The independent government certainly started from Mujibnagar

Syed Nazrul Islam saluting while being accorded the guard of honour. Tajuddin Ahmad is behind him with MAG Osmani to the left on 17 April 1971.

Baidhyanathtala of Meherpur is the birthplace of Independent Bangladesh. This place was named 'Mujibnagar' on 17 April 1971. The first prime minister of the Bangladesh government Tajuddin Ahmad proudly gave the place this name. At that time, the official letterhead bore the words, 'People's Republic of Bangladesh, Mujibnagar.' The address of the government was Mujibnagar.

Special events should be officially held at Mujibnagar on 17 April every year. This is the aspiration of the people too. The absence of any state event on Mujibnagar Day hurts me.

Mujibnagar needs to be recognised by the state as a historical place of Bangladesh. Various programmes, including a national event, should be arranged there by the state on 17 April every year so that the new generation can learn about the history of the liberation war. They can be informed and be proud.

Mujibnagar is not just a historical place but also the territory of our liberation war and the constitution of our state. Every country that has achieved independence through a struggle, has a place to which the people are emotionally linked. For example, Philadelphia of America is marked as an important historical place. Similarly, an appropriate structure can be erected at Mujibnagar, it can be a place of grand commemoration,

The Mujibnagar museum should be enriched more. Arms and ammunition of the liberation war can be collected and preserved there, along with various paintings of the struggle. All historical and memorial events should be displayed in the museum so it can be a full-fledged museum of liberation war. This is evidence of our heritage and history and should be of international standard so the people can understand that Mujibnagar is the birthplace of Bangladesh. It was from Mujibnagar that the entire world originally and officially came to know about Independent Bangladesh.

Amir-ul Islam

The Mujibnagar government was constituted under the leadership of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. The cabinet which led the liberation war took oath on 17 April 1971. Syed Nazrul Islam, Tajuddin Ahmad, M Mansur Ali, AHM Kamruzzaman, Khandaker Mushtaque Ahmed and Osmani left for Meherpur from Kolkata early in the morning.

The Awami League parliamentary party whip at the time Abdul Mannan and I were responsible for arranging the attendance local and foreign journalists in the oath taking ceremony on 17 April. The two of us went to Kolkata press club on 16 April. This was for the first time two representatives on behalf of the Bangladesh government met foreign journalists. The entire press club was packed. Innumerable eyes like searchlights were focused on us. The secretary of the club introduced us to the journalists.

The journalists were requested to come to the press club in the morning on 17 April. They were told that they would be given a special message by Tajuddin Ahmad. Some of them wanted to ask more questions. We declined to answer. We announced our vehicles would be ready to bring journalists to the designated place.

Meanwhile, necessary preparations were being made for the oath taking ceremony. We came to know the chief of army staff Osmani had no military uniform, but he needed the uniform for the oath taking ceremony. We asked BSF to provide the uniform, but they didn't have any uniform in their stock that would fit Osmani. Fabric was bought, a tailor was summoned and the uniform was made on the night of 16 April.

Eleven ansars gave guard of honour to the acting president of the first cabinet of Bangladesh on the day of oath taking ceremony. Three of them are still alive. L-R: Hamidul Haque, Azimuddin Sheikh and Siraj Uddin. The photo was taken yesterday, 16 April
Prothom Alo

Abdul Mannan and I, as scheduled, reached the Kolkata press club early in the morning. The press club was teeming with people. Many were also standing outside the club. With humbly told journalists that I came with a message for you from the prime minister of Bangladesh government. We informed them that Bangladesh government would formally take oath on the independent land of Bangla. "You are invited to the event," I said. Some of them asked, "Where and how will we go? I said, "We are with you and will guide you. Our vehicles were in front of the press club. Enthusiastic journalists got into the cars. Many had cameras on their shoulders. We set out with around 50 or 60 cars. Abdul Mannan and I were in two separate cars. Some foreign journalists were with me. I talked to them on the way."

We reached Baidhyanathtala of Meherpur of greater Kushtia, the designated place for oath taking ceremony at around 11:00am. After our arrival, the ceremony kicked off. Jhenaidah sub division police chief Mahbub Uddin Ahmad presented the guard of honour to acting president Syed Nazrul Islam. Meherpur sub division administrator Tawfiq-e-Elahi was in charge of the management of the function. It was earlier fixed that Awami League parliamentary party chief whip professor Yousuf Ali would read out the declaration of the independence at the oath taking ceremony.

A small stage was erected for the function. The acting president, the prime minister, members of the cabinet, MAG Osmani, Abdul Mannan and I were on the stage. Abdul Manan moderated the function.

Yousuf Ali read out the declaration of independence. Syed Nazrul Islam conducted the oath taking ceremony. The acting president and the prime minster then addressed the people.

Responding to a question of a journalist, prime minister Tajuddin Ahmad named this place 'Mujibnagar'. Mujibnagar was the capital of the government until the Pakistani occupation forces surrendered on 16 December.

Where is the head of the government Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, journalists asked.

In reply, Syed Nazrul Islam said, "We have constituted the cabinet at the behest of Bangabandhu. We are in communication with him in our thoughts."

Alongside Awami League leaders and activists, thousands of people from the surrounding areas attended the function at the mango grove. Thousands of people were chanting slogans 'Joy Bangla, Joy Bangabandhu,' 'Bir Banglee Astro Dhoro, Bangladesh Shadhin Koro.'

My job was to send the journalists back to Kolkata after the event. The programme ended by noon. The journalists were sent back in cars. The members of the cabinet returned in the evening. After returning to Kolkata, journalists started releasing news to the international media outlets about the constitution of the government.

We are now talking about the Mujibnagar government at a time when the golden jubilee of Bangladesh is being celebrated.

In order to understand the history of Bangladesh, the Mujibnagar government and its activities have to be understood well. The history of the Mujibnagar government and its significance should be included in textbooks. The declaration of independence needs to be included in textbooks too.

Research is required on the Mujibnagar government. It is hoped that students and the new generation in particular will dillgently research about the Mujibnagar government.

The young politicians should learn about the role of the Mujibnagar government, its astuteness and strategy for an independent state. Through sacrifice, bravery and farsightedness, the Mujibnagar government took Bangladesh along the path to independence. That glorious history should not be forgotten. It is necessary to learn from Bangabandhu and the leaders imbued with his ideals how to take Bangladesh forward and bring qualitative change in politics.

The day of the formation of the Mujibnagar government, 17 April 1972, will work as inspiration for the new generation and posterity. We will recollect the day with due respect in the days to come.

M Amir-Ul-Islam is a senior lawyer, former member of parliament, former state minister, member of the committee that drew up the Bangladesh constitution and the writer of the declaration of independence.

*This article, originally published in Prothom Alo print and online editions, have been rewritten in English by Rabiul Islam.