As in most societies and lands, the people in Bangladesh also unceasingly confronted dominant powers – its ruling system, economy, politics, ideology and organization. The struggle began at the very beginning of Pakistan, a neo-colonial state. The neo-colonial state was created by the imperial masters of Britain in mid-August of 1947 by trifurcating the sub-continent in South Asia; and today’s independent Bangladesh was, as the eastern wing of Pakistan, a province of the state. The province was initially named Poorba [mostly spelled as Purba, east] Banga, and later on, changed to East Pakistan. [“Bangladesh” and “East Pakistan” has been interchangeably used in this essay.]
In mid-October 1947, workers of a cement factory in Chhaatak [also spelled Chatak], then under the district of Sylhet in the northeastern part of Bangladesh, stroke. Their demands were political in nature. The demands included withdrawal of retrenchment order issued on a number of workers, increase in minimum wage, dearness allowance, introduction of monthly wage system instead of a daily-basis system, provident fund for all, paid weekly holiday, annual leave, provision for medical treatment and regular food ration, brick-built house for all, end to retrenchment.
Thus, two months after the creation of the neo-colonial state, a struggle ensued. It was a legitimate and just struggle. It was an economic as well as a political struggle. The legitimate demands went unfulfilled for years and across industries.
To the exploited, the state’s ideological basis, which the ruling classes propagated, faced questioning. The questioning began within months. On March 20, 1949, Azizul Islam, a trade union (TU) leader, said at the 1st annual conference of the East Pakistan Railway Employees League held in Dhaka: Every citizen has a share in the wealth of a state; and level of luxury should be lessened. Ishaq, another TU leader, said: They are branded as communists whenever who raises demands for food, shelter, etc. The disparity in the living standards between the 90 percent and 10 percent people in the country must be removed as early as possible. On April 6, 1949, Abdul Hye, a TU leader, said in his address welcoming a minister: We hear assurances that the Pakistan administration would be run on the basis of the great Islamic ideals of equality, brotherhood and freedom. But the government of Pakistan, by ignoring these promises, is trying to crush the labor organizations by all possible means. Nurul Huda, a TU leader, in his address at the 3rd annual conference of the All Pakistan Postman and Lower Grade Staff Union, held in Sylhet on September 12, 1950, said: Reactionary elements denounce all as communists and traitors whoever tries to inform people about the plight of the workers. Simultaneously, radical demands began to surface. At the 2nd annual conference of the East Pakistan Trade Union Federation, held in May 1-2, 1949, Amar Banarjee, a TU leader, made demand to nationalize essential industries and abolition of zamindari system. Zamindari, reining rural life at that time, was part of the ruling regime. [“Ruling regime”, “ruling classes”, “state”, have been used interchangeably in this essay although “state” is different from “ruling class/(es).]
The fishers of Sunamganj, the Naankaars in Sylhet, the Shaotals [mostly spelled as Santal] and Haajongs, indigenous people, and tenant peasants in the north, northeastern, southwestern and western parts of the country continued with their struggle. In these struggles, tens of thousands of peasants participated. In a number of struggles, the peasants armed them, and faced the brutal force of the state machine.
In 1948, students of Dhaka University began movement demanding Baanglaa as one of the state languages of Pakistan. The Baanglaa language issue was being discussed by a group of intellectuals even before the 1948-movemet, and before creation of the neo-colonial state. The issue related to livelihood increasingly pulled in wide section of the people. Then, arrived the historic Language Movement in 1952. The Language Movement engulfed the entire East Pakistan. Thousands of people from different walks of life including laborers and low-paid employees joined the movement. The issue of language turned as an issue of livelihood as an alien language would have hurt the people’s, especially the commoners’ everyday life including income and access.
The ruling classes/state made assault not only on the Baanglaa language, but also on culture of the people. The ruling classes/state identified commoners’ culture as alien – Heendooaanee, Heendooistic, [mostly spelled as Hindu] – consequently, harmful to Pakistan, which the ruling classes claimed as an Islamic state although the ruling regime allowed to run interest seeking capital, gambling including horse race, wine trading, belly dancing, all considered unacceptable to the Islamic ideology. Many of its members indulged with these, profited from these. The ruling regime’s assault was in the areas of alphabet, words, songs, poetry, literature, spiritual songs, symbols, dress, gestures and style of address, utensils, names of persons and places, historical figures, curriculum and syllabus, book at pre-secondary and secondary levels, institution, etc.
