Today is the homecoming day of Bangabandhu. Like this day on January 10, 1972 the greatest Bengali of the past thousand years, sculptor of Bangladesh, supreme command of the Liberation War, Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman returned home in independent Bangladesh following a captive life for about 290 days in the lock up of Pakistan.
This brave hero and leader declared independence of Bangladesh on March 25, 1971, and immediately after his declaration of independence, the invading forces of Pakistan took him captive and sent him to a lock up in Pakistan, where he suffered a long captive life. During his captive life, the then military junta General Aga Mohammad Yahya attempted to bring false charge of treason against the state and tried to hold camera trial against Bangabandhu. Before this travesty of justice, the General managed to publish a white paper against him and plotted a conspiracy to kill Bangabandhu in the name of justice.
However, this attempt to murder was not successful mainly because of the all-out effort, activity and interference of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi of India. Sree Moti Indira Gandhi wrote letters to 67 heads of the governments of important countries with requests to create pressure on the Pakistan government to stop the travesty of justice against Bangabandhu and to release him from the lock-up. Further, she sent her cabinet members to different countries in order to raise and justify the points in favor of the release of Bangabandhu. Moreover, she herself visited 5 European countries including the USA, and was able to bring the situation in favor of Bangladesh. As a result, judicious persons and conscious citizens of many countries of the world urged Pakistan government to stop trial and to hold dialogue for solution of the problems.
Meanwhile, the news of the capture of Bangabandhu spread with the speed of lightning throughout the country. On top of it, the escalation of the heinous incidents by Pakistani invading forces like torture, indiscriminate killing, and rape of women and arson made the people furious, and the people of this country burst into protest and anger. In the circumstances, people of all walks of life and professions participated in the Liberation War with a view to liberating the country from the clutches of the enemies. Many youths, students, people of various professions went to India to have training to be freedom fighters.
Similarly, training for liberation war was organized in Bangladesh too. To achieve independence of the country and at the same time to save the honour and modesty of the mothers and sisters of the country, countless people irrespective of caste and creed fell on the invading forces of the Pak army. During the sanguinary Liberation War for about 9 months, nearly 30 lakh people became martyred and about 2 lakh women lost their honour and chastity. After a bloody war for about 9 months, 93 thousand Pakistani invading forces surrendered to the allied forces of Bangladesh and India at the Race Course Maiden (now Suhrawardy Udyan) on December 16, 1971. In addition, with the surrender of the invading army, Bangladesh achieved its ultimate independence. Although the country became independent, the apple of the eye of 7.5 crore people, supreme command of the Liberation of War, Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was still in the lock-up of Pakistan.
The news of the victory spread throughout the country, and the people of the country became overwhelmed with joy. They came out of their houses, joined the victory procession on the streets, and heaved a sigh of relief in the independent country. Despite joy, still there were anxieties, worries and voidness in the mind of the people, and this condition of the mind of the people was getting deeper and deeper. In addition, it seemed to people that because of the absence of Bangabandhu, the victory and joy of independence appeared to be unfulfilled and unsatisfactory.
When people were in extreme anxiety and were counting time in silence for the arrival of Bangabandhu to the independent country, just then people came to know the message that under international pressure, the Government of Pakistan decided to release Bangabandhu on January 8, 1972 and that Bangabandhu would come to independent Bangladesh on January 10, 1972. This news brought waves of joy in the country. It became joyous all around. People raised voice “joi Bangla” and this voice filled the air and the sky. People started thinking about and counting the great date of the arrival of the greatest leader.
After the release of Bangabandhu from captivity on January 8, 1972, the then President of Pakistan Zulfikar Ali Bhutto met Bangabandhu, then on the same day Bangabandhu left Pakistan for London. Bangabandhu met the then British Prime Minister Edward Heath and the leader of the opposition on January 9, and talked to them as to how he could rebuild the war-ravaged Bangladesh. Then he left London for Dhaka on the same day by air. But because of the special request of the Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, he halted his journey for a few hours in Delhi on his way to Dhaka. On the day, a great citizen’s reception was organized for Bangabandhu. President V V Giri including Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, members of the cabinet, chiefs of three services and the heads of diplomatic missions were present.
On January 10, 1972, the day of his coming to Dhaka, Bangabandhu delivered two importance speeches- one in Delhi and the other in Dhaka. Before Bangabandhu gave the speech, Indira Gandhi had delivered a short but moving speech. Indira Gandhi in her speech said, “Sheikh Saheeb promised it to the nation that he would bring independence for the people. He has kept his promise and has brought independence for them. Pakistani army took him captive physically but could not bind his soul.
His unfettered soul gave inspiration to people for struggle of independence. We also believe in the same ideal, for which they fought for independence.” Then Indira Gandhi said, “I made three commitments to my people. My first commitment was to send back the Bangladeshi refugees to their country. My second commitment was to give all sorts of cooperation to the freedom fighters and freedom lovers. The third commitment was to bring back Sheikh saheeb from the lock-up of Pakistan. I have fulfilled my commitments too.”
