Sheikh Mujib was also a minister during the United Front’s rule but he quitted the coveted position and opted for the secretaryship of the party. This was premeditated that gave him the golden opportunity to materialise his dream of an autonomous province in East Bengal. But, his cherished dream was gradually fading away with the extension of the army rule. Then in 1961, he drafted, printed and distributed a leaflet in the name of the East Bengal Liberation Front (EBLF) with a call for emancipation and shortly thereafter, without his party’s consent, he contacted Communist Party leaders Moni Singh and Khoka Roy as well as Muzaffar Ahmed of National Awami Party and expressed his conviction of creating an independent country. He failed to get their support, but it was then revealed that Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy was also against the idea. After several sessions with Moni Singh and Khoka Roy, Sheikh Mujib and Tofazzal Hossain Manik Miah had a secret meeting with an official of Indian High Commission. They interacted and handed over a letter for delivery to Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Mujib grew impatient and dashed to Agartala without getting a reply of his letter. He had a plan to go to Britain from Agartala and declare independence on receiving Nehru's consent; and his followers would start an armed struggle against Pakistan with the help of India. Unfortunately, he failed to get Indian support. He did not abandon the idea. He visited Agartala again in 1963, and then apparently got Nehru's consent for pursuing the course of independence. In 1964, some Bengali defence officers were working for the independence of East Bengal and they received the blessing of Mujib for their efforts. At one stage, Sheikh Mujib realised that even if the country was made independent through the efforts of these armed people, the cherished goals of creation of a society free of oppression or exploitation with democratic order would be elusive. Because of this apprehension, he prevented the pro-Awami elements from the so-called arms uprising but continued his own efforts. Secretly, he kept on maintaining the old contact with new leader - Indira Gandhi, the president of Indian Congress after the death of Nehru. In that year, the last attempt to expel Hindus from the country turned into ethnic resistance when many, including Sheikh Mujib, stood up to prevent communal riots. In January 1965, when Ayub Khan defeated the Combined Opposition Party candidate Fatima Jinnah by a vote of the so-called basic democrats, Pakistan's hopes of reverting to democracy were doomed. Sheikh Mujib once again was sent to jail. This was not the first time he was imprisoned; he faced these eventualities many times. He revived Awami League after the death of Shaheed Suhrawardy. Before his death, Suhrawardy warned the Pakistanis that Mujib would declare Bangladesh's independence after his death if Pakistan did not stop discrimination. The freedom of speech during the martial law of Ayub was suppressed, but the hint of rebellion emerged when Monem Khan, as Chief Guest at the university's convocation, came for distribution of certificates. Previously, students indulged in nationwide movement against the education policy which was rather a protest against the illegally seated government and the arrest of Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy. Manzur Quader, the foreign minister of Ayub, was harassed on the campus. At that time, Sheikh Mujib had been trying to strengthen the East Bengal Liberation Front, Independent Bangla Revolutionary Council as well as turned the East Bengal Liberation Front into Bangladesh Liberation Front (BLF) aimed at armed warfare with Pakistan to gain independence. His nephew Sheikh Fazlul Haque Mani was given the responsibility of BLF and Serajul Alam Khan, Abdur Razzak and Kazi Aref were given the responsibility of the Independent Bengal Revolutionary Council. After the imprisonment of Sheikh Moni, Abdur Razzak played some role on behalf of BLF. Sheikh Mujib was very fond of Tagore’s song ‘Amar Sonar Bangla, Ami Tomai Valobashi’ meaning ‘My Sonar Bangla, I Love You’. He used to sing this to himself and informed the nearest followers that this would be the national anthem, when the country would attain independence. He had a record of demanding Bangladesh instead of East Pakistan, back in 1955. The education movement of 1962 and 1963 mentioned earlier along with the harassment of Manzur Quader, the foreign minister of Ayub Khan on Dhaka University and the pandemonium created on the convocation day made BLF presence visible. Then came the war between India and Pakistan in 1965. Since East Bengal was completely unprotected in the Indo-Pakistan war, Sheikh Mujib announced the six-point demand as an outline of the full autonomy of East Bengal having amongst them a demand for raising provincial Para-military forces. The motive was quite clear.
6 Point Program:The other points contained in the six point program included demand for parliamentary form of democracy, autonomy for the provinces and safety bulbs against regional disparity. These indicated ultimate motive of 6 point program which paved the way towards constitutional emergence of Bangladesh. Sheikh Mujib along with his trusted and distinguished colleagues Syed Nazrul Islam and Tajuddin Ahmad - all of them erstwhile students of Dhaka University - wholeheartedly endeavoured to familiarize and popularize the program. The East Pakistan Student League led by Mazharul Haque Baki and Abdur Razzak with their henchmen came openly to support the six point program. Almost all of them were victims of widespread torture and jail during this time. Although the six point program was apparently a democratic move to attain provincial autonomy, Sheikh Mujib as well as the Pakistanis knew it as a single point program, meaning a program for independence of Bangladesh. That was why Sheikh Mujib was frequently harassed and tortured and ultimately was put in jail indefinitely on and from May 9, 1966. His placement in the jail almost permanently along with his close associates caused tougher action from Awami League. The action was the general strike.
A bloody chapter in Bangladesh's history was the general strike on June 7, 1966, when at least 11 Bengalis sacrificed their lives while extending support to general strike aimed at the release of Sheikh Mujib and others as well as the realization of the six point program. The people who steered the program on that day in favour of 6 point program and the release of Sheikh Mujib were Sheikh Fazlul Haque Moni, Sirajul Alam Khan, Abdur Razzak, Entaj Ali, Ferdous Ahmed Qureshi, Lutful Hai Sacchu, Al Mujahedi, Wahidur Rashid Murad, Al-Amin Chowdhury, Nur-e-Alam Siddiqui, Abdul Mannan Choudhury, Monirul Haque Choudhury, Sheikh Shahidul Islam, Sheikh Fazlul Karim Selim and many others. The first two were former students, the others were at that time students of Dhaka University. A cultural organization called Art and Literacy Association played a significant role in the general strike and afterwards when the activities of Chhatra League (Students League) were curved. The repressions meted out to the rest of the members of Awami League caused them to hide and withdraw from formal activities of the party. This six point program received a temporary setback.
to be continued...
The writer is a former student and teacher of Dhaka University, and currently serving as the Vice Chancellor of World University of Bangladesh