Bangaladesh Liberation Day – March 26
March 26 is the national independence day of Bangladesh. This day is celebrated all over the Bangladesh and also all over the world. It commemorates the country’s declaration of independence from Pakistan on late hours of 25 March 1971 and the start of Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971 by the “Father of the Nation” Bongobondhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman before he was arrested by Pakistani forces.
The day is a memorial to the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians who died in the subsequent Bangladesh Liberation War. The day is a national holiday in Bangladesh, and is celebrated with parades, and paying of respect at Jatiyo Smriti Soudho, the national memorial at Savar near Dhaka.
On 7 March 1971, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (soon to be the prime minister) delivered a speech at the Racecourse Ground (Present Suhrawardy Udyan). In this speech he mentioned a further four-point condition to consider the National Assembly Meeting on 25 March:
1. The immediate lifting of martial law.
2. Immediate withdrawal of all military personnel to their barracks.
3. An inquiry into the loss of life.
4. Immediate transfer of power to the elected representative of the people before the assembly meeting 25 March.
He urged “his people” to turn every house into a fort of resistance. He closed his speech saying, “Our struggle is for our freedom. Our struggle is for our independence.” This speech is considered the main event that inspired the nation to fight for its independence. General Tikka Khan was flown in to Dhaka to become Governor of East Bengal. East-Pakistani judges, including Justice Siddique, refused to swear him in.
A planned military pacification carried out by the Pakistan Army (codenamed Operation Searchlight) started on 25 March to curb the Bengali nationalist movement by taking control of the major cities on 26 March, and then eliminating all opposition, political or military, within one month. Before the beginning of the operation, all foreign journalists were systematically deported from East Pakistan.
The planned and designated centers of offensive operations under that plan wereDhaka, Khulna, Chittagong, Comilla, Jessore, Rajshahi, Rangpur, Saidpur andSylhet areas, where West Pakistani army units were concentrated. Pakistani Army units and paramilitary elements in other areas of East Pakistan were to maintain control of their respective areas and await reinforcements during the initial phase of the operation. Once Dhaka had been secured, the 9th and 16th divisions from Pakistan were to be airlifted into East Pakistan as reinforcements.
When the Operation Search Light was started on the mid night of March 25, 1971in East Pakistan (Present Bangladesh), the Pakistani Army and Pakistani Rajakar forces were killed many innocent public, students, civilians, children, political leader, political member, old people and many others and they were raped many Bengali girls and women. They were killed thousands of unarmed Bengali people in only one night.
After the night of March 25, 1971, Bangladesh Liberation War broke out in the whole country. The violence unleashed by the Pakistani forces on 25 March 1971, proved the last straw to the efforts to negotiate a settlement. Following these outrages, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman signed an official declaration that read:
“Today Bangladesh is a sovereign and independent country. On Thursday night, West Pakistani armed forces suddenly attacked the police barracks at Razarbagh and the EPR headquarters at Pilkhana in Dhaka. Many innocent and unarmed have been killed in Dhaka city and other places of Bangladesh. Violent clashes between E.P.R. and Police on the one hand and the armed forces of Pakistan on the other are going on. The Bengalis are fighting the enemy with great courage for an independent Bangladesh. May Allah aid us in our fight for freedom. Joy Bangla.”
Sheikh Mujib also called upon the people to resist the occupation forces through a radio message. Mujib was arrested on the night of 25–26 March 1971 at about 1:30 a.m. (as per Radio Pakistan’s news on 29 March 1971). A telegram containing the text of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s declaration reached some students in Chittagong. The message was translated to Bangla by Dr. Manjula Anwar. The students failed to secure permission from higher authorities to broadcast the message from the nearby Agrabad Station of Radio Pakistan. They crossed Kalurghat Bridge into an area controlled by an East Bengal Regiment under Major Ziaur Rahman. Bengali soldiers guarded the station as engineers prepared for transmission. At 19:45 hrs on 27 March 1971, Major Ziaur Rahman broadcast the announcement of the declaration of independence on behalf of Sheikh Mujibur. On 28 March Major Ziaur Rahman made another announcement, which was as follows:
“This is Shadhin Bangla Betar Kendro. I, Major Ziaur Rahman, at the direction of Bangobondhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, hereby declare that the independent People’s Republic of Bangladesh has been established. At his direction, I have taken command as the temporary Head of the Republic. In the name of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, I call upon all Bengalis to rise against the attack by the West Pakistani Army. We shall fight to the last to free our Motherland. By the grace of Allah, victory is ours. Joy Bangla.”
The Kalurghat Radio Station’s transmission capability was limited. The message was picked up by a Japanese ship in Bay of Bengal. It was then re-transmitted by Radio Australia and later by the British Broadcasting Corporation. An Awami League leader from Chittagong, M. A. Hannan, is said to have made the first announcement of the declaration of independence over the radio on 26 March 1971.
26 March 1971 is considered the official Independence Day of Bangladesh, and the name Bangladesh was in effect henceforth. In July 1971, Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi openly referred to the former East Pakistan as Bangladesh. Some Pakistani and Indian officials continued to use the name “East Pakistan” until 16 December 1971.
As a result of announcement by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Major Ziaur Rahman, 26 March is the Independence Day of Bangladesh, which was established thousands of Bengali people’s blood and life and it was also started Bangladesh Liberation War with Mukti Bahini and it concluded with the unconditional surrender of Pakistan forces on December 16, 1971.