Memories of oath-taking ceremony of Mujibnagar government still haunt me. The oath was administered on April 17, 1971. Picture of the day comes to my mind to be delineated in my writing today 46 years after the historic incident.
My mind is obsessed with the memories of March 25. The day has special appeal to me for saying goodbye to Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and his nephew Sheikh Fazlul Haque Moni. I along with others spent the night at Arambagh residence of Moni Bhai.
Pakistani occupation forces started genocide titled ‘Operation Search Light’ at 12.00am, zero hour. Heavy firing rocked the capital Dhaka and rattled the city dwellers. Around one lakh people were killed in the night. The death toll broke all records. Yahya Khan addressed the nation the following day (March 26).
Terming Bangabandhu traitor, he said Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and other Awami League leaders should have been arrested earlier. He said to have committed a mistake. “This time he (Bangabandhu) will not go unpunished,” Yahya threatened. Curfew was clamped and tension ran high in and around the city on the day of his speech. As curfew was relaxed for two hours the following day, we went to Keraniganj. We switched on radio and heard the voice of Chittagong city Awami League general secretary MA Hannan. He termed the situation as a liberation war. He referred to ‘Declaration of Independence’ by Bangabandhu. In his historic speech on March 7, Father of the Nation said “Perhaps, it is my last speech. Bangladesh is independent from now.” He called upon the countrymen to resist the Pakistani occupation forces from their respective position. “You jump into liberation war irrespective of your whereabouts and weapons,” Bangabandhu said. He expressed his determination to leave no stone unturned to oust each and every soldier of Pakistan. He called upon people to continue their fight to the last moment.
However, we took shelter in the house of former lawmaker Borhanuddin Gagan at Keraniganj. National leaders Capt. M Mansur Ali and AHM Qamaruzzaman, Moni Bhai, Siraj Bhai and Razzak Bhai were present there. The two national leaders decided to go to India. I and Moni Bhai were to accompany them.
Bangabandhu kept residence ready for us. Reluctance of the then Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to hand over power to Bangabandhu manifested ulterior motive of the regime. Bangabandhu realised the situation beforehand. Thus, he did not expect Pakistani ruler to hand over power. On January 3, 1971, he administered oath to the elected representatives asking them to stick to the six-point demand, a roadmap for emancipation of the country. About 10 lack people attended the mammoth rally addressed by Bangabandhu. On February 18, 1971, we gathered at Dhanmondi 32 residence of Bangabandhu. He compelled us to memorize the address of our shelter in India being house named Sani Villa at 21 Rajendra Road at Northern Park in Bhobanipur of Kolkata.
We left Keraniganj for Kolkata on March 29. We reached the destination on April 4 via Dohar-Nawabganj, Manikganj, Sirajganj and Bogra. First Prime Minister of Bangladesh Tajuddin Ahmad and Barrister Amir-Ul Islam visited the place and met us.
On April 10, a two-page document, Proclamation of Independence, was adopted at Mujibnagar, the then Baidyanath Tola, of Meherpur district.
Bangladesh Gana Parishad was formed with elected members of provincial assembly and was announced. The document endorsed declaration of independence by Bangabandhu.
Sixth paragraph of the document says Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the undisputed leader of 75 million of people of Bangladesh, in due fulfillment of the legitimate right of self-determination of the people of Bangladesh, duly made a declaration of independence at Dacca on March 26, 1971, and urged the people of Bangladesh to defend the honour and integrity of Bangladesh.
Paragraph 10 reads “We the elected representatives of the people of Bangladesh…..declare and constitute Bangladesh to be a sovereign People’s Republic and thereby confirm the declaration of independence already made by Bangabandhu Skeikh Mujibur Rahman.”
The country came into being as the Peoples’ Republic of Bangladesh with Bengali nationality, equity, human dignity social justice as state principles.
As per the Proclamation the first Government, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was President of the newly emerged country and Syed Nazrul Islam was Vice- President.
The President was the Supreme Commander of all the Armed Forces of the Republic. He had authority to exercise all the executive and legislative powers of the Republic including power to grant pardon, levy taxes and spend monies. He was capable of appointing Prime Minister and cabinet members.
The document vested authority in the Vice-President to run the state if the President is unable to function for any reason. As Bangabandhu was confined in Pakistan jail, his power was delegated to the Vice-President.
As the provision of Proclamation of Independence, Syed Nazrul Islam served as Acting President in absence of Bangabandhu.
The Order began working as the second Constitution of the country until a new one was adopted on 4 November 1972 and came into force on 16 December 1972.
Tazuddin Ahmad acted as Prime Minister, Capt. M Monsur Ali as finance minister, AHM Quamruzzaman home minister and Khondaker Mostaq Ahmad foreign minister. Col. MAG Osmani was appointed Commander-in-Chief of Bangladesh Army. The Proclamation of Independence came into effect from March 26, the day Bangabandhu declared independence. In fact, Proclamation of Independence was the Constitution of Bangladesh during the period of liberation war.
