Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman is a name that is embedded in the hearts of millions of the people of Bangladesh. He was that type of a leader who created electrifying emotion among the whole nation to fight for the independence. From the very beginning of his childhood Bangabandhu was strongly involved in politics. As a matter of fact, he was a born leader who transformed into a great leader over the periods of time. Therefore, words of appreciation will fall short in our endeavour to describe Bangabandhu and his contribution to the cause of creation of Bangladesh.
On 7th March 1971, when he came on the dais, the people sitting in the front along with the whole nation were excitedly waiting to listen to him. Taking the responsibility of the nation on his head, Bangabandhu stood on the peak of a thousand years of history. It was the most important period of his life as any puerile decision could have destroyed the momentum of the movement that reached at the peak. He started addressing the people without any written script. But, once he started speaking he incorporated all possible facts in his address. Although it was not a formal declaration of independence of the country but it was an informal proclamation of the independence when he announced it in an ear splitting voice at a massive rally at the Racecourse Maidan (now Suhrawardy Uddyan) in Dhaka that “Ebarer sangram aamader muktir sangram, ebarer sangram swadhinatar sangram (This struggle is for our freedom, this struggle is for our independence).His voice was so stentorian that created an emotional atmosphere at the Racecourse Maidan. Using common men’s language and dialect, he spontaneously expressed his powerful feelings in order to inspire and prepare the countrymen to fight against the Pakistani ruler. The sobriety of the influence of his speech was so strong that the international periodical ‘Newsweek” branded Bangabandhu as a ‘Poet of Politics” in the cover story of their 5th April issue. Through his lyrical poetry, he managed to enthral millions of Bangladeshis to remain united for the cause of independence of the country. His style of speaking was so poetic that created a poignant afflatus among the people of Bangladesh. His speech could still create the same amount of perturbation among the people if we listen to it even after 46 years. Considering the enormity of the speech, many have compared it with two other great speeches of the World which were ‘Gettysburg Address” of Abraham Lincoln and “I have a Dream” speech of Martin Luther King Junior.
The above discussion briefly sketches the phraseology and emotional aspect of the 7th month speech. Now, a pertinent question is: what was the significance of this speech of Bangabandhu in the context of the independence of Bangladesh? The timing of the speech was so accurate that it was delivered at the pinnacle of the moment when the tension mounted sky high on the issue of the autonomy among the then East Pakistan and the powerful political and military establishment of West Pakistan. Taking the intrigue of the West Pakistani rule into consideration, he chose the right time to provide a guideline before the countrymen so that they could prepare them for the civil disobedience movement in the province. Thus, he instructed the countrymen by saying that “protteck ghore ghore durgo gore tolo” (prepare every house as a fortress). The strength of his direction was so strenuous that the countrymen started raising their voice by uttering the slogan like “Sab Kother Shesh Kotha, Bangladesher Swadhinata” (The final word is the independence of Bangladesh), and “Bir Bangalee Ostro Dhoro, Bangladesh Swadhin Koro” (Brave Bangalee, Take up Arms to Make Bangladesh Free). As a matter of fact, through his speech he drew a sketch of independence. That is why, he concluded his speech by saying that “Rokto Jokhon Dyechhi, Rokto Aro Debo, Kintu Edesher Manuske Mukto Kore Chharbo Insha-Allah” (Since we have shed blood, we shall shed much until, by the grace of the Almighty, we make people free).
Through delivering the 7th March speech Bangabandhu established the fact that he was not only a matured politician but also an experienced diplomat. Accordingly, he used diplomatic language in declaring the independence instead of making a formal declaration. Through adopting a diplomatic strategy he wanted to attain two objectives. First, he tried to inspire the countrymen to make them prepared to fight for the independence. Second, he wanted to allow some time to the Pakistani ruler so that they could comprehend the magnitude of the situation and accept the demand of the people of East Pakistan.
The palpable consequence of the 7th March speech was that it compelled President Yahya Khan to come to Dhaka on the 15th of March to hold a dialogue with Bangabandhu in order to find ways of resolving the ongoing political crisis in East Pakistan. Unfortunately, no positive result came out of the meeting as Yahya adopted the policy of passing some time, so that he could prepare his army in East Pakistan to conduct a massacre. And this eventually happened at the midnight of 25 March when the Pakistani army killed thousands of Bangalis in the name of “Operation Searchlight” which ultimately closed all doors for negotiation. This monstrous act of the Pakistani rulers compelled Bangabandhu to make the formal declaration of independence at the early hours of March 26 before he got detained by the Pakistani army.
The political implication of this speech was great as various groups and lobbies were creating pressure on him in order to take a straight forward decision regarding the ongoing movements. Therefore, he chose such a time when the sense of deprivation among the people was sky high. Moreover, despite an overwhelming victory in the 1970 elections, the Pakistani government refused to delegate Sheikh Mujib the authority to govern the state. Hence, the magnitude of the situation was very ticklish as any blunder could have put the momentum of the movement in menace. That is why, Bangabandhu was very careful in choosing simple words with natural metaphors so that he could create a stirring subtlety among the people of Bangladesh. As a matter of fact, his dedication and modesty created a thrilling stimulation among the listeners.
Finally, it can be said that 7th March speech changed the course of the history of Bangladesh by uniting the whole nation to fight against the Pakistani rulers to fulfil their long cherished desire of becoming an independent country in the world map. The consequence of the speech was so sturdy that a noted historian Jacob, F. A. Field recognised it as one of the world’s famous speeches in his book entitled “We Shall Fight on the Beaches: the Speeches That Inspired History”.The eminence of this speech remains the same till today. That is why; UNESCO has recognised this historic 7th March speech of Bangabandhu as part of the world’s documentary heritage in 2017. This recognition has elongated the boundary of the speech beyond Bangladesh and made it a source of impetus for the whole world.
The writer is a Professor of Public Administration at the University of Rajshahi.