‘March 7 speech one of the best in world’

DHAKA, March 7 (BSS) – Mass communication experts and psychologists said a perfect match of people’s desire and incredible manifestation of modern communication concepts made Bangabandhu’s March 7, 1971 speech one of the world’s most notable addresses.

“A lucid and detailed explanation about the events unfolding at the time made this speech withstand the test of logic for all times to come . . .(it) was not only the greatest speech in Bengali language, it is one of the best in the entire world,” Dhaka University vice chancellor Professor Arefin Siddiqui said as the nation recalled the address delivered on this day 41 years ago.

He said Bangabandhu completed his timeless speech in 19 minutes by uttering between 58 and 60 words per minute while in broadcasting theory, 60 words per minute is considered to be an ideal.
“There were no annoying repetitions in the speech of 1,107  words. There were no unnecessary articulations – only the gist or  core points. However, repetition at one or two places had reinforced the inner meaning of the speech . . . this was an amazing event in the context of theoretical application of communication science,” he said.

His comments came as BSS sought to analyse the address from the perspective of mass communication science and psychology coinciding with the 40th anniversary of the event.

Siddiqui said the Bangabandhu quite adeptly adopted a conversational style while delivering this speech in order to attract the audience and he raised questions at different stages of the speech and the ‘speech idioms’ appropriate for mass communication were correctly applied in this address.

“The fluent and extempore speech delivered in a lucid language and style was the principal document of our liberty . . . It was a dialogue between the people of Bangladesh and their undisputed leader on the eve of Bangladesh’s birth,” said the professor of mass communication of Dhaka University.

He said according to communication theorists the audience orientation and recent happenings should be highlighted in the opening words and “this reference to the audience found marvelous  expression in his epoch- making speech”.

“It was possible for Bangabandhu alone to deliver such an  ostentatious, direction giving, poetic speech without any break  and without taking any help from notes while standing in the middle of a sea of people. That is why, the international periodical ‘Newsweek’ termed Bangabandhu as a ‘Poet of Politics’ in the cover story of its 5 April 1971 issue,” Siddiqui recalled.

Professor of psychology Dr Azizur Rahman of Dhaka University said the political events since 1952 had largely set the people’s mind while the nationalist movement under Bangabandhu’s leadership largely set the stage for the historic speech.

“The language of the speech was easy and lucid . . . it was  well thought-out, organized and logical . . . this was an incomparable speech in the world history,” he said.

Professor of contemporary history Dr Anwar Hossain said the  colloquial words Bangabandhu used in his speech created a bridge  between him and his audience

He used body language raising his forefinger, colloquial words evading the pure accent to be connected with the people . . . The speech of only 19 minutes was a superb specimen of his statesmanship,” Hossain said.

Remembering 7th March of 1971

Seminar on Speech Made by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on 7th March 1971 A seminar was held on March 5, 2005 under the auspices of ‘Jatir Janak Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Memorial Trust’ at the auditorium of Institute of Engineers packed to its full capacity at 4 p.m. Three hour long seminar, participated by leading intellectuals of the country, was presided over by AL Chief Jananetri, as she is dearly called by her followers, Mrs. Sheikh Hasina, president of the memorial trust. The keynote article entitled “Bangabandhur Satoi Marcher Bhasan : Amar Aniyata Bhabna” (The 7th March Speech of Bangabandhu: My random thoughts) was presented by Professor Dr. Ajoy Roy, a physicist and our MM member. The discussants included Historian Prof. A. F. Salahuddin Ahmed, educationist Prof. Mustafa Nurul Islam, Mr. Ashrafuzzaman Khan, a nanogerian Director General (retd) of Bangladesh Radio, freedom fighter Major (retd) Rafiqul Islam, BU, Dr. Abul Barkat, professor of economics of DU, and Prof. Momtaz Latif. With non stop applause and vibrating slogans, the daughter of Bangabandhu, Sheikh Hasina entered the Hall right at 3-55 p.m. The proceedings of the seminar started immediately.

