463Published on July 12, 2022
Why did the unarmed Bengali nation dare fighting with nothing but the spirit of nationalism against the Pakistani military junta? Why did they make supreme sacrifices to liberate their motherland? It is only because they had their supreme leader who prepared and exhorted the nation to achieve freedom by any means. It was the declaration of independence by the Father of the Nation Sheikh Mujibur Rahman that aroused the Bengalees and called upon them to fight for independence. In fact, the whole world could hardly imagine that the nation would fight back and ultimately bring victory. But they did because they had their instructions from their leader.
Though the world was passing a wartime period, the movement for freedom of the Bangali nation was quite different from those. Both the Communists and separatist groups were fighting in different places in different countries for freedom. But the Bengali nation always followed the democratic path to achieve the freedom. The people’s representatives who were directly elected by the mass people in 1970 general election led the Liberation War from the front. So, the victory was the outcome of the long struggle for freedom of the Bengali people.
Starting from the Language Movement, legendary leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman led the nation towards the autonomy. He prepared the Bengali nation for autonomy through his historic Six-point Charter, which was the long-cherished demand for the Bangali nation. On his journey, he faced many charges, tortures and jail-terms. But nothing could stop him from winning a landslide majority in the election. He began a democratic movement from the beginning of 1971 demanding the rights to hold national assembly with the directly elected representatives. At that time, the country was fully under his control as he preparing the seven crore Bengalees people for an armed revolution since March. But the Pakistani military started a massacre on the sleeping people at the midnight on March 25. Bangabandhu immediately declared independence formally. Upon his call for independence, the Bengali nation defeated the Pakistan military and appeared as a brave nation in the world map.
A Leader Doesn’t Flee
The situation became volatile in the city since the evening of 25 March after Pakistani dictator Yahya Khan left Dhaka under high secrecy. Journalist Anthony Mascarenhas described the situation in details in his book. He wrote that a rickshaw puller hurriedly stopped in front of the Dhanmondi 32 residence of Sheikh Mujib. He came from the cantonment area for delivering an emergency message. He said to Bangabandhu, “A crackdown is coming at your place tonight.”
Bangabandhu asked his colleagues and party leaders to go to a safe shelter after he was receiving more and more information about the blueprint of crackdown of Pakistani soldiers. Awami League and Chhatra League leaders also requested him to find a safer place, but Bangabandhu replied: “I won’t go anywhere. If I go into hiding, the situation of Dhaka will worsen. They will search for me everywhere and carry out attacks and damage everything leaving many people dead.” The visionary Bangabandhu was right. Butcher Tikka Khan, the Pakistani lieutenant general, in his interview later confessed that they would wreak havoc in every house in Dhaka city if they did not find Bangabandhu on that night.
The differences between Bangabandhu and other leaders is understandable from this timely and brave decision. He should not go in hiding as he was the leader with the people’s mandate. He was confident of delivering directions to the nation to make people prepared for an ensuing war. As Bangabandhu came to know that Pakistani army disarmed EPR and Rajarbagh Police Lines had been a target for Pakistani soldiers. So, for strategical reasons, Bangabandhu was waiting to declare independence and call for war so that the Pakistanis could have no chance to brand the Bangalee nation as separatists. As the news about the Pakistani attack came, without wasting a second – the Father of the Nation declared Bangladesh as an independent state formally. He also called upon people to resist Pakistani military attacks by every means. Bangabandhu announced independence in his voice in the early hours of March 26 through a special frequency of wireless. The announcement spread out everywhere in the country and abroad. The hope of the Bengalees who were waiting for the formal call was then fulfilled. The wisdom of the Bangabandhu took aback international community as there was no scope for the Pakistani junta to castigate Bangabandhu and Bangalee nation over the attacks and resistances.
