Today is the 15th of August. Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the father of the nation, was brutally killed on this day in 1975 by some derailed and disgruntled army officers who became puppets of some foreign and local enemies. They were engaged in foiling the Liberation War of Bangladesh in 1971, but suffered a humiliating defeat on the 16th of December 1971.
August is the month of tragedy. An unprecedented tragedy with heartrending pain struck the nation with the greatest shock. Late in the night of August 15 in 1975, the assassins’ bullets, breaking the pre-dawn silence, took the life of a towering personality who had created the independent Bangladesh. On that fateful night Bangabandhu embraced martyrdom. The death of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was not a death of an individual, rather it was the death of humanity, an ideal, an institution. It was the death of the independence of Bangladesh achieved through sacrifice of the lives of millions of people.
With Bangabandhu’s death, the country lost its founding father, and the world lost a great leader. The death of Bangabandhu was a national loss and a great loss for mankind which is really irreparable. His death will continue to cause the hearts of the peace-loving people of the world bleed. Every year, the month of August brings alive the haunting memory of a dark era to the people of Bangladesh. The people will continue to observe 15th August as the black day as long as the nation will survive. As long as the nation exists, Sheikh Mujib will live in the hearts of the people of Bangladesh and also be remembered by the oppressed of the world.
The death of the Bangabandhu amounts to be the loss of independence of Bangladesh. Immediately after the killing of the Bangabandhu, the state principles were changed overnight. The military Junta that took over power after the killing had started behaving like the rulers of East Pakistan as they proved to be loyal to Pakistan. They worked to bring back Pakistan again. The state policy pursued by them was directly against the ideals upon which Bangladesh was founded. They were grossly contradictory to the principles laid down in the Constitution of the country.
On 10th January, 1972 when Bangabandhu returned home from the captivity, the people of Bangladesh forgot the trauma inflicted during the War of Liberation. They had been highly enthusiastic and wanted to get back both their independence and Bangabandhu together.
Bangabandhu was a gifted leader to the Bengalees, who dreamt of a life which only Bangabandhu could materialise in reality. Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had been life-long devoted to achieving political, social and economic emancipation of the oppressed people. They believed that the country would be economically prosperous, socially developed, and technologically advanced under the dynamic leadership of Bangabandhu. But the enemies of Bangladesh did not allow that to happen. The unkind bullets took the life of Bangabandhu along with most of the members of his family.
Bengalees will never forget the acts of glory of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. He always thought about the wellbeing of his people who had long been suffering. The 200 years of British rule had almost crippled the hopes and aspirations of the people. After a long struggle, the heroes of the soil made the British leave the country for good but the freedom of the people remained out of reach. The religion-based Pakistan emerged in 1947 as another battle ground for the secular and peace-loving people of Bangladesh. The Pakistani rulers started the same thing what the British did during their rule over the Indian sub-continent. Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the first Governor General of Pakistan, came up with the idea to destroy the Bangali language, spoken by the majority people of Pakistan. In 1948, Jinnah came to Dhaka and declared that Urdu and Urdu alone (spoken by the minority people) shall be the state language of Pakistan. That declaration hit the Bengalees like a bomb shell. They took it very seriously. Jinnah faced tremendous resistance from the people of the then East Pakistan. All the people and their leaders, irrespective of party affiliation and students of various institutes came out on the streets to protest Jinnah and his unrealistic idea of establishing Urdu as the state language of Pakistan. Bangabandhu along with his colleagues started a mass movement. Jinnah’s plan was destined to fail. The Bengalees thus protected their mother language at the cost of precious blood as many students and common people were shot dead by the police on 21st February in 1952. This supreme sacrifice by the valiant sons of the soil did not go in vain.
Over the decades of relentless struggle for establishing the basic rights of the people, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman became the iconic leader of the oppressed people of the world. After the 23 years of misrule of Pakistan and exploitation of the resources of the then East Pakistan he got his people mentally and politically prepared for the independence of Bangladesh. Because of his global image, Bangabandhu was regarded by the international community as the champion of peace, liberty, and democracy, which the people of the underdeveloped world are struggling for.
