The events of March left gaping holes in the Awami League leadership. The directing hand of its revitaliser Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who was arrested and his fate not known, was now missing. Out of this turbulent time a provisional government in exile was formed.
Tajuddin Ahmad, the 45-year-old General Secretary of Awami League, had visited Sheikh Mujib's home at Dhanmondi in the evening of 25 March 1971. However, failing to convince Sheikh Mujib to go underground as planned, Tajuddin returned home swiftly.
Tajuddin stood aghast in Bangabandhu's residence, hours before the crackdown, when his beloved leader told him that he would not be participating in the struggle and that Tajuddin should relax at home and get some sleep. Bangabandhu, being the emotionally charged leader he was, perhaps felt that if he surrendered it would help mitigate the Pakistani regime's brutality towards his people. The masses would revolt and demand the release of their beloved leader as they had done during the Agartala case.
With no instruction given to him or the upper echelon of Awami League leaders, Tajuddin returned home visibly flustered. After pacing up and down the corridor in disbelief at the nation's predicament, he began to collect his thoughts; this was no Agartala. The Pakistani regime's decades of mounting social, cultural, and racial oppression coupled with economic extortion reminiscent of British colonial rule had risen to a fever pitch.
The regime's refusal to hand over power to a democratically elected Awami League was the final straw. The breakdown in relations had reached the point of no return. An independent Bangladesh was the only solution the people would be satisfied with. Having made up his mind Tajuddin grabbed his rifle and embarked upon his singularly heroic quest. He would muster every ounce of his seasoned political skills to navigate through the treacherous terrain ahead.
Anxious and wary of the imminent crackdown by Pakistani military, Tajuddin Ahmad filled a side bag with his clothes, a rifle and a pistol and was picked up from his house after 9 pm by Dr. Kamal Hossain, the 33-year-old Awami League's constitutional advisor, and Amirul Islam, a 33-year-old eminent lawyer and Awami League member. Clad only in Punjabi and lungi, Tajuddin Ahmad jumped into the black car hoping to escape the military onslaught. As the three young protagonist set off they were stopped by Muzaffar Ahmed, a MP from Comilla, who warned them not to take the New Market road as the Pakistani army was approaching from that side. Thus they went a different direction.
Minutes later the Pakistani army surrounded Tajuddin Ahmad's home. However, his wife, Zohra Khatun 'Lily' was able to trick the soldiers by speaking Urdu and pretending to be a tenant of Tajuddin Ahmad. Few days later, Zohra was delivered a chit which Tajuddin Ahmad had written for her in the event of an emergency.
Due to leaving you so quickly I couldn't bid farewell to you all. I'm leaving, you join yourselves with the 75 million people, I don't know when we will meet again... AFTER LIBERATION.
Meanwhile, Dr. Kamal Hossain was dropped off at one of his relative in Dhaka, whilst the other two escapees attempted to seek shelter in neighbouring India.
Fleeing for days by car, boat, walking, and even by horse, they travelled relentlessly through Keraniganj and Faridpur (Kushtia District) not knowing whether their family and friends were alive or dead. Finally they reached Magura town (Khulna Division) on 31 March 1971, six days after fleeing Dhaka. Once there, they were searched by the Bengali guards - ironically members of their own Awami League party - who had failed to initially recognise the exhausted, unshaven, and haggardly pair. That same morning, the Sub-Divisional Police Officer of Jhenaidah who led the '11 Ansars', Mahbubuddin Ahmed (popularly known as SP Mahbub), met Tajuddin Ahmad and Amirul Islam and helped to take them to the Bangladesh-India border after making arrangement with Towfique-E-Elahi Chowdhury, the Sub-Divisional Officer of Meherpur. They set off from Magura 'incognito' in a jeep and arrived at Jibannagar (Khulna Division) later that evening.
In the middle of a jungle, waiting beside a small culvert (a tunnel carrying a stream or open drain) a pensive Tajuddin Ahmad despaired at the demise of Pakistan which he had passionately believed in.
