28 March, 1971
Abdul Aziz Mandal arrived by motorbike in the morning. We went to the house of local MP Subed Ali Tipu. After informal discussions, we ate and then stepped out again. Our next destination was Joypara. We spent some time at Ashraf Ali Chowdhury’s house. Then we went to the banks of river Padma. The turbulent water of Padma was then reflecting sunlight like shining silver and crashing with force on the shore. It was storming. We failed to cross the river. Eventually we had to spend the night at the house of Shukur Mian, a local weaver. Shukur took good care of us.
29 March, 1971
We crossed Padma by a country boat in the morning. It took three hours to reach Narartek. During the three hours, the silver Padma and its lively movements with the tide's ebb and flow captivated me. I keenly observed the flow of Padma. Soon after arriving at the ghat, we met some local Awami League activists. They apprised about the local news and we heard that the military had not yet intruded into Faridpur. Faridpur town was 3 miles far from this ghat. We assumed the place was unsafe. The intruders could reach the place at any moment. Hence, everyone panicked. There was no fast moving vehicle.
Horseback riding was a popular form of commute in the village. Fortunately we found a horse. However, we reached the town outskirts on horseback and changed the mode of transportation. We rode by rickshaw to the town. There was reason to do so. We wanted to be anonymous. At 1.30 pm, we reached the house of Imamuddin, an Awami League activist. He was not at his home. His wife Hashi fed. Just before the lunch, we heard Ziaur Rahman’s announcement on the radio.
We were still eating when we heard the news that Pakistani troops were advancing through Kamarkhali and so we resumed our journey. On the way, we met Rajbari sub-divisional officer Shah Mohammad Farid. He informed us that the border was still free. We kept proceeding by rickshaw. At on point we found the approach way closed. The freedom loving engali people and Awami League activists had barricaded the road by felling large trees. Thus we arrived in Kamarkhali on foot.
The river Madhumati blocked our way. It was raining. The weather turned tough, with an overcast sky. There were lots of people waiting on the shore for a ferry. But all the boatmen were reluctant to ferry us. There was an old boatman there whose house was on the opposite bank of the river. We somehow persuaded him. We resumed walking after crossing the Madhumati. At half past 2 in the night, we reached Magura. Then we came up to a canal. Some Awami League volunteers were found guarding the canal. A ferry was there for two passengers per trip. The volunteers were scanning every passenger. An Awami League activist Waheed Miah recognised me. When I crossed the canal, it was 3 o’clock at night. I went to Sohrab Hossain’s house by rickshaw. He was not at home. His nephew Babu took us to Sohrab Hossain on the opposite bank of the river. My presence surprised as well as encouraged Sohrab Hossain.
30 March, 1971
In the morning we resumed walking. This time Sohrab Hossain helped us find a jeep. The jeep went along the winding road of the village. Both sides of the road were lush with the new spring of nature, reflecting the beauty of Bengal. I could remember Tagore’s lines from Paye Chalar Path (The wandering way)– ‘This path is one on which we keep walking , it is not a path for retracing.’
But I conversed with Tagore by my mind, saying ‘We have to retrace our way home otherwise Bengal will be lost in the dust.’
We arrived in Jhenaidah at 10:30. We met local Awami League unit secretary and member of parliament MA Aziz and the sub-divisional police officer Mahbub. We exchanged local news. MA Aziz gave me a lungi. I wore the lungi and left for Chuadanga. Arriving in Chuadanga, we informed major Osman. Meanwhile, we met parliament members Dr Ashab-ul Haq (Joardar), Afzalur Rashid Badal and others. To get closer to the border, we reached Jibannagar.
Sub-divisional officer Tawfiq-e-Elahi (Chowdhury) and and Mahbub (Uddin Ahmed) accompanied us. There we went to a culvert on the Tongi canal. Tawfiq and Mahbub crossed the border to convey news of our arrival. Amir-ul Islam and I sat on that culvert, waiting for an update. I had already decided that if the signal was red, against the independence of Bangladesh, I will not step into India. There was no point in saving oneself by crossing the border. I thought I will continue the struggle for liberation with all available resources in the occupied land. However, I firmly believed that we would receive moral support of the global communities for our just war, and the struggle for the existence of Bengalis.
