Civic Consciousness in the Emergence of Bangladesh

In the previous articles we have learnt about society, government and citizens' rights and duties in the state. In addition, we have learnt about various problems and solutions to these problems in the civic life. In this article, we shall learn about the role of citizens in the establishment of the independent Bangladesh.

After studying this article, we would be able to-

• know and explain the independence struggle of Bangladesh, Language Movement, the ideologies of the Liberation War and its essence and non-communal values;

• comprehend and explain the importance of patriotism.

Background to Independence Struggle of Bangladesh

Today we are all Bangladeshi citizens. Before the independence in 1971, we were citizens of Pakistan. Despite being the majority (56%) at that time the people in East Bengal (now Bangladesh) had been deprived of their political, economic and cultural rights as citizens. After the independence of Bangladesh, Bangalis have now been enjoying their citizenship rights independently.

Before the Pakistani rule (1947-1971), the region of Bangladesh had been under the control of Turkey, Afghan, Mughal and lastly the British Rule (1757-1947). During the British rule, a class of Western-educated leadership emerged in this country. This leadership developed in the spheres of politics, organizations, social reforms, jobs, language- literature and culture and education and so on. Another aspect of British rule is its constitutional reforms beginning from 1861. In course of this development, people achieved their voting rights. All these were mentionable steps in promoting and enhancing citizen rights and consciousness.

Non-Cooperation Movement

On 1 March, 1971 President Yahyia Khan suspended the Pakistan National Assembly session for an indefinite period. In protest, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman called for a hartal all over East Bengal. Virtually, a non-cooperation movement was launched against Pakistani rule from 1 March 1971. Curfew was declared at night on 2 March. Students and people broke the curfew. The military force shot at them. In protest, the whole Bangladesh woke up in resistance. The rise of Bangali nation occurred. Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was the 'Father of the Nation'. 'Joy Bangla' was the slogan for liberation ofthis nation. Uprisings spread around with sky-wrecking slogan: 'Valiant Bangalis, take up arms and liberate Bangladesh'.

On March 2, 1971 the flag of independent Bangladesh was hoisted at the Banyan ground of Dhaka University in the gathering of students and people and on 3 March 'Declaration of Independent Bangladesh' was read out at the mass-gathering held at the Paltan ground, and 'Formation of Independent Bangladesh Central Students Action Committee' took place and on 23 March the flag of independent Bangladesh was hoisted in all parts of East Pakistan instead of Pakistan flag on the occasion of the Pakistan's Republic day bearing the testimony of the rise of Bangali nation.

From March 2, 1971 to March 25, 1971 an all-out non-cooperation was observed over the country at the call of Bangabaodhn. During this period, all government and non-government offices, secretariat, autonomous institutions, high court, police administration, banks and insurance, business and transport defied government orders and were run following the directions of Bangabandhu.

March 7, 1971 was an unforgettable day in the Bangali national life. On that day, at the Race Course Maidan (presently Suhrawardy Uddyan) in a spontaneous gathering of lacs of people, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman gave an important speech.

In this speech, he announced-

The historical speech of Bangabandho on 7 march, 1971 Racecourse Maidan, Dhaka.

"Make every house a fortress. Face the enemy with whatever you have. As we have spilled blood, we shall spill more blood. We must liberate the people of this country, if God wills. Our struggle is the struggle for liberation, our struggle is the struggle for independence. Joy Bangla (Long live Bangla)"

Yahiya came to Dhaka on 15 March, 1971. He requested Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibm Rahman to sit for a dialogue. Negotiation began on 16 March. Iulfiqar Ali Bhutto along with some leaders from West Pakistan took part in the negotiation. But the main objective of Pakistani rulers was to waste time in the name of negotiations. However, their chief objective was to stop forever the independence struggle of Bengalis by importing troops and other supplies from Pakistan. On 23 March, at the call of Bangabandhu, the flag of ‘Shadhin Bangla’ was hoisted at every house in East Pakistan while the day was ‘Pakistan Republic Day’. The Awami League leaders made their last attempt to resolve the crisis. But Yahiya Khan, making no announcement, left Dhaka with his cohort and ordered Pakistani troops on that night to swoop on the unarmed Bengalis. Along with Dhaka, they mercilessly killed innocent and unarmed Bangalis in many other cities. The night is called the Black Night in the history of Bangladesh.

Declaration of Independence

On this black night (25 March) in the first part of 26 March, just before his arrest, Bangabandhu declared independence. The declaration was made in English so that the whole world could understand the message. He said: “This may be my last message, from today Bangladesh is independent. I am calling the people of Bangladesh, wherever you might be, with whatever you have, you will resist the army of occupation with all your power. Your fight must go on until the last solider of Pakistan occupation army is expelled from the land of Bangladesh and the final victory is achieved.” (Bangladesh Gazette, 15th amendment to the Bangladesh Constitution, 3 July 2011). This declaration was transmitted thought the EPR’s Transmitter, Telegram and Teleprinter. Bangabandhu’s declaration of independence was announced at midday of 26 March by Chittagong’s Awami League leader M A Hannan from Chittagong Radio station. The second announcement was made in the evening from Kalurghat Radio Station. Bangabandhu’s declaration of independence received widespread support from Bangali Military, paramilitary and civilian forces. Thus, it inspired the freedom-loving people.