We waited on a no man's land. There were tall deodar and pipul trees all around. There was a small, almost dried out canal and a small culvert - on one side was Tajuddin Ahmad and on the other side was myself. We almost lied down but it was very hot so we couldn't even lie comfortably. But being exhausted I was feeling drowsy, but Tajuddin sir looked pensive as if he was thinking far. I asked him 'What are you thinking? You look sad'. He smiled and said, "I was thinking something". I was then very excited and exultant a new history was being created and we were part of it and playing major roles, so I was very excited. But he said, "I was thinking I've been defeated". 'How come defeat? We're heading for a win' I said. He replied, "No, during the creation of Pakistan my Hindu classmates used to tell me that your Pakistan won't survive. By raising different points I would then point out why Pakistan would survive and what were the reasons for it to survive. Now, I'm losing in that debate which I used to have with my Hindu classmates..."
It was also during this time that, according to Tajuddin Ahmad's eldest daughter Sharmin Ahmad (a prominent human rights activist), Tajuddin Ahmad came up with the idea of a provisional Bengali government.
Bangladesh was going through the darkest period of its 24-years existence as the eastern wing of Pakistan. Politically, on the one hand, there was the spectacle of a captive Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. On the other, there was no clear sign of anyone else in the Awami League hierarchy, at least up to that point, taking control and reassuring the country that everything was on course, or soon would be. The call of duty was one that Tajuddin Ahmad heard loud and clear. In order for the Muktijuddho (Liberation War) to be channeled in a constructive and right direction, Tajuddin Ahmad deemed it necessary to form an independent Bangla government and notified Amirul Islam of this decision.
One important fact should be mentioned that the First Bangladesh Government was conceived by Tajuddin Ahmad on 30 March 1971. This historic idea to form a national government under whose banner people from all walks of life, who want to fight for independence can be united changed the course of history. This idea dawned on him on 30 March 1971 while he took a refuge under a culvert, in Kushtia, near the border. Barrister Amirul Islam was his companion in their escape to an unknown destiny.
Sharmin Ahmad, eldest daughter of Tajuddin Ahmad
Later that evening, Golok Bihari Majumder, the Inspector General of India's Border Security Force at Kolkata had received information that two senior leaders of Awami League had arrived at the Indian border near Banpur. When he reached there, he was met by Towfique-E-Elahi and Mahbubuddin Ahmed who confirmed the information and returned to Jibannagar. It was a dark night, and Golok Majumdar saw four muffled figures emerging from the shadows of the mango orchard before him. Having questioned the individuals, Golok came to find out one of them was Tajuddin Ahmad and the other was Amirul Islam. Subsequently, the commander and his border officers gave them a guard of honour - a protocol reserved for leaders of a sovereign country only.
Once on Indian soil, Tajuddin Ahmad and Amirul Islam were taken straight to Dum Dum Airport (currently Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport) in Kolkata and introduced to K. F. Rustamji, the first Director General and founding father of the Indian Border Security Force. The pair were bathed, shaven, fed and clothed by Punjabi and Pyajama donated by Rustamji from amongst his own clothes. Meanwhile, Rustamji telephoned Prime Minister Indira Gandhi who told him to send them immediately. Thus Tajuddin Ahmad and Amirul Islam was flown to the capital New Delhi to meet the Indian prime minister.
However, just like Golok Bihari Majumder, RAW and other Indian intelligence agencies had raised doubts about the identity of the two escapees. Fortunately for them, prominent Bengali economist Rehman Sobhan, who helped draft the 6-Dafa Karmasuchi (Six Point Programme) was residing in India at the time and he was able to confirm the identity of the two protagonist.
On 1 April 1971, whilst waiting for Indira Gandhi and information regarding the latest development within their beloved motherland, the three men - Tajuddin Ahmad, Amirul Islam and Rehman Sobhan - decided upon a Proclamation of Independence to announce to the rest of the world the creation of Bangladesh and formulated key demands for India. Tajuddin Ahmad met Indira Gandhi to explain his plans to form a government-in-exile. He knew that exile, both his and that of everyone else in this time of horror, would need to be purposeful. With this in mind, he lost no time in setting out the three men's plan for freeing Bangladesh of its murderous Pakistani presence.
Tajuddin Ahmad also requested recognition of the new country by India and informed her that he was meeting her as a minister and representative of the independent state and not to seek charity. However, Indira Gandhi said recognition would be given in "due time, the time of recognition did not come yet - first form a government".
