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OP-ED: The six-point charter of freedom for Bangalis

  • Published at 10:57 pm June 6th, 2020
7 June 6 Points Movement
A historic event FOCUS BANGLA

Why June 7 is important in our history

We observe June 7 as Six-Point Day.

The year 2020 is a very important year for us, the people of Bangladesh, as it is the birth centenary of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. 

Arrangements were made to celebrate the day with fervour. Not only in Bangladesh, Bangalis living in other parts of the world also prepared for celebrating the day.

Unesco decided to celebrate the birth centenary, as well as the countries under the United Nations (UN). UN has also created a memorial postage stamp.

Right when preparations were going on in full swing, the pandemic hit the world. Covid-19 is a contagious disease, and it has spread out throughout the world to such an extent that the economy, society, culture of many countries have come to a halt.

Bangladesh is not outside the grasp of this pandemic, and considering the safety of the people we have avoided all programs which require public gatherings while conducting programs only through radio, television, and other digital platforms.

Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had announced the six-point movement as the manifesto of Bangladesh’s independence in 1966. I remember with utmost respect my father, also the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and I pay my respects to my mother Bangamata Begum Fazilatunnesa. 

She played an important role in making the six-point movement successful.

I express gratitude to the four national leaders, the martyrs of the Liberation War, and the tortured mothers and sisters of the country.

Unveiling the six-point movement

On February 5, 1966, Syed Mohammad Afzal, the president of Council Muslim League presided over a meeting with the opposition party at former prime minister of Pakistan Chaudhury Mohammad Ali’s residence in Lahore.

Bangabandhu put forward his six-point movement in this meeting. The proposal was refused and Farid Ahmad of East Pakistan also opposed the movement. On February 6, a few newspapers mentioned the movement saying the six points are being propagated to segregate the two parts of Pakistan.

On February 10, Bangabandhu answered to this rumour by arranging a press conference. He returned to Dhaka on February 11. Upon reaching the airport he briefly explained the six-point movement to reporters. In the six-point movement, there was a plan to introduce independent rule in all the provinces. 

As all the other political parties of Pakistan were disinterested to even discuss the proposal, he came back to Dhaka.

The movement was approved by the AL’s executive committee.

The demand was accepted in the council meeting of the AL and it was decided that the movement will be widely spread. The leaders of the party decided to travel throughout East Pakistan and tell people about the movement. A book written by Bangabandhu was published under the party’s general secretary’s name.

Leaflets, pamphlets, posters among other things were used to uphold the movement in front of the public.

Why the six-point movement

The people of East Bengal or the then East Pakistan were left vulnerable during the war between Pakistan and India in 1965. The central government of Pakistan was not a bit concerned about the people of this province.

East Bengal was left to the mercy of India. If India had decided to attack East Pakistan, the central government would not have been able to save us from 1,200 miles away. If we analyze the situation during that war we see that India would have occupied areas stretching till Pakistan’s Lahore if the Bangali soldiers of Bengal Regiment had not fought against India’s military forces.

There were no strong base of the army, navy, and air force in East Pakistan. We only had a headquarter of the 14 divisions of the army, which was also in a vulnerable state.

And there were very limited number of Bangali members in the armed forces.

The discrimination toward Bangalis in the armed forces was brought forth in a news report of The Dawn.

Designation

West Pakistan 

East Pakistan 

General 

3

Major General

20

Brigadier 

34

Colonel

49

1(Could not speak Bangla) 

Lieutenant Colonel 

198 

2

Major 

590

10

Navy officers 

593 

7

Air force officers

640

40

So, there were only two Bangali officers at the highest ranking post of the Pakistan armed forces, that too a lieutenant general. Whereas the Bangali soldiers are the ones who fought most valiantly during war.

After the war, a peace agreement was signed between India and Pakistan in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, which is now known as the Tashkent Declaration. East Pakistan remained neglected in that agreement as well.

Looking back, we see that the rulers of Pakistan have always behaved in a hostile manner against the Bengalis. The first blow was on the Bengla language which is our mother tongue. 

They attempted to take away the right to speak in one's mother tongue. Bengalis protected the dignity of their mother tongue with blood. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, then a student of Dhaka University, started the language movement in 1947.

