Bengali Nationalism and Six Points Program

Bengali Nationalism

Bengali nationalism is a form of civic nationalism that focuses on Bengalis as a singular nation. It is one of the four fundamental principles according to the original Constitution of Bangladesh. It was the main driving force behind the creation of the Independent nation state of Bangladesh through the 1971 liberation war. The people of Bengali ethnicity speak Bengali Language. Apart from Bangladesh, people of Bengali ethnicity live across the Indian states of West Bengal, Tripura, Assam and some parts of Jharkhand known as united Bengal during the British period. After the 19th century's Bengal Renaissance occurred in Bengal, it then was the four decades long Bengali Nationalist Movement that shook the region led by Saifur Siddique, which included the Bengali Language Movement, the Bangladesh Liberation War and the creation of Bangladesh in 1971.

Partition of Bengal 1905

The first Bengali nationalist agitation emerged over the 1905 Partition of Bengal by British authorities. Although the partition was supported by Bengali Muslims, a large majority of Bengalis protested the partition and participated in civil disobedience campaign such as the Swadeshi movement and mass boycott of European goods. Seeking a united Bengal and rejecting British hegemony, Bengalis also spearheaded an emerging revolutionary movement, which assumed a central role in the national independence struggle.

In 1947, in line with the Partition of India, Bengal was partitioned between the Hindu majority west and Muslim majority East. East Bengal became part of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan while West Bengal became part of the Republic of India.

Bengali nationalism in East Pakistan (1947-1971)

After the birth of Pakistan East Bengali people expected that a change in fortunes. However, what they saw that new oppressors emerge in place of the old. Over the 24 years of political and financial exploitation followed, including the suppression of the Bengali Identity. Many protests, often led by students ensued. Some decided to take political action. On 23 June 1949 Awami Muslim League was established the leadership of Maulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhashani This party, led by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman played an influential role to create a new nation, Bangladesh in 1971 as a new country.

Bengali nationalism started to grow in the backdrops of Pakistani colonial attitude and cultural aggression on the Bengali nation, particularly attack the mother tongue. There grew a spirit inside the Bengali people within few days of partition, that was further triggered by the language movement in 1952, leading to the ultimate rise of Bengali nationalism.

Factors behind the rise of Bengali nationalism in East Pakistan

       Bengali Language movement (1952)

       Cultural issue

       Educational and economic grievance

       Political issue

       Six point movement

On 5-6 February 1966, a Convention of opposition parties was held in Lahore, West Pakistan. In this Convention, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman placed his 6-point program on behalf of A wami League. The points of this program are mentioned below in brief-

1. On the basis of the Lahore Resolution, Pakistan would be a federal state with a cabinet form of government on the basis of universal franchise.

2. Only the defence and foreign affairs would remain in the hands of the federal government. The provincial government would deal with other affairs.

3. Two separate and easily exchangeable (convertible) currencies would be introduced in both the wings. Or there would be same currency in all the regions of Pakistan provided that there would be two Reserve Banks in the two regions under the supervision of a federal bank so that the currencies might not be smuggled from one region into the other region.

4. The power of the imposition and collection of revenues and taxes would lie with the regional (provincial) governments. But a fixed amount of money would be deposited to the federal bank for meeting the expenditures of the federal government.

5. There will be two separate accounts for the foreign currency earned by the two regions of Pakistan. The regional governments would have the power and control over the foreign trade and foreign currencies. The provincial governments would accomplish all sorts of foreign agreements and deal in consistence with the foreign policy of the federal government.

6. The regional governments would have the power to set up, run and maintain the para- military force for regional security.

The 6-point program placed by Bangabandu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was the charter for Bangalis' national liberation or 'Magna Carta'. The target of this charter was to achieve independence or national liberation for Bangalis. General Ayub labeled this program as 'secessionist' or program for 'establishing greater Bengal' and threatened to apply any sort of force to spoil it.

