Professor Anwarul Karim, Ph.D :
Badyanathtala was an unknown small village bordering Nadia district of West Bengal, India. It was a small hamlet of Bagwan union under Kedarganj thana of Meherpur subdivision under Kushtia distrct. Such a small hamlet could be a historic place overnight by being renamed as Mujibnagar after Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the founding father of Bangladesh and also for being the seat of the first capital of Bangladesh government in exile in the world history during the 9 month war of liberation against Pakistan. Badyanathtala was a large mango garden extended over several hundred acres of land and bordering Chapra village of Krishnagar subdivision in the district of Nadia.And here in Badyanathtala, the first Bangladesh government took the oath of office amidst thundering slogans of 'Joi Bangla' ( Victory to Bangla) on April 17,1971.It was roses roses all the way at Badyanathtala to greet the bravest sons of the soil destined to fight against the blood thirsty Pakistan for liberating the country Bangladesh, known as East Pakistan for a noble task of forming government in exile.. As the bright morning sun dawned radiantly red in the east, tens of thousands men, women and children from neighboring villages along the borders of Meherpur and Chuadanga thronged the mango-groves, otherwise a quiet small village, to witness the historic occasion when the leaders of the war of liberation formally declared the formation of the first Bangladesh government in exile and their pledge to fight against the occupied Pakistani army junta till the country is liberated.
Badyanathtala mango gardens renamed as Mujibnagar
At least 50(fifty) foreign correspondents and several newsmen of India were present on the occasion of oath-taking ceremony, covered the proceedings of the program at Badyanathtala. The stage was set, the time was ripe and the moment was psychological for a glorious rebirth. There was fear all around as the Pakistani army started recapturing the whole of Kushtia. Chuadanga, the closest neighboring town of Meherpur, fell to the Pakistani army on April 17, 1971 when oath taking ceremony had been continuing. Cannons were heard blasting. Burning of Chuadanga town was visible from distance. Yet Badyanathtala remained unaffected and undisturbed. People attending the ceremony did not worry at all. They were shouting 'Joy Bangla'with utmost zeal and enthusiasm.
The announcement of the formation of the first Bangladesh government was made by the leaders of the freedom movement on April 10,1971 through the Swadhin Bangla Betar( Free Bagladesh Radio) set up earlier when the civil war in the East Pakistan province broke out between East Pakistan and West Pakistan dominated army. Both of India's national news agencies carried the announcement. The announcement said, Syed Nazrul Islam of the outlawed Awami League, was named as the Vice-President of the Independent Bangladesh. He would however act as the Head of the State in the absence of the President Bangobandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman who was taken to custody by the Pakistani Military junta. Mr Tajuddin Ahmed was named as the Prime Minister of Bangladesh. At Badynathtala, the first Bangladesh government took their oath of office without the President Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. The Cabinet included Syed Nazrul Islam, the Vice President and acting Head of the State; Mr. Tajuddin Ahmed, Prime Minister; Khandker Mushtaq Ahmed, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Law and Parliamentary affairs; Mr. A.M. Qamruzzaman, Home Minister and Mr. Mansur Ali Finance Minister.
Colonel (Retd.) MAG Osmany was appointed Commander in Chief for the liberation army of Bangladesh. The Awami League leaders who took the oath of office were all elected members either to the National Assembly of Pakistan or to the Provincial Assembly of East Pakistan.
The oath taking ceremony was held around 11 o' clock in the morning. The acting Head of the State Syed Nazrul Islam was accorded a guard of honor by a smart contingent of liberation army formerly of EPR ( East Pakistan Rifles) who revolted against Pakistan and joined the liberation force. Although it was decided earlier that Chuadanga would be the Head Quarters or the Capital of Bangladesh during the war of liberation, the idea was later dropped in view of the fall of Chuadanga on April 17,1971 to the Pakistani army. Mujibnagar then continued as the Capital of the first government of Bangladesh.
