The charter of freedom to the Bengali Nation
The Six Point Movement was an event marking a unique or important historical change of course in Bangladesh's history. It was a movement in the-then East Pakistan, spearheaded by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, which called for greater autonomy for East Pakistan.
The movement's main agenda was to realize the six demands put forward by a coalition of Bengali nationalist political parties in 1966, to end the exploitation of East Pakistan by the West Pakistani rulers. It is considered a milestone on the road to Bangladesh's independence.
Following the partition of India in 1947, the new state of Pakistan came into being. The inhabitants of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) made up the majority of its population, and exports from East Pakistan (such as jute, tea…) were a majority of Pakistan's export income. But East Pakistanis had not a proportional share of political power and economic benefits within Pakistan. The economic discrimination towards the people of East Pakistan was vast.
People of this part of land were facing a critical situation after being subjected to continuous discrimination on a regional basis, year after year by the West Pakistani rulers. As a result, the economists, intelligentsia, and the politicians of East Pakistan started to raise questions about this discrimination, giving rise to the historic six-point movement.
Commencement of Six Point Demands, Mujib, who would not become Bangabandhu till three years later, had been placed in detention under the Defense of Pakistan Rules on 8 May 1966. The reason was not hard to understand. Self-declared Field Marshal Mohammad Ayub Khan, President of Pakistan, made clear his opinion on the Six Points.
He told the country that the purveyors of the Six Points would be dealt with in the language of weapons. Ayub Khan was not the only individual who spotted a threat to Pakistan's unity should the Six Points be acknowledged.
His soon-to-be-out foreign minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto challenged Mujib early in the year to a public debate in Dhaka's Paltan Maidan on the Six Points. It was Tajuddin Ahmed who accepted the challenge on Mujib's behalf. In the event, Bhutto did not show up his face.
Six-point Program, a charter of demands articulated by the Awami League for removing disparity between the two wings of Pakistan and to put an end to the internal colonial rule of West Pakistan in East Pakistan. The Indo-Pak War of 1965 ended with the execution of Taskent Treaty.
To the old grievances of economic disparity added the complain of negligence and indifference of central government towards the defense of East Pakistan. Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was vocal on this issue.
The leaders of the opposition parties of West Pakistan convened a national convention in Lahore on 6 February 1966 with a view to ascertain the post-Taskent political trend. Bangabandhu reached Lahore on 4 February along with the top leaders of Awami League, and the day following he placed the Six-point charter of demand before the subject committee as the demands of the people of East Pakistan.
He created pressure to include his proposal in the agenda of the conference. The subject committee rejected the proposal of Bangabandhu. On the day following, the newspapers of West Pakistan published reports on the Six-point Program, and Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was projected as a separatist. Consequently Sheikh Mujib abandoned the conference.
The Six-point Program along with a proposal of movement for the realization of the demands was placed before the meeting of the working committee of Awami League on 21 February 1966, and the proposal was adopted unanimously. A booklet on the Six-point Program with introduction from Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Tajuddin Ahmad was published.
Another booklet titled, "Amader Banchar Dabi: 6-dafa Karmasuchi" (Our demands for existence: 6-points Program) was published in the name of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, and was distributed in the council meeting of Awami League held on 18 March 1966.
The Six-Point Program is called as the charter of freedom to the Bengali Nation. From 1947 to 1971, a historic period for East Pakistan was a time that witnessed many painful events took place in this region and we must remember those upshots. This movement was a watershed in our glorious history and we should remember it with due staidness.
The points were clear, easy to understand and - most importantly were truly resemblance with the feelings of the Bengalis. It was for the first time when a Bengali shouted, asking for his economic and political rights and his national security. But the response from the West Pakistani rulers was rather painful and humiliating. It was an event that confirmed the myth that East Pakistan was a colony to the West Pakistan.
6 June 1966 is a red-letter day in the history of freedom movements of the people of Bangladesh. It was on this historic day that struggling people of this country took a firm and solemn vow for the achievement of their self-determination under the able and dynamic leadership of Bangabandhu Mujib.
Hence, the day has great political significance. It was, once again on this day, that blood flowed out of the veins of our people as they demanded their self-rule through the famous Charter of Six-point Demands of Bangabandhu which ultimately became the Magna Carta of all movements that emanated from the soil of Bangladesh. So the importance and significance of this historic day can hardly be overemphasized.
If we trace the history of our freedom struggle which started long back, we will observe that Bangabandhu as a part of his long-term plan to take his people gradually and systematically to the ultimate path of emancipation by giving his historic Six-point Program to the nation at a national conference of leaders of the then all political parties in Lahore on February 16, 1966.
This program of Bangabandhu had discomfited by the Islamabad ruling clique for all their schemes of exploitation planned and raised a violent storm in the political arena of the-then Pakistan. The erstwhile Pakistan Government tried their best to suppress the demand for self-determination raised by seventy-five million people of this land that time, as was laid down in the Magna Carta of Bangabandhu.
As a result of the Six-point Program, Bangabandhu was put behind bars on May 8, l966, along with his other followers. The arrest of Bangabandhu and his followers was vehemently resented by the people, and the whole of Bangladesh protested like one entity by holding meetings, rallies and processions which rocked the distant capital in Rawalpindi.
On May 20, the Awami League Working Committee decided to organize a protest meeting on June 7, 1966 by condemning repression and demanding release of Bangabandhu and other leaders, and thus came the observance of strike on 7 June.
The day dawned with factories remaining closed, transport off the roads and business houses shut down. This was the way people tried to express their indignation against the oppressors and resolute support to the leadership of Bangabandhu. People came out on the streets closing their establishments, offices and shops. They suspended all their normal activities.
Dhaka became the city of processions and slogans. The workers and students brought out peaceful processions. But the regime of exploiters could not tolerate slogan-chanting people who had made a sacred vow to realize their right to self-determination and so, the ruling clique responded with the language of weapons killing scores of people including Monu Mia in Dhaka and Narayanganj.
Thus the people of Bangladesh raised their slogans for independence by shedding their blood. Finally, Bangladesh came into being on 16 December 1971 at the supreme sacrifices of our three millions of people at the hands of brutal Pakistani military rulers and their felonious local confederates. "The song is ended, but the melody lingers on…" -- Irving Berlin.
The writer is a political
commentator and an author