March 26, 1971: Bangabandhu declares independence
The atrocities committed by Pakistan occupation forces on the night of March 25 and early hours of the next day on unarmed Bangalees ultimately led to the war for liberation. It was proof that there would be no “negotiation”.
The dark night prompted Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman to declare the independence of Bangladesh the very next day -- March 26, 1971.
“Today Bangladesh is a sovereign and independent country. On Thursday night [March 25, 1971], West Pakistan armed forces suddenly attacked the police barracks at Razarbagh and the EPR headquarters at Pilkhana in Dhaka. Many innocent and unarmed have been killed in Dhaka city and other places of Bangladesh. Violent clashes between EPR and police on the one hand and the armed forces of Pakistan on the other are going on. The Bangalees are fighting the enemy with great courage for an independent Bangladesh. May Allah aid us in our fight for freedom. Joy Bangla,” Awami League leader MA Hannan declared on behalf of Bangabandhu.
Flags of red and green were hoisted across the country.
A telegram containing the text of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's declaration reached some Bangalee students in Chittagong.
While the Pakistan army took over “Dacca Betar” in the early hours of that day and renamed the radio station as “Radio Pakistan Dacca” to broadcast martial law orders, in the evening, a small radio station began broadcasting defiantly in the face of the Pakistan military's bloody onslaught on the Bangalees. The clandestine radio station, located in Kalurghat, north of Chittagong city, called itself Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra (Free Bengal Radio Station).
The first persons to broadcast that “Sheikh Mujibur Rahman has declared the 75 million people of East Pakistan as citizens of the sovereign independent Bangladesh” from Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendro were Ashikul Islam in English and Abul Kashem Sandwipi in Bengali. Later in the evening, MA Hannan also broadcast the declaration from the telegram.
Meanwhile, arrested Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was taken to an unknown place in the evening.
The military authorities imposed curfew.
With machine guns and firearms, they attacked homes of civilians, buildings, slums, and the houses of Awami League leaders. They looted house after house.
With the help of non-Bangalees, Pakistan military attacked old Dhaka and continued their carnage till late into the night. Many newspaper offices, including those of Ittefaq, The People and Banglar Bani, were damaged by tank shells.
As evening descended, Bhutto arrived back in Karachi. “Thank God, Pakistan has been saved,” he told journalists waiting for his statement.
General Yahya Khan addressed Pakistanis to announce the outlawing of the Awami League and a determination to punish Sheikh Mujibur Rahman for his “act of treason” in challenging the authority of the government of Pakistan.
But the dark night only spurred them on further. No Bangalee was ready to let the Pakistanis get away with such atrocities. No Banglaee would stand down without war, without fighting for the independence that was declared on this very day 47 years ago.
Source: Liberation War Museum and Bangladesh Genocide Archive