Bangladesh was in flames in March 1971. President Yahya Khan held talks with Bangabandhu from March 16 to befool the people by creating confusion. On March 24 it was known to all that the so call talks have collapsed.
Then came the fateful and dreadful night of March 25 when the Pakistani troops launched genocide in Bangladesh and the nation as directed by Bangabandhu took up arms against the invading Pakistani forces. In fact 25 March night marked the beginning of the Pakistani troops’ last-ditch attempt to subjugate Bangalees by killing, rape and barbarity. That black night also heralded the start of the forward march of the nation towards freedom and liberation. The bloodshed of that night expedited the rise of next morning’s sun on the horizon signaling the birth of independent Nation State Bangladesh.
I had the opportunity as a senior staff reporter of the daily Ittefaq to cover the political developments that took place in March and the period that preceded. Since the beginning of the Non-Cooperation Movement the administration of Pakistani rulers had virtually collapsed and Bangladesh was being run under the directives of Bangabandhu. Specially after his historic 7th March speech everybody in Bangladesh took him as the lawful and real ruler of Bangladesh. It was due to this fact that the then Chief Justice of Dhaka High Court Justice BA Siddiqui refused to administer oath of office to ‘ Butcher of Beluchistan’ general Tikkah Khan who was later appointed governor of ‘East Pakistan’ replacing moderate Shahebzada Yakub Khan.
We were getting indications that the Bangabandhu-yahya talks were not progressing well. On 17th March, which was the birth day of Bangabandhu, discord between the two sides on some vital points surfaced clearly. Bangabandhu looked gloomy when he emerged from the talks held at the presidents House. However, neither side admitted that the talks were heading for a deadlock and the dialogue process continued.
By 24th March almost none among the reporters was in any doubt that the talks had failed and the country was set to face a political disaster. It was in the evening of that day that I, for the first time, got a clear indication about the collapse of the talks.
On 24th March too there were hectic activities all around. Meetings and sittings took place as usual at different levels. On this day, the last round of discussions between the aides of Bangabandhu and Yahya Khan were held. Syed Nazrul Islam, Tajuddin Ahmed and Dr. Kamal Hossain representated Bangabandhu while yahya Khan was represented by M M Ahmed, Justice A R Cornelius and Lt. General Peerjada. They had decided to hold another round of talks later in the day to determine the framework of understanding. But that final round of talks was never held.
In the night of March 25 Pakistan army came down in the streets to kill the people of Bangladesh and the genocide began.
(Amir Hossain was the acting editor of daily sun. He wrote this article before his demise.)