- Published on Sunday, 26 March 2017 10:03
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“This may be my last message. From today Bangladesh is independent. I call upon the people of Bangladesh, wherever they 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 Bangladesh. Final victory is ours.”
Shortly after midnight on March 26, 1971, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the great leader, declared the independence of Bangladesh before getting arrested and landing in a jail of Pakistan (of which Bangladesh was a province known as East Pakistan).. The message of freedom came when one of the massive genocides of the human history unfolded in Bangladesh. . Unarmed people without having their faintest knowledge of what was about to happen woke up to the roar of bullets and bombs. Still the words emerged from Bangabandhu were sounded more powerful than bombs.
The brief but fiery message was passed on to MA Hannan, a prominent Awami League leader in Chittagong, by wireless.
As the message was issued in lips, the beasts in the form of Pakistani occupational force attacked the residence of Bangabandhu in Dhanmondi. Around the residence they began firing. So intense and defeating it was. At one stage, the founding father came out and told the soldiers to put an end to it. Within moments, the architect of the nation was put on a jeep, taken to the under construction building and made to wait there for sometime until the military could decide his fate.
“Big bird in cage, Little birds have flown”, said an officer in a cryptic message to General Tikka Khan. “Should we bring Mujib before you”, asked the officer. “I don’t want to see his face”, answered Tikka, in a contemptuous response.
Then, the leader of Bangalee was taken to Adamjee Cantonment College and had been held hostage there for a few days. Finally, Bangabandhu was flown to West Pakistan.
As March 25 gave way to March 26, Dhaka was on fire. The soldiers unleashed by Yahya Khan, Tikka Khan and Khadim Hussain Raja ran amok killing Bangalees of every stripe and hue. In Dhaka and elsewhere, the army went on massacring Bangalees. The killing of students was indiscriminate at Jagannath Hall. So was the shooting down of respected academics. The Central Shaheed Minar was blasted into pieces. So was the Kali Mandir at the Race Course. Having imposed a curfew in the city, the soldiers felt free to shoot and kill. It was a scene that would be re-enacted across the country. It was medievalism at work.
But, there was a palpable sense of glee hung in the air inside the Cantonment.
The senior army officers led by Tikka Khan gathered for breakfast. The general asked Siddiqui to taste the oranges kept on the table. “They are good. They are from West Pakistan”, said the general. Decades later, the chief of Pakistan’s military information, made that revelation.
As the evening wore on, President Yahya Kahn appeared before the nation over radio and television. In his address, the president condemned the violence let loose in East Pakistan preceding the crackdown and also clamped a ban on the Awami League. As part of the evil plot, he accused Sheikh Mujibur Rahman of having indulged in treason.Thousands miles away, inside the cantonment in Dhaka, Tikka Kahan, and other senior officers, sat together and watched the mastermind speak. The speech made all of them look positively happy. In a cheerful voice, the information secretary of the Pakistan government told his fellow West Pakistanis, “Yaar,
Thousands miles away, inside the cantonment in Dhaka, Tikka Kahan, and other senior officers, sat together and watched the mastermind speak. The speech made all of them look positively happy. In a cheerful voice, the information secretary of the Pakistan government told his fellow West Pakistanis, “Yaar, imaan taaza ho gya (friends, faith has been revived)”.
Beyond the cantonment, Bangalees were dying in the hundreds and thousands. Inside the country, the urge for freedom was beginning to take a concrete, focused shape. Resistance was in the air.