The January 10, 1972 speech by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, on the occasion of his return to independent Bangladesh, is one of his historic speeches. While the March 7, 1971 speech was heralded as the declaration of the ‘struggle for emancipation’ and the ‘struggle for independence’, the 10 January speech drew up guidelines for the new nation on how to realize the spirit of those struggles with courage and patriotism. The March 7 speech has been translated into English and many other languages, but there was no acceptable English translation of the January 10 speech till now. However, commissioned by the National Implementation Committee for the Birth Centenary Celebration of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, I translated the January 10 speech into English:
At first I remember the students, the labourers, the peasants, the intellectuals, soldiers, the police, the people, the Hindu and the Muslim of my Bangladesh who were killed. I, wishing for their souls and paying tribute to them, would like to say a few words to you.
My Bangladesh has been independent today, my life’s desire has been fulfilled today, the people of my Bengal have been liberated today. My Bengal will remain free. Today I won’t be able to make a speech. The way the sons of Bengal, the mothers of Bengal, the peasants of Bengal, the labourers of Bengal, the intellectuals of Bengal did struggle---I was imprisoned, was ready and waiting to go to the gallows. But I knew that they could not suppress my Bangalees. The people of my Bengal would be liberated. I pay tribute to those of my brothers who made the supreme sacrifice, suffered martyrdom, I give them my regards, seek forgiveness of their souls.
Today, in percentage terms, I am reliably informed, nearly 30 lakh people have been killed in Bengal. In the Second World War and also in the First World War, such a number of people, such a number of common citizen did not die, were not martyred, which happened in my 7-crore people’s Bangladesh.
I did not know I would return to you. I told just one thing, I have no objection if you kill me. Please return my dead body to my Bangalees, this is my only request to you.
I congratulate the Prime Minister of India Mrs. Indira Gandhi, I congratulate the people of India, I congratulate the armed forces of India, I congratulate the people of Russia, I congratulate the governments and people of Britain, Germany, France and those who have supported us.
I congratulate the people of America, I congratulate the oppressed of the world who have supported this liberation struggle of mine.
I am to say, one crore people from Bangladesh took refuge in India leaving the homestead. The people of India, Mrs. Indira Gandhi gave them food, shelter, I cannot but congratulate them. I am to congratulate others who too helped us.
However, we should keep in mind, Bangladesh is an independent and sovereign state. Bangladesh shall remain independent. None can suppress Bangladesh. There is nothing to be gained by conspiring against Bangladesh. Before I left, I said, Oh, Bangalees! Your struggle this time is a struggle for independence, your struggle this time is a struggle for emancipation. You’ve done it. I said, build fortresses at every house. You struggled by building fortresses at every house.
I congratulate my colleagues. Many of my brothers, many activists, many mothers and sisters are no more in this world, I shall not see them. Today I saw the people of Bangladesh, saw the land of Bangladesh, saw the sky of Bangladesh, felt the weather of Bangladesh, I greet Bengal with salaam. My Bengal of gold I love you so much, this is perhaps the reason why I have been called back.
I hope, I appeal to all the states in the world, I have no roads, I have no ghat, my people have no food, my people are homeless-helpless, my people are street beggars. You help my people, I want help from you for the sake of humanity. I want help from all the states in the world. Please recognize my Bangladesh. Give relief from the United Nations, you have to give, no way you must give. I, we won’t admit defeat, We don’t know how to admit defeat. Kabiguru, Kabiguri Rabindranath said, “You have made seven crore Bangalees, Oh Mother Bengal, remain as Bangalees, you haven’t made them humans.”
Kabiguru’s words have proved wrong. My Bangalees are now humans. My Bangalees have shown in the history of the world, in the history of the world, that no such numbers of people have made self-sacrifices, no such numbers of people have laid down their lives. That’s why I say you could not suppress me.
From today my request, from today my command, from today my order, as a brother—not as a leader, nor as the president or as the prime minister, I am your brother, you are my brothers. This independence of mine will be futile—if the people of my Bengal are not fully fed on rice, this independence of mine will not be fulfilled—if the mothers and sisters of Bengal do not get clothes, this independence of mine will not be fulfilled—if the mothers and sisters of this country do not get clothes for the protection of their modesty, this independence of mine will not be fulfilled—if the people of this country, the youth of mine, do not find employment or do not get jobs.
