-facto sovereign of Bangladesh.
Mujibnagar government at Meherpur under Kushtia district
Mujibnagar Government was established at Baidyanathtala, Meherpur and renamed as Mujibnagar on 10 April 1971 to conduct the Bangladesh War of Liberation, after the Declaration of Independence on 26 March 1971. Syed Nazrul Islam was the Temporary President in place of Bangabandhu who was in Pakistani Jail and Tajuddin Ahmed as the Prime Minister along with other members of the Cabinet. General Osmany was the Head of Bangladesh army.
After a nine month War East Pakistan was made free of Pakistan on 16th December, 1971 as a new nation with its historic name Bangladesh. Bangladesh achieved victory over Pakistan and the world recognised Bangladesh as an Independent state. India directly supported Bangladesh War of Liberation. India Gandhi, the Prime Minister of India supported the cause for the Independence of Bangladesh and allowed Indian solders to join the war along with the freedom fighters of Bangladesh. Today we salute to the memory of those who laid their lives for the cause of our Independence and we pray for their departed souls.
(The writer is Pro-VC, Northern University Bangladesh. He was a Visiting Scholor, Divinity School, Harvard University in 1985. E-mail : dranwar.karim.gmail/yahoo.com)