Harun-or-Rashid, Bangabandhu’s Second Revolution: What and Why. Bangla Academy Press, 2020 (hardback). Pp 126. BDT 200. ISBN: 978-984-07-5989-7

Jun 22, 2020

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Harun-or-Rashid’s Bangabandhu’s Second Revolution: What and Why is a powerful attack on the widely available misnomers[1] against Bangladesh Krishak Sramik Awami League (BaKSAL), or as regarded by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman “second revolution”[2]. Professor Harun challenges several narratives on BaKSAL by the critics arguing that BaKSAL was a mere means towards the end of second revolution, not an end itself. Lastly the author sheds light on the role of Sheikh Hasina, the honorable Prime Minister of Bangladesh and the daughter of Bangabandhu in fulfilling the dreams of her father. The author also emphasizes on the vision of Bangabandhu to establish an autochthonous system of governance in Bangladesh without blindly transplanting any foreign system.

Dr. Harun is a Professor at the Department of Political Science, University of Dhaka. Although he is extremely engaged in the administrative role of a Vice-Chancellor at the National University, Bangladesh, unlike the trend, he has not disconnected himself from academic affairs, i.e. authoring research books every year. His lifelong academic research is related to the journey of Bangabandhu and the state building process of Bangladesh through the liberation war 1971.[3] In essence, the book in discussion is an academic counter-narrative against the propaganda as set forward by the killers of the father of the Nation that the fourth amendment to the 1972 Constitution of Bangladesh was a ‘Constitutional Coup’ resulting into decline of democracy. The author showed that due to the pragmatic nature of Bangabandhu’s vision about the ‘second revolution’, the subsequent government, prominently referred to as anti-Mujib governments, led by General Zia and General Ershad followed the footprints of BaKSAL merely resorting to a different nomenclature, e.g. ‘Politics of Production’ by General Zia and ‘Upazilla System’ introduced by General Ershad. (p.8)

The book is designed chronologically into 7 chapters. The introductory chapter gives a brief account of the historical context of the first revolution led by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman starting from the 8th century till the end of the liberation war 1971. He established the fact that Bangabandhu’s leading the liberation movement was not a mere discreet event of his life rather it was the logical outcome of his life long struggle.[4] (p. 17) Such a conclusion was reached analyzing the role of Bangabandhu starting from the state language movement, the 6 points movement in 1966 and finally the electoral victory in 1970. The fourth amendment to the 1972 Constitution was introduced on 25 January 1975. The second chapter deals with the contextual background behind the incorporation of such an amendment to the Constitution. Although most of the freedom fighters submitted their fire arms responding to the call of Bangabandhu, a lot of such guns and ammunition were still in place causing anarchy in the root level. The author referred to the widely read literature authored by Rehman Sobhan to show how Bangladesh was going to fall in the trap of international politics.[5] Moreover, the newly born country was also unstable due to the feverish attempts to cause anarchy by certain left winger political parties specially National Socialist Party (in Bangla, Jatiyo Somajtantrik Dol) who were also maintaining deep connections with some foreign states compromising with the national sovereignty. Moreover, several Members of Parliament were killed, all the arms were ravaged from 60 police stations, and rail lines were uprooted from the track as if it were a ‘free style’ situation.[6] In these circumstances, Bangabandhu inevitably had to take some drastic measures including the establishment of BaKSAL. However, it must admitted that Bangabandhu’s vision of the second revolution was deeply influenced by his visit to China in 1952.[7] Although Bangabandhu pursued parliamentary form of democracy throughout his life, after the independence in the midst of such chaos, he could perhaps understand that a temporary measure of a centralized form of government with decentralized power in the local level can only ensure ‘economic, social and political justice’ in this war torn country.

The third chapter illustrates the philosophical base of the second revolution. It begins by negating the argument of the critics of Bangabandhu that he established the one party system to exploit the already existing anarchy. (p. 25) The author delves deeper into the philosophical basis of the system where he focuses on the fact that while remaining faithful to his own commitment of independence of the people of Bengal, Bangabandhu never over stepped, never became adventurist. When Bangabandhu returned from Pakistan jail, his power in this land was immeasurable even beyond the barriers of any constitutional limit. However, Bangabandhu did not take advantage of it. Immediately after his return, he resigned from the post of President and introduced a parliamentary system of democracy.[8] Banganbandhu wanted to tear apart this colonial structure madly dipped in ruthless corruption which only catered for discrimination and inequality amongst citizens.[9] The author argues that fear of dethronement was not the reason why Bangabandhu introduced the system- it can be evident if one analyses the overall functions of the state machineries in the second revolution. (p. 32) In the end the author concludes by borrowing the speech of Bangabandhu where he said the aim of BaKSAL is “to mobilize the people and do good to the people of Bangladesh. These unfortunate people have suffered long – generation after generation”.[10] Although the third chapter is successful in proving the contextual legitimacy of the fourth amendment, it was expected of the author to look into the legality of the amendment in view of the then existing legal doctrines. In further studies on the topic, this issue requires to be explored in details.