The 25-minutes duration article presented by Professor Roy set the tune of the proceedings and mood of the audience; it was presented with eloquence, emotion and solemnity demanded by the occasion- but based on facts and information and punched with recitation from the parts of historic speech of Bangabandhu delivered on March 7, 1971 in presence of not less than one million people of all cross-section of the society whom we call ‘mass’. He
stressed that speech delivered at the race course was a finest example of extempore speech ever delivered by a national leader made before an emotionally chocked mass of not less than one million. The speech emanated from the core of his heart for his people whom he loved so much. The speaker ended his with a quotation “Ekti Bangladesh, Tumi Jagrata Janatar Ekti Bangladesh, Tumi Jagrata Bismoy”

As the author finished his speech, he was greeted with non-stop applause from the emotionally chocked audience. Each of the discussants dealt some aspect of the historic speech of 7th March form different angle. As for example Prof. Barkat of economics department stressed that by the term emancipation (Mukti) in his last but most important sentence of his speech Bangabandhu meant the economic self reliance for the common men. And this could not be achieved unless the East Pakistan attained political freedom from the West Pakistani economic oppressor.

Taking part in the discussion Major (retd) Rafiqul Islam said that he took the historic speech as ‘go ahead signal’ foe all out war against Pakistani occupation. And started the war of independence when moment came- not waiting for any other call from another major. Mr. Ashrafuzzaman Khna narrated the dramatic situation when the military people surrounded the Radio broadcasting station just 10 minutes before Bangabandhu arriving at the race course. As the leader proceeded toward the microphone, the army officers ordered the radio staff not to broadcast the speech of Bangabandhu directly. Fortunately however the entire speech was tape recorded at the race course by the technicians of the Dhaka Radio station. This recorded speech was broadcast on the following day from all radio stations throughout East Pakistan. So the message of independence spread just like fire. Crores of Bengalis heard Bangabandhu clarinet call “Ebarer Sngram Amader Muktir Sabgram, Ebarer sangram Swadhinatar Sangram”

(Present struggle- struggle for our emancipation, Present struggle- struggle for independence). Mr. Khan recalled that when he informed Sheikh Mujib that his speech would be broadcast at 8-30 a.m. on March 8, he invited Mr. Khan to come to his residence so that they together listen the historic speech. And they did with Begum Mujib and other inmates of the family.

Professor Mustafa Nurul Islam evaluated the speech of Bangabandhu as one of the greatest speech ever delivered by a national leader- probably it would top the list as this speech won us the independence- a free Bangladesh. The learned professor said that at this critical hour when evil forces are engulfing Bangladesh the young generation must draw its inspiration from the speech of 7th March.

Thanking Prof. Roy, the main author of the theme of the seminar for his beautiful presentation punched with facts and figures, and other participants, the president of the seminar Sheikh Hasina winded up the discussion. In her concluding speech she urged upon the youth to be united with the spirit in which Bangabandhu urged and inspired the then youths on 7th March 34 years back to face the evil forces. Similarly the present evil forces must be met with the spirit of 7th March of seventy one, and this must be done unitedly with all forces believing in spirit of war of liberation, democracy, secularism and Bengali nationalism. Referring to the spread of terrorist fundamentalism she asked the government to arrest two Jamati ministers in the government in order to get true information about the terrorists and terrorism.

Bangabandhu’s finest hour

It is this writer’s view that the March 7th speech was Bangabandhu’s finest hour. He stood far taller than ever before and with him we too stood taller. He was always known for being a powerful speaker. But that day, 26 years ago, he outperformed himself a thousand times over, and a thousand times more empowered we felt that day. During that crucial March afternoon, and especially through the electrifying moments of the speech he stood towering above the nation, singly shouldering the burden of leading an unprepared people towards sell assertion.

However bravely we may talk today about those events so long ago, at that time we really did not know how things were to unfold. Yes, we all wanted our rights, and we wanted them right away. But how they were to come? Was freedom to come through negotiations or would it require us to wage an armed struggle? And what did we understand by armed struggle? We romanticised about it, but knew nothing of it.