I fell asleep tired and worried. Suddenly the driver came and informed us that a border guard officer had arrived to see us. That officer saluted us. He told us that deputy inspector general Golak Majumdar was waiting for us on the other side of the border. We crossed the border by foot. Golak Majumder said he had received information from Delhi. It was an indication of possible bilateral talks. The next step would define the future destiny.
Golak Majumdar took us directly to the Dumdum Airport. There Golak Majumdar brought me a pair of spectacles, which I needed badly that time. An IAF flight arrived from Delhi at 11:45 pm. Rustamji Raja Gopal, the director general of the Border Security Force, India, welcomed us. Together we reached Assam Bhaban at 1:30pm.
I had not shaved for so long. Rustamji provided us with pajamas and panjabi to change our clothes that were tattered and dirty. With Rustamji’s hospitality, we had dinner and started discussions.
31 March, 1971
Sharadindu Chattopadhaya and security officer Soumen Chattopadhaya arrived in the morning. We went back to the Tongi border with Golak Majumdar. Golak Majumdar presented me a light machine gun (LMG). I handed the LMG to major Abu Osman and said, ‘You handle it.’ Initially Subedar Mujibur Rahman was given training on using the LMG. Golak Majumdar told me in English, “You will win.”
Then I requested him to convey the news to the border areas along Satkhira to Agartala to allow the Awami League leaders to cross the border and personally visited the border areas including Hingalganj, Taki, Hasnabad and others in search of Awami League leaders.
1 April, 1971
At 2:00am, I left for Delhi on a special flight of the Indian Air Force. Shahi, the protocol officer at the airport, welcomed us. We were taken to 87/ BDC house.
2 April, 1971
We met Rehman Sobhan, Anisur Rahman, MR Siddiqui, Sirajul Haque and others in Delhi.
3 April, 1971
At 10:00 pm, I met the Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi at her residence on Safdarjung Road. Rustamji, PN Haksar, Mr. Ram and Colonel Menon were also present there. Before starting formal discussions, it was decided, after analysing all the circumstances, that we should form a government.
4 April, 1971
Meetings were held with PN Haksar and several other policy makers attached to the Indian prime minister.
5 April, 1971
Drafting of the historic statement and documents of the formation of the government was done. Barrister Amir-ul Islam and professor Rehman Sobhan assisted me in drafting the papers.
6 April 1971-17 April 1971
Bangla translation of the statement and documents was completed. The statement regarding the formation of the government on April 7 was recorded in my voice.
On 9 April, Barrister Amir-ul-Islam and I, along with retired Indian army officer Nagendra Singh, boarded a special flight to the border area in search of Awami League leaders. On that very day, M. Monsur Ali and AHM Quamruzzaman arrived in Kolkata.
My statement conveying the historic decision to form a government was broadcast on the radio on 10 April night.
On 11 April, Akashbvani (All India Radio) authorities re-broadcast my statement. That very day, I found Syed Nazrul Islam at Tura of Mymensingh. The two of us went to Agartala at 8:00pm. In Agartala, I met Khondakar Mostaq Ahmad, olonel MAG Osmani and a few other Awami League leaders there.
At a meeting in Agartala, it was decided that the acting president, prime minister and cabinet members of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh government would be sworn in public in Chuadanga on 14 April. Administrative work of the government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh would be carried out by establishing the capital there (in Chuadanga). I decided that the name of the capital would be ‘Mujibnagar’.
Due to the carelessness of a colleague, the decision was published in the newspapers. As a result, the Pakistani forces shelled that particular place in Chuadanga heavily. Later, a secret decision was taken that the official swearing-in ceremony of the Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh would be held at Baidyanathtala in Meherpur subdivision near Chuadanga.
The swearing-in of the acting president, prime minister and cabinet members of the government took place on 16 April 1971 in front of hundreds of local and foreign journalists and thousands of people at Amrakunj of Baidyanathtala. The acting president addressed the gathering, introducing the prime minister and cabinet members. Then I spoke as prime minister. I responded to questions by the local and foreign journalists.
* This article appeared in the online and print editions of Prothom Alo, has been rewritten in English by Sadiqur Rahman