Six-Point: The 'Magna Carta' of Bengali Nation
The Six-Point Demands raised by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman is the cornerstone of the freedom movement of the Bengali nation. The Six Points together can be considered as the 'Magna Carta' or 'Charter of Liberation' for the Bengali nation. The Bengali nation which has been a victim of injustice, inequality and discrimination for a long time, got a new dawn by raising the "Six-Point Demand".
The Six-Point Movement is a historical and important political event in the history of the nation. At a conference of opposition political parties held in Lahore on 5 and 6 February in1966. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, on behalf of the Awami League placed a "Six-Point demand" to establish autonomy in East Pakistan.
Bangabandhu reached Lahore on 4 February. The next day of 5 February, he made a Six Points demand. In order to raise this demand, Bangabandhu was branded as a separatist in many February 6 newspapers. Responding to it, Bangabandhu boycotted the conference on 6 February.
The Six Points were officially raised on March 23 in line with the Lahore resolution. At the meeting of the working committee of the Awami League on 21 February 1966, the programme of the movement was adopted aiming to realize the six-point proposal and demand.
A booklet on the Six-Point programme with the roles of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Tajuddin Ahmed was published. Then on March 18, 1966, a booklet titled “Amader Banchar Dabi: Chhoy-dofa Karmashuchi” (Our demand for existence: Six-Point Program) was published in the name of Sheikh Mujib and distributed at the Awami League council session.
The main objective of the Six Points demand is that Pakistan will be a federal state on the basis of the programme, each of the states of this federal state will be given full autonomy. The basis of the Six-Point was the historic Lahore resolution.
Later the movement for the autonomy of the Bengali nation was intensified centering on this 6-point demand. This movement was so significant behind the rise of today's independent Bangladesh that it was called the 'Magna Carta' or the Bengali 'Charter of Liberation'.
Every year on June 7 'Six-Point Day' is celebrated in Bangladesh. In 2023, June 7 is the 57th Six-Point Day. On June 7 in 1966, a massive mass movement was launched in the country in support of the Six-Point demand. During the strike called by Awami League on this day, 11 Bengalis including Manu Mia, Shafiq, Shamsul Haque were martyred by the police and EPR in Tongi, Dhaka and Narayanganj.
At the end of the British rule in the Indian subcontinent, an independent state called Pakistan was born with two wings--- East Pakistan and West Pakistan. East Pakistan had the majority of the population and the majority of Pakistan's total export earnings were also generated here. However, East Pakistan was not politically and economically equal due to extreme level of exploitation. As a result, economists, intellectuals and East Pakistani politicians began to question inequality and raise the historic six-point demand.
Now let's find out, what were the points raised in the Six-Point Demand.
First Point, the constitutional structure and the nature of the state:
The constitutional structure of the country should be such that Pakistan would be a federation-based United Nations and its basis would be the Lahore resolution. The government will be parliamentary type. The power of the Legislatures will be sovereign. And this council will also be elected by direct popular vote on the basis of universal suffrage.
Second Point, the power of the central government:
The powers of the central government will be limited to only two areas- national defence and foreign policy. In all other respects, the power of the member states will be absolute.
Third Point, currency or monetary power:
Regarding currency, one of the following two proposals can be accepted: -
(A) There will be two separate, yet freely exchangeable currencies for the whole country.
(B) Under the present rules, only one currency can be in circulation for the whole country. However, in that case, the regime should have effective measures to stop the smuggling of capital from East Pakistan to West Pakistan. In this case, a separate banking reserve should be established for East Pakistan and a separate monetary policy should be introduced for East Pakistan.
Fourth Point, power of revenue collection:
The states of the federation will have sovereign power over the imposition of taxes or duties. The central government will not have the power to impose any tax. However, the central government will be entitled to a portion of the state revenue to meet the necessary expenditure. The central government's fund will be made up of the same percentage of all state taxes collected at the same rate.
Fifth Point, foreign trade:
(A) Separate accounts of foreign trade of each State of the Federation shall be maintained.
(B) Foreign exchange earned through foreign trade will remain under the jurisdiction of the States.
(C) The demand for foreign exchange required for the Center will be met by the States at the same rate or at a more unanimous rate.
(D) There shall be no tariff or tax-restrictive restrictions on the movement of domestic goods between the member states.
(E) The constitution should give the states the power to send their trade representatives abroad and to conclude trade agreements in their own interest.
Sixth Point, power to form paramilitary: In order to maintain regional cohesion and governance, the constitution must give member states the power to form and maintain paramilitary or regional armies under their authority.
A close analysis of the six-point demands made in 1966 shows that Bangabandhu's Six Points Program was a feasible political program aimed at a systematic solution to the problems of East and West Pakistan. It calls for full regional autonomy for both provinces. Bangabandhu's political foresight was revealed through the formulation of this Six-Point program.
The seeds of today's independent, sovereign Bangladesh were sown with the Six-Points and the movement culminated to the War of Liberation in 1971. The Six-Point movement was so important behind the establishment of the state of Bangladesh that it was called the 'Magna Carta' or 'Charter of Freedom' for the Benglai nation.
Six-Points motivate us to be vocal against any injustice, irregularity, misgovernance, corruption, exploitation and torture. The historic Six-Point movement is a charter of our freedom and it is a constant source of inspiration. We have celebrated the Golden Jubilee of our independence.
It is a matter of great pride for us as a nation. But even after 52 years of independence, the question generally arises—as to how much we have actually been liberated, how much we have been able to cherish the spirit and freedom of the great liberation war.
The writer is a, researcher, journalist and columnist.