The truth of the matter is that Mr. Tajuddin was a fiercely patriotic man. He knew that we were too small to do anything to a powerful country. We do not have that ability. But we do have our honour, we can’t and won’t accept anyone’s pity, which is the message he wanted to convey, nothing more nothing less.
...There was a popular image about him in some circles as a pro-Indian fellow. It was far from the truth. He was, in fact, a completely non-aligned person. The first six months after the end of the war, yes, I have seen him in a pretty pugnacious mood against the US because of their hostilities, but after that he became a pragmatic politician. He no longer held the view that he could support India, support Russia, but not the Americans. His attitude was this: during a war we may get help from somebody, may not get from some others, anything can happen in the course of the war, but that doesn’t tie us to a lifelong obligation of loyalty to any of them. No, that is not going to happen. Frankly, I do not believe Mr. Tajuddin was aligned to India in any way. He wasn’t the one to bend his knees to anyone. He didn’t have that kind of weak personality. If he had any strong feelings about any particular country, that was Bangladesh, his own country. He was, above all, a pro-Bangladeshi. In all the years I had the privilege of working with him I never saw him compromising on anything just because it was India. I worked with him for three years, never heard him say: alright, let it go, India is our friend. Nor did he ever believe that we had to be soft in our negotiations just because it was India. Never.
What he had, though, is gratitude. India gave us shelter, refuge, help, food, during the War, so he was grateful to them. But when it came to negotiating with them on matters of selling our jute to them or buying their fertilizer we would be just as tough with them as with anyone else. Mr. Tajuddin never asked us to go soft on them.
Nurul Islam, Deputy Chair of the First Planning Commission of Bangladesh
From New Delhi Tajuddin Ahmad and Amirul Islam flew to Siliguri, then Cooch Behar and finally arrived at the foothill of the Tura hills in Meghalaya province (north of Bangladesh). There they met with Syed Nazrul Islam and Abdul Mannan for the first time since the March crackdown and exchanged details on each others traumatic escape. Afterward, they flew off to Agartala, in Tripura province (next to the eastern border of Bangladesh).
On 10 April 1971 senior leaders of the Awami League and Bengali defectors from Pakistani civil and armed services formed a provisional government for Bangladesh called the "Gonoprojontontri Bangladesh Sthayi Shorkar" (People's Republic of Bangladesh). Plans for the new government-in-exile were outlined after a lot of deliberation, especially since Khondaker Mushtaq Ahmed had serious reservation. The veteran MP wanted to go to Makkah, Saudi Arabia and requested to be sent there. Later, after several discussion, he agreed to remain as foreign minister.
The Proclamation not only gave the government the legitimacy as was to be recognised by the world at large but it also gave a momentum to the war of liberation and particularly the "Mukti Bahini" operating in difficult situation for the objects acknowledged by the Proclamation for which many sacrificed their lives in order to liberate the country. Proclamation thus being based on sound legal and constitutional argument helped the freedom fighters gaining momentum in fighting a legitimate war and to receive such acknowledgment in the international media. This helped building the world opinion.
Pakistan's propaganda could not make any dent on our status and the legitimacy of the cause for self determination reinforced by our pledge to abide by the laws at all times 'whether in war or in peace'. The Proclamation thus made out a full proof case for Bangladesh.
...In this background, Proclamation of Independence was not only a necessity but also an imperative, as we owed to our people, freedom fighters and the world at large.
Like their predecessors Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Ziaur Rahman, the Mujibnagar Government also declared the independence of the new nation via a written Proclamation of Independence, two weeks after the famous informal radio declaration. They broadcasted the Declaration to the new nation via Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra on 10 April 1971.
We, the elected representatives of the people of Bangladesh, as honour bound by the mandate given to us by the people of Bangladesh, whose will is supreme, duly constituted ourselves into a Constituent Assembly, and having held mutual consultations, and in order to ensure for the people of Bangladesh equality, human dignity and social justice, declare and constitute Bangladesh to be sovereign People's Republic, and thereby confirm the declaration of independence already made by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, and do hereby affirm and resolve that till such time as a Constitution is framed, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman shall be the President of the Republic and that Syed Nazrul Islam shall be the Vice-President of the Republic, and that the President shall be the Supreme Commander of all the Armed Forces of the Republic...
