Friday, November 20, 2009

Further comments about Mujib Era (1972-75)

There are many Bangladeshis today that blame Sk. Mujibur Rahman for the famine of 1974 that killed thousands of poor Bangladeshis. Unfortunately, they are unaware of the CIA covert plan to harm popularity of Sk. Mujib's govt. in the post-liberation period. In a well-researched PBS TV documentary program - Food as a weapon of War - we learn about US government's role in bringing down the popularity of Sk. Mujib by diverting wheat-carrying ships away from the ports in Bangladesh, which triggered the famine of 1974. Nor should we forget that with the winding up of UNROB (United Nations Relief Organization in Bangladesh) operations in December 31 of 1973, already the process for economic crisis was set in order. As a result of this man-made famine, scripted by Henry Kissinger of the USA govt., many poor people died of starvation and did not have the kaffons (burial shrouds) to bury them with.

History bears testimony to the fact that the USA and some other countries, including China, did not welcome the new country Bangladesh and conspired to bring it down. Little did we know back then that the JSD of Sirajul Alam Khan was basically a foreign supported group. This fact was shielded from many insiders within the central command. Siraj has been unmasked in recent years as being on the CIA payroll. The group's role back then was not much different from the hawkish communists of Sukarno's Indonesia in the mid 1960s, which also resulted in violent replacement of the government by a pro-American puppet government. In those cold-war days it was difficult for Nidhiram Sardars like Sk. Mujib to hold onto power without a powerful backer. Back in the early 1970s, India was no match to the USA and had taken her eyes away from the developments inside Bangladesh (at least not to the extent of interfering in internal affairs of the country). The Indira government was not too happy with the removal of its so-called liberating forces out of the country in 1972, just within months of Sk. Mujib's return. The quick withdrawal was not in their calculation. But Indira had to relent to Mujib's demand. I honestly think that if not for anything else, that withdrawal of Indian forces is the biggest achievement of Sk. Mujib. There has not been a history of that magnitude when a "liberating" force voluntarily leaves a country that it helped to liberate so fast.

India has been an untrustworthy ally for Bangladesh and any of its neighbors. Its dirty hegemonic behavior is at the root of that attitude. Thus, even when we wanted a normalization of relationship in places like Tin Bigha and other enclaves, India has not reciprocated our good-will attitude. We obviously know about India's own rationale why it collaborated with us to give a meaning to our aspirations for freedom. But that should not be news to anyone who had studied world history and liberation movements.

Much has been said about the Rakkhi Bahini, which Mujib created. The claim that the Rakkhi Bahini was strengthened more than the Army was a pure propaganda which saw much success in creating a negative opinion about the new regime. Facts were entirely different though. As we all know too well, no police force alone around the world has been able to deal with home-grown terrorists. That is why, even in the USA we have the ATF and the FBI, and special anti-terrorist groups within the Homeland Security department. Likewise, the Bangladesh government of early 1970s created the Rakkhi Bahini as a para-military force (better equipped than Police but not Army) not only to employ the former Freedom Fighters but also to fight those terrorists who were killing civilians, esp. in the north-western districts. The creation of RAB around 2003 was for similar reasons. The Italian and Spanish governments have had their counterpart cells fighting terrorism. People in general are happy with such activities against miscreants.

Our people's expectations in the post-liberation era also were too irrational of a country that had no resources outside its manpower, no foreign exchange, nothing. They wanted an Aladin's lamp (Cherag) to solve their 24-year disparity in prosperity and transform the country into a Sonar Bangla overnight. True that the "sonar Bangla" slogan was popularized by none other than Sk. Mujib himself. But my unbiased analysis suggests that his promise was applicable to our land within the framework of a united Pakistan and not what came to be in 1972. It is the same saga with moth-eaten Pakistan that we settled for in 1947! The rosy pictures of our Nawabs and Urdu-speaking leaders in the last days of the British Raj simply did not materialize in Pakistan, and then when the Punjabis took over power after Jinnah and Liaqat had died in the early 1950s, we were slowly heading for the dismemberment of the country.

If the stupid Punjabi leadership had the wisdom to relinquish power to Sk. Mujib in 1971 after the election in which his party (Awami League) won 160 of the 300 elected seats for the National Assembly of Pakistan, I am convinced that there won't be Bangladesh today. Sk. Mujib was in no position as the Prime Minister of a united Pakistan to divide the country into two independent countries. It was not in his calculation either when he negotiated with Yahya and Bhutto.