Ever since then, he realized that we have to be freed from the deprivation and oppression of the West Pakistanis. The Bengalis have always been richer in education and cultural practices than the West Pakistanis.

The people of the region also played a leading role in the movement for the creation of Pakistan. The majority of the population of Pakistan was also Bengalis as 57% of the people lived in East Bengal.

West Pakistan was built by looting the money earned by East Bengal. The only task of the rulers was to oppress Bengalis. In 1954, other parties led by the AL united and formed the United Front and won the election. The Muslim League was defeated miserably. 

However, they halted the elected government by issuing Section 92A, that is, emergency. 

Central rule was introduced in East Bengal. The conspiracy did not stop even when the AL formed government in 1956, after going through many ups and downs. 

In 1958, Ayub Khan issued martial law. In this way the Bengalis were faced with repeated hurdles.

Public support toward the six-point movement

When the six-point movement was introduced against the backdrop of Ayub Khan’s torture, public support for it began to grow rapidly. 

I think this is a rare event in the world. Instance of such rapid public support for any demand cannot be found in history.

Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib started travelling through East Bengal to gain public support. He was prosecuted and arrested in any district he held public meetings in. After getting bail, he would again hold meetings in other districts. He was arrested eight times in a row in just two months.

After returning to Dhaka after a public meeting in Narayanganj on May 8, 1986, he was arrested from his Dhanmondi residence. 

He was sent to jail on May 9. Cases were filed against him one after another. Meanwhile, they started arresting other party leaders and activists too. Numerous leaders and activists from all over Bangladesh including student leaders and labour leaders were arrested after filing cases against them.

On 13 May 1966, the AL held a public meeting in protest. At the public meeting, the people expressed their support for the six-point movement. A meeting of the working committee of the East Pakistan AL was held on May 30, presided by the then acting president of Bangladesh Syed Nazrul Islam. 

Organizing Secretary Mizanur Rahman Chowdhury was the acting general secretary at the time. A state-wide hartal was called on June 7 and every effort was made to make the hartal a success. 

At that time many meetings of the AL were held at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s house in Dhanmondi. My mother Begum Fazilatunnesa played a big role in making the protest on June 7 successful. She gave directives to the student leaders through secret meetings and contacted AL and labour leaders to provide all kinds of support. 

Meanwhile, repression and arrests by Pakistani rulers continued to increase. People of all walks of life got united to protest that. East Bengal’s people from all walks of life -- factory workers, shop-keepers, coolies, rickshaw-pullers, scooter, bus, truck, van drivers -- everyone participated in the six-point movement.

Pakistan’s military junta and President Ayub Khan directed East Pakistan’s Governor Monem Khan to stop this movement at any cost to.

However, the people of Bangladesh defied their efforts to participate in the protest on June 7 and showed their support for the six-point movement. The Pakistan government got their appropriate answer. The sad part is, without any provocation, the police fired on the public. 11 people, including labour leader Monu Mia, were killed.

As they increased their torture to stop the movement, more and more people started to join it.

About the protest on June 7, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman wrote in his diary: “After 12 we got the news that the demonstration was successful. People have spontaneously participated in it. They support the six-point movement and want freedom. They want to live, to eat, have personal freedom, labour rights, and demand the survival of the farmers -- all this was proved in this protest,” (Karagorer Rojonamocha, page 69).

On June 10 and June 11, 1966, student leaders and public were appreciated for supporting the six-point movement by participating in the protest, at an AL executive meeting, presided by acting president Syed Nazrul Islam. 

People of East Bengal wanted autonomy and the protest was its proof -- satisfaction was expressed in the meeting. June 17, 18, and 19 were fixed to observe the Oppression Prevention Day. 

All AL leaders and activists were asked to hoist black flags at their houses and wear a black badge for the three days. A fund was created to provide financial support to the families of those killed during the protest and for the treatment of the injured. 

Moreover, a legal aid committee was formed by the AL lawyers to manage the cases and for bail. All costs will be provided from the party’s fund, such a decision was taken. 

Directives were given to carry out all programs of the movement peacefully.

