Monday, April 23, 2018 | ePaper
Independence Day 2017
Talking about Independence Day
The appearance of March after February is as inevitable as the materialization of the dream of independence after the language movement, of March 26 after February 21.
Our twenty-four-year long attachment with Pakistan is informed by anxiety and discomfort. From the very inception of Pakistan, East Bengal became subject to deprivation, and our struggle for equal rights began soon after. From that time onward, we steered away from religion-based nationalism to culturally-oriented nationalism. Struggles for self-rule, parliamentary democracy, secular society, equidistribution of national resources left their bloody tracings in years such as 1948, 1950, 1952, 1954, 1955, 1956, 1958, 1962, 1966, and 1970. 1948 was not only the beginning of a language movement but also an attempt to preserve Bangalee alphabet, culture and identity. The convention on constitution in 1950 called for the formation of United Socialist States of Pakistan; the self-sacrifice in 1952 in the demand for declaration of Bangla as one of the state languages; the clear mandate of the people in the first ever general election of the province in 1954 and it was nullified by the central government. 1955 saw the omission O "Muslim" from "Awami Muslim League", although the process of the secularization of its politics and its student wing had begun much earlier. The first drafting of constitution of Pakistan in 1956 recognized Bangla as a state language and endorsed a combined parliamentary electoral system for both wings. 1958 witnessed the suspension of civil rights through a clamp-down on military rule. The education movement of 1962 was ultimately a resistance to military rule. In 1966, Sheikh Mujib forwarded the 6-point demand that was central to our existence as people. The mass upheaval of 1969 foiled the conspiratorial Agartala Trial against Sheikh Mujib and his associates, leading to the eventual canonization of Mujib as Bangabandhu. The Central government's negligence in dealing with the aftermath of the tornado that wreaked havoc in 1970 irked the people, and Awami League under the leadership of Bangabandhu had a landslide win in the national election of 1970.
The politicians and a large segment of the civil-military bureaucracy of Pakistan never wanted to give its Eastern wing its right share. It is no surprise then that the outcome of the 1970 polls caused worries for them. The way they indulged in giving lie to people's verdict as well as to all basic norms of democracy is unmatched in history. Bangabandhu's assurance that he would not pursue six-point demands as PM did not deter the Pakistanis from hatching conspiracies. The conspirators did not pay any heed to some concerned politicians of West Pakistan who urged the incumbent government to show some respect for democracy. The first session of the national assembly that was supposed to meet on March 3, 1971 wasÂ· postponed by General Yahya just two days ahead of the meeting. He removed the provincial governor and the chief military administrator and replaced them with two of his lackeys. While on the surface, he continued to have dialogues with Bangabandhu and his associates, he strengthened the military deployment in East Pakistan and prepared the master plan of killing Bangalees under Operation Search Light.
There was a roar of opposition against the annulment of national parliament; internecine clashes between Bangalee and non-Bangalee or between civilians and military officials erupted. There was this huge pressure on Bangabandhu from the students and the people alike to declare independence. Slogans such as: "Wake up, Bangalee! Wake up!" Brave Bangalee, Pick up your weapons, Free your country from the demons," "Our address is Padma-Meghna-Jamuna," "Joy Bangla!" reverberated throughout the country. On March 2, the flag designed by Shivnarayn Das was hoisted first at the University of Campus, and then at the Paltan Ground on the following day. Bangabandhu called for general strikes on March I and March 3. The strike was later extended up to March 7. The 17-minute speech delivered at Racecourse Ground by Bangabandhu on March 7 is remarkable in every sense of the term. He announced, "Fortify your houses. Garner all weapons that you can to protect yourself against the enemies. Crose down everything, even if I am not there to pronounce any further action." He said, "We have spilled blood, and we are ready to spill more. We will fight to free the nation in the name of Allah. The struggle this time is for freedom; the struggle this time is for independence." The speech invigorated everyone and inspired them for the ultimate sacrifice. At a public rally on March 17, Maolana Bhashani stated that Bangabandhu had already declaimed independence. Almost all the Sector Commanders Major KM Shafiullah, Major Ziaur Rahman, Major Khaled Mosharraf, Major Abu Osman Chowdhury later admitted that they had taken Bangabandhu's speech as a green signal for the liberation war. Simultaneously, Bangabandhu adopted a non-violent non-cooperation programme much to the surprise of the world. Up to March 25, Bangabandhu was in full control of Bangladesh. The Government House and the Cantonments were the only exceptions. Offices, court houses, educational institutions, banks, transport systems were taking instructions from Bangabandhu alone.
Between March 16 and March 2, there was a series of meetings between President Yahya Khan and Bangabandhu as well as his other advisors. No decisions, however, were reached. Meanwhile, on March 15, the leader of the People's Party of Pakistan Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto observed that due to the physical distance between the two wings of Pakistan, the representation of the majority should not be taken into account in choosing the Premier of the country; instead, the highest representatives of each wing should take over control of their respective areas. Elsewhere, on March 1, Major Shafiullah revolted when his men were asked to disarm a battalion of soldiers from East Bengal regiment who had earlier defied the order to shoot Bangalee at Joydevpur. March 23 was marked as a day of protest that saw torching and tearing down of Pakistan flags. Flags of Bangladesh were hoisted in different placed including EPR Head Quarter at Jessore. Even Bangabandhu's car in which he went to meet Yahya fluttered the new flag of Bangladesh. The indiscriminate shootings at Syedpur and Rangpur, following a riot between Bangalee and non-Bangalee on March 24, led Bangabandhu to call for a strike on March 27. Yahya returned to Islamabad on March 25 and gave a public speech, accusing Sheikh Mujib's non-cooperation as high-treason: "Mujib had run a parallel administration for three weeks, defiled the flag and photographs of the father of the nation of Pakistan, and tried to separate the eastern wing from the country. He could not be allowed to go unpunished for his attack on the national solidanty an a integrity of Pakistan." Mujib had already been taken into custody on the right of March 25. However, through EPR he managed to send a radio message that declared war against Pakistan. March 25 witnessed one of the most heinous mass-murder of human history. The tanks came out of the cantonment and attacked EPR, Rajarbagh police line, residential dorms of Dhaka University, certain newspaper offices, localities with pre-dominantly Hindu residents and city slums. Houses were set on fire and anyone who tried to come out of the burning houses was shot at. Students were lined up in front of ditches and then shot from close range; their bodies were buried and the ground was leveled with bulldozers. None was spared: rickshaw-pullers, children feeding on his mother, as if Pakistan was trying to send a strong signal to those who might try to resist them. A section of the world media, present in Dhaka, covered the news of atrocities to the utmost horror of the world.
