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February 21, 1971 speech of Bangabandhu

Bangabandhu, one of the most gifted orators of the world, delivered hundreds of fiery speeches and, the most significant i.e. the historic 7th March address, has already been included in the Memory of the World International Register, a list of world's important documentary heritage maintained by UNESCO.
Khandoker Montasir Hassan
February 21, 1971 speech of Bangabandhu

The Language Movement in 1952 was the inaugural step for the emancipation of Pakistani rule. All subsequent movements including the struggle for freedom and Liberation War in 1971 owe their origin to this historic movement.

Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had a significant contribution to this movement. He directly joined the Language Movement after coming back to East Pakistan from India. At the outset of the movement, he participated and extended his full support to the activities for National Language Movement of Tomuddun Mojlish. Professor Dr. Mazharul Islam writes: "Sheikh Mujibur Rahman helped and supported this party on many works related to the national language." In another article, Professor Dr. Anwarul Karim writes: “In 1947, Bangabandhu participated in the signature collection campaign and attended various meetings and processions with the Rashtro Bhasha Shongram Porishod. In December 1947, student leaders together with Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and political leaders opposed to the Muslim League formulated a 21-Points Manifesto which for the first time propagated the Language Movement. This historical document came out as a small booklet called: 'Rashtrobhasha Ekush Dofa Ishtehar-Oitihashik Dolil' (State Language-21 Points Manifesto- Historical Document).” In this regard, Professor Dr. Syed Anwar Hossain says: “The publication of the booklet within 3-4 months of the creation of Pakistan represented a call for the residents of East Pakistan to wake up from the illusion of the concept of Pakistan. The people in whose name the booklet came out were all dedicated activists for the movement of Pakistan. It is to be noted that one of these people was Faridpur's (currently Gopalganj) Sheikh Mujibur Rahman; who subsequently led Bangladesh to its creation as Bangabandhu (as cited by Dr. Anwarul Karim, 2020).”  However, in the aftermath of the Language Movement, the nation eventually obtained recognition of Bangla as its mother tongue and later in 1971 attained its long cherished independence under the charismatic leadership of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
Bangabandhu, one of the most gifted orators of the world, delivered hundreds of fiery speeches and, the most significant i.e. the historic 7th March address has already been included in the Memory of the World International Register, a list of world's important documentary heritage maintained by UNESCO. Along with the iconic and legendary March 7, 1971, or January 10, 1972 speeches, Bangabandhu delivered some other moving speeches which I think many of us are not very familiar with.  The February 21, 1971 speech of Bangabandhu, delivered at the Central Shaheed Minar on the occasion of National Martyr’s Day is one of those speeches. The historic March 7, 1971 speech has been translated into English and many other languages, but to the best of my knowledge, there was no acceptable English translation of the February 21, 1971 speech of Bangabandhu till now. On the occasion of Bangabandhu’s birth centenary celebrations, “Mujib Borsho” and the 2021 International Mother Language Day, as an endeavour to pay respect and homage to the sacred soul of our Father of the Nation Bangabandhu, I translated the February 21, 1971 speech of Bangabandhu into English. On February 21, 1971 Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman placed floral wreaths at the Central Shaheed Minar at 12:45am and delivered an inspiring speech. In his speech, he appealed to every Bengali to start preparing for their endeavour towards independence. Just a month prior to the liberation war it was a right speech at the right time to inspire the nation on their way to achieve the right to self-determination and to struggle for freedom and the Liberation War.


