‘AL, BNP turn liberation war history into family history’

The Awami League is the party that led the political front in the liberation war and it was, fundamentally, a bourgeois political party, representing the new capitalists among the Bengalis and it was impossible for the Awami League to lead the liberation war uncompromisingly and it eventually led the war amid fears, compromise and confusion, Subhrangshu Chakrabartty — a working committee member of the Socialist Party of Bangladesh (Marxist) and freedom fighter in the liberation war — tells Mohiuddin Alamgir and Moloy Saha in an interview with New Age

Subhrangshu Chakrabartty

Subhrangshu Chakrabartty

New Age: The competing political parties of the ruling class, the Bangladesh Awami League and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party in particular, accuse each other of distorting the history of our liberation war. What is your view about the alleged distortion of the history?
Subhrangshu Chakrabartty: The Awami League and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party were equally responsible for the distortion of the liberation war history. In fact, both the parties virtually manipulated the country’s history to turn it into their family history. They distort history to hide weakness of the class they belong to and to confuse people.
Our liberation war took place when the bourgeois class historically lost its progressive characters and its capabilities to wage uncompromising movement against imperialism and feudalism.
The Awami League is the party that led the political front in the liberation war and fundamentally it was a bourgeois political party, representing the new capitalists among the Bengalis. So it was impossible for the Awami League to lead the liberation war uncompromisingly and it eventually led the war amid fears, compromise and confusion.
The liberation struggle continued beyond the nine-month liberation war as it stared long ago with the  struggle of left-leaning political parties, oppressed people and the educated middle class who joined the language movement in 1952, 1962, 1966 and the mass uprising in 1969.
New Age: There is no doubt that the Awami League, under the active leadership of Tajuddin Ahmad, politically presided over the nine-month  liberation war against Pakistan and that the Tajuddin government conducted the liberation war in the name of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. But the Awami League often claims to be the sole champion of the country’s war of liberation. What role did your party, or other political parties for that matter, play in the liberation war?
Subhrangshu Chakrabartty: Immediately after the arrest of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on March 25, 1971, two crises surfaced — what will be the next course of the liberation war movement and who would lead the movement in such a situation. Awami League leaders got into a cold war in obtaining the leadership.
vic08The calm-headed Tajuddin Ahmad won the leadership race and played a significant role in leading the war with his wisdom. Tajuddin’s far-sightedness and skills were crucial to the success of the war of independence.
The Awami League led the war politically but people from different walks of life joined the war; their contribution, unfortunately, came to be neglected.
Our party was not founded at that time but many of our current leaders joined the liberation war.
New Age: At what point of political development in Dhaka, did you or your party resolve to start the liberation war against the occupation forces of Pakistan?
Subhrangshu Chakrabartty: On March 2, 1971, the first Bangladesh flag was hoisted and non-cooperation movement began on March 3. I was president of the Kurigram subdivision unit of the Chhatra League and at the instruction from central leaders, we started making preparations for the war against Pakistan in early March.
New Age: There are allegations that the government-in-exile of Tajuddin Ahmad and the Indian authorities refused to provide training and weapons for leftwing political activities. Why? How was the issue eventually resolved?
Subhrangshu Chakrabartty: The liberation war against the colonial force of Pakistan was led by the Awami League, a bourgeois political party, representing new capitalists of the Bengalis. Then the left parties failed to discharge their historical responsibilities of the war.
The Indian government that helped us represented the bourgeois and had already earned some imperialistic character by 1971. Because of this, Tajuddin and Indira Ghandi did not allow people who were from a different class ideology other than theirs to participate in the war primarily.
After the signing of the Indo-Soviet Treaty of Peace, Friendship and Cooperation [signed between India and the Soviet Union in August 1971] and heavy Soviet lobbying, they allowed arms training for pro-Moscow leftists for the war.
New Age: It is common knowledge that Awami League leader Khandaker Mushtaque Ahmed wanted to compromise with the Pakistani authorities during the liberation war. Was any other leader or faction of the Awami League supporting Mushtaque’s move? How was the suicidal move thwarted?
Subhrangshu Chakrabartty: There was a small faction of the Chhatra League that wanted to retain Pakistan under a confederation. Likewise, a faction of the Awami League also supported the move for a confederation with Pakistan under the leadership of Khandaker Mushtaque. Some bureaucrats and the imperialist United States played a significant role in the plot. Tajuddin with his political wisdom and diplomatic skills thwarted the plan of Mushtaque and his associates.