Bangladesh Declaration of Independence by Mujibnagar Shorkar on 10 April 1971
Amirul Islam had written this proclamation, which was also read out on the formal swearing of the Mujibnagar Shorkar on 17 April 1971.
Prior to the cancellation of the 3rd March session of parliament by President Yahya, Barrister Amirul Islam, then the elected whip and close colleague of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, was tasked with organising a meeting of the Awami League Parliamentary party in Hotel Purbani, Dhaka, on 1 March 1971. In the meeting members discussed the approval of the draft Constitution of Pakistan on the basis of 6-dafa (Six Points) and 11-dafa (Eleven Points) Karmasuchi (Programme). However, after President Yahya announced the postponement of the session via radio, Barrister Amirul Islam drafted a resolution conferring and empowering Sheikh Mujib with all the powers to be exercised by him on behalf of all the elected members as well as the people of Bangladesh to take such decisions, make pronouncement and declaration as he would deem fit and necessary. This draft proclamation was unanimously passed and approved. Thus, when events took a turn for the worse after the Pakistani attack on 25 March 1971, it was logical that the declaration would be confirmed publicly at first available opportunity.
While drafting the Proclamation, a rare privilege, greater than any work I could have ever done, the awareness, alertness and articulations as flow from it, cannot be an expression of an individual. This could only can stem from the collective oneness of mind of a nation sharing together for realization of a dream inherited from our past generations and their experience culminated over centuries in to an urge to become the master of their own destiny; and that is the rare moment of history when individuals overcome their barriers and limitations otherwise inherent in physical existence distinct from the rest merging into a single entity becoming part of the process in the making of a Nation, a Country-a State in the family of nations so that we may prosper in freedom and may make our full contribution towards International peace and co-operation in keeping with the progressive aspirations of mankind.
Having had the privilege as member of the institute of International law and Comparative Studies and an active member of movement for colonial freedom in UK in early part of sixties headed by Lord Fenner Brockway and participating in active deliberation towards the need for two Covenants (ICCPR and ICESCR) while they were at conceptual/consultative/drafting stage for providing teeth to the 1948 UDHR, I carried those memories and experiences actively in my mind as well as those visions of understanding the right to self determination and human rights germinated since those days, helped me in drafting the Proclamation of Independence for our dream country to be named as People's Republic of Bangladesh.
Barrister Amirul Islam on his grand achievement
The Proclamation of Independence served as the interim Constitution of Bangladesh from 26 March 1971 to 16 December 1972 (when the country attained victory), and even received the status of 'genesis of Bangladesh Constitution' as pronounced by Bangladesh's Supreme Court in the Judgment of 8th Amendment case. It was simultaneously accompanied with 'Laws Continuance Enforcement Order', both dated 10th April, to come into effect since 26th March 1971. The Order permitted all laws which were in force on the 25th day of March 1971 to be continued in Bangladesh and subject to future change by competent Legislature or other competent authority when necessary.
Following the Declaration of Independence, Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra broadcasted a speech by Tajuddin Ahmad, the soon-to-be-formally-appointed first Prime Minister of Bangladesh. This was the first time he had addressed the new nation.
Efforts were underway to locate an ideal place for the formal inauguration of the new government. It was decided that the Bengali government would be formed on Bangladesh soil and not in India so that it can be accepted and interpreted as the will of the Bengalis and not be perceived as an Indian conspiracy to the delight of West Pakistani critics.
The Awami League leadership did not want to make the Proclamation and form the government in India as it would be branded as a puppet government of India and run the risk of losing its credibility.
They were determined to do this right inside Bangladesh territory, in public and with proper international media coverage.
Having searched the whole border area, K. F. Rustamji finally found the perfect place. It was a mango orchard in the small border town of Baidyanathtala (Bhoborpara), Meherpur District, Kushtia in north-western Bangladesh. It was only 300 steps away from the border of India thereby making it easily accessible for Indian officers. The town was still beyond the reach of the Pakistan Army and since the place was an enclave, Pakistan Air Force could not attack it easily. The large clustering of mango groves also made it hard for it to be visible.
