BBC’s Serajur Rahman
The BBC fame journalist Mr. Serajur Rahman, nearly an octogenarian, living and settled in London after retirement, just a few days ago in a Bengali daily column lamented in utter desperation if there was not even a single patriot in the Awami League, the party that now runs Bangladesh government for the last one year and a month led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. How is that? Is that hunch at all believable?
Mr. Rahman is none but the younger brother of the class mate of Hasina’s father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in the Calcutta Islamic College in early 1940s. So he had very much affections and closeness to ‘Mujib Bhai’ or brother Mujib and the dearest junior as in Bengali norm ‘Tui (or ye) Seraj’. Later on during 1960s when Muib’s Seraj had been at the BBC Bengali Broadcasting Service in London, and Mujib had been on with his well known Six point autonomy political movement for East Pakistan, it was that Seraj who played the prime role in the BBC doing major propaganda job about the Six Point not only for Bengali speaking people everywhere but also among other people almost worldwide. His role in 1971 during independence movement of Bangladesh remained documentarily historic. Until the last of Mujib running Bangladesh and tragically ending in mid 1975 they had close rapport. As a native of Bangladesh he has proved his patriotism despite being lately a British citizen. His serious concern for future of Bangladesh and the fear for the ruling party Awami League as ‘unpatriotic’ can not be taken as anything lightly.
Personally, I, being a non political party person, would believe that that there are many patriotic people and leaders in the Awami League, despite the fact that the party is historically aligned to India, particularly very closely in rapport with the Indian Congress Party, the party well to have had stance against the Partition of 1947 except as transitional strategy for re-unifying the region including Pakistan through annulling the partition of 1947. The problem and frustration Mr. Seraj expressed about, as I can see, is not without basis but remains elsewhere.
Awami League is not a new political party; it is now about 61 years old beginning the journey in 1949 in the newly independent State of Pakistan founded as the most vulnerable country in August 1947. The party then labeled as the Awami Muslim League had the prime goal to act as the opposition party of the ruling Muslim League that successfully led the movement for founding Pakistan on all British India basis.
Prelude to Civil War
In 1971 Awami League of East Pakistan led by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman based on his Six point movement emerged as the sole leader here that led unprepared for the secessionist independence movement from federal Pakistan. There was little preparation for the independence movement so far as leader Mujib was concerned, because, he refused to be blamed as ‘secessionist’. No matter what his real wish was, civil war started in East Pakistan practically from 1st March 1971 in the aftermath of the cancellation of the Assembly meet by the President of Pakistan earlier called for the 3rd March 1971. Until 25th March, as amicable political settlement between contending parties, particularly, with Zulfi Bhutto’s PPP based in West Pakistan failed, killing counter killings went on like anything almost all over East Pakistan, the main target was the non-Bengali population spread all over East Pakistan. The interceptor was the 25th March federal army crack down and massacre of civilians starting from the city of Dhaka Bangladesh. Naturally there was resistance from the Bengali people that led elsewhere in Chittagong to a revolt of the Bengali speaking section of the federal army men led by Major Ziaur Rahman .that sparked the independence war of Bangladesh. In short, the resistance later on based in India went on, albeit, in the absence of the leader as Mujib was kept detained at the federal security custody. Even so, Bangladesh got its independence in December 1971 through a nine month guerrilla war lastly supported and helped with full armed intervention by Indian army for only two weeks in early December 1971.
The leader knew almost nothing about the nine month war that went on from March to December as he remained in custody over thousand miles away in West Pakistan. At the end of the war and independence of Bangladesh, the leader Mujib was released from the custody there and was let him come back to join Bangladesh as its ruler. To view the facts in perspective the leader was a Pakistani citizen and patriot of Pakistan, at least, until he returned to independent Bangladesh on the 10th January 1972.
Thus Mujib had to change his previous belief and patriotism for the State of Pakistan to Bangladesh not before, I would argue, before January 10, 1972, because he was still then having the Confederation idea with West Pakistan in mind. Others, however, changed their allegiance to Bangladesh and shifted patriotism status quite earlier in 1971 as they found opportune moment for. But one problem remained unresolved. Patriotism of Bangladesh along with gratefulness to India for her armed help in the war of 1971 remained in the psyche that naturally impinged on inner belief. No doubt that there were and are many others and parties who owed the same gratefulness to India; but the allegiance of the Awami League surpasses all other parties’ affiliated men and women for they were and are more akin to the philosophy of Indian nationhood than any other else. For through the very 1971 episode, they started to negate the 1947 partition by condemning the creation of Pakistan and so secured independent Bangladesh in the geographical territory of what in 1947 emerged popularly as East Pakistan.
