by R Chowdhury 28 March 2021
“He who indulges in falsehood will find the paths of Paradise shut to him,” Hazrat Abu Bakr, the First Islamic Caliph.
The Declaration of Independence
“I, Major Ziaur Rahman, Provisional Head of the Government, do hereby declare Bangladesh’s Independence. …. I call upon all Bengalis to rise against the attack by the West Pakistani Army. We shall fight to the last to free our Motherland. By the grace of Allah, victory is ours.”
(An image of Ziaur Rahman, shown as Major General here, making an announcement).
The declaration was made on March 27, 1971, by then Major Ziaur Rahman, Second-in-Command of the 8th East Bengal Regiment in Chittagong. It was made from the Kalurghat Radio Station in Chittagong. The whole nation heard it. The whole world monitored it, courtesy radio relay by a nearby Japanese ship.
However, at the urging of the local Awami League leaders, the declaration was later modified to read:
“This is Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra. I, Major Ziaur Rahman, on behalf of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, hereby declare that the independent People’s Republic of Bangladesh has been established. I have taken command as the temporary Head of the Republic……”
Because of the change and perhaps the announcement was made differently at different times, a few variants are available. It was not the digital age. Most importantly, the declaration was made in a makeshift arrangement in a war situation.
There was no controversy over this declaration for more than two decades. In his lifetime, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman never contradicted the announcement made by Major Ziaur Rahman, nor did he claim to be the sole author of the declaration. But Zia stealing the show in his absence did not go well for the egoistic leader either.
Fear of Truth
US President J F Kennedy said, “A nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its People.”
No elaboration is needed for today’s Bangladesh, where people are groaning under falsehood and fascism for more than two decades.
After an Indo-US clique installed Sheikh Hasina in power through a managed election in December 2008, the new administration proceeded to overhaul the country’s history to suit its alteration design. Because it could not face the existing truth. The first order of business was to crush the political opposition to dust. Next, having complete control over the legislature and judiciary, and with helpful media and a section of loyal pseudo-intellectuals, it was quick and easy for the lady Hitler to fulfill her whims and fancies. She made the Constitution read: Sheikh Mujibur Rahman made the declaration of Bangladesh’s independence on March 26, 1971. Whatever stories were cited in support had scores of holes even to deserve a second look. Simultaneously she started a maligning campaign to discredit Ziaur Rahman, whose incredible successes and highly acclaimed leadership became thorns on the way to building the Mujib image.
(Before entering politics and later assuming power, Sheikh Hasina had expressed to a number of high-level individuals that her only objective was to avenge the death of her father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and establish his image).
Ziaur Rahman’s anti-Pakistani rebellion following Pakistan’s military’s commencement of genocide on March 25, 1971, and his subsequent independence declaration on Mar 27, which the whole nation and the international community heard and acknowledged have been summarily dismissed. All evidence testifying that had been quietly destroyed. Even if Zia’s role was mentioned in passing, it took a secondary stature. In Hasina’s Bangladesh, Zia does not exist.
Facing the truth and fear of people led the Hasina administration to ugly fascism. India, her sponsor, backs her all the way. Some analysts say it is, in fact, an Indian strategy to serve its own agenda through Hasina.
Another American luminary, Nobel Laureate William Falkner, said, “Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth.”
Here is the truth.
- Official (Awami League Government) documents say, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman made the declaration of independence from Pakistan on March 26, 1971.
But we know Sheikh Mujib was taken into custody on the night of March 25, 1971. How could he make the independence declaration while in Pakistani custody? Not even a crazy fool will buy it.
- If Mujib made the declaration on March 26, why would Ziaur Rahman claim himself “Provisional Head of the government” on March 27, 1971? Though he changed the format in favor of Sheikh Mujib at the urging of local Awami League leaders, who never mentioned any earlier declaration by Mujib.
- The Provisional (Exiled) Government of Bangladesh, on April 10, 1971, proclaimed the independence of Bangladesh by confirming an earlier declaration made by Major Ziaur Rahman of the East Bengal Regiment on March 27 on the Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra, in Kalurghat, Chittagong. (Ref: Bangladesh Document, Indian Government).
- At the Awami League Council Session in Dhaka on April 8, 1972, Tajuddin Ahmad gave his Secretary General’s Report saying, “Major Ziaur Rahman made the Declaration of Independence on behalf of Bangabandhu (Sheikh Mujibur Rahman). No reference to Mujib’s declaration on March 26. (Ref: The Daily Bangla, April 9, 1972).
