The birth of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was an important event in the history of Bangladesh. Without his birth, the emergence of Bangladesh as an independent state would not have been possible in 1971. Due to his immense contribution to Bangladesh's creation, he has been an integral part of our history. Through the firm, dedicated and far-sighted leadership of Bangabandhu, the whole country was ready for the war of liberation.
We all know that the honour of being the "Father of the Nation" is bestowed on a person only when his contribution to the process of nation-building is recognized as extraordinary. The contribution of these champions in the process of independence of any country is considered very important.
Due to Bangabandhu's lifelong struggle for the independence of the country, he was awarded the honorary title of "Father of the Nation" of Bangladesh like the leaders of other countries of the world, including Peter-1 of Russia, Sir Henry Parks of Australia, San Yat-sen of China, Mahatma Gandhi of India And Mustafa Kemal of Turkey, who were also recognized as the "Father of the Nation" in his home country.
There is no denying that Bangabandhu was the true architect of our country, as he was instrumental in the language movement of 1952, the democratic movement of 1962, the six-point program of 1966, the mass movement of 1969, the elections of 1970 and above all the independence movement of 1971. Bangabandhu's demand for autonomy flourished through his six-point program.
Realizing the Pakistani junta's conspiracy to hand over after the election victory of 1970, Bangabandhu delivered a historic speech on March 7 that politicians could hardly deliver.
There was a hypnotic power in Bangabandhu's speech that evoked passion among all the people to liberate the country. As a result, even after 50 years of independence, this statement still haunts us. Considering all these aspects, many historians have compared Bangabandhu's March 7th speech with Abraham Lincoln's "Gettysburg Speech" and Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream". Although this speech was compared to them, it was more substantial than those speeches because the outline of the dream of cherished freedom of a nation was formed through a speech that is probably one and unique in history.
Bangabandhu's speech on March 7 came at a time when the conflict between East Pakistan and the West Pakistani military government over autonomy was at its peak. Amid this West-Pakistan conspiracy, Bangabandhu provided a direction to the country's people through his speech and proclaimed in a thunderous voice, "prottek ghore ghore durgo gore tulo" (Build forts in every house) to prepare everyone for civil war. There are probably very few leaders in the world's history who could address the people like "you", holding them in the heart. Inspired by the speech of the beloved leader Mujib Bhai, the people of East Pakistan joined hands and shouted:"Sab Kother Shesh Kotha, Bangladesher Swadhinata" (The final word is the independence of Bangladesh), and "Bir Bangalee Ostro Dhoro, Bangladesh Swadhin Koro" (Brave Bangalee, Take Up Arms to Make Bangladesh Free). Bangabandhu ended his speech by saying, "Rokto Jokhon Dyechhi, Rokto Aro Debo, Kintu Edesher Manuske Mukto Kore Chharbo Insha-Allah" (Since we have shed blood, we shall shed much until, by the grace of the Almighty, we make people free). With this statement, he offered a clear direction to the nation about the freedom struggle of Bangladesh.
Although the movement against Pakistan started as a freedom movement, since the speech on March 7, Bangabandhu was thinking seriously about the destination of our liberation war. This speech compelled Yahya Khan to come to East Pakistan and sit down with Bangabandhu to find a way to resolve the political crisis. Sadly, no favourable decision was taken from that meeting on March 16, 1971, as Yahya Khan did not participate in discussion witha liberal mentality. Initially, Yahya Khan expressed interest in the meeting as a time-wasting strategy. Following the talks, large numbers of troops were brought from West Pakistan to East Pakistan to conduct the massacre on the darkest night of the March 25.
The incident finally took place at midnight on March 25, 1971, when the Pakistani army brutally killed several thousand Bengalis in the name of the so-called "Operation Searchlight". The incident was originally a ploy to exploit East Bengal's people and deny them their right to freedom. As a result, Bangabandhu had no choice but to declare formal independence. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman declared Bangladesh's independence on East Pakistan Radio at midnight on March 26 1971, before being arrested by the Pakistani army.
As a result of the army's crackdown on Bangladesh's innocent people and the declaration of independence, the people of Bangladesh became involved in the war against the dictator of Pakistan. Although Bangabandhu was in jail, the people of Bangladesh fought under his direction. The Pakistani army killed at least 3 million innocent people and raped 200,000 women in Bangladesh before surrendering to the Allies. Subsequently, the long-awaited struggle under the leadership of Bangabandhu resulted in the independence of Bangladesh on December 16 1971.
The war against the political and military leaders of Pakistan was a common feature of Bangabandhu's life. He considered prison as his second home in his life. The way Bangabandhu tackled various challenges will always inspire the younger generation. Between 1948 and 1972, he spent the golden period of his life in prison. His uncompromising behaviour against the Pakistani junta attracts us the most. He has spent only a few years with his family members. His suitcase was always arranged because the police or the army were often ready to take him to prison. The extent to which the Pakistani ruler feared Sheikh Mujib is clear from Governor Abdul Monem Khan's statement. Abdul Monme Khan once said that he would not let Sheikh Mujib see the light of day. He even smiled at the pain of being away from his beloved wife and children. The independence of Bangladesh and the rights of the people were of paramount importance to him.
At different times in Bangladesh, many have claimed that many people dreamed of building an independent Bangladesh before Bangabandhu. This is true in many cases because Maulana Bhasani also spoke about Bangladesh in public forums. However, they failed to provide specific directions for independence, which only Bangabandhu could provide. He could inspire people as a leader.
Various political parties took various initiatives to remove Bangabandhu's contribution from the history of Bangladesh. However, their purpose was not achieved because he had established himself at such a height that it was very difficult to touch him. So, as long as Bangladesh remains active on the world map as an independent country, he will remain in the hearts of millions of Bangladeshis in the country. In fact, Bangabandhu and Bangladesh are synonymous. Excluding one, the other is meaningless. As a result, all of us should consider Bangabandhu as an institution and recognize his contribution to the Bangladeshi formation by keeping him above all kinds of politics and criticism.
Pranab Kumar Panday is a Professor of Public Administration at the University of Rajshahi.