But, the people, especially the downtrodden had their way of rejection. While the ruling classes/state continued with imposing its ideology and culture, the commoners, especially the poor persisted with their attitudes, practices, expressions, salutations, utensils, vocabulary, songs, dramas, fairs, festivals and celebrations. Thus it was found the people, especially the working people were singing their songs without changing words and messages while working, crossing vast stretch of plains with bullock carts carrying agro-products, fishing, rowing, tilling, sawing/logging, finishing roof construction, etc. everyday economic/production activities, in celebrations and festivities in their family and community, and during their leisure hours. Some parts of the practices of the people irrespective of creeds crossed creed line as they resorted to humble submission or sought redressing of some anomalies/irregularities or complaints against injustices inflicted upon them. They were visiting shrines of sages, carried on rites with appeals/complaints. The sages, died long ago, a hundred or a few hundred years back, belonged either to this creed or that creed; but that creed identity couldn’t desist the commoners irrespective of creeds to seek solace in the sages’ shrines. The practices the commoners used to follow include praying, rendering devotional songs, sheennee/sheernee and maanat, offering of food/milk/animal/candle/incense stick, etc., tie threads in banyan tree roots. There’s no segregationist and supremacist attitude in these practices, which are part of commoners’ culture – humanism, fraternity, tolerance. It’s completely opposed to the ideology, culture and politics the ruling classes and its ruling machine – the state – were trying to impose on the commoners as part of its dominance game – dominate and exploit the people. The cultural activities, festivities, ceremonies, practices the people followed were not a few in numbers; rather, these were hundreds around the country. These were not once or twice or on occasions annually, but in everyday life. These were not only practiced by the male members, but also by the females irrespective of age. This persisted all through the neo-colonial period although the ruling regime persistently tried to inject its ideology and culture in mass psyche. The ruling regime had its band of preachers regularly pushing poison of supremacist, segregationist, divisive, hatred-filled ideas, explanations, and through these, sectarian politics into thousands of common brains. But the ill-efforts turned futile as the people experienced discrepancy between the claims and practices of the ruling regime. The ruling regime’s credibility gradually turned nil. This was evident in acceptance of call for political struggles by the people. It was a rejection-acceptance process: people rejecting the ruling regime in the realm of ideology and culture, and accepting the culture conducive to their political struggle.
One economic-political aspect was a burning example of the people’s rejection of the ideology of the ruling classes. Mahaajan, moneylenders in the rural informal credit market, was one of the central characters and points of contradiction in the rural East Pakistan. They were mischievous and brutal, crude and cruel, powerful and profit-hungry, an embodiment of exploitation in the rural areas. The landless and the poor peasantry were victims of these creatures for generations losing their produce, land, homestead and dignity. With the creation of the neo-colonial state the identity by creed of these creatures changed as they, the newly emerged Mahaajans replaced the old, mostly with different creed. The newly emerged moneylenders following new creed were connected to the power structure of the neo-colonial state. Along with the local government leaders, local level political operatives and big landholders, the moneylenders formed an atrium that sucked whatever they could from the poor and middle class rural populace. It was a nexus, a part of the power system, and a pillar of power in the rural area. They also patronized thugs threatening and tormenting the poor populace, and dacoits and cow thieves. In areas of the country cow thieves were a major problem to the peasantry relying on oxen for tilling their croplands.
Most of the time, the power-person was the same – the same person lending money with exorbitant interest rate, holding huge chunk of land, got hold of local government leadership, local political operative of the ruling political party. This was major contradiction in the country, mostly rural in terms of economy and population. The victims could identify the camp – persons with power, persons torturing, persons grabbing, persons feeding on interest, persons propagating the ruling class-ideology that claimed that that was against interest seeking, against be-eensaaf [mostly spelled as beinsaf, injustice, opposite to eensaaf, justice], against segregation, for peace, equity, and fraternity. The fact was exposed. Therefore, in the rural society, one of the contradictions was between the people and the powerful, local agents of the state, and the powerful was always with the ruling regime.
