The March 7 speech will guide many generations to come
After 23 years of suppression and exploitation, Bengalis were revived on March 7, in that historic moment, when Bangabandhu spoke out and built the ground of freedom, nationalism, and a state. The whole nation was waiting for a call of independence and freedom. Indeed, a call was solely required. The moment came on March 7. The poet of the great epic of Bangladesh’s freedom, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, uttered the mighty words of freedom: “The fight this time, is the fight for freedom, the fight this time, is the fight for independence.”
Bangabandhu’s March 7 speech is the certificate of independence and freedom for Bengalis, as well as for all of the oppressed across the world.
At 3:20pm on March 7, 1971, the man with a black coat stood firm on stage in front of the microphone. “Padma, Meghna, Jamuna -- yours, our address.” Millions clapped like the music of freedom. Bangabandhu’s hand greeted the freedom-loving population.
The bold voice uttered: “If any single bullet is fired, if any of my men are killed, I urge you all, build forts in every house.” These words provoked the unarmed Bengalis to stand against injustice and suppression, and for freedom. Bangabandhu went on speaking: “Confront the enemies with whatever you have. Even if I cannot order, halt every road forever.”
The 19-minute speech painted the whole of history. Bangabandhu demanded the withdrawal of martial law, power to the elected people’s representatives, to stop the killing.
Since then, the March 7 speech has gained its place in the world’s memory. Unesco on October 30, 2017 declared Bangabandhu’s March 7 speech as part of the world’s documentary heritage.
How did that 19-minute unwritten speech unite the whole nation? How did that speech inspire people to sacrifice their lives for the freedom of a nation?
The speech stirs new generations even today. Even today, that speech empowers each and every one of us to stand steady against all darkness.
Abraham Lincoln’s historic Gettysburg Address, delivered in extremely bad times at Pennsylvania’s Gettysburg, contained only 272 words and was three minutes in length. Martin Luther King, who fought against racism and for equal rights, delivered his historic written speech on August 28, 1963 in front of 250 thousand people. His speech “I have a dream,” which was written, and contained 1,667 words, was of a 17-minute length. And then there was Bangabandhu’s historic March 7 speech, which inspired millions to fight for their freedom.
Bangabandhu said to the soldiers: “Soldiers, you are my brothers, stay at the barracks, nobody will do anything to you. But don’t try to fire on my chest. You cannot suppress seven crore people. As we’ve learnt to die, nobody can suppress us.”
According to a report from Pakistan’s intelligence agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Bangabandhu was very careful when delivering his March 7 speech. He tore up every single trap of Pakistanis around him as he hit the enemy. ISI reported on March 8: “Bangabandhu cleverly delivered his speech. He didn’t take the responsibility for breaking up Pakistan, but declared independence, as well as imposed four conditions without being identified as a separatist. We had nothing to do except stand aside and play silent listeners. We have failed to take action as planned.”
People from every corner of the country came to the Race Course ground (now Suhrawardy Udyan), on bare foot or by train or bus. Over 1 million people of all races and religions attended the assembly. The entire population of the Race Course ground erupted after hearing the speech. They were inspired to stand steady for freedom. They stood with only bamboo sticks, but had fire in their hearts for freedom.
Bangabandhu’s March 7 speech was the most important and significant speech in the history of a free and independent Bangladesh. But a few days later, on the very dark night of March 25, the Pakistani occupation army brutally killed thousands of Bengalis, and later, in the first hours of March 26, Bangabandhu declared the independence of Bangladesh, and the armed war for freedom was launched. The victory came on December 16, after nine months of devastating war. Bangladesh got its name in the world map as a free and independent country.
Jacob F Field, in his book We Shall Fight on the Beaches: The Speeches That Inspired History put Bangabandhu’s speech on top. Bangabandhu’s speech has been translated into many languages. Newsweek called Bangabandhu the “poet of politics” on April 5, 1972, in their cover story.
Even today, historians and political scientists become overwhelmed when they analyze Bangabandhu’s speech. Under the nose of a brutal military government, Bangabandhu led the whole nation carefully, tactfully, with his political prudence and strategy, and eventually won freedom.
He is an idol for generations. He will keep standing as the guidance for many generations to come.
Kabir Chowdhury Tanmoy is President, Bangladesh Online Activist Forum, (BOAF).