Proclamation of Independence Order : The proclamation of Independence of Bangladesh was read out to all by Professor Yusuf Ali of Dinajpur at Mujibnagar in presence of a huge gathering including foreign journalists. The proclamation in brief is as follows:
" Whereas free election were held in Bangladesh from December 7,1970 to January 17, 1971 to elect representatives for the purpose of framing a constitution and
Whereas at these elections the people of Bangladesh elected 167 out of 169 representatives belonging to the Awami League, and
Whereas General, Yahya Khan summoned the elected representatives of the people to meet on March 3,1971 for the purpose of framing a constitution and,
Whereas the Assembly so summoned was arbitrarily and illegally postponed for an indefinite period, and
Whereas instead of fulfilling their promise and while still conferring with the representatives of the people of Bangladesh, the Pakistan authorities declared an unjust and treacherous war , and
Whereas in the facts and circumstances of such treacherous conduct Bongobondhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the undisputed leader of 7.5 crores people of Bangladesh, in due fulfillment of the legitimate right of self determination of the people of Bangladesh, duly made declaration of independence at Dacca on March 26,1971, and urged the people of Bangladesh, and
Whereas the conduct of ruthless and savage war the Pakistani authorities committed and are still committing numerous acts of genocide and unprecedented tortures, amongst others on the civilian and unarmed people of Bangladesh, and
Whereas the Pakistan Government by levying an unjust war and committing genocide and by other repressive measures made it impossible for the elected representatives of the people of Bangladesh to meet and frame a constitution, and give to themselves a Government, and
Whereas the people of Bangladesh by their heroism, bravery and revolutionary fervor have established effective control over the territories of Bangladesh,
We the elected representatives of the people of Bangladesh, as honour-bound by the mandate given to us by the people of Bangladesh whose will is supreme , have duly constituted ourselves into a Constituent Assembly, and
Having held mutual consultations, and in order to ensure for the people of Bangladesh, equality, human dignity and social justice,
Declare and constitute Bangladesh to be Sovereign People's Republic and thereby confirm the declaration of independence already made by Bongobondhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, and
Do, hereby, confirm and resolve that till such time as a constitution is framed, Bongobondhu Sheikh Mijibur Rahman shall be the President of the Republic and that Syed Naztul Islam shall be the Vice-President of the Republic, and
That the President shall be the Supreme Commander of the Armed forces of the Republic,
Shall exercise all the executive and legislative powers of the Republic including the power to grant pardon,
Shall have the power to appoint a Prime Minister as consider necessary, shall have the power to levy taxes and expend monies,
Shall have the power to summon and adjourn the Constituent Assembly, and Do all other things that may be necessary to give to the people of Bangladesh and orderly and just Government.
We the elected representatives of the people of Bangladesh do further resolve that in the event of there being no President or the President being unable to enter upon his office of being unable to exercise his powers and duties due to any reason whatsoever, the Vice President shall have and exercise all the powers, duties and responsibilities herein conferred on the President.
We further resolve that we undertake to observe and give effect to all duties and obligations devolved upon us as a member of the family of nations and by the Charter of the United Nations.
We further resolve that to give effect to this our resolutions we authorize and appoint Professor M. Yusuf Ali our duly constituted potential to give to the President and Vice President oaths of office.
Speech made by Syed Nazrul Islam, acting President of the Mujibnagar Govt :
The acting President of the Mujiibnagar Government, Syed Nazrul Islam in his speech at Mujibnagar said, " Today here at Mujibnagar, a free and independent nation is born against the backdrop of large scale massacre, horrible genocide, atrocities unleashed by the Pakistani occupation army on the peace-loving civilians of Dhaka and elsewhere in Bangladesh. During the past 23years the people of Bangladesh fought for their language, tradition and culture legally but the West Pakistani rulers never cared for our cause and on the other hand they let loose a reign of terror in the country. We are now at war. We now fight for life. We believe it firmly, we shall win very shortly. I call upon the Heads of the Muslim States of the world to take note of the mass massacre by the Pakistani Military junta.I feel really very sorry that they maintain complete silence over these inhuman activities. Islam never sanctioned such a brutal killing of innocent people. There will be no more communalism on the soil of Bangladesh. Hindus, Muslims, Christians and Buddhists all are now fighting unitedly for a victorious Bangladesh and none shall be able to put a stop or crush us completely. The emergence of Bangladesh is now a reality and Bangladesh has come to stay."
