Bangabandhu and the freedom of Bangladesh
OUR nationalist movement that led to the War of Liberation began soon after the creation of Pakistan. Since inception, the Pakistani rulers began maligning our culture to destroy our independent cultural identity.
Bangabandhu initiated our nationalist movement by founding the East Pakistan Students League (Purba Pakistan Chhatra League), just six months after the creation of Pakistan in 1947. He also acted as the architect and principal organiser in founding the Awami Muslim League, the first ever opposition political party in Pakistan, in the year 1949.One of the important contributions of Bangabandhu was that he turned the Language Movement into a people's and student's popular political movement, bringing it out from the cultural sphere of the intelligentsia.
In 1949, Bangabandhu, an extraordinary political visionary and a charismatic leader of people, ignited our liberation movement by amalgamating the language movement with the economic demands of the fourth-class employees of the University of Dhaka. While a student of law in that university, he organised and led the movement of the employees. In the wake of this event, he was taken to prison and the authorities expelled him from the University. He was the first ever student of the University of Dhaka who had been expelled for good due to political activism.
Thus, Bangabandhu began his political movement against colonial rule, immediately after the creation of Pakistan. By the year 1966, he was able to establish himself as the principal leader of the people. In 1966, he declared the historical Six Points programme, the Magna Carta of the Bangalis, which he preached in the then East Pakistan. Millions of people listened to his words and began dreaming of breaking the chain of slavery of the Pakistani rulers.
Bangabandhu had become the unique leader of both people and the liberation movement. He was now the most faithful friend, a prudent teacher and a great leader of the oppressed and backward. He was now making his way to establish an independent, progressive and people's democratic state following the path of anti-feudalism, anti-colonialism and anti-imperialism.
Having been convicted in the Agartala Conspiracy case, while waiting to be hanged in Dhaka Cantonment, he called his people to rise against the Pakistani rule on the basis of 6 and 11 point demands.
People from all walks of life -- thousands upon thousands -- came out in bands and chanted slogans for Bangabandhu and for the independence of Bangladesh. This was during the fiery days of 1969, when the people created a new history -- one of people's mutiny -- which is seldom seen in a nation's history.
The Agartala Conspiracy case was withdrawn and Bangabandhu was released from jail. Having been empowered with legal and supreme authority by his people through the general election in 1970, Bangabandhu drew the plan and programme of freedom of Bangladesh.
In his greatest address on March 7, 1971, he explained the logic of our liberation movement during 24 years against the colonial rule of Pakistan. In that address, for the first time in the open, Bangabandhu called upon the people for a War of Liberation to liberate the country from the colonial rule of Pakistan. That day, for the first time in his political struggle of 24 years, Bangabandhu spoke so openly and definitely about freedom and the liberation struggle of Bangladesh.
On February 18, 1971, Bangabandhu had a secret meeting with the principal leaders of the Bangladesh Liberation Force (BLF). He said to them: "Probably we will not have much time in hand. The movement for the last move is knocking at the door. Organise your cadres and convey my message of armed struggle to every student league worker. In my absence, if it so happens, you accompanied by Tajuddin Ahmed will go to Indira Gandhi for arms and training for our freedom fighters."
On March 3, he talked about a plan of armed struggle with some ex-army officers, including Col. Osmani, Major General Majid, Commander Abedin and others.
On the same day, Capt. Rafiqul Islam of EPR, who was then posted in Chittagong, sent a message to Tajuddin Ahmed, saying that if Bangabandhu declared the independence of Bangladesh, he would fight against the Pakistan army with his soldiers.
After March 7, 1971, Bangabandhu took over the responsibility of administration and since then he became the real administrative authority of Bangladesh. On March 15, Yahya Khan, President and Chief Martial Law Administrator came to Dhaka for a meeting with Bangabandhu. Before his arrival at Dhaka, Bangabandhu appointed Col. Osmani as the de facto Commander in Chief of Bangladesh Army that would fight for independence. Bangabandhu received Yahya Khan addressing him as the guest of Bangladesh.
At a press conference on the same day, responding to a question by Van Gaugin of London Times, he said: "Pakistan is finished. There is no way of conciliation."
At the meeting held on March 24, 1971, Bangabandhu demanded the constitutional independence of Bangladesh and with this demand the discussion between Mujib and Yahya came to an end. On the same day he had a series of meetings with his party high command, ex-army officers, including the C in C, and the leaders of BLF to decide on the declaration of independence. By that time a brigade of thirty thousand men from among the ex-forces, including students and others, listed their names for the war. The BLF by then had organised fifteen thousand cadres, who were waiting to receive the command to go to war.
As pre-preparedness he recorded his declaration of independence and handed over a letter to the BLF high command for Indira Gandhi, the Prime Minister of India.
Our Liberation War began as a defensive war. Upon getting the news of the army crackdown on the night of March 25, Bangabandhu instructed his close associates to lead the armed struggle from hiding. At that very crucial moment of that night Bangabandhu took the most important decision in his life. He declared the independence of Bangladesh. He dictated his message of independence to a faithful person at the central telegraph office to circulate it across the country.
M.A. Hannan, a prominent Awami League leader in Chittagong, and local Awami League leaders in Comilla and Brahmanbaria received the following message from the telegraph office:
"The Pakistan army has attacked police lines at Rajarbagh and East Pakistan Rifles Headquarters at Pilkhana at midnight. Gather strength to resist and prepare for a war of independence." Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (Massacre - by Robert Payne)
On March 26 and 27, almost all the radio transmissions of the world transmitted the news of the declaration and the people's resistance against the Pakistan army's attack. On March 28, the London Observer published the Declaration of Independence followed by a long report on the people's resistance across the country.
The army crackdown in Dhaka and the declaration of independence by Bangabandhu spread like fire over the country.
Bangabandhu is a rare personality in our national history. He is the architect and creator of a new nation and a country as well. He is not comparable to anybody nor can anybody replace him in our history. Bangabandhu is the greatest ever son of this soil. That is why he is the father of our nation.
The writer is a Freedom Fighter. He may be reached at: [email protected]