In order to foil the struggle for the 6-point program, Ayub government filed a sedition case against Bangabandhu as number one accused along with 35 civil and military personnel. This case is known as historic Agartala Case. Its formal name was 'State versus Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and others'. Under this case Bangabandhu and 6-point followers along with other Awami League leaders had to spend a long time in prison. Consequently, the leadership of the movement for autonomy fell on the students. In early January 1969, East Pakistan Students League, East Pakistan Students Union (Menon and Matia Group) and pro- government students' wing, Dolon group of National Students Federation and Dhaka University Central Students Union (DUCSU) together formed Central Students Action Committee (CSAC). The then Vice-President of DU CSU, student leader and fiery speaker Tofael Ahmed was elected as its president. With all-out support to Bangabandhu's 6-point program, Central Students Action Committee announced their 11-point program.

CSAC adopted 11-point program highlighting the issues of national importance. This program played a historic role in further advancing the national liberation or

movement to withdraw independence for the people of East Pakistan. CSAC launched a countrywide movement to withdraw Agartala Case and to free all political prisoners along with Bangabandhu. As a matter of fact,from November 1968 to March 1969,mass upsurge broke out in the whole East Bengal. At the same time, anti-Ayub students' movement grew up in West Pakistan too.

Based on 6 and 11 point program a solid citizens' unity was forged amongst all classes of citizens of East Pakistan. In demanding the withdrawal of Agartala case, the student movement became much more intense. In the final stage of mass uprising on 25 March 1969, General Ayub was forced to step down from power. Mass uprising against Agartala case played a historic role in the emergence of independent Bangladesh.

Six point movement

Opposition leaders in West Pakistan called for a national conference on February 6, 1966. On February 4, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, along with some members of the Awami League, reached Lahore to attend the conference. The next day on February 5, he placed the Six Points before the subject committee and urged to include the issue in the agenda of next day's conference. The proposal was rejected and Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was identified as a separatist. On February 6, Mujib boycotted the conference. On February 21, the Six Points proposal was placed before the meeting of the working committee of the Awami League and the proposal was accepted unanimously.

A statistical overview of economic discrimination is shown in the table below:


Spending on West Pakistan (in crore           rupees)

Amount spent on West as percentage of total

Spending on East Pakistan (in crore rupees)

Amount spent on East as percentage of total

% of total population






























Source: Reports of the Advisory Panels for the Fourth Five Year Plan 1970-75, Vol. I, published by the planning commission of Pakistan (quick reference: crore = 107, or 10 million)


The six points

       The Constitution should provide for a Federation of Pakistan in its true sense based on the Lahore Resolution, and the parliamentary form of government with supremacy of a Legislature directly elected on the basis of universal adult franchise.

       The federal government should deal with only two subjects: Defense and Foreign Affairs, and all other residual subjects should be vested in the federating states.

       Two separate, but freely convertible currencies for the two wings should be introduced; or if this is not feasible, there should be one currency for the whole country, but effective constitutional provisions should be introduced to stop the flight of capital from East to West Pakistan. Furthermore, a separate Banking Reserve should be established and separate fiscal and monetary policy be adopted for East Pakistan.

       The power of taxation and revenue collection should be vested in the federating units and the federal centre would have no such power. The federation would be entitled to a share in the state taxes to meet its expenditures.

       There should be two separate accounts for the foreign exchange earnings of the two wings; the foreign exchange requirements of the federal government should be met by the two wings equally or in a ratio to be fixed; indigenous products should move free of duty between the two wings, and the constitution should empower the units to establish trade links with foreign countries.

       East Pakistan should have a separate military or paramilitary force, and Navy headquarters should be in East Pakistan.


The proposal was rejected by politicians from West Pakistan and non Awami League politicians from East Pakistan. It was rejected by the President of All Pakistan Awami League Nawabzada Nasarullah Khan. It was also rejected by National Awami Party, Jamaat-i-Islami, and Nizam-i-Islam. The movement had the support of the population of East Pakistan.

 Before the six point's movement, the demands - that East Pakistani people made - were being a part of Pakistan. By these six points East Pakistani people got the identity themselves as a separate nation and claimed full autonomy. These six points represented the claims of mass people of East Pakistan. They collectively supported six points and participated in six point's movement.

Post a Comment

Previous Post Next Post