Patriotism of others
Thus the Awami League lots just like the leader Mujib changed his allegiance or patriotism from Pakistan to Bangladesh but essentially with a big BUT. The BUT is once they decried Pakistan it implied that they had blown out the partition of 1947 as well. Not only this. They turned close ideological ally of the Indian Congress Party, the party never accepted the 1947 partition and the State of Pakistan in perpetuity but only for a transition to once again to merge and integrate into the AKHANDA BHARAT. Thus in 1971 when Delhi successfully won the war and forced East Pakistan to secede from federal Pakistan, the Prime Minister of India Indira Gandhi boasted: ‘HAZAR SALOKA BADLA LE LIA’ (We have taken the revenge of one thousand years defeat). She remained satisfied up to the high pitch of emotion but refused for strategic reason to annex Bangladesh fully saying, ‘AVI MUMKIN NEHI’( Not feasible now) for the time being, despite impressive lobby work with her by some Awami Leaguer led by Chitta Ranjan Sutar, M.P.(1970) from Barisal, to do so. Possibly also for the reason that Mujib was still then not back to Dhaka from Islamabad to take up Bangladesh from the control of Indian army.
On to Track Again
It is true that the Awami League changed their allegiance from Pakistan to Bangladesh but always looked for support and sustenance from Delhi. The August 15 1975 luckily for Bangladesh provided the snap of the subservience, not fully but to a great extent as the toppling of Mujib was successfully done by a group of determined army men of Bangladesh who earlier fought for the independence in 1971.
Expatriate Patriot’s Concern
Beginning 1996 until July 2001 there had been a setback for the pro 1975 victors for Sheikh Hasina remained the P.M. during the period and tried to reverse the achievements based on the historic 15th August 1975 change, albeit with blessings from outside. Even so, things remained as was set on in late 1970s except that some of the coup leaders had been caged as ordinary ‘killers’. The serious inefficiency and ineptness of the following BNP Jote government during 2001 to 2006 made things slide down to the worst. That is why onwards from 2007 January Delhi managed to get hold of almost everything that culminated in the 2008 December 29 election. That ensured big victory for the Awami League. In the one year period Awami leader Sheikh Hasina, daughter of Mujib, formed the government for the second time after 1996. Delhi has put on total hold on Dhaka that the Awamis look at it very much comfortable. That obviously made serious patriot living outside in free democratic country of Britain like Mr. Serajur Rahman view with grave concern the total subservience of the Awami League to Delhi.
Whether he had the same feeling and measurement about them just as judicially murdered through POLITICAL TRIAL (The Economist, 27 November 2009) and heroically martyred Col Farook had who used the term for the Awamis as the Fifth Columnists.
Poodle in the Great Game
The Great Game Plan (See, Asian Age, London Edition, 24 March 2009, Bengali Indian retired Army General Shankar Roy Choudhury’s comment: “DELHI CAN’T AFFORD TO LET DHAKA SLIP OF ITS RADAR THIS TIME”) for regional supremacy India has in view is not unknown to the Awami League leaders. Could that plan be materialized through their subservience and clandestine help, if not overt ones, they would be in most advantageous position to easily switch their allegiance to the bigger entity forgetting about tiny Bangladesh. In this sense, they are certainly very clever people to have good dividends, may be, sooner than later. As Sheikh Hasina has already got the VVIP security provisions sanctioned in the national Parliament at the cost of the huge public exchequer not only for herself but also for the living and yet to be born future progeny of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, this looks like a return to the princely state days of the colonial period acting in reality as poodle. Thus Delhi’s outside protection and so complete subservience along with full allegiance to Delhi are just logical following of the party men and women. It may be mentioned here that Mujib’s next generation except Hasina are all citizens of various European countries and the USA. The VVIP security maintenance cost thus would have to be born by Bangladesh in foreign currencies. Is there any other democratic country in the world providing VVIP security and maintenance to a family of the so-called ‘father of the nation’ in foreign countries? Is not it as such preposterous to ask for patriotism of the Awami League party stalwarts who represented as honorable members in the Parliament for passing the very most immoral and undemocratic act?
One might think on further clue of the identity of Bangladesh territory following the SC Bench verdict on the 5th Amendment passed on the February 2 as the follow up of the 19th November (09) and 27 January (10) POLITICAL TRIAL (The Economist, 27 November 2009) verdicts wherein reappearance of the notorious BKSAL looks imminent and in the safe way to fiefdom of the Sheikh in likely perpetuity. Whether the democracy and freedom loving 150 million people of the country, not excluding the patriot but gullible Awami Leaguers, would rise or not to regain their dear freedom, identity and entity remains to be seen.
Author: B K Din