I also believe that when the new Soviet-India backed government came into power, the very reason that Sk. Mujib's life was spared in Pakistan and that he was released in early January of 1972 to take over the mantle of leadership was that both Pakistan and its ally - the USA - knew too well that he was the most nationalist of the whole Awami bunch, and that he would stop any further tilt towards the Soviet/India block, possibly bringing the country to a more neutral position. The early signs were that their scheme worked. But later events, esp. with Sk. Mujib's operation in Russia, showed that the CIA had decided that he could not be trusted to unify Pakistan and surely not act as their agent. They found a better old friend - Kh. Mostaq - to fill that gap. The rest is history!

As to the killing of 1975, I was in Dhaka as a student and remember the shock people felt at the news of the assassination. Surely there was no protest but I won't call the atmosphere a relief-type atmosphere which some people have painted! To me it felt like an atmosphere when people are shocked and couldn't express their emotions freely. People had little freedom and were panicked terribly. They knew that any outburst of sad emotion may result in their own deaths, so they did not show it openly and suppressed such. I know of many students and others who cried hearing the news of Mujib's death. And of course, there were others who were happy with the death news. Among the student groups were JSD-BCL and Maoists/Naxalites. People had their own reasons to either celebrate or mourn the event. No one should ever forget that in countries like ours where people's public display of emotions is very much a function of the openness existing within the society. Look at the jubilation today across Bangladesh with the news of the verdict! People are celebrating milad and offering shukrana namaz! Could any of this be possible if the Awami League government was not in power? I doubt. If the people were happy with the killings of 1975, they must now be showing their sadness and even protest the verdict of the Supreme Court, but we don't see any such rallies today. Why? Are we less democratic or open today? No. And yet, everyone from even those who at one time had welcomed the change to those who did not like the BAKSALi direction the country was heading is now openly saying that the assassination was a wrong thing and that the justice has prevailed eventually. Don't assume that they are forced to say this kind of statement. This apex court verdict also would force any wannabe political assassin to rethink twice before committing a murderous act. We must get out of the vicious cycle of political assassination.

Sk. Mujib had his faults like anyone of us. He was no angel. He was a product of his time and place. He came from the common masses with same kind of strengths and weaknesses that our common people had. His greatest strength was his uncompromising attitude demanding fairness from the Punjabi snobs and power-hungry bunch, the very people that opposed the creation of Pakistan during the dying days of British Empire. He had also tremendous love for his people. But he was not the brightest or smartest of his generation. He needed to draw the brightest minds unto himself to succeed. It is there that the opportunists and sycophants succeeded to corner him and segregate him from the very people that he needed to be in touch with. He was even separated from Tajuddin Ahmed, the best of his advisers. Instead, he relied on folks that wanted to see him uprooted. That is the tragedy of Bangladesh.

I believe that the greatest blunder Sk. Mujib committed was the creation of BAKSAL, an idea that was fed to him by Castro in Algiers in 1973. It was against everything that he stood for all his life. But also blame it on our sycophants who congratulated him for that blundering decision. I remember too well how the BUET VC -- Dr Waheeduddin supported the move. And he was not alone among our so-called intellectuals! Even our opportunists within the higher echelon of the Armed Forces had no moral qualms to congratulating the move. If they had the moral higher ground, they would have resigned or protested. Everything seemed so kosher those days by our shameless Bengali opportunist character!

Even today, I am not too hopeful about Bangladesh. What I see is the same, actually worse, Bengali character that knows how to be a good sycophant and enrich oneself. We behave as if we are ready to tie our knots with Satan to go to hell if our moves would guarantee enriching ourselves. That is the sad account of our people, esp. those that matters - the so-called intellectuals and politicians there. Very few people there think outside their self-interests. But the fact of the matter is, you can't build a just society with that kind of mentality. Only a real revolution (which we may never see in our lifetime again) could dispose off the garbage accumulated within our foul national character. My father reminds me of a great line from a poet, probably Jibananda Das, who said that we need to replace our Bangla soil seven times before we may be able to change our foul character (or something like that; I am terrible with poems!). We truly don't have the character of a civilized nation that is required to take us to higher planes. That is why we end up electing scum and rubbish to our public offices, the failed leadership.

With great sadness therefore I say that I personally don't see any hope for our people. None of these leaders truly wants to hear honest advice, even when such are provided for free without any ulterior motive. They simply don't care about you and I. They care about power and nothing else. Funny that even these leaders know that it is a hopeless case with Bangladesh. That is why, each of these leaders now have their loved ones living outside the country. They too have special passports to settle in countries like the USA and the UK when they are away from power. How wonderful! If this sad trend continues, there won't be anyone worth living or staying back except the bad guys from whom we must then select our political leadership. It is a sad, sad saga!

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