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Independence Day 2017

Independence and National Day

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26th-Mar-2017       
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Muhammad Quamrul Islam :
We were 30 years old at end of first decade in service career in March1971 as Dhaka University batch 1961 beaming with Bengali nationalistic spirit in continuation of democratic practices in the College and University campus regularly in academic excellence. Our 'Paltan-Stadium group' comprising batch mates, affectionate juniors and respected seniors met every evening  to exchange views on current affairs emanating from language movement from partition of Bengal 1947, socio-economic and political aspirations to participate in  cultural and political movements as well as personal matters advancing the cause. As septuagenarian we have seen at childhood the fading sun of British rule in undivided India who left creating two independent states dividing India by porous borders as per their communal divide and rule policy in 1947, we knew from our respective family and teachers of history in the class room, the woes of which is still felt notwithstanding regional grouping like SAARC, a non-starter organization.
True Pakistan was a peculiar state with two wings separated by thousand miles with East Bengal having the majority of 56% population and West wing comprising four provinces 44%. It's central government capital was in Karachi and later Islamabad in West Pakistan.
Soon it was felt west wing was metropolitan wing and east wing was colonial wing; there were deprivations inflicted by the power elite, not people, led to the struggle of Bengalis in historical lines pioneered by leader of the oppressed Maulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhashani and Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman to have meaningful independence which was attained on March 26, 1971 by sacrifices of the millions.
The turning point in history was election on December 7, 1970 where Awami League secured 167 seats in National Assembly and won majority to form the government led by Bangabandhu. For this people of all strata were eagerly waiting for a session of Parliament and it was scheduled to commence on March 3, 1971. But, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, chief of Pakistan People's Party, which won second position expressed his willingness to share power with Awami League ignoring all democratic norms and conspired with President Yahya Khan.
On March 1,1971 President Yahya Khan suspended sine die the Parliamentary session, which was instantly rejected by the people who took to streets raised full throated slogans against Yahya-Bhutto clique in Dhaka and everywhere in the erstwhile East Pakistan demanding independent Bangladesh. We were at that hour of the day on way to Dredger organization, biggest quasi commercial outfit in erstwhile East Pakistan.
Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) dredger base at Narayangonj destined to be separate self-financing Corporation meeting the needs of whole country, found spontaneous processions, and everybody at base stunned came out of office, workshop and dredgers to join the movement under the leadership of Bangabandhu.
Apropos decision of Awami League working committee hartal was observed in Dhaka on March 2 and throughout Bangladesh on March 3. Sheikh Mujib called for immediate transfer of power. Everybody of the country looked at Bangabandhu who astutely controlled the emotions of the millions towards independence with least sacrifices. I asked Accounts officer Sikder in Dredger organization, who hailed from Gopalgonj, had relations with family of Bangabandhu to keep track on next course, and know about his speech on 7th March.
He went to Dhanmondhi residence in the morning and found him exclusively in a room deeply engrossed as advised by Begum Mujib to prepare the speech after prayer and read Holy Quran. The article of PM Sheikh Hasina on her mother published in media on August 11, 2016 may be referred.
In the afternoon of 7th March Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib delivered the historic speech in the mammoth public meeting at the Ramna Race Course Maidan, which we attended near the podium. We saw planes hovering over our heads as if to bomb, but everybody was undaunted ready to embrace martyrdom and listened his speech with rapt attention and applause.
He declared, "Our struggle this time is the struggle for freedom-our struggle this time is for independence."
Simultaneously he declared programmes for peaceful non-cooperation movement, which was accordingly observed. Mujib-Yahya talks commenced on March16 which ended on March 23 without any tangible result. Sheikh Mujib was informed that a declaration would be made in this regard later on; but actually Bhutto-Yahya clique was conspiring to finalize their preparations to perpetrate genocide on Bengalis in their lust for power and greed, where people does not matter. Leaders representing other parties from west wing were in Dhaka, and in one evening Khan Abdul Wali Khan told us at National Awami Party (NAP) office he knew Bhutto from student life as class mate that can go to any extent to satisfy his greed for power, which one cannot imagine. And that happened.
On March 25 at night under orders of Pakistan President Yahya armed forces attacked on the unarmed Bengalis in Dhaka and other places. It went on a rampage to kill Bengali Police personnel at Rajarbag Police Line and soldiers of EPR and East Bengal Regiment (EBR) and in cantonments at Chittagong, Comilla and Jessore. These forced the Bengali members of the armed forces into rebellion against Pakistani forces.  Chittagong Radio Station came under the control of rebels.
Bangabandhu declared independence on March 26 that was passed thru EPR wireless for which arrangement was kept as he felt he might be killed or arrested. The moment he declared independence army attacked his residence and arrested him.
The curfew was imposed but people kept up the morale to resist. In the evening of March 27 Major Ziaur Rahman of 8th East Bengal Regiment urged the people to join the freedom struggle under the leadership of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, from Chittagong Radio. That was what we have seen and heard; people's war was ensued and led to victory at immense sacrifices.
Observing the Day in 2017 we are to make those sacrifices meaningful and reckon what we are today in the context of goals of emancipation of the masses, restoring moral values, instead of twisting history for personal aggrandizement and self-glorification of neo-wealthy power elite. Let us bid farewell to divisiveness of all types adhering to ideological principles and shun power mongering. Let not a vernacular daily editor betray batch mate for personal glory or a full timer came to my residence after massacre of 25th March along with his mess cook before he left to cross the border; now in affluence.  

(The writer is an economist, advocate and social activist. E-mail: mqislambd@hotmail.com)

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