Mournful Month: Need repeat of Bangabandhu’s anti-graft crusade

Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman addressed the last public rally of his life on March 26 in 1975 at Suhrawardy Udyan to mark the fifth Independence Day of the country. He vented thoroughly his anger against corruption throughout his speech that the media described as the hint of a crusade against graft he was liking to launch. Defining corruption, he said graft is not only bribe taking; it rather encompasses smuggling, black marketing, hoarding, neglect of duty, doing anything against conscience, and giving anything prominence over national interests. Reckoning eradication of corruption as the number one task of the government, he urged the people to wage a war against the corrupt and corruption. “I had asked you to turn every house into a fort [during the Liberation War] to fight the enemies. Today I wish to tell the people of Bengal that your first task is to resist the corrupt… I won’t spare any corrupt person,” Bangabandhu told the mammoth rally.

Sheikh Mujib was an anti-graft proponent since his young age as he could well understand that corruption is such a social ill that breeds discrimination, exploitation and division in society. When he was a minister in the Jukto Front [United Front] Cabinet in 1956, he asked people, while addressing a rally in Pirojpur district town, to inform him of any corruption and corrupt person by sending postcards. “I will take such tough action against the corrupt that corruption will be eliminated.”

Bangabandhu did not forget to issue warning against the corrupt and corruption even at the first public rally after returning home from Pakistan jail on January 10, 1972. “I wish to tell the public servants not to take bribe. I won’t spare any bribe-taker,” he said.

In a passing-out parade at Bangladesh Military Academy in Cumilla on January 11, 1975, Bangabandhu lamented that bribe-takers, smugglers, profit-mongers and other corrupt people have made the life of the people miserable and warned that he would not tolerate graft any further.

Bangabandhu’s crusade against corruption faced an abrupt end after his assassination on August 15 in 1975. A section of ambitious and disgruntled Army officer killed the Father of the Nation, most of his family members and a number of kin that day. And Bangladesh witnessed a U-turn in its graft stance following his death.

The force that grabbed power after Bangabandhu’s assassination lacked any commitment to make Bangladesh a country free from corruption and exploitation. Their statements and acts rather encouraged graft that ultimately led to Bangladesh becoming the champion in corruption perception in the world for years together. The situation reached such a point that people in the country once started forgetting that corruption is any social ill.

It is no exaggeration to say that had Bangabandhu not been murdered and got the chance to rule the country for a longer period, we could have seen a better Bangladesh. Bangabandhu is no more, but his daughter Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is there at the helm of the state affairs quite for a long time. It is her responsibility now to drive out corruption from Bangladesh to make the country Sonar Bangla as dreamt by the Bangabandhu. She announced on many occasions that her government is pursuing a zero-tolerance policy against graft and Bangladesh has performed better in the global corruption index during her regime, but the corruption situation is still far away from where Bangabandhu wished to take the country to.

- Shiabur Rahman is the executive editor of Bangladesh Post. He can be reached by email --