The Declaration of Independence
Following the crackdown of Pakistani junta, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman made the declaration saying Bangladesh as an independent state. The Bengali version of the declaration was included in the 6th chapter of the Constitution. The declaration reads:
“THIS MAY BE MY LAST MESSAGE, FROM TODAY BANGLADESH IS INDEPENDENT. I CALL UPON THE PEOPLE OF BANGLADESH WHEREVER YOU MIGHT BE AND WITH WHATEVER YOU HAVE, TO RESIST THE ARMY OF OCCUPATION TO THE LAST. YOUR FIGHT MUST GO ON UNTIL THE LAST SOLDIER OF THE PAKISTAN OCCUPATION ARMY IS EXPELLED FROM THE SOIL OF BANGLADESH AND FINAL VICTORY IS ACHIEVED.” - Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (March 26, 1971)
Bangali senior staff of Peelkhana signal core Major Shawkat Ali tried to transmit the declaration, but the Pakistani forces detained him while he was sending the declaration of independence through wireless around 12:30 am. engineer AKM But Nurul Haque brought an abandoned transmitter to Dhaka from Khulna on Bangabandhu’s instruction, wrote Barrister Amirul Islam in his article titled ‘Ekatturer March: Jeno Ek Ananta Jatra (March, 71: Like an Endless Journey’. He said
there was no paper and documentation of the transmitter in the registry file. Engineer Nurul Haque activated the transmitter to make it ready, but he did not know what to do with it and when. Nurul Haque on 25 March telephoned Bangabandhu, but his honorary assistant Haji Golam Morshed picked the call. Engineer Nurul Haque said from the other side: “Please convey to Bangabandhu that message has been delivered, now what to do with the machine?” Bangabandhu was sitting nearby and asked Golam Morshed: “Tell him [Nurul Haque] to flee after destroying the machine.
David Loshak, correspondent of British newspaper The Daily Telegraph, was staying in Dhaka then. He said that the sound of the English announcement was very low. “Perhaps it was pre-recorded," he wrote. The then British Prime Minister Edward Heath stated, “On March 26, 1971, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman declared the independence.” European leaders thought whether Sheikh Mujib remains alive or not, they [Pakistani military forces] cannot defeat the Bangali nation at all.
Declaration of Independence in the Eyes of Pakistani Soldiers
Dictator General Yahya Khan gave Lieutenant General Tikka Khan the charge of Governor of the then East Pakistan on 6 March, 1971. Tikka Khan, infamous as the butcher of Baluchistan in 1970, arrived in Dhaka the next day as the new governor and military chief of East Pakistan. He became chief of Pakistan after 1971, and then governor of Punjab. He faced questions from journalists about the genocide of March 25 of 1971 during a SAARC summit then. Tikka Khan, who was at his Punjab government office, admitted the crackdown, saying he heard the declaration of independence by Bangabandhu on that night.
“My coordination officer rushed to me with a three-band radio and said - ‘Sir, listen! Sheikh Saheb has announced the independence’. I heard the declaration from a special frequency of my radio. I knew the voice of Sheikh Saheb, so there was no other option than arresting him,” Tikka Khan said regarding the declaration.
About a question that what would Pakistan do if Sheikh Mujibur Rahman went on hiding, Tikka Khan replied: “I knew it well that a leader like Sheikh Mujib will not leave his people. I would conduct a massive search drive in every corner in Dhaka to find him out. I had no intention to arrest other leaders, so they made their way to a safer place outside Dhaka.”
Tikka Khan as the governor and army chief of East Pakistan carried out the genocide in name of ‘Operation Search Light’ on the Bengali people. Local collaborators also joined them. Later lieutenant-general Amir Abdullah Khan Niazi alias AAK Niazi became the chief of the East Pakistan army from the second week of April. Niazi and his advisor Rao Forman Ali Khan were staying in Dhaka from earlier.
The public relations officer of the Pakistan military at that time, Siddiq Salik described barbaric attacks on Bangali nation on March 25 of 1971, declaration of independence by Bangabandhu, the surrender of the Pakistani occupation force, and other incidents from occupation forces in his book ‘Witness to Surrender’.
“When the first shot had been fired, the voice of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman came faintly through on a wavelength close to that of the official Pakistan radio. In what must have been, and sounded like, a prerecorded message, the Sheikh proclaimed East Pakistan to be the Peoples Republic of Bangladesh” Siddiq Salik wrote about that night. (To be continued)
Writer: Coordinator ALBD Web Team, Centre For Research And Information (CRI)