Mujib’s Mighty Roars: Essence of Bangalees’ Strength

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Published on March 7, 2023
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Dr. Rashid Askari:

The month of March, 1971. The Ramna Race Course maidan was thronging with people coming from across the country. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the paramount leader of 75 million people, in the immemorially large mass gathering called for independence. In a historic speech, he roared: “The struggle this time is a struggle for our emancipation, the struggle this time is a struggle for independence.” The speech is one of the shining examples of what the Cambridge University historian Jacob F. Field called,

“Incredible war speeches… [which] show how words can be used to inspire, to comfort, to move, or to enthuse even the most seemingly hard-bitten of listeners. From rallying cries such as the Italian general Garibaldi's ‘To arms, then, all of you!’ and Premier of the People's Republic of China Chou En-lai's ‘We must hold aloft the great red banner’ to somber statements such as Bengali nationalist leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's ‘This time the struggle is for our freedom,’ each extract gives readers an insight into the hardships of war and the fight for courage.”
The mighty roar Mujib burst out on that bright March day was a winning combination of oratory, prudence and vision which the entire nation was aroused by.

Mujib was possessed of exceptional powers of oratory by which the crowd would be held spellbound. Though his speeches were of passionate eloquence, they were not rhetoric, nor could they be dismissed as demagogy. Mujib was as good as his word. He was a competent and prudent politician and a leader of vision. His speech is an oral history; an unwritten decolonization manifesto. There are telltale signs of anticolonial elements. Addressing his people as ‘my brothers’, Mujib made his speech as their political spokesman. He spoke as the representative of his people— “Remember: since we have already shed blood, we'll shed a lot more; but we'll liberate the people of this soil by the Grace of God.” Netaji Subhas Bose too gave orders for his troops, “DilliChalo” (On to Delhi) and offered Indian nationalists a rousing new slogan, “Give me blood, and I will give you freedom.” Netaji’s appeal, however, does not sound as inclusive as Mujib’s. Netaji too was a great patriot and a true friend of people, more significantly, he was one of Mujib’s ideal leaders. However, Mujib’s association with people was so profound that he loved using plural personal pronouns. And he was quite deservedly given the appellation ‘Bangabandhu’ (a friend of Bengal).

The 19-minute speech, comprised of 1107 words, was a high-voltage poem. Bangabandhu relates facts and figures of how the people of Bengal were deceived, deprived and suppressed by the Pakistani rulers and were struggling to free themselves from the shackles of neo-colonialism. He urged the Pakistani junta to comply with the rule of law, warned them about their undemocratic attitudes towards, and barbarous treatment of Bengalis and finally gave his people a clarion call for independence.

Bangabandhu’s 7 March speech does not need any introduction. It was a clear signal of independence of his country and its import is self-evident. All that the Bengali people lost during the 23 years’ bondage of Pakistani rule and all that they finally longed for found expression in the strongly and carefully crafted speech. Words came out of his mouth as powerfully as streams of molten lava gush out of the volcano. The speech is, figuratively speaking, the finest oral poem in the Bengali language spoken in the best words and arranged in the best order. It is our sweetest song that tells both of our saddest thoughts and happiest dreams. The late public intellectual Ahmed Sofa has rightly said that the Bengali’s national poem is not Tagore’s Sonar Tori; it is Mujib’s “aar dabaya rakhte parbana” (You’ll not be able to suppress us any longer). It was not only a word of mouth. It proved that the Bengalis had an aura of invincibility.

The speech is a work of outstanding political merit. With its words and phrases, rhythms and rhymes, pauses and intonation, emotions and passions, it speaks for itself and contains an undertone of resistance to the Pakistani rulers. Its gripping text captures the imagination of the people and becomes the herald of the last nail in the coffin of the Pakistani brutal regime. The fiery anti-Pakistan slogans uttered here by Bangabandhu have become the global slogan for a people’s economic emancipation and political independence, and bears the stamp of post-colonial nationalism. Bangabandhu for his fine oratory and brilliant public speech was termed as a ‘Poet of Politics’ by the international Newsweek magazine. The magazine made him the subject of a cover story which was published in its 5 April 1971 issue.

The contemporary English historian Jacob F. Field has, in his 2013 book We Shall Fight on the Beaches: The Speeches That Inspired History incorporated the speech as one of the ‘most rousing and inspirational wartime speeches’ made in the last 2,500 years that range from Cicero to Churchill, Lincoln to Mao. In addition to that, UNESCO has included it in the ‘Memory of World Register’ as a documentary heritage. However, as far as the text and context of the speech and its impact on the people are concerned, it was a clear manifestation of a collective political will and powerful public opinion. Peter Furtado, editor of History Today magazine, called it “a de facto declaration of Bangladesh's independence” in his 2011 book History's Daybook: A History of the World in 366 Quotations. As a matter of fact, it is more than that. On the one hand, it was to prepare a people-- exploited, humiliated and deprived for a long time, for the struggle for their emancipation and on the other hand, it was an outstanding event to unofficially declare independence by avoiding the allegations of UDI (Unilateral Declaration of Independence). After the rally the Pakistani intelligence sent a report to West Pakistan: “Clever Mujib tactfully declared independence.”

Bangabandhu had many strings to his bow. He was a gifted political orator and his words had such a magical effect on his people that they ventured into a struggle for independence which became a bloodbath. He made hundreds of speeches at home and abroad which form the oral evidence of the history of Bangladesh independence. His speeches are part of our rich political heritage. They exerted a strong influence on the Bengali people, ignited their love for freedom and galvanized them into nation-building activities. So far as the subject matter of his speeches is concerned, they cover a wider range of issues—from national to international, from the country’s liberation to global peace. And the speeches capture the very essence of his political ideology as well as his life and convey the very essence of Bangalees’ strength.

Writter: former vice chancellor of Kushtia Islamic University, Bangladesh
Courtesy: daily-sun