Monday, March 9, 2009

Ekushey February: A Timeline -- 15

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1971 (March 20):
The 'Operation Searchlight' plan is approved with slight modifications.

Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, a volatile and unpredictable personality, arrives in Dhaka unexpectedly in spite of his early refusal to come to Dhaka to attend the National Assembly session. Bangalees condemned his arrival.

1971 (March 23):

The Awami League declares this day the 'Resistance Day'. Pakistani flags were burnt, Mohammad Ali Jinnah's portraits were torn and his effigy was set on fire.

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman himself hoists the new flag of Bangladesh in his residence at 32 Dhanmandi Road, Dhaka. The Dhaka station of the Pakistan Radio began to call itself 'Radio Dhaka'. "Amar sonar Bangla" (My golden Bengal) -- the poem of Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore -- began to be played as the national anthem of Bangladesh in radio and television stations in East Pakistan. This day became more meaningful when the British High Commission and Soviety Union Consulate in Dhaka hoisted the new Bangladesh flag.

1971 (March 24):
Due to restrictions over India for transporting military personnel and arms and ammunitions by Pakistan International Airlines, the Pakistan army was already using ships to ferry large amount of arms and ammunitions to East Pakistan via Chittagong port. On this day, workers in the port refused to unload the military hardware from the ship M.V. Swat. The armymen shot and killed several workers. At this news, people of Chittagong created barricades on the roads to stop transporting of the arms and ammunitions by the military. A unit of the East Pakistan Rifles defied orders for firing upon the Bangalee demonstrators, thus starting a mutiny of Bangalee soldiers.

1971 (March 25):
In the meantime all foreign journalists were deported from East Pakistan and Bangalee military personnel were disarmed.

On this day, rumours were circulating in restricted circles that army strike was imminent. General Yahya Khan, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, and their advisors secretly left Dhaka by a special flight at night. Around 11:00 p.m. army tanks were on the road. General Tikka Khan starts the 'Operation Search Light' in all fury. Sounds of mortar shells, firing of rifles and bombardment by tanks reverberated the city. The Rajarbagh Police Lines, the Peelkhana East Pakistan Rifles barracks, and University of Dhaka student halls were under the deadly attacks. In one night, more than 5,000 people, including university teachers and students, were killed. Many girl students at the Rokeya Hall were raped and killed. Hindu areas were also specifically targeted.

1971 (March 26):

As the full-scale West Pakistani army crackdown was going on, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, before his arrest on March 26, signed an official declaration in Bangla, which said: "Today Bangladesh is a sovereign and independent country. On Thursday night, West Pakistani armed forces suddenly attacked the police barracks at Razarbagh and the E.P.R. [East Pakistan Rifles] headquarters at Peelkhana in Dhaka. Many innocent and unarmed have been killed in Dhaka city and other places of Bangladesh. Violent clashes between the 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 Mujibur Rahman, through a radio message, also called upon East Pakistanis to resist the West Pakistani occupation forces.

In the early morning at 1:30 a.m., Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was arrested and later taken to West Pakistan and interned until the end of the war of independence. Most of the leading Awami League members were able to leave Dhaka secretly earlier avoiding army arrest.

Thus, March 26, 1971 is considered the official independence day of Bangladesh. Officially, the nine-month long War of Independence of Bangladesh also starts from this day.

1971 (March 27):
At 7:45 p.m. Major Ziaur Rahman, in-charge of the East Bengal Regiment in Kalurghat area of Chittagong District, announced the declaration of independence of Bangladesh on behalf of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. He repeated the announcement next day.

1971 (Mid-Summer):
After the declaration of independence until May, 1971, the resistence movement in East Pakistan was very loose and disorganized. By that time West Pakistani forces reasserted their authority over most of the East Pakistan territory, killing several hundred thousands of people and making about 10 million people move to India as refugees, including the resistence fighters -- Bangalee armed forces men and police personnel.

Since there was no political solution to the East Pakistan problem, India started to organize, train and assist the Mukti Bahini (liberation forces created from among the young and able-bodied men from East Pakistan). From around September, 1971, Bangalee armed forces and police personnel along with the Mukti Bahini people started their organized, efficient and full-scale guerrilla warfare against the West Pakistani forces, killing and maiming many of them, disrupting transport and communication, and destroying infrastructures within East Pakistan.

1971 (December 3):
In order to divert Indian attention, military assistance to the Mukti Bahini, and, in some cases, direct armed incursions in East Pakistan, Pakistan started pre-emptive air strikes in the western sector on a number of Indian airfields. As India was fully ready for this, by mid-night it was officially at war with Pakistan and its airforce made retaliatory attacks on West Pakistan and gained the air superiority. In the East Pakistan sector, the Indian airforce and army began to gain significant grounds with the intelligence and physical assistance of the Mukti Bahini.

1971 (December 16):
Lieutenant-General A.A.K. Niazi, Supreme Commander of the West Pakistani army in East Pakistan, surrenders, by signing the Instruments of Surrender, to the Mitro Bahini (Allied Forces), represented by Lieutenant-General Jagjit Singh Aurora of the Indian Army at the Race Course Maidan (presently Shaheed Suhrawarthy Uddyan) with 90,000 prisoners-of-war comprising Pakistani soldiers, paramilitary forces and civilians.

With the surrender of the West Pakistani soldiers, the mukti juddho (war of liberation) comes to an end and Bangladesh emerges as an independent country from the ashes of East Pakistan. The freedom, the self-determination, for which the 1952 language martyrs had died and given birth to Bangalee nationalism, ultimately becomes a reality.

1972 (January 10):
After his release from West Pakistan incarceration on January 8, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (fondly given the epithet 'Bangabandhu', meaning 'the friend of Bengal') returns triumphantly to Dhaka via London and New Delhi and he is received by millions of free Bangalees.

1972 (February 21):
The first Ekushey (21st) February is observed in independent Bangladesh. It becomes the national holiday and, from this year onward, the University of Dhaka is given the responsibility of maintaining the Central Shaheed Minar and organizing the annual commemorative ceremonies there in a festive and befitting manner.

From this year, too, starts the custom of the President of Bangladesh paying his homage to the langauge martyrs at the Central Shaheed Minar at midnight of February 20, followed by the Prime Minister at one minute past midnight.

1999 (November 17):
At the official bidding of Bangladesh and several other countries, the 30th session of the General Conference of the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) officially adopts a resolution to launch and observe the International Mother Language Day on February 21 each year throughout the world from the year 2000 to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism. The International Mother Langauge Day is a tribute to the language martyrs who gave their lives for the integrity and honour of Bangla (Bengali) -- their mother language in 1952 in East Pakistan (presently Bangladesh).

2000 (February 21):
The world observes the International Mother Langauge Day for the first time. Bangladesh and the Bangalees are proud that their langauge martyrs gain worldwide recognition for the love of their mother language.

(The End)
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