Similar attacks of Pakistan army were carried out at other places. The initial resistance to such brutal force was soon found inadequate. Some young men got hold of a radio transmission system at Kalurghat, Chittagong and they started Shadhin Bangla Radio Service from which Major Zia announced the message of independence on behalf of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib. This message inspired the people, but the sporadic resistance lacked the bite and intensity to defeat an organized army. From March 25 there was a countrywide curfew.
Once the curfew was relaxed, the general secretary of Awami League Tajuddin Ahmed and Barrister Amirul islam took the first available opportunity and headed for India on March 27. With the help of Indian military personnel, they managed to reach Indira Gandhi. They sought her help for the formation of a government in Bangladesh and for the liberation war. A council was constituted with all the members who won the national and provincial elections in 1970. They drafted a declaration of independence in tandem with Bangabandhu's message and stated Bangladesh as a sovereign Republic country. The draft resolution made Bangabandhu the president of the Republic. It was decided that until the constitution is ratified, Bangabandhu would remain the president. In the absence of Bangabandhu, Syed Nazrul Islam, the vice president, acted as the president. Tajuddin Ahmed became the prime minister of the Republic. The other cabinet members were: Captain Mansur Ali (Finance), AHM Quamruzzaman (Home, Disaster and Rehabilitation), Khondakar Mostak Ahmed (Foreign and Law). On April 17, the cabinet was sworn in at a place called Vaidynathtola under Meherpur district which was later named as Mujibnagar. A good number of people from the press came to the inauguration of the country. Prime Minister Tajuddin Ahmed told the gathering of foreign journalists : "Bangladesh is at war now. We do not have any other option but to fight for our independence to resist the colonial imposition of Pakistan. Pakistan has died under a heap of dead bodies that itself has responsible for." The guiding principles of the country were identified as democracy, socialism and secularism. The cabinet appointed Col (retd) Osmani as the commander in chief, Group Captain A R Khandaker as his deputy, Col (retd.) M A Rob as the Chief of Staff, and Major Khaled Mosharraf, Major Ziaur Rahman, Major KM Shafiullah and Major Abu Osman Choudhury as commanders of various sectors of war. These appointments galvanized the liberation war. Justice Abu Sayeed Chowdhury, who was then in London, was assigned with the responsibility of a special emissary and an envoy to the UN. An all-party advisory council was formed with Maolana Bhashani at the helm. Members from both factions of Awami League, two factions of National Awami League, Pakistan National Council and Communist Party were included to show solidarity and give everyone involved the message that the war was waged for a national cause participated by all parties irrespective of their affiliations. Prof Mozaffar Ahmed, Monoranjan Dhor, Moni Shingh along with Awami League representatives TaJuddin Ahmed and Khondaker Mostak Ahmed were among those who attended the Council.
But by then it has become a people's war. People from all walks of life have joined in. They have taken up training on guerilla warfare. Local administration was formed and free zones were being created. Shadhin Bangla radio spread fiery words to Inspire the freedom fighters; overseas Bangalee started collecting fund for the war and lobbying for international support. Many of the Bangalee diplomats who were with Pakistan foreign service defected from their jobs and joined the war. Support for the war saw many international programs: an international convention was held in Delhi, a rally in London, a concert in New York and a demonstration was staged in front of Pakistan-bound ship carrying weapons m Baltimore. Millions of people were forced to leave their homes due to the brutality of Pakistan army forced, and India became their eventual shelter. The number of refugees in India was estimated at 10 million. Those who went to India brought stories of ills and depravation, tortures and troubles, and angers and anguish. Bangabandhu was put on a trial in Pakistan, but before the sentence on him could be carried out, the tide of history had turned. .
The freedom fighters started having considerable success; various key sites in Dhaka were attacked that were being protected by Pakistan army. At the face of inevitable defeats, the Pakistan army tried to diffuse the focus of the war by attacking India. The result was the surrender of Pakistan army to allied forces of India and Bangladesh.
There was a last minute attempt to remove all the brains of the country by killing the intellectuals. The local agents and collaborators of Pakistan kidnapped some of the best brains of the country and killed them. Many of the dead bodies were never found; and bodies of those found bore signs of tortures.
The flag of an independent, sovereign Bangladesh finally pierced through the sky to give lie to the plotting, brutalities of Pakistan; the flag is purchased through a heavy price of sighs, tears, and blood. In the last four decades of independence, we had to cross different terrains and see various political ups and downs. Somehow the dreams of the liberation war have remained incomplete. We must strive and work together to make the country worthy of the sacrifice that our martyrs have made.
Translation : Dr. Shamsad Mortuza