President Yahya Khan announced the postponement until “a later date” of the National Assembly. Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman react angrily to the postponement at a press conference and called for emancipation of 70 million Bangalis. He announced a 6-day program which included observance of complete strike in Dhaka on March 2 and a country-wide strike on the March 3rd, the day the National Assembly was supposed to meet. He also announced a public meeting yo be held at the Race Course Maidan on March 7 where he will announce the final program.
Curfew was declared from dawn to dusk but protestors took to the street. Many were killed by Pakistani troops. Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman denounced the firing on unarmed men and declares province-wide Hartal on each day from March 1971 to March 6, 1971 from 6 am to 2 pm.
Awami League launches a non-violent non-cooperation movement.
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman rejects Yahya Khan’s proposal for a conference of political leaders.
Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman called a nationwide strike and launched a non-violent non-cooperation movement. The upsurge by then had spread to the other parts of the country. Every where the people responded to the great leader Bangabandhu’s appeal and the movement became more orderly and effective.
Bangabandhu also ordered “Continuous Strikes” – a daily shutdown from 7am to 2pm. Accordingly, everything in the country ceased function during those hours.
There was serious trouble in Chittagong that night when the authorities tried to unload the MV Swat which had arrived with troops and a cargo of ammunition. Dock workers spread this news. Soon thousands of people were locked in battle with West Pakistan soldiers and sailors. The trouble gained a new dimension when a unit of the East Pakistan Rifles refused to fire on Bangali demonstrators. This action gave a sharper edge to Bangali resentment.
It was in that situation that Lt.-Gen. Tikka Khan flew into Dhaka. Tikka Khan was an old hand at quelling disturbances. He had already acquired the reputation of ” Butcher of Baluchistan”.
After the daily strikes ended in Dhaka at 2pm meetings were held at the stadium and other places. On one occasion 341 prisoners who had broken out of Dhaka jail joined the stadium meeting.
As the intensity of the movement was increasing so did the demand for independence. All eyes were being turned to the racecourse at Dhaka where Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman expected to proclaim independence on March 7, 1971.
On the other side Yahya Khan saw the remedy only in terms of applying greater force – a military solution for a political problem.
Non-violent non-cooperation movement and daily shut-down from 7 am to 2 pm continue. Government offices are closed, banks bolted shut, even postal, telegraph, telephone, airline and train services came to a standstill. There were clashes and killing all over the country. General Tikka Khan takes over as Governor East Pakistan.
Three hundred people killed in army action against Awami League volunteers and supporters.
Yahya Khan was clear in his mind about what he should do. The strategy would be to provide the necessary force, buy time for the preparations and strike hard at the appropriate moment. Encouragement also came from Tikka Khan,- ‘Give me enough force and I will crush them in 48 hours’. Accordingly, Yahya Khan ordered the massive airlift to begin.
Yahya Khan announces that the National Assembly would meet on March 25, 1971.
Yahya Khan went on the air and announced March 25 as the new data for the national assembly meeting.
Whoever heard Yahya khan’s broadcast that day will never forget the experience. The manner in which the ‘gesture’ was made and the tone of voice left no doubt whatsoever of his real intentions. He had not a single word to assuage outraged Bangali sentiment, nor did he make the slightest effort at reconciliation. Instead, he heaped invective on Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the Awami League.
On three separate occasions between March 3 and March 24 Bangali members of armed forces approached Sheikh Mujibur Rahman for guidance because they had no illusions about what was coming.
In the evening Bangabandhu was engaged in an emergency meeting of the party’s working committee to consider the President’s new date for the national assembly meeting. The Awami Leaguers also had to decide whether or not to make the declaration of independence that the people were clamoring for. The pressures for this were extreme. On the one side were the powerful student groups insisting to announce the break with the West Pakistan, with them also were the street crowds.
The discussions had taken up the whole night but the Awami League was still undecided. Finally Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman decided to speak out about this issue – tomorrow March 7, 1971 – on the Racecourse Ground.
Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman asks the people not to pay taxes and asks the government servants to take orders only from him..
He also puts forward his 3 conditions for attending the Assembly session. He declares “Our current struggle is a struggle for independence”.
There was a meeting on the racecourse ground to mark a dramatic turn in the Bangali struggle. All eyes were centered on the dais where Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was expected any moment.
In his speech Bangabandhu declared a four-point demand to consider the national assembly meeting on March 25, 1971. They were :
1. The immediate withdrawal of the martial law.
2. Immediate withdrawal of all military personnel to their barracks.
3. An inquiry into the loss of life.
4. Immediate transfer of power to the elected representative of the people before the assembly meeting March 25.
Bangabandhu also unfolded a program of several directives that was the extent of the civil disobedience movement. Those were :
1. No tax campaign will continue.
2. The secretariat, government and semi-government offices, High court and other courts throughout East Bangla will observe Hartals. Appropriate exemptions will be announced from time to time.
3. Railway and ports may function, but railway and port workers will not cooperate if railway or ports are used for mobilizing of forces for the purpose of repression against the people of East Bangla.
4. Radio, television and newspapers shall give complete versions of Bangabandhu’s statement and shall not suppress news about the people’s movement, otherwise Bangali worker in these establishment shall cooperate.
5. Only local and inter-district telephone communication shall function.
6. All educational institution shall remain closed.
7. Banks shall not effect remittances to the Western wing either through the State Bank or otherwise.
8. Black flags shall be hoisted on all buildings everyday.
9. Hartal (strike) is withdrawn in all other spheres but complete hartal may be declared at any moment depending on the situation.
10. A ‘Sangram Parishad’ should be organized in each union, mohallah, thana, sub-division – under the leadership of the local Awami League units.
Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman exhorted his people to turn every house in East Bangla into a fortress.
Finally, raising his fist Bangabandhu cried out at the top of his voice : “OUR STRUGGLE THIS TIME IS A STRUGGLE FOR FREEDOM, OUR STRUGGLE THIS TIME IS A STRUGGLE FOR INDEPENDENCE. JOY BANGLA.
Civil disobedience movement is launched.
“People’s rule” by Bangabandhu, became the order of the day. The Bangalis were supremely disciplined and dedicated in this matter. Every man, woman and child scrupulously following the dictates of the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
In the evening Tajuddin Ahmad issued several clarifications and exemptions to mitigate public hardship and to prevent damage to the East Bangla economy.
East Pakistan judges refuse to swear in Lt. Gen. Tikka Khan as governor..
Tikka Khan had arrived in Dhaka a few days after the non-cooperation movement had started, to take up the dual role of Governor and Martial Law Administrator for the Eastern part. But he had not yet sworn it. Finally he decided to be formally sworn in as Governor and summoned the chief justice of East Bangla for the purpose of administering the oath. Justice Siddique very politely declined. So did the other judges of the Dhaka High Court. This proved that Bangabandhu’s directives were being obeyed even at that top level.
Pakistan International Airlines canceling most of it’s international services, concentrated all available aircraft of ferrying “Government Passengers” to Dhaka. But those were the troops in civilian dress.
Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s called for non-violent non-cooperation and civil disobedience movements were becoming a part of daily life, for the people of the East Bangla.