Baidyanathtala also had a symbolic significance. The battle ground of Plassey near Murshidabad, Pachimbanga where Nawab Siraj-ud-Daulah fought his last battle with the (British) East India Company in 1757 was not very far away from Baidyanathtala. During that infamous battle Bengal lost its independence to the British thanks largely to the treachery of Siraj-ud-Daulah's Commander-in-Chief Mir Zafar Ali Khan (known more popularly by his short name Mir Zafar). Now, ironically, only few miles away from that battleground, the Mujibnagar Shorkar was poised to form a government for a new country of their own.
In one mango grove we lost our independence, in another mango grove we have regained it.
The date for the formal swearing ceremony was set for 17 April 1971.
[By then] We had already started calling it as "Bangladesh".
Golok Majumdar, Indian BSF
Preparations for this momentous occasion began two days earlier as the original venue of nearby Chuadanga had to be postponed due to security concerns.
Everybody around was busy trying to put up a makeshift stage. Wooden "charpies" were taken out from some poor men's bedroom to make a raised platform. Someone brought in a mike while yet another fetched a few chairs and spread sheets from the neighbouring church. Some bamboo pieces were cut down from the jungle and ropes were to be had from a home nearby. A group of boys from the neighbourhood under the guidance of Shabuddin Sentu was practising national anthem in a chorus. Even a harmonium, a few tablas and a table were procured. Participants included Asad, Stephen Pinto Biswas and Monsur Molla. ASM Rab joined them at the last moment. Persons were being organised for recital from the holy books. Eventually, however, only Quranic verses were recited during the ceremony.
Mahbubuddin Ahmed, Bir Bikram
On Rustamji's order a bust of Sheikh Mujib was carried by Tajuddin Ahmad harked back, "Remove it immediately! If a bust was kept people would think he was dead. Remove it immediately!".
A large contingent of civis clad soldiers from the Indian side were standing behind tree trunks guarding the place from any possible enemy attack. A flag was tied to an indigenously crafted flagpole made out of a cut piece of bamboo fixed in front of the stage. The platform was set up under a huge mango tree awaiting the arrival of the leaders-in-exile from Kolkata first thing in the morning.
This place was considered safe because it was an enclave which could not be attacked from the air without crossing Indian airspace. For greater safety, Indian commandos were put on guard, thinly beyond normal perception in civilian clothes. It was tactical to keep off any possible curiosity about it on the part of foreign journalists. Bangladesh leaders and the authority in India both wanted to make sure that the show appeared to be fully organised by and under the control of the Bangladesh government in exile.
By about 10 in the morning, we managed to reach our destination. It was a big mango groove surrounded by green paddy fields, small hutments, mud houses and many mango gardens all around. There was a church in the vicinity. We halted at the border outpost manned by some EPR men who, as you know, had joined our ranks on the fateful night of 25th March and were guarding the border on our behalf. By the time we arrived at the place it was humming with people converging from different directions. Many young people with firearms could be seen loitering. Within a short time the entire garden was abuzz with "Joy Bangla" chants.
By then, Joy Bangla had become our war cry. It gave us rhythm and inspiration in our moments of danger as well as glory. It became a part of our independence war saga. People embraced death shouting it. People wrote this mantra with blood while in captivity; this was a magical slogan which united the Bengalee nation like a rock behind Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib.
By about 11am we heard the honking of motor cars coming along the kutcha road running almost parallel to the border. Quite a few ambassadors carrying a large number of journalists and our leaders-in-exile suddenly appeared. The whole place dramatically took a festive look with clicks and flashes of camera.
The historic ceremony started at 11am. The place was now buzzing with senior party members, international journalist - collecting latest information about the current military and political situation and numbering around 100 - local MPs, and people from all walk of life.
What if the Mujibnagar government had not taken shape? What if the men who would lead the armed struggle against Pakistan had chosen to spend the rest of their lives waiting for a negotiated settlement to the crisis? What if, in the absence of resistance, Pakistan had perpetuated its presence in Bangladesh and cast its ever-darkening shadow on Bengali heritage?
