The Bangladesh people’s rebellion included denying the state’s authority and rising up with arms in 1971; and it cemented the base of the people’s march to liberation, an eternal yearning of all the exploited and deprived, of all the victims of inequality and injustice, of all bombarded with lies, deceptions and hypocrisy in all ages, epochs and periods, writes Farooque Chowdhury
HOSTILITIES of opposing forces — the Pakistan state — widened the path to rebellion in the Bangladesh people’s march to liberation. Part of a rationale for the rebellion found its base in the hostilities. The hostile acts were the only option available to the state machine of Pakistan at that juncture; otherwise, the machine would have opted for alternatives. Obviously, there were conditions which narrowed down to the option of hostile acts by the political leadership of the state and a situation to rise up in arms by the Bangladesh people got germinated.
A simple and brief comparison of the hostile acts can be made from the history of the United States although the parties related to the comparison are different in many ways beginning from respective contexts to classes. However, a few similarities are there. The comparison helps study the rebellion — the taking up of arms by the Bangladesh people for liberation —with its far-reaching implication.
Take up arms: declaration from North America
IN A meeting in Congress at Philadelphia, the representatives of the united colonies of North America spelt out ‘the causes and necessity of their taking up arms.’ (‘Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking up Arms’, July 6, 1775; Journal of Congress, edited 1800, I, pp 134–139, prepared by Gerald Murphy (The Cleveland Free-Net – aa300); and distributed by the Cybercasting Services Division of the National Public Telecomputing Network). Their arguments and the context explained in the declaration included:
(1) ‘[P]rinciples of humanity, and the dictates of common sense’.
(2) ‘[G]overnment was instituted to promote the welfare of mankind’.
(3) ‘The legislature of Great-Britain […] stimulated by an inordinate passion for a power […] attempted to effect their cruel and impolitic purpose of enslaving these colonies by violence’.
(4) ‘[R]endered it necessary for us to close with their last appeal from reason to arms’.
(5) ‘Our forefathers […sought…] civil and religious freedom’.
(6) ‘[T]he amazing increase of the wealth, strength, and navigation of the realm, arose from this source’.
(7) ‘They have undertaken to give and grant our money without our consent’.
(8) ‘[S]tatutes have been passed for extending the jurisdiction of courts […]’.
(9) ‘[F]or suspending the legislature of one of the colonies’.
(10) ‘[F]or exempting the “murderers” of colonists from legal trial, and in effect, from punishment’.
(11) ‘[F]or quartering soldiers upon the colonists in time of profound peace’.
(12) ‘We saw the misery to which such despotism would reduce us’.
(13) ‘We for ten years incessantly and ineffectually […] reasoned, we remonstrated with parliament, in the most mild and decent language’.
(14) ‘The Administration sensible that we should regard these oppressive measures as freemen ought to do, sent over fleets and armies to enforce them. The indignation of the Americans was roused’.
(15) ‘Several threatening expressions against the colonies were inserted in his majesty’s speech’.
(16) ‘[O]ur petition, tho’ we were told it was a decent one, and that his majesty had been pleased to receive it graciously, and to promise laying it before his parliament, was huddled into both houses among a bundle of American papers, and there neglected.’
(17) ‘[L]arge reinforcements of ships and troops were immediately sent.’
(18) ‘[G]eneral Gage […] had taken possession of the town of Boston, […] and still occupied it a garrison, […] sent out from that place a large detachment of his army, who made an unprovoked assault on the inhabitants of the said province, at the town of Lexington, […] murdered eight of the inhabitants, and wounded many others. From thence the troops proceeded in warlike array to the town of Concord, […] killing several and wounding more, until compelled to retreat by the country people suddenly assembled to repel this cruel aggression.’
(19) ‘The inhabitants of Boston being confined within that town by the general […].’
(20) ‘[T]he said inhabitants having [….] delivered up their arms, but in open violation of honour, in defiance of the obligation of treaties, […] the governor […] detained the greatest part of the inhabitants in the town, and compelled the few who were permitted to retire, to leave their most valuable effects behind.’