While this scene persisted in the rural life, a part of the middle class – radical, progressive, humanist, liberal, modern, educated – was against the culture of the ruling regime as the part perceived that that dominating culture was anti-human, irrational, sectarian segregationist and supremacist, which hinders struggle for emancipation as the struggle demands unity of all the oppressed. This perception and ideological position led the part to oppose the ruling regime’s ideology and culture. That was a conflicting path. From the very initiation of the neo-colonial state, the conflict ensued. This part, which included actors, artists, authors, educationists, journalists, lawyers, playwrights, poets, singers, teachers, regularly and unceasingly carried their ideological and cultural activities and struggles. The messages they conveyed to the people was opposed to the ruling regime’s ideology and culture. The messages reached the masses of the people in the urban, industrial and rural areas. Rabindra Nath Tagore was a point of opposition by the ruling regime as the regime considered Tagore as alien to its ideology, state and symbol. This led the regime to ban Tagore in the country. Songs by Tagore were banned from state-run radio. Nevertheless, the people, especially its intellectual part waged a long and successful struggle to practice Tagore – read-learn-listen from Tagore, render his songs, enact his dramas, read his poems and stories, discuss him. On occasions, big protests, weeklong cultural program – in the form of celebrating Tagore were organized. These were participated by thousands of people. Even, Sharat Chandra and Bankim, two of the leading Baangaalee litterateurs, were discouraged. But, Sharat was one of the most read by the literate Baangaalees. Cultural organizations including schools teachings songs, etc. carried on learning and popularizing songs by Tagore and other Baangaalees including Atul Prasad, the creators of songs the ruling regime considered alien to the ideology the state upheld. Celebrations of Baanglaa New Year were also an area of challenging the ruling regime’s ideology and culture. Over years, participation of people in these celebrations increased. These helped prepare a platform to begin the journey to emancipation. With organizations and activists spread around the country, it was a wide activity. In many cases, the persons carrying on the ideological and cultural struggles were also political activists and leaders active among the peasantry, industrial workers, teachers and students, and most of them were communists, and the rest were influenced by the communist ideas. Many of the cultural activists took their activities directly to peasantry and industrial workers, a base of political struggle. The cultural activists reaching the rural and industrial areas were communists or communist-idea-influenced. In urban areas, from the provincial capital to small townships, the same pattern of cultural activism prevailed.
Political literature opposing the ruling regime’s ideology and culture, and exposing the hollowness and lies with that ideology and culture by dissecting those was also coming up, and that was accepted by the educated part of the forward-looking middle class and intelligentsia that included teachers, one of the conveyors of ideas. The literature was mostly created/produced by the communist intellectuals, students, youth.
Along with these, there were struggles by the blue- and white-collar employees: industrial workers, railway workers, postal and telegraph staff, bank employees, teachers, dock workers, tea garden laborers, textile and jute mills workers. These struggles were many in number, sporadic/well organized, small/large, localized/industry-wide, days-long/weeks-long. Not all these strikes were for once. Workers of a few trades/industries/establishments repeatedly stroke. Thousands of workers and employees joined these strikes. A few of these strikes were so effective that army was mobilized to carry on essential work. During at least one strike, telecommunication and telegraphic communication between the eastern province and the western province went out; and the western wing was the place the central state machinery was sitting to rule the entire country. Workers from different trades including the beeree [mostly spelled as bidi, indigenous hand-made cigarettes made with tobacco and tree leaf] workers repeatedly stroke in different districts/areas of districts. The beeree workers’ struggle spread after the 1965-Indo-Pak war, as the government banned import of beeree-making leaves from India, and the workers, thousands in number spread over the entire province, faced unemployment. That was a push against the cottage industry producing beeree, and patronizing machine-made cigarette industry – a struggle between man and machine. The man were having wage bare minimum, even, at cases, below-bare minimum while the machine owners, a few in number, were profiting millions of coins, and that were also at the cost of workers, the workers in the cigarette industry producing surplus value. It was an extirpation of a huge labor for the sake of increasing profit by a few. This thousands, victims of a cruel excision, had a culture, gained perception from the reality of class dominance, and the reality pushed them to the ground of conflict with the dominant interests; and there, the state and industrial capital jointly took stand against the thousands of working people. Their demands turned political; their struggle for wages turned political, although their slogan, in cases, apparently appeared economic.
Students’ political activism and movements were part of student life. In 1962, students organized a movement on an academic issue, which ultimately turned into a countrywide movement that was joined by thousands of working people including boatmen and rickshaw pullers. A significant development that was. The movement, first opposition against martial law, was long, consisted of discussions in educational institutions. The issue of the movement was connected to commoners’ livelihood. Students carried on many other movements, and all of these were, essentially, against the politics-ideology-culture of the ruling classes and related or closer to the people. Thousands of students around the country joined these movements. The students’ carried on cultural activities in different forms and organizations. A few of these were countrywide, and the rest were localized. But, all these carried uniform messages: for the people, for democracy, against rulers-exploiters-autocracy. The messages were secular and progressive. A number of students went to rural and industrial areas to organize the peasantry and industrial workers.