Besides Syed Nazrul Islam, the oath taking ceremony was also addressed among others by Mr. Tajuddin Ahmed, Prime Minister of Bangladesh. Later, Mr. Tajuddin Ahmed issued a press statement to the people of the world through the world press attending the ceremony. Following is the text of his statement( abridged).
" Bangladesh is at war. It has been given no choice but to secure its right of self determination through a national liberation struggle against the colonial oppression of West Pakistan. In the faces of obvious attempts by the Government of Pakistan to distort the facts in a desperate attempt to cover up their war of genocide in Bangladesh. The world must be told the circumstances under which the peace-loving people of Bangladesh were driven to substitute armed struggle for Parliamentary politics to realise the just aspirations of the people of Bangladesh.
The Six point program for autonomy of Bangladesh within Pakistan had been put forward in all sincerity by the Awami League as the last possible solution to preserve the integrity of Pakistan. Fighting the election to the National Assembly on the issue of Six points, the Awami League won 167 out of 169 seats from Bangladesh in a house of 313. Its electoral victory was so decisive that it won 80% of the popular votes cast. The nature of its victory placed it in a clear majority within the National Assembly. The post election period was a time of hope, for never had a people spoken decisively in the history of Parliamentary Democracy.
It was widely believed in both the wings that a viable Constitution based on Six Points could be worked out. The Pakistan People's party which emerged as the leading party in Sind and Punjab, had avoided raising the issue of Six Points in their election campaign and had no obligation whatsoever to its electorate to resist it. In Baluchistan, the dominant party, the National Awami Party was fully committed to the Six points. In NWFP, the NAP, dominant in the Provincial Assembly, was also a believer in maximum autonomy. The course of the elections, which marked the defeat of the reactionary parties, provided every cause to be optimistic about the future of Democracy in Pakistan. Within the Qayyum Muslim League itself half of their members had booked their seats and there were signs of revolt within the PPP where many members were wanting to come to Dacca. Faced with the breakdown of this joint front against Bangladesh, General Yahya obliged Mr. Bhutto on first March by postponing the Assembly not for any finite period but sine die. Moreover, he dismissed the Governor of East Pakistan, Admiral SM Ahsan, who was believed to be one of the moderates in the administration. The Cabinet, with the component of Bengalis, was also dismissed so that all power was concentrated in the hands of the West Pakistani Military junta. In these circumstances Yahya's gesture could not be seen as anything but an attempt to frustrate the popular will by colluding with Mr. Bhutto. The National Assembly was the only forum where Bangladesh could assert its voice and political strength and to frustrate this, was a clear indication that Parliament was not to be the real source of power in Pakistan. The reaction to the postponement in Bangladesh was inevitable and spontaneous and, athroughout the land, people took the streets to record their protests at this arbitrary act. People now felt sure that Yahya never really intended to transfer power and was making a mockery of Parliamentary politics. The popular mood was that the rights of Bangladesh could never be realized within the framework of Pakistan, where Yahya could so blatantly frustrate the summoning of an Assembly proclaimed by his own writ and demanded that Sheikh Mujibur Rahman go for full independence.