- One year earlier, on April 11, 1971, while forming the exile government, Tajuddin Ahmad said: “The brilliant success of our fighting force…has enabled the Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, first announced through Major Ziaur Rahman. (Ref: Bangladesh Document, Indian Government). Nowhere in Tajuddin’s statements or speeches was there any mention of how or when Sheikh Mujib made his Declaration of Independence. On March 26.
- (Major) Siddiq Salek, General Tikka Khan’s PRO in Dhaka, confirmed in his book Witness to Surrender, “Major Ziaur Rahman, the second-in-command of 8 East Bengal, assumed command of the rebels in Chittagong. Major Zia broadcast the declaration of Bangladesh.”
- Prime Minister Indira Gandhi of India, in a speech at the Columbia University on November 6, 1971, said, “The cry for independence arose after Sheikh Mujib was arrested and not before. He himself, so far as I know, has not asked for independence even now.” Gandhi, a strong supporter of Bangladesh’s independence, could not have missed if Mujib made a declaration; more so, Bangladesh’s Provisional Government was based in India at her behest since April 1971. (Ref: Columbia Spectator, Bangladesh Documents, Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India-1972).
- The Londoni media said, “At this crucial moment when the political leadership failed to give any direction, the 8th East Bengal Regiment under the leadership of Major Ziaur Rahman revolted against the Pakistan Army and took up the Bangladesh flag as its mainstay on the night between 26 and 27 March 1971.
- That Major Ziaur Rahman declared independence was written in the book Bangla Name Desh, which Sheikh Mujibur Rahman acknowledged by signing a message for it. The book says: “Mujib was arrested. All organized forces were disoriented. To revive the situation, Major Zia announced a temporary government from Chittagong Radio Station on Sunday, March 28. He became the chief of that government”. (Ref: Bangla Name Desh, April 1972, Anand Publishers, West Bengal, India).
- Indian President Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy praised, at a banquet in honor of visiting President Ziaur Rahman on December 27, 1977, saying, “Your position is already assured in the annals of the history of your country as a brave fighter who was first to declare the independence of Bangladesh.”
- Some Awami League members and its supporters claim that Sheikh Mujib’s speech on March 7, 1971, was itself the declaration of independence, and he did not have to give another subsequently. The US TV network NBC negated this notion in its story on March 26, 1971. It broadcast its interview with the Bengali leader on March 7, whereby Mujib categorically denied that he had meant Bangladesh’s independence in his speech earlier that day. “I did not mean that (independence of Bangladesh),” said Mujib to NBC. “I want autonomy for my people.”
- In a video presentation on the 50the Anniversary of Bangladesh’s independence, BNP leader Tareque Rahman quoted a large number of freedom fighters, political leaders, military officials who confirmed the declaration made by Ziaur Rahman on March 27, 1971, which was the first such declaration. The leaders included freedom fighters Air Vice Marshal A K Khandakar, General Safiullah, General Mir Shawkat Ali, General Syed Ibrahim, Colonel Nurzzaman, Colonel Oli Ahmed, Major Shamsher M Chowdhury, Major Hafiz Ahmed, Major Shahjahan Umar, Kader Siddiqui, and Mohiuddin Ahmed. He also included Indian General JFR Jacob and diplomat JN Dixit. (https://www.facebook.com/tariquerahman.bdbnp/videos/197001521855144/)
International Coverage of the Zia Declaration
- The Bangkok Post, March 27, 1971.
The Bangkok daily reported that in a broadcast over the radio, Major Jia Khan, Commander in Chief of the Liberation Army of Swadhin Bangla Desh, said, “I hereby declare the independence of Bangladesh and take over as provisional head of independent Bangladesh.”
- The Blade of Ohio, March 28, 1971.
The renowned newspaper published a front-page report that Army Control Claimed, But Fighting Reported Heavy in East Pakistan. The report further says that Major Zia, as chief of the Bangladesh Liberation Army, declared Bangladesh’s independence. Zia warned, if Pakistanis do not surrender, they will be destroyed completely.
- The Age of Australia, March 29, 1971
Supporters of East Pakistani leader Sheik Mujibur Rahman today formed a Provisional Government under Major Zia Khan’s temporary leadership.
