The men who gave us Mujibnagar were young men, dedicated to the cause of freedom. And all these people, fired by patriotic zeal, were there to wage war against the military might of an organized state. They were all patriotic Bengalis responding to the call of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. And Bangabandhu was a mere fifty one years old.
In April 1971, the revolution that would come to be known as Bangladesh was organized and led to a natural conclusion by young men and women awakened to the need to reassert heritage. There were the civilian government officers in the police and in the administration, all young Bengalis convinced that the land had to be purged of the enemy and his cloying collaborators. They made their way to Mujibnagar, to identify with the national cause. In their wake, thousands of even younger Bengalis turned their backs on home, on family, in towns and in the villages, and marched into battle. Many of them would not return home. Many would.
In light of the defining moment of 17 April 1971, would come droves of artistes, journalists, doctors and academics to enlist their names to the cause. Mujibnagar would be a symbol, of everything ennobling, everything inspiring, about politics. For the first time in history, a republic formed by Bengalis and constituted of Bengalis was what happened in Mujibnagar. If 17 April was the beginning of a sustained, disciplined march to liberty, the preparation for it had been made on 10 April and then on 12 April. Tajuddin Ahmed, having informed the world that Bangladesh was on its way, needed along with his party colleagues to have that message of freedom go out to the world louder and clearer and without ambiguity. The world was there on 17 April, at Baidyanathtola, an isolated spot of earth destined to be known as Mujibnagar.
Patriotism defined this nation in April 1971, days before the provisional government gave shape to itself. Driven by conscience and love of country, two young Bengali diplomats in the service of Pakistan, laid themselves bare and vulnerable to uncertainty on 6 April Pakistan's diplomatic mission in India. KM Shehabuddin and Amjadul Haq walked away from their jobs, informed the media of the pain of seeing their land going up in smoke at the hands of the state they had served all these years, of their moral requirement to sever all links with the aggressor state. Shehabuddin and Haq, like everyone else drawn to the battle for Bangladesh, were heroic men in that year of endless misery and, in the end, infinite glory.
Beauty and reality flowed from Mujibnagar. It was the very first test for men of poetry determined to transform themselves into soldiers for freedom. Poetry and politics thus wrapped themselves around each other; and seventy five million people came together in a historic demonstration of defiance of the arrogance of shallow men. The war claimed lives in surefire fashion. As the Pakistan army went after unarmed, innocent civilians in the villages and towns, the guerrillas of the Mukti Bahini drove increasing fear into the hearts of the enemy. They feared the Muktis; and they panicked as their territory shrank in slow, steady degrees.
Mujibnagar brought all Bengalis together. Outside the occupied land of Bangladesh, Bengalis across the diaspora banded together to aid the cause back home. These Bengalis, with roots in Bangladesh or West Bengal, came together in a forceful demonstration of common ethnicity.
Today, it is time again to celebrate that shining moment in history.