With the assassination of Bangabandhu the state principles and the ideals upon which Bangladesh was founded were discarded. The military Junta, that had usurped state power after the killing of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, then President of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, had started pursuing the policy of Pakistani Military Junta that was defeated in the War of Liberation of Bangladesh in 1971. So, it goes without saying that Bangabandhu was assassinated by the enemy of Bangladesh who still believed in Pakistan and wanted unity with that country. After the death of Bangabandhu, quite a number of changes in power structure took place. Finally general Zia, the chosen man of the national and international conspirators, emerged as the main beneficiary of Bangabandhu’s assassination. He took over power and changed the state principles and brought back Bangladesh to its pre independence dark era.
By dint of his international image and stature, Bangabandhu introduced the Bengalees as a heroic nation to the world community. On the other hand, his killers turned Bangladesh into the most corrupt nation. With a view to giving legality to their illegal power the military generals had introduced wide ranging corruption in society by corrupting the main organs of the state: the judiciary, the parliament, and the administration under their direct control. Corruption got institutional shape and Bangladesh was repeatedly declared as the most corrupt country by the Transparency International.
Bangabandhu loved his people and the people loved him from deeper than the surface of their heart. They knew him as their only shelter at the hour of need. He had the charismatic personality by which he united the whole nation on the one platform that led to the ultimate victory in the election held in 1970. With the unprecedented victory in the election Bangabandhu became the champion of democracy. Being the leader of the majority party of Pakistan, he was supposed to be the Prime Minister of Pakistan. But the military Junta of Pakistan did not allow that to happen.
The people’s verdict was denied and the rights of the people were stamped under the boot of the Pakistani military. In protest against the move by the military junta, Bangabandhu gave a clarion call to his people to fight the Pakistani military till the last drop of blood. Enlivened with the election victory and empowered by the leadership of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib, the Bengalees once again got united and inflicted a crushing blow to the Pakistani military, which in return cracked down upon the people with war weapons. With tank, fighter jets, and assault weapons they started killing people and burning their houses, cities and human habitations in East Pakistan.
Only in the 9-month-long war the freedom fighters with the help of Indian friendly army, had won the War of Liberation and 93 thousands Pakistani army personnel were compelled to surrender to the Bangladesh and –Indian joint command in Dhaka on 16th December 1971. With the surrender of the Pakistani army, the Independent Bangladesh came into being.
But the Bengalees were not satisfied with the country’s independence alone. They found independence meaningless without Bangabandhu. They vowed to bring their beloved leader Bangabandhu back to them from the Pakistani captivity.
Unprecedented pressure, initiated by the then India’s Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, was mounted on the Pakistani rulers by the world leaders to release Bangabandhu. With the increase of global pressure, the Pakistani rulers were compelled to set him free. They sent him to London and the British Royal Air force aircraft brought Bangabandhu back to Bangladesh making a stopover at the India’s Palam airport, where Bangabandhu was accorded a grand reception by the Indian government on his way to Dhaka. Meanwhile, thousands of cheering people arrived at the Tejgaon Airport from around the country to have a glimpse of Bangabandhu. It was an ocean of people that almost submerged the airport. After a long waiting finally the aircraft of the British Royal Air Force appeared in the western sky. The ecstatic freedom fighters started firing blanks with utmost joy and emotion. The aircraft landed and Bangabandhu emerged from inside the plane. What a wonderful scene prevailed in and around there. This cannot be expressed in language. I had never seen such enthusiasm and enjoyment among the people before. They were crying for their beloved leader. It was a crying of rejoicing. It was a crying of extreme happiness. It was a crying of dream come true.
Bangabandhu went to Suhrawardi Uddayan, the then Racecourse, from where he addressed millions of people who had gathered there. The speech was fully emotion-charged. He was so proud of his people that at one stage of his speech, Bangabandhu challenged Rabindranath Tagore, who wrote about the Bengalees: “Shathkoti Shontanere Hey Mughdha Jononi, Rekhechho Bangalee Kore, Manush Koroni.” Addressing Rabindranath Tagore Bangabandhu very proudly said, “Kobi guru, my Bengalees have become real human beings today.”
If I had a chance, I would have asked Bangabandhu, “How did you feel about your Bengalees at the moment when you were hit by bullets on August 15, 1975.”
The irony of fate is that the assassins were also Bengalees.
Bangladesh will continue to observe 15th of August as the black day as long as the nation will survive. As long as the nation and the country exist on the global map; Bangabandhu will remain eternal and immortal in the hearts of the Bengalees.
Sharif Shahabuddin, Editor-in-Chief, Bangladesh Post