New Age: There are allegations that youth leaders of the Mujib Bahini, formed and specially trained by the Indian authorities, did not properly cooperate with the government of Tajuddin Ahmad during the war of liberation. Why was, in your view, the Mujib Bahini formed in the first place and how did it affect the process of our liberation war?
Subhrangshu Chakrabartty:  In 1970, a majority of leaders on the central committee of the East Pakistan Chhatra League decided to form an independent Socialist Bangladesh and most of the top leaders of other units got united and extended their support for the decision.
Immediately after the beginning of the liberation war, when regular forces were in the process, Serajul Alam Khan [main leader of Swadhin Bangla Biplabi Parishad, 1962 widely known as Nucleus and later a political theorist], who influenced behind-the-scenes the Chhatra League to decide to create an independent Socialist Bangladesh, alongside others, played a vital role in forming the Mujib Bahini or the Bangladesh Liberation Force, composed of then active former leaders of the Chhatra League.
I do not know the details of the influence of the Indian government on the Mujib Bahini but I think Indian authorities had their interest in establishing their supremacy that time.
There were differences in thoughts and goal among the four top leaders of the Mujib Bahini. As far as I know, most cadres of the Mujib Bahini thought themselves as soldiers to establish socialism in Bangladesh. Beside arms training, the Mujib Bahini used to attend motivational classes to work towards establishing socialism. Top Chhatra League leaders attended the classes where courses on socialism and the history of socialistic movement at home and aboard were taught.
As for conflict between the Tajuddin government and the Mujib Bahini, I think that there is a gap between what is publicised and what the reality was.
But as the BLF command was relatively independent from other forces and the government-in-exile; some confrontations could have taken place.
New Age: Allegations also have it that in order to take control of the war, the Mujib Bahini often engaged itself in clashes with the Mukti Bahini. Did such clashes upset the morale of freedom fighters on the ground?
Subhrangshu Chakrabartty: As far as I know the Mukti Bahini had taken the shape of almost a regular military force. The Mujib Bahini had no such strength or intention to weaken the Mukti Bahini. But as the two forces were under separate commands, there could be some stray incidents of confrontation.
New Age: Different sections of people of Bangladesh took part in the liberation war. Did all sections of people have the same expectations from an independent Bangladesh? What were the aspirations of the poor masses who had made the greatest sacrifice?
Subhrangshu Chakrabartty: Emerging capitalists, middle-class and the proletariat joined the liberation war with different goals. The aim of the emerging capitalists was to ensure their full authorities on ordinary people by uprooting the Pakistani rulers. On the other hand, the objective of ordinary people, the middle class and the proletariat was to see an end to oppression and to witness prosperity in an independent state.
New Age: What are the impediments towards meeting aspirations of people at large that were generated out of the successful war of independence in 1971?
Subhrangshu Chakrabartty: After the independence, the bourgeois ruling class introduced the decadent capitalistic economic system. As a result of that, people’s aspirations for independence could not be realised till date. Rulers following in the footsteps of other bourgeois always oppressed people and never thought about people’s rights.
New Age: There are some documents, inadequate though, about the sacrifice of women in the liberation war but their sacrifice is not yet discussed in public forums. How should the problem be addressed?
Subhrangshu Chakrabartty: Women have made great contributions to the liberation war and there is no scope for ignoring that but it is really frustrating that their contribution did not get the recognition that they deserve.
Women did not get their due recognition because of society’s patriarchal attitude. You cannot give proper recognition to women while having a narrow-minded patriarchal society in place. We will need an elaborate cultural and democratic movement to give recognition to women.
New Age:  There is still controversy at home and abroad over the actual number of martyrs in our liberation war. What is the scientific way to put an end to the controversy?
Subhrangshu Chakrabartty: There is no doubt that the Pakistani military forces committed the worst genocide on unarmed people. The post-independence government was irresponsible as it did not count the number of the martyrs. Therefore, there has always been a debate over the number of martyrs and taking the advantage of the situation, many have tried to reduce the gravity of genocide carried out by the Pakistani occupation forces.
Some people intentionally and unintentionally have tried to project that the severity of the crimes against humanity was committed within a tolerable level which is not acceptable at all.

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