Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman
(The crowd cheer at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s arrival at the Racecourse)
Brothers of mine;
Today I appear before you with a heavy heart. You know and understand everything. We tried with our lives. But the painful matter is that now the streets of Dhaka, Chittagong, Khulna, Rajshahi and Rangpur are stained with the bloods of my brothers.
Now the people of Bangla want freedom. The people of Bangla want to live. The people of Bangla want to have their rights.
What wrong did we commit?
The people of Bangladesh cast their vote overwhelmingly for me, for Awami League. Our National Assembly will sit. We will draw up the Constitution there. And we will build this country. The people of this country will have economic, political and cultural freedom.
But it’s a matter of great sorrow that today I have to tell painfully the pitiful history of the last twenty-three years. The bloody history of Bengalis tortured in Bangla itself. The history of the last twenty- three years is the history of the wailing of dying men and women. The history of Bangla is the history of the staining of streets with the blood of the People of this country.
We gave blood in 1952. After winning the election in 1954, we couldn’t even form the government. Proclaiming martial law in 1958, Ayub Khan made us slaves for ten years.
During the ‘Six Point Movement’, my children were gunned down on 7th June 1966. After, the fall of Ayub Khan brought about the ‘Mass Movement’ of 1969 where Yahya Khan usurped power. He said he would give constitution and democracy to the nation. We Agreed. Thereafter the rest is history. There was an election. You know the fault was not ours.
Today I met President Yahya Khan and discussed everything with him. Being the leader of not only of Bangla but of the majority party of Pakistan, I requested him to convene the National Assembly of 15th February. He didn’t agree with me, rather he yielded to Mr Bhutto’s demand to hold the assembly in the first week of March.
We said that was alright. We would sit in the Assembly. I went even to the extent of saying that if anybody, even a lone person proposed something reasonable, we, although the majority will accept the proposal.
Mr Bhutto came here. He conferred with us and said that the door for discussion was not closed. There would be more discussions. Then we talked with other leaders and said ‘please come and sit together; let’s prepare the Constitution through discussion’.
Mr Bhutto said that if the members of West Pakistan came here, the Assembly would turn into a slaughter house. He said whoever would come would be killed. If they came to the Assembly, then from Peshawar to Karachi, all shops will be closed down by force. I said that Assembly would continue, then all of a sudden, the Assembly was closed on 1st March. As President, Mr Yahya Khan had summoned the Assembly. I said that I would attend. Mr Bhutto said that he won’t. Thirty- five members from West Pakistan came here. Then all of a sudden, the Assembly was closed. The people of Bangla were blamed; I was blamed too. Because of the closure, the people of this country burst into protest. I told them to observe ‘hartal’ (strike) in a peaceful manner I told them to close down all mills and factories. The people responded. The people spontaneously came out on the streets. They firmly pledged to continue their resistance in a peaceful manner.
What did we get?
The weapons we bought at the expense of our money to protect the country from the invasion of foreign enemies, are now being used against the poor and unarmed people of our country; they are being shot down. We are the majority of the people of Pakistan. Whenever we Bengalis tried to gain power; tried to rule this country as our own, they assaulted.
They are our brother; I asked them ‘Why must you shoot your brother? You were deployed to protect this country from the attack of foreign enemies’.
Mr Yahya said that I had agreed that there would be a Round Table Conference (RTC) on 10th March. I said no such thing to him. I had a talk with him over the telephone.
I told him ‘General Yahya Khan, you are President of Pakistan. Come to Dhaka and see the how my poor people, my people of Bangla are being shot down. How the bosom of our mothers is being emptied of their sons. How my people are being killed. You come, see and do justice and then finalize. That’s exactly what I told him. I told him long ago, RTC for what? Who do we sit with? With them… who spilled the blood of my people?
