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Six-point: “Charter of Freedom” for Bengalees

BSS | Sunday, 7 June 2020


Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has written an article marking the historic Six-Point Day today. Following is the article:

We observe June 7 as the Six-Point Day. The year 2020 has appeared as a unique year in the life of the Bengalees. This year is very important for us – meaning the people of Bangladesh. Massive programmes were undertaken to celebrate the birth centenary of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Not only in Bangladesh, the Bengalees around the globe had also taken preparations to this end. UNESCO had also decided to observe this day, while the UN member states had taken necessary preparations too. The UN has already released a commemorative postage stamp in this regard.

When such massive preparations were going on, then a pandemic emerged across the globe. An infectious disease named novel coronavirus or COVID-19 has infected people of the world in such way for which almost all the countries across the globe are infected by the deadly disease, and their economic, social and cultural operations have come to a stalemate. Bangladesh, too, is not free from this virus. Under the circumstances, we have suspended all sorts of activities in the areas where there can be mass gathering, considering public interest and thus observing various programmes through radio, television and digital media.

Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman declared the six-point demand in 1966 which is regarded as the “Charter of Freedom” of the Bengalees. I recall with deep respect Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, show my respect to my mother Bangamata Sheikh Fazilatunnesa Mujib as she played an unique role in making successful the June 7 programmes. I also remember my beloved family members who embraced martyrdom on August 15, 1975. I also pay my profound respect to the four national leaders, all the martyrs of the War of Liberation and my oppressed mothers and sisters.

Unveiling of the six-point demand:

On February 5, 1966 at the residence of Chowdhury Mohammad Ali in Lahore, the conference of the opposition party began with Muslim League President Syed Mohammad Afzal in the chair. Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman placed the six-point demand in a subject committee meeting. But the proposal was not adopted, even Farid Ahmed of East Bengal also opposed the proposal.

Referring to this demand, some newspapers of West Pakistan on February 6 mentioned that this six-point demand was brought to split Pakistan into two parts. Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib responded to this by holding a press conference on February 10. Bangabandhu returned to Dhaka on February 11 and highlighted the six-point demand briefly before the journalists at the airport.

The six-point demand had proposed to give self-autonomy to every province of Pakistan. But, the other political parties of Pakistan neither accept this proposal nor expressed interest to hold discussion on the issue. Bangabandhu then returned to Dhaka and the six-point demand was passed at the working committee of Awami League.

This proposal was adopted at the working committee of Awami League. It was then decided to publicise this demand massively. It was also then decided that the party leaders would visit the whole East Pakistan and place this demand before the people. A booklet on six-point demand written by Bangabandhu was also circulated in the name of the party General Secretary. Besides, this demand was also placed before the people through leaflets, pamphlets and posters.

Why the six-point demand?

During the Indo-Pak war in 1965, the people of East Bengal or East Pakistan remained totally unprotected as there was no importance to the central government of Pakistan for protecting this region and East Bengal was left at the mercy of India. If India could have launched a massive attack on East Bengal then it would have not been possible for Pakistan to save this region staying at a distance of 1,200 miles. On the other hand, if we review the war scenario of that time, then we see India could occupy up to Lahore of Pakistan had not the Bengali soldiers of Bengal Regiment faced the Indian military attack with bravery.

Any strong base of Army, Air Force and Navy was never set up in East Pakistan, while the 14 Division headquarter of Pakistan Army was in a very fragile state. The presence of Bengalees in the Pakistan Military was very limited. A report of Pakistani newspaper the Dawn in 1956 highlighted the position of Bengalees as follows:

Rank          West Pakistan      East Bengal

General               3                        0

Major General     20                       0

Brigadier             34                       0

Colonel               49                       1 (non spoken Bengali)

Lt Colonel           198                      2

Major                 590                      10

Naval Officer       593                      7

Air Force Officer  640                      40

This indicates that there was only two Bengalee officers going up to their highest Lt Colonel rank, but during the war, it was the Bengali soldiers who fought with utmost bravery.

After the Indo-Pak war, an agreement was signed between India and Pakistan which is also known as the Tashkent Treaty where the interest or security of East Bengal was also ignored.

If we looked back in the past, we see that the Pakistani rulers had always acted with step-motherly attitudes against the Bengalees. At first, they launched their attack on Bangla language which is also our mother language. They started hatching conspiracy to snatch our right of speaking in our mother language, but the Bengalees protected the dignity of mother tongue by shedding blood. The then student of Dhaka University Sheikh Mujibur Rahman started the language movement in 1948. Actually since then, he realized that the Bengalees must be freed from the rule, oppression and deprivation of the West Pakistanis.

