Vol. 5 Num 1022 Tue. April 17, 2007  

Mujibnagar Day, a milestone in our liberation war

Today is April 17 -- Mujibnagar Day. On this day in 1971 the Mujibnagar government was formed by the elected leaders of Bangladesh under the Presidentship of Bangabandhu Sk Mujibur Rahman. This was a constitutional, logical and realistic step forward towards the full realization of our dream for an independent country of our own.

The observance of Mujibnagar Day in a befitting manner has special significance now, against the backdrop of a sinister and ominous move by a certain quarter to distort the history of our war of independence. On this day, the country and the people of Bangladesh should always gratefully cherish the memories of the freedom fighters, and those political leaders who led them, with deep affection and profound regard, as well as with their firm determination and conviction.

The formation of the Mujibnagar government, and its pronouncement to the world at large on April 17, 1971, is really a red-letter event in our national history, especially considering the thumping victory of the Awami League in the elections of 1970 under the leadership of Bangabandhu.

The 167 MNAs and 293 MPs who composed the Constituent Assembly gave a true shape and constitutional perspective to this day, making the dream of an independent Bangladesh a reality. From this point of view, Mujibnagar Day (17th April) is a milestone in our struggle for independence, as well as in our national history.

The Mujibnagar government was formed at the Baidyanathtala Mango grove of Meherpur, a former Subdivision of Kustia district, following the April 10th Proclamation of Independence Order of Bangladesh.

The oath-taking was witnessed by hundreds of foreign journalists who had assembled there to hail the birth of a new nation. Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was made the president; Syed Nazrul Islam became the acting president in the absence of Bangabandhu; Tajuddin Ahmed, the prime minister; M. Mansur Ali, the finance minister; M. Quamruz Zaman, the home, relief and rehabilitation Minister and Khandakar Mustaque Ahmed, foreign affairs and law minister. General M. A. G. Osmani, who was then a retd. colonel and MNA elected from Awami League, was made the C-in-C of the Bangladesh armed forces.

Herculean task
It was a herculean task. Organizing the civil administration and the freedom fighters, securing arms for the latter and training them, mobilizing international support for the liberation war through intense diplomatic action, ensuring speedy communication and effective coordination of various activities at hundred different levels and, above all, keeping the morale of the freedom fighters high throughout the dark, difficult and strenuous days of the war. This called for extraordinary wisdom, dedication, patience, foresight, courage and tenacity on the part of the Mujibnagar government and all those connected with it.

The formation of the Mujibnagar government had great significance for the fact that the great men who gave leadership to this great event in the absence of our supreme leader, and continued the armed struggle for the following eight months not allowing any breach in the unity of their people, fought valiantly and, above all, kept our leader alive in the minds of every freedom fighter, as if he was fighting side by side with them.

The creation of the government, in fact, gave the total war effort a fuller meaning. It cemented the unity of the people, brought the world closer to the existence of the freedom fighters, and made the war efforts bloom in full focus, and announced the presence of Bangladesh in the comity of nations. It was, in effect, a formal introduction to the rest of the world of the nature of the political leadership that was set to guide the nation in a concerted and organized war of national independence.

That Bangabandhu was the paramount leader of the country, both in its struggle for constitutional legitimacy and military triumph, was given political and moral sanction by everything that happened on April 17, 1971, in a spot of territory that was to be forever transformed in the annals of politics.

Bangabandhu never preached revolution
Bangabandhu had never preached revolution, and political terrorism had never been part of his platform. Therefore, when the assault of the Pakistani military machine came, it remained for him to inform his associates that a long and hard struggle on the battlefield had become necessary.

The declaration of independence he made moments before his arrest by the Pakistani military forces forced upon his associates the need for armed struggle. And that was proof that, while he awaited uncertain and terrible incarceration, he had briefed his associates on what needed to be done.

The dispersal of the leadership out of Dhaka as the army went into action was a sign that there was to be no turning back from the course Bengalis had set for themselves. And, thus, the formation of the Mujibnagar government was undoubtedly a rightful, constitutional, as well as logical and realistic step by the trusted and capable associates of the great leader.

The establishment of the Mujibnagar government was an absolute necessity for another reason. Had it not been put in place, it is reasonably certain that diffuse guerilla movements would have spawned all over the country without any form of central control. The danger inherent in such politics lies in the absence of legitimacy.

And in Bangladesh's politics at that point in time, the absence of the Mujibnagar government would only have given the freedom struggle a clearly secessionist hue, to the immense delight of the Pakistanis and to the consternation of a Bengali population directly in the military's line of fire.

Seen in such light, the presence of acting president Syed Nazrul Islam and prime minister Tajuddin Ahmed, with their colleagues, deep in Meherpur in April 1971 was a clear, unequivocal statement of intent: that the elected representatives of the people of Bangladesh had taken it upon themselves to give shape and substance to an independent state for them.

It was, thus, that the global community was left with hardly a choice. The initiation of the war of national liberation, given the fact that it was being waged by a leadership with the electorally acknowledged support of the nation, could not be dismissed as an insurrection or a secessionist enterprise. Moreover, the military's misadventure (swooping upon Bengali political aspirations through an exercise of brazenness) assisted the cause not a little.

Flight to India
The killing of unarmed civilians, the razing of villages and township, and the atrocities against women only strengthened the cause of the provisional government. In the months between March and December 1971, the flight of ten million people to India convinced the global community of the necessity and the righteousness of the Bengali cause, and helped the Mujibnagar government to inform the world that there was no alternative to an independent Bangladesh.

The provisional government undertook the onerous responsibility of moulding international opinion in Bangladesh's favour: the effort was assisted a great deal by the declaration of allegiance to the national struggle by Bengali diplomats stationed in Pakistani missions abroad.

Placing the entire diplomatic effort in the hands of a well-respected personality like Justice Abu Sayeed Chowdhury was yet another factor for the success of the efforts of Mujibnagar government in mobilizing world opinion in our favour.

The speeches and statements made by the acting president, late Syed Nazrul Islam, prime minister late Tajuddin Ahmed, and other leaders of the exiled Mujibnagar government, at the formal oath-taking ceremony and other subsequent occasions were widely appreciated world over, as those reflected the really democratic and progressive principles of the new government. The guiding principles and state policies announced time to time by the exiled government were all fully democratic, based on universal human rights principles and other widely accepted international norms and protocols.

Finally, the formation of the Mujibnagar government was the real birth of a new nation -- a nation imbued with the spirit of democratic values, nationalism, secularism and socialism, obtained from the call of a man whose stature as a statesman had surpassed any of his time and most of his predecessors.

He united the Bengali speaking people of a piece of land, and raised a nation of indomitable courage and splendour, so powerful and splendid in its commitment that it faced head-on a heavily equipped Pakistan army bare-handed. It was bred with the courage of conviction and valour, and strength of insurmountable will of head, heart and unity, to be independent and ready to shed the last drop of blood of every individual born on this soil then called East Pakistan.

Since the present caretaker goverment is fully backed and guided by the army, the recent assertion by the chief of army staff that due respect should be given to all our leaders has opened the door for the government to bring back the full glory of our independence war and, thereby, appropriately describe the heroic role played by the Mujibnagar government to the younger generation through holding seminars, discussion meetings, rallies and other such programs at national level.

Zahid Hossain was associated with the Mujibnagar Government as the Chief of Psychological Warfare, Ministry of Defence.