Project London 1971: Unsung Heroes of Those Windy Days

The city of London played a pivotal role during the days of making a new nation-state Bangladesh. It is now historically evident that the UK was the witness of many untold story of our liberation war to be explored yet. Expatriate Bengalis were in spontaneous support of the independence movement of a-becoming-state Bangladesh since the very early days of the liberation war. They were vocal about the movement since the beginning stages of the war. They called for independence of Bangladesh and raised awareness in British cities throughout the long nine months of war.

Scores of people jolted the streets of Britain longing for a liberated, sovereign and independent Bangladesh. And this particular publication London 1971 is an adaptation of those sparkling days which began in the early stage of liberation war and ended in the homecoming of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman via London.

Those were the windy days and people irrespectively from all spheres moved by the vibes generated by the protestors. British Parliament Members, politicians, journalists, social workers and students played a significant role in gaining public support for independent Bangladesh along with the Bengalis. If we try to rewind some of the snaps, get a quick look below.

Revolutionary Bengalis burnt down the Pakistani flag at the Pakistani High Commission in London on 5 March, 1971. Members of Women’s Association gave memorandum to the residence of the British Prime Minister on 3 April. An exhibition showcasing the first eight stamps and envelopes of independent Bangladesh was held in the House of Commons on 26 July. A phenomenal peoples gathering for Bangladesh took place in Trafalgar Square of London which was coordinated by Action Bangladesh on 1 August.

Establishing a diplomatic mission in London on 27 August was another milestone in this long expedition. Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the architect of our independence, arrived on Heathrow Airport at dawn of 08 January 1972. In the afternoon, a crowded press conference was organized with his presence in Claridge Hotel.

Steering Committee of the Action Committees, the Regional Action Committees, Student Action Committee, Women's Associations in the UK, Bangladesh Medical Association in the UK, Action Bangladesh and Operation Omega played vital role in establishing public opinion and gathering ‘Bangladesh Fund’. Along with the series of exhibitions planned to be organized around the country to reach the various actors and stakeholders living in the national level and in the grassroots, there are many more activities planned by the ‘Project London 1971’ to be done in the years upcoming. Apart from these, a couple of books already accomplished on the expedition of unveiling the history penned by me yet to be published by some renowned publishers in the course of time. The books, one is based on photography collected and specially designed and decorated while the other is descriptive, are the yield of my seven years long research to relocate the treasures unexplored till today in the UK. I came to know about British photographer Roger Goyen during this study. Many of his rare photographs bear the testimony of the unseen moments of our liberation war. The photographs of British-born Bangladeshi Yusuf Chowdhury should also be recognized. I have gathered many newspaper cuttings of Bengali and English dailies and periodicals, posters, leaflets etc as well.

This exhibition titled ‘London 1971’ incorporates those exclusive photographs of that time. We are aiming to celebrate the historic press conference of our father of the nation Bangabondhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman at the Claridge Hotel London on 8th January 1972 and the event will coincide on the same date and at the same rendezvous.

Countless Bengali and non-Bengali friends and institutions home and abroad extended their hands in cooperation and support my long effort ‘Project London 1971’. I received unconditional love and support from many people all around the globe. We would like to express our gratitude solemnly to all the actors behind the scene without mentioning any name for their unequivocal support and co-operation. We firmly believe that the series of initiatives undertaken by the ‘Project London 1971’ will inspire the newer generations present and upcoming. It will navigate to know about the outstanding story of making a liberated land Bangladesh.

Project London 1971 initiator

Ujjal Das was born in 1979 in a suburban city Nabiganj under Habiganj district of Sylhet divisional area in Bangladesh, brought up in Nabiganj and in Sylhet as well, currently he lives and works in Dhaka and London simultaneously.

He did his Masters on International Tourism & Hospitality Management under the University of Wales Institute, Cardiff (UWIC). He took journalism professionally since the days of his studying and builds his career up as a journalist and worked for almost all the leading Bangladeshi dailies. Besides the journalism Mr. Das is a devoted theatre artist for both on-stage and off-stage productions since last two decades.

Evolving over two decades he proved himself a skilled and confident one in the arena of mass media and communication dealing with several projects either in organizing or in planning behind the backdrop. Though his earlier reputation built up for the culture and entertainment feature reporting by him, contributed in the Daily Prothom Alo, the Daily Star, Weekly Jonomot, Surma from UK, and many more, subsequently he became the founder-editor of a well-circulated Diaspora Bangla newspaper titled the fortnightly Bricklane, Mr. Das choose to be a freelancer in the field of journalism in later days and took his passionate field of working on exploring the Liberation War history of Bangladesh’s untold stories and focusing on the city of London during 1971 through unveiling the photographs collected.

He is the initiator and founder co-coordinator of Project London 1971 that brought to the Bangladeshis some significant shows and acclaimed highly for making the history alive in a unique way of expression and telling a tale of two nations in passionate bondage during the days of fire and flames.