On April 17, 1971, members of first government of the independent Bangladesh took oath in Mujibnagar in the light of the Constitution. I used to visit bordering areas with Tajuddin Bhai. Once, Tajuddin Bhai, Barrister Amir-Ul Islam, Moni Bhai and me traveled to Siliguri by a special plane. We could hear Indian radio broadcasting recorded speech of Tajuddin. The people of Bangladesh were uncompromising in their demands for independence. They were united over the issue.
However, on the eve of the oath-taking ceremony, I escorted Moni Bhai, Siraj Bhai, Razzak Bhai to Baidyanath Tola. I was one of four top leaders of Mujib Bahini. In the early hours of April 16, we left Kolkata for Mujibnagar, the first capital of independent Bangladesh. We arrived in a mango grove there at the time of sunrise. Many foreign journalists accompanied us prompting us to strict maintain secrecy. It was feared that Pakistani forces might drop bombs on the spot. Huge people from the neighbourhood and adjoining areas also gathered there. The air was thick with constant chanting of ‘Joy Bangla’ slogans. The whole world witnessed a newly born democratic state.
It was Saturday. At 11.10am, a group of top leaders marched towards the stage. Huge number of pro-liberation people chanted Joy Bangla slogan. Its loud sound pierced the silence. A small stage was erected for the oath. Acting President Syed Nazrul Islam was first take the stage. A smartly turned out contingent of armed forces led by SDPO Mahbubuddin Ahmed of Jhenaidah gave gun salute to him. It was turn for Tajuddin Ahmed, other cabinet members and Army Commander-in-Chief Col Osmani to ascend to the stage. The volunteers felicitated them with showers of flowers. Abdul Mannan, chairman of the Board of Editors of the weekly Jai Bangla and Member of Constituent Assembly, moderated the oath-taking ceremony. Chief Whip Prof Yusuf Ali read out the Proclamation of Independence. The sky was cloudy. As the flag of independent Bangladesh was hoisted, the four heroic sons of the soil rendered national anthem. We lent our voice to the chorus.
Speaking on the occasion, Acting President Syed Nazrul Islam said to have appointed Tajuddin Ahmed prime minister. In consultation with him, Nazrul Islam appointed three other ministers also.
At this stage, Nazrul Islam introduced prime minister and cabinet members to the crowd. Then he announced the names of Col. MAG Osmani and Col. Abdur Rab as Commander-in-Chief of Bangladesh Army and Chief of Army Staff.
Syed Nazrul Islam said, “Our President and leader Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was imprisoned for waging movement for political, economic and cultural emancipation of the repressed people. The country was sure to get independence through the movement led by him.”
Tajuddin Ahmed delivered an exquisite speech after his oath. He said “Pakistan is dead today. It is buried under the splendid piles of bodies of the people it killed. Yahya Khan should have imagined consequence before resorting to mass-killing. He invited disaster for Pakistan. Eventually, he solicited support from all countries in the sacred fight for existence which deserves recognition.
The duo said everything rising to the occasion. Their deliberations were full of suggestion and guidance. Meherpur Sub-Divisional Officer Tqwfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury and internationally renowned journalists were present at the event.
An independent state was created with maiden government fulfilling expectation of the people and adhering to the constitution. Its legal basis was derived from Proclamation of Independence. Later, the nation kissed the golden hue of independence. But the war took a heavy toll on life and property. As many as 30 lakh people were killed and two lakh women were violated by Pakistani soldiers and their collaborators.
Bangladesh was established following declaration of independence on April 10 and first government was formed on April 17. The two dates are historically important.
This year the people of the country observed Genocide Day on March 25. On March 11, parliament unanimously adopted a resolution to observe March 25 as Genocide Day, marking the brutality shown by Pakistani Army who swooped on the unarmed Bengalis on the black night of March 25, 1971.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina told the House that Bangladesh is advancing nullifying conspiracies and surmounting impediments. “We will not bow our head to the evil force,” she added. Bangladesh is now working to get international recognition of the Genocide Day.
But BNP chief Khaleda Zia took different stand. She did not observe Genocide Day. She does not ideologically agree with it. Her approach is tantamount to betrayal with the liberation war martyrs.
Indian extended all-out support to the people of Bangladesh during liberation war in 1971. Many of its soldiers laid down their lives. The country pulled back its soldiers on March 12, 1972. Acting on request of Bangabandhu, the country took immediate decision to withdraw its forces. But a vested quarter accused the Prime Minister of selling the country to India during her recent visit there. Such accusation is unjust and politically motivated.
On the 47th anniversary of Mujibnagar Day, we hope that Awami League government led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will march toward building golden Bangladesh as envisaged by her father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
The writer is Awami League leader, lawmaker and Commerce Minister of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh). He maybe reached at: Tofailahmed69@gmail.com
Translated by Anonna Reza, a sub-editor
at daily sun