Part III: How the Spirits of 1971 and 2013 Compare
The beginning of the national liberation struggle for Bangladesh in the night of March 25, 1971, was spontaneous; the result of an extreme brutalization of the people by the Pakistani military. People of all walks of life took up arms of any kind that they could find for defending their life and dignity. In the beginning, it was not organized, and there was no formal long-term statement of purpose. However, in spite of the lack of coordination, the struggle that began in that night was indeed for the independence of Bangladesh.
Again, it should be recognized that the 1966 Six Point Demand by Awami League was for a guarantee of fair treatment of the provinces of Pakistan in general, and East Pakistan in particular. It was generally not well received by the military dictators, the feudal politicians, or the population of West Pakistan, because fairness was not a prevailing mindset there. Instead of accepting the spirit of fairness in that historic demand for a good Pakistan, they tried to falsely discredit it as a demand for the separation of East Pakistan from West Pakistan. Obviously, the Six Point Demand was not a charter for breaking up of Pakistan to create any new country.
It should also be recognized that in his famous speech at the Race Course Ground in Dhaka on March 7, 1971, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who was popularly recognized as the Bangabandhu (friend of Bengal), had alerted the people of Bangladesh that a liberation struggle could be coming, and had asked the countrymen to be ready for an organized fight. While that was by no means a declaration of the independence of Bangladesh, nor was there a socio-political plan for the Bangladesh that would emerge later, it should be noted that the great Bangabandhu in that speech asked the countrymen to treat all kinds of people, Hindu, Muslim, Bangalee, and non-Bangalee, as brothers.
The liberation movement of Bangladesh got an organized structure when an interim government of the new country was formed on April 10, 1971, at Mujibnagar. In the formal declaration of the independence on that day, the founding fathers of Bangladesh (minus Mujib, who was in Pakistani jail) sought "to ensure for the people of Bangladesh equality, human dignity and social justice." This ensuring of equality, human dignity and social justice can be recognized as the spirit of 1971 for the future of Bangladesh.
However, it should be realizes that, to much of the freedom-fighting forces and suffering population of Bangladesh, the struggle really was for defeating, evicting from the country, and punishing the criminal Pakistani military personnel and their local collaborators. Their focus was not on what sociopolitical shape their country would have in the future.
The principal feature of the Six Point demands of the current "Gonojagoran" (people's awakening) movement is trials and punishments of the war criminals of 1971. It is obvious that the young generation of Bangladeshis is crying for the removal of the colossal shame that their parents and grandparents have placed on their beloved nation. Indeed, as one participant in a rally said, "Justice delayed for 42 years. We can't take it anymore." (https://edition.cnn.com/2013/02/27/world/asia/bangladesh-protests/index.html?iref=allsearch)
This shame is nothing but the nation's failure over such a long time to punish the criminals that committed the most heinous crimes against humanity in the history of the land. The young generation is likely to be aware of the fact that most of the criminals are already dead due to old age, and that time is running out for Bangladesh to prove itself to be an honorable nation by punishing at least some of the criminals of 1971. Thus, there is so much of talk of "hanging the razakars."
This "hang the razakars" part of the spirit of 2013 in a sense is not for the future, it is for cleansing a huge indignity of the past. The only way "hanging the razakars" can be considered to be for the future would be that it would allow the future generations of Bangladeshis to think that their forefathers were not so shameful that they just talked about a huge genocide in their land, yet did not punish any of the heinous criminals.
However, while the people's awakening movement focuses primarily on the trials and punishments of the war criminals of 1971, it is also against religion-based politics. "Dharma Jar Jar, Rashtra Sobar" (everyone can have his/her own religion, but the state belongs to all) is a prominent motto of the rallies. The participants in the rallies are mostly young men and women who look modern, educated and outgoing; men and women being comfortable working together to advance their common causes, quite unlike the typical superstitious and backward religious kind.
The vision of the current youth movement is clearly for a modern secular Bangladesh, where people of all religions and ethnicities would be treated the same way, where men and women would be treated with equal dignity.
There is much talk in the world about abolishing the death penalty, and many of the developed countries have indeed abolished it. Thus, in the international arena, the demand of "hanging the razakars" has found very little support as any kind of a revolution. The young generation of Bangladesh really needs to focus more on the future, on the vision of a modern secular nation, where every citizen would be respected based upon the content of their character, as opposed to what religion they believe in. It should be understood that believing one religion or another, or in no religion, by itself does not make a human being's character good or bad. The young generation needs to be clear that punishing the war criminals is for cleansing Bangladesh of a disgrace of the past, but working for fairness and justice for all is what would advance the nation.
As for learning from their history, and for advancing to a just, peaceful and prosperous nation, the young generation needs to ask questions and seek accurate answers about their history.
Here are a few examples of questions that relate to the socio-political predicament of Bangladesh, absolutely no malice intended:
- During the British period, the Muslims of the subcontinent were less educated and had less socio-political and economic power. In fact, even today, most Muslims of the subcontinent that work in foreign countries do menial labor, and they are treated like beggars in the Arab world. What caused the Muslims to remain backward? Haven't they been too much into the irrational world of religion?
- The origin of the word Pakistan is 'P' for Punjab, 'a' for Afghan (the North-West frontier region), 'k' for Kashmir, 'i' for Indus (Sind), and 'stan' for Baluchistan. How did East Bengal become a part of Pakistan? Wasn't the Muslim leaders and population of today's land of Bangladesh short-sighted and whimsical about joining the absurd nation that had nothing but hatred and unfairness in its origin?
- The political party that had the leading role in the liberation movement of Bangladesh, Awami League, was in power in Bangladesh from December 1971 to August 1975. During that time, why was there no trial for any of the 1971 crimes against humanity? Was there a sense of regret in the party that they caused the break-up of the most Muslim-populated country in the world? (Was that their reason for not putting the worst crimes against humanity in the entire history of the land on trial?)
- Learning anything good from any source is appropriate. All good people respect any goodness that can be found in any religion. However, shouldn't religions be separated from the business of the state? Can all religions be really equally favored by the state? Is there any real merit in the state favoring religions over lack thereof? Haven't religious divisions caused too much pain and suffering of innocent humanity in the world?
================================== About the Writer: Sukhamaya Bain is a US citizen who was born in a place that is a part of today's Bangladesh. He earned a Ph.D. degree in Chemistry in 1987, and currently works for the US federal government, evaluating chemistry. While being a scientist by profession, he believes that societal justice is vital for the well-being of mankind. Thus, he occasionally writes on sociopolitical issues.comments powered by Disqus