We realised this truth anew on 3 November 1975. When those whom we respect as four national leaders, who directed our liberation war, were killed within the so called safe perimeter of jail with same brutality, we were left in no misconception about what was the target of 15 August. The target was not only Bangabandhu, it was our liberation war. Pakistan was the most aggrieved country as they lost in the liberation war. Those who killed Bangabandhu and the four national leaders, they fulfilled the grudges on behalf of Pakistan. They mentally surrendered to Pakistan, their aspirations were for Pakistani ideologies.

The intellectuals who justified the 15 August 1975, blame many things that took place in the three and a half years’ tenure of the government of Bangabandhu for his murder. For example, the election in 1973, where no democratic opposition emerged; they mention about the famine-like situation in northern districts in 1974; some of them say the introduction of BAKSAL (Bangladesh Krishak Sramik Awami League) as the main reason. After the 1971, our expectations were touching sky, which is normal for the citizens of a country that has just achieved independence. That’s why they were frustrated at these incidents. The left-leaning parties were also protesting. But we must not forget taking the country to a somehow functional state was not an easy task at all, especially facing the challenges of a totally collapsed economy and infrastructures, destroyed communication and electricity connections, and inoperable Chittagong port and the hostility of a country like the US. Still the country not only survived, it was doing better.

This is clear now that Bangabandhu was killed to establish an ideology that is not related to democracy, and developing the fate of the farmers and labourers at all. Rather, this was for occupying the power by ultra-right, those who capitalise religion to do politics and at the end of the day those who work to acquire capital locally for the development of capitalism globally. This ideology has spread a lot at our times.

2.

Those who came to power after the killing of Bangabandhu in ’75 followed the path of Pakistani ideologies too. They too like Pakistan established the military as the regulator of politics and made a crust of politics bringing theocracy in the fore. That’s why this stream is at one side of the politics that has been going on in our country since ’75, and the noncommunal and liberal stream is at the other side. These two streams are engaged in duel in many countries these days. In India, the noncommunal stream remained powerful in politics for long. But the communal stream has become stronger in the last 10-15 years. In the US too conservatism and violence have spread in the last one decade, the noncommunal and liberal stream has lost significant amount of influence. Many have been apprehending that a huge defeat is waiting for the liberals in the coming 2024 parliament election.

In the 51-year history of Bangladesh, conservative, communal and extremist political forces have gained strength while the liberal and noncommunal stream of politics lost power and this too began with the brutal murder in 1975. Composing the constitution was one of the most significant tasks Bangabandhu did in the short period of three and a half years’ tenure of ruling the country. That constitution established non-communalism as a principle. The second task was forming a commission to draw up an education policy. As per the report of that commission, education was seen as a base to form a noncommunal Bangladesh. The subsequent government of 1975 took steps to create an environment religion-based politics like Pakistan by slashing the noncommunal principle from the constitution. They sent the education commission’s report to cold storage as well. Since then communalisation of politics was done, scope was not kept for the students to keep an eye on lives of people, cultural activities outside of their academic texts and religious parties’ achieved control over madrasah education. This force stayed in power for 21 years. When Awami League came to power in 1996, it was observed that the practice of 21 years’ is not possible to throw away.

Communal and religion-based politics has affected the people’s psychology permanently. Gradually, the noncommunal and liberal stream became illiberal; communalism infected the noncommunal side. Currently, whatever theoretical difference remains between the two sides, the difference in practice is not much. The stream of conservatism and extremism is very strong. Because of its effect, things are falling apart even in Europe, known as Makkah of reason and modernity. And, most distressing is, this extremism is not only trying for revival from philosophical point of view, rather it is looking for political establishment on the back of violence. That’s why the adherents of this type of politics have made racism, migration, misogyny and Islamophobia as their trump cards. Recently, the ultra-right are calling for violence to go to power in the US. People have been talking about another “civil war” in social media every day. Maybe most of this is just rhetoric. But we have seen in 1971 that some people could engage in killing their countrymen at the influences of rhetoric.

3.

A few days ago, while writing on the commonalities the “Woke” Left and the Alt-Right share, philosopher-theorist Slavoj Žižek in an article (The Daily Star, 4 August 2022) wrote that the leftists no longer talk about class struggle and many of them are economically and politically powerful. At the same time the alt-rights also shed crocodile tears to save real people from the grasp of aggressive state and plotting leftists hiding that they too occupy positions at the commanding heights of economic and political power. This is happening at many places of the world.

Left-leaning politics has been pushed to a corner in this subcontinent as well. In many countries, theocracy controls politics. Nowhere class struggle or the interests of farmer-labourer get prominence. In Bangladesh, several parties that introduce them as left leaning have joined the alliance that the alt-rights have come up with. When alt-right spreads communalism, the leftists either take an about-face or pays lip-service to non-communalism. And, the side that does politics following non-communalism and liberalism and also holds power, has moved far away from the goal of the 1971. Many of this side are using economic and political power for personal gain. ‘Working people’ occasionally become the aim of speech, statement and programme of these two sides but not in really.

4.

Not only we will mourn on 15 August 2022, it is also necessary to self-criticise and that will have to be done from those grounds of truths that called us for a unity in the 1971. First of these is the liberalisation of our politics in protest and resistance against the colonial rule of Pakistan in Bangladesh. Rights of peasants, labourers and marginalised people have to be specific. The second is to strengthen non-communalism, humanity and linearism. The third is not to compromise the country’s economy to market economy and restructure the economy to protect the interest of low-income people, especially peasants and workers. Since, socialism is not being practised it is not possible rather justice and fair balance of production and distribution will have to be established. The fourth one is to make education free from the clutch of neo-liberalism and reorganise it in light with our culture to make education liberal, humanitarian and pro-life.

The country cannot strive towards the future by forgetting the history of 1971, obeying the Pakistani rhetoric and creating a fabricated narrative on 24 years of struggle of this country, especially during 1971. A country that cannot be proud of the history of its successes and if that history is read through the goggles worn by the colonial rule, how that country will hold its head high at the world stage. Once we saw that when humanity came under attack anywhere in the world we protested it strongly. Now we do not protest against the suffering of flood-affected children, even when Israeli bombs tear apart the bodies of Palestinian children we remain silent as if everything is normal. Those who accept the brutality of 1975 do not have the moral ground to protest. Those who do progressive politics but opt for ideological lip service instead of activities also lose that moral power. The period of feeling proud of our politics has passed.

Bangabandhu believed non-communalism throughout his life and practised it. He saw education as the foundation for building a humanitarian nation. He had fought for alleviating the suffering of working people in his entire life. If his followers now work keeping these things in mind, there will be at least a start for the turnaround but will that sign be seen soon?