These are questions that need not be answered, seeing that history was to take an unambiguous course and was to lead the Bengali nation to its supreme triumph. Yet, prior to April 17, 1971, these fears were all too real for the nation to dismiss out of hand. Bangabandhu had been commandeered by the Pakistan army; and not one of us knew where the rest of the Awami League leadership echelon was at that point.
Syed Badrul Ahsan, Journalist
Long hours had been spent working out the details of the announcement of the government, its line-up and its objectives. Journalists from the global media had been told of the event and on the day would make sure they were there to take in the measure of Bengali resistance to Pakistan.
The imprisoned Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was selected as President, Syed Nazrul Islam as Vice President (who was appointed Acting President in Sheikh Mujib's absence), Tajuddin Ahmad as Prime Minister, Khondaker Mushtaq Ahmed as Minister for Foreign Affairs and Law, Muhammad Mansur Ali as Finance Minister, AHM Kamruzzaman as Minister for Home Affairs, Relief and Rehabilitation, and retired Colonel (later General) Mohammad Ataul Ghani Osmani as Commander-in-Chief of Bangladesh Forces. Professor Yusuf Ali, teacher-turned-politician and Chief of the Department of Relief and Rehabilitation, was appointed as potentiary (someone similar to present day Chief Whip in Parliament) and administered the oath of office. Amirul Islam was appointed Chief of the Volunteer Corps, Abdul Mannan as Chief of Press, Information, Radio and Film, Matiur Rahman as Chief of Commerce, and Major Mohammad Abdur Rab as Chief of Staff.
Other high profile members who were present included Abdur Razzak, Tofail Ahmed, Abdul Quddus Makhan, ASM Rab, Noor-e-Alam Siddiqui, and Noorul Quader Khan. Many other important people had missed the event as the venue and time were kept in secrecy for fear of enemy attack.
In Mujibnagar, elected leaders presented the Proclamation of Independence, formed a Bangladesh constituent assembly (to function in absentia), appointed the first cabinet of the Bangladesh government (to act in absentia), and declared Sheikh Mujibur Rahman the first president of Bangladesh (in absentia).
Once the cabinet was announced and oath of office administered, Mahbubuddin Ahmed gave an armed salute to the provisional government. Later Colonel Osmani led the guard of honour by 33 freedom fighters and Ansar personnel to the provisional government headed by Syed Nazrul Islam.
It was about half an hour after the arrival of the guests when Towfique came running, a little disturbed, and exclaimed, "Osman Bhai has not arrived yet. Time is running out. The guests are in a hurry. Can you suggest what should I do?" Elaborating, he said, "Osman Bhai was asked to come prepared to organise guard of honour for the President after the oath-taking. He has not shown up." I told him, "Don't worry, I can do it." "Sure you can," Towfique nodded. I said, "Yes, of course. I myself visited many ceremonial guards of honour in the police academy as a training requirement. Besides, as Sub-divisional Police Officer I had to inspect guard every week. So, I know the drill and you need not worry. You prepare the guests, I prepare my boys. Go!"
Towfique was relieved of a great burden, it appeared. I went to a side and called my soldiers. I also asked them to call others who could be found in uniform and fall in line for a parade. Not many were found in uniform. Those who wore uniforms were not shipshape. Most of them have been sporting the same outfit for weeks with nothing to change. Some had tattered apparels and creaky boots. Some had bayonets fixed, others did not have any. It was a motely formation, if you like, with or without helmets, camouflage or no camouflage; "kisti topies" worn by some, others with police blue berets and myself wearing a green beret, one presented to me by Maj Osman on the day I was turned from a police officer into a Muktibahini captain to command troops in the battle fronts.
In fact, there was nothing uniform, except, of course, the 303 rifles and the firm determination and patriotism to destroy the Pak army wherever and however found. Hardly a dozen people drawn from as many as four different sources viz. Police, Ansar, EPR and civilian youth were on hand. I commanded them to stand in two rows with myself in front and carried out several chores of rehearsal. We practised shoulder arms and present arms several times. I had a .38 calibre revolver in my holster hung on the left side of my belt. I tried to command with a loud voice. It took about ten minutes to get ready.
