7th of March 1971 is just yet another day in the daily calendar but stands immortalised in the history of Bengali nationalism — made so by a rare and magnificent feat of political eloquence. The quality of the speech, delivered by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the father of the nation, its inspiring and mesmerising character have hardly been paralleled in the contemporary political history of the world, the closest comparable being the speech delivered by American Civil Rights Leader Martin Luther King Jr. on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC, where he brought home the message of a dream of a non-discriminatory multiracial America.
The speech of 7th of March, galvanised the deepest-held political aspirations and frustrations of a majority fighting for decades for their legitimate rights, denied by the manipulative design of an insensitive minority. The struggle followed its classical course of designing of political programmes, demand for its implementation inside the so-called parliament, street protest, facing the ruthless use of the instruments of oppression against the people and their political leaders yet the march of the movement for political rights continued on its designed course — the Six-Point programme Agartola conspiracy case, the mass movement of 1969 — to name a few. Constitutional movements conducted within the context of a repressive and manipulative political culture inevitably tend to lead to armed struggle; it has happened in the Palestine of Yasser Arafat, in South Africa of charismatic Nelson Mandela, in Ho Chi Minh’s Vietnam — all inevitable products of this dynamics of history. Bangladesh was no exception.
Events leading to the 7th of March witnessed the last act in the political drama in the collapse of Pakistan following the cancellation of the session of National Assembly; the country-wide street agitation the virtual collapse of the Pakistani Administration and the emergence of Bangabandhu as the virtual administrator of former East Pakistan. The public enthusiasm for a movement reached a militant height ready to be ignited with the smallest spark. The stage was just set for the ultimate act.
7th of March was a call for an armed struggle because of the futility of a constitutional redress to the pangs of the Bengali nation which was starkly demonstrated before the political leadership. Ebarer Sangram Muktir Sangram — Ghare Ghare Durgo Gore Tolo — Tomader Ja Ase Ta Niye Shatrur Mokabela Koro – what would be clearer than this inspiring call to take arms and signal a message of the abandonment of constitutional struggle to the Pakistani junta and and the world?
Ebarer Sangram Muktir Sangram, Ebarer Sangram Shadhinatar Sangram was a clear call for an Independent Bangladesh. This message for an armed struggle to establish an independent Bangladesh was delivered with majesty of eloquence and political drama, toughening the inner soul of every Bengali inspiring him to achieve the impossible. The outline of the speech was not previously designed by a crafted speech writer — nor was it rehearsed. It was the spontaneous and thunderous expression of a political mind consumed by a relentless passion for the love of the common man and the establishment of his right; it was the expression of an uncompromising, bold and courageous mind prepared to gamble with life for the fulfilment of the ideals the speaker — the Bangabandhu — believed in. A consumed passion spoke out in the Race Course Maidan, combined the mystic virtue of courage, love for his country and its people. Bangladesh was born with an unsung majesty.
Unquestionably 7th of March is and must remain a treasured part of Bangladesh history. It will tell an inspiring, colourfull and glorious tale of the fight of an unarmed nation for its sovereign existence to all future generations. Nations get glorified by preserving treasures; they appear small at indifference, smaller when it is administered indifference. 7th of March is not a partisan day — it was the majestic expression of a nation’s voice, its right to declare its existence, its determined endeavour voiced by someone with deep commitment to a cause and his uncompromising willingness to suffer and die for that cause — fearless, daring, uncompromising and yet armed with a serene confidence in the content of his message. Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib declared what destiny asked him to do.
Since the day is admittedly a part of our political heritage, its dignity must be preserved and be a shared responsibility. The story of 7th March needs to be told and retold to all successive generations, its audio and video preservations played and replayed as a tribute to those who attended that historic meeting and the countless others who also got inspired to die for the founding of their motherland.
Dereliction from this responsibility will amount to a disrespect for the day, irresponsible and immoral.
MARCH 07, 2016
The article was first published in The Daily Star on March 7, 2006.
The writer is a former civil servant.