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18 December, 2018 00:00 00 AM

Declaration of Independence by Bangabandhu: The historical facts

Bangabandhu had a long-cherished dream of establishing an independent Bangla Desh (pronounced separately before liberation). For that purpose he had been struggling for an independent nation with some leading political leaders of the then East Pakistan since 1948
By Shazzad Khan
Declaration of Independence by Bangabandhu: The historical facts

Four decades and seven years ago on the 16th December 1971 we achieved our glorious victory and got ourselves liberated from the domination of Pakistan, to give birth to a new Bengali Nation called Bangladesh. It looks apparent that officially Pakistani junta surrendered to the joint command of Bengali freedom fighters and Indian armed forces on the 16th December 1971 and left our soil. But in reality the name East Pakistan had been buried quite earlier, that is, as many as 266 days before, on the late night of 25th March 1971 following a “historic call” which ignited the war of liberation by the Bengali Nation. This historic call is denoted as the Declaration of Independence and it will ever go with Bangladesh as long as it lives on the globe. The mesmerising words of declaration were pronounced by the one and only undisputed leader of the Bengali Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Today, on the eve of 47th Victory Day I am taking the opportunity of describing how the historic declaration of independence came from Bangabandhu to begin the era of an independent country “Bangladesh.”

Before getting into the main point of this write-up, please permit me to say a few words. I have no fascination for any of our self-seeking political parties or their hypocritical political ideologies. I always yearn for becoming a non-partisan free thinker and try to love my soil, its liberation struggle, its history and its brave leaders who contributed for the independence of Bangladesh. And that is why I want to see that our history is being made with facts, not with fantasies – because our history is our invaluable asset and an identity of the Bengali Nation.

First of all it is important to note that Bangabandhu had a long-cherished dream of establishing an independent Bangla Desh (pronounced separately before liberation). For that purpose he had been struggling for an independent nation with some leading political leaders of the then East Pakistan since 1948 and succeeded in planting a number of milestones including the magna carta of the Bengalis, the historic Six Points. Today I want to take the opportunity to share two paragraphs below from the most authentic book written by a Pakistani by himself. This will indicate how Bangabandhu was planning (to the Pakistanis “conspiring”) to secede from West Pakistan to make East Pakistan an independent Bangla Desh. Siddiq Salik observed in his most popular book titled Witness to Surrender:

“It was the first anniversary (26th March 1970; added by this writer) of the second martial law in Pakistan. Sheikh Mujibur Rehman was on his way to a rural town in East Pakistan to address an election rally. On the back seat of his rattling car sat with him a non-Bengali journalist who covered his election tours. He provoked Mujib on some current topic and quietly switched on his cassette tape recorder. Later, he entertained his friends with this exclusive possession. He also played it to me. Mujib’s rhetorical voice was clearly intelligible. He was saying: ‘Somehow, Ayub Khan has pitched me to a height of popularity where nobody can say “no” to what I want. Even Yahya Khan cannot refuse my demands’.

What were his demands? A clue was provided by another tape prepared by Yahya Khan’s intelligence agencies. The subject was the Legal Framework Order (LFO) issued by the government on 30 March 1970. Practically, it was an outline constitution which denied a free hand to Mujib to implement his famous Six Points. He confided his views on LFO to his senior colleagues without realising that these words were being taped for Yahya’s consumption. On the recording, Mujib said: ‘My aim is to establish Bangla Desh. I shall tear LFO into pieces as soon as the elections are over. Who could challenge me once the elections are over? When it was played to Yahya Khan, he said, ‘I will fix him if he betrays me’.”

In his life Bangabandhu was the follower of Gandhian philosophy of “non-violence” and wanted a bloodless, peaceful and democratic solution for attaining absolute autonomy in the East Pakistan built on his Six Points formula. He was dead sure that with the passage of time the autonomy would have led to an independent Bangla Desh with popular support from international community. General Yahya also assured Bangabandhu that an LFO would be formulated to give full autonomy to East Pakistan and its people, and that is why Bangabandhu patiently waited even until 25th March evening in 1971. However, with apprehension of “fixing him and the Bengalis” he was also ready for responding to any treacherous suppressive move by the Pakistani junta, if Yahya had planned not to accept the framework of autonomy proposed by Awami League. The preparation was in the form of declaration of independence and start of an all-out freedom-fight to counter any possible attack by Pakistani armed forces. As part of this plan Bangabandhu got a pre-recorded message ready for transmission as a counteraction against any form of possible crackdown.