I congratulate you-- the freedom fighters, the student community, activists. You became guerillas, you gave blood, blood won’t go in vain, blood didn’t go in vain.
Just a word—from today, from today, let there be no theft and robbery in Bengal. Let there be no plundering in Bengal. The other sections of the population who are in Bengal, the people of other countries, the people of West Pakistan, who do not speak Bengali. I’m still saying, become Bangalees. And I am saying to my brothers, do not raise your hand to them. We are humans, we love humans.
But those who have collaborated, those who have killed my people entering their rooms, will be brought to justice and punished. Leave it with the government, in the hands of the independent government of Bangladesh. None would be spared. However, I want, in the independent country, like the independent citizens, in the independent court, they would be tried and punished. You, I want to show the world that peaceful Bengalis know how to give blood and peaceful Bengalis know how to keep peace. You have received me. I have come. I did not know I was sentenced to death by hanging. A grave was dug for me beside my cell. I prepared myself, I said I’m a Bangalee, I’m a man, I’m a Muslim—who dies once not twice. I said, if death comes to me, I’ll die laughing. I will not die dishonouring my Bengali nation, I’ll not beg your pardon. And will shout out while dying, Joy Bangla, Free Bangla, Bengali is my nation, Bangla is my language, the land of Bangla is my place.
My brothers, you know, we have a lot of work to do. I want all my people to begin work on the construction of the roads where broken. I want you all to go back to the field and cultivate paddy.
I want to tell the employees, do not take bribes, not even a single person. Remember, it was not an opportune moment then, but now I will not forgive bribes.
My brothers! As I was being taken away under arrest, Tajuddin, Nazrul and others went towards me. I told, ‘let me die with seven crore Bangalees. I bless you.’ Tajuddin and others were crying. I said, ‘you go away. Struggle on. I have faith in you. I want to die at this house. This will be the place of Bangladesh, I want to breathe my last in this house. In no way, I can bow my head to them.’
Brothers mine, they have interrogated Dr. Kamal there for three months so as to make him testify against Mujib. Some Bangalees have given their testimonies against me, and we all know and recognize them. They will be brought to trial.
You, today, I am not in a position to make a speech. You understand, “Take the salute my beautiful mother, motherland, the banks of the Ganges, the gentle breeze have soothed my life.” (Recites a poem by Tagore).
Today, when I landed in Dhaka, I couldn’t hold back my tears, because never did I think I would be back to the land, the people, the nation and the country, Bangladesh, that I love so much. Today, I have returned to Bangladesh. I have come back to my mothers, my sisters, my brothers. My Bengal is now independent, and my people of Bengal are independent today.
I tell the brothers of West Pakistan, you stay happy. We bear you no grudge. We will try our best to show respect to you. Things that your military men have done-- raped my sisters and mothers and killed my three lakh people. Go away and be happy. You stay happy. We are no longer with you. It’s over. You remain free. I, too, remain independent.
As a citizen of an independent country, I can make friends with you, otherwise there can be no friendship. However, adequate action will be taken for those who have wronged.
I apologize to you. I will make a speech another day, after a few days when I’ll get a bit well.
You see I’m not that Mujibur Rahman any longer. When I look at my Bengal, you see, places have been flattened, villages after villages have been burned down. There’s hardly any family left where my people haven’t been killed. What a howling cowardice that, the military men killed innocent civilians in this way! And what they claim! ‘We are the Muslim military in Pakistan.’ They should be hated. They should have known that Bangladesh is the second Muslim country in the world after Indonesia. The Muslim are large in number – second position. And India is in the third position. And West Pakistan is in the fourth position. We are Muslims, do the Muslim rape mothers and sisters? We are Muslims. In my state, in this Bangladesh, there will be a socialist system. There will be democracy in this Bangladesh. Bangladesh will be a secular state.
I want to tell them who are eager to know. On my way home, I had a discussion with Mrs. Indira Gandhi in Delhi. I can tell you it since I know her very well. I hold her in high regard. She is the daughter of Pundit Nehru. She is the daughter of Motilal Nehru’s son. They were involved in politics, they did sacrifice. They became prime ministers of India. The day I ask, Indian army will leave the soil of Bangladesh, and she is withdrawing little by little.
