March 7 is a day for all Bengalis to be proud, to celebrate, and in particular to show honour, respect, and gratitude to all freedom fighters, living and dead

March 7, 1971 is a date that's indelibly etched in the hearts and minds of Bengalis worldwide with due pride and justification. And if not, it ought to be.

Momentarily forget Padma Bridge, the Metro, and suchlike. As great as they are, they are pale achievements in comparison. It was on this Allah-blessed, sun-kissed day that work began on the greatest construction ever known in the history of the region.

There wasn't a bulldozer, crane, yellow-jacketed people wearing hard hats, or heavy earth moving equipment in sight. Nor were there any jackhammers that make your ears beg for mercy.

This was no ordinary foundation stone that was being laid and those who attended the ceremony - all two million of them - no doubt felt that.

The architect, a well known, very talented, much loved, and greatly admired politician named Sheik Mujibur Rahman originally from Tungipara, had no previous experience of designing nor building such a colossal structure, but as if guided by divinity in a dream, he went ahead anyway.

Great injustice

The concept was never part of his career plans and there wasn't a blue print in existence. If the people with whom he had aligned his unique political talents had behaved honourably and justly, the work would never have even begun and not even a single blade of grass trod upon.

Mujib, as he was better known, went as a political leader to Ramna Racecourse (now Suhrawardy Udyan) in Dhaka to update and inform his admirers cum voters of his thoughts on his political betrayal.

What may have been intended as a regular political rally quickly developed into becoming a war cry for emancipation from the oppression of West Pakistan that shackled their liberties.

Countless millions had made it clear they had wanted the vibrant Tungiparian to lead them. They had left their humble homes with hope in their hearts for a better future and stood in long queues for hours, in sweltering heat, without water or overhead covering at makeshift polling stations to register their endorsement.

They say 'every cloud has a silver lining' and 'in every tear there is a rainbow'. Those certainly proved true for Mujib.

When Sheikh Mujibur was rejected so, too, were the countless millions of people who had voted for him.

On March 7, 1971 he voiced his grievances to the people and held back no punches in the delivery.

He outlined the injustice that had occurred, the enormous project that lay ahead, and asked the people - his people... his devout followers - for their support. They willingly gave, knowing only too well it was not going to be a Disneyland ride of fun, and many would encounter great danger and even death.

Words are singularly the most powerful force available to humanity. They're alive with energy, power, and the ability to encourage and inspire beyond individual expectations. The Bangabandhu speech is evidence of their immeasurable potency.

Upon completion of the rousing, inspirational speech the seeds of a new nation was sown. That single moving speech changed history and triggered the birth of a nation... the birth of Bangladesh, with Bangabandhu duly recognised as both its Father and Architect.

Unique speeches

Only four political speeches have ever touched the hearts and souls of generations immemorial. Those are Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address (November 19, 1863). Martin Luther King's 'I Had a Dream' (August, 28 1963), John F. Kennedy's 'Ask Not What Your Country Can Do For You' his inaugural speech (January 20, 1961) and the momentous 'Birth of a Nation' speech by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (March 7, 1971).

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) gave recognition to the epoch-making speech on October 30, 2017. Why it had taken 46 years for UNESCO to recognize the brilliant speech is extraordinary, it boggles the mind. I had brought it to the attention of UNESCO in 2002 and no doubt I wasn't alone in my quest.

I'm proud to say (interpret as, boast, if you like!) to have recognized its fine rare qualities and historic value in 2000, and to capture it for the first time ever in a limited edition tribute poster, which now hangs in Awami League HQ, Bangabandhu Museum, and some European royal houses. It is seen in some quarters to be the unofficial Proclamation of Independence of Bangladesh. I feel the speech ought to be hung in every school and gazed upon with pride.

March 7 is indeed a day for all Bengalis to be proud and to celebrate. It would be a grave injustice, however, if honour, respect, and gratitude were not extended to all freedom fighters, both living and dead, who made this day possible.

Joi Bangla!

Sir Frank Peters is a former newspaper and magazine publisher and editor, an award-winning writer, humanitarian, human rights activist Honorary Member of the Bangladesh Freedom Fighters and a foreign friend of Bangladesh.

Leave a Comment

Recent Posts