Millions of babies in pain
Millions of mothers in rain
Millions of brothers in woe
Millions of children nowhere to go
The 14 March morning in 1971 is cool with a touch of heat. The breeze that drifts across Dhaka city tends often to become unruly. And the tension that is written on every object around is augmented manifold by the heavy presence of security personnel in the streets.
Captain Sujat Ali must have evaded the hawkish eyes of the intelligence agents on his way to the Indian High Commission office in the city. He has been sent by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman with a 'special appeal for help at this critical hour.'1
Sheikh Mujib, lovingly called Bangabandhu, believes India can play a big role in forestalling the mobilisation of troops and arms by the West Pakistani military rulers, which has forged an alliance with a clique of political parties with a view to crushing the people's movement in the then East Pakistan.
Way before General Yahya Khan all of a sudden on 1 March postponed, to the utter dismay of the Bangalis, the upcoming session of the National Assembly for an indefinite period, the military build-up in the eastern wing of Pakistan had started.
Fortifying the airport in Dacca with anti-aircraft guns as early as 17 February and bringing in an arms-loaded ship to Chattogram from Karachi a few days later provide ample proof that a military crackdown is well underway.
The handover of power to an elected government has now taken a backseat. The Awami League leadership is now well aware that their demand for a constitution on the basis of the six-point demand will carry no weight with the Pakistani juntas. The only way left open is that of struggle for independence.
But the response from the Indian Deputy High Commissioner K C Sen Gupta does not seem to reciprocate the urgency that the emissary of Sheikh Mujib has in his appeal. However, the deputy high commissioner made a trip to Calcutta to inform his government of the happenings here.
This is not the first time that Sheikh Mujib had sent a message to the Indian leadership seeking support. On 5 or 6 March, the Awami League General Secretary Tajuddin Ahmed had contacted KC Sen Gupta to know if the Indian government would give asylum to the activists and extend other help in case a liberation movement began in East Pakistan. 2
This time too, the response was bureaucratic, with a generalised assurance of 'all possible assistance.'
When these efforts by the Awami League leadership for reaching out to different nations were going on, the momentum in the mass movement was ever changing, getting stronger every moment.
The 7 March speech by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had gone deep into the consciousness of the masses and his call for an all-out struggle - Ebarer sangram muktir sangram (The struggle this time is the struggle for freedom) – found echoes everywhere.
Now the demand is no more for autonomy but for independence. Every gathering in the street, or in the field or in the marketplace is the outpourings of rage against exploitations by the West Pakistani rulers.
Every student rally now ends with the call for armed resistance and nothing short of full independence.
Things, for sure, seem to have come to a head now. The Language Movement of 1952, the victory of the United Front in the 1954 election, and the fall of Ayub Khan government in 1969 in the face of mass upsurge — all these have emboldened the spirit of the people, who kept on putting pressure on the leadership to declare independence. The whole nation is now ready to spill their blood for freedom.
And Sheikh Mujib, having tended the passion of the nation for a long time now through countless rallies across the length and breadth of the country, made a move in that direction.
With this in mind and a growing apprehension of a full-blown military crackdown on East Pakistan, Bangabandhu made an attempt in the early week of February, in an indirect way, to get the pulse of the international community in the event of full-scale liberation war.
Archer Blood, the American consul general to Dhaka, left hints that the United States would rather prefer a united Pakistan.
Having been an arms supplier to Pakistan since the '50s, the American policy is understandably pro-Pakistani. Its economic support for India would not mollify the Indian grudge against Pakistan being supplied with arms.
In the years following the Tashkent agreement in the wake of the 1962 war between China and India, other major powers got their own dynamics adjusted over and over again.
The otherwise pro-Indian stance of the Soviet government tended now to become 'neutral' during the 70s. It tried to strike a balance between Pakistan and India, but drew severe criticism from both.
However, the Soviet government was the first among major external powers to give a reaction to the atrocities the Pakistani juntas perpetrated on the unarmed people on the night of 25 March, 1971.
