Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Distorting the history and tarnishing the image of the great leader


THE REACTIONARY FORCES, who elated to power centre immediate after Bangabandhu’s demise rightly understood that the deceased Mujib is more powerful as the deep rooted image of Bangabandhu can not be wipe out from the heart of the Bengali easily unless an ill-designed anti-thesis against Mujib’s ideology be introduced. So, they initiated the process of history distortion using state machineries with a view to demeaning Mujib’s image. And for the same reason Mujib was kept in complete blackout in the state controlled media during the tenures of reactionary forces.

The irony of our history is that the major beneficiary of Bangabandhu killing was valiant freedom fighter General Ziaur Rahman, who emerged as the first dictator of the country. Being a freedom fighter, just to fulfil his own political ambition, Zia did not hesitate to be a part of the blue print of the reactionary forces. The reactionary forces speculated that if the new generations, who have not witnessed the war of independence, could be kept in the dark concerning the history of our liberation and the contribution of Bangabandhu , they would, one day, be successful. For this, keeping Zia in front they started to distort and fabricate our war history. Not only this, the process of tarnishing the image of Bangabandhu had also begun during Zia’s regime. Perhaps, on part of the dictator it was necessary to build up his own image.

Reactionary forces have brought so many acquisitions against Bangabandhu which have no ground in reality. The following sections attempt to encounter some of such allegations:

A. Bangabandhu killed democracy by introducing one party rule BAKSAL: Many have claimed that it was none but Bangabandhu who killed democracy and established authoritarian rule by introducing BAKSAL in 1975. On the surface, this seems to be true. But this becomes half-true if we objectively analyse the rationale behind introduction of Baksal. In fact, it could be argued that democracy loving Bangabandhu was bound to embrace authoritarian rule in accordance with the demand of the time. The very objective of BAKSAL was to establish socialism in the country following Soviet model. It may be noted that at that time of history, socialism had a special appeal to the common people. Moreover, Soviet model of socialism was a proven model for economic emancipation of the poor people as we analysed the Russian experience. Within a short span of time the backward feudalist country Russia became one of the super powers in the world providing the poor people with all sorts of basic needs. Besides, Baksal was formed in a democratic way through proper discussion in the parliament, and many people of the country at that time, including leading intellectuals, journalists and other professional groups, welcomed it. However, right now, no conclusive remark on Baksal is possible as it died in its infantile stage with the brutal killing of the father of the nation.

B. Bangabandhu’s Secularism is a form of atheism: In true sense a secular state should be indifferent to religion—religion should be private domain of a citizen. But if we objectively analyse the history, to Bangabandhu secularism meant restricting the communal politics constitutionally and giving equal emphasis to all religions. For this reason 1972 constitution banned religion based political party. It may be mentioned that religion based communal politics leads to extremism and anarchism disturbing communal harmony. Analysing the consequence of activities of religion based parties worldwide we can claim that banning communal politics was a pragmatic spirit of our constitution --- which was also a major spirit of our liberation war. However, Bangabandhu defined secularism is no way anti-Islamic. We have observed that during his time as a major Muslim country he was very eager to build good relationship with other Muslim countries and Bangladesh became a prominent member of OIC. Even much before Bangladesh received recognition from Pakistan (recognition came after Mujib’s death), in 1974 he invited and received Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in Bangladesh just to improve the bilateral relation with the major Muslim country in the sub-continent. In this context, the observation of J. N. Dixit who worked as Deputy High Commissioner of India after our independence and later promoted to Foreign Secretary of India can be cited. Mr. Dixit in his book entitled, “Liberation and Beyond” has pointed out that Sheikh Mujib believed, Bangladesh should give priority, not just to its Bengali linguistic and cultural identity, but also, to its Muslim identity. So, the claimant of Bangabandhu’s secularism is synonym to atheism is merely propaganda.

C. Bangabandhu did not proclaim independence: This propaganda was initiated during Zia’s regime, presumably with a motive to portray Zia’s role in the liberation war over Mujib’s. But in reality, the context of our liberation had not been created in a day. Rather it had a long history starting from the language movement in 1952. It was not like that once in a fine morning in March 1971, an unknown major (Zia was then a major in the East Bengal regiment) declared independence and people started the war. The fact is, prior to our liberation war, for about half a decade under the magical leadership of Bangabandhu, people were fully motivated to be emancipated from Pakistani colonial regime.

