Bangabandhu Hints Declaration of Independence by Hoisting Flag on March 23: The greatest Bengali of all time, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman spent his entire life for the liberation of the Bengali nation. He awakened the sleeping Bengali nation through various rights movements for almost two decades and gradually prepared them for the ultimate independence.
[ Bangabandhu Hints Declaration of Independence by Hoisting Flag on March 23 ]
Before declaring independence on March 26, he gave the latest awakening message to the nation by hoisting the national flag of independent Bangladesh on March 23. The Bengali nation started hoisting the red and green flag of independent Bangladesh instead of the Pakistani flag from that day.
At sunrise on March 23 in 1971, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman hoisted the map-inlaid flag of independent Bangladesh at his residence at Dhanmondi Road No. 32. Earlier, on March 7, he announced the final war tactics at Suhrawardy Udyan. Since then, under the direction of the Father of the Nation, the non-cooperation movement was going on across the country, on the one hand, and on the other hand, preparations for the final war were underway through the Sangram Committee led by Awami League.
Pakistani junta chief General Yahya Khan and Pakistan People’s Party leader Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who lost the 1970 election came to Dhaka at such a critical time. Bangabandhu declared ‘Pakistan Day’ of March 23 as ‘Resistance Day’ in their presence.
On the morning of March 23, Bangabandhu hoisted the red-green flag with his own hands in front of thousands of people. Then the crowd sang the song ‘Joy Bangla, Banglar Joy’ together. Volunteers saluted the national flag in military style.
After hoisting the flag, Bangabandhu addressed the crowd saying,
“Fighting will continue till 70 million people get freedom. The struggle is going on, the struggle will continue. Victory must come. Be united. Get ready. No one will be able to oppress the Bengalis, InshaAllah … Joy Bangla.” At the end of the speech, Bangabandhu himself chanted the slogan,
“Amar Desh, Tomar Desh, Bangladesh, Bangladesh. Jago Jago, Banglai Jago
(My country, your country – Bangladesh, Bangladesh. Wake up, wake up Bengali).”
The news of raising Bangladesh’s flag by Bangabandhu spread in the city in the morning. People in every house hoisted the flag of Bangladesh. The slogan ‘Joy Bangla, Joy Bangabandhu’ shook the whole Dhaka city.
Flag of Independent Bangla Starts Replacing Pakistani Signs
According to the newspapers published on March 24, 1971, no Pakistani flag was seen anywhere except the President’s Office, Governor’s House and the cantonment under tight security on March 23. On Bangabandhu’s orders, the flag of independent Bangla was officially hoisted at all government and non-government buildings and educational institutions including Dhaka Secretariat, High Court, Constituent Assembly, EPR, Rajarbagh Police Headquarters, Dhaka Betar, Television, Dhaka University, Chief Justice and Chief Secretary’s residences. The heroic Bengali crowd hoisted the flag of independent Bengali at Hotel Intercontinental where Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was staying at that time.
The flag of independent Bangladesh was also raised at the consulate buildings of different countries in Dhaka. Bangladesh flag was flying at the Deputy High Commission of the United Kingdom and the Soviet Consulate since morning. Although China, Iran, Indonesia and Nepal initially hoisted the Pakistani flag along with their own flags like other days, they too replaced the Pakistani flag with the Bangladeshi flag in the face of public protest.
Regarding March 23, Shaheed Janani (mother of martyrs) Jahanara Imam in her book ‘Ekattorer Dinguli’ wrote,
“Today is the day of resistance. Early in the morning, we all in the house went to the roof and raised the new flag of independent Bangladesh on another bamboo next to the black flag. I felt tickling in my chest. “
The memoirs of the then student leaders published in different media said that people observed a general holiday on this day across Bangladesh on the instructions of Bangabandhu. After hoisting the flag of independent Bangla at Dhaka University, Chhatra Sangram Parishad took out a morning procession called ‘Probhat Ferry’ that followed reciting ‘Amar Sonar Bangla, Ami Tomay Bhalobashi (Oh My Golden Bengal, I love you)’ song and hoisting of the national flag at Paltan Maidan.
As the representatives of Bangabandhu, the student leaders received greetings from the people through the parade of Joy Bangla Force. The whole of Dhaka turned into a city of flags. Even seeing the design in newspapers, ordinary people made the flags themselves and hoisted those on their rooftop. Apart from the capital, every corner of the country wore a green and red look with the flag of independent Bangla. Brave Bengalis roared in processions, waving flags on highways, buildings, top points of the trees, sticks, spears and guns.
At the end of the programme at Palton, the crowd gathered in front of Bangabandhu’s house at Dhanmondi No. 32. Bangabandhu came and stood in front of them with the flag in one hand. He said, “The people of Bengal are not of anyone’s mercy. They will snatch the red sun of freedom with their formidable power.”
Hoisting of National Flag Was Prelude to the Declaration of Independence
The Pakistan military junta chief General Yahya left Dhaka maintaining high secrecy on the afternoon of March 25 to avoid talks. Before leaving, he ordered the Pakistani army to run a massacre in Dhaka. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto stayed in Dhaka to witness the massacre. Around 11:30 pm on March 25, the Pakistani soldiers swooped on the sleeping Bengalis.
However, Bangabandhu came to know the details of the Pakistani plan from various sources. He then met the top Awami League leaders and instructed them to go to their safe places to wage war. He did not want to blame the Bengali nation as ‘separatist’ by starting the attack before the Pakistani junta. He stayed at his Dhanmondi’s residence bidding farewell to all.
However, from the evening, Bangabandhu and his companions gave instructions for war from his house through telephone calls to different places. He said to Tajuddin Ahmed, Syed Nazrul Islam and Dr Kamal Hossain, among others who present there,
“Whenever the Pakistanis start attacking, we will be independent since then“.
In an interview with the BBC, Dr Kamal said,
“Bangabandhu bid farewell to everyone but he stayed on his own because if he was not found, the Pakistanis would have destroyed the whole Dhaka city. Millions of people had to die that night.”
Shortly after the Pakistani attack on the night of March 25, Bangabandhu’s voice was broadcast live on a special wireless frequency in the early hours of March 26. A soldier of General Tikka Khan, infamously known as the butcher of Balochistan, heard the announcement and went straight to Tikka. Tikka Khan confirmed it was Bangabandhu’s voice and ordered the Pakistani military to arrest him. But before the arrest of Bangabandhu, the European and American countries came to know about this announcement through the wireless of all foreign ships in Chattogram port.
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto left for Pakistan on the morning of March 26 after seeing the debris of Dhaka. But the news of Bangabandhu’s declaration of independence of Bangladesh was broadcast in all the international media by then. As the Liberation War began, the brave Bengalis started resistance all over the country with the slogan ‘Joy Bangla, Joy Bangabandhu’.
The information about events before the Liberation War and declaration of independence by Bangabandhu is based on interviews and autobiographies of the defeated Pakistani generals, reports published in major European and American newspapers on March 26 and 27, US secret documents, books written by organisers of Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra and Liberation War, interviews and memories of the persons related to the Liberation War.