Bangabandhu’s March 7 Press Statement
Between the 1st March when there was a sudden announcement of the postponement sine die of the sitting of the National Assembly and the 6th March, the people of Bangla Desh have seen subjected to military confrontation. There has been widespread firing upon unarmed civilians (workers, peasants and students) who had stood up to protest against the sudden and un-warranted postponement of the National Assembly. Those who have lost their lives during the last week are martyrs who died protecting the democratic rights of the people against the arbitrary and unwarranted action of postponement sine die the National Assembly. It is indeed a travesty of the truth to term these martyrs as "destructive elements" when in fact the real destructive elements are those who are responsible for unleashing a veritable reign of terror against the people of Bangla Desh. It is highly regrettable that the President has not been able to find time to come to Dacca to see the horrors perpetrated during the last week.
If what the President calls "minimum" use of force has resulted in thousands of casualties, are we to understand that what he calls "adequate" force would aim at extermination? I condemn such naked threats of force being held out against the unarmed civilian population of Bangla Desh. The armed forces have been armed at great cost to the nation in order to repel foreign aggressors and not for the purpose of mowing down civilian population. Today in Bangla Desh people require protection against the excesses being committed by the uniformed personnel from the other wing, who are acting like an army of occupation.
It is said that the postponement of the National Assembly has been "misunderstood". I would like to ask the President whether or not this postponement was effected solely in response to the machinations of a single party--constituting a minority of the total members--against the declared wishes of the majority party and also those of numerous members from the Western wing? We had suggested the 15th February as the date for the first sitting, while the minority group question had indicated a preference for the first week of March. It was the minority group's view which was accepted and the Assembly was summoned on the 3rd March. But then the same minority group raised objections to participation in the National Assembly.
First, it took up the highly objectionable position that its members would be in "jeopardy" if they came to Dacca and that they would be "double hostages". Thereafter, this party took up the position that it would only attend the National Assembly on the terms dictated by it. It then went on to strike another posture when its members recorded a decision to resign from the National Assembly. What was particularly surprising was that almost simultaneously an amendment appeared in the LFO enabling members to resign before the first sitting. But then they decided not to resign. This party's intransigence reached its climax when on the 27th February it declared that it would launch a mass movement if the National Assembly was to meet without its participation. It went so far as to say that people would take full "revenge on those who chose to attend the Assembly session" and that "if the people failed to take revenge" then that party "would take action against them." It further threatened that if any members of its own attended, "the party workers would liquidate him."
By this time our parliamentary party had assembled at Dacca and members had already began to arrive from the different provinces of the western wing. The Chief Election Commissioner had reached Dacca and announced that the election of the women members was to be held on the 2nd March. The President himself was expected to arrive on the 1st March for the inaugural session. Our own position on constitution-making had been clearly stated in our press statement on 24th February when we reiterated our invitation to each and every member of the National Assembly from all parts of Pakistan to cooperate with us in the historic task.
On the 27th February, we went to the extent of affirming that if any member presents before the Assembly anything just and reasonable, we would accept it. But even this was ignored, it would appear deliberately and with motive.
On the 1st March, by a radio statement there was sudden and unwarranted postponement of the National Assembly sitting sine die. The reason given was that there should be more time for "understanding," and it was said that there was "political confrontation between the leaders of East Pakistan and those of the West."
Did the people of Bangla Desh not have sufficient reason to feel that their democratic rights had been grossly interfered with at the behest of an undemocratic minority? Were there not enough grounds for them to feel that a minority group had aligned itself with certain forces to obstruct the constitutional process and to deprive the majority of the people of their rights? Indeed these apprehensions were further fortified by the steady military build up which became evident.
This showed that "political confrontation" was soon to be followed by "military confrontation," if the majority did not submit to the dictation of the minority group.
BENGALI PRIME MINISTER DISMISSED
Indeed, we had warned in our statement of the 24th February that dark conspiratorial forces had always intervened in our country whenever the people were to take over power through the democratic process. The microscopic minority, which represented the vested interest of the western wing, had by sabotaging democracy deprived the seventy-five million people of Bangla Desh, as they did the oppressed masses of the western wing, of their basic rights.
In 1953 the Bengali Prime Minister was dismissed by a conspiracy of the Punjabi ruling clique. In 1954, the elected Government in East Bengal was dismissed and the Constituent Assembly itself was dismissed by the same clique. When general elections were to be held in early 1959, the vested interests of the Punjab once again struck and usurped power.
Today the Punjabi ruling coterie is attempting to repeat this disgraceful history. But they should know that the awakened masses of Bangla Desh -- as also the oppressed masses of the western wing--shall resist their foul conspiracies by every means possible.
To set the record straight, I should make it clear that I had never conveyed any impression that a RTC-type of conference should be held. I had only conveyed to the President that he should come to Dacca in order to see the grave situation prevailing in Bangla Desh in order to end the wanton killing of unarmed civilians. As for the earlier meeting proposed by the President, we had made it clear that our pre-occupation without Working Committee and parliamentary party meetings which had been fixed several weeks in advance would not enable us to travel Rawalpindi at that time.
Furthermore, we had pointed out that constitutional issues were best resolved within the National Assembly and its Committees rather than by secret negotiations, and that once a National Assembly had been brought into being, there was no justification for any RTC or secret parleys.