The Bengalees had always been better enriched with education, norms and cultural practice than the West Pakistanis while the people of this region played a pioneering role towards the creation of Pakistan. The Bengalees were also the majority considering the population as around 56 percent of people then lived in East Pakistan.

But, West Pakistan was built up by snatching the earnings of East Pakistan while the lone duty of the then rulers was to unleash oppression on the Bengalees. In 1954, the AL-led Juktofront was formed uniting other parties and thus it won the election. The Muslim League conceded a heavy defeat, but the elected government was cancelled through imposing section 92 (Ka) that means emergency. The rule of the central government was then enforced in the East Bengal. After overcoming many hurdles, the Awami League formed the government in 1956, but conspiracy was still going on. In 1958, General Ayub Khan promulgated Martial Law and subsequently attacks were launched on the Bengalees time and again.

Public support to six-point demand:

When the six-point demand was placed in the wake of torture and oppression by Ayub Khan, then public support started to grow in favour of this demand fast. I think it was a rare incident in the world as it would be hard to find out the history of gaining public support so fast to a demand.

Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib then started to visit the whole of East Bengal. Whenever he joined a public rally in any district, he was sued and arrested there. After getting bail, he joined public rally in another district. Like this, Bangabandhu was arrested for eight times in a span of just two months. After returning to Dhaka after joining a public rally in Narayanganj on May 8, 1966, Bangabandhu was arrested from his Dhanmondi residence and was sent to jail on the following day on May 9. Cases were filed one after another against Bangabandhu, and the party leaders and workers were also arrested during that time. Cases were filed against numerous student leaders and labour leaders after arresting them from across the country.

On May 13 in 1996, Awami League organized a public rally to observe the protest day where the people extended full support to that six-point demand. On May 30, a working committee meeting of East Pakistan Awami League was held with its acting President Syed Nazrul Islam in the chair. Organizing Secretary Mizanur Rahman Chowdhury then acted as the acting General Secretary. Hartal (strike) was called on June 7 across the East Pakistan and all-out efforts were undertaken to make that hartal a success . At that time, many meetings of Awami League were held at the residence of Bangabandhu.

My mother, Begum Fazilatunnesa, had played a special role in making the June 7 hartal a success. Holding secret meetings with student leaders, she gave necessary instructions to this end. By communicating with the labour and Awami League leaders, she also extended all kinds of support to them. The persecution and arrest by the Pakistani rulers continued to rise equally. In protest, the people from all walks of life got united. People of East Bengal from all levels – rickshaw pullers, scooter drivers, factory workers, bus-truck-babytaxi drivers, van pullers, shopkeepers, porter-labourers and day labourers – had jointed the Six Point Movement.

Pakistani military junta and president Ayub Khan bestowed the full responsibility on East Pakistan governor Monem Khan to resist this movement in any way.

But, the people of Bangladesh had extended their support to the Six-Point Movement by enforcing the hartal on June 7, ignoring all the oppressions. The Pakistani government got a befitting reply. But it was a matter of regret that police fired on the people without any instigation. Labour leader Monu Mian and 10 others were killed. The more the level of torture increased to suppress the movement, the more general people were getting involved in it.

About the June 7 hartal, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in his diary wrote: “After 12 o’clock, it was finally known that there was a hartal. People observed the hartal spontaneously. They support the Six-Point and want liberty. They want to live, they want to eat, they want individual freedom, they want just demands of workers and the farmers’ demands of survival (to be met); and it is proved through observing this hartal”. (Karagarer Rojnamcha page 69).

On June 10 and 11 in 1966, a meeting of Awami League executive committee, held with its acting president Syed Nazrul Islam, thanked students-workers and general people for lending support to the Six-Point by observing the hartal. This strike proved that the people of the East Bengal wanted self-autonomy. For this reason, the meeting expressed satisfaction.

Decisions were taken to observe the torture-oppression prevention day on June 17, 18 and 19, hoist black flag atop the houses of Awami League leaders and workers, and wear black badge in the morning on the three days. The meeting decided to form a fund to provide financial support to the families of those killed during the hartal and treatment to the injured people, and constitute a legal aid committee comprising AL lawyers to conduct cases and seek bail.

A decision was also taken to bear all kind of expenses from the party fund. Instruction was given to observe all the programmes of the movement peacefully.