1971 's War of Liberation and Gaining Independence

On 10 April, 1971 the elected Peoples' Representatives of Awami League decreed the Order of the Declaration of Independence at Mujibnagar (at the Mango garden of Baiddanathtala in Meherpur district) and formed a government which is known as Mujibnagar Government. The Mujibnagar government comprising the Peoples' Representatives took oath on 17 April. After the formation of Mujibnagar government, people in groups joined Muktibahini (Freedom fighters) and began to join the war of liberation.

Internal Resistance and Guerrilla attack

At midnight of March 25, Pakistani troops attacked Dhaka city by firing and setting fire. They killed the sleeping people in dark of night. They attacked Iqbal Hall (at present Jahurul Haque Hall), Salimullah Muslim Hall and Jagannath Hall of Dhaka University. There, they raided the teachers' quarters and killed many people. Yahyia's barbarian troops were engaged in indiscriminate killing of the people, torturing women, arsons, looting and in many other hateful crimes. To escape from their attacks, lacs of male and female people took shelter in India. But Bangali students and youths received training in secret in large numbers and started guerilla warfare from within the country and beat the Pak army in frontal attacks. The people assisted them by giving food, shelter and clothes. As a result, the Pak army became seized.

Organization and operation of the War of Liberation

In the primary stage of the War of Liberation, resistance movement was going on unplanned and uncoordinated. With the formation of Mujibnagar government, the War of Liberation began to operate in an organized way.

Regular military battalion was formed comprising the then Bangali members of EPR, Bangali soldiers and officers in the Pakistan army. Three Brigades were later formed with regular military battalions known as K-force, S-force and Z-force. Military members and other freedom fighters gained recognition as Freedom Fighters. At times they were known as Guerrilla. The members of this force played a significant role in the War of Liberation. They participated in the guerrilla war within the country against the Pakistan occupation forces. Their detective branch conducted surveillance over the movement and activities of Pakistan occupation forces and supplied information to the freedom fighters. Among the guerrillas, students and farmers were the greatest in number.

Mujibnagar government divided Bangladesh into eleven sectors and put a commander in charge of a sector. Under the sector commander, both regular forces and irregular guerrillas were engaged. Sector ten did not have a regional boundary. This consisted of Navy Commanders.

Using a mix of conventional and guerilla warfare tactics Freedom fighters defeated the Pakistan occupation forces. Non stop, war lowered the morale of Pakistani occupation forces and made them utterly frustrated and isolated from the people.

Pakistani military ruler President Yahiya Khan launched air strike on India in a bid to show Bangladesh’s independence war as a war between Pakistan and India. On 3rd December Pakistan government declared war against India. But their attempts ended in failure. On 4 December, Indian Loksabha (parliament) decided to give recognition on December 6. At this time, a Joint Command was established comprising Freedom fighters (Mukti Bahini) and regular members of Indian army. This joint command launched attacks from three sides such as naval, air and land. Consequently, Pakistan occupation forces were completely destroyed and defeated within a few days.

At last, on 16 December, 1971 the commander in Chief of the Pakistani forces General Niazi along with 93,000 soldiers, a huge chunk of supplies and artillery formally surrendered at the then Race Course Maidan. The name of Bangladesh was thus written in letters of blood on the map of the world as an independent and sovereign state.

In nine months War of Liberation, 3 millions of Bangalis irrespective of sex, religion and age lost their lives. 2,76,000 women lost their dignity. Villages after villages were set on fire. 1 crore people left the country and took shelter in India. Gaining this liberation, Bangladesh emerged as an independent and sovereign country in the world map. Prior to achieving independence, the local accomplices of Pakistan occupation forces took the best intellectuals of the country to the Rayer Bazar and Mirpur killing grounds and brutally killed them. On the whole, despite being the majority in Pakistan Bangalis were treated as second class citizens. With independence, they became independent citizens in independent Bangladesh.

Spirit of the Liberation War and Its Ideals

Bangladesh is the first country in the third world which gained independence through an armed struggle. That war lasted for nine months. At the cost of much spilling of blood and sacrifices, we gained independence. The first constitution enacted after independence rightly embodied the sprit of the war of liberation and its ideals through four principles of the state.These four principles are: democracy, socialism, secularism and nationalism. The Bangalis have struggled for democracy for long. To make Bangladesh a truly democratic state was their dream. The main objective was to free themselves from all kinds of exploitation and discrimination. Since inception of Pakistan state, Bangalis have struggled against the use of religion by the rulers. In other words, they have struggled against communalism. 'Religion is personal, state is for all' -with this essence in mind they have taken part in the War of Liberation. The essence of our independence was exclusive national identity, which we call Bangali nationalism. For a separate nation, an independent state is required. Bangali national identity includes our own territory, literature and language, non-communal or tolerant culture and history and tradition. The spirit and ideals of the War of Liberation lie in the ownership of state power. During Pakistan period, state was the institution of civil and military bureaucracy and opportunist groups. People of all walks of life in our country have taken part in the War of Liberation. They are the owners of the state. Therefore, it has been declared in our constitution that 'People are the sources of all power of the Republic' Article-7(1). Today, our duty is to make Bangladesh a happy and prosperous state.

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