1223Published on July 31, 2022
Why did the whole Bengali nation dare to fight with empty hands but with the spirit of nationalism against the Pakistani armed military junta? Why did they make their supreme sacrifices to liberate their motherland? It is only because they had their Supreme Leader who prepared and instructed the nation to achieve freedom by any means. It was the Declaration of Independence by the Father of the Nation Sheikh Mujibur Rahman that rose the Bengali people and called upon to fight for independence. In fact, the whole world could hardly imagine that the nation would fight back and ultimately bring victory. But they did because they had their instructions from their leader.
Though the world was passing a wartime period, the movement for freedom of the Bangali nation was quite different from those. Both the Communists and separatist groups were fighting in different places in different countries for freedom. But the Bengali nation always followed the democratic paths to achieve the freedom. The people’s representatives who were directly elected by the mass people in 1970 general election led the Liberation War from the front. So, the victory was the outcome of the long struggle for freedom of the Bengali people.
Starting from the language movement, legendary leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman led the nation towards the autonomy. He prepared the Bengali nation for autonomy through his historic Six-point Charter, which was the long-cherish demands for the Bangali nation. On his journey, he faced many charges, tortures and jail-terms. But nothing could stop him from winning a vast majority in the election. He began a democratic movement from the beginning of 1971 demanding the rights to hold national assembly with the directly elected representatives. At that time, the country was fully under his control as he preparing the seven crores of Bengali for an armed revolution since March. But the Pakistani military started a massacre on the sleeping people at the midnight on March 25. Bangabandhu immediately declared independence formally. Upon his call for independence, the Bengali nation defeated the Pakistani military and appeared as a brave nation in the world map.
A Leader Doesn’t Flee
The situation became volatile in the city since the evening of 25 March after Pakistani dictator Yahya Khan left Dhaka maintaining high secrecy. Journalist Anthony Mascarenhas described the situation in details in his book. He wrote that a rickshaw puller hurriedly stopped in front of the Dhanmondi 32 residence of Sheikh Mujib. He came from the cantonment area for delivering an emergency message. He said to Bangabandhu, “A crackdown is coming at your place tonight.”
Bangabandhu asked his colleagues and party leaders to go to a safe shelter after he was receiving more and more information about the blueprint of crackdown of Pakistani soldiers. Awami League and Chhatra League leaders also requested him to find a safer place, but Bangabandhu replied: “I won’t go anywhere. If I go into hiding, the situation of Dhaka will worsen. They will search for me everywhere and carry out attacks and damage everything leaving many people dead.” The visionary Bangabandhu was right. Butcher Tikka Khan, the Pakistani lieutenant general, in his interview later confessed that they would run havoc in every house in Dhaka city if they did not find Bangabandhu on that night.
The differences between Bangabandhu and other leaders is understandable from this timely and brave decision. He should not go in hiding as the leader with the people’s mandate. He was confident of delivering directions to the nation to make people prepared for an ensuing war. As Bangabandhu came to know that Pakistani army disarmed EPR and Rajarbag Police Lines had been a target for Pakistani soldiers. So, for strategical reasons, Bangabandhu was waiting to declare independence and call for war so that the Pakistanis could have no chance to brand the Bangali nation as separatists. As the news about the Pakistani attack came, without wasting a second – the Father of the Nation declared Bangladesh as an independent state formally. He also called upon people to resist Pakistani military attacks in every means. Bangabandhu announced independence in his voice in the early hours of March 26 through a special frequency of wireless. The announcement spread out everywhere in the country and abroad. The Bengali people who were waiting for the formal call then fulfilled. The wisdom of Bangabandhu was taken aback the international community as there was no scope for the Pakistani junta to castigate Bangabandhu and Bangali nation over the attacks and resistances.
The Declaration of Independence
Following the crackdown of Pakistani junta, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman made the declaration saying Bangladesh as an independent state. The Bengali version of the declaration was included in the 6th chapter of the Constitution. The declaration reads:
“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.” - Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (March 26, 1971)
Bangali senior staff of Peelkhana signal core Major Shawkat Ali tried to transmit the declaration, but the Pakistani forced detained him while he was sending the declaration of independence through wireless around 12:30 am. engineer AKM But Nurul Haque brought an abandoned transmitter to Dhaka from Khulna on Bangabandhu’s instruction, wrote Barrister Amirul Islam in his article titled ‘Ekatturer March: Jeno Ek Ananta Jatra (March, 71: Like an Endless Journey’. He said
there was no paper and documentation of the transmitter in the registry file. Engineer Nurul Haque activated the transmitter to make it ready, but he did not know what to do with it and when. Nurul Haque on 25 March telephoned Bangabandhu, but his honorary assistant Haji Golam Morshed picked the call. Engineer Nurul Haque said from the other side: “Please convey to Bangabandhu that message has been delivered, now what to do with the machine?” Bangabandhu was sitting nearby and asked Golam Morshed: “Tell him [Nurul Haque] to flee after destroying the machine.
David Loshak, correspondent of British newspaper The Daily Telegraph, was staying in Dhaka then. He said that the sound of the English announcement was very low. “Perhaps it was pre-recorded," he wrote. The then British Prime Minister Edward Heath stated, “On March 26, 1971, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman declared the independence.” European leaders thought whether Sheikh Mujib remains alive or not, they [Pakistani military forces] cannot defeat the Bangali nation at all.
