Some speeches have had a tremendous impact on the course of history. A remarkable speech, popularly known as the “Gettysburg address,” was delivered by Abraham Lincoln, the great American president on November 19, 1867. A frequently quoted sentence from this historical speech defined democracy as “government of the people, by the people, for the people …”
In our own context, the speech that changed the course of history of the land is the legendary one by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibor Rahman, delivered on March 7, 1971 at the then Race Course Maidan (now Suhrawardy Udyan) in the presence of millions of freedom loving people.
“Ebarer sangram, swadhinotar sangram, ebarer sangram, muktir sangram” (the struggle this time is a struggle for emancipation. The struggle this time is a struggle for independence); “protyek ghore ghore durgo gore tolo — tomader jaar ja kichhu ache, tai nie shatrur mokabela korte hobe” (turn every house into a fortress, resist the enemy with everything you have); “rokto jakhon diechhi, rokto aro dibo, e-desher manushke mukto kore chharbo inshallah” (having given blood, we shall give more blood. God willing, we will free the people of this land).
These quotes from the historical speech of Bangabandhu were not mere expressions of heartfelt emotions of freedom seeking Bengalis at that historical turning point, rather they acted as more than deadly weapons targeted at the occupying Pakistani army during our Liberation War. In fact, in 1971 the historical March 7 address united the whole nation (except a few collaborators of the Pakistani army) with the spirit of the Liberation War. People of all walks of life became freedom fighters in one way or another. Some actively joined the war, and millions, though they did not directly take part in the war, gave moral support to our war. These people were, in fact, silent freedom fighters, among whom many sacrificed their lives, wealth, and efforts for the great cause.
However, the members of the generation who were mere children during our Liberation War, who finished their schooling in the post-1975 era, and the generation after them, in general, utterly failed to appreciate the significance of the legendary speech of Bangabandhu. Whereas, the young generation of America, about 150 years after the Gettysburg address, still uphold the essence of Lincoln’s famous address when they look back at their national history.
To find the causes behind this shortcoming on the part of our young generation, we need to shed light on August 15, 1975, the blackest day of our national history. August 15, 1975, can be marked as a turning point for our country; from the light to the dark, from hope to despair. On this day, with the brutal killing of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib, the monumental icon of independence and founding father of Bangladesh, the nation had to bury the spirit of the Liberation War. So, in independent Bangladesh in 1975 the freedom fighters were defeated and the enemies of the Liberation War, the collaborators of the Pakistani army, reversed history by implementing their well designed conspiracy!
The reactionary groups that captured power, capitalising on the post 1975 political scenario, feared a living Mujib more than a dead Mujib. The brutal killing of Bangabandhu was not that hard as they proved on the midnight of August 15. But erasing the spirit of our Liberation War from the mindset of the people was not easy. For this, they adopted different strategies. In fact, the enemies of the country, the reactionary forces, are very shrewd. After the fall of the patriotic freedom fighters in 1975, they started to fabricate the history of liberation in their own ways.
Indeed, they were aware of the implication of history and its long time impact on the nation. They knew that revelation of the true history of our Liberation War would trash them to the dustbin and eventually they would never be able to come to power. They knew that the generation that participated in our Liberation War either directly or indirectly would gradually disappear following the law of nature. So, the reactionary forces initiated the strategy for distortion of history with a view to keeping the new generation in the dark.
Perhaps, they feared the historical March 7 speech the most as it could successfully revive the spirit of our Liberation War. So, they imposed restriction on it. After 1975, (except during the tenure of present and last AL governments) the state- controlled media could not transmit this speech due to conspiracy of the reactionary forces. Even in our history texts, the significance of March 7 is deliberately neglected. Though AL and some of the pro-liberation activists tried to keep alive the spirit of March 7 and transmit this speech privately, it had little impact on the young generation as they were confused by the distorted history designed at the state level.
Without knowing the true historical context, appreciation of the March 7 speech is really hard. For this, we must know the atrocities that had been carried out by Pakistani regimes on Bengalis in the name of religion, language and culture. For this, we must know how in 1971 the then Pakistani military regime demeaned the people’s verdict in the 1970 election with a view to depriving Bengalis of this land. We should know the fact surrounding the Agartala conspiracy case which ultimately turned Sheikh Mujib into Bangabandhu, unanimous leader of the Bengalis. We should also know about the 6-point doctrine of the nation as well as 11-point demand of the students at the advent of our Liberation War. Above all, we must be aware of the true history of the Liberation War. Does our history text focus on these crucial issues?
If the true history of our Liberation War is revealed then the new generation will understand the significance of March 7 and will take initiative for a positive move. Infused with the message of the March 7 address they will definitely take bold steps for complete emancipation of the common people of the country, which was the prime objective of our Liberation War.
In conclusion, as a conscious citizen of the country, I would like to urge the government to include the historical March 7 address in our curriculum either at school or college level. In fact, this spontaneous speech (it was an unwritten speech!) delivered by the great leader has added a unique dimension in a literary sense too.
The writer teaches Computer Science at AIUB. Email- [email protected]