(21) ‘By this perfidy wives are separated from their husbands, children from their parents, the aged and the sick from their relations and friends […] and those who have been used to live in plenty and even elegance, are reduced to deplorable distress.’
(22) ‘The general […] after venting the grossest falsehoods and calumnies against the good people of these colonies, proceeds to “declare them all, either by name or description, to be rebels and traitors, to supercede the course of the common law, and instead thereof to publish and order the use and exercise of the law martial.” His troops have butchered our countrymen, have wantonly burnt Charlestown, besides a considerable number of houses in other places; our ships and vessels are seized; the necessary supplies of provisions are intercepted, and he is exerting his utmost power to spread destruction and devastation around him.’
(23) ‘[G]eneral Carleton, the governor of Canada, is instigating the people of that province and the Indians to fall upon us; and we have but too much reason to apprehend, that schemes have been formed to excite domestic enemies against us.’
(24) ‘[A] part of these colonies now feel […] the complicated calamities of fire, sword and famine.’
(25) ‘We are reduced to the alternative of choosing an unconditional submission to the tyranny of irritated ministers, or resistance by force. — The latter is our choice.’
Hence, the declaration from the Congress was made:
(1) ‘We have counted the cost of this contest, and find nothing so dreadful as voluntary slavery. — Honor, justice, and humanity, forbid us tamely to surrender that freedom which we received from our gallant ancestors, and which our innocent posterity have a right to receive from us. We cannot endure the infamy and guilt of resigning succeeding generations to that wretchedness which inevitably awaits them, if we basely entail hereditary bondage upon them.’
(2) ‘Our cause is just.’
(3) ‘[T]he arms we have been compelled by our enemies to assume.’
(4) ‘We fight not for glory or for conquest. We exhibit to mankind the remarkable spectacle of a people attacked by unprovoked enemies, without any imputation or even suspicion of offence.’
(5) ‘In our own native land, in defence of the freedom that is our birthright, […] for the protection of our property, […] against violence actually offered, we have taken up arms.’
So, there are context, arguments and the declaration.
Bangladesh people’s right to rebellion
The Bangladesh people were forced into a situation, as found in official documents, statistics, legislative assembly proceedings and enquiry reports of the Pakistan state, official correspondences, deliberations in international fora and prestigious studies, far worse than the situation described in the declaration from North America. The acts of denial, non-response and suppression by the Pakistan state for more than two decades, the state’s acts of killings, arson, internment at mass level, and its massive, systematic, explicit and extraordinary human rights violations of violent nature aggregated into quantitative and qualitative terms and made these into an organised forceful act to subjugate and exterminate a people seeking liberation from bondages of exploitation, inequality, hunger, oppression, injustice, indignity, seeking lights and shelter of knowledge, justice and dignity, seeking fair access to advances achieved by the world humanity with the aid of sciences that includes equality. The brutal, forceful, heinous and violent method of denial prepared part of the base of and conditions for the right to rebellion by the Bangladesh people. These played role in the dynamics of the rebellion. The people attained the right to rebellion, which is an ‘extreme form of the right to resist’.
The right to rebellion can be realised, writes T Honoré, ‘in the event of the violation on a large scale of primary rights like the right to freedom from arbitrary arrest. The sustained denial of those rights may amount to such oppression or exploitation as justifies rebellion’. (‘The Right to Rebel’, Oxford Journal of Legal Studies. 1988, 8(1): 38) The Bangladesh people were arbitrarily pushed into a situation with much brutal and barbaric violation of all basic and primary rights on a countrywide scale for a longer period than T Honoré mentions and the July 6, 1775 declaration described.
The Bangladesh people’s rebellion included denying the state’s authority and rising up with arms in 1971; and it cemented the base of the people’s march to liberation, an eternal yearning of all the exploited and deprived, of all the victims of inequality and injustice, of all bombarded with lies, deceptions and hypocrisy in all ages, epochs and periods. In the people’s march to liberation, the rising and rebellion in 1971 embolden the rationale to the right to fight against all forms of bondage, deprivation, dishonour, exploitation, hypocrisy, ignorance, indignity, inequality, injustice, lies, oppression, suppression and tyranny.
Farooque Chowdhury is a Dhaka-based freelance writer.