Things were becoming increasingly obvious that to realise our legitimate demands we may have to seek independence. But how is one to start an independence movement? What would be the consequence of making a declaration for it? Though we all talked about it, and some may have even said so in public, yet it was for our elected leader to take us through that uncharted path. The man who should be the Prime Minister of whole of Pakistan by dint of his electoral victory had to take the right step at the right time. The critical question was when would the right time strike.

And this is where the specialty of the March 7th speech lies. It says everything without the elements that could be used to hold responsible for breaking up the legal Pakistan. For by then, the country had actually broken up in all other sense. To really appreciate the magnificence of this speech one has to understand the context in which it was delivered. Awami League had fought an election and won the majority of seats of the parliament of Pakistan. Following the results, Gen Yahya had declared that Sheikh Mujib would be the Prime Minister of Pakistan. It was Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and some conniving army generals who did not want to transfer power to someone whose electoral programme was to realise the legitimate rights of the Bengali people enshrined in the now famous six points. There were lots of indications about the impending betrayal of the verdict of the December ’70 elections, yet it was not till the postponement of the session of the newly elected parliament that Bangabandhu could really give a call for an all out movement.

When the session of the parliament was postponed on March 1st, ’71, the fatal shot to the existence of united Pakistan was fired right into its chest. And it was on the night of March 25th, when Pakistani military cracked down on the civilian population of what was till then one country, that Pakistan was killed and buried. It was in the midst of this highly charged transition period — from the 1st to the 25th — when events were unfolding at a break-neck speed that Bangabandhu had to give this speech.

And here lies the beauty and the craftsmanship of this speech, which transforms it as a classic in political oratory.

The speech had to live up to the high expectation of the people who wanted their independence and yet there should be nothing in it that could give an outright excuse to the Pakistan army to start military action against the unarmed Bengali people. In fact, Tikka Khan’s band of killers would want nothing better than to be given a publicly announced excuse for a genocidal action. So Bangabandhu had to say everything, and yet not give the excuse that Pakistan military was looking for. He had to stand steadfast and yet keep open the doors for negotiations. Under no circumstances could he appear to be the one responsible for the breakdown of the talks. And yet he had to take his people forward and give them the right directions, maintain the militancy, ask them to take all the necessary preparatory steps, and clear people’s minds about the final goal. It was a political and intellectual challenge of the highest kind, and it could be tackled only by a speech of the type that Bangabandhu delivered that day.

Take for example the content of the speech. In it he gradually builds up the whole rationale for the movement that has been going on. He argues, cajoles, pleads, demands and finally warns, not to take lightly the demand of a people who have realised their strength through struggle. He talks of peace and yet gives clear signals that peace cannot come at the cost of capitulation. He talks of sacrifice, but not in terms of a helpless people who are suffering because they are weak, but in terms of a courageous and bold people who have knowingly taking upon a task which they know to be a arduous, and for which they are ready to face any consequence. There was superb cleverness in the construction of the speech by which he said all that he needed to and yet the enemy could not hold him responsible for having said anything which was illegal.

The voice in the speech is one of its most magnificent aspects. It was so bold that the whole nation could and in fact did, take strength from it. There was an unhesitant enunciation of everything that needed to be said. There was such appropriate modulation of voice that every word uttered seemed irreplaceable. Throughout it all the strength of the man came out and touched all those who heard him, drawing all close to him and making all trust and repose faith in him.

If ever a speech united, strengthened, enthused, inspired a people, and gave courage to them to become bolder and more determined than they usually are, it was Bangabandhu’s speech of March 7th, 1971. If ever one single speech became the most effective motivational weapon for a nation at war then this was it. If ever a speech of a leader became the constant companion for young freedom fighters facing an enemy known for their proficiency and ferocity and which acted to link us all in a spellbinding string of words and sounds, then this speech was so for all of us, the freedom fighters, spread throughout the nook and corner of what was then our enslaved motherland.

Author : Mahfuz Anam is Editor and Publisher, The Daily Star.

Historic 7th March and Parents of our Nation:

Today is 7th march, 2004. Exactly 33 years ago, on 7th March, 1971, the then President of Awami League, honoured with title of Bangabandhu, named Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, addressed a mammoth rally of the people of Bangladesh at Sahrawardy Uddyan in Dhaka, where he delivered the historic speech, popularly known as `Mujib’s speech of 7th March’.

