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The Birth Of Nationalism & A Nation

Ahead of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Bangladesh for taking part in Birth Centenary Celebrations of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (March 17, 1920 – August 15, 1975), New Delhi honoured the Father of the Nation of the neighbouring country with the Gandhi Peace Prize 2020. The Indian Ministry of Culture confirmed the news, stating that it was a tribute to the hero of Bangladesh’s Independence on the occasion of his Birth Centenary.

According to diplomatic sources, the announcement by the Government of India set the tone for the PM’s visit. The Indian premier arrived in Dhaka on March 26 for a two-day visit. On Twitter, the Indian PM wrote: “Gandhi Peace Prize 2020 has been conferred on Bangabandhu (Friend of Bengal) Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, one of the greatest leaders of our Subcontinent. Year 2020 marked the Birth Centenary of Bangabandhu. He remains an icon of indomitable courage and tireless struggle for his millions of admirers.” He further mentioned that the Bangabandhu had not only inspired the Liberation of Bangladesh, but also brought stability to a nation born out of strife, laid the foundation for the close and fraternal relations between India and Bangladesh, and promoted Peace and Non-violence in the Indian Subcontinent.

Indian PM paying tribute to Sheikh Mujib

The Global Community has honoured the Bangabandhu for his contributions to the Liberation of Bangladesh time and again. Preservation of heritage is one of the hallmarks of the Global Culture. That is why the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) declares the most valuable global events as heritage of world culture every year. On October 30, 2017, the UN agency had included the historic 7th March Speech of Bangabandhu in the Memory of the World International Register, a list of world’s important documentary heritage, having global significance, maintained by UNESCO. The objective of creating the International Register is to ensure preservation of, and access to documentary heritage in various parts of the world.

Sheikh Mujib had delivered that historic speech at a mammoth rally at the then Ramna Racecourse Ground (now Suhrawardy Udyan) in Dhaka on March 7, 1971. On that day, he had shared his experience of staying in Pakistan for 23 years with his countrymen. According to the Bangabandhu, those 23 years were horrible, painful, and oppressive! In one sense, the speech was delivered by a politician living in a colony who had shown his countrymen the path of Freedom in the light of his experience! He had shared the Colonial History of Bangladesh (or then East Pakistan) with the people on March 7, 1971.

The March 7 Speech

After arriving on the stage on that historic day, Sheikh Mujib kept his black heavy-framed spectacles on the table. In a calm and solemn voice, he told a gathering of over one million people: “My dear brothers, I have come before your today with a heavy heart. All of your know how hard we have tried.” There was no piece of paper in front of him, as he delivered the 19-minute speech without taking a pause. His face contorted and voice trembled with emotion, but the impression of firm promise was manifested in his entire being! Those, who were present at the Racecourse Ground, realised that their leader was not in a mood to compromise with the Rulers from (West) Pakistan! Launching verbal attacks on the Government of Pakistan in Islamabad, he told the crowd: “Only do not attempt to aim any more bullets at our hearts: It will not do any good!… And the seven million people of this land (then East Pakistan and now Bangladesh) will not be cowed down by you or accept suppression any more. The Bengali people have learned how to die for a cause and you will not be able to bring them under your yoke of suppression!” At the end of his speech, Sheikh Mujib stressed: “You must prepare yourselves now with what little you have for the struggle ahead. Since we have given blood, we will give more of it. But, Insha’Allah, we will free the people of this land! The struggle this time is for Emancipation! The struggle this time is for Independence!

It may be noted that Bangabandhu, first, mentioned the word that stood for Emancipation in a broader sense… this Emancipation meant Liberation from all the Chains of Colonialism! He used to think that the essence of Freedom is limited. Hence, he called the Movement against Pakistan towards Self-Determination a War of Liberation. That is why three of the four main elements of the 1972 Constitution were: Democracy, Socialism and Secularism. Bangabandhu’s final words were: “The struggle this time is for Independence!” The only goal of his life was a free Bengal. Hence, he ended his speech with that word.

Sheikh Mujib

It is not a common feat to deliver such a balanced, but emotional speech in a crisis situation! Bangabandhu had to prepare his countrymen for the Liberation War within the framework of a State. At the same time, he had to tackle the Separatists. Basically, this speech was a warrant of Liberation of Bengalis. The Bengalis rejected Pakistan, and accepted Sheikh Mujib as their much revered and beloved leader. In that historic speech, he described the Past, Present and Future of his Dream Nation at the same time. He narrated the pain of Bangladesh (then East Pakistan) of being a colony of Pakistan before describing the contemporary situation. And then, he shared his plan to defeat the enemies in future. This speech still inspires the Global Community to fight against Dictatorship and Injustice. It also reminds one of why and how to prevent Injustice.

Sheikh Mujib’s speech united the Bengalis. He followed a Democratic, as well as Armed Approach, for the Liberation of Bengalis. Perhaps, the Bangabandhu realised that the Pakistani rulers would not agree to resolve the issue in a democratic manner. Hence, he instructed his countrymen to be prepared for an armed struggle. His March 7 speech changed the entire nation. The second phase of the Non-cooperation Movement (in the Indian Subcontinent) became stronger. People started considering the Bangabandhu’s instructions as Government Order. Dr Burhanuddin Khan Jahangir (January 9, 1936 – March 23, 2020), a Bangladeshi academic and writer who was honoured with the Bangla Academy Literary Award in 1969 and the Ekushey Padak in 2009, said that the foundation of the State of Bangladesh was laid through the Non-cooperation Movement. He also said that the Movement was aimed at rejecting the structure of the State prescribed by Pakistan. According to Dr Jahangir, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman successfully transformed this Movement into the Birth of an Independent Nation through his political activities!

Indian PM with his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina, the daughter of Bangabandhu

This is the perspective that prompted the UNESCO to include the March 7 Speech in the list of world’s important documentary heritage. One of the provinces of Pakistan, where Bengalis were the majority, was not at all happy with the Federal Government. It is because the Bengalis had to follow the Culture and Instructions of Urdu-speaking minorities. One Bengali leader wanted to free his countrymen from this situation. Interestingly, Bangabandhu, being a leader of the majority, tried his best to resolve the issue in a democratic manner!

This historic speech of Bangabandhu created a Parallel State within a State! From that point of view, Bangladesh was born on March 7, 1971. From that day, people decided to follow his instructions. They chose not to give way to the demands made by Pakistan. This way, Bangladesh continued to advance towards March 25, 1971. One can find the essence of Liberation of the World in Bangabandhu’s March 7 Speech! The World joins the year-long celebrations of the Birth Centenary of Sheikh Mujib with Bangladesh!

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