Sunday, March 8, 2009

Ekushey February: A Timeline -- 14

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1971 (January 3):
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman addressed a mammoth public gathering at the Dhaka Race Course Maidan and administered the oath to the newly-elected Members of the National Assembly (MNAs) and Members of the Provincial Assembly (MPAs) of the Awami League. In that meeting he emphatically stated that he would seek cooperation of the people's representatives of West Pakistan in framing the Constitution.

1971 (January 4):
In face of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's insistence on his legal demands, Yahya Khan delayed and postponed indefinitely the inaugural session of the National Assembly.

1971 (January 12 - 14):
Yahya comes to Dhaka to hold a two-day discussion with Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on the framing of the Constitution on the basis of the Six-Point Programme. He gave the impression that on his return he would discuss with Bhutto and have the National Assembly convened as soon as possible. On January 14, while leaving Dhaka airport for Karachi, Yahya Khan made a statement that "Sheikh Mujibur Rahman is going to be the future Prime Minister of the country."

1971 (February 13):
Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto stunned everyone by announcing that he wouldn't go to Dhaka to attend the National Assembly session on March 3.

1971 (March 1):
Yahya Khan again postpones the National Assembly session of March 3 to March 25.

1971 (March 3):
Zulfiquar Ali Bhutto and President General Yahy Khan meet with Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on this day in Dhaka to decide the fate of the country. Talks failed. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman called for a nation-wide strike.

1971 (March 7):
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman at a million-strong gathering at the Race Course Maidan (presently Suhrawarthy Uddyan) in Dhaka, placed four-point demands before holding the National Assembly session on March 25:
  • Immediate lifting of the Martial Law.
  • Immediate withdrawal of all military personnel to their barracks.
  • An inquiry into the loss of life in the hands of the military.
  • Immediate transfer of power to the elected representatives of the people.
He urged the Bangalees "to turn every house into a fort of resistence." He concluded his speech by saying: "The struggle this time is for our freedom. The struggle this time is for our independence."

General Tikka Khan, the 'Butcher of Baluchistan' and a favourite of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, arrives today in Dhaka to become the Governor and Martial-Law Administrator of East Pakistan. Because of his sadistically deadly and repressive measures in Baluchistan province of West Pakistan in the past, High Court Chief Justice B. A. Siddiqui refused to swear him in on March 9, but later was compelled to do so. Tikka Khan was the implementer of the Pakistan army's ultra-secretive 'Operation Searchlight' -- the deadly military crackdown on East Pakistan on March 25 to destroy once for all the Bangalee nationalism and their struggle for regional autonomy. He was in East Pakistan until September, 1971. After his ignominious foray in East Pakistan, the Bangalees call him the 'Butcher of Bengal'.

1971 (March 10 - 13):
After cancelling all the international flights, the Pakistan International Airlines ferry "government passengers" to Dhaka from West Pakistan. Most of these passengers were Pakistani soldiers disguised as civilians!

1971 (March 14):
Bangalee intellectuals begin to discard Pakistan government's titles and awards. Today it started with Shilpacharjya Jainul Abedin who rejected his Hilal-e-Imtiaz title, the second highest civilian honour. Others followed his suit.

1971 (March 15 - 17):
Yahya Khan arrives again in Dhaka to have a series of 'talks' with Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who reiterated his demands for the withdrawal of the military personnel to the barracks, transfer of power to the elected representatives, and trial of the armymen who killed innocent civilians. The talks failed. Yahya used this visit to plan the 'Operation Searchlight' with General Khadim Raja and Major General Rao Farman Ali -- the last two were the drafters of the deadly plan.

1971 (March 19):
Punjabi military officers at Joydevpur, about 10 miles north of Dhaka, in a skirmish killed several Bangalee army officers. Civilians of the locality were enraged. To stop the volatile situation, a 29-hour curfew was clamped in the area.

(Continued)
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