Of the spirit of War of Independence

Mostafa Kamal MajumderThe nation celebrates the 43rd Independence Day today amid celebrations across the country. This is also the time for the nation to take stock of the achievements and failures of the last 42 years of independence and the hopes and despairs of the people that are associated with those. This proud nation of 160 million has made brilliant strides in different fields earmarking a respectable position in the comity of nations. Global leader in micro-credit programmes this nation created the ideas that are now simulated in all continents of the globe. Bangladesh is marked for the best performance in the human development indices in the region. The womenfolk here have emerged as the most influential in the society in South Asia. Enrolment at the primary level is second to none in the region, and the rate of retention at the secondary level has marked remarkable improvement. Bangladesh is the number one contributor of troops to the UN peacekeeping operations. Bangladesh has made a firm place among the eight top cricketing nations, and the national flag flutters in the mini-screen at homes across the globe during international cricket meets.
This eighth largest country on earth has attained near self-sufficiency in food production even though it population doubled in more than four decades. The per capita income has increased from a mere 150 dollars to nearly 800 US dollars. The quality of life has improved. A latest global analysis has shown that Bangladesh along with Nepal and a few other countries has fared better that many other countries in poverty alleviation. The people of this country were ranked the happiest in the world not in a distant past. Despite some latest weaknesses that have surfaced, the population control programme of Bangladesh has also been marked as the best in the region. The key to the success was the services of women – the family welfare visitors – who helped remove the social taboo in discussing the adoption of family planning methods to keep families within manageable sizes. The huge Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban complex has been globally marked one of the modern architectural marvels, and attracts architecture learners from around the world. But despite the existence of the huge architectural edifice meant for promoting the practice of democracy, political intolerance has gone to such an extent that even after the loss of more than a hundred lives in political violence during the last one month, the warring sides are yet to be listen to the voices of reason and more internecine battles look likely.
The irony is that the causes of this destructive confrontation is said to be on differences of perception of the spirit of the war of independence. Differences of opinion are most welcome in a democracy which, everywhere in practicing democracies, is gifted with the greatness to accommodate those. In our situation of late it seems that the holders of divergent views are bent upon destruction of those holding different views, but this is being professed as democratic. The differences are on secularism and religion-based politics, between pro and anti-liberation forces. To an average man these arguments create confusions in that how people not believing in the freedom and independence of Bangladesh can live in the country and how it would be possible to work against or undo our independence sitting on this soil. If the difference is meant to drive home a clear cut distinction between those who opposed the war of liberation in 1971 and those who fought the same, then all well-meaning people will say that a distinction is welcome but based on this the nation cannot afford a division in the body politic, after 42 years when national cohesion is most needed to unite efforts of 320 million hands to have an edge in competition to surge ahead in this age of globalisation.
Recently our paper ran a commentary on the basic ideals based on which the Awami League under the leadership of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman did receive a popular mandate in 1970 to frame the constitution of the then Pakistan. The liberation war did become inevitable as the dominant West Pakistani politicians of that time and the military hierarchy refused to accept the verdict of the people, and instead of calling session of the then National Assembly cracked down on unarmed civilians of Bangladesh to perpetuate their subjugation of the people of this land.
The six points which sometimes are referred to as the Magna Carta of Bangladesh basically stood for a loose federation of Pakistan with the centre handling only defence and foreign affairs and all residuary subjects remaining under the jurisdiction of the federating states of the then East Pakistan and West Pakistan. There was neither mention of religion nor of anything else that are championed by a section of intellectuals as ideals of the War of Liberation. Let us give below the historic six points as they have been printed in the Banglapaedia published by the Asiatic Society of Bangladesh.
“1. The constitution should provide for a Federation of Pakistan in its true sense on the Lahore Resolution and the parliamentary form of government with supremacy of a Legislature directly elected on the basis of universal adult franchise.
“2. The federal government should deal with only two subjects: Defence and Foreign Affairs, and all other residuary subjects shall be vested in the federating states.
“3. Two separate, but freely convertible currencies for 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.
“4. The power of taxation and revenue collection shall be vested in the federating units and the federal centre will have no such power. The federation will be entitled to a share in the state taxes to meet its expenditures.
“5. 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.
“6. East Pakistan should have a separate militia or paramilitary force.”
The military rulers of the then Pakistan did not allow Bangalees who had an absolute majority in the National Assembly to form government and frame the constitution. The late Zulfiquer Ali Bhutto whose Pakistan People’s Party did win the election in the then West Pakistan and commanded the support of a miniroty of votes in the said assembly demanded transfer of power to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in East Pakistan and to him in West Pakistan. The subsequent negotiations were just eyewash to take time to finally unleash attack on unarmed civilians and force the war on the people of Bangladesh. The people took up arms fought for nine months and finally won victory with the assistance of Allied forces from India at the cost of a river of blood.
Internecine fights to divide the nation on ideological lines are fraught with mortal dangers, because the Bangladesh society has not grown over the years based on such divisions. Most families have members with divergent political views and following the lines of thought of different political parties. Families with all their members supporting or voting for just one political party are not many in number. If the parties fight to eliminate each other as has been the trend for some time is it possible for siblings to eliminate each other just because they hold different views? Let all of us realise this and view each other as members of the same nation, taking pride in its greatness and playing our part make it more great and prosperous for the posterity.

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