Communal relations played a role in the mass psyche, and struggle of the people. Traditionally, the Bangladesh people lived in communal harmony. A part of the ruling classes tried to infuse communal contradiction within the masses. At areas and at times, the ruling classes succeeded partially, but ultimately, it failed to entangle the people in its communal-contradiction-conspiracy. At the initial stage of injecting the ruling classes’ divisive politics among the people, it pulled the following sections into spewing of communal hatred and organizing riots: (1) a part of those migrating to East Pakistan, (2) a part of the emerging middle class, and (3) a part of thugs working as tool of despotism. All the three groups were connected to the political leadership of the ruling classes. On the opposite, the communists, despite facing brutal persecution by the state, and other humanist forces in the urban and rural areas tried to their capacity to resist and subdue the communal politics, especially the communal riots the ruling regime organized. At one point, it was a force to reckon with, and the force succeeded, to much extent, in thwarting communal riots. In areas around the country, progressive forces organized groups of volunteers, who kept watch on communities threatened by the rioters moving along creed line. The anti-rioters chased back rioters whenever the goons came to charge. The massive procession with the banner Baangaalee Rookheeaa Daarao, Bengalis, oppose this riot, in Dhaka was historic. It was led by the forces opposing the communal politics of the ruling regime, and participated not only by students, youths and progressive political forces including the communists, but also by huge number of commoners from different walks of life, national level political leaders and prominent editors and journalists. In areas, outside of the capital city, similar initiatives including sheltering and securing the target/victims of riots were also present. These incidents played in the mass psyche, and, at later phase of political mobilizations. Overwhelmingly, the political mobilizations turned non-sectarian as it broke the sharp teeth of sectarian politics of the ruling regime. The people mobilized themselves for greater political struggle crossing sectarian line.
Political struggle, to the extent space available, within legislative chambers including the Constituent Assembly of the Pakistan state was carried on. The issues for the political struggle included abolition of separate electorate system, Moslem-Hindoo-castes identified as lower, etc., and introduction of universal franchise, governor general’s and governors’ powers, amalgamation of provinces in the western wing into one, state language, food problem, parity between the eastern and western wings of the state, preventive detention, abolition of zamindari system without compensation, budget, capital city, fundamental rights, salary of governors, equality between all citizens irrespective of belief, etc., imposition of martial law, central government’s power limiting within the areas of currency, defense and foreign affairs, and rights to expression and rights of press.
There was also struggle for (1) autonomy of East Pakistan, and (2) a constitution reflecting democratic, secular aspiration of the people. This was inside and outside of legislative chamber. The demands the pro-people political forces raised were contrary to the policies the ruling classes implemented. The people experienced that the ruling classes impose undemocratic-exploitative policies and politics while preach an ideology and culture that calls for equity, rights. The gulf of difference between the policies implemented and the preaching disillusioned the people. People lost trust on the preaching. A breach appeared.
On the other hand, the ruling classes and its state machine identified all that the Baangaalee people stood for, the vocabulary used, the cultural practices followed as alien, India-provoked, Hindooaanee, harmful to the ideology and culture the state stands for, of lower standard and despised. It was an atmosphere of mistrust, an anti-people political culture. Another breach appeared. It, even, mocked NAP, abbreviated version of the National Awami Party led by Maulaanaa [also spelled Maulana] Abdul Hamid Khan Bhasani, a left-leaning peasant leader with a huge mass-following preaching radical politics, as “Nehru Aided Party”. The ruling regime regularly branded the Left-progressive-communist activists and leaders, even humanist intellectuals and educationists as “Indian-agent”, and many of them were put behind bar with allegation of “security threat to the state”. But, the commoners didn’t lent their ears to those brandings. Rather, they, with their politics, were having acceptance among the masses of people. The breach – the ruling regime’s propaganda and the rejection by the people – showed the regime’s dwindling influence.
These breaches gradually widened the already existing gap between the people and the ruling classes. An atmosphere of hostilities in the areas of culture and ideology gradually engulfed the relation between the ruling classes and the people. This influenced the people’s political attitude and actions.
The struggle was also carried on outside the legislative house. A significant part of that struggle was extra-constitutional that made historic turning points. A part of press was voicing the people. Literature was feeding ideas to the people, arming them.
The 1965 Indo-Pak war, Tashkent Declaration on ceasing Indo-Pak military hostility, 6-point program for autonomy of East Pakistan and following political developments on the national stage influenced psyche of the masses of the people in the country.
