7th March: The Speech that ignited freedom

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Published on February 16, 2020
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Bangabandhu's historic March 7 speech is recognised as one of the world's all-time best. It is correctly said Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's historic March 7 speech that effectively declared Bangladesh's independence and it has been selected as one of the most rousing and inspirational wartime speeches in the last 2,500 years. The much-talked-about inspirational speech is considered by many to be one of the world's best. He broke with established customs.

It was the afternoon of 7 March 1971. It was but the beginning of what would turn out to be a twilight struggle for national self-expression, for eventual liberation from colonial rule. It was the weight of the world Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, undisputed leader of the Bangalee nation, chief of the Awami League and majority leader in the newly elected Pakistan national assembly, carried on his shoulders as he stepped up to the dais at the Race Course (today's Suhrawardy Udyan), ready to sketch his guidelines for his people to follow in the developing confrontation with the civil-military-political combine of West Pakistan.
There were many who expected Bangabandhu to go for a unilateral declaration of independence for Bangladesh. There were others who waited to see what his political wisdom, garnered over years of experience, would bring forth for the seventy five million people of what was yet a province of the state of Pakistan. In the event, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman demonstrated his mettle in no uncertain terms. He would not go for UDI, for that would leave him open to charges of political adventurism. And he would not, under any circumstances, give Pakistan's ruling classes any reason to think that he was about to come round to their expectations of a compromise he would agree to. Most significantly, he would let his people know that sovereignty was the goal, but it would be sovereignty arrived at on strong constitutional foundations. If constitutionalism did not work, the nation would find other, necessarily radical means to wage its war for freedom.
The oratory was superb. He spoke without notes. It was the finest hours for Bangabandhu, who already emerged as South Aisa’s one of the foremost orator. And for us, it was moment of self-assertion.
His opening words were a sign of the burden of responsibility he carried:
“My brothers, I come before you today with a heavy heart.
It was a tale of exploitation Bangabandhu related to that million-strong crowd on the day. And yet there was the conciliatory in his approach to the state of Pakistan:
The leader raised the matter of a sudden postponement of the national assembly session on 1 March and Yahya Khan’s invitation to him to join a round table conference in Rawalpindi on March 10:
“Now, Yahya Khan says that I had agreed to a round table conference on the 10th. I had said, ‘Mr. Yahya Khan, you are the president of this country. Come to Dhaka, come and see how our poor Bangalee people have been gunned down by your bullets, how the laps of our mothers and sisters have been robbed and left empty, how my helpless people have been slaughtered’.
Earlier, I had told him there could be no round table conference. What round table conference? Whose round table conference?” Mujibur Rahman cannot step on the blood of the martyrs and join a round table conference.
Now he tells the crowd in no ambiguous terms:
“Martial law must be withdrawn; all soldiers must go back to the barracks; an inquiry into the killings must be initiated; and, power must be transferred to the elected representatives of the people.
Bangabandhu then proceeded to outline a series of steps as part of his non-violent non-cooperation movement:
“I call upon you to turn every home into a fortress against their onslaught. Use whatever means you have to confront the enemy . . . Even if I am not around to give you directives, I ask you to continue your movement in a ceaseless manner.”
In response, people are chanting slogans to his call to fight for Bangladesh’s Freedom.
And then came the decisive moment, the words that defined the road to the future:
“Since we have given blood, we will give more of it. Insha’Allah, we will free the people of this land.
The struggle this time is for emancipation. The struggle this time is for independence.
Joy Bangla!”
It was a very short speech but its every word carried a volume of political meaning. He sketched the characters of a modern constitution of a nation in this speech. In his speech he told, “We would formulate a constitution and this constitution would ensure peoples’ political, economic and cultural freedom.” This is the basic point of any constitution of any modern state. As a political leader, Bangabandhu could avoid cultural emancipation- he could emphasise only political and economic freedom. Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman did not make that mistake. He knew that for a sustainable political and economic freedom of a nation or a human race needs conceptual cultural freedom. Only conceptual cultural freedom can make an all-embracing and diverse society. The diverse society and its freedom is the main key of the sustainable economic development that helps to develop a liberal political atmosphere in any country.
In this speech Bangabandhu gave a definition of liberal democracy- which is more liberal version than that of Abraham Lincoln. Address at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania on 19 November 1863, Abraham Lincoln ended his address, “government of the people, by the people, for the people,”. Lincoln’s definition still expresses what is democracy, but it also expresses democracy as only the verdict of majority people. On the other hand, after one hundred and eight years of the address of Abraham Lincoln - on 7 March 1971, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman said, “In spite of majority party, if anyone, even if he is a lone person- raises a sensible voice we will support it.” Truly, it is the most liberal version of the definition of democracy. Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, inserted the point in the definition of democracy that, it will be not only the voice of the majority it will also be the safeguard of the sensible voice of the society. Sometimes, only voice of the majority can be a rule of the majority. That rule cannot be the safeguard of all the beauty of the good sense and beauty of the society. The definition of Bangabandhu fulfills this shortcoming of the definition of Abraham Lincoln. It can be compared to Bose and Einstein theory. Bose from Dhaka fulfills Einstein’s theory of condensate. From the same place Dhaka, Bangabandhu gave a totality of Abraham Lincoln’s definition of democracy.

In every language, grammar gives the structure of the expression of language; in the same manner, the speech of 7 March teaches how politics becomes the leading power of the society and the state and how politics gives the freedom to the human kind, and what the conflict between liberal politics and all type of tyranny is. Moreover, the speech of 7 March and its situation teaches the people - how much patience makes a man an iconic politician.
And that speech gave Bengalis reason to believe in themselves once again. Because of him, Bengalis remembered their heritage. Because of him, the people of East Pakistan became Bengalis again. And because of him, the oppressed nation reached out to one another, to the world outside the one they inhabited, to build their own brave new world.

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