I was a physical participant in that rally. Although 33 years of dust has spread on my memories, despite the bitter debate of expectations, frustrations, significance, message or contents of that speech those are being placed to the younger generation of today; for me and many more, the significant value of that speech will indeed remain, as one of the most memorable moments, till death.

To elaborate a little on the perspective and the background of the historic speech of `Bangabandhu’ delivered on 7th March of 1971, which gave the Nation the definite direction to prepare for an armed struggle against the then ruling Pak Military Junta, is undeniable. The words of the greatest orator, whom I heard on my own live being present at Sahrawardy Uddyan, shall stay in my life ringing in my years. “Build fortresses in every of your homesteads”, “Whatever whom possesses take up those to face the enemy”, because, “Henceforth the struggle is our struggle for liberation, and henceforth the struggle is struggle for independence”.

Western journalists present on that day at the historic rally termed the orator as, “The Poet of Politics”. No doubt that was poetry, and the poetry that evolved through long and bitter struggle of the orator and the people of our motherland from 1952 to 1971, long 19 years, in which the orator of that day had always been one of the most remarkable protagonist.

To make that long history of 19 years short. All that started in 1952, the historic Language Movement marking at present the accredited `International Mother Language day’, the 21st February, the pride of our Nation which we presented to the Peoples’ of the World earned by ourselves through the movement and the sacrifice of blood of proud sons of our soil. That movement to establish the right of the Mother Tongue, evolved further-on through the cultural movement of the National self identity, the movement against the autocratic education policy in 1962, the six point demand of Mujibur against economic disparity in 1966 that put him and a host of national leaders to prison; the 11 point movement against the national repression of autocratic rule of Field Marshall Ayub Khan achieving through mass upsurge, release of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and others from prison, fall of the dictator, the acknowledgment of the demand of adult franchise by the new dictator Yahya Khan, then the victory of Awami League securing majority of the seats in the Parliament of Pakistan in 1970, and then came the historic moment in March 1971 bringing the people of erstwhile East Pakistan face to face with the Military Junta of Pakistan those denied to handover power to the elected representatives of the people.

So, in March 1971, the leader of the nation declared all out non- violent, non –cooperation movement against the Pak Military Junta, and that was the perspective in which the speech of the 7th March was delivered.

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, was elected leader of the People of the country, emerged through the national election in Pakistan held under adult franchise, the right given through the Legal Frame-work Order promulgated by General Yahya Khan the then Military dictator of Pakistan. Therefore, side by side while giving the clarion call to the people to prepare for armed struggle, in his speech he also pressed the demands in re-enforced language to hand over power to the elected representatives of the people of Pakistan to form a civilian Government with army returned to the barracks.

This very later part of Mujib’s speech of that day became the root of all controversies, raised by the eager aspirators for launching the armed struggle following declaration of independence in advance; similarly, the anti-independence and anti-liberation elements in disguise with the end to undermine the role of Mujibur, even cursed him as traitor, because of the killing and suffering that fell upon the nation when Pak Army cracked down upon the unarmed civilians, Bengali members of Police & Army while they were totally unprepared for waging the fight for resistance and hence the one sided onslaught and genocide continued for few months till the resistance started to take shape.

However, on the same fateful night of 25th March, 1971, Pak Army captured Sheikh Mujibur Rahman from his residence and shifted him to a prison in the then West Pakistan, where he faced the trial against charges of treason brought against him by the then rulers of Pakistan.

Though it was initially delayed but in a month or so, armed resistance got organised and built up with strength of a forceful guerilla warfare by the freedom fighters constituting the members of the Army, Police, Para Military Forces, students, youths, members of intelligentsia, peasants, workers, professionals, from almost all walks of the nation. Nine months guerilla warfare followed by face to face battle waged by the joint liberation forces, as a result of sacrifice of three million martyrs, the Pak army surrendered in the afternoon of 16th December, 1971, giving the first taste of victory to the Bengalee Nation after centuries of foreign dominations.