Sheikh Mujib, however, continued to seek a political settlement. In calling for a program of Non-cooperation on 3rd March, he chose the weapon of peaceful confrontation against the army of occupation as an attempt to bring them to their senses. This was in itself a major jesture in the face of cold blooded firing on unarmed demonstrators on the 2nd and 3rd March which had already led to over a thousand casualties. Non -cooperation was total. No judge of the High Court could be found to administer the oath of office to the new Governor, Lt.General Tikka Khan. The entire civilian administration including the police and the civil service of Pakistan, refused to attend office. The people stopped supply of food to the army. Even the civilian employees of the defense establishment joined the boycott, Non-cooperation did not stop at abstention from work. The civilian administration and police positively pledged their support to Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and put themselves under his orders. In this situation, the Awami League, without being a formally constituted Government, was forced to take on the responsibility of keeping the economy and administration running whilst Non-cooperation lasted.
In these unique circumstances, the economy and administration were kept going on. Faced with the demonstration of total support to the Awami League and this historic Non-cooperation Movement, General Yahya appeared to have modified tactics.
Preparatory to the convening of National Assembly, talks were expected between the main parties in the political arena. However, whilst the Awami League was always willing, preparatory to going to the Assembly, to explain its constitutional position and to discuss alternative proposals from other parties, it believed that the spirit of a true Democracy demanded that the Constitution be debated and finalized in the National Assembly rather in secret sessions.
To this end, it insisted on an early summoning of the National Assembly. In anticipation of this session, the Awami League worked day and night to prepare a draft constitution based on the Six Points and fully examined all the implications of formulating such a Constitution.
The first major talks over Pakistan's political future took place between General Yahya and Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in mid-January. In this session General Yahya probed the extent of Awami League's commitment to its program and was assured that they were fully aware of its implications. But contrary to expectations, Yahya did not spell out his own ideas about the Constitutions. General Yahya gave the impression of not finding anything seriously objectionable in the Six Points but emphasized the need for coming on an understanding with the PPP in West Pakistan. The next round of talks took place between the PPP and the Awami League from January 27,1971in Dacca . Several sessions were held. Mr. Bhutto did not bring any concrete proposal of his own about the nature of the Constitution. Talks between the two parties could not give any result and this happened because of Bhutto who played dilly dallying tactice.
Mr. Bhutto's announcement to boycott National Assembly, therefore, came as a complete surprise. The next session was scheduled to be held in East Pakistan on March 3rd,1971.PPP and Qaiyyum Muslim League did not attend the session in Dhaka, On 6th Match1971 Bhutto made a very provocative speech blaming Awami League for the crisis. Both Bhutto and Yahya worked against peaceful settlement with Awami League and made conspiracies resulting in Lt. General Tikka Khan's appointment to destroy any movement in Bangladesh. Despite all these, Awami League agreed to meet Mr, M.M. Ahmed, Economic Adviser to General Yahya for discussion. General Yahya was also then in Dacca Sheikh Mujibur Rahman tried his best for a peaceful settlement through participation at the National Assembly but nothing happened. The country was under Martial Law and Sheikh Mujib asked for lifting of Martial Law and transfer of power in the provinces to the major parties on the basis of his Six Points. But all his cries proved futile . Mean while all on a sudden, MM Ahmed, the emissary of General Yahya Khan left Dhaka without completing his tasks early morning on March 25,1971 and Yahya also left on the same day and then at night of March 25,1971, the Army under Lt. General Tikka Khan let loose a reign of terror. Sheikh Mujib was arrested from his residence and a massacre took place killing at least 50,000 people, mostly in Dhaka on the fateful night of March 25 under the command of Tikka Khan.
Whilst the Police, EPR and armed volunteers put up a heroic resistance, the main victims remained the week, the innocent and the unsuspecting who were killed at random by the thousands.
Yahya himself left Dacca on the night of 25th March after having unleashed the Pakistan Army with an open license to commit genocide on all Bengalis……..
