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Bangabandhu, 7 June 1966, 6-Point Demand, and Bangladesh’s Birth

East Pakistan faced a critical situation after being subjected to continuous regional discrimination, year after year.

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The Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Dhaka, Bangladesh. May 1, 1973 [Photo: Jack Garofalo ]

An event marking a unique or important historical change of course or one on which important developments depend. The six-point demand is a milestone historical event for us in Bangladesh. 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, aiming to end the exploitation of East Pakistan by the West Pakistani rulers. It is considered a turning point on the road to Bangladesh’s independence.

Following the partition of India, the new state of Pakistan came into being. The inhabitants of East Pakistan (later Bangladesh) made up the majority of its population, and exports from East Pakistan (such as jute) were a majority of Pakistan’s export income. However, East Pakistanis did not find they had a proportional share of political power and economic benefits within Pakistan.

East Pakistan faced a critical situation after being subjected to continuous regional discrimination, year after year. As a result, the economists, intelligentsia, and politicians of East Pakistan started to raise questions about this discrimination, giving rise to the historic six-point movement.

The reason for proposing the Six Points was to give the East greater autonomy in Pakistan. Following the partition of India, the new state of Pakistan came into being. The inhabitants of East Pakistan (later Bangladesh) made up the majority of its population, and exports from East Pakistan (such as jute) were a majority of Pakistan’s export income. However, East Pakistanis did not feel they had a proportional share of political power and economic benefits within Pakistan.

The historical six points are noted as being:

  1. The Constitution should provide for a Federation of Pakistan in its true sense based on the Lahore Resolution, and the parliamentary form of government with the supremacy of a Legislature directly elected on the basis of universal adult franchise.
  2. The federal government should deal with only two subjects: Defense and Foreign Affairs, and all other residual subjects should be vested in the federating states.
  3. Two separate, but freely convertible currencies for two wings should be introduced; or if this is not feasible, there should be one currency for the whole country, but effective constitutional provisions should be introduced to stop the flight of capital from East Pakistan to West Pakistan. Furthermore, a separate Banking Reserve should be established and separate fiscal and monetary policies adopted for East Pakistan.
  4. The power of taxation and revenue collection should be vested in the federating units, and the federal center would have no such power. The federation would be entitled to a share in the state taxes to meet its expenditures.
  5. There should be two separate accounts for the foreign exchange earnings of the two wings; the foreign exchange requirements of the federal government should be met by the two wings equally or in a ratio to be fixed; indigenous products should move free of duty between the two wings, and the constitution should empower the units to establish trade links with foreign countries.
  6. East Pakistan should have a separate military or paramilitary force, and Navy headquarters should be in East Pakistan.

The proposal was rejected by politicians from West Pakistan and non-Awami League politicians from East Pakistan. It was rejected by the President of All Pakistan Awami League Nawabzada Nasarullah Khan. It was also rejected by the National Awami Party, Jamaat-i-Islami, and Nizam-i-Islam. However, the movement had strong support from the population of the then East Pakistan.

At the beginning of the Six Point Demands, Mujib, who would not become Bangabandhu until three years later, was placed in detention under the Defense of Pakistan Rules on 8 May 1966. The reason was not hard to understand: 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 at Dhaka’s Paltan Maidan on the Six Points. It was Tajuddin Ahmed, Bangladesh’s first Prime Minister, who accepted the challenge on Mujib’s behalf. In the event, Bhutto did not turn up.

The leaders of the opposition parties of West Pakistan convened a national convention at Lahore on 6 February 1966 to ascertain the post-Tashkent political trend. Bangabandhu reached Lahore on 4 February along with the top leaders of the 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.

The following day, the newspapers of West Pakistan published reports on the Six-point Programme, projecting Sheikh Mujibur Rahman as a separatist. Consequently, Sheikh Mujib abandoned the conference. The Six-point Programme along with a proposal for a movement to realize 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. The six points were clear, easy to understand, and, most importantly, were a true representation of the feelings of the Bengalis.

7 June 1966 is a red-letter day in the history of the freedom movements of the people of Bangladesh. It was on this historic day that the 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 Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

We observe that Bangabandhu, as part of his long-term plan to take his people gradually and systematically to the ultimate path of emancipation, gave his historic Six-point Programme to the nation at a national conference of leaders of the then all political parties at Lahore on 16 February 1966. This programme of Bangabandhu had upset the Islamabad ruling clique, which had planned all the schemes of exploitation 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 that time, as was laid down in the Magna Carta of Bangabandhu. As a result of the Six-point Programme, Bangabandhu was put behind bars on 8 May 1966, 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 at Rawalpindi.

On 20 May, the Awami League Working Committee decided to organize a protest meeting on 7 June 1966, condemning repression and demanding the release of Bangabandhu and other leaders. Thus, the observance of the strike on 7 June came about. 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 their resolute support for 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. Workers and students brought out peaceful processions. However, the regime of exploiters could not tolerate slogan-chanting people who had made a sacred vow to realize their right to self-determination, so the ruling clique responded with the language of weapons, killing scores of people including Monu Mia in Dhaka and others in Narayanganj. Thus, the people of Bangladesh raised their slogans for independence by shedding their blood.

The Bengalis had to pay a high price for their freedom. But the great Liberation War brought the nation together. It was the moment of truth for the Bengalis when they all united to join hands to fight the Pakistani aggressors. At long last, Bangladesh took birth on 16 December 1971, after a bloody war with Pakistan’s savage military ruler.

Such a big, loud, and firm man was Bangabandhu, and he became the undisputed Father of independent Bangladesh. To be unaware of this is sheer ignorance. To deny this is an offense against history. And this is the pride, glory, and spirit of our glorious Liberation War with Pakistan in 1971.

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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