Unfortunately Yahya Khan opted for a crackdown instead of providing an agreeable LFO. The apprehensive crackdown began at 11.00pm of 25th March 1971. Therefore, this time Bangabandhu had no other option but to okay the transmission of the pre-recorded message of declaration. At around 11.30pm of 25th March 1971 this pre-recorded message went on the air from a handy transmitter, purposefully set up at Boldha Garden. Many in Dhaka heard this message because it was intelligently transmitted on the frequency very close to Radio Pakistan Dacca. The purpose of this transmission was to inform the foreign journalists and diplomats, listening naturally to Radio Pakistan Dacca, about the compelling action of declaring independence against the crackdown by Pakistani army. This move was successful because many heard the message very clearly, among whom was David Loshak of The Daily Telegraph and The Sunday Telegraph of London, who was then in Dhaka on duty. Back to London a few weeks after the 25th March he published an authentic book called “Pakistan Crisis”. When this book was published, Bangla Desh was still a couple of months away from gaining independence. So there should not be any dearth of doubt that Bangabandhu made a declaration of independence – at least this is the book, which is above any doubt – (even Late President Ziaur Rahman officially registered this declaration during his presidency). Tikka Khan also mentioned about this declaration while giving an interview to Musa Sadik and Rezaur Rahman (of Ain Adalat) during the SAARC summit in Pakistan in 1988. Moreover, Bangla Desh documents published by Foreign Ministry of Indian Government also contains this declaration. To speak the truth, although heard by small number of people, this was the very first declaration of independence in the real sense by Bangabandhu. The message read like this: “This may be my last message. From today Bangla Desh is independent. I call upon the people of Bangla Desh, wherever you are 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 Bangla Desh and final victory is achieved.” …Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. The text of this message was also transmitted through EPR wirelesses throughout the country all-over Bangladesh. However, it may be mentioned here that in his historic 7th March speech he gave a clarion call for independence and liberation war in a diplomatic language for technical reasons. This was a “green signal” to all walks of life for an impending liberation war, including the then Major Ziaur Rahman who categorically mentioned this in his great write-up Ekti Jatir Jonmo in 1972.

Moreover, apart from signalling his men to transmit the pre-recorded message Bangabandhu also dictated another message of declaration of war after 11.00pm of 25th March 1971. The dictation was given, among others, to Dr Mazharul Islam, Col (retired) Osmani and Tajuddin Ahmed. After the pre-recorded message was transmitted this second message was also given to EPR for transmission all-over the country as well. The message read like this: “Pak Army suddenly attacked EPR base at Pilkhana, Rajarbagh Police Line and killing citizens. Street battles are going on in every street of Dacca and Chittagong. I appeal to the Nations of the World for help. Our freedom fighters are gallantly fighting with the enemies to free the motherland. I appeal and order you all in the name of Almighty Allah to fight to the last drop of blood to liberate the country. Ask police, EPR, Bengal regiment and Ansar to stand by you and to fight. No compromise. Victory is ours. Drive out the last enemy from the holy soil of motherland. Convey the message to all Awami League leaders, workers and other patriots and lovers of freedom. May Allah bless you. Joy Bangla.” …SK Mujibur Rahman. During that time the telecommunication system was not very efficient and that is why some parts of the country received the first message while other parts received only the second one. However, in some parts of the country both the messages were picked up.

Anyway, whichever the message was, the contents were very clear to the receivers – that Bangabandhu declared independence. After the receipt of the message(s) instant measure was taken up by political leaders to announce the declaration of independence by using loudspeakers. It is important to note that when Bangabandhu gave his messages and instructions it was late night of 25th March 1971, but the mass people all-over the country received this declaration on the next day, i.e. the 26th March. That is why our Independence Day is observed on the 26th March.

Particularly for Chittagong Bangabandhu’s strategy was different. As an initial strike of the freedom-fight he wanted his people and armed forces to liberate Chittagong and proceed to Comilla. Besides the above-mentioned formal messages he also sent a couple of secret instructions in this regard to Chittagong through telephone lines by Nayeem Gohor and Mosharraf Hossain (recent ex energy and mineral resource minister). Bangabandhu wanted to make sure that his instructions had been reached without any fail to the intended receivers of Chittagong and that is why he opted for two persons at a time to convey the same instructions through two different telephone lines.

