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Bangabandhu Mujibur Rehman’s historic March 7 speech continues to inspire millions even after 5 decades


March 7 is a historic day not just in the history of Bangladesh but also for South Asia as on this very day five decades back Bangabandhu Mujibur Rehman gave a clarion call for independence and inspired millions to fight the Pakistan Army.

This year March 7 is significant as the nation is going to celebrate the golden jubilee of independence on March 26 while ‘Mujib Year’ and the yearlong celebration of Bangabandhu’s birth centenary, is going on.

The fiery speech of Bangabandhu inspired Bengali-speaking citizens of then East Pakistan to prepare for the War of Liberation.

The battle began 18 days later, when the Pakistan Army launched “Operation Searchlight” against unarmed civilians, intellectuals, students, politicians, and armed personnel.

On October 30 in 2017, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) acknowledged the historic speech as part of the world’s documentary heritage.

In his 19-minute extempore speech before millions of people of former East Pakistan, Mujib said, “Ebarer sangram amader muktir sangram, ebarer sangram swadhinatar sangram” (The struggle this time is for our emancipation, the struggle this time is for our independence). He urged fight against the tyranny, exploitation, subjugation and deprivation by Pakistani military junta with whatever they possessed and transforming every house into a fortress.

The book We shall fight on the beaches: The Speeches that Inspired History by Jacob F Field, which is a collection of “extracts from the most rousing and inspirational wartime speeches of the last 2500 years—Cicero to Churchill, Lincoln to Mao”, also included Bangabandhu’s historic March 7 speech (which effectively declared Bangladesh’s independence) as one of the most rousing and inspirational wartime speeches during the last 2,500 years.

The speech had electrifying effects. It transformed the then 75 million people into a people’s army, ready to fight till their last blood. According to former Vice Chancellor of the University of Dhaka and Professor of Mass Communication AAMS Arefin Siddique, “Bangabandhu completed this timeless speech in 19 minutes by uttering between 58 and 60 words per minute. 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 reinforced the inner meaning of the speech.”

“Bangabandhu started his address in this fashion: “My dear brothers, I have come before you today with a heavy heart. All of you know and understand how hard we have tried. But it is a matter of sorrow that the streets of Dhaka, Chittagong, Khulna, Rangpur and Rajshahi have today become coloured with the blood of my brothers. Today, our people (Banglar manush) want freedom, they want to live, they want their rights.”

If the contents of the speech are analysed it was basically a message about the emergence of a new State on the global map. The main job of a public speech is setting an agenda, which was done in Bangabandhu’s speech. The following part of his address shows that there was no change in his humanitarian approach even while announcing tough programmes: “I want to pronounce clearly that the courts, offices, criminal courts and educational institutions will remain closed from today, indefinitely. Other items will remain outside the purview of the strike, so that the poor don’t suffer and my people do not endure hardship. Rickshaws, horse-drawn carriages, trains and launches will run; only the Secretariat, Supreme Court, High Court, Judge Court, and semi-government offices like WAPDA shall not operate.”

The last sentence of Bangabandhu’s March 7 speech—”The struggle this time is for emancipation! The struggle this time is for independence!”—was effectively a declaration of independence expressed with a firm resolve, which had, in fact, defined the speech.

Although the historic March 7 speech was extempore, there were no repetitions and hesitations in framing words. Noted international newsmagazine Newsweek had once termed Bangabandhu as a “Poet of Politics” in the cover story of its April 5, 1971 issue.

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