Shahajahan Siraj M. P.; in 1971 who was leader of Students League the student wing of Awami League, but at present member of BNP and Minister for Environment of the current ruling alliance of Bangladesh, while talking in a discussion telecast of Channel-I titled `Third Dimension’ informed that, the underground movement led by Serajul Alam Khan organized under the name of `Bangladesh Liberation Force’ was already preparing for declaration and subsequent armed struggle for independence much ahead of 1971 or much ahead of Mujib’s, in his word, the `obscure’ call for preparation of armed struggle for independence made on 7th March 1971, which had been then already exposed and demonstrated at Paltan Maidan on 3rd March, 1971 staging militant march past, presentation of the new flag of independent Bangladesh as well as declaration of Manifesto of independent Bangladesh read out by him at the Bot-tala of Dhaka University.

The leadership of BNP goes further in claiming that the declaration of independence was made by Major Ziaur Rahman in Chittagong on 27th March, 1971, at a time when there was no sense of direction available from the National leaders, and when already the Pak Army had cracked down on 25th March, 1971 undertaking the operation of crushing down the movement, which was the definite chromosome of armed resistance against the Pak Army for the liberation and independence of Bangladesh.

Notwithstanding, all those claims and counter claims, the fact remains that, in 1967 the Pak Government of Ayub Khan arrested Sheikh Mujibur Rahman including few of the then officers of civil, army and navy services, framing charges against them for treason and hatching conspiracy to bring about independent Bangladesh alleged to have been masterminded by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman meeting at Agartala, which was widely known later as the alleged, `Agartala Conspiracy Case’. But the case lost its ground with the fall of Ayub Khan in the wake of mass upsurge in 1969, which was led by united front of the students of Dhaka University that claimed sacrifices of many martyrs including that of Sergeant Jahurul Haque, the names of those innumerous martyrs which the nation will always remember, including the unforgettable fiery speeches of Maulana Bhashani, those aroused the nation to challenge the dictatorial regime against the alleged charges of treason brought against Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and others.

Notwithstanding all those claims and counter claims, the fact remains that, Awami League under the leadership of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman earned the confidence of the people expressed through the results of the national election held in Pakistan under the rule of Yahya Khan in 1970, which gave Sheikh Mujibur Rahman the legitimacy to lead the nation to preserve political democracy and to earn economic parity for the people of the then East Pakistan, and which shocked the seat of the power of the military junta of Pakistan, because they knew that, this was the same Sheikh whom they wanted to try for treason in 1969 but failed, so how they could dream to hand over Prime Ministership of Pakistan and handover power to him peacefully.

Notwithstanding all those claims and counter claims, the fact remains that, the pragmatism of the words so chosen and delivered by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in his speech on 7th March, 1971, and then the crackdown of the Pak army on the civilian population on 25th March, 1971, established beyond any doubt the legitimacy of the people of Bangladesh to declare and wage the war of independence, and hence could earn support and acknowledgment in favour of that from the international community, while the attempt to try the national leaders for treason and to justify the crackdown on the civilians by the Pak Military Junta could get no ground at all.

The pragmatism mixed with uncompromising characteristics of the leadership which brought Sheikh Mujibur Rahman at the centre of the genesis of the independence of Bangladesh, when other national leaders like Maulana Bhashani or Professor Muzaffar Ahmed were also very much present and active in the movement for independent Bangladesh, could not be ignored just because of other centers of efforts not to be undermined even, because those had been the essential features and components which normally constitutes the unity of the people’s war, albeit the centre of political leadership could not be shifted but from him upon whom the ultimate confidence of the people was vested.

The role of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman before 10th January 1972 the date on which he returned to independent Bangladesh from the prisons of Pakistan, and the role of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman that was witnessed after the date of 10th January 1972, should be evaluated separately in the premises of two different perspectives. The attempt of taking over the results of one by the evaluation of the other part is disastrous for our nation, because in the former part lies the perception and spirit of the liberation and independence of Bangladesh, and in the later rests the perception of effort of reconstituting the unity of independent Bangladeshis divided due to their diverse background of socio-cultural-political-economical perceptions and interest from which his own party could not even become an exception.