In Chittagong many people received both the formal messages. They copied them with carbon papers and in cyclostyles and distributed among the people. Loudspeakers were also used to disseminate the contents of the messages. One of the leading Awami League leaders of Chittagong MA Hannan took a remarkably courageous step. For a brief period he managed to switch on Chittagong Radio and broadcast the contents of the messages as the first person to do so on behalf of Bangabandhu at 2.30pm on the 26th March 1971. This was followed by similar repeated broadcasts quoting “Bangabandhu’s declaration in Dacca” by the initiators of Swadhin Bangla Biplobi Betar Kendra from Kalurghat. Almost all the leading global press and broadcast media including those of India quoted these declarations on the 26th and 27th March – Anil Bhattacharjiya of PTI was the man who picked up the announcement of these messages and reported to Gouhati news media. From there Akashbani, BBC and other news and press media came to know about the declaration and broadcast its contents in their news items or printed in their newspapers. Moreover, one Japanese ship anchored midstream of Chittagong harbour also caught the message possibly from Shitakund wireless station and informed the foreign countries about the declaration. Radio Australia was the one to pick up the declaration and broadcast over the radio.

Ziaur Rahman as a Major of the 8th EBR of Chittagong also gave a declaration on behalf of Bangabandhu on the 27th March 1971. He was very spontaneous when one of the initiators of Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra, Belal Mohammad requested him to give a declaration as a representative of Bengali military forces. His first declaration was quite a long one which began with “I, Major Ziaur Rahman, do hereby declare the independence of Bangladesh on behalf of our great national leader Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman”. It was at 7.30pm on the 27th March – at least 40 hours after the declaration by Bangabandhu and the start of mass resistance by common people and Bengali armed forces.

Some uninformed people influenced by a vested interest group claim that Major Ziaur Rahman was the first to declare the independence of Bangladesh and it was only after his declaration the liberation war began. In fact, this is a ridiculous fantasy because, in support to what I have written here I can furnish a host of quotes from different sources that can simply authenticate the declaration of Bangabandhu, but that would increase the volume of this write-up. However, here are a few quotes on the declaration of Bangabandhu given by the direct witnesses.

“Tajuddin came to my residence for shelter in that terrible night. It was, most probably, 12:45am (26th March). With great concern Tajuddin told me about two serious events: 1. Bangabandhu has officially declared the independence of Bangladesh and sent it to Chittagong and other districts via wireless; 2. I implored him (Bangabandhu), holding his knees, to leave his residence and hide out, but he did not agree” … Mr Abdul Gafur, Engineer Bangladesh Railway

“…Before he was arrested, Sheikh Mujib made a formal declaration of independence of Bangladesh sometime between 12:00am and 1:30am on March 26, 1971. It was broadcast over the clandestine Swadhin Bangladesh Betar (Radio) controlled by the Mukti Fauj (freedom fighters) at noon of March 26, 1971” … SK Chakrabarti, The Evolution of Politics in Bangladesh

“...The 25th of March was spent by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and his party leaders in awaiting a call from General Pirzada for a final meeting with Yahya Khan and also for the final drafting session for working out the details of interim transfer of power. No such call came. At zero hours on the 26th March, the army swung into action against the unarmed people of East Pakistan, launching operation on a war scale. Meanwhile Sheikh Mujibur Rahman proclaimed the birth of sovereign Independent State of Bangladesh” … Prabodh Chandra, Bloodbath in Bangladesh

“…In the night of March 25, 1971, he (Mujib) formally declared the independence of Bangladesh. This declaration was later broadcast all over the country via wireless. In the morning of March 26, 1971, I got this message at Mymensingh Agricultural University (BAU). The then Vice Chancellor of BAU, Kazi Fazlur Rahman called all the teachers, showed them Mujib’s declaration message and said: “This message came via the Mymensingh Police Line and Mr Rafiq Bhuiyan, the leader of Mymensingh Awami League, personally brought this message to me”. Immediately after the VC’s announcement, a meeting was held where Mr Bhuiyan read out the declaration of independence and recounted the dreadful military crack down in Dhaka city the previous night…” …Shamsuz Zaman Khan

…“Soon after darkness fell on March 25, the voice of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman came faintly through a wavelength close to that of the official Pakistan Radio. In what must have been, and sounded like, a pre-recorded message, the Sheikh proclaimed East Pakistan to be the People’s Republic of Bangla Desh. He called on Bengalis to go underground, to reorganise and to attack the ‘invaders’…” …David Loshak, Pakistan Crisis

...“The full text of the proclamation is published in Bangla Desh Documents released by the Indian Foreign Ministry. It said, ‘This may be my last message. From today Bangla Desh is independent. I call upon the people of Bangla Desh, wherever you are 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 Bangla Desh and final victory is achieved’…” …Siddiq Salik, Witness to Surrender

The writer works with Manusher Jonno Foundation (MJF).

Email: [email protected]



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Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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