Many programs -- meetings, assemblies, demonstrations, distributing leaflets -- were scheduled to spread the six-point movement extensively across the country. The process for building huge public support for this movement had begun.

Meanwhile, the government’s torture was also on the rise. The more the persecution by Ayub-Monaim’s gang increased, the more the people got angry and became united, ignoring all the persecutions.

A meeting of the executive committee of the AL was held on July 23 and 24, 1966 and it was decided to take the movement to the second stage. The movement spread from the centre to the district, sub-division and union level, and intensified.

The government also continued to increase the level of torture. One by one, all those in charge of the general secretary position were getting arrested. Eventually only a woman secretary was left out. 

My mother decided to make her the acting general secretary and the AL acted on the decision.

Agartala Conspiracy case

The government of Pakistan started a new conspiracy. On January 18, 1968, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was shifted from Dhaka Central Jail to Dhaka Kurmitola Cantonment as a prisoner.

This was secretly done by the army at night. Later a sedition case was filed against him, commonly known as the Agartala Conspiracy case.

Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was the main accused of this case and accompanied by 34 others, including military and civilian officers. Meanwhile, another eight-point movement was started by some West Pakistani leaders to thwart the six-point movement and to confuse people. 

However, it did not work. Though some high positioned leaders were confused, the students and people remained united for Bangabandhu’s six-point demand. The main allegation in the Agartala Conspiracy case, between the state and Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, was that the accused were conspiring to separate East Pakistan from Pakistan by staging a coup through armed revolution. And for this reason, a sedition case was filed against them.

Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib’s statement was: “We, the East Pakistan, make 57% of the population, the majority. Why should we want to be separated? We should have our fair share of rights and freedom. Those who are the minority may want to get separated but not us.”

As a result of this lawsuit, the movement became more intense. In the minds of the people of Bengal, the desire for independence intensified.

An all-party Chhatra Sangram Parishad was formed at Dhaka University. Students raised the six-point demand to 11-point demand, further accelerating the movement. The movement then spread to every educational institution, district, and subdivision.

The proceeding of the case was started by setting up a court inside the cantonment. Meanwhile the Ayub government continued their oppression and repression in various forms, including imprisonment, torture, shootings, student, and teacher killings.

Ordinary people spontaneously began to build resistance against torture, oppression and repression of the Pakistani government. 

They took to the streets. They began to attack the pro-government newspaper offices, police stations, banks, and even administrative offices. The whole of Bangladesh became fiery then.

School students also took to the streets with slogans like “Withdraw the conspiracy, break the prison and bring back Sheikh Mujib, release Sheikh Mujib.” 

Amidst all these, on February 15, 1969, Sergeant Zahurul Haque, one of the accused in the case, was killed in custody. 

People burst out in anger, they feared that Sheikh Mujib will also be killed in this manner. The common people proceeded to invade the cantonment. They set fire on the house of the main judge, who then fled to West Pakistan.

In the face of mass agitation, Ayub Khan was forced to withdraw the Agartala case on February 21. With utmost confidentiality, Sheikh Mujib was dropped by a military jeep to his house in Dhanmondi on the afternoon of February 22. Others accused were also released.

Language movement-autonomy to independence: Success of the six-point movement

The Ayub government collapsed during the mass movement. Army chief Yahya Khan seized power. According to the six-point demand, the election was held on December 7, 1970. 

All across Pakistan, the AL, under the leadership of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib, won with majority of the votes.

On December 5, 1970, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib announced that the name of East Pakistan would be “Bangladesh.” However, the Pakistani military junta conspired without handing over the power to the Bengalis. 

Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman made a historic declaration on March 7, 1971: “This time the fight is for our liberation, the fight is for our freedom.” 

Bangabandhu called for a non-cooperation movement and the people of Bangladesh followed it accordingly. The Bengali nation won the non-cooperation movement through an armed liberation war. On March 25, the Pakistani military junta started genocide. 

Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib declared independence in the early hours of March 26, 1971 and urged to go to war. After a nine-month war, on December 16, the Bengalis achieved their final victory. Bengalis got an independent nation and a sovereign country, and Bangladesh got the status of an independent nation from the world.

Sheikh Hasina is Prime Minister of Bangladesh.

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