Dhaka, Jun 21 (bdnews24.com)—The High Court on Sunday ruled that Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, not Ziaur Rahman, proclaimed Bangladesh's independence from Pakistan in 1971.
The verdict could put an end to decades of political wrangling.
The High Court, on review of newspapers published on Mar 26 1971, said it was clear that Mujib declared Bangladesh an independent nation prior to his arrest by Pakistani forces on the night of Mar 25, two days before a radio broadcast by Zia.
A two-judge bench of justices ABM Khairul Haque and Mamotaz Uddin Ahmed also ordered the annulment of the third volume of Bangladesher Swadhinata Juddho Dalilpatra (Bangladesh Liberation War Documents) that presents Zia, a major in the Pakistan army at the time, as the "declarer of independence".
The High Court banned the publication, sale, distribution and printing of the volume, and ordered its withdrawal and confiscation at home and abroad.
It also directed the government to ensure the "true history" of independence was written in textbooks.
Citing a column written by Ziaur Rahman himself, titled Jatir Janak and published in the 'Dainik Bangla' on Mar 26 1972, the court said Zia described the events of March 1971, but did not refer to himself as the declarer of independence.
Zia himself dubbed Sheikh Mujib 'Father of the Nation', the court observed.
It also referred to Zia's speech on Dec 16 1977, when he became president. In that speech Zia recalled Mar 27 1971, saying, "I had the good luck to speak to you from Kalurghat Betarkendra". But he did not claim to be the one who declared independence, the court said.
The court said Mujib's Proclamation of Independence has been enshrined in Article 150 of the constitution.
The ruling said those who claimed otherwise were involved in "distortion of history" and in "violation of the constitution", and the government could take punitive measures against them.
The 'historical' verdict was given on a public interest petition by freedom fighter MA Salam on Apr 19.
"By reviewing national and international newspapers and other documents, the court has established the truth that it was Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman who proclaimed independence," additional attorney general M Inayetur Rahim told bdnews24.com after the ruling.
"This verdict has washed away the long-time plot to distort history by anti-liberation groups," he said.
Petitioner Salam said, "The truth has won. Now the next generation will know the true history of the proclamation of independence."
Dhaka University history profession Muntasir Mamun said the important aspect of the rule was that the government could take punitive measures against those responsible for the distortion of history.
In a reaction to the verdict, a senior BNP leader Moudud Ahmed said the courts should not be involved with such a "sensitive issue".
"Where there are politics and emotion involved, in such a sensitive issue, nothing should be said."
In a twist of irony, the High Court referred to a book, 'Era of Sheikh Mujib' written by Moudud himself, to support its verdict.