After the delivery of the speech of Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the first President of Bangladesh began delivering his speech in English. A large number of people in Delhi, who greeted Bangabandhu with the slogan “Joi Bangla and Joi Bangabandhu” voiced loudly “Bangla, Bangla” at this Bangabandhu had an unmixed smile and looked at Indira Gandhi. Indira Gandhi also smiled looking at the people. Then Bangabandhu waved his hands to greet the public and in Bengali said, “My dear brothers and sisters”! Hearing this address, the people of Delhi out of exuberance burst into clapping and applauding.
Bangabandhu said, “Bangladesh is now an independent and sovereign country. Bangladesh and Bharat will exist peacefully side-by-side as friends. The people of Bengal will never forget about the assistance and sympathy that your Prime Minister, your government, your armed forces and your people have offered to our poor and distressed people. You know it very well that I was in the lock-up of Pakistan, and Sree Moti Indira Gandhi left no stone unturned to free and save my life. I am personally grateful to her. 7.5 Crore people of Bangladesh are grateful to her and to her government. Moreover, you have arranged food and accommodation for 1 crore people of Bangladesh. I know that, there are poor and needy people in Bharat and they have demand and need. Despite that, you have sacrificed everything for our people. We will never forget this act of kindness.” He further said, “You know that Bangladesh has been ravaged. I need all possible help and assistance from the peaceful and democratic people. I trust in secularism, democracy and socialism.”
After the state reception was over, Bangabandhu went to the President house and talked to the President and the Prime Minister confidentially. Later he exchanged good wishes with the cabinet members and the dignitaries of Delhi in the porch of the president house. From there the Indian President, Prime Minister and other ministers to airport to see him off, accompanied Bangabandhu.
At the airport, the President of India commented and said, “Bangabandhu is the incarnation of human emancipation, consciousness and sacrifice of all the lovers of freedom of the world. The independence of Bangladesh is a unique example of democratic movement and struggle in the world.”
After the comment of the Indian President, Bangabandhu left Delhi for Dhaka by a British royal flight. On his arrival, all war ravaged and extremely tired Bengalis woke up and became delighted. Countless number of people gathered in and around Tejgaon airport. There were waves of welcoming people on both sides from Tajgaon airport to Ramna Racecourse Maiden. There was no space left vacant because of the crowd of the people elated with joy and delight. When the flight landed and stopped at its designated place on the runway, nobody followed any rule, Tajuddin Ahamed and his companions approached Bangabandhu and embraced him with love and honour. Then Bangabandhu started his journey towards Racecourse pressing through the crowd. His vehicle was proceeding very slowly. Then the people on both sides greeted him by shouting, “joi Bangabandhu, Joi Bangla”. People filled the air and the sky with these slogans. At this, Bangabandhu was responding to these greetings by waving hand to the people. After a long time, Bangabandhu reached Ramna Racecourse.
Ramna Racecourse was resounding with the clapping and applauding of the cheerful crowd. Then Bangabandhu came on the stage, his voice was shaking. He delivered the speech and stated a lot. Some of the important points of his speech are mentioned here. He stated that after his release from Pakistani lock-up, Bhutto, the then President of Pakistan told him that East Pakistan was Bangladesh now, and that I was going to be the leader of that country, so he requested me to think over it if any confederation could be possible between East Pakistan and Pakistan, In reply I said, “It is not possible during my lifetime.”
At the end of his speech he said, “Bangladesh is an independent country. If some intruders plot to take away independence of Bangladesh, in that case, I will be the first man to sacrifice my life.” He further said, “You know, I was ordered to be hanged and my grave was dug by my cell. However, I know I am a Muslim and a Muslim dies but once. Therefore, I decided not to surrender to them, but to say standing on the gallows, I am a Bengali, Bangla is my country, Bangla is my language. Joi Bangla.”
At one stage of his speech, he became emotional and said, “Now people in crores are homeless, shelter less and destitute in this Bengal of gold. For the humanity, I make a clarion call to the people of the world to come forward to provide help and assistance to my poor and destitute people.” He further said, “I call upon the United Nation to form an International Tribunal in order to assess and investigate the extensiveness of indiscriminate mass killing by Pakistani invading forces.” In his speech he further said, “Bangladesh will exist as an independent country. There is no such power that can overpower Bangladesh.”
Now, the nation observes January 10 as the homecoming day of Bangabandhu. This day is observed and celebrated throughout the country with due honour and solemnity. The President and the Prime Minister give message to the nation on this occasion. The radio, television and mass media put up special programmes on the significance of the day. Special prayers are offered in different religious institutes on this occasion. Different organizations organize wide programes on this day.
On this occasion, I urge all to come forward with more fervency and zeal to observe and celebrate the day. At the same time, I appeal to all to pray to Almighty Allah for the salvation of the departed soul of the greatest Bengali of the past thousand years, supreme command of Liberation War, Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujubur Rahman.
The writer is a former Joint Secretary to the People’s Republic of Bangladesh and regular contributor to Bangladesh Post