Pakistan is now dead and buried under a mountain of corpses……"
The world was overwhelmed with awe and terror as they came to know of a mass massacre of Hindu and Muslims by the Pakistani army junta at the dead of night when everybody was in sleep. Mr. Tajuddin Ahmed, Prime Minister of Bangladesh in exile disclosed this to the people and the Press at Mujibnagar, Meherpur on the occasion of oath taking ceremony of Mujibnagar Government. Tajuddin said, " The hundreds and thousands of people murdered by the army in Bangladesh will act as an impenetrable barrier between West Pakistan and the people of Bangladesh. By pre-planned genocide Yahya must have known that he was himself digging Pakistan's graves. The subsequent massacres perpetrated on his orders by his licensed killers on the people were not designed to preserve the unity of a nation…..Their acts of racial hatred were devoid of any kind of humanity. …. They must realize that Pakistan is dead - murdered by Yahya --- and that independent Bangladesh is a reality sustained by the indestructible will and courage of 7.5 crores Bengalis who are daily nurturing the roots of this new nationhood with their blood. No power on earth can unmake this new nation and sooner or later both big and small powers will have to accept it into the world fraternity. … Bangladesh will be the eighth most populous country on the world. …. In our struggle for survival we seek the friendship of all people, the big powers and the small. We do not aspire to join any block or pact but will seek assistance from those who give it in a spirit of goodwill, free from any desire to control our destinies. We have struggled far too long for our self determination. …We now appeal to the nations of the world for recognition and assistance, both material and moral in our struggle for nationhood….
A final word to our erstwhile brothers of West Pakistan: Before God, We tried to preserve this nation of Pakistan in spite of the oppression, neglect and servitude inflicted on us by your rulers these 23 years. But your leaders could neither tolerate the idea of sharing power with us nor would they let us control our own destinies. As a result, today, you, the people of West Pakistan are silent spectators to the genocide being committed in Bangladesh by your rulers…… Out of the ashes a new Bangladesh will rise - committed to peace, democracy and social justice resting on secure foundations of creed, language, culture and race and held together by shared experience of a struggle which must take its place in the epic struggle of our time. But you will be condemned to live under the bayonets of the Punjabi army, Sindhi, Pathan, Baluch and even the common man of Punjab will one day have to rise against these killers….Bangladesh was your last hope for democracy in Pakistan…. Now you the people of West Pakistan, must voice your horror and oppose by all means at your command this attempt by your army to hold down the people of Bangladesh by force and commit genocide in the name of integration." (incomplete)
The aforesaid statement of TajuddinAhmed, the Prime Minister of the first Bangladesh Government at Mujibnagar clearly suggests that Bangladesh never went ahead with a separatist movement. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the founding father of Bangladesh also tried his best to convince everybody in Pakistan that the Six point program did not stand for any secession. It spoke for provincial autonomy which was necessary for a balanced economic growth of the country. East Pakistan exclusively suffered much both in political and economic interests. The last 23 years were the periods of exploitation of East Pakistan by West Pakistan. Yet, the leaders expected that the good sense would prevail. The majority people of Pakistan were Muslims and India, in 1947, was divided on the point of two nation theory basing on religion. And the West Pakistani army killed their Muslim brothers for the selfish gain of capturing power, over throwing Sheikh Mujibur Rahman who gained the absolute majority in the election and could be the Prime Minister of Pakistan. And a war thus was thrust upon Bangladesh for her survival. And the country won the freedom after a 9 month war against Pakistan and Bangladesh regained her lost glory under the dynamic leadership of Bongbonddhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and his associates who fought a glorious battle together with the millions of martyred men and women.
The formation of the Mujibnagar government in the name of its founder, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, was thus a milestone in the freedom struggle. This helped the world to recognise Bangladesh and also to extend support to the cause of her people in their fight for freedom.
The historic Mujibnagar still bears the name of the first capital of Bangladesh and stands at its glorious height on the 47th year of victory. December 16, is a red letter day of days. The historic speech made by Bongobondhu on March 7, 1971 is now acknowledged by the world as UNESCO made it a heritage speech. Bangladesh has left her mark on the world as a unique nation.
(Professor Anwarul Karim was a freedom fighter and President, Swadhin Bangla Shahityik, Shilpi, Buddhijibi Sangram Parisad in Kushtia during Liberation War. Presently, Pro-Vice Chancellor, Northern University Bangladesh. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)