Vol. 5 Num 80 Sun. August 15, 2004  

Bangabandhu's death anniversary special
Why this controversy?

By now we have known from eminent columnist Sardar Sirajul Islam in his mini serial in a vernacular daily that after being informed of Yahya Khan's departure from 'Dhaka on March 25, 1971, Bangabandhu sent a message on urgent basis through his neighbour Mr A K M Mosharraf Hossain (former Secretary, Industries and now minister of state of the present government) to Mr M R Siddiqui (Mr Hossain's relation) of Chittagong. The message was passed on to Mr Siddiqui over telephone. It conveyed this directive from Bangabandhu: "Liberate Chittagong, take over administration, proceed for Comilla." Mr A K M Mosharraf Hossain confirmed to Sardar Sirajul Islam in writing on his official letterhead vide his latter no: Sachib/Shilpa-63/90 dated 7-3-1990 stating: "The aforestated message I passed on to Mr M R Siddiqui upon the directive of Bangabandhu". Hopefully and in spite of his party affiliation and natural obligation, Mr A K M Mosharraf Hossain, known to this writer as a person of immaculate moral integrity, will not go back on his words. In this regard the readers may correlate his truthful statement on 7-3-1990 to his bureaucratic position and status at the time when he didn't don any political identity.

Likewise, we may allude to the interview of the present foreign Secretary Shamsher Mobin Chowdhury at page 59 of the documents on liberation war, given on October 20, 1973. Here, he was quoted in these words: "In the morning of 26th March we reached a place little away from Kalurghat. There we took rest and did the reorganisation. Thus 26th March passed that way. On 27th March Major Ziaur Rahman went to the Chittagong Broadcasting Centre and delivered a statement. On 28th March throughout the whole day I read out that statement from the radio station." Incidentally, it may be recalled that Mr Shamsher Mobin Chowdhury was then posted with Ziaur Rahman in the 8th East Bengal Regiment when the war of liberation started.

Again an old interview of Lt. General (Rtd) Mr Shawkat Ali, Bir Uttam, conveys a clearer impression on the controversial declaration of independence on radio. Expressing his tacit annoyance with such an unnecessary debate he said: "As far as I know, it was Hannan Bhai's voice the people heard first of all on Chittagong Radio. It could be at about two in the afternoon on March 26, 1971. But, since the transmission machinery was of a very low capacity, the entire countrymen couldn't hear that voice. Therefore, if asked as to whose rebellious voice was first heard on radio then I will say that voice was of Hannan Bhai. Yet it is true that on the next day, that is, on 27th March '71 the war of liberation took a crucial turn after Major Zia's declaration was broadcast." What the general can say now when he finds so much twisting of facts and truth by his party men slandering even Ziaur Rahman himself? This interview was recorded in 1981.

Eminent University teacher, an acknowledged authority on Bangladesh history and absolutely non-partisan historian Professor Sirajul Islam says in his History of Bangladesh at page 634: "On March 26 Awami League leader M A Hannan read out the declaration of independence on behalf of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and on March 27 at 1930 hours Major Ziaur Rahman read out the declaration of independence on behalf of Bangabandhu."

Another important colleague in the armed services during the War of Liberation in 1971 and now a BNP stalwart Col Oli Ahmed writes at page 97 of his book in Bangla "Jiboner Shesh Nai" that it was March 27, 1971 on which date Major Zia announced from Kalurghat Radio Station Chittagong. Belal Mohammad, a radio staff confirmed at Page 58-59 of his book "Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra" that Ziaur Rahman was brought to the Radio Station at 5 hrs on March 27, 1971. None so far has challenged this information or contention of Belal Mohmmad who was physically present at the station.

Now defunct and out of circulation weekly Bichitra published on March 22, 1974 an article entitled "Ekti Jatir Janmo" (Birth of a Nation) wherein Zia categorically mentioned "Bangabandhu, father of our nation." His historic declaration on Chittagong Radio Station in the evening of March 27, 1971 read: "On behalf of our great leader, the Supreme Commander of Bangladesh Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, we hereby proclaim the independence of Bangladesh." It was in Ziaur Rahman's own voice. Besides, in the article in weekly Bichitra referred to above Zia clearly mentioned the historic speech of Sheikh Mujib in the erstwhile Race Course, now Suhrawardy Uddyan, on March 07, 1971 as "the green signal."

And following that invincible "green signal" Ziaur Rahman, despite his initial hesitation, jumped into action and of course into an abhorring uncertainty. Nevertheless, he put in great efforts at mobilising his men and resources in 8th East Bengal Regiment risking his life. The rest is history and till his assassination in 1981 in Chittagong he himself didn't permit any overdoing of his valiance or underestimating the mammoth leadership and image of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. It was very much palpable that, in spite of his ideological differences with Awami League he remained meticulously faithful to his own words and conviction indeed and expression about the great leader till August 15, 1975. Even after he floated his own political party, true to his mental make-up, he used to be equally reserve in his opinion about Bangabandhu.

That's how many of the co-warriors fighting the enemies shoulder to shoulder with Ziaur Rahman couldn't twist the truth about his participation in the liberation war, his declaration of independence on March 27, 1971 on behalf of Bangabandhu, or about the first message on radio by M A Hannan, Awami League leader -- Sheikh Mujib's first message passed through ERR, on March 26, 1971 around 2 PM.

Hasan Hafizur Rahman's edited history and documentation on our War of Liberation was, so to say, a personal project of late Ziaur Rahman. He evinced great interest in the compilation and it was naturally inconceivable that those involved in the project including Hasan Hafizur Rahman could have recourse to any deliberate twisting in the ultimate documentation. The late leader expressed his satisfaction with the ultimate recording. At least there is no record to suggest that despite being in the highest position of administration he did ever ask the men in the project to put him as proclaimer of independence all by himself and not "on behalf of ......". A very committed and loyal soldier as he was, he found glory in placing him at the command of the supreme commander Sheikh Mujib.

The present controversy over the reprint of the same documents which were gifted to the nation by Ziaur Rahman himself has been the mischief of some over-enthusiastic members of BNP to create disaffection among the people. They appear to have been successful in duping Begum Zia, who, in the past didn't indulge in such suicidal gamble. Because she know what her husband said, what his recorded evidences had been.

Kazi Alauddin Ahmed is an industrial consultant.