Hence the effort to put to measure the failure, lapses and successes in the balance of the weighing machine, the legacy of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman of his 23 years of bravery and sacrifices of enduring the repression of the successive Pakistani rulers and the pragmatic but uncompromising leadership which he gave to the nation for the liberation and independence of Bangladesh; with that of three and half years of Prime Ministership of independent Bangladesh, is an attempt so malicious which can be tried only by them who are either confused or motivated in favour of the enemies of independent Bangladesh. The persons who vie for that, undoubtedly their ultimate objective is to malign the true history, perception and spirit of the liberation and independence of Bangladesh.


Covering Bangabandhu’s 7 March speech

Only a few reporters get the rare opportunity of covering a historic event that reshapes history and leads a nation towards freedom and I am proud of being one of them. Because, I had the privilege of covering the 7 March address of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman at the then Race Course Ground in 1971.

Long 40 years have elapsed since 7 March 1971, but the whole scenario including the mammoth gathering of freedom loving people and the epoch-making address by the Bangabandhu, the poet of politics, are still fresh in my mind. I consider it as the most glorious success of my life as a journalist that I had the opportunity to cover Bangabandhu’s 7 March address which is compared by many with the Gettysburg address of Abraham Linkon.

I was then a senior staff reporter of the daily Ittefaq, attached to Bangabandhu for covering the political developments. As usual I was assigned to cover the 7 March speech of Bangabndhu. Much before his address was delivered, the whole Race Course, now Suhrawardy Udyan turned into a human sea. I still wonder, how about one million people of all ages and from all parts of the country, many carrying ‘lathis and baithas’ in hands and all chanting thunderous slogans of ‘Joy Bangla,’ and ‘Joy Bangabandhu’ had gathered in the Race Course Ground that day. It seemed to us that only a small number of people of Dhaka, then a small city, stayed back in their homes that day.

The historic rally at Race Course Ground was held in the backdrop of a volatile political situation. Awami League led by Bangabandhu won a landslide victory in the December polls to the Pakistan National Assembly. But soon it became clear that the military rulers led by General Yahya Khan and beefed up by Z. A. Bhutto were unwilling to transfer power. Yahya had convened the opening session of National Assembly in Dhaka on 3 March 1971. But in a sudden radio broadcast on 1 March he postponed the scheduled Assembly session sparking the eruption of vehement public protests across Bangladesh against his decision.

Amid angry slogans by people on the streets for independence, Bangabandhu gave a call for launching people’s movement. Students on 2 March hoisted the first flag of Independent Bangladesh on the Dhaka University campus. On the following day, Swadhin Bangla Chhatra Sangram Parishad read out the Manifesto of Independence at a Paltan meeting.

Then amid continued hartal and movement on the streets came the unforgettable 7 March 1971. I had the opportunity to cover about 150 public meetings of Bangabandhu across the country before and after the 1970 elections. But never before I had seen Bangabandhu in such a revolutionary appearance as on 7 March. In my opinion history allows a great leader to appear in such revolutionary image and with such decisive address only once in a lifetime. And for Bangabandhu the day was 7 March and the address was the one delivered on that day.

Bangabandhu in his address narrated the stories of deprivation of and repression on the People of Bangladesh and urged the people to turn every house into a fort and get ready with whatever is available to fight the enemy. He vowed, “As we have shed blood, we would give more blood, but must we liberate the people of Bangladesh”. As the elected leader of 75 million people Bangabandhu declared amid thunderous applauses of the people, “The struggle this time is for emancipation, the struggle this time is for liberation”.

Bangabandhu in his address tactfully stopped short of making unilateral declaration of independence in order to avert a possible massacre of the people starting from Race Course that very day. He took time and left the avenue open for eventual ‘talks’ only on strategic ground. This showed another aspect of Bangabandhu’s prudence, political sagacity and love for his people.

Bangabandhu’s 7 March address gave the nation the guideline for armed struggle for liberation. And from that point of view 7 March address was the informal declaration of independence which was given the final shape by him in the early hours of 26 March, 1971.

Author : Amir Hossain,. The writer is a Joint Editor, daily sun.