When, on 1 March 1971, President General Yahya Khan, military ruler of Pakistan, postponed the session of the National Assembly which was scheduled to meet on 3 March, the whole East Bengal burst into agitation. Crowds of people came on the streets, and instead of Six-Point demands, they claimed only one thing that was the declaration of independence of Bangladesh. In that situation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman called for Non-Cooperation Movement. Excluding only a few incidences of cruelties, this movement was peaceful. The whole world was astonished to see the intensity and fulfillment of this movement. All institutions, government and non-government, were run at his directions. People entrusted the responsibility of ruling them without any hesitation to their elected representative, although officially he did not hold any state position still then. In fact, beside Martin Luthar King and Nelson Mandela, Sheikh Mujib was the only politician who turned the Non-Cooperation Movement into a successful political tool. As a result of this, the speech which Bangabandhu delivered on 7 March became one of the greatest speeches in the world.
The young people demanded unilateral declaration of independence which he did not fulfill. However in that short speech what he uttered was actually the declaration of independence: ''Be prepared with whatsoever you have. You must remember, as we have sacrificed blood we will give more blood we will of course make the people of this land free, Inshallah. The struggle this time is the struggle for our freedom, the struggle this time is the struggle for independence."
Despite this clear announcement, his critics lay blame on him for not announcing the ipdependent unilaterally. Perhaps he thought, if Pakistan showed atrocious reaction against Bangladesh's declaration of independence we would be deprived of getting sympathy of the people of the world.
He had known that the USA and China would not welcome the declaration of the independence of Bangladesh. For this he made a bit of concealment and even after this continued discussion with Pakistan for resolving the crisis. Meanwhile on 23 March, the flag of independent Bangladesh was raised in Bangabandhu's residence and on his car. From the very 7 March friends and enemies both parties perceived the desire of Bangabandhu. That desire had its room in the hearts of millions of people.
When the atrocious killing by Pakistani army started on 25 March, . Bangabandhu was arrested, but in that very night his declaration of independence was broadcast everywhere. Many a man expresses doubt on this declaration. Many say that Bangabandhu did not agree to declare independence. Many others say, there was no scope to send the declaration of independence from the transmitter of EPR.
However this fact is beyond doubt that two versions of the declaration of independence in the name of Bangabandhu were broadcast from different sources on 26 March. The two versions were as follow :
I. This may be my last message. From today Bangladesh is independent. I call upon the people of Bangladesh, wherever you might be 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 Bangladesh and final victory is achieved.
2. The Pakistan Army has suddenly attacked the EPR base at Peelkhana and Rajarbag Police Line and killed citizens. Street battles are going on in every street of Dacca-Chittagong. I appeal to the nations of the world for help. Our freedom fighters are gallantly fighting the enemy to free the motherland. I appeal and order you all in the name of the Almighty Allah to fight to the last drop of blood to liberate the country. Ask Police, the EPR, the Bengal Regiment and the Ansars to stand by you and to fight. No compromise. Victory is ours. Drive out the last enemy from the holy soil of our motherland. Convey this message to all Awami League leaders, workers and other patriots and lovers of freedom.
May Allah bless you. Joy Bangla.
So far I can remember, the message which I received on 26 March 1971 at around 3 p.m. at Chittagong University from Revolutionary Council Headquarters (Sangram Parisad headquarters) at Chittagong with a request to send it to everyone was this second version. First version was frequently announced from Shadhin Bangla Betar, which we came to know later on.
Later it was stated in the book 'Bangalir Jatiyatabadi Sangram Muktijuddhe Chattagram'
(Chittagong 1993) by Jatiya Samajtantric Dal leader Dr. Mahfuzur Rahman : This message was heard in the wireless of a ship anchored at the Chittagong port, and it was written down and spread over Chittagong in published leaflet. A detailed description of how and which version of Bangabandhu's declaration of independence people heard and how it was broadcast has been compiled in the book 'Bangladesher Shadhinata Ghoshona/Facts and Witness' (Second Edition : Dhaka, 2013) by A F M Sayeed. Some Significant facts stated in this book are as follow :
1. According to the statement of wife of Subedar-Major Shawkat Ali of EPR signal
corp retired Professor of the department of Bangla at Rajshahi Mohila College, Feroza Begum and her daughter Professor Dr. Selina Parvin of the department of Zoology at Rajshahi University, on 25 March at evening Colonel Awan took the keys of the Signal Center to himself. Subedar Major Shawkat Ali with his self-made portable transmitter announced Bangabandhu's declaration of independence at mid-night from his residence at Peelkhana.
