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Role of Mujibnagar Government in forming Bengali nationhood

19 April 2023

Dr. Forqan Uddin Ahmed :
The Mujibnagar Government was formed by the elected representatives who won the election of 1970 held following the mass upsurge of 1969 that blessed Sheikh Mujib with the title Bangabandhu. The Mujibnagar government was formed at the Baidyanathtala mango grove of Meherpur, a former subdivision of Kustia district, following the April 10 proclamation of independence order of Bangladesh. The oath-taking ceremony was witnessed by hundreds of foreign journalists who had assembled there to hail the birth of a new nation.  The president of the new nation was Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman; Syed Nazrul Islam became the acting president in the absence of Bangabandhu. Tajuddin Ahmed was the Prime Minister; M. Mansur Ali, the Finance Minister; M. Quamruz Zaman, the Home, Relief and Rehabilitation Minister; and Khandakar Mustaque Ahmed, Foreign Affairs and Law Minister. General M.A.G. Osmani, who was then a retired colonel and MNA elected from Awami League, was made the C-in-C of the Bangladesh armed forces. It was a Herculean task. Organising civil administration and the freedom fighters, securing arms for the latter and training them, mobilising international support for the Liberation War through intense diplomatic action, ensuring speedy communication and effective coordination of various activities at a hundred different levels, and above all, keeping the morale of the freedom fighters high throughout the dark, difficult days of the war, called for extraordinary wisdom, dedication, patience, foresight and courage on the part of the Mujibnagar government and all those connected with it.
India helped the leaders to cross the border and form the revolutionary government. How Mujibnagar government was formed? There is a background of it. It came following the long 23 years of arduous struggle under the leadership of Bangabandhu.  In continuation to the struggle, the general election held in 1970. It was Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi who provided all out assistance to form Provisional Government of the People's Republic of Bangladesh, popularly known as Mujibnagar Government on 10 April 1971. The Awami League leadership pondered the cabinet agenda and distributed cabinet offices. In the absence of President Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib, Syed Nazrul Islam served as acting president and Tajuddin Ahmad as Prime Minister. Again it was Prime Minister Indira Gandhi who instructed to open the border and gave shelter to one crore Bangalee refugees and provided with goods necessary for their livelihood.  Her government provided full assistance for arms training to 1.5 lakhs freedom fighters to fight against Pak occupation army. The kind of assistance provided to the Bangalees by the Indian government is unparalleled in the history. Tajuddin Ahmad, the Prime Minister of the Mujibnagar government performed well in discharging his duties.
The formation of the Mujibnagar government had great significance for the nation as the great men who led the war in the absence of our supreme leader and continued the armed struggle over the following eight months, having allowed no breach in the unity of their people, fought valiantly involving everyone and kept our leader alive in the minds of every freedom fighter as if he were fighting side by side with them. The creation of the government, in fact, gave the total war effort a fuller meaning. It cemented the unity of the people, brought the world closer to the freedom fighters, made the war effort blossom in its full focus, and above all ensured the presence of Bangladesh in the committee of nations. It was in effect a formal introduction to the rest of the world of the political leadership that was set to guide the nation into a concerted and organised war of independence.
The essence of history is in its lessons. Our country has indeed come a long way since the oath taking ceremony at the mango grove of Mujibnagar. While walking the rest of the path, 1971 can always be our guiding light. The Mujibnagar monument with 23 pillars and a brick square in the centre marks the spot where the Mujibnagar government ministers took their oaths. On this day in 1971, the Mujibnagar government was formed by the elected leaders of Bangladesh as the rightful constitutional, logical, and realistic step forward towards the full realisation of our dream of an independent country of our own. The formation of the Mujibnagar government and its pronouncement to the world at large on April 17, 1971 was really a red-letter event in our national history, especially after the thumping victory of the Awami League in the elections of 1970 under the leadership of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. The 167 MNAs and 293 MPs who composed the Constituent Assembly, fulfilling their constitutional obligation to the electors, made the dream of an independent Bangladesh a reality. From this point of view, Mujibnagar Day is a landmark in our struggle for independence as well as in our national history.
Finally, we can say that the government was formed on 10th April 1971 and the formal yatra of Mujibnagar government started with formal oath on 17th April. The chief minister of this government-in-exile was Tajuddin Ahmad and his role was very significant. The Mujibnagar government was essentially a symbolic government and all its functions were centered in Calcutta. India's role in this regard is immense. The Mujibnagar government, with the help of India, conducted a successful 9-month-long liberation war to liberate Bangladesh from the hands of the Pak-invading forces. This was a major challenge for the Mujibnagar government. In the long run, on 16 December 1971, independent Bangladesh was established. Therefore, the month of April in 1971 will be considered as a very important and significant month in our national life. Lastly, the formation of the Mujibnagar government saw the real birth of a new nation, a nation imbued with the spirit of democracy, nationalism, secularism, and socialism, and drawn by the call of a man whose stature as a statesman had surpassed that of any in his time and most of his predecessors. He united the Bengali-speaking people of the land and raised a nation so steadfast in its commitment that it went ahead to face the fierce army of Pakistan, equipped only with the strength of their conviction. Especially the 17th April will be a red letter day in the history of Bangladesh. When the Seeds of hopes and aspirations of Bengalis sown that day.

(The writer is a former Deputy Director General, Bangladesh
 Ansar & VDP).

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