About 7th March
On that momentous day in Bangladesh’s history over one million people gathered in the Ramna Racecourse Ground to hear from their undisputed leader about the future direction of their struggle for justice and freedom.
On this day people came to Ramna expecting to hear the unilateral declaration of independent from Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. They came in their droves armed with the local lati-bamboo sticks, ready and willing to march to overtake the military cantonments and liberate the country.
On the other hand the Pakistani army was ready to crash the rebellion at any cost. Here is how Lieutenant General Yakub describes the battle readiness of the Pakistan Army:
‘’ Tell him (Mujib) I will be there (at the Ramna Racecourse) to save him from the wrath of the extremists. But tell him, too, that if he talks against the integrity of Pakistan, I will muster all I can- tanks, artillery and machine-guns- to kill all the traitors and, if necessary, raze Dacca to the ground. There will be no one to rule, there will be nothing to rule’’. (Witness to Surrenders)
Mujib rose to the occasion and proved once again that he was a master and poet of politics. He judiciously presented a clear road map for the independence of Bangladesh without giving the Pakistani regime the opportunity to unleash the army on his armless people and kill-off their struggle for the justice and freedom on the pretext of being secessionists. Here is how an observing Pakistani army officer remarked about the meeting on7th March:
‘’ The crowds that had surged to the Race Course dispersed like a receding tide. They looked like a religious congregation returning from mosques or churches after listening to a satisfying sermon. They lacked the fury which might have motivated them to charge on the cantonment- as many of us apprehended. The reaction to the speech in the Martial Law Headquarters was that of relief. A senior officer, replying to telephone call from Headquarters, Chief Martial Law Administrator, said “This is the best speech under the circumstances”. (Witness to Surrenders)
Nonetheless, while exercising his legal and democratic rights Mujib told the Pakistani regimes clearly and unequivocally what they need to do in order to preserve the unity of Pakistan: withdraw martial law, return the army to the barracks, dispense justice to the victims and transfer power to the elected representatives of the people. He also forewarned them of the consequences of failure to adhere to these demands. In doing so Mujib left very little room for the military regime to manoeuvre. Yet provided plenty of space for his people to prepare to attain their final objective – the independence without experiencing the tragic fate of Biafra.
Here is how poet Nirmalendu Goon immortalised 7th March:
In the twinkling of an eye, roaring water jumped up
on the boat, hearts of the masses got stirred,
the ocean of people roared in tidal waves,
windows were opened one by one.
Who dares to resist his thunder-voice?
Rocking the sunny stage of people
the poet enthralled them with his immortal poem:
‘Struggle this time is the struggle for our freedom.
Struggle this time is the struggle for independence.’
Since then, the word ‘Independence’ has been ours.
The political and social commentators in Bangladesh and elsewhere believe that without declaring the formal independence and endangering the lives of his people Mujib has indeed liberated Bangladesh on this day.