There are moments which define the emergence of a society and a nation out of the morass of difficult times. Such a moment came for us on 17 April 1971 when, through the bloodshed and the genocide launched by the Pakistan army in occupied Bangladesh, the nation's political leadership took upon themselves the onerous responsibility of shaping a strategy for the attainment of national freedom.
Acting in light of the declaration of independence by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in the early hours of 26 March, his close political associates decided to formally inform the global community on 17 April that the freedom struggle of the 75 million people of Bangladesh was underway.
And our leaders did that marvellously well. For the first time in the history of our nation, the world was made acquainted with the fact that we had a government in place, an administration that was ready to guide the nation to victory. All these decades after that momentous occasion, it is hard to imagine the huge impediments that the Mujibnagar government, as it came to be known, was able to surmount and shape both a civilian structure of administration and a war machine that would set up the Mukti Bahini.
Through the able leadership of Acting President Syed Nazrul Islam, Prime Minister Tajuddin Ahmad and other colleagues of Bangabandhu, a concerted programme of action was put in place and on the basis of such a programme the nation was able to reach its desired goal.
The Mujibnagar government is not merely part of history. It is history itself, for it was a message which went out to the world of the dedication we as a nation were putting into our efforts to liberate Bangladesh from colonial rule. In the nine months of the war, the wartime government proved itself equal to the task of gathering within its fold all sections and classes of Bengalis --- students, professionals, politicians, soldiers and others --- and organizing them into a multi-dimensional resistance against the Pakistan army.
Even as the government led the struggle for freedom, it needed to cope with the thousands and then millions of refugees who were streaming across the border into India and ensure their welfare with the cooperation of the Indian government. At the international level, the government was fortified by the defections of Bengali diplomats from Pakistani missions abroad and aligning themselves with the national cause. In global capitals, the Mujibnagar government created the impact that jolted the world out of complacence about our war.
Mujibnagar Day, in light of the pivotal role played by our political leadership in 1971, need not be confined to a day's observance only. The ethos it symbolized, the national unity it epitomized, the wisdom it demonstrated are historical realities which need to be emphasized before the young, those who are in school, college and university. The point is obvious: because of Bangabandhu's leadership and the wartime strategy of the Mujibnagar government, we are today a nation proud of the liberty we experience every day of our collective life.
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