As regards China, it has now become a staunch backer of Pakistan because of its antagonistic relation with India over border disputes and an ideological tension with Soviet Union.
So, the Pakistani military regime had the backing of major external powers, which somehow or other pandered to the authoritarian tendency of the regime and ignored the mass movement that now reached its peak in East Pakistan.
General Yahya Khan, after suspending the upcoming session of the National Assembly slated for 3 March, flew to East Pakistan on 15 March apparently to kick off another round of negotiation between the Awami League and its contenders including the Pakistan People's Party, led by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
Behind these haggling over how to form the constitution and set the shares of power, the regime was actually drawing its elaborate plan of a military operation to crush the mass movement. And some Awami League leaders were left with the impression that this time the negotiation would reach a satisfactory conclusion.
But what happened on the night of 25 March caught them all off guard.
Dacca city as it was then spelled, in deep sleep, woke to the deafening sound of guns and mortars. Unarmed innocent people were killed in their thousands in the so-called 'Operation Searchlight'.
The operation continued across the country wherever there was a heavy presence of Pakistani military. It sent millions of people fleeing to the border with India.
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was arrested that night and kept into solitary confinement in West Pakistan.
Nonplussed, the Awami League leadership found their ways to the Indian border too, not knowing what was in store for them for nothing had been settled as to what help they would get in such an eventuality.
On the evening of 31 March, Tajuddin Ahmed and Barrister Amirul Islam reached the India-Pakistan no-man's land after travelling for five days incognito. There they found to their utter disappointment that no arrangement with India had been made in the event of a full-blown military crackdown.
Tajuddin had thought that as a result of his meeting the Indian Deputy High Commissioner in Dhaka KC Sen Gupta at the instruction of Sheikh Mujib on 5 or 6 March and other probable subsequent meetings, an arrangement must have been made as regards political asylum and refugee shelter in India.
But he found nothing had been done. India had its own internal and external issues. Indira Gandhi called for national elections in March 1971 – a year ahead of the schedule. And getting entangled in the crisis in Bangladesh meant getting into a confrontation with Pakistan.
All these thoughts held back the Indian authorities from making a determined move towards engaging in the crisis.
But once the flood of refugees spilled over the border, India's hand was forced and she started to get serious about the across the border events.
Tajuddin was faced with a problem. Before meeting prime minister Indira Gandhi on 3 April, he needed to make some crucial decisions. He could introduce himself as one of the top leaders of the Awami League to the PM but it would not help in getting substantial help for the ongoing independence struggle.
But if he could introduce himself as a member of the government formed immediately after the Pakistani military launched the attack, it would carry much more weight with the PM. It would also help the Indian government to implement the resolution it passed in parliament on 31 March to help 'the struggle of the people of East Bengal'.
Indira Gandhi met Tajuddin as per the schedule and inquired about Sheikh Mujib. Tajuddin said he had had no contact with him since 25 March night and added in the same breath that Bangabandhu, however, had proclaimed the independence of Bangladesh and had formed a cabinet comprising members of the Awami League high command.
What remains is a formal proclamation of independence of Bangladesh. And that was done on 17 April inside Bangladesh territory. The bordering village Baidyanath Tala, later renamed Mujibnagar, under Meherpur in Kushtia was still free of the Pakistani occupation army.
There, in the presence of world media, the newly formed cabinet took formal oath.
When the whole of Bangladesh came under the occupation of the Pakistani army and the hope for getting recognition from countries grew dimmer, the formation of the cabinet, albeit belated, had been a sure step forward.
It must have inspired the guerrilla fighters inside Bangladesh and given hope to the people facing a brutal force.
Although states hesitated to recognise the independence struggle of Bangladesh, masses across the globe extended their unstinted support and urged the world powers to force Pakistan to stop the atrocities.
 &  Raghavan, Srinath. 1971 A Global History of the Creation of Bangladesh. The United States of America: Harvard University Press, 2013