Friday, March 24, 2017

Relive 26th March, 1971: An anecdote of the places where history was made

Nusrat Noshin

The history behind 26th March, 1971 is encrusted with stories that still give us excitement and

chills every time we are reminded of them, which just sheds light on how important this date is.

The incident starts in the year 1970, when East Pakistan finally got a fair chance in gaining

political prowess and the ability to correct the tyranny they have been facing for years. The first

ever free election of Pakistan took place where the Awami League led by Bangabandhu Sheikh

Mujibur Rahman unanimously won the election in both provinces. He was promised the prompt

transfer of power from Yahya Khan but the negotiation was later broken off due to opposition

from the Pakistani army. The party was barred from taking over the parliament.

The Ramna Race Course:

Realizing that East Pakistan could not usurp the suppression and discrimination they were

facing from the other side through fair means, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman decided to take a radical

step. On 7th March, 1971 he delivered his legendary speech at the Ramna Race Course in front

of thousands of civilians where he urged them to prepare themselves for a war; the fight for

freedom. He motivated them into thinking that it was honorable to sacrifice and die fighting as

long as it was for the independence of the country. This was his way of preparing the nation for

the biggest war to be embossed in our country’s history.

Yahya Khan and Benazir Bhutto were yet to deal with Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and his rapidly

growing popularity. They stayed back in Dhaka for further negotiations but soon had to leave

because of what the Pakistani army was brewing.

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s well-received speech not only amalgamated the East Pakistanis as a

united nation, it also made them a force to be reckoned with. This was very bad news for West

Pakistan and hence, to stir things up the West Pakistani army planned a crackdown which was

later known to be as the infamous “Operation Searchlight”. On the evening of 25th March

Bangabandhu and the other party leaders were informed of the impending ambush from Bengali

army insiders after which all the leaders fled to Kolkata except Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Despite

heart-felt persuasions to flee with his peers, he granted them freedom and asked them to

preserve the independence of Bangladesh while saying farewell. At 10pm, the Pakistani army

commenced with the operation.

University of Dhaka:

The raid targeted many crucial places of the city like Pilkhana but one of the memorable and

tragic incidents of that night was the massacre of the students of the University of Dhaka. The

Pakistanis held a grudge against the people associated with this institution since 1952 when the

students gallantly stepped forward to disobey the section 144 rule which subsequently led to the

language movement. This made the students a crucial part in the fight for freedom.

The army broke into the halls and murdered thousands of unarmed students, along with other

civilians and intellectuals within Dhaka. Not being able to tolerate it anymore, Sheikh Mujibur

Rahman sent a wireless telegram to Chittagong and instructed the other party leaders to

proclaim independence. The message was sent at around midnight of the 25th March and

shortly after that he was arrested by the attacking army as a part of their operation.

Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra:

The Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra radio station was widely used by the Bengali Nationalists

during the war; it was first famously utilized by Major Ziaur Rahman. After the message

transmission was made by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Major Ziaur Rahman made the first

historical declaration of independence on the afternoon of 26th March. The session lasted for

around seven minutes but due to poor quality, it was broadcasted again the next evening.

26 th March is considered as the day of independence for Bangladesh because it was the day

when Bangladesh as a nation decided that she will no longer be a part of Pakistan and instead

give her people an independent land and identity. This neither meant that other countries

considered Bangladesh as free entity, nor did it indicate that Bangladesh attained free

governance, because it took the following nine months to earn full freedom from the Pakistanis.

This day simply marks the day when the fight for our liberation started.

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