The foundation of Awami League in the history of the advent of Bangladesh is an epoch making event, which has been influenced by the long cherished culture and humanistic sensibility of the people living in the Padma-Meghna-Jamuna washed delta.
Would Bangladesh be an independent country without the foundation of the political organization, Bangladesh Awami League? It is now historically established that as Bangladesh Awami League has evolved through time and events since its inception, it has gradually inspired the Bengalis to seek self-determination to be more conscious of their rights, and finally to assume sovereign power in their own land.
The great architect of independent Bangladesh, the greatest Bengali in the history Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman cherished from his student life a dream of a unique political identity for his own land and people.
That very dream actually laid the foundation of his political philosophy, and Awami League became the playground for the accomplishment of the dream. Therefore, the history of Bangladesh, in some way or other, deeply resonates with the history of Awami League.
From Bangabandhu’s recollection of the political dilemma of Bengal during the partition of India in his Unfinished Memoirs, it appears obvious that both Congress and the Muslim League leaderships in Bengal were in favour of holding the integrity of Bengal. The central Congress and Muslim League leaders were different in opinion.
Since the Congress Party did not want to lose Kolkata, the chief goal of the Muslim League was to establish a single independent Muslim state. The Muslim majority of Bengal, the people of East Bengal accepted Muslim League's monopoly in plain belief that their initiatives would improve the lot of Muslims of the sub-continent. As a result, the Pakistan Movement gained a stranglehold in East Bengal.
Thereafter, the first disillusionment of Bangabandhu and his contemporary student leaders seemed understandable in August 1947 when the leaving British Raj poured cold water on their desire of ultimate freedom for the people of the subcontinent as they broke Bengal into two and affixed the Hindu major western part with India and the Muslim major eastern part with Pakistan.
The eastern part of newly formed Pakistan meant to be known as East Pakistan and was immediately turned a prey to discrimination. The West Pakistan became the center of administration despite its having a minority of population.
The capital city was established there and the control of Muslim League basically fell into the grasp of the West Pakistanis. After this happening, the authoritarian West Pakistani leadership prepared to declare Urdu as the official language of Pakistan bypassing the Bengalis’ legitimate right , which was the language of the majority.
The people of Bengal did in no way accept this decision but the East Pakistan Muslim League leadership was clearly divided on the issue of the state language, which allowed the government to inflict aggressive repression upon the Language Movement.As an inevitable consequence of these events, there arose a widespread mutual suspicion and conflict leading to breakdowns in the Muslim League mainly in the East-Pakistan region.
According to the Unfinished Memoirs, the divide between the supporters of Khwaja Nazimuddin and Hossain Shaheed Suhrawardi became open and the central leadership of the Muslim League recognized the supporters of Khwaja Nazimuddin as Muslim League workers thus making it impossible for the supporters of Suhrawardi to stay with.
At this time, Bangabandhu felt that the Muslim League was intent on establishing the one-party rule thereby prohibiting people from getting justice.In such a situation, when a conspiracy was shaped with a view to holding Mr. Shamsul Haque even after winning the election from sitting in the Natinal Assembly, a conference was called on 23 June 1949 with the former League workers of Bengal. The detained Bangabandhu was also asked to give his opinion.
He promptly returned, “There is no point in pursuing the Muslim League any longer. This party has now become the establishment.” He also said that he would not continue student politics anymore; rather he would indulge in mainstream poilitics because tyranny would prevail over the country unless the creation of the opposition.
The vexed government barred over the availability of a suitable place to house the conference. Finally, it took place at Rose Garden owned by Kazi Humayun Rashid amid the august presence of Sher-e-Bangla A. K. Fazlul Haq, Mawlana Bhashani and other veterans, and a new political party titled ‘East Pakistan Awami Muslim League’ was formed. Mawlana Bhashani was made its president and the captivated Bangabandhu was given the responsibility of joint secretary.
The inclusion of the word ‘Muslim’ in the party title created discomfort in Bangabandhu’s consience because he had thought that a non-communal organization would be formed in the independent land but he did not have anything to do with it while he was in the prison.
However, the political activities of this newly founded organization showed clear evidences of its non-communal attitude. In just a few years of its formation, the organization helped the Language Movement reach its zenith. One of the main purposes of this political party was to preserve the honour of Bengali language and culture.
With this goal in mind, the leaders agreed during the formation of United Front prior to the 1954 general elections that no communal organization would participate in the elections—a decision widely appreciated by the commoners and thus leading toward a fabulous victory of the United Front in the 1954 elections.
After this victory, the Awami Muslim League in the 1955 Council session exempted the word ‘Muslim’ from its title and evolved into Awami League, a completely non-communal secular political organization with open access for all citizens.
In the General Secretary's report during the Council, Bangabandhu stated that the Awami League leaders and its workers have not been able to breathe a sigh of relief for a day since the formation of the party and that Awami League’s strong stance against the oppression and injustice of oppressive regime led to a new spirit of new consciousness, new hope, enthusiasm and an ironclad vow for standing up against oppression.
After this brief discussion, we see how Awami League became the popular political organization, whereby the people of Bengal and the victims of long-term abusive misrule by the intruders could stand collectively and muster up courage to dream of freedom.
Under the brave and voisionary leadership of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Awami League materialized the dream of liberation by long agitation, non-cooperation, and finally expulsion of the intruder Pakistanis after an ultimate victory in the nine-month-long bloody liberation war in 1971.
Awami League founded on the day of the fall of Bengal's independence in the Mango grove of Palashi brought the sun back to the sky and performed its historical duties properly under the outstanding leadership of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
Today, Bangladesh Awami League, led by Bangabandhu’s worhy daughter the Honorable Prime Minister Deshratna Sheikh Hasina is streering Bangladesh towards its destination of a golden future under her dynamic and magnificent leadership.
The writer is a researcher, folklorist, columnist, Professor of English and Pro-Vice-Chancellor at Islamic University, Kushtia.
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