I have recounted all these facts in detail to repudiate the charge that the Awami League has in any way obstructed the transfer of power. The majority party is certainly not the party which would stand to gain by such obstruction. It is only too clear to the people of the country and indeed the world that it is a minority group of the western wing which has obstructed and is continuing to obstruct the transfer of power. It would appear that the President has been considering it his "moral obligation" to submit to the dictation of this minority group. The democratic way of life cannot be established nor can power be transferred to the people if a minority group conspires with the vested interests to frustrate the democratic process. If the democratic way of life be the ultimate casualty and if the proposed transfer of power is aborted this minority group and those who colluded with it shall not escape responsibility.
Are these very elements not the "handful of people" whose actions have struck grievous blows to the efforts of the elected representatives of the people to evolve a basis for living together. The question which every right-thinking person must ask today is: whether the Armed Forces can be said to be discharging their duty of ensuring "the integrity, solidarity and security of Pakistan" by shooting down unarmed civilians all over Bangla Desh? By so acting are they not in fact acting as the principal force of disintegration?
Today after the elections the only legitimate source of authority in the country are the elected representatives of the people. No individual can claim authority superior to that of the elected representatives.
SOURCE OF AUTHORITIES
We, as the representatives of the overwhelming majority of the people of Bangla Desh, assert that we are the only legitimate source of authority for Bangla Desh. Indeed, by virtue of our majority position we are the legitimate source of authority for the whole country. The events of the last seven days have shown that all branches of government functioning throughout Bangla Desh have accepted us as the source of legitimate authority and have carried out our directives.
Today, the President and the government at Islamabad should acknowledge this basic fact. It would therefore be in consonance with the declared wishes of the people of Bangla Desh that no one should interfere with the exercise of authority by the elected representatives of the people.
This brings us to the question of the sitting of the National Assembly announced for the 25th March. We had ourselves time and time again asserted the urgency in respect of an early sitting. But today a grave and abnormal situation has been created. A virtual reign of terror has been created in pursuance of the policy of military confrontation of the civilian population of Bangla Desh. Casualties in thousands have been reported and the cry of "genocide must stop" has been raised on all sides, including the common people of West Pakistan and right-thinking people all over the world. The members of the National Assembly cannot be expected to discharge their duties in an atmosphere of terror. So long as this state of confrontation as also the inflow of army personnel and arms from the western wing continues, so long as an atmosphere of repression is maintained, so long as there are daily reports of military firing upon civilians in different parts of Bangla Desh, the members from Bangla Desh could hardly be expected to contemplate participating in the National Assembly at gun-point.
If the President sincerely desires that the National Assembly, as the sovereign body of the elected representatives of the people, should function then the following measures must immediately be adopted:
(a) Immediate withdrawal of 11 military personnel to their barracks;
(b) Immediate cessation of firing upon civilians, so that not a single bullet is fired with immediate effect;
(c) Immediate cessation of the military build up and the heavy inflow of military personnel from the western-wing;
(d) Non-interference by the military authorities in the different branches of the Government functioning in Bangla Desh and direction to desist from victimisation of Government officers and employees;
(e) Maintenance of law and order be left exclusively to the police and Bengali E.P.R assisted, wherever necessary, by Awami League volunteers;
(f) Immediate withdrawal of Martial law;
(g) Immediate transfer of Power to the elected representatives of the people.
If the military confrontation continues and our unarmed people continue to be mowed down by bullets, let there be no doubt that no National Assembly can ever function.
Our people have already proclaimed to the world that they shall no longer allow themselves to be exploited as a colony or a market. They have expressed their determination to be the free citizens of free country. Our economy must be saved from ruination. Our toiling masses are to be saved from starvation, disease and unemployment.
The millions in the cyclone-ravaged areas are yet to be rehabilitated. If the ruling coterie seeks to frustrate these aspirations, the people are ready for a long and sustained struggle for their emancipation. We pledge to lead this struggle and ultimately to attain for the people their cherished goal of emancipation, for which so many martyrs have shed their blood and made the supreme sacrifice of their lives. The blood of these martyrs shall not go in vain.
The first phase of our struggle has been launched. Our heroic masses have displayed indomitable courage and determination. They have braved bullets and violated curfews in a planned manner. I also congratulate our people, and our Awami League volunteers, who have frustrated the designs of agent-provocateurs and anti-social elements to create communal tension between different religious groups and between Bengalis and so-called "non-Bengalis". I once again re-affirm that every person living in Bangla Desh is a Bengali and that his person, property and honour, are our sacred trust and must at any cost be protected. We are proud to note that since our volunteers have undertaken the task of vigilance and patrol there have been no untoward incidents.
Our struggle must continue. The objective of the present phase of the struggle is the immediate termination of martial law and the transfer of power to the elected representatives of the people. Till this objective is attained, our non-violent, non-co-operation movement must continue.
PROGRAMME OF ACTION
The programme of action for the week commencing 8th March, 1971 is as follows:
1) No-tax campaign to continue;
2) The Secretariat, government and semi-government offices, High Court and other court throughout Bangla Desh should observe hartals. Appropriate exemptions shall be announced from time to time;
3) Railways and ports may function, but railway workers and port workers should not co-operate if railways or ports are used for mobilisation of forces for the purpose of carrying out repression against the people;
4) Radio, television and newspapers shall give complete versions of our statements and shall not suppress news about the people's movement, otherwise Bengalis working in these establishments shall not co-operate;
5) Only local and inter-district trunk telephones communication shall function;
6) All educational institutions shall remain closed;
7) Banks shall not affect remittances to the western wing either through the State Bank or otherwise;
8) Black flags shall be hoisted on all buildings everyday;
9) Hartal is withdrawn in all other spheres, but complete or partial hartal may be declared at any moment depending upon the situation;
10) A Songram Parishad should be organised in each union, mahalla, thana, subdivision and district under the leadership of the local Awami League units.