Monday, 23 May, 2022

Bangabandhu's Political Philosophy in Independent Bangladesh (concluding part)

Dr. Syed Anwar Husain

Bangabandhu's Political Philosophy in Independent Bangladesh (concluding part)
Dr. Syed Anwar Husain

In the pre-Bangladesh phase, the purport of Bangabandhu's political philosophy was to achieve a state for the Bangalis as a sine qua non for their emancipation. As Bangladesh was achieved, the thrust now became to build a war-devastated Bangladesh; and, as such, Bangabandhu's politics underwent changes of content and intent. In the 1,314 days that he was allowed before the brutal assassination, his political philosophy could be gleaned from three phenomena: homecoming address of 10 January 1972; the Constitution, and its four fundamental state principles; and the Bangladesh Krishak Sramik Awami League (BKSAL).

The 10 January speech was, in content and purport, an imaginatively laid out roadmap for building the newly achieved Bangladesh, nationally and internationally.

The 17 minute impromptu speech began with such self-satisfactory words as, "Today, my lifetime dream is fulfilled. Today Bangladesh is independent;" and, in the same breath, he added the quantum of his self-confidence as he blurted out, "I have always known that Bangladesh would be free."

The ideological basis of the new state was indicated in such staccato sentences as, "I would like to state clearly that Bangladesh will be an ideal state. And, the basis of this state will not be religion. The basis of the state will be democracy, socialism and secularism (nationalism was added at the time of writing the Constitution as the fourth principle)." Moreover, economic emancipation as the prime goal was set when Bangabandhu said, "... if the countrymen do not have food to eat, the youth do not get employment, independence will fail – will not be complete."

Bangabandhu's best gift to the independent Bangladesh was the Constitution, which was, in fact, a treatise of his political philosophy; and this was also his blueprint for an ideal state. That such a state would be people centric was provided for in the Constitution, wherein the Article 7(1) wrote, "All powers in the Republic belong to the people..." On 12 October 1972, Bangabandhu said in the Constituent Assembly, "We have our ideals clear. The country has achieved independence on the basis of these ideals; and the country will run on these ideals." The Article 8(1) elaborated these ideals as "The principles of nationalism, socialism, democracy and secularism, together with the principles derived from those as set out in this Part, shall constitute the fundamental principles of state policy." In an interview, given immediately after the introduction of the Bangladesh Krishak Sramik Awami League, Bangabandhu categorically stated, "The origin of my political thought and ideas is democracy, socialism, nationalism and secularism. The goal of my political thought is the establishment of a real collective "democratic dictatorship" of the exploited and deprived labouring humanity with their fundamental human rights and an exploitation-free society through a composite implementation of these four fundamental principles." This statement of Bangabandhu was a crystal-clear summing-up of his political philosophy.

But in the discourse on Bangabandhu's political philosophy the most controversial part is the one relating to the BKSAL. The BKSAL was, in essence, political as well as constitutional. Originating in political cogitation, it took a definite shape through the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution (25 January 1975). 

Induced by circumstantial exigencies, the BKSAL was an outgrowth from Bangabandhu's personal thought process; although there were elements of advice in it. As is well-known Bangabandhu was all ears for any advice from anyone, but ultimately decision was his. At the first meeting of the BKSAL Central Committee, Bangabandhu made the pertinent point, "Why have we introduced this system?...  I have pondered long over it, I have had many days to think of it in the solitary confinement in prison. . . . No benefit will come without uniting the real people." As it appeared, the BKSAL was conceived as the common platform to unite the people driven by a common goal. In an interview, he was more succinct, "Being myself fully conscious in analysis and in the context of my experience, I have touted the BKSAL programme to materialize the hopes and aspirations of my toiling masses. . . . I undertook to free the country, I have. I undertook to build an exploitation and corruption-free socialist Bangladesh; I will do that, Insha Allah."

Were the BKSAL system implemented, the state of Bangladesh would have undergone a revolutionary change; and, indeed, Bangabandhu did refer to the system as "my second revolution." Born out of deep thinking and political sagacity of the author, the system was entirely people centric, and slated to function for a short period (not permanently) on the people's will and approval. Bangabandhu was candid enough to share such a perception vis-a-vis the system, "The people will accept if they are convinced that my idea is good. They will implement my programme. Even if I am not alive to guide this revolution of exploitation-free socialism or economic emancipation, I strongly believe, they will, at any cost, implement in Bangladesh, the ideals and goals bequeathed by me." As to the intent and purport of the new system, Bangabandhu informed the Central Committee, "In reality, we would like to build an exploitation-free society; we would like to craft a socialist economy."

At the beginning of this statement, Bangabandhu demonstrated his realism as he said, "If the new system does not work properly, alright, we will modify it. We have to save our countrymen, at any cost." As it appears, Bangabandhu had a sincere wish that his new system, with people's support, would outlast him. Pious as the dream was, the BKSAL died an unnatural death with the assassination of its ill-fated author. Bangladesh was certainly at a revolutionary turning-point, yet it failed to turn. A well-meaning and comprehensively devised socio-economic and political demarche was rendered infructuous through circumstances, which have since remained questioned. Nevertheless, as a concept and system therefrom, the BKSAL would ever remain a testimony to the clarity, goal-orientation and depth of political philosophy of its author. Apparently authoritarian for a specific period of time, the system was geared to endow the people with political power.

A thorough and minute analysis shows that Bangabandhu's politics and the back-up political philosophy were ab initio people centric. His was a pro-people politician, but certainly not populist. As he himself said on 4 November 1972, in the Bangladesh Constituent Assembly, "If someone thinks that barrel of a gun is the source of power, I do not agree. I admit, so does my party, that people are the source of power." Bangabandhu was a people's hero; he fashioned his political philosophy accordingly.


The writer is the Bangabandhu

Chair Professor, Bangladesh

University of Professionals (BUP),

Mirpur Cantonment, Dhaka