People’s struggle in one area mostly goes unnoticed. It’s people’s everyday struggle in places of production and residence, and in market. In all the three places, people encounter hostile environment and authority, which is hostile, threatening, repressive, coercive – antagonistic. It went on for years. It was people’s everyday struggle, and part of life. The people identified it, perceived it as unbearable, and went against it. In the rural areas, one type of literature was a regular sort of amusement of the commoners. Someone, a village bard or a literate person, composed satirical long poems describing scandals of or injustice committed by a powerful person in respective locality. The poem was printed as a booklet with a very small price tag, and was sold in haats, weekly village market place, or in motor boats or trains. The commoners enthusiastically and cheerfully bought those crudely produced cheap booklets; then, one person to read it loudly while group of persons sitting in a circle heard it. They enjoyed it as it depicted a powerful with a touch of mocking. It was their one way of expressing disgust and disdain to the powerful.
The 1969-mass upsurge was significant in the socio-politicalscape of the country. It was unprecedented in terms of coverage, participation, force and speed. Hundreds of thousands of people joined the movement initiated by the students. It toppled the dictator Ayub, compelled the authority to retreat, and attained universal franchise, a right long denied. From late-November 1968 Maulaanaa Bhasani, called upon the poor peasantry to gheraao [also spelled gherao], seize, the corrupt local level officers in charge of infrastructure development work and the land revenue offices. In many places, this gheraao movement began in December. The movement initiated in rural areas had its impact on the working class in industrial areas, and the gheraao turned out as a regular incident, almost daily, from the early 1969. It rapidly spread out to industrial areas of the country. Civil administration was rendered ineffective. Agitating people raided houses of local government members to press them to resign. The gherao virtually crippled the administration of the province. Civil machinery was paralyzed, as the government was unable to control the situation. Not a day passed without some type of strike, or demonstration. Labor unrest “fiercely erupted”; and, it was so great and forceful that labor was totally out of hand. By means of the gherao, it demanded and secured promises of increased wages and other amenities. Scarcely a factory, commercial establishment or workshop was not aflame with meetings, demands, agitation, and strikes. It seemed possible that economic breakdown might become complete. The movement was clearly not amenable to control through legal procedures and formalities. The exploiting classes and their allies, broadly the upper classes, fuelled the force. “While workers on strike were being shot dead on the orders of bureaucrats and capitalists, the latter’s [the upper classes] wives were attending expensive fashion parades at luxurious international hotels […]” The 1960s witnessed retrogressive labor laws including ban on the right to strike. The imposition of a compulsory adjudication system deprived workers of their due right. In near-mid-May 1969, the government admitted to past failures and announced a new industrial relations policy in July 1969. The new policy said, “[T]he Government was aware that the previous labor policies had failed.” For a period of almost five months, from early November 1968 to the end of March 1969, there was a radical uprising all over Pakistan participated by some 10-15 million people across both East and West Pakistan.
“Until 1969, the government helped supply industry with cheap labor by suppressing trade union activity. This kept real wages constant or declining until the strikes at the end of the Ayub regime in 1969.” “In spite of […] restrictions, working class militancy erupted in a number of long drawn out strikes. Between 1965 and 1968, 1.03 million man-days were lost in strikes. Of these, 587,000 man-days were lost in 1967 alone.” Industrial workers gradually joined political movement. Concepts of a society free from exploitation were gaining ground among the industrial workers. Decades of ideological-political work by progressive political forces contributed to this development among the industrial workers. Industrial workers gradually began raising political demands, and the demands were turning sharper, taking radical character. “In the three main movements against Ayub in 1962, 1964 and 1966, and in the election campaign of 1964, some elements of the working class were involved. [….] [T]he industrial workers […] came to the forefront of the political movement […] in early 1969. [….] Their accumulated grievances against repressive labor laws and declining real wages began to find expression in a spate of strikes demanding higher wages and improvement of working conditions.” “Working class consciousness and militancy inevitably grew with the size of the modern industrial labor force. [….] [I]nstead of merely abstaining from work, the workers occupied […] [enterprises] and confined the owners/managers within the premises until their demands were conceded. Gherao engulfed virtually every industrial centre and even spread to commercial enterprises and offices. [….] Between 1968 and 1971 the number of unions in [East Pakistan] increased from 411 to 1174. At the same time man-days lost from strikes increased from 154,840 in 1968 to 366,901 in 1970.”
