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Dhaka Tribune

JUNE 7, 1966: Six Points were Bengalis’ charter of freedom

Considering the events of that day which were to be a milestone on the road to Bangladesh's independence in late 1971, the nation has since been observing June 7 as the historic Six-Point Day

Update : 06 Jun 2020, 09:59 PM

On June 7, 1966, the Awami League called a countrywide hartal in the then East Pakistan in support of the historic Six-Point programme for regional autonomy Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had announced in February of the year.  Bangabandhu was arrested on May 8, 1966, while other leaders and activists were detained between May and the hartal called on June 7. 

Considering the events of that day which were to be a milestone on the road to Bangladesh's independence in late 1971, the nation has since been observing June 7 as the historic Six-Point Day.

The Six Points have been widely acknowledged as the "charter of freedom" for Bengalis and the movement in June 1966 for their implementation was a turning point in Bangladesh's struggle for freedom from Pakistani colonial domination, say historians and political analysts.

Prof Dr Syed Anwar Hussain, supernumerary teacher at the History Department of Dhaka University, said that after the partition of 1947 politicians of different quarters had raised some issues in various times, but Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s Six-Point had combined all demands.

Regarding the importance of the Six-Point Demand, he said: “I would like to mention three incidents about Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman to explain the significance of the Six Points.”

“First, in a conversation about the goal of the Six Points with then NAP chairman Mozaffar Ahmed, Bangabandhu said, ‘There is only one point, I just it turned around a little.’ Second, during a conversation with former student leader Abdur Razzaq, Bangabandhu said, ‘I just made a bridge to go forward with the demand of autonomy.’

“And third, while talking to poet Syed Shamsul Haque, who was working for BBC at the time, Bangabandhu had said, ‘What I want from Pakistan is how much they have taken from us, how much they will pay back and when they will leave’,” said Prof Anwar.

Historian Mohiuddin Ahmad, whose books on political history have been widely acclaimed, told Dhaka Tribune that though the key demand from the Six Points was also mentioned in the 21 demands made by United Front in 1954, the Six-Point formula was very specific, well focused and aggressive. “Within four years, the Six Points turned into one demand.”

“The leaders of the then West Pakistan realized that if they acceded to the Six-Point demand, then East Pakistan would no longer be with them. It would be a confederation automatically, and that’s why West Pakistan rejected the Six Points from the beginning,” he said.

Brief history of Six-Point Movement

On February 5, 1966, a national conference of Pakistan’s opposition parties was held in Lahore. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman placed his historic Six-Point demand at the conference, but when his fellow opposition leaders refused to entertain it, he announced the programme at a news conference.

On March 1, Mujib was elected president of the Awami League, with Tajuddin Ahmad as general secretary of the party.Afterwards, Mujib launched a campaign to gather support for the Six-point Demand.

He travelled around the country. Police arrested and detained him several times in Sylhet, Mymensingh and Dhaka during the campaign. In total, he was arrested eight times in the first quarter of that year.

On May 8, he was arrested under the Defence of Pakistan Rules after addressing a rally of jute mill workers in Narayanganj. A nationwide hartal was observed on June 7 demanding his release and that of other political prisoners. Police opened fire on demonstrators during the strike, killing several workers in Dhaka, Narayanganj and Tongi.

A booklet on Six-point Demand with introduction from Sheikh Mujib and Tajuddin Ahmad was published.

Another booklet titled “Amader Banchar Dabi: Chhoy-dofa Karmashuchi” (Our demand for existence: Six-point Program) was published in the name of Sheikh Mujib and distributed at the Awami League council held on March 18, 1966.

The leaders of West Pakistan looked at the Six-Point Program as a plan to dismember Pakistan, and they outright rejected the demands. The Ayub government projected Sheikh Mujib as a separatist and later initiated the Agartala conspiracy case against him and 34 others in June 1968. The trial was conducted before a special tribunal set up by the Ayub regime in Dhaka cantonment.

The case led to widespread agitation in East Pakistan, culminating in a Mass Upsurge in early 1969. Under public pressure, the government was forced to release Sheikh Mujib unconditionally on February 22, 1969.

The Six Points

1. The constitution shall 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 shall 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 reserve bank should be established, and a 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 on the issue. The federation will be entitled to a share in 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 shall be met by the two wings equally or in a ratio to be fixed; indigenous products shall move free of duty between the two wings, and the constitution shall empower the units to establish trade links with foreign countries.

6. East Pakistan shall have a separate militia or paramilitary force.

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