March, Mujib and the Mighty Roar

Dr Rashid Askari

সম্পাদনা/লেখক: আব্দুল্লাহ আল মামুন
The early days of March 1971 marked a watershed in the history of Bangladesh’s independence. On 1 March 1971, Yahya Khan under Bhutto’s pressure abruptly postponed the assembly scheduled to be held on 3 March. The postponement of the assembly date raised a storm of protest throughout Bangladesh. Within half an hour after the announcement, angry crowds holding bamboo sticks and iron rods banged around the city streets spitting anger and spouting abusive slogans.

Mujib could very well understand that all they were doing was nothing but to complicate the transfer of power to him. And he had no other alternative but to fight to resist the conspiracy of procrastination and put a stop to the misrule of the West Pakistani autocrats. He slammed all doors of negotiations, launched a non-cooperation movement and set out upon the war path.

On 2 and 3 March, an all-out hartal was held in East Pakistan and Mujib launched a successful non-violent civil disobedience movement. Although this sort of non-violent non-cooperation movement was first introduced in India by Mahatma Gandhi, it was Sheikh Mujib who so effectively applied it against the colonial ruling clique of Pakistan that even Mahatma Gandhi, had he lived by that time, would be amazed to see its power. As a matter of fact, Mujib ran kind of a parallel government and Bangladesh enjoyed a sort of independence.

On 7 March 1971 in a historic speech at the Ramna Race Course Ground, Mujib in an immemorially large mass gathering called for independence. In the mammoth gathering he declared, “The struggle this time is a struggle for our emancipation, the struggle this time is a struggle for independence.”

This speech is one of the shining examples of incredible war speeches that show how words can be used “to inspire, to comfort, to move, or to enthuse even the most seemingly hard-bitten of listeners”. The entire nation was aroused by Mujib’s clarion call.

Mujib was possessed of exceptional powers of oratory by which the crowd would be held spellbound. Though his speeches were of passionate eloquence, they were not rhetoric. He was a competent and prudent politician and a leader of vision. The speech of 7 March is in many ways a decolonisation manifesto.

There are telltale signs of anticolonial elements. The 19-minute speech was a beautiful lyric poem.  Bangabandhu relates facts and figures of how the people of Bengal were deceived, deprived and suppressed. He urged the Pakistani rulers to comply with the rule of law, warned them about their undemocratic attitudes towards and barbarous treatment of Bengalis and finally gave his people a clarion call.

The speech does not need any introduction. It was a clear signal of independence of his country and its import is self-evident. All that the Bengali people lost during the 23 years of bondage of Pakistani rule, and all that they finally longed for found expression in the strongly and carefully crafted speech.

Words came out of his mouth as powerfully as gasses gushing out of the volcano. The speech is, figuratively speaking, the finest oral poem in the Bengali language spoken in the best words and arranged in the best order. It is our sweetest song that tells both of our saddest thoughts and happiest dreams.
The speech is a work of outstanding political merit.

With its words and phrases, rhythms and rhymes, pauses and intonation, emotions and passions, it speaks for itself and contains an undertone of resistance to the Pakistani rulers. Its gripping text captures the imagination of the people and becomes the herald of the last nail in the coffin of the Pakistani brutal regime.

The fiery anti-Pakistan slogans become the global slogan for a people’s financial deliverance and political independence and bear the stamp of post-colonial nationalism. Bangabandhu for his fine oratory and brilliant public speech was termed as a ‘Poet of Politics’ by the international Newsweek magazine, and deservedly so. The magazine made him the subject of a cover story which was published in its 5 April 1971 issue.

The contemporary English historian Jacob F. Field has, in his 2013 book We Shall Fight on the Beaches: The Speeches That Inspired History, incorporated the speech as one of the ‘most rousing and inspirational wartime speeches’ made in the last 2,500 years that range from Cicero to Churchill, Lincoln to Mao. Besides, UNESCO also included it in the Memory of World Register as a documentary heritage. However, as far as the text and context of the speech and its impact on the people are concerned, it was a clear manifestation of an enormous political will and powerful public opinion.

Peter Furtado, editor of History Today magazine, called it “a de facto declaration of Bangladesh’s independence” in his 2011 book History’s Daybook: A History of the World in 366 Quotations. It was an outstanding event to unofficially declare independence by avoiding the allegations of UDI (Unilateral Declaration of Independence). After the rally, the Pakistani intelligence sent a report to West Pakistan: “Clever Mujib tactfully declared independence.”
The writer is the former Vice Chancellor of the Islamic University Bangladesh

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