However, the help she extended to us, I, on behalf of the seven crore sad Bangalees, congratulate Mrs. Indira Gandhi, her government and the people of India, I thank them from the bottom of my heart.
There’s hardly any head of the state to whom she did not request personally to secure Sheikh Mujib’s release. She personally told all the states in the world, “you ask Yahya Khan to release Sheikh Mujib, to find a political solution".
A crore of people have moved to a country leaving their motherland. There are many countries having ten lakh, fifteen lakh, twenty lakh, thirty lakh, forty lakh, fifty lakh population. Sixty percent states have population below one crore. Whereas one crore people from my Bengal took refuse in India leaving the lure of the motherland. Many of them died there sick, many suffered the agony of starvation. Many houses were burned down by this gang of beasts.
Forgive me, my brothers, forgive me. Today, I have no desire for vengeance on anyone. Don’t tell anything to anybody. I will punish them who did wrong. Don’t take the law into your own hands. The youth of the liberation forces, take my salam. The student community, take my salam. The working community, take my salam. The peasantry, take my salam. You take, the luckless Hindus and Muslims take my salam.
And those of the employees who received bullet injuries shot from machine guns and those who fled for fear of life leaving behind their mothers and sisters, their young wives captured and thrown into Pakistani camp at Kurmitola, I salute you all and offer my best regards.
Together we will build a new and prosperous Bengal. The people of Bengal will cheer up again, live life merrily and breathe freely in an open atmosphere. The people of Bengal will have two squire meals a day. All my endeavors are aimed at achieving this goal. In fact, establishing the country on a firm financial footing is the motto of my life. With these words I would like to take leave of you. I wish I could die with the solace that the woes of my people are over. I seek your wishes and blessings to this end. With these words I would like to take leave of you. I express my sincerest thanks to my colleagues who stood by me at the hour of need, who obeyed the orders l gave, they proved through their deeds that they were equal to the challenge and spared no pains to translate into action the orders of their Mujib bhai: fight to the last, liberate the country, sacrifice your lives and emancipate the people. Don't worry about me. Let me go. I doubt whether I would be able to come back here. But Allah is helper of the helpless. That's why, I've been able to get back to you again with His blessings.
My dear colleagues, I congratulate you wholeheartedly on your snatching victory. I know well the severe pain you have taken. You know I was detained in prison. For nine months I was kept out of touch with any newspaper. It is true that at the moment of my departure Mr. Bhutto said: Sheikh Shaheb, please make an effort to maintain a semblance of unity between the two wings. I said I had not made up my mind about it yet. Even I was unsure of my whereabouts then. I said I would speak my mind as I returned home. Today, I say in no uncertain terms that the knot has been undone for ever. It's time to part our ways.
And if you're entering a secret deal with any superpower and attempting to sabotage our independence, then mark it, Sheikh Mujib would be in the commander's position this time. He would rather die than let our independence slip.
My dear brothers, four lakh of our Bangalees are languishing in West Pakistan. I would put in a request, of course with your approval, my dear colleagues, to the international bodies like the UN or International Court of Justice to institute an enquiry as to the brutal atrocities committed and the colossal massacre perpetrated by the Pakistani army, the truth must be revealed to the international community. I would urge the UN that Bangladesh be granted membership immediately and institute an enquiry.
Dear brothers, if you attempt at any foul play, the consequences would be dire. I know the cycle of conspiracy hasn't ended. Bangalees, beware of conspiracies being hatched against us. Once I gave a clarion call to my people: turn each of your houses into a fortress, didn't I? And fight with whatever you have, didn't I? I said our struggle this time is a struggle for freedom and emancipation. I said it standing on this ground on 7 March. Today, I urge: be fair and stay united and don't listen to the words of the mischief makers.
Since we have been independent we’ll remain independent if Allah wills. The struggle shall continue as long as a single living soul exists in this Bangladesh.
Today, I can't continue my speech any longer. I wish to speak to you again after I get a bit better. Please do forgive me. Pray for me. You will keep me in your prayer. Please put up your hands with me in supplication to Allah for His mercy.