Translation of the speech:
Today is the glorious 21st February. You have come here on this Shaheed Day (Language Martyrs' Day); we had gone to the shrine at 12:01 pm and from there we directly came here. The Bangalees have shed too much blood. The blood sacrifice which has been started in 1952 has not yet ended, and when it will end I don’t know. Today, on this Shaheed Day, we have to take oath, as long as the seven crore people won’t be able to have their rights, the mothers-sisters of the Bengal, the brothers of the Bengal will no longer be martyred; they will be the warriors.
I know the conspirators who shot and martyred my brothers in 1952 have not yet finished their mission. Conspiracy is still on. Conspiracy will continue in the future, but they have not seen the true face of Bangladesh. This movement started on March 11, 1948. In 1952, our brothers proved it by sacrificing their lives that we would not allow anyone to disgrace our mother tongue. We would make Bangla our state language even at the cost of our blood. By the grace of God, Bangla has become the state language. Now, those who want to suppress the self-determination of Bengal, those who want to ruin the culture of Bengal, loot the people of Bengal, make Bengal a colonial state, their market, those who want to conspire against Bengal after such a great victory, should know that there is a big difference between the Bangalees of 1952 and the Bangalees of 1971. Therefore, my appeal to all of you, today is a sacred day. I don’t want to say much. I just would like to say: our Bangladeshi brothers and sisters have shown us by shedding their blood that if it is needed, we, the people of Bengal, know how to shed blood.
Therefore, today on this Shaheed Day, I remember the sacred souls of the martyrs, those who were martyred in 1952, tortured in 1954 and 1958; those who were martyred in 1962 and on June 7; those who were martyred in the last Mass Movement; those whom I don’t know, so many unnamed brothers who shed blood. People are being martyred at every house of Bengal now. They are being martyred not only by bullets but also by starving. They don’t get cloths; they don’t have food in their stomach. They (the Pakistanis) are exploiting and taking away everything. They have made the people of Bengal into their markets, looted the wealth of Bengal. They have made the people of Bengal into street beggars. We don’t want to do injustice to anyone. Let the Punjabis have their rights, let the Sindhis have their rights, let the Baluch have their rights, I am also a Bangali and I also want my self-determination. There is no compromise here.
Therefore, I would like to request you: go to every house of Bengal, and get ready. Brothers of Bangladesh are no longer martyrs. The sons of Bengal have to return in their mothers’ lap as warriors, not as martyrs but as warriors. This has been enough, we can’t forget the memories of our brothers whose mothers still cry, whose fathers still cry, whose children still roam around screaming by their fathers’ and mothers’ name. Now, their (martyrs’) souls are roaming around with pain at every house and knocking from door-to-door of Bengal. They are saying: Oh, Bangalees! Don’t be cowards. Oh, Bangalees! Don’t be afraid of your lives. Oh, Bangalees! Move forward by struggling. Therefore, on this Shaheed Day, we’ve taken an oath, we will give blood but won’t give up our demands and we’ll compel them to fulfill our demands.
So, my appeal to you dear brothers: the upcoming days can get more severe. The conspirators have not yet stopped. They are still on. We expect sympathy and brotherhood from everyone but this doesn’t mean that someone will enslave my seven crore people of Bangladesh. This doesn’t mean that someone will make my country into a market or colony.
The blood sacrifice of the people of Bengal that once freed me from Agartala, on this Shaheed Day, I can promise you in the name of Allah that I will definitely try to pay off your blood sacrifice by sacrificing my own blood.
Therefore, today, I have this to tell you: human beings are born to die. It’s just an accident that we are alive! We are walking today and may die even tomorrow. Those, who died, showed us the way. Those, who will be martyred, will also show us the way. Our successors will be able to stand holding their heads high to say the world— I’m a Bangalee, I’m a human being, and I do have my self-determination, I do have my rights.
Therefore, today on this Shaheed Day, this is my request to you: build fortresses at every house. We want everybody’s love and sympathy. We are not jealous of anyone. But, if any one wants to oppress us illegally, people of this country won’t tolerate it any more. I request to all of you, as long as Bengal exists, the sky of Bengal, and the soil of Bengal exist, none of us will be able to forget the memories of the martyrs of February 21. Because, no such history, no such people can be found who have laid down their lives for the sake of their mother tongue except those on the soil of my Bengal. I was also involved with this movement. I was taken to prison under arrest on March 11, 1948. On February 16, 1952, I went on hunger strike inside the prison and decided it consulting with my brothers that they would start the movement from 21st February. On February 27, I was driven out of the prison on a stretcher so that if I died I would die outside the prison. I was involved with this movement and I am involved with it today as well; I don’t know how long I’ll be able to involve with. I’m ready. I just have this to tell you: let not insult the people of this Bengal any more. And, let not betray with the blood of those who have been martyred. Remember and of course, you believe and know that martyrs’ blood never went in vain and if Allah wills it will never go in vain. So, in this nighttime, I’d like to take your leave. I don’t know when I’ll meet you. Get ready. Since we have learned to shed blood, by the grace of God, Bangalees will be able to achieve their demands.
Peace be upon you.
Long live memories of martyrs
Long live memories of martyrs.
Long live Bengal (Joy Bangla)


The writer is Associate Professor and Director of Institute of Modern Languages, (IML), Jagannath University, Dhaka. montasirjnu@gmail.com

 

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Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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