Basic rights need to be made legally enforceable duties of the state
FOLLOWED by a series of political and cultural movements for the right to autonomy and self-determination, Bangladesh emerged as an independent state through a people’s war in 1971. It was those social, political and cultural movements, launched and led by different set of political leaders, and also the student leaders those days, since 1948 that gradually raised the political consciousness of the people of the erstwhile East-Pakistan in general, and the Bengalis in particular, against the neo-colonial exploitations of the Pakistani ruling class during the 1950s and 1960s. Determined not to hand over power to the Awami League, the party of the majority emerged through the general elections in 1970, the West Pakistani military junta of the time forced a war upon the people of the then East Pakistan on March 25, 1971. The people’s ‘collective consciousness’, which was germinated and formed through the series of political and cultural movements, aspired them to chase the dream of independence. They, therefore, did not take time to fight back the invading military forces of West Pakistan. The armed resistance of the Bengalis soon took the shape of a people’s war, which eventually wrestled out independence on December 16, 1971. Bangladesh was born.
However, a majority of the people who took arms, and many of whom laid down their lives, came from the poor sections of the populace. Understandably, they did not fight for independence just to replace the Pakistani rulers with those of Bangladesh. The spirit of their war was to secure their freedom, as indicated by the political class that led the movements towards independence, freedom from hunger, from the lack of clothing, from ill health, from illiteracy, from homelessness, et cetera — the basic human rights that the systemic neo-colonial rule of Pakistan deprived them of for two long decades. Moreover, they fought the independence war for the abolition of disparities and discriminations — the political menaces that the people of Bangladesh were victims of within the framework of Pakistan.
Now that forty years have gone by since the achievement of independence, it is time for the politically conscious democratically oriented sections of the people to remind the country’s power elite, spread over different political camps, that it has utterly failed to meet the promises of independence for the people at large who wrestled out the country. Millions of Bangladeshis still suffer from hunger, homelessness, ill health and illiteracy on a regular basis, while social and economic divide between the rich minority and the poor majority has assumed vulgar proportions. It is, therefore, time that the democratically oriented people mounted effective political pressures on the power elite, in and outside the government, to take meaningful steps towards meeting the fundamental promises of the liberation war, the first such step of which should begin with making it a legally enforceable duty of the state to meet the five fundamental basic rights of the citizens — food, clothing, healthcare, shelter and education.
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