On this day in 1971, the whole of Bangladesh was in a state of ferment.
With each day passing by and with the central government of General Yahya Khan paralysed by the non-cooperation movement led by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, it was obvious that the state of Pakistan was fast reaching a point of no return.
In Dhaka, the residence of the Awami League chief turned into the real seat of political authority, with crowds of professionals, cultural figures, students and all other categories of citizens constantly making their way to Dhanmondi Road 32 to affirm their support for the democratic cause.
In West Pakistan, except for a handful of rightwing politicians, all political quarters kept up the demand for a quick transfer of power to the Awami League as a way of preventing a political division of the country.
And in East Pakistan, which by now had become Bangladesh de facto, the authority of the central government as well as the provincial administration had dwindled into non-existence except in the cantonments. Offices, businesses and other establishments spontaneously conducted themselves under the direct authority of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
The directives issued on a day to basis by the Awami League were articulated by Tajuddin Ahmed, general secretary of the party. At the universities and other educational institutions, militancy went up by leaps and bounds, the clear message being that there was no way out of the crisis except through full sovereignty for Bangladesh.
In the province, curfew was imposed in Rangpur while the security forces and the army resorted to shooting in Chittagong, Rajshahi, Khulna and Tongi. In Dhaka, the National Awami Party led by Prof Muzaffar Ahmed pledged its full support to the Awami League in its movement. The regime decides to take its soldiers back to the barracks.
There was yet no sign of the regime stepping back in favour of a negotiated settlement with Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. A vast majority of Bangalees, however, expected Bangabandhu to declare independence at his scheduled March 7 rally.
Suspense hung heavy in the air.
Author : Syed Badrul Ahsan