Politicization of the declaration of independence
“Recently the Bangladesh military government decided to rewrite the history books in Bangladesh to more accurately reflect the history of how the independence of Bangladesh was declared on March 26, 1971. In the tug of war between the Awami League and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, the history of Bangladesh has been rewritten several times over the past three decades.”
The circumstances surrounding the multiple Declarations of Independence, a political commentary from the Daily Janakantha.
Forgotten heroes of Bangladesh independence: – David Ludden, Professor of History, University of Pennsylvania.
(Frontline magazine: Volume 20 – Issue 15, July 19 – August 01, 2003)
“The words and deeds of political icons such as Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Ziaur Rahman played pivotal roles, to be sure, but independence did not originate with them. Bangladesh first became independent in the words and deeds of radical student leaders, who like countless followers and lesser lights in the national struggle, still do not have the place in history they deserve.
On March 1, 1971, Yahya Khan cancelled the scheduled March 3 National Assembly meeting. News of the cancellation sparked popular uprisings in Dhaka and in Chittagong. Tens of thousands of people assembled outside the Purbani Hotel, in Dhaka, where the Awami League Council was meeting, to demand that Sheikh Mujib immediately declare independent national sovereignty. Crowds burned the Pakistan flag. Student leaders formed an apex action committee, the Shawadhin Bangla Kendriya Chhatra Sangram Parishad (SBKCSP), whose leaders – Nure Alam Siddiqi, Sahjahan Seraj, A.S.M. Abdur Rob and Abdul Quddus Makhan – resolved to give collective leadership in the struggle for national independence.
On March 2, a spontaneous hartal occurred all over East Pakistan. People came from all over Dhaka and its suburbs to the Bat-tala at Dhaka University, where crowds sang of national independence, SBKCSP leaders solemnly declared independence, and A.S.M. Abdur Rob, a Student League leader and vice-president of the Dhaka University Central Student Union, hoisted the flag of Bangladesh to the tumultuous applause and cries of “Joy Bangla”.
Using religion to justify Pakistani oppression
Secularist vs. atheists: The Islam trump card
The Liberation War of 1971, was following a rejection of the people of Bangladesh to the rulers of Pakistan, who carried out the worst carnage known to man with a systematic reign of genocide and ethnic cleansing all in the name of Islam. The racist Pakistani mindset chose to demean the predominantly Bengalee Muslim population with insinuations of being lesser Muslims or Hindu converts when it cried out against oppression and demanded freedom.
With the plea of ‘Islam being in grave danger’, the murder machine employed local lackeys and collaborators to further their evil design – and by the time it all ended nine gruesome months later on the 16th of December 1971, millions of Bengalee – the majority being Muslims in particular, perished. The actual number of dead in our war has always been debated, however what we choose to forget is even in the greatest wars for the establishment of Islam all over the world 1500 years back, less than two thousand Muslim’s lost their lives! The carnage in Bangladesh is perhaps the worst case of Muslim/Muslim carnage in Islamic history. In Bangladesh insane Pakistani Muslim mindset chose to slaughter millions of their fellow Bengalee Muslims – with only one claim, ‘superior man’ or superior Muslims.
Out of the ruins of that traumatic war, we were born a nation with a deep identity crisis. While secularism became one of our states pillar – the secular possibilities in Islam was never explored – and consequently communal and reactionary forces harped on by hate propaganda, chose to demonize Islam – and attempts were made to strip Bengalee Muslims off an identity that they had lived with for thousands of years.
Meanwhile, lot of us took comfort in calling ourselves secular, without realizing that the Bengalee tradition and culture by and large has always been secular with Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam – never interfering in affairs of state. Complex was our attempt to preach secularism in alien dictions to a population that had all elements of secularism already present. The resultant confusion created the kind the situation that encouraged more demons of distrust and intolerance to rise and raise their heads. Liberal’s were swearing at Islamist as fundamentalist, while extremist considered liberals as atheist and heretics.
Came a time, through intrigue and conspiracy the remnants of the collaborators, the hate monger returned to the limelight of Bangladesh’s political history. In no time they swerved public opinions and whilst they democratically remain a microscopic minority, their public profile thanks to the press and gross mistakes of our liberals, appeared to threaten Bangladesh’s very existence. There have been international demands to condemn Bangladesh as an ‘Islamic terrorist state’ – a la Sudan, Libya, Afghanistan, Pakistan etc. It pained me greatly to see that we were unable to do anything to clarify our actual position – so great was our fear of the extremist, and so great was our ignorance. Great also was our fear that choosing Islam would mean being condemned to the ‘back seat’ of progress.
While we preached secularism without reference to its natural existence in our culture – a new minority trend rose among liberals that equated all cap and beard wearing Muslim into the ‘fundamentalist’ mindset. This together with the term ‘razakar’ or collaborator equated simple God fearing Muslims to the category of national enemies. While it is true that predominantly Muslims chose to side with the Pakistan murder machine – what is never discussed in public is that many Hindu, Buddhist and Christian Bengalees also collaborated with the enemy. No other community therefore, other than the Muslim in Bangladesh had to pay a higher price for their personal belief system. A generation of cap and beard sporting Muslims born after the Liberation War and with no connection to that period of infamy in our national history, are considered national enemies – only because they are practicing Muslims, and wear its habits scrupulously.
That misunderstanding was the bone of contention and further divided Bangladesh and all plural aspect of its society. The Taslima Nasreen controversy further exacerbated the crisis and more and more Islamist extremist spread hates – as also the old hysteria of ‘Islam is in danger’ was revived.
What liberals forgot, is the Liberation War was fought NOT as a rejection to Islam, but specifically Islamic extremism of the Pakistan State. The Pakistani fatwa of Bengalee Muslims being Hindu, was proved wrong as 28 years since our liberation – more than 90% of our population still subscribe to the Islamic faith. Clearly Islam has never been in any danger of extinction in Bangladesh, and remains after Indonesia the second most populous state with an Islamic population.
Liberals were left a clear option – either to side with the common people or, align with the city bred and based intellectuals preaching a brand of secularism that was misconstrued as atheisms or Hinduism. The communal frenzy of hate and suspicion amongst community continues in Bangladesh till this day… but thankfully its is not as serious a situation as is made out to be by the media, which has taken on the fashionable culture of anti-Islamic bias so popular in the West. Hindus, Buddhist and Christians enjoy a large degree of religious autonomy and freedom in Bangladesh.
- Maqsoodul Haque, Poet, Singer, Writer
* Dismemberment of Pakistan was not Inevitable
* The Legal Frame-Work Order: A discussion on the liberation war of Bangladesh
* Lahore Resolution (1940) outlined Bangladesh’s separate entity – M.T. Hussain