Chapter 4 constitutes the thrust of the book describing the functions of all the state machineries in the second revolution. The author lists out all the policy measures adopted by the Bangabandhu government including extermination of corruption from the root level, increasing food production, controlling population, restructuring the entire administration and finally ensuring national unity. The second revolution fixed land ceiling of 100 bighas, ensured electricity supply in all the thanas, attempted to control flood gradually, introduced multi-purpose village cooperatives in all the villages and planned for an organized agricultural activity through the co-operatives. The author unveils the thoughts of Bangabandhu that political leadership in the root levels of bureaucracy was necessary to ensure transparency and accountability in the administration. Bangabandhu’s plan included establishment of courts in the thana level so that poor people from the root level can get justice without much sufferings. Soldiers of defense forces were expected to be “Peoples’ army”[11] and they were expected to be engaged in the state building process.[12] It was also within the plan of second revolution that there would be a one-way public education system that ensures proper value system within the education process. Finally to ensure national unity, Bangabandhu introduced a national political party named as Bangladesh Krishak Sramik Awami League (BaKSAL) consisting of the members of all the political parties who believe in the independence of Bangladesh.[13]

In Chapter 5, the author clears it out that one national political party was able to ensure a functioning democracy in the country by ensuring democracy within the party itself. This chapter cites the book of Shafik Aziz Mukul to describe the structure of BaKSAL, although it was expected of the author to actively refer to the original constitution of BaKSAL.[14] Out of the 7 strata of BaKSAL, the top most body in the hierarchy, National Executive Committee was consisted of members nominated by the Chairman from the National Committee where the National Committee was a high profile committee consisting of the politicians from all the political parties, Vice-Chancellors of Universities, top officials from the Government bureaucracy, Chief of staffs of the defence forces etc. Sensing that politics might be difficult for politicians in the presence of businessmen in politics, Bangabandhu made a provision made a provision of fixed land ceiling as a condition to be a member of the party. Most importantly all the members of the Parliament, President of the state, Governors of the Districts were to be elected by direct election ensuring democracy in the country. The state was also made responsible for the expenditure of candidacy for projection meetings, posters, stage, sound system which was successfully applied in two elections in Sylhet-6 and Mymensingh-28. (p. 46)

The sixth chapter articulates the heart of BaKSAL, the District Governor system. The main aim of this system was to establish a decentralized, democratic, representative, accountable, welfare based, development oriented administration. Although for the first time, governors were nominated by the Chairman himself, it was made a provision of law that in the next terms the governors would be elected by the direct votes of the people of the district. The author showed that such democracy in the root level did not come from nowhere rather in the 1970 national council of Awami League, a resolution was in fact adopted to introduce elected leadership in the district level. (p.50)

The last two chapters draw a conclusion on the progress of Bangladesh in the track of Bangabandhu’s second revolution under the leadership of the current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. The Shiekh Hasina government has shown considerable success in eradication of poverty, ensuring food safety, population control, decentralized government by introducing Upazilla election, electricity coverage throughout the country, controlling flood, uplifting dignity of women, adopting National Education Policy 2010 etc. The author concludes that one party state is not entirely uncommon in the world. The recent success of China, Singapore in dealing with the Covid- 19 crisis illustrates the necessity of strong leadership in the central government to deal with national emergency with decentralized local administration.

The myths around the second revolution as spread by the anti-liberation forces in Bangladesh has been limitless. The critics of the system focused on the one party system overlooking the fact that it incorporated all the politicians from all political parties that believed in the independence of Bangladesh and was faithful to the four fundamental principles of the state. All the journalists were re-allocated in the government approved newspapers. It is not easy to be able to present an interesting, detailed, overall comprehensive and yet very authentic narrative on BaKSAL within 62 pages of the main text of the book successfully narrating the policies of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. This book is a highly commendable read for anyone interested on the second revolution of Bangladesh.