As soon as the flag hoisting and rendition of the national anthem synchronised, I raised my voice to the extreme and commanded "present arms" in honour of my flag heralding our identity to the world. When the flag reached the top of the pole it was tied, and Syed Nazrul Islam, the Acting President of The People's Republic of Bangladesh, appeared at the centre of the dais with MAG Osmani one step behind him on his right, clad in khaki and Tajuddin watching from the ground near the left end of the dais. In front of them and around the dais was the delirious crowd while my troops and I were facing them. Between the raising of the flag and the tying seconds I had commanded my troops back to attention with "order arms" and readied them for president salute. Syed Nazrul Islam's face was as determined as ours and the crowd was vibrant and wild with excitement. In a moment there was pin drop silence as the Acting President stood in front of us beaming with the pride of conviction. I felt my breath rising as I once again raised my voice to the extreme pitch and commanded shoulder arms and with a thud the rifles went up to the soldiers and were placed slanted at 45 degrees. My voice was already breaking but I could care a fig. With all the strength left in me I shouted "present arms". With double thuds the rifles behind me went up and stood erect and still in front of every soldier. The band of rifles stood unwavering like up-jutting minarets ready to pierce through the webs of Pakistani brutality and murder.
Mahbubuddin Ahmed, Bir Bikram
The Acting President then delivered his speech like any other Head of State and made an impassioned plea for recognition and international help.
I request my foreign journalist convey to the respective nation that liberty sanctity to them, democracy, as human dignity ... civilised governments of the world..and the other Asian countries and to the European countries to realise it, recognise it, come to our help and to do something positive to elevate the misery of the unfortunate [troubled] people of Bangladesh.
Part of Acting President Syed Nazrul Islam's speech during the official formation of the Gonoprojontontri Bangladesh Sthayi Shorkar (or Mujibnagar Shorkar)
Following this the new Prime Minister, Tajuddin Ahmad, briefed the press detailing the horrific events which lead to this day.
Bangladesh is at war. It has been given no choice but to secure the right of self-determination through a national liberation struggle against the colonial oppression of West Pakistan.
...A final word to our erstwhile brothers in West Pakistan. Before God we tried to preserve this nation of Pakistan in spite of the oppression, neglect and servitude inflicted on us by your rulers these 23 years. But your leaders could neither tolerate the idea of sharing power with us nor would they let go of us sufficiently to let us control our own destinies. As a result, today, you - the people of West Pakistan are silent spectators to the genocide being committed on the people of Bangladesh by your rulers. By their acts of mass murder in Bangladesh the name of Pakistan will rank with the Mongols, the Huns and the Nazis in the history books. On your conscience you will carry till eternity the curse of our murdered wives, our dishonoured sisters, our slaughtered children. But more destructive to you, you will carry till eternity the curse of this army of butchers with you for years to come.
By God's grace and our unconquerable spirit every last man of this army of occupation will either be driven out or destroyed by the people of Bangladesh. Out of the ashes a new Bangladesh will rise committed to peace, democracy and social justice resting on secure foundations of creed, language, culture and race and held together by the shared experience of a struggle which must take its place in the epic struggles of our time.
The green flag of Bangladesh with the red disc in the centre hallowed by the golden map of Bangladesh was then raised with the rendering of "Amar Shonar Bangla, Ami Tumai Bhalobashi" - which was later adopted as Bangladesh's jatiyo sangeet (national anthem). The event was concluded with the entire gathering cheering "Joi Bangla, Joi Bongabdondhu" in sheer ecstasy, and in complete unison.
17 April is celebrated as 'Mujibnagar Dibosh' (City of Mujib Day) in Bangladesh in honour of their achievement and leadership.
It was a Herculean task. Organizing civil administration and the freedom fighters, securing arms for the latter and training them, mobilizing international support for the liberation war through intense diplomatic action, ensuring speedy communication and effective coordination of various activities at hundred different levels, above all, keeping the morale of the freedom fighters high throughout the dark, difficult, and strenuous days of the war, called for extraordinary wisdom, dedication, patience, foresight, courage, and tenacity on the part of the Mujibnagar government and all those connected with it.
