Dr. Arun Kumar Goswami
Bangladesh has emerged as an independent and sovereign nation-state after a prolonged struggle against the virus of two-nation theory under the leadership of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. But, whether the ghost of Pakistan’s two-nation theory has lost its relevance, is still a big question. Answer of this question may be that two-nation theory or its product communalism was just hidden during and after three and half years after independence. Thereafter, when the chance turned up with the assassination of the Father of Nation Bangabandhu, both two-nation theory and communalism raised its hydra heads!! Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman has been the greatest Bengali of all the time, a great humanitarian, liberal and progressive statesman. Nevertheless, the question needs to be addressed for several reasons. People’s Republic of Bangladesh emerged from the womb of religious colonial state Pakistan, which was created on the basis of two-nation theory. The year 2020 is marked as the birth centenary of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (1920-2020) who fought for our freedom and humanity against many odds which were arisen as the by-products of two-nation theory. Remembering, Bangabandhu’s ‘honesty of purpose and sincereity of purpose’ and life-long struggle for the cause of ‘his people’ renowned litterateur and poet Annada Shankar Ray(May 15, 1904-October 28, 2002) wrote, “Jotokal robe Padma, Meghna, Gauri, Jamuna bohoman, totokal robe kirti tomar Sheikh Mujibur Rahman,” which means, “As long as the rivers Padma, Meghna, Gauri and Jamuna continue to flow, the reputation of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman will remain alive in the hearts of the people.”
Muhammad Ali Jinnah, on the other hand, was the chief exponent of two-nation theory and religious colonial state Pakistan has been created on the basis of this ideology. Accordingly, Jinnah is known as the Quad-e-Ajam i.e. father of nation of Pakistan. It is often argued, on the basis of record of his political belief and affiliations that Jinnah was secular and non-communal and at the last moment he led the movement for communal state Pakistan to quench his thurst for ‘power’. As a matter of fact, there was no role of ‘common people’ for the creation of Pakistan. When Jinnah was asked who created Pakistan he said, “I will tell you who made Pakistan. Myself, my secretary and his typewriter.” Thus, beyond Jinnah’s declared expectation, Pakistan has been able to develop herself in such a way that no non-Muslim can live there with minimum dignity and safely. Pakistani American writer and politician Farahnaz Ispahani in her article ‘Cleansing Pakistan of Minorities’ noted,
“At the time of partition in 1947, almost 23 percent of Pakistan’s population was comprised of non-Muslim citizens. Today, the proportion of non-Muslims has declined to approximately 3 percent. The distinctions among Muslim denominations have also become far more accentuated over the years. Muslim groups such as the Shias who account for approximately 20-25 percent of Pakistan’s Muslim population, Ahmadis who have been declared non-Muslim by the writ of the state, and non-Muslim minorities such as Christians, Hindus and Sikhs have been the targets of suicide bomb attacks on their neighborhoods, had community members converted to Islam against their will, and had their houses of worship attacked and bombed even while they were inhabited by worshipers.”
On the other hand, according to 1951 census 9.8% of Indian population was Muslims, whereas in 2011 the percentage of Muslim population has increased to 14.2%. Ironically, over 16 crore Muslims continue to live in India under what Jinnah called "Hindu Raj", from which he wanted them to be emancipated, making India still the home of the second largest number of Muslims in the world, after Indonesia. This, more than anything else, demonstrates the fallacy of Jinnah's view that Muslims needed a separate country to escape Hindu persecution.
In Bangladesh, the assassination of Father of Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in mid-August 1975 helped defeated forces to consolidate their position against secularism and thus strengthen the flow of communalism. The current Hindu population of about 13 million, is far short of the number one should expect based on population growth rates. In his book ‘Political economy of reforming agriculture-land-water bodies in Bangladesh’ Professor Dr Abul Barkat(2016) found ‘from 1964 to 2013, around 11.3 million Hindus left Bangladesh due to religious persecution and discrimination which means on an average 632 Hindus left the country each day and 230,612 annually. No Hindus will be left in Bangladesh 30 years from now if the current rate of “exodus” continues.’ According to columnist Syed Badrul Ahsan (2018), “The violent coup d’etat which left Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and his family murdered and his government overthrown in August 1975 was a powerful manifestation of the creeping nature of communalism in the country.” Hasan further pointed out,
“Communalism is thriving in Bangladesh, not merely through the placing of a religious inscription between the slogans of Joi Bangla and Joi Bangabandhu on Awami League posters but also — and more ominously — through a careful weeding out of non-Muslim writers from school textbooks that have the putative goal of enlightening the young through instilling liberalism in their thoughts and deeds.”
Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib was a youth of 27 years old when Pakistan was created on the basis of two-nation theory. Lahore Resolution was the basis of two-nation theory. In the context of Lahore resolution the League Working Committee called for general strike on 16 August, 1946 termed as 'Direct Action Day'. The working committee of Muslim League gave the directives to League leaders and the Muslim masses of the provinces to stop all business and observe complete hartal on that day. To make it most effective the Chief Minister, of the Bengal Hussain Shaheed Suharawardy had taken immense preparations. However, Muslim League’s general strike led to communal carnage, something that Suhrawardy perhaps never intended to happen. But things went beyond his control and brutal communal violence ensued. A great portion of Calcutta was on fire for a couple of days. As a result of 'the Direct Action' riot spread throughout the country, and was particularly destructively in Noakhali and Bihar. At that time Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was a student leader and had been the student of Kolkata’s Islamia College. To save the humanity and to bring peace Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had worked hard during the day of Direct Action. Bangabandhu and his mentor H.S.Suhrawardy confronted with the murderous crowd. In his unfinished memoirs Bangabandhu described his experience of that time. That was a time when people were being attacked every now and then. In such a situation, Bangabandhu wrote, `one day Suhrawardy asked me to go to Narkeldanga.’ Mahatma Gandhi, Manu Gandhi, Ava Gandhi Mahatma Gandhi’s secretary and some Congress leaders had also come. Bangabdhu wrote, thousands of people had been gathered there. The people were raising slogans “Bapujee ki Joy”. Mahatma Gandhi did not speak on Sundays, so he would not speak. Manu Gandhi and Ava Gandhi had recited ‘Alhamdu Sura’ and ‘Kulhu Sura’. Then there was ‘Ram Vandana’. Bangabandhu wrote, "The Mahatma wrote something for the occasion and his secretary read it out. The man was a magician. People cried out immediately, 'Muslims and Hindus are brothers.' The whole atmosphere changed instantly."
Annada Shankar Ray came to Bangladesh and met Bangabdhu in 1974. After the assassination of Bangabandhu in August 15, 1975 Ray has written his ‘Indrapat’(in Bengali). In this book he revealed his experience of meeting with Bangabandhu in 1974. During their meeting Ray had asked Bangabandhu, ‘At first when the idea of Bangladesh had come to your head?’ In reply Bangabandhu said,
‘That was in 1947. At that time I was with the party of Suharawardy. He and Sarat Chandra Bose wanted joint Bengal. I also wanted one country for all Bengalis. What Bengalis could not do if they were united! …They could even win the whole world….He was becoming excited by saying it. After that with gloomy face he said, Suhrawardy and Sarat Chandra Bose had returned from Delhi with empty hand. Neither Congress nor Muslim League had been agreed with their proposal. They quit the rudder. I also noticed that there was no way. Then after returning Dhaka I started afresh. For time being accepted Pakistan. But my dream was golden Bangla. How that dream would be fulfilled that was my thinking.’
In order to fulfill his dream Bangabandhu had dedicated his whole life. Bangabandhu spent almost one-fourth of his nearly 55 years of life in prison. He was in prison for a much longer period when he was arrested once more in October 1949 for leading anti-government protests in East Pakistan which had gathered considerable momentum by this time. He would be released on this occasion at the end of February 1952. However, probably during this time in prison, at one point he was taken to Faridpur Jail. There, Chandra Ghose was also a political prisoner. Mr. Ghose was also from Gopalgonj. Mr. Ghose was hospitalized and he was about to die. But at that last moment of his life Ghose wanted to meet and talk with Bangabandhu. Ghose requested Bangabandhu not to discriminate between people on the basis of religious identity. Then Bangabandhu replied, ‘I see man as man. To me, there is no Musalman, Hindu and Christian in politics. Everybody is human being.(p.191)’.
With the passage of time Bangabandhu led the secular nationalist movements of Bengalis. These movements were language movement of 1952, Six-point movement of 1966, Mass-upsurge of 1969, and first general elections of Pakistan in 1970. On the basis of these movements and elections of 1970, the ideological beliefs of Bengali nationalism had been strengthened against the ideology of two-nation theory. However, if we notice at the result of 1970’s election we find that about 24 percent of the cast votes were given against Bangabandhu and Awami League, though 76% voters were in favour of Bangabandhu and Awami League. This 24% voters of the then East Pakistani voters might be the supporters of two-nation theory. After independence, under the leadership of Bangabandhu Bangladesh had accepted a secular and modern constitution. Nevertheless, the ideology of two-nation theory had been buried under deadbodies of 3 million Bengalis. Bangabandhu had also sacrificed his life by the conspiracy of defeated forces of 1971 liberation war, who were the urdent followers of two-nation theory. However, to materialize Bangabandhu’s dream of Sonar Bangla, we need to fight against the ideological followers of two-nation theory. There will be no communal problem and two-nation theory will be proved meaningless if Bangabandhu’s dream of Sonar Bangla comes true. Bangabandhu’s daughter honourable Prime Minister asked to provide home for the homeless in Mujib Year. She is trying her best to fulfill Bangabandhu’s dream. We are hopeful to materealise Bangabandhu’s dream to build a non-communal secular Bangladesh under the leadership of Deshratna Sheikh Hasina.