On historic March 7, 1971, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman would deliver his speech in the afternoon. Speculations were in the air that he would declare independence in his Race Course address. So, Dhaka had already become a city of processions from the morning. As much as the crowd was excited about it, the Pakistani military establishment was on high alert.
Radio Pakistan's Dhaka station, in the face of demands from its Bengali officers, made arrangements to broadcast the speech live. Patriotic songs were played on the radio from 2:10pm, Dhaka newspapers reported the next day. But before the speech, when the station was playing the "Amar Sonar Bangla" song, it suddenly stopped broadcasting. And it didn't resume operations till late night.
Pakistani army's public relations officer Siddiq Salik, in his book Witness to Surrender, writes that "The radio announcers were already speaking from the Race Course telling the listeners about the unprecedented enthusiasm of the million-strong audience. The headquarters of the Chief Martial Law Administrator intervened and directed
Dacca to stop this 'nonsense'. I conveyed the orders to the radio station. The Bengali friend at the receiving end reacted sharply to the order. He said, 'If we can't broadcast the voice of seventy-five million people, we refuse to work.' With that, the station went off the air."
The radio authority was forced to broadcast the speech uncut the next morning, despite the Pakistani military's paranoia on the historic day of March 7.
The Pakistani authorities took huge preparations considering a possible announcement of independence. Dr Kamal Hossain wrote in an article, "Machine guns were fit everywhere. Machine guns were on the roof of Shahbag Hotel as well. Wherever people gathered, there were machine guns. They fell nothing short of war preparation.
There was no other way but shootout if independence was announced."
On the other hand, there was demand from the student leaders to announce independence.
Bangabandhu, however, knew what dangers would entail if he declared independence. He was not a politician who read from a script. But on that day, he looked at the draft piece that scripted the four key demands before going to the stage.
Khadim Hussain Raja was the Pakistani military's GOC in Dhaka at that time. He wrote in his book A Stranger in my own County, that he sent a message to Bangabandhu on the night of March 6, a few hours before the historic speech, that "…during his speech, I would have army – armed with guns and tanks – standing by in the cantonment, ready to move immediately."
He warned Bangabandhu that in case he declared independence, "I would have the army march in immediately with orders to wreck the meeting, if necessary, raze
Dacca to the ground." Siddiq Salik's book also recounts Raja's warning as "I will muster all I can – tanks, artillery and machine-guns – to kill all the traitors and, if necessary, raze Dacca to the ground. There will be no one to rule, there will be nothing to rule."
With such warnings in the backdrop, the night before, when Bangabandhu was thinking about what to say in the rally, Bangabandhu's wife Sheikh Fazilatunnesa Mujib, seeing his thoughts and concerns, said, "You will say what you believe."
Daughter of Bangabandhu and the incumbent Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina quoted her mother saying to her husband, "You have struggled all your life. You have been imprisoned. You know what to say, what people want to hear. You will say what comes to your mind."
So after a closed-door meeting next morning (March 7) with the party leaders, including Tajuddin Ahmad, Syed Nazrul Islam, Captain Mansur Ali, Dr Kamal Hossain, as Dr
MA Wazed Miah wrote in his memoir, Bangabandhu said that they had agreed with students' demands and that the four-point demands would be presented at the Race Course in the afternoon.
According to Dr MA Wazed Miah's memoir, Bangabandhu asked Khandaker Mushtaq about the question of writing the declaration of independence in the manifesto.
Khandaker Mushtaq said that it would be very risky. Hence, the matter was not written in the manifesto.
The demands included, 1) The withdrawal of Martial Law, 2) Sending troops back to barracks, 3) Inquiry into the killings, and 4) Transfer of power to the elected representatives of the people.
Before leaving for the Race Course, Bangabandhu asked the leaders and activists to distribute the four-point manifesto to the foreign journalist. With that, he got into a truck and started his journey.
On March 7, 1971, Awami League and student leaders had been crowding at Bangabandhu's Dhanmondi house since the morning. Most people thought that
Bangabandhu would call for independence directly from this rally.
Bangabandhu didn't directly declare independence. He said, "Ebarer Shongram amader muktir shongram, Ebarer shongram, shadhinotar Shongram" (This war is a war for independence, this war is a war for Freedom). And with this, what he did instead made history, and eventually gave birth to our homeland, free of foreign oppressors.