Six Point: The stepping stone of Liberation Movement

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Published on June 6, 2020
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Dr. Md. Shairul Mashreque and Dr. M. Abul Kashem Mozumder:

Six-point movement was the stepping stone of the war of liberation the basis of which was Bengali nationalism. The movement was closely connected with the development of Bengali nationalism. The response from the common people to six-point demand was spontaneous. Continuous exploitation unleashed by the Pakistani rulers made Bengalese extremely agitated and frustrated. Bangabandhu floated six-point charter of demands sensing the pulse of the people. "The historic Six-Point Demand or the Six-Point Formula was a Bengali nationalist movement in East Pakistan spearheaded by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, which eventually led to the liberation of Bangladesh. It has been widely credited as the "charter of freedom" in Bangladesh`s struggle for self-determination from Pakistan`s domination.

Indeed, the six-point movement was the turning point in our quest for independence. 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 perceived exploitation of East Pakistan by the West Pakistani rulers. On June 7 in 1966 the Awami League called a countrywide hartal in the then East Pakistan to press home the six-point demands. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman along with many others was arrested. Since then 7th June is observed as the historic six-point day."Notwithstanding the deliberate distortions of our political history over a period of almost thirty years, the fact remains that the six-point movement is a milestone in the history of our struggle for independence. East Pakistanis were left to their fate, without military defence and security, while the Pakistani rulers kept themselves busy in defending the West Pakistani frontiers. In this backdrop, soon after the end of the War, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman raised the historic 6-point demand, a charter for the economic emancipation from the exploitative Pakistani colonial state-system."

The movement for six-point was launched for "removing disparity between the two wings of Pakistan and to put an end to the internal colonial rule of West Pakistan in East Bengal. 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 defence 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 at 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 Programme, and Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was projected as a separatist. Consequently Sheikh Mujib abandoned the conference. The Six-point Programme along with a proposal of movement for the realisation of the demands was placed before the meeting of the working committee of Awami League on 21 February 1966, and the proposal was carried out unanimously. A booklet on the Six-point Programme 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 Programme) was published in the name of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, and was distributed in the council meeting of Awami League held on 18 March 1966."(Banglapedia).

The six point charter same as magma chater catalyzed massive popular support across the country , It was recognized as the definitive gambit for autonomy and rights of Bengalis. It was tetrmed by the radical leaders in the then pakistan as a veiled secession. Mujib was all out to conduct advocacy campaign for the movement mobilizing supports from all sections irrespective of religion , creed and caste. . The demand exclusively for the the people of East Bengal alienated West Pakistanis including non-Bengalis and Muslim fundamentalists.

Mujib was arrested by the army and after two years in jail, an official sedition trial in a military court opened. Widely known as the Agartala Conspiracy Case, Mujib and 34 Bengali military officers were accused by the government of colluding with Indian government agents in a scheme to divide Pakistan and threaten its unity, order and national security. The plot was alleged to have been planned in the city of Agartala in the Indian state of Tripura The outcry and unrest over Mujib's arrest and the charge of sedition against him destabilised East Pakistan amidst large protests and strikes. Various Bengali political and student groups added demands to address the issues of students, workers and the poor, forming a larger "11-point plan." The government caved to the mounting pressure, dropped the charges on February 22, 1969 and unconditionally released Mujib the following day. He returned to East Pakistan as a public hero.[ He was given a mass reception on February 23, at Racecourse ground and conferred with the title 'Bangabandhu', meaning 'Friend of the Bengal'.

Joining an all-parties conference convened by Ayub Khan in 1969, Mujib demanded the acceptance of his six points and the demands of other political parties and walked out following its rejection. On 5 December 1969 Mujib made a declaration at a public meeting held to observe the death anniversary of Suhrawardy that henceforth East Pakistan would be called "Bangladesh":
"Mujib's declaration heightened tensions across the country. The West Pakistani politicians and the military began to see him as a separatist leader. His assertion of Bengali cultural and ethnic identity also re-defined the debate over regional autonomy. Many scholars and observers believed the Bengali agitation emphasised the rejection of the Two-Nation Theory - the case upon which Pakistan had been created - by asserting the ethno-cultural identity of Bengalis as a nation. Mujib was able to galvanise support throughout East Pakistan, which was home to a majority of the national population, thus making him one of the most powerful political figures in the subcontinent. It was following his 6-point plan that Mujib was increasingly referred to by his supporters as "Bangabandhu

Six-point movement is observed as a milestone in our history of liberation. On this day srike was called to press home demand for provincial autonomy based on six and eleven points. East Pakistanis did not feel they had a proportional share of political power and economic benefits within Pakistan. East Pakistan was facing a critical situation after being subjected to continuous discrimination on a regional basis, year after year. As a result, the economist, intelligentsia and the politicians of East Pakistan started to raise questions about this discrimination, giving rise to the historic six point movement. The Bangabandhu placed his historic Sixpoint programme at a political conference in Lahore in 1966. This programme called for a federal state structure for Pakistan and full autonomy for Bangladesh with a parliamentary democratic system

The Army Junta of Pakistan threatened to use the language of weapons against the Six Point movement and the Bangabandhu was arrested under the Defense Rules on May 8, 1966. There was rising discount in East Pakistan over the atrocities by the Pakistan Armed Forces against Bengalis and the neglect of the issues and needs of East Pakistan by the ruling regime

On June 17, 1968 he was removed from Dhaka Central Jail to Kurmitola Cantonment and was charged with conspiring to make Bangladesh independent with the help of India. This case is known as the Agartala Conspiracy case. He was the No.1 accused in the case. While the trial was in progress in the court of a military tribunal the administration of the military junta collapsed as a consequence of a great mass upsurge in Bangladesh at the beginning of 1969.

However, Mujib was released together 'with all the other 'co accused." The Agartola case was withdrawn and the Bangabandhu was invited to attend a Round Table Conference at Islamadab. President Ayub Khan asked him to accept the the position of Prime Minister of Pakistan.. He declined to accept the offer remaining firm in his demand for accepting Six Point programme. Many observed that autonomy movement pointed to the rejection of the Two Nation Theory somewhat reflecting the 'ethno cultural identity of Bengalis as a nation' .