Different programmes, including meetings, rallies, protest processions and distribution of leaflets, were taken to spread the autonomy movement massively across the country (then East Pakistan) on the basis of the Six-Point Demand. Steps were initiated to mould public opinion in support of this demand.

Meanwhile, the government’s oppression started to increase. The more Ayub-Monaim continued to persecute, the more the people got angry with them and they started to be united further braving all oppressions.

On June 23 and 24 in 1966, a meeting of Awami League working committee was held and it decided to take this movement to the second stage. This movement started getting intensified spreading from the centre to district, sub-division and union levels.

The magnitude of oppression by the government continued to rise. Those who were given the responsibility of acting AL general secretary were being arrested one after another. Finally, there remained only one women affairs secretary who was yet to be arrested. My mother gave a decision that she (women affairs secretary) would be given the responsibility of the acting general secretary. Awami League took this step.

Agartala Conspiracy Case:

The Pakistani government began a new conspiracy. On January 18 in 1968, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was brought to the detention at Dhaka Kurmitola Cantonment from Dhaka Cental Jail. This was done very secretly by army in the darkness of night. Then a sedition case was filed against him, which was more known as the Agartala Conspiracy Case.

Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was made the number one accused in the case. Along with him, 34 other civil and military officers and persons were sued in the case.

On the other hand, to foil the Six-Point Demand, an effort was made by raising another demand in the name of Eight-Point by some leaders of West Pakistan aiming to mislead the people. But this effort did not work. Although some top leaders were misguided, students-common people remained united in favour of Bangabandhu’s Six-Point.

The main allegation of the Agartala Conspiracy Case, officially called State vs Sheikh Mujibur Rahman case, was that all the accused were involved in a plot to split the East Pakistan from West Pakistan staging a coup through an armed revolution. That is why the sedition case was filed against them.

The statement of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was: “We are 56 percent of the population of East Pakistan, the majority. Why should we get separated? We want our just rights, we want to live independently. Those, who are the minority, may be separated, but the majority would not do so.”

As a result of this case, the movement became more extreme. The desire and spirit for independence augmented in the minds of the people of Bengal.

Sarbadaliya Chhatra Sangram Parishad (All Party Student Action Committee) was formed at Dhaka University. Alongside the Six-Point, students announced the 11-Point-Demand, which accelerated the movement. The movement spread to every educational institution, district and sub-division.

The proceedings of the case were initiated by setting up a court inside the cantonment. Besides, the Ayub government was unleashing various tortures and repressions, including jail, oppression, firing on people and killing of students and teachers.

The general people spontaneously began to build resistance against the police torture, oppression and repression of the Pakistani government. They took to the streets. They started to carry out attacks on pro-government newspapers offices, police stations, banks and administrative offices of the government. The entire Bangladesh turned into a spike of fire.

School students also took to streets with various slogans – ‘Withdraw Agartala Conspiracy Case’, ‘We will break the lock of jail and bring out Sheikh Mujib’ and ‘We demand Sheikh Mujib’s release’. At one stage, on February 15 in 1969, one of the accused in the case sergeant Zahurul Haq was killed in prison. People burst in anger. They feared that Sheikh Mujib would also be killed in the same way. Common people marched to attack the cantonment. The mob set fire to the house of the chief justice, who was the judge of the case, and he fled to West Pakistan.

On February 21, Ayub Khan was compelled to withdraw the Agartala Conspiracy Case in the face of a severe mass movement. On February 22 noon, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib was reached to Dhanmondi residence very secretly by a military jeep. Other accused were also released.

Language Movement-Autonomy to Independence: The success of Six Points:

The Ayub government was overthrown due to the mass movement. Army Chief Yahya Khan grabbed the power. Based on the Six-Point, election was held on December 7 in 1970. Awami League, led by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib, secured majority in the election in the entire Pakistan.

On December 5 in 1970, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib declared that the name of East Pakistan would be ‘Bangladesh’.

But the Pakistani military junta got engaged in a conspiracy without handing over the state power to the Bengalees. On March 7 in 1971, Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman proclaimed: “This time the struggle is for our freedom. This time the struggle is for our independence.”

Bangabandhu called the Non-Cooperation Movement. The people of Bangladesh strictly observed it.

The Bengalee nation earned victory through an armed liberation war from the Non-Cooperation Movement. On March 25, the Pakistani military junta launched genocide. In the first hours of March 26 in 1971, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib declared the independence (of Bangladesh) and instructed to continue the war.

After the nine-month war, Bengalees achieved the final victory. The Bengalees have got the status as a nation in the world, got the nation-state – independent, sovereign Bangladesh.