Declaration of war, although a formal entity, however, historical evidences suggest that Zia did not announce it first. On March 27, 1971 Major Zia transmitted a declaration of war on behalf of Sheikh Mujib. But prior to this, shortly after midnight, on March 26, Bangabandhu dispatched his aides from his house. He reportedly sent this message to East Pakistan Radio:

“This may be my last message. From today, Bangladesh is independent. I call upon the people of Bangladesh wherever you might be and with whatever you have, to resist the army of occupation to the last. Your fight must go on until the last soldier of the Pakistan occupation army is expelled from the soil of Bangladesh and final victory is achieved."

On April 10, 1971 the provisional government of Bangladesh proclaimed its official declaration confirming the declaration of independence made by Bangabandhu earlier as noted below:

“We, the elected representatives of the people of Bangladesh, as honour-bound by the mandate given to us by the people of Bangladesh, whose will is supreme, duly constitute ourselves into a Constituent Assembly, and having held mutual consultations, and in order to ensure for the people of Bangladesh equality, human dignity and social justice, declare and constitute Bangladesh to be sovereign People's Republic, and thereby confirm the declaration of independence already made by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, and do hereby affirm and resolve that till such time as a Constitution is framed, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman shall be the President of the Republic and that Syed Nazrul Islam shall be the Vice-President of the Republic, and that the President shall be the Supreme Commander of all the Armed Forces of the Republic..."

Moreover the historic March 7 address of Bangabandhu can also be treated as a declaration of independence where he explicitly declared that: “Ebarer sangram, swadhinotar sangram, ebarer sangram, muktir sangram” (The struggle this time is a struggle for emancipation, the struggle this time is a struggle for independence)

So, those who try to claim that Zia proclaimed the declaration of independence first distorting the history, no doubt, have some ill motives.

D. Rakkhi Bahini issue: The objective of formation of Rakkhi Bahini was to support both the army and police forces to maintain some semblance law and order in the war rampaged country. Unfortunately, after the independence some left extremist groups (e.g. Gonobahini, Purba Bangla Sharbahara) inspired by the Naxalite movement of India were engaged in various underground activities including killing, which, in turn led total collapse of law and order in some parts of the country. Besides although constitutionally banned, the defeated “Islamic political fanatics” went underground and started their destructive politics by joining other left extremist groups. The law and order became so worst that even in broad day light these groups dared to kill their political rivals. In this context, killing of four sitting members of parliament at that time can be cited. In this critical social context, Bangabandhu decided to form Rakkhi Bahini, a Para militia force. It may be mentioned that perhaps Bangabandhu wanted to promote freedom fighters and so most of the members of Rakkhi Bahini were recruited from freedom fighters. In addition to police forces, creation of additional forces was not unprecedented anyway. In this context, existence of National Guard in USA and RAB in Bangladesh can be mentioned. This Rakkhi Bahini worked successfully to control the political anarchism as initiated by the extremist groups. Besides, in 1974, it successfully carried out an operation against hoarders and smugglers. However, in some cases Rakkhi Bahini committed excess and that should have been prevented.

E. Submissive foreign policy towards India: The reactionary forces recreated the anti-Indian sentiment in the mindset of the common people and tried to portray Mujib’s foreign policy as submissive towards India. But the fact is, Bangabandhu wanted to maintain friendly relationship with India along with Russian in the context of bi-polar international political setup of that time. It may be mentioned that both Russia and India supported us in our war of Independence while USA supported Pakistan. So, after independence, it was nothing wrong to keep close relationships with these two friendly countries. But Mujib’s government by anyway, was not submissive towards India. In support of this assertion we may point out the fact that within the shortest time of Mujib’s return from Pakistan in April 1972 he could successfully compel the Indian government to back their armed forces those at the fag end of our war of liberation fought side by side with our freedom fighters from the soil of Bangladesh. On bi-lateral relationship with India, the observation of Dixit was, “... even though Sheikh Mujib knew that during those early days of Bangladesh’s existence the country needed India’s assistance, he did not wish Bangladesh to become dependant on its large neighbouring giant, India, could unduly influence its politics. For this reason Sheikh Mujib wanted the Indian “connection and influence’ to lessen over time”

In conclusion, it may be stated that, although Sheikh Mujib was a great leader but by anyway he was not a prophet or any sort of superhuman. As a political personality down to the earth, no doubt he has some limitations too. Researchers in future will hopefully unveil this using authentic history and considering socio-economic and political setup of that time both nationally and internationally. But distorting history with a view to tarnishing the great leader at the state level will not be acceptable. #

Md. Anwarul Kabir is educationalist and is a freelance writer. He can be reached at kabiranwar@yahoo.com