Without any consultation, with me or any discussion with us, suddenly after 5 hours of secret meeting, Yahya Khan delivered his speech, in which he dumped all the blame squarely on me, squarely on the people of Bangla. (The crowds say shame, shame)
I have said in the meeting, the struggle this time is our struggle for emancipation, the struggle this time is the struggle for our independence.
Brothers of mine.
The Assembly has summoned on the 25th March. The marks of bloods have not yet dried. I had clearly said on 10th March that Mujib Rahman can’t joint RTC, treading the bloods of martyrs.
They have called the Assembly. They have got to accept my demands:
Only then, we will consider whether we can sit in the Assembly or not. Before that we can’t sit in the Assembly. The people have not given me that right.
Brothers of mine
Do you have faith in me?
(The crowds say yes yes)
I don’t want Prime Ministership. We want to establish the right of the people of this country.
I want to say in clear terms that from now on all courts, magistrates, offices and educational institutions in Bangladesh will remain closed sine die.
To ensure that no suffering is inflicted on the poor people, to ensure that my people do not suffer, from tomorrow the following things will be put out of range of the ‘hartal’. Rickshaws and hackney carriages will work; railway trains and launches will run.
But the Secretariat, Supreme Court, High Court, Judge’s Court and semi-government offices like WAPDA (Pakistan Water Development Authority) will not function. All employees will draw their salaries on the 28th of the month.
If salaries are not paid; if one more shot is fired and if my people are killed again then my request to you is; build a fortress in each and every home.
Face the enemy with whatever you have.
In case I can’t give you any further order, I tell you; close all roads and highway indefinitely. We will starve them to death. We will make them go without water and choke them to death.
You are our brothers. You stay in your barracks; no one will say anything to you. But don’t ever try to shoot us. This will do you no good. You can’t keep seven crores of people subjugated. Since we have learnt to die, no one can dominate us. We, from Awami League, will try our best to help those who are embracing martyrdom and those who have received injuries.
Those who are capable, please extend your monetary support, whatever you can to our relief fund. And every owner of industries will pay salaries to all workers who participated in the 7-day ‘hartal’.
My instruction to government officials is that you must obey what I say. From now on, tax will not be paid till such time as the freedom of our country is achieved; no one will pay anything.
Listen and bear in mind, the enemy has penetrated us in order to create divisions amongst us and to start looting.
Hindus, Muslims, Bengalis and non-Bengalis, all those who live in this Bangla are our brothers. The responsibility of protecting them is on you. Ensure that our reputation is not smeared in any way.
The employees of the Radio and Television; please bear in mind that if our words are not broadcasted by the radio, then no Bengali shall go to the radio station.
If our news is not broadcasted by Television, then no Bengali will go to the Television station. The ban shall remain open for two hours every day so that the people can get their salaries.
But from East Bangla, a single paisa will not be allowed to be remitted to West Pakistan.
Telephone and Telegraph service will remain operative in our East Bangla. They shall keep on sending our news to foreign news media. But if there is any sinister move to annihilate the people of this country, the Bengalis, you will have to keep very careful watch.
I am requesting you, you are my brothers.
Do not make this country a hell and destroy it.
Do not make this country a hell and destroy it.
We will not see each other’s face in the future.
If we can solve things in a peaceful manner, we can at least live as brothers.
That is why I am requesting you; do not try and run military rule in my country.
Secondly, in every village, every locality, every union and every sub-division establish ‘Resistant Council’ under the leadership of the Awami League.
And be ready with whatever you have.
Bear in mind that since we have given blood, we will give more. By the grace of Allah, we will surely liberate the people of this country.
The struggle this time is the struggle for our emancipation.
The struggle this time is the struggle for our independence.
7th March 1971
Ramna Racecourse, Dhaka, Bangladesh
(Note: The 7the March speech is on the Memory of the World Register of UNESCO, a list of world’s important documentary heritage. Irina Bokova, Director General of UNESCO announced the decision at its headquarter in Paris on 30 October 2017)