The tidal bore in 1970 made a change in the political spectrum and perception of commoners including the industrial workers and the peasantry. The ’70-tidal bore took away half a million lives. The Baangaalees found the Pakistan rulers indifferent to the Baangaalee people. Even, not a single political leader came to see devastation wrought by the ’70-sea surge and sympathize with the helpless Baangaalee people. Maulaanaa Bhasani raised the issue of indifference in a mammoth Dhaka public meeting. A Dhaka Baanglaa daily headlined Maulana’s utterance: Oraa keu aashenee, none of the political leaders from the western wing of Pakistan came to witness plight of the Baangaalee people. The rift was visible.
The sense of deprivation, experience of suppression, aspiration for a better life in a democratic environment, spirit for struggle were articulated in the demands of the economic and political movements. The industrial workers were imbued with a dream for a happier life as far left student activists turned labor organizers increased their political-organizational activities among the workers. One of the slogans popularized by the left student activists was Tomaar aamaar mantra, samaajtantra, our mantra is socialism. It was a dream for a society free from exploitation. Related publications also presented similar facts. During this period, a group of student and political activists, radical and followers of Mao Zedong, raised the slogan srameek-kreeshak astro dharo, saadheen janaganataantreek Poorba Baanglaa kaayem karo, “workers and peasants rise up with arms and establish independent, people’s democratic East Bengal”, and srameek-kreeshak astro dharo, Poorba Baanglaa saadheen karo, “workers and peasants rise up with arms, make East Bengal independent”. Their activities spread to different regions of the country, and those focused on the poor peasantry, industrial workers, urban poor, and students and youth.
Immediately after completion of the 1969-mass upsurge, a book provoked a huge part of students to initiate a movement, which was directly a rejection of the ideology and culture of the ruling classes. The book Pakistan, Desh O Kreeshtee, Pakistan, the Country and the Culture, was imposed at secondary level. The authorities’ motive behind imposing the book was to inculcate the students with the culture the authorities deemed fit. The students spontaneously opposed the book and rose in resistance. The movement, short lived but successful, spread across the country within days, and compelled the authorities to withdraw the book. Progressive students, who were opposed to the culture-ideology-politics the state was imposing, led the movement, known as Desh O Kreeshtee Aandolon. The movement shows the depth and width of rupture the ruling classes had with the people they were dominating. This was the last student movement of East Pakistan secondary school level students in unbroken Pakistan state. The movement, cropping out spontaneously and very swiftly, is significant as the secondary level students directly rejected the ideology and culture the ruling regime was trying to imbue in young mind.
Verdict that the people of East Pakistan gave in the 1970 election was unequivocal: Get free from hunger, deprivation, repression; have a democratic life. The mass psyche rejecting the ruling class-ideology, culture and politics was years in preparation. “As early as of 1st March  the working class leaders and other student leaders gave the call for an independent Bangladesh [at] a mass rally of workers and students.” Masses of people started taking active role in political life. Faceless “idiots” appeared bright in processions, on the streets, in agitations. So, Bangladesh found many commoners turned courageous fighters. The prevailing political environment and mass-mood was sharp with contradictions. Enayetullah Khan, a leading editor in the country, portrayed: “[T]he city of Dhaka is ringing with the cry for national liberation [….] The slogans which rent the air with resounding echoes from all quarters demand absolute liberation [….] [R]ural Bengal is preparing itself for a militant and protracted struggle under the leadership of the left radicals committed to a people’s democratic order.”
The war began. “As the [liberation] war intensified it was the students and workers, now joined in increasing number by the sons of peasants, who came in their thousands for training in the camps. It was they who suffered the privations of the training camps and then with rudimentary training and weapons went out to risk their lives against the Pak[istan] army.” The spirit is not covered with confusion. It was the masses of people, millions in number, joining the War for Liberation. Bangladesh was glowing with glory. And, the Pakistan ruling elite-“mind” full with incapacity to perceive the sociopolitical process, dumbness and stupidity to the brim, tried to stand against the tide of time. It was idiocy. But, history stood against the shrewd-looking idiotic Pakistan ruling elites only waiting to be denied by time and a war for liberation by the people of Bangladesh. It was a time with bravery of and sacrifices by the masses of people.
Farooque Chowdhury writes from Dhaka, Bangladesg
Note and reference:
* This is part, following the earlier part, of a write up to be included as a chapter of a planned book.
- Umar, Badruddin, The Emergence of Bangladesh, Class struggles in East Pakistan, (1947-1958), Oxford University Press, Karachi, Pakistan, 2004, pp. 68-76.