A rebel radio announcing the new government identified Major Zia as head of the liberation army of Sheik Mujib’s Awami League. The radio did not explain why Sheik Mujib had not been appointed leader of the government.
- Buenos Aires Herald, March 29, 1971
Under “Rebel Government Set up Under Army Major,” the paper said that Major Zia was made the Head of the State and declared Bangladesh’s independence.
- Boca Raton, of Florida (USA), March 30, 1971.
The paper reported the New Delhi datelined declaration of Independence of Bangladesh. The broadcast said Major Zia Ur-Rahman, head of the provisional government of Bangladesh (Bengal Homeland), appealed to other nations to recognize the revolutionary government.
- The New York Times, June 7, 1978
Under the title “Bangladesh’s Soft-spoken but Strict President, the US daily published a lengthy report on President Ziaur Rahman, saying, “In March 1971, after the West Pakistani crackdown on civilians here, it was Ziaur Rahman, then a regimental commander in the port city of Chittagong, who declared the independence of Bangladesh.”
In the same radio broadcast, he also indicated that he would be the President of the new country, but he soon had to yield the power to Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. In the war that followed the independence declaration, Ziaur Rahman, then a Lieutenant Colonel, commanded a brigade that came to be known as “Z” Force; he acquired a reputation for bravery and icy-calm.”
- The New York Times, May 31, 1981
Under the title, “Leader Who Tried to Give Nation Direction,” The renowned US daily made a lengthy report on President Ziaur Rahman. It said, while as a Regimental Commander in 1971, he declared the independence of Bangladesh. It repeated its 1978 report, which said, “In March 1971, after the West Pakistani crackdown on civilians here, it was Ziaur Rahman, then a regimental commander in the port city of Chittagong, who declared the independence of Bangladesh…In the same radio broadcast, he also indicated that he would be the President of the new country, but he soon had to yield the power to Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. In the war that followed the independence declaration, Ziaur Rahman, then a Lieutenant Colonel, commanded a brigade that came to be known as “Z” Force; he acquired a reputation for bravery and icy-calm.”
- The Wall Street Journal, June 1, 1981.
As a Divisional Commander in 1971, Zia made the declaration of independence. In the declaration, he made himself the Head of the State but relinquished the position in favor of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
- The Citizen of Ottawa, Canada, June 2, 1981:
The Canadian paper said, “Ziaur Rahman was a successful liberation war leader. In March 1971, he declared the independence of Bangladesh from Chittagong.”
- The Time Magazine, June 8, 1981
Under the title “Death at Night”: President Zia Assassinated, the international weekly reported, “Ten years ago, this spring, young Major Ziaur Rahman broadcast an electrifying message from a clandestine radio in the East Pakistan city of Chittagong, proclaiming a rebellion against West Pakistan that ultimately created the nation of Bangladesh.”
- The Frontline, in Collaboration of the Hindu of India, August 1, 2003
In the “Forgotten Heroes,” David Ludden, History Professor of Pennsylvania University, designated Ziaur Rahman as the Commander-in-Chief of the Bangladesh Liberation Army, who later became the President of the country. It said, “On March 27, 1971, Major Ziaur Rahman of the 8th East Bengal Regiment declared over a Swadhin Betar Kendra at Kalurghat Chittagong.” It gave a detailed message of the declaration of independence of Bangladesh on behalf of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
- New York State, 2013
Adopted resolution 739, which mentioned that on March 26, 1971, Ziaur Rahman broadcast a message that an independent Peoples’ Republic of Bangladesh had been established
“If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything,” said famous American writer Mark Twain. Three centuries earlier, his British Guru, William Shakespeare, said similarly: “To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.”
I doubt Bangladesh’s Sheikh Hasina ever knew those luminaries, much less what they had said. Otherwise, she would have pondered, for a while, what the consequences that may lay ahead for propagating such humongous falsehood.
Two and a half-millennium ago, Plato said, “Strange times are these in which we live when old and young are taught falsehood in school. And the person who dares, to tell the truth, is called at once a lunatic and fool,” Plato (427-347 BC).
To see its truth in Bangladesh, please read the article below.
May Almighty save this nation!
The writer is a former soldier, freedom fighter, and diplomat. Spends retired life in reading, writing, and gardening. Published three books, and a few are in the pipeline.