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69 Uprising led to Bangladesh’s Independence

This glorious movement witnessed an explosion of popular-democratic struggles championed by people from all walks of life in our country

5 mins read
A student procession at Dhaka University campus during the mass uprising of 1969.

It was a clear signpost on the long road to our independence. It was a sustained, truly mass struggle, confronting ferocious backlash by our people, perpetrated on us by the savage Pakistani rulers. We overcame multiple challenges while developing our considerable strengths to fight those beastly animals back and defeat them. This glorious movement witnessed an explosion of popular-democratic struggles championed by people from all walks of life in our country, whose activities became central in the campaign against all oppressions and the quest for the creation of a democratic state – Bangladesh.

The Uprising Was a Prelude to the Awami League’s Six-point Movement

The uprising consisted of a series of mass demonstrations and sporadic conflicts between the Pakistani government’s armed forces and the demonstrators of our people. Although the unrest began in 1966 with the Six-point movement of the Awami League, it gained momentum at the beginning of 1969 and culminated in the resignation of Field Marshal Ayub Khan, the first military ruler of Pakistan. The uprising also led to the withdrawal of the Agartala Conspiracy Case and the acquittal of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and his co-accused from the case. Bangabandhu emerged from Pakistani jail as a majuscule hero and head honcho of Bangladesh, a household name for all people in his country.

This Mass Upsurge Was the Greatest Mass Awakening Since the Creation of Pakistan

The movement soon engulfed the whole of the-then East Pakistan’s politicians, students, peasants, artisans, and workers – all joined the movement almost en bloc. Due to the continuous exaction of demands marked by the sound judgment of the labouring class of the industrial belts and low- and medium-income groups, the movement soon turned into a struggle for economic emancipation. The racial repression and the deprivation of the Bengalis within the framework of Pakistan, and to the contrary, starting from the language movement, the feeling of a separate identity together with the struggle for autonomy had a direct influence on the mass upsurge of 1969. Indeed, this mass upsurge was the greatest mass awakening ever since the creation of Pakistan. The student agitation of 1968 turned into a mass upsurge when Maulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhasani asked his followers to besiege the Governor’s House, formulated and declared his other programmes.

The Maulana declared a total shut-down of work on 6th December 1968 following the clash between the people and the police. On the call of the main opposition parties, namely two factions of NAP (Bhasani and Muzaffar), Awami League, and other political parties, a Hartal was observed throughout the-then East Pakistan on 8 December 1968. Repression Resistance Day was very successfully observed throughout the former Province on 10 December 1968 at the call of Awami League’s pro-six-point demand. On 14 December 1968, the gherao programme was declared by the NAP (Bhasani).

On 24 January 1969, Matiur Rahman Mallik, a teenage activist, was gunned down by the Pakistani police.

This macabre incident shook the entire the-then East Pakistan and marked the climax of the movement of our people for autonomy in the-then East Pakistan that eventually led to the Independence War and the emergence of Bangladesh in 1971. It is competently said that the Mass Upsurge Day teaches Bengalis about the values of democracy and how to protest against oppression.

This whirling of 55 years ago provides important lessons for peoples across the world in their quest to dismantle oppression and build just societies today, tomorrow, and in the days ahead. It can be termed as pleading for moral excellence of cause or propounding an idea of determining one’s own fate or course of action without compulsion. It taught us that the political separation of our nation from an alien national body and the formation of an independent nation-state, Bangladesh.

Reflection on the 55th Anniversary of the Mass Upsurge Day

In this reflection on the 55th anniversary of the Mass Upsurge Day, we will seek to grasp the responses to the revolution, the surge of anti-Pakistani sentiment which led to the defeat of their fascism. This is an episodic event in human history. It was a period of tremendous outpouring of revolutionary energies in music, art, theater, journalism, poetry, and political organizing. The uprising marked a new stage in human history with the independence of Bangladesh in 1971. The tremendous achievements of those insurrections beckon us to understand what was possible and what is possible to create today.

We Should Create Records, Equally Relevant Today in Wiping Out Poverty, Backwardness, Corruption, Etc.

We should create records, equally relevant today in wiping out poverty, backwardness, corruption, terrorism, and illiteracy, in establishing equality among peoples of all religions and between men and women. It is an inspiration of what was and what can be, and that is why we say that the era it established of the transition from alien rule to the establishment of a sovereign and independent state is as relevant today.

The 1969 Mass Upsurge Day May Have More to Teach Us

This watershed movement may have more to teach us. The increased tempo of struggle then in our country was a commitment to end all forms of exploitation of humans by sub-humans in our part of the land. It clearly shows that a new nation was in the making. The winning of the objectives of this national democratic revolution will, in turn, lay the basis for a steady advance in the direction of deepening our national unity on all fronts — economic, political, and cultural — and towards the formation of a new country – Bangladesh.

The Struggle Seemed Endless

Left only with rags on our backs, we were determined to reclaim our dreams. The struggle seemed endless as we journeyed night and day on a path that binds us for years. Hunger paralyzed us, fear dehydrated us, we endured sleepless nights, but we held on to our conviction, embraced one another, and consoled ourselves.

We Climbed the Hills Day and Night to Achieve Our Goals

We climbed the hills day and night, but everything seemed far out of sight. All we could see was clear blue clouds smiling above us and a multitude of stars blinking in the skies. We passed foxes digging shallow holes in foaming ditches; we saw them tearing and chewing rabbits and rodents and chasing timid squirrels off the edges. Tormenting sound echoed beyond the thick bushy forest, intimidating us on our hopeful journey. Suddenly a ferocious fox leaped out of the bushes and stared at us, grinding its gigantic teeth. But a tiger sneaked from the treetop and cornered the terrifying fox into its vulnerable hole, wounding its feet and pulling at its filthy mouth.

The 1971 War Shows the Determination of Bangladesh’s People to Be Masters in Their Own Land, an Independent People’s Republic

The heroic upsurge of 24 January 1969 of our people against the tyrannous Pakistani regime continued for almost 3 years. We witnessed mass demonstrations, strikes, boycotts, etc., and the whole Pakistan-based National Election where Awami led by its charismatic leader Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman emerged as the majority party leader of Pakistan. But the ruffian Pakistani military rulers betrayed us and refused to hand over power to Bangabandhu, then waged a full-scale war with us. Their nefarious actions were directed towards violent repression, which led to the brutal murder of 3 million of our people. The 1971 war shows the determination of Bangladesh’s people to be masters in their own land, an independent People’s Republic.

Long Live the Mass Upsurge Day and Its Message

Long live the Mass Upsurge Day and its message that is intended, expressed, or signified. To finish off today, we wish to say in the words of Alfred Adler, “Trust only movement. Life happens at the level of events, not of words. Trust movement,” because the people are the only ones capable of transforming society.

Anwar A. Khan

Anwar A. Khan is an independent political analyst based in Dhaka, Bangladesh who writes on politics, political and human-centred figures, current and international affairs

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