- Sing, Moni, Jeeban Sangraam, Struggle throughout Life, Jatiya Shahitya Prakashanee, Dhaka; Bhattacharya, Ajoy, Naankaar Beedroho, The Nankar Rising, Punthipatra Prakashani, Dhaka, 1971; Datta, Barin, Sangraammookhar Deengoolee, Days of Struggle, Jatio Sahityo Prakashanee, Dhaka, 1991; Umar, Badruddin, Purba Banglar Bhasha Andolan O Tatkalin Rajniti, (Language Movement in East Bengal and the Contemporary Politics), vol. 1; Sen, Satyen, Bangladesher Krishaker Andolon, Peasants’ Movement in Bangladesh; and press reports in The Azad, Dhaka.
- Umar, Badruddin, Purba Banglar Bhasha Andolan … , Bhasha Andoloner Dalilpatra, Documents of the Language Movement, Bangla Academy, Dhaka, 1995; Rahman, Atiur, et al., Vaashaa Aandolon: Economic Perspective, and other volumes, University Press Limited, Dhaka, 1990; Helal, Bashir Al, Bhasha Andoloner Itihas, History of the Language Movement, 1985; Rafiq, Ahmed, Bhasha Andolon, Language Movement, Prothoma Prakashan, Dhaka, and the author’s other books on the language movement.
- Articles by intellectuals and cultural activists in the Dhaka press, and in anthologies.
- Press reports and political literature of the communists/Communist Party are rich with reports and descriptions of the mahaajans. Short stories, poems and songs on the mahaajans were also many. Ganashaktee, legal weekly of the East Pakistan Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist), Dhaka carried many articles and reports on the issue. One of the rallying cries/slogans of the communists organizing the poor peasantry was “mahaajanee bebastaa beelop karo”/“soodkhor [interest-seeker]-mahaajan khedaao” [“abolish the mahaajan-system”, “chase away the mahaajans”], and similar. After the Naxalbari peasant uprising in India, a section of communists engaged with organizing the rural poor, raised the slogan, copying from the Naxalbari-politics, “jotedaar-mahaajan khatam karo”, “annihilate the big landholders and mahaajans”.
- Karim, Sardar Fazlul, Sreetee Samagra, Collected Memoirs, Mowla Brothers, Dhaka, 2013; Ajit Guha Shaaraak Grantha; Lohani, Kamal, ed., Mohammad Sultan, Kayektee Rekhaay, Mohammad Sultan, A Sketch, Mohammad Sultan Sreetee Trust, Dhaka, 1986; and articles by and memoirs of cultural activists including Kamal Lohani, Mahashin Shastrapani.
- Ahmad, Kamruddin, Labour Movement in East Pakistan, Pragati Publishers, Dhaka, 1969; Umar, Badruddin, The Emergence of Bangladesh …; Mandal, Jashimuddin, Jeebaner Relgaaree, Sangraamee Sreeteekathaa, A Life Like a Train, Memoirs of Struggle, Shahitya Prakash, Dhaka, 1992; Chowdhury, Farooque, “Bangladesh workers’ struggle towards liberation”, New Age, Dhaka; March 26, 2013, and press reports in Pakistan Observer, Dainik Azad, Dainik Sangbad
- Rano, Haider Akber Khan, Shataabdee Pereeye, Crossing a Century, Uttal Shater Dashak, The Turbulent Sixties, Puthiniloy, Dhaka, 2016, Palaashi Theke Mukteezuddha, From Plassey to the War for Liberation, Part 2, Chhayabithi, Dhaka, 2019, Ahmad, Kazi Zafar, Amar Rajnitir Shat Bochar, Jowar Vaataar Kothan, autobiography, Tarafdar Prokashoni, Dhaka, 2017.
- Dastidar, Sharadindu, Jeeban Sreetee, Memoirs from Life, Shahitya Prakash, Dhaka, 1999; memoirs, and press reports in Pakistan Observer, Dainik Azad, Dainik Sangbad, Umar, Badruddin, Sangskriti O Sampradayikata.