The establishment of the Mujibnagar government was an absolute necessity for another reason. Had it not been put in place, it is reasonably certain that diffuse guerilla movements would have spawned all over the country without any form of central control. The danger inherent in such politics lies in an absence of legitimacy. And in Bangladesh's politics at that point in time, the absence of the Mujibnagar government would only have given the freedom struggle a clearly secessionist hue, to the immense delight of the Pakistanis and to the consternation of a Bengali population directly in the military's line of fire. Seen in such light, the presence of Acting President Syed Nazrul Islam and Prime Minister Tajuddin Ahmed with their colleagues deep in Meherpur in April 1971 was a clear, unequivocal statement of intent: that the elected representatives of the people of Bangladesh had taken it upon themselves to give shape and substance to an independent statehood for them.
On the day of the formal swearing ceremony (17 April 1971), Tajuddin Ahmad renamed Baidyanathtala to 'Mujibnagar' (City of Mujib) in honour of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. He also declared that the town would be the official capital of Bangladesh.
The political structure which Tajuddin Ahmad and his associates hurriedly formulated within 3 weeks of Sheikh Mujib's arrest would be the first Bengali government in history. Never before had Bengalis governed themselves.
In a bid to save themselves from the massacre of the Pakistani army and its collaborators, the provisional government fled the country and sought shelter in Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal, India. There, from a colonial mansion on 8 Theatre Road (later renamed Shakespeare Sarani), they coordinated the war efforts. The residence-cum-headquarter, once allegedly childhood home to Indian nationalist and guru Sri Aurobindo, was a big building with two floors. The leaders used to reside upstairs, whilst small 'pigeon hole offices' were made downstairs for other members. The hub of the headquarter was Prime Minister Tajuddin Ahmad's humble living and office room. Key conferences and decisions were taken here despite continuous fear of Pakistani commando and air attacks.
Lacking in money, human resource, facilities, and bargaining power, the Mujibnagar Shorkar continued it's work with a patriotic zeal. The aim was clear - liberate Bangladesh. Such was the dedication that many members vowed not to lead a normal family until the country was free. One such person was the newly appointed first Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Tajuddin Ahmad.
When Tajuddin Ahmad was finally reunited with his wife Zohra Tajuddin (nee Khatun) on 27 May 1971 at the home of Hossain Ali in Kolkata he told her about the vow. Even though he hadn't seen her or his young children for two months and had no idea whether they were still alive or dead during this turbulent period, he stuck to his vow and left promptly. He had met Zohra only for 7 minutes.
Around 1 am I heard a knock on my door. I opened the door and saw Hossain Ali standing there. He said, "Bhabhi, sir has come". I saw him coming - for 30 seconds I couldn't talk, I was just staring at him. I was thinking how to tell him about all the incidents. Then he abruptly said "Lets go in, lets see the children. Also I've to tell you something". We went inside the room. After seeing the children he said "Tomorrow you'll leave this house. This is an officer's house. You can't stay here. Besides, the most important thing this, we're now engaged in a war. We work day and night. We, the members of the cabinet have taken a vow that until our country is liberated we won't live family life anymore". He looked at his watch and slowly walked away - in total, just 7 minutes.
Tajuddin sir had taken a vow that as long as the country was not liberated he would not stay with his family. He was perhaps concerned especially for all those young men, who were supposed to live conjugal lives, were fighting and completely separated from their families so 'How could I being the Prime Minister lead a family life in this war situation?'. So as long as he stayed in 8 Theatre Road [Kolkata office of Mujibnagar Shorkar] his bedroom was next to his office room.
The Mujibnagar Shorkar, consisting of the elected parliament members of the 1970 democratic election, worked day and night relentlessly for nine months until Bangladesh was eventually liberated. It undertook new, fresh initiatives, diversified its plan of action and organised the government into multiple division
It also supplied the sharply rising freedom fighters of Bangladesh with arms, food, xxx with the active support of the Indian government.
There were, however, substantial limitations upon what New Delhi was prepared to do to support the Bangladesh liberation movement in this period [April]. The Declaration of Independence by the Bangladesh government in exile was, in effect, publicly ignored by India, which did not extend official recognition to this "sovereign" body until December . India closely supervised the Government of Bangladesh headquarters in Calcutta. The Awami League leaders issued public statements on occasion, but only after the External Affairs ministry's "representative" in Calcutta had cleared them. Some of the Awami League leaders resented this relationship of dependency to India, but they had no real alternatives available.
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