The announced declaration was the first version as we quoted above. During the announcement of the declaration with the transmitter, Shawkat Ali and his companion EPR soldiers including Subedar Molla, Subedar Zohur Munshi, Subedar Abdul Hai and Subedar Ayub were caught by the Pakistani army. After suffering long days of oppression all of them were martyred except Subedar Ayub.
2. Another EPR soldier broadcast Bangabandhu's taped declaration from Baldha Garden and then sought next directive making a phone call to the residence of Bangabandhu. As per the suggestion of Bangabandhu's near one Golam Morshed, he left that place throwing the broadcast machine into a pond.
3. Mejbahuddin Ahmad, Shift-incharge of Moghbazar Wireless Station, broadcast Bangabandhu's declaration of independence from there and it was received at Chittagong by engineer Abdul Kader, assistant engineer Golam Rabbani Dakua, wireless worker Mahfuz Ali and wireless operator Mahtabuddin of Silimpur Wireless Station.
Another question has to be raised here. Why the leader of the land stayed waiting for being arrested after the declaration of independence? Some people said, he had a fear that if the Pakistani army couldn't arrest him they would show huge atrocities in Dhaka city-neither Bangabandhu nor any of us had any idea about how much atrocious they could be! Another answer to this question is such that doing politics in concealment was not as per his habit.
I will mention here two events about this habit from his 'The Unfinished Memoirs' (Dhaka, 2012). The first one was an event of his 17 or 18 years of age. As a result of 'slight ill-feeling' between Hindus and Muslims, one of his classmates namely Abdul Malek was taken held by Hindu community to the house of the local Hindu Mahashava president Suren Banarji and was beaten up there.
On hearing this, Sheikh Mujib went to that house and requested them to set him (Malek) free. Getting no positive response to this request, fighting started between the two groups and Mujib and his companions brought Malek out breaking the door and took him with them. A case was filed on this ground and it was clear that step was being taken for arresting Mujib as one of the defendants.
One of his well-wishers told him, 'Miabhai, go and stay in a neighbouring house, please.' Mujib replied, 'I will not go, I will not flee. People will say, I have been afraid.' Mujib was arrested and produced to the court, and as bail was not granted, he had to live in jail custody for seven days.
The second event was of 1954. The central government introduced the rule of section 92A in the province dismissing its Juktafront government. Extensive arrests started all around. Sheikh Mujib was out of home. He was informed that police went to his house to find him. As he stated in his 'The Unfinished Memoirs', 'at the time of departing from my colleagues, I told many of them, "I am headed for prison but let me stress something: you shouldn't obey this unfair decree without protesting against it. You should oppose it openly. The people of the country are ready to do so; all you have to do is to lead them. Many of us will land up in jail but it is better to protest and end up there."
On returning home I took my meal, prepared my beddings and then making a phone call I told district magistrate Mr. Yahiya Khan Chowdhury, "The police has been to my house no doubt to arrest me. You will find me there; so send a vehicle for me". He (Mr. Khan) replied, 'We have to obey orders. I am sending a vehicle, so get ready. They are calling me repeatedly to have you arrested."
I thanked him and hung up. Renu got my things ready, crying as she did so."
It can be understood from these events that lawful politics was a matter of his confidence and practice, he never thought of leading a political movement going in concealment. If he were not arrested in 1971, we would be more gainful in the war of liberation, conflicts might not be seen in his party and conspiracy against this just war could not be formed.
But we also cannot hope from a man for doing something against his personal belief and inclination. He went to jail and hoped that his colleagues would complete his commenced task. We are lucky, they did that task devotedly.
Bangabandhu was absent in the war of liberation, but the war was conducted in his very name. Even those who wanted to compromise with the enemy party during the war used his very name. Such was the glory of his name, greatness of his name!
Bangabandhu's trial was done in Pakistan when he was in captivity there; he was awarded a sentence of punishment too.
A grave was dug for him beside his cell in the jail. Bangabandhu however was unyielding. He requested the jail authority that his dead body should be buried m the soil of Bengal after his death.
We are fortunate that Bangabandhu could return to the land of Bengal in his life time. He took over e responsibility of ruling the country.
The Pakistanis dared not to kill him, but the treacherous people of his own country killed him along with his family members brutally. Killing him was not their only motif, they wanted to destroy the feeling of the war of liberation, wanted to reshape the millions of martyr's bloodbathed Bangladesh. In the long run they failed; all attempts to protect them also became futile. Bangabandhu got his room not only in the soil of Bangladesh but also in the hearts of millions of people.
Translation: Munshi Jalal Uddin