- Rahman, Sheikh Mujibur, The Unfinished Memoirs, University Press Limited, Dhaka, 2012; speeches by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and others in the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan; Ahmed, Moudud, Bangladesh: Constitutional Quest for Autonomy 1950-1971, University Press Limited, Dhaka, 1979; Chowdhury, G W, Constitutional Development in Pakistan, Longman, London; Ahmad, Abul Mansur, Aamaar Dekhaa Raajneeteer Panchaash Bachhar, Witness to Fifty Years of Politics, Khosroz Kitab Mahal, Dhaka, 1969; Khan, Ataur, Ojaarateer Dooi Bachhar, Two Years of Ministership, 1964; Ahad, Oli, Jaatiya Raajneetee, National Politics; Ray, Khoka, Sangraamer Teen Dashak, Three Decades of Struggle, Jatiyo Shahitto Prakashoni, Dhaka; Jahan, Rounaq, Pakistan: Failure in National Integration, proceedings of Pakistan Constituent Assembly, East Bengal Legislative Assembly, National Assembly and Provincial Assembly, press reports in Pakistan Observer.
- Umar, Badruddin, The Emergence of Bangladesh …; and Juddha-poorba Bangladesh, Khan, Ayub, Friends, Not Masters, Oxford University Press, Karachi, 1967.
- Ahmad, Kamruddin, A Socio-Political History of Bengal; Hossain (Mia), Tofazzal (Manik), Nirbachita Bhashan O Nibondha, Selected Addresses and Articles, Bangladesh Books International, Dhaka, 1988; Sen, Nirmal, Aamaar Jabaanbandee, My Statement, Ettadi Grantha Prakash, Dhaka, 2012; and autobiographies, memoirs and articles by journalists, political and cultural activists, and intellectuals.
- Hossein, Dr. Kamal, Muktijuddha Keno Anibarya Chilo, Why the War for Liberation was Inevittable, Mowla Brothers, Dhaka, 2014; press reports, articles in newspapers and periodicals, and political literature.
- Azad, Lenin, Unoshottorer Gano Andolon, The Mass Movement of 1969, UPL, Dhaka, Rano, Haidar Akbar Khan, interview, unpublished, a part was cited in …; Baxter, Graig, ed., Diaries of Field Martial Muhammad Ayub Khan: 1966-1972, Oxford University Press, Karachi, 2007, cited in Himayatullah, Pakistan National Awami Party: Nature and Direction of Politics, dissertation submitted to the Faculty of Social Science for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in History, Department of History, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad, 2015; Ali, Tariq, Pakistan: Military Rule Or People’s Power, William Morrow and Company, 1970, Can Pakistan Survive? The Death of a State, Penguin Books, 1983, The Duel: Pakistan on the Flight Path of American Power, Scribner, Simon & Schuster, New York, 2008; Feldman, Herbert, From Crisis to Crisis: Pakistan 1962-9, Oxford University Press, 1972; Ghayur, Sabur, Evolution of the Industrial Relations System in Pakistan, ILO, Cornell University ILR School, 2009, emphasis added; Indu Saha, Poorba Baanglaar Ganoandolon O Sheikh Mujib, Mass-movement in East Bengal and Sheikh Mujib, NaoRoz Kitabistan, Dhaka. Mohammad Forhad’s report on the movement also presents insights in the movement.
- Maddison, Angus, Class Structure and Economic Growth, India and Pakistan since the Moghuls, Routledge, 2006; emphasis in the original.
- Sobhan, Rehman and Muzaffer Ahmad, Public Enterprise in an Intermediate Regime, p. 79.
- ibid. pp. 80-1.
- ibid. pp. 78, 81-3.
- Press reports in Baanglaa and English dailies including The Dainik Baanglaa [originally spelled Dainik Bangla] and The Pakistan Observer. The Dainik Baanglaa extensively covered the natural calamity while indifference of the state to the plight of the people in the devastated region was widely discussed in press inclined to the people. Prominent persons, in articles published in Dhaka newspapers, also intensively discussed the incident.
- Maniruzzaman, Talukder, Radical Politics and the Emergence of Bangladesh, Books International Limited, Dhaka, 1975; Menon, Rashed Khan, “Baanglaadesher saadheenataa o mookteejooddhe baampanthheeder bhoomeekaa”, “Role of the leftists in the independence and the War for Liberation”, in Rano, Haidar Akbar Khan, ed. Mookteejooddhe Baampanthheeraa, Leftists in the War for Liberation, Tarafdar Prokashoni, Dhaka, 2018; and publications including leaflets of the East Pakistan Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist) and Poorba Baanglaa [mostly spelled as Purba Bangla] Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist).
- Reports in Baanglaa and English dailies from Dhaka, and participants’ account. This movement is least discussed.
- Sobhan and Ahmad, op. cit.
- Reports in Baanglaa and English dailies from Dhaka.
- “Regardless of constitutional footwork people’s struggle continues”, Holiday, March 21, 1971.
- Sobhan and Ahmad, op. cit.