Bangabandhu's clarion call | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, March 25, 2010 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, March 25, 2010

Bangabandhu's clarion call


The call for non-cooperation was the first move. Photo: Ryan McVay/ getty images

A civil disobedience movement with a call for total non-cooperation with the military junta was organised by Bangabandhu with a ten-point action program. This was in defiance of the military junta led by President Yahya Khan. In a statement Bangabandhu said that the non-violent and non-co-operation movement would continue till the objectives -- the immediate termination of martial law and transfer of power to the elected representatives -- were achieved.
The tough program of non-co-operation included the 10 points mentioned below:
-No-tax campaign to continue.
-The secretariat, government and semi-government offices, High Court and other courts throughout the country should observe hartal. Appropriate exemption to be announced from time to time.
-Railway and ports may operate, but railway and port workers shall not co-operate if they are used for mobilisation of forces for the purpose of carrying out repression against the people.
-Radio, television and newspapers shall give complete versions of the statements of the people's representatives and shall not suppress news about people's movement, otherwise Bangalees working in those establishments shall not co-operate.
-Only local and inter-district trunk telephone communication shall function.
-All educational institutions shall remain closed.
-Banks should not effect remittances to the western wing either through the State Bank or otherwise.
-Black flags shall be hoisted on all buildings every day.
-Complete and partial hartal may be declared at any moment, depending on the situation.
-A sangram parishad (council of action) shall be organised in each union, mahalla, thana, sub-division and district under the leadership of the local Awami league units.
The non-cooperation movement eventually evolved into the creation of a kind of Awami league government. The junta flew troop reinforcements into East Pakistan at night. From March 10 onwards leaders of minority party groups visited East Pakistan to meet Sheikh Mujib. They exchanged views with him, slating Bhutto's provocative attitude.
On March 15, Mujib expressed his determination to continue non-cooperation movement with "fresh action programs." On March 18, Mujib rejected the commission of enquiry set up by ML Administrator, Zone B as it would serve no purpose.
At a crucial stage of the non-cooperation movement the Dhaka talk between Bangabandhu and Yahya took place on March 19. When all efforts for a political solution failed, Yahya imposed military solution. On the fateful night of March 25 the Pakistan army went on a rampage, killing unarmed civilians in Dhaka with unprecedented brutality.
The call for non-cooperation was the clarion call of Bangabandhu. The situation that was created compelled him to go for complete non-cooperation. There were lots of provocative measures to deal with through mass resistance following the proclamation of the postponement of Dhaka session of the National assembly on March 3, 1971. In his historic March 7 speech Bangabandhu spelled out the guidelines of non-cooperation. Below is an excerpt from his speech:
"Let me make it clear without ambiguity that all courts, magistracies, government offices and educational institutions will remain closed for an indefinite period. In order that people do not suffer and my people do not get through pain all other activities will continue within the ambit of general strike. Rickshaws, horse carriages, trains and river vessels will ply. The Supreme Court, High Court, judge courts, semi-government offices, Wapda-- nothing will work. Employees will collect their salaries on the twenty-eighth. The owners of industries will make certain that the wages of workers who have taken part in the strike for the past week are duly paid to them. I shall tell employees of the government, my word must be heard, and my instructions followed. Until freedom comes to my land, all taxes will be held back from payment. Remember, employees at radio and television, if radio does not get our message across, no Bengali will go to the radio station. If television does put forth our point of view, no Bengali will go to television. Bank will remain open for two hours to enable people to engage in transactions. But there will be no transfer of even a single penny from East Bengal to West Pakistan. Telephone and telegram services will continue in East Bengal and news can be dispatched overseas."
All of us perhaps know the history of civil disobedience or non-cooperation movement launched by the protagonists of quit-India movement in undivided India. Non-cooperation is a non-violent movement observed in a peaceful manner. But the non-violent nature of the movement could not be upheld because of incidence of sporadic violence provoked by the British Raj. The Khilafat and non-cooperation movement during the British Period stirred the whole society to its depth. The impacts were far fetching. Aimed at extermination of British colonialism, the movement led to the development of Indian nationalism.
Since then, the movement for self-determination had been gaining momentum. The lesson from this type of non-cooperation movement was that true nationalists did not want any alien rulers to continue to rule. Inspired by Bengali nationalism, the non-cooperation movement launched by Bangabandhu was aimed at dislodging the semi-colonialism that plundered our wealth and resources through exploitation. It was also non-violent. But incidences of skirmishes and firing by the army accounted much for violence. The logic of the movement was upheld when Yahya dilly-dallied in ensuring peaceful transfer of power to the elected representatives, and let loose state terrorism upon the unarmed Bengali civilians.
Bangabandhu tried his best to keep the wheel of the economy moving despite disturbance. Banking, procurement and agricultural activities, and all their programs, functioned normally. Relief and rehabilitation functioned, and wage labourers involved in development projects continued to receive payments due to them.
The historic and fiery March 7 speech of Bangabandhu was full of programs for non-cooperation and preparation for the war of liberation. True, Bangabandhu set up a parallel government in defiance of the central command by issuing directions amid a non-cooperation movement. The people from all walks of life paid heed to his instructions, as if Bangabandhu were the de facto head of the government of East Pakistan.
Even the electronic media followed the directives of Bangabandhu while conducting its normal functions. The western wing of Pakistan was economically disconnected from East Bengal. In fact, a virtual declaration of independence was implicit in Bangabandhu's scheme of non-cooperation, which was later termed as "an act of treason" by Yahya Khan in his broadcast over radio on March 26t, 1971.

Dr. Md. Shairul Mashreque is Professor of Public Administration, Chittagong University. Dr. M. Abul Kashem Mozumder is Professor and Chairman of Public Administration, Jahangirnagar University.

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