[1] For critiques on BaKSAL, see Jérémie Codron, ‘Putting Factions 'Back in' the Civil-Military Relations Equation: Genesis, Maturation and Distortion of the Bangladeshi Army’ (2007) South Asia Multidisciplinary Academic Journal <https://journals.openedition.org/samaj/230?file=1> accessed 15 April 2020; Moudud Ahmed, Bangladesh: Era of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (UPL, Dhaka 1983) 274-306

[2] For a detail on Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s account on BaKSAL, see Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, ‘Speech’ (Parliament of Bangladesh, Dhaka, 25 January 1975); Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, ‘Speech on the event of Independence Day at Sohrawardy Uddyan’ (Dhaka, 26 March 1975); Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, ‘Speech at the meeting of the Central Committee of Bangladesh Krishak Sramik Awami League’ (Dhaka, 06 June 1975); Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, ‘Speech in the workshop for District Governors’ (Dhaka, 21 July 1975). Also see see Shafikul Aziz Mukul (ed), Banganbandhu on BaKSAL (in Bengali) (Dhaka 1979)

[3] Harun-or-Rashid, Statehood Ideal of the Bengalis and the Emergence of Bangladesh (Bangla) (Agami Prokashoni, Dhaka 2001); Harun-or-Rashid, Political Development of Bangladesh : From Bangabandhu to Sheikh Hasina (Bangla) (New Age Publications, Dhaka 2012); Harun-or-Rashid, Unpublished Memoirs of Bangabandhu Revisited (Bangla) (UPL, Dhaka 2013); Harun-or-Rashid, Our Charter of Survival: 50 Years of 6 Point (Bangla) (Bangla Academy, Dhaka 2016); Harun-or-Rashid, Mainstream Politics: Bangladesh Awami League, Council 1949-2016 (Bangla) (Bangla Academy, Dhaka 2016); Harun-or-Rashid, Sat-E Marcher Bhason- Keno Biswa-Oitijjaya Sampad : Bangabandhu Muktijuddah Bangladesh (Bangla) (Bangla Academy and Anyaprokash, Dhaka 2018);  Harun-or-Rashid, Bangio Muslim League: Pakistan Andolon, Bangalir Rastrobhabna O Bangabandhu (Bangla) (Anyaprokash, Dhaka 2018); Harun-or-Rashid, Bangladesh: Governance, Politics and Constitutional Development, 1757-2018 (Bangla) (Anyaprokash, Dhaka 2018)

[4] Such a statement was also reached by the Newsweek Newspaper published from New York on 05 April 1971

[5] See for details, Rehman Sobhan, ‘Politics, Food and Famine in Bangladesh’ Economic and Political Weekly (Bombay, 01 December 1979); see also Nurul Islam, Making of a Nation Bangladesh: An Economist’s Tale (UPL, Dhaka 2005) 229-233

[6] Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, ‘Speech’ (Parliament of Bangladesh, Dhaka, 25 January 1975)

[7] See for details, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, New China (Dhaka: Bangla Academy Press 2020)

[8] See for details, the Provisional Constitution of Bangladesh Order, 1972

[9] Reflection of Bangabandhu can found in his speech at the event of Independence Day on 26 March 1975 in the Suhrawardy Uddyan.

[10] See for details, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, ‘Speech at the meeting of the Central Committee of Bangladesh Krishak Sramik Awami League’ (Dhaka, 06 June 1975).

[11] See for details, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, ‘Speech at the meeting of the Central Committee of Bangladesh Krishak Sramik Awami League’ (Dhaka, 06 June 1975)

[12] After reading the book on New China by Bangabandhu, it would be clear in the minds of the readers how Bangabandhu was deeply influenced by the Chinese system of defence forces.

[13] According to one commentator, to establish rule of law and ensure social, economic and political justice, it was necessary for Bangabandhu to delink himself from the corrupt party members and fellow citizens of the country and the formation of BaKSAL was a ‘masterly stroke’ to fulfil that goal. See for details, Ali Gowher, ‘The Killing of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman: Perspectives on Recent Bangladesh History’ (1976) 1(5) New Zealand International Review 18-22.

[14] The Constitution of Bangladesh Krishak Sramik Awami League 1975 <http://www.dpp.gov.bd/upload_file/gazettes/191-Law-1975.pdf> accessed on 31 March 2020

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Md Azhar Uddin Bhuiyan is the Editor-in-Chief of DUCSU Law and Politics Review. His articles appear in Oxford Political Review, Cambridge Human Rights Law Society, the Daily Star etc.