Declaration of Independence in the Eyes of Pakistani Soldiers
Dictator General Yahya Khan gave Lieutenant General Tikka Khan the charge of Governor of the then East Pakistan on 6 March, 1971. Tikka Khan, infamous as the butcher of the Baluchistan in 1970, arrived in Dhaka the next day as the new governor and military chief of East Pakistan. He became chief of Pakistan after 1971, and then governor of Punjab. He faced questions from journalists about the genocide of March 25 of 1971 during a SAARC summit then. Tikka Khan, who was at his Punjab government office, admitted the crackdown, saying he heard the declaration of independence by Bangabandhu on that night.
“My coordination officer rushed to me with a three-band radio and said - ‘Sir, listen! Sheikh Saheb has announced the independence’. I heard the declaration from a special frequency of my radio. I knew the voice of Sheikh Saheb, so there was no other option than arresting him,” Tikka Khan said regarding the declaration.
About a question that what would Pakistan do if Sheikh Mujibur Rahman went on hiding, Tikka Khan replied: “I knew it well that a leader like Sheikh Mujib will not leave his people. I would conduct a massive search drive in every corner in Dhaka to find him out. I had no intention to arrest other leaders, so they made their way to a safer place outside Dhaka.”
Tikka Khan as the governor and army chief of East Pakistan carried out the genocide in name of ‘Operation Search Light’ on the Bengali people. Local collaborators also joined them. Later lieutenant-general Amir Abdullah Khan Niazi alias AAK Niazi became the chief of the East Pakistan army from the second week of April. Niazi and his advisor Rao Forman Ali Khan were staying in Dhaka from earlier.
The public relation officer of the Pakistan military at that time, Siddiq Salik described barbaric attacks on Bangali nation on March 25 of 1971, declaration of independence by Bangabandhu, the surrender of the Pakistani occupation force, and other incidents from occupation forces in his book ‘Witness to Surrender’.
“When the first shot had been fired, the voice of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman came faintly through on a wavelength close to that of the official Pakistan radio. In what must have been, and sounded like, a prerecorded message, the sheikh proclaimed East Pakistan to be the Peoples Republic of Bangladesh” Siddiq Salik wrote about that night.
Siddiq Salik, the press secretary of AK Niazi, also said that Bangabandhu declared independence with a special frequency of wireless immediately after the Pakistan occupational force started the crackdown on the Bengali people.
Bangabandhu’s declaration in international media on March 26, 27
The New York Times (March 27, 1971):
The Pakistan radio announced today that Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the nationalist Leader of East Pakistan, had been arrested only hours after he had proclaimed his region independent and after open rebellion was reported in several cities in the East... The 51-years-old leader of the Awami League, the dominant party in the East, was arrested as the West Pakistan-dominated army sought to reassert control in the East.
The Daily Times (March 27, 1971)
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the Acknowledged leader of Bengali nationalism responded heroically to the Pakistan Army's Intervention with a call for resistance and Declaration of Independence. There is a good evidence that most members of the Bengali regiments will accept his orders. Shortly before his arrest Mujib had issued a proclamation to his people, which informed them: You are citizens of a free country. Today the West Pakistan's Military is engaged in genocide in Bangladesh. Our struggle is most rewarding, certain is victory. Allah is with us. The world public opinion is with us. Joy Bangla victory of Bengal.
The Financial Times (March 27, 1971)
Civil war after East Pakistan declares independence.
The Press Trust of India (March 26, 1971)
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman tonight proclaimed East Pakistan the Sovereign independent people's Republic of Bangladesh, according to a clandestine radio report monitored near the East Pakistan.
The Guardian (March 27, 1971)
Shortly before his arrest, Mujib had issued a proclamation to his people, which informed them: you are citizens of a free country.
The Stateman (March 27, 1971)
Bangladesh declares freedom: Rahman's step follow's Army crackdown.
BBC and NDP (March 26, 1971 – 9:07pm bulletin)
Both British media BBC, NDP and PTI broadcast the news of declaration of independence by Bangabandhu at 09:07pm on March 26. At a bulletin at 8:21pm on March 26, United News of India reported: Sheikh Mujibur declared the independence from Shawadin Bangla Betar Kendra.
US Documents (Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA), about March 25 in 1971 said (Article 1 of 43rd spot report):
Pakistan was thrust into civil war today when Sk. Mujibur Rahman proclaimed the East wing of the two part country to be ''The sovereign independent People’s Republic of Bangladesh.
Broadcast of the declaration of independence in wireless
Md Abdul Qader, an engineer at Salempur Wireless Station in Chattagram said: “In the morning of 26 March Mr Mejbah had received a message of Bangabandhu’s declaration of independence. I hurriedly wrote down the message. Mr Mejbah Uddin also informed me that he was able to send the message instantly to the service channel and maritime mobile of the VHF network at the wireless station. Then the message was sent to different parts of the world through foreign ships like MV Salvista, MV Mini La Tria and MVVV Giri which were staying at Chattagram port.
Bangabandhu’s Declaration of Independence was read out by different voices later on. Awami League leaders and activists copied it and distributed it as leaflets soon in different regions. People working at the Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra also readout the declaration for several days. Belal Mohammad, one of the organizers of Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra, said: “Many of us readout Bangabandhu’s declaration paper obtained from Doctor Anwar Ali. Major Zia also read it out after many of us, and of course on behalf of Bangabandhu.”
As the Liberator of the Bengali nation, Bangabandhu was always very sharp and applied his political wisdom carefully. Neither the Pakistani military nor did the international community understand his next course of actions for freedom, but it was the Bengali nation to whom he spread his directives very well, And people from all walks of lives joined the Liberation War and achieved the victory upon the instructions they received from the Father of the Nation.