Published:  12:00 AM, 16 December 2016

Bangladesh: A nation state with its unique history, identity and prospect

The birth of Bangladesh was not a result of a single phenomenon, nor was it a fruit of a sudden impulse. The need of a sovereign nation-state called Bangladesh existed long before in the history, and the birth as a nation-state was just a matter of time, as socio-politically, culturally, and anthropologically this region always had its uniqueness, and this uniqueness was realized by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, and his fellow patriots,  and as a result, victory followed in 1971.

This is an interesting account how the word 'Bangla' came into the historical discourse. In the advent of European socio-political changes and shifts of different forms of democracy and nationhood, from 8th BC to 5th BC, in this region that is the present day Bangladesh, and in parts of the present day India, a similar kind of ethnic groups of people used to live in different small autonomous regions. Later in 1352 during the reign of Sultan Shamsuddin Iliyas Shah, all these autonomous regions were brought together as a single entity and named 'Bangela'. The Portuguese started calling it 'Bengala', which afterwards during the British colonial period was called the 'Bengal' in English. In 1493 to 1519, during the reign of Sultan Hussain Shah, Bangla language was established as the language of the ruling government. With the agricultural expansion and prosperity, so much so that the Mughal emperor Akbar introduced Bangla calender which was followed to collect taxes.  However, it is during the Mughal period, when the region started to lose its autonomy, and was identified as provinces.

During the British colonial rule, apart from all its atrocities and persecution, there was also a wave of a new kind of knowledge that included the emerge of English Literature and culture, development of communication mode, expansion of trade and commerce, industrialization, building roads and railways, introducing modern currency and as such. Over time this led to introducing of the Bengal Chowkidari Act in 1870, the Bengal Local Government Act 1885 that established a system of local government, and finally following the 1919 law for Bengal as an autonomous region, the Indian Dominion Act 1935. Under this 1935 act the first "Bangiya Parishad" election of the undivided Bengal was held in the British Parliamentary style. The distribution of the 250 seats was representational of different religions, castes, sects, and professional-occupational forces from within the people. It should be noted here that Bengal owned a kind of uniqueness was also mentioned by poet laureate Kabi Guru Rabindranath Tagore in 1934, during the "Probashi Bangiya Shahitya Shonmelon", a literary conference held in Bihar. This may imply that at the intellectual level of the people the necessity for a nation state was already being shaped up. In 1940, historical "Lahore Resolution" presented by Sher-e-Bangla A.K. Fazlul Huq was an important step and call for independent states. However, the 1947 Lahore Resolution did not come into effect, and Bengal was divided into two; the then East part of Bengal became East Pakistan, and continuously experienced a turmoiled political journey until 1971.  A continuity of 1940 Lahore Resolution was followed by the language movement in 1952, forming of "Jukto Front" in 1954 and victory in the election based on the 21-point. In 1962, and 68-69 secret organizations called nucleus and BLF respectively was key to forming up peoples movements.

Bangabandhu's 6-point movement in 1966 called for a greater autonomy for the then East Pakistan. It called for an end to the Pakistani Rulers' oppression and exploitation. This movement took shape into 11-point movement in 1969.  The Pakistan government, in order to keep the great leader away from the people and popularity, jailed him. The general election of 1970 reflected peoples hopes and aspiration, but it failed them though Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had own by majority vote.  As a result, after nine-months of arms struggle, Bangladesh was finally born.

Now the idea that Bangladesh needed a new model of democracy, that is a Bangladesh model, a model based on anti-colonial model of struggle, was confirmed in 1970 general election. We got a new country. A new political setting. Therefore, a new kind of political-mechanism was needed. The present government has come a long way with this new vision. And more to go. In the process the country will eventually need to come out of its old 1861 colonial model of laws and legal system, and establish and introduce laws and system appropriate for an independent nation. In this era of Globalization and consecutive changes, Bangladesh is also changing its own way. Hence a new kind of structuring and restructuring is in the process: of which the social catalysts are the new professional occupational groups. A state mechanism that has representation of the societal forces and that establishes the 'general' will and aspirations, rather than "individual will" is time's need.

Geopolitically Bangladesh is in a very advantageous position. It is located at the center of South Asia with its surrounding countries like India, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, China,  which have put it into a unique situation to steer up a process of economic advancement that would bring a large economic market within its hold and capacity. This potential can be properly and evenly developed for their respective economic and cultural growth by forming "regional" and "subregional economic zone" .This zone will be the sole linkage between India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, and China.

Bangladesh has already a naturally integrated setting to be part of a potential "geo-economic zone" that can place Bangladesh in the present world order scenario in an empowered position. In 2009, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina visited Nepal, Bhutan, and signed agreement for 'road links' between Bangladesh-Nepal and Bangladesh-Bhutan. In January 2010, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina signed agreement of cooperation between Bangladesh and India. In March of the same year Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina visited China which successfully linked up Bangladesh and China. These plausible timely initiatives of the present Government has opened up doors for transnational transport economy based on the concept of "sub-regional cooperation". This will call for an "integrated economic development" that will alleviate poverty in the region and promote cultural exchange. This involves the 450 million lives of the region, therefore a balanced and equal strategy in trade and other sectors will bring the desired result.
Bangladesh, with its unique history and identity has potentials far beyond that came up in this discussion. Soon a day will come when the cumulative dream, hopes and aspirations of this nation will see brighter light. Today we can look forward, we can see big dreams, we can walk tall with our own identity as a nation state, and proudly declare ourselves as free citizens of an independent country. It has been possible only by the grace of the freedom fighters, the golden sons and daughters and the brave soldiers of this soil and beyond, who responded to the need of time and call of the great leader Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and fought for our liberty and laid their lives.  Not only in this month of December, but each and every day of the calendar we are indebted to the wise and brave souls!


The author is acting Chairman & Assistant Professor, Department of English, Stamford University Bangladesh

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