MUJIBNAGAR GOVERNMENT—A LANDMARK IN OUR LIBERATION WAR
Dr Md Shairul Mashreque and Dr M. Abul Kashem Mozumder
The emergence of Mujibnagar Government 41 years ago on 17 April 1971 is really a milestone in our national history. The 167 MNAs and 293 MPs who composed the Constituent Assembly fulfilling their constitutional obligation to the electors, gave a true shape and constitutional perspective making the dream of an independent Bangladesh a reality. From this point of view, Mujibnagar day (April 17) is a landmark in our struggle for independence as well as in our national history. The veteran leaders of Awami League gathered at Meherpur to proclaim that ‘out of the debris of a fast enveloping war had emerged a government, the overriding purpose behind the deed being the liberation of the land.”
The president of the war cabinet at Mujibnagar was Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman; Syed Nazrul Islam became the Acting President in the absence of Bangabandhu; Tajuddin Ahmed, the Prime Minister; M. Mansur Ali, the Finance Minister; M. Quamruz Zaman, the Home, Relief and Rehabilitation Minister; and Khandakar Mustaque Ahmed, Foreign Affairs and Law Minister. General M. A. G. Osmani who was then a retired colonel and MNA elected from Awami League were made the C-in-C of the Bangladesh armed forces. To quote a columnist:
“The formation of the Mujibnagar government had great significance for the fact that the great men who gave leadership to this great event in the absence of our supreme leader and continued the armed struggle for the following eight months, having allowed no breach in the unity of their people, was one of the cornerstones of our total Liberation War, fought valiantly involving everyone, and above all kept our leader alive in the minds of every freedom fighter as if he was fighting side by side with them.”
The creation of April 17 in fact gave the war effort a fuller meaning. It cemented the unity of the people, brought the world closer to the existence of freedom fighters, made the war efforts bloom in its full focus, and realised the presence of Bangladesh in the comity of nations. It was in effect a formal introduction to the rest of the world of the nature of the political leadership that was set to guide the nation into a concerted and organised war of national independence.
The Mujibnagar Government was well organised as war cabinet. It contained “an elaborate structure of administrative departments, agencies and activities”. The Herculean task before the government was “coordinating the guerrilla insurgency” and bolstering popular support by its political organisational network. To cite Wikipedia:
The Mujibnagar Government organised a network of agencies in an attempt to establish a structure of government and leadership, as a credible alternative to the government of Pakistan. The Mujibnagar Government’s efforts primarily focused on organising relief for civilian refugees fleeing from the Pakistani army, recruiting and training volunteers for the guerrilla forces and using a wide variety of communications and media to project the nationalist message to the people in East Pakistan and across the world. The Mujibnagar Government also appointed envoys to India and other countries in the hope of obtaining foreign political support for the goal of an independent Bangladesh.
* Planning Commission: Muzaffar Ahmed Chowdhury, Mosharraf Hossain; Anisuzzaman, Khan Sarwar Murshid, Swadesh Ranjan
* S. R. Mirza: Director, Youth Camp
* M. R. Akhtar Mukul: Director, Department of Information and Publicity
* Abdul Jabbar Khan: Director, Department of Films
* Quamrul Hasan: Director, Department of Arts and Design
* J.G.Bhowmik: Relief Commissioner
* T. Hossain: Director, Department of Health
* Envoys: Abu Sayeed Chowdhury, Humayun Rashid Choudhary, Hossain Ali
The Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra (Free Bangladesh Radio Centre) was the primary broadcasting service used by the nationalists to project their messages to the population of Bangladesh, after the conventional media was suppressed and controlled by Pakistani state forces. The radio service was a major operation of the government-in-exile, as it was its primary means to encourage nationalists, garner popular support and preserve a sense of direction and information amongst the population. The radio service broadcast political news and music programme in Bengali, English and Urdu.
The personnel involved in radio service included among others: Ashfaqur Rahman Khan, Shahidul Islam, T H Shikdar, Balal Mohammad, Taher Sultan, Kamal Lohani, Nasimul Quader Chowdhury (Bangla news), Aly Zaker (English news), Alamgir Kabir (English news commentary), Zahid Siddiqui (In-charge of Urdu programme), Samar Das and Ajit Ray (Music), Hasan Imam, (In-charge of Drama), Ashraful Alam (Outdoor broadcasting and interviews), Syed Abdus Shakoor and Rezaul Karim Chowdhury (Engineering).
The government in exile organised war against Pakistani occupation army and their Bengali quislings. It provided leadership, unity and direction to the guerrilla war for liberating occupied areas flushing out the Pakistan state forces and their allies. Many historians believe that “without the explicit and organised government-in-exile, the guerrilla resistance to Pakistani forces would have been fragmented, disorganised and ineffectual.” Many scholars and political observers believe that “the Mujibnagar Government was a symbolic centre of the nationalist struggle, and served the essential purpose of lifting the morale of revolutionaries and those who supported the Awami League’s campaign for Bangladesh. The Mujibnagar Government sought to serve as a credible alternative and counterpart to the Pakistani government, a system of political leadership distinct from the Indian government and a major contender for territorial control.”
Every year Mujibnagar day is observed in a meaningful way because of the great cause that it upheld with firm determination and unequivocal commitment.
The writers are respectively Professor of Public Administration, Chittagong University and, Professor of Public Administration, Jahangirnagar University.