The one who set us free

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Published on February 1, 2023
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Hiren Pandit:

Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was a charismatic leader, and under his strong and courageous leadership, Bangladesh attained independence in 1971. As the Father of the Nation, the founder of the state, and the leader of the great Liberation War, Bangabandhu held the place of dignity and respect in the soul of the nation.

Bangabandhu, because of his visionary leadership, realized at the beginning of March 1971 that war against the Pakistanis was inevitable. On March 7, 1971, he instructed the people of Bangladesh to plunge into the War of Liberation.

In the face of the enemy, he instructed the Bengali nation: “Be ready with whatever you have.” Inspired by his speech, the Bengali nation started preparing for war.

Bangabandhu’s speech was symbolic. Bangabandhu was not only a wise politician, he was a world-class diplomat -- and it reflected in his speech. He said the previous 23 years were a history of deprivation. Many people wrongly say Bangabandhu was absent in our Liberation War. It was a war of expulsion of foreign aggressors and enemies from the interior of an independent country, led by an elected representative. After independence on March 26, 1971, it took us 9 months to drive out those enemies, on December 16.

The declaration of independence by Bangabandhu on March 26 formed the basis of independent Bangladesh. The full constitution of Bangladesh was written based on this declaration. The 9-month war that took place in Bangladesh in 1971 was a war to liberate our independent country from the occupying forces. All the people of an independent country who came through elections fought this war.

Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman declared independence on March 26 as the elected leader of the people of Bangladesh after the beginning of the genocide and the imposition of war on Bangladesh. He ordered everyone to fight against the aggressors. That is what all the people's representatives accepted as a valid declaration on behalf of the people of Bangladesh. Bangabandhu formed the government for the declared independent country.

The legitimate government then got all the rights in terms of the laws and the revenue of the country related to that declaration. In other words, the independent state started its journey from April 10 with its constitution and legitimate government. There were only two obstacles for the state to move on. One was that several areas inside the state were then occupied by the Pakistani army; the second was that the state needed formal recognition of another state.

Two things were urgent for this formal recognition: Whoever formed the state proving that they were not separatists, and the state being run by elected representatives.

If Bangabandhu had fled the war to drive out the Pakistani aggressors in Bangladesh, or had gone underground and tried to run the war like the communist revolutionaries, the military ruler of Pakistan would have had ample opportunity to prove him as a separatist. But after his country was occupied, Bangabandhu declared independence from his residence. He called on his people to resist the aggressors and called on the world to recognize the new state.

The task of seeking this declaration and recognition was public, as an elected leader. So, when the Pakistani army arrested Bangabandhu, they arrested the elected head of government of an independent country. By spending nine months in jail, Bangabandhu’s influence became even bigger. The democratic world said the Pakistani military had no right to arrest an elected leader.

Just as any war for independence is won through the sacrifices of the people of the country, the freedom-loving people of the whole world stand as comrades in arms. The captive independent head of state gave the people of the whole world the right to stand for Bangladesh that day. Prisoner Bangabandhu defeated Yahya Khan in the diplomacy of the people that day. In other words, by forming the government through constitutional politics, the Pakistani authorities lost to Bangabandhu's diplomacy against armed aggressors. Bangabandhu won, evolving from Sheikh Mujibur Rahman to the Father of the Nation.

However, without the support of India, Russia, and the rest of the world, it would not have been possible to attain victory in 9 months. Moreover, no one can declare the independence of a country if he wants to. Whoever declares it must have the support of his country and the international world. As the leader of the winning party in the 1970 elections, only Bangabandhu had the right to do so.

Writer: Columnist and researcher