Three manifestoes were critical in East Bengal history. The first was the Charter which Abul Hashem wrote in connection with the United Bengal Movement. It envisioned a multi-religious politically participated Bengal with arrangements for inter-communal voting but the political environment for UB didn't exist, either in contemporary life or history. As members of the upper class they were out of touch with the people. Both had worked hard to establish ML in Bengal which in that stage was in conflict with Bengal Hindus and Suhrawardy, rightly or not, was blamed for the riot of 1946. The same person claiming to uphold the inertest of both communities was obviously seen as absurd and conspiratorial. Given the history of Bengal and how it progressed with increasingly different realities, the 1947 partition of Bengal was a continuation of the first in 1905. If the Kolkata based elite succeeded in delaying the near inevitable in 1911, this was impossible in 1947 as their primary constituency had gone against them. United Bengal was not their aspiration ever. By creating political divisions based on economics and using a one nation - Bengali - identity, they had tried to contain aspirations of the peasantry but in the end it didn't work out.
East Pakistan as proxy East Bengal
The events from 1948 to 1954 shows how artificial were both Nehru and Jinnah's position on Nations. If the one nation theory collapsed in 1947, Pakistan's one nation theory collapsed as soon as it was born. The birth of Awami Muslim League was not just the Pakistani edition of Bengal Muslim League but it was more the "East Bengal Muslim League" with no historical baggage except its own. Thus 1952 Language movement was about the politics formation of the newly emerging middle class of erstwhile East Bengal. And 1954 United Front was again the declaration of the political manifesto of all the parties of the then East Pakistanis/ Bengalis and included Suhrawardy and Abul Hashem who had by them migrated from Kolkata. Hashem floated his own party -Khelafet-e-Rabbani which joined the AL led United Front headed by Suhrawardy and Bhashani. Fazlul Haq was there too with his KPP. This was the historic moment for the rise of a defining political moment of a regional which brought everyone together in its search for a state
The 21-point programme of United Front 1954
The United Front 21 points dealt with precisely the issues that was region based whether language or economy or parliamentary arrangement. The 21 point laid out the aspirations of the peasant including the ending of zamindari which was already over and those issues which the emerging middle class wanted including language and cultural rights. The Points belonged to major cluster.
Main Language and culture based issues were:
1) To recognize Bangla as one of the State Languages of Pakistan;
2) To locate the residence of the chief minister of the United Front at a less costly house, and to convert Burdwan House into a students' hostel now, and later, into an institute for research on Bangla language and literature;
3) To erect a monument in memory of the martyrs of the Language Movement on the spot where they were shot dead, and to pay compensation to the families of the martyrs;
4) To declare 21 February as 'Shaheed Day' and a public holiday;
5) To restructure the entire education system, introduce mother tongue as the medium of instruction, remove discrimination between government and private schools and to turn all the schools into government aided institutions;
But the economic issues dominated. The major ones were:
1) To abolish without compensation zamindari and all rent receiving interest in land, and to distribute the surplus lands amongst the cultivators;
2) To nationalize the jute trade and bring it under the direct control of the government of East Bengal, secure fair price of jute to the growers and to investigate into the jute-bungling during;
3) To introduce co-operative farming in agriculture and to develop cottage industries with full government subsidies;
4) To start salt industry (both small and large scale) in order to make East Bengal self-sufficient;
5) To rehabilitate immediately all the poor refugees belonging to the artisan and technician class;
6) To protect the country from flood and famine by means of digging canals and improving irrigation system;
7) To make the country self-sufficient by modernizing the method of cultivation and industrialisation, and to ensure the rights of the labourer as per ILO Convention;
8) To introduce free and compulsory primary education throughout the country and to arrange for just pay for the teachers;
9) To repeal all reactionary laws including those of the Dhaka and Rajshahi Universities and to make them autonomous institutions; to make education cheaper and easily available to the people;
10) To curtail the cost of administration and to rationalise the pay scale of high and low paid government servants.
Other notable points were:
***To take steps to eradicate corruption, nepotism and bribery, and to investigate corruption and if needed forfeit ill-gotten wealth.
***To repeal all Safety and Preventive Detention Acts and release all prisoners detained without trial, and try in open court persons involved in anti-state activities.
***To safeguard the rights of the press and of holding meetings.
***To separate the judiciary from the executive.
But it's the 19th point of the 21st Point that had the longest reach in history showing how the imagination of East Bengal /eastern cluster of Muslims of India influenced the AL politics. It says: The Lahore Resolution proposed full autonomy of East Bengal leaving defence, foreign affairs and currency under the central government. In the matter of defence, arrangements shall be made to set the headquarters of the army in West Pakistan and the naval headquarters in East Bengal and to establish ordnance factories in East Bengal, and to transform Ansar force into a full-fledged militia equipped with arms.
The 6 Points and the final stage
It is in the above that the seeds of the 6 points can be found. The United Front won 223 seats out of 237 Muslim seats whereas the ruling Muslim League managed to bag only 9 seats.
Pakistan was only an interruption of the journey that began in 1905. 6 points was the final stage of a journey that began in 1905. Sk. Mujib was presenting 6 points as a final solution to the problems that began in 1947, in trying to establish One Pakistan and also failing to recognize East Bengal as an independent identity. If United Bengal Movement showed that the Indian One Nation Theory was flawed, the war of 1971 shows that the Pakistani One Nation Theory was flawed too. East Bengal was the first administrative statement of its socio-political identity. The United Bengal Movement's failure also pointed out the fallacy of One Bengal. East Pakistan was a platform which allowed east Bengalis to reach its state making destination. This was largely steered by the East Bengal/East Pakistan Awami League. The expression of its aspiration lay in the 21 point of 1954 and 6 Points of 1966. East Bengal became a unfinished Nation in 1905 and became complete in 1971.r (The End)
Afsan Chowdhury is a journalist and researcher