Agartala case: Evidence of Bangabandhu's armed struggle for independence


Published on January 7, 2022
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Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman emerged as the spokesperson and sole leader of the Bengali nation after he announced the historic 'Six Point' Programme as the General Secretary of the Awami League in 1966. Then, being elected party president in the March council, Bangabandhu continued to drum up support across the country to build public opinion in favour of the Six-Point, the ‘Charter of Liberation of Bengalis'. Along with the ordinary people, a section of government officials and army members expressed solidarity with Bangabandhu and followed his instructions on the next course of action. But the Pakistani intelligence managed to get the evidence and filed a lawsuit in early 1968 entitled 'State vs. Sheikh Mujib and others'.

The case statement reads: “The accused want to establish an independent state (Bangladesh) by waging armed struggle with arms.” The Pakistanis started propagating this case as the 'Agartala Conspiracy Case'. They tried to play a dirty game by calling the efforts of Bangabandhu and the Bengali nation for the independence of Bangladesh a conspiracy, so it became widely known everywhere.

Basically, the foundation of this uprising for independence was laid on February 5 and 6 in 1966, when Bangabandhu tried to raise the Six Points for the first time at a meeting of the opposition on West Pakistani soil. But the junta resisted him. He then returned to Bengal and held 32 public meetings across the country in the following three months. At that time, the Pakistanis were scared to see the tide of people in favour of the Six Points. As a result, the junta arrested Bangabandhu eight times in three months. Finally, on May 8 in 1966, Bangabandhu was imprisoned by the Pakistani dictators for a long time.

But the spirit of the Six-Point by Bangabandhu influenced the Bengali nation to make all-out efforts for independence. On June 7, the students and the working class took to the streets demanding the release of Bangabandhu for the first time. But the junta shot 11 people to death on that day.

Though Bangabandhu was in jail at that time, the Pakistani intelligence learned that Bangabandhu, before and after the announcement of the Six Point, had given necessary instructions to the Awami League leaders and some trusted government officials for an armed revolution for liberation. Therefore, the Pakistani government issued an official press note on January 6 after filing a case against Bangabandhu and them on January 3, 1968. It led to mass arrests officially.

Along with Bangabandhu, a total of 35 politicians, professionals and military officials were sued in the case. In fact, a group of professionals and army officials contacted Bangabandhu several times, after the announcement of the Six Point and before his arrest, to discuss their activities for being freed from Pakistani slavery.

As a result, the Pakistani junta did its utmost to restrain the support from some Bengali members of the organized forces on behalf of the freedom-loving people. Their plan was to execute Bangabandhu on the charge of treason and to kill the rest in jail through a court-martial. However, massive protests from our Bengalis halted vile attempts of the Pakistanis.

Steps to change the Bengalis’ fortunes and the beginning of the Pakistanis’ downfall

The Pakistanis kept Bangabandhu in detention from May 8 in 1966 for placing his Six Point programme. From December 1967 to mid-1968, at least one and a half thousand Bengali politicians, government officials and members of the army, navy and air force were also detained. Meanwhile, at the beginning of 1968, Bangabandhu and 34 other government officials and members of the defence forces were accused in the case. The trial showed Bangabandhu as arrested in this new case though he had been in jail for long.

The hearing of the case titled 'State vs. Sheikh Mujib and Others' started on June 19, 1968, in Dhaka Cantonment through a special tribunal. But the trial ensued huge agitation among the Bengali nation demanding the withdrawal of the case and unconditional release of all political prisoners including Bangabandhu. Just as the working class became active in the movement for the first time after the Six-Point Programme, so the peasantry of Bengal also took to the streets demanding the release of Bangabandhu after this case. As a result, the power of the Pakistani junta was shaken by the joint movement of students, workers, peasants and the masses. This mass movement is an unprecedented milestone in the history of Bengal in its quest for independence.

In February 1969, the frightened Pakistanis shot Sergeant Zahurul Haq, an accused in the case, dead inside the jail and tortured the other accused and kept Bangabandhu in an unknown place. But on the day of various hearings of the case, Bangabandhu continued to instruct the student leaders and countrymen to continue the movement by holding a brief meeting with family members and colleagues. As a result, the whole country including the campuses of Dhaka and Rajshahi universities became turbulent. The freedom-loving Bengalis occupied the streets amid the bullets of the Pakistani army.

University teachers and students with the working class started sacrificing their blood demanding the release of Bangabandhu. The martyrdoms of Dr Shamsuzzoha, Asad, Matiur and others echoed the slogan: ‘Jeler Tala Bhangbo, Sheikh Mujibke Anbo (We will break the jail and bring back Sheikh Mujib)’. The Pakistani army was completely frightened by the fiery slogans of our Bengalis. Finally, they were forced to release the accused in the case including Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman unconditionally on February 22 in 1969.

The next day, on February 23 in 1969, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was awarded the title ‘Bangabandhu’ at a huge public rally attended by millions of students, workers, farmers and people of all classes at Suhrawardy Udyan in Dhaka. Then, Bangabandhu vowed to free the Bengali nation from the shackles of Pakistani slavery with the last drop of blood. In the face of mass uprising, the then military junta General Ayub Khan was forced to resign and the Pakistani junta was forced to declare national elections in 1970.

Later, while marking the sixth death anniversary of his political guide Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy on December 5 in 1969, Bangabandhu named this territory 'Bangladesh'. Bangabandhu said, "On behalf of the people, I am announcing that from today, the name of the eastern province of Pakistan will be 'Bangladesh' instead of 'East Pakistan'."