Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, one of the greatest leaders in the world, greatest Bengali of the past thousand years, Supreme Command of the Liberation War, Father of the Nation, is the architect of Bangladesh. He brought independence of Bangladesh and saved the people from exploitation and repression. He was a dauntless and intransigent leader. He struggled for the freedom of the people of the then East Pakistan from 1947 to 1971 for about twenty four years of which, he passed about 14 years in prison. This brilliant leader came of a respectable Muslim family on March 17, 1920 at Tungipara, a village under the district of Gopalganj. His father’s name is Sheikh Lutfar Rahman and his mother’s name is Saiera Khatun. This great leader obtained his B.A degree from Islamia College under Kolkata University. Thereafter he got himself admitted into the Department of Law, University of Dhaka. Since then, his political leadership role has developed more effectively, and finally under his great leadership we have got Bangladesh wherein about one hundred and sixty million people enjoy their freedom now.
If we look back, we find that we achieved the independence of Pakistan from the British colonial rule in 1947, and Pakistan had two parts—East Pakistan and West Pakistan. The then East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) was about one thousand miles away from West Pakistan. East Pakistan had no unity, no similarity in respect of language, history, culture and tradition at all with West Pakistan. At that time, a minority of 3.27% of people spoke Urdu and a majority of 56 % of the total population spoke Bengali. In spite of the vast majority of the Bengali speaking people, Pakistani rulers imposed Urdu as the state language. The Governor General of Pakistan Mohammad Ali Jinnah on the Ramna Racecourse Ground on March 21,1948, and at the Convocation Ceremony of the University of Dhaka on March 24,1948 declared, “Urdu, and only Urdu shall be the state language of Pakistan” This declaration angered and enraged the students and the people alike. Our leader Sheikh Mujib organized the movement throughout the country against that declaration. On October 14, 1949, Sheikh Mujib was arrested on a charge that he led a procession of hungry people. He was confined in jail for more than two years and five months.
Read More: ‘Sheikh Hasina is the name of a tale of struggle’
Since the emergence of Pakistan in 1947, the West Pakistani rulers adopted the policy of discrimination and oppression against the people of the then East Pakistan in political, administrative, military, economic, educational, social and cultural areas. To end the limitless disparity, the Bangabandhu announced the six-point progamme in 1966, and called it, “Our demand for survival.”
The government of Pakistan arrested the Bangabandhu and others to stop the movement.
In 1968, Sheikh Mujib was implicated as an accused on a charge of sedition and was put on trial in the historic Agartala Case in which there were 35 accused of which he was number 1. The case led to mass upsurge in 1969 and the government was forced to withdraw the case and release him on February 22, 1969. On the occasion of his release, a grand public reception rally was organized on the Racecourse Ground on February 23, 1969. In that big rally, the appellation of “Bangabandhu” was conferred on Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
Thereafter, in the election of 1970, Awami League emerged as a single largest party in the National Assembly and Provincial Assembly by wining absolute majority. But the then military ruler of Pakistan dictator Yahya did not hand over the power to the elected representatives of Awami League. The common people of East Pakistan including students, workers, government and nongovernmental officers, and employees burst into violent protest.
In that situation, Bangabandhu’s historic speech on March 7, 1971 on the Racecourse Maiden came to the agitating people as a guideline for the nation to strengthen and promote the movement. He said, “… if moves are made to exterminate the people of this country, Bengalis must act with caution. In every village, every neighbourhood, set up Sangram Parishad under the leadership of Awami League. And be prepared with whatever you have. Remember: Having the master of the lesson of sacrifice, we shall give more blood. God willing, we shall free the people of this land. The struggle this time is a struggle for emancipation. The struggle this time is a struggle for independence” His speech is a “Thunder voice” which inspired the Bengalis to get engaged in the freedom struggle. Massive movement and non-cooperation started throughout the country. Shrewd Yahya, the military ruler in the name of holding talks, came to Dhaka. And the talks ended with no fruitful results. But before he left Dhaka on March 25, he gave the soldiers directives to annihilate the people of East Pakistan. On the midnight of 25 March, the invading army launched attacks in different places of Dhaka on the unarmed and innocent sleeping people. The Pakistani army committed random acts of assassination and mass killing throughout Dhaka. Bangabandhu could sense the brutal and atrocious nature of the invading army. He declared the independence in the early hour of 26 March in the following way:
“This may be my last message, from today Bangladesh is independent. I call upon the people of Bangladesh wherever you might be and with whatever you have, to resist the army of occupation to the last. Your fight must go on until the last soldier of the Pakistan occupation army is expelled from the soil of Bangladesh and final victory is achieved.”
However, the invading soldiers of Pakistan army attacked Bangabandhu’s house and arrested him, took him to West Pakistan and put him in a lock-up there. His trial was held in a court martial and a grave was dug by his lock-up to bury him there. But he did not yield to any fear or favour.
In order to lead the liberation struggle effectively, the first provisional government was formed on April 10, 1971, and the formal swearing in ceremony was held on April 17, 1971, at Vaidynathtala in Meherpur district. The Liberation War continued for about nine months. The invading army killed three million people and ravaged the whole of the country into a mass or heap of ruins. The valiant freedom fighters fought against them and ultimately came out victorious. With the surrender of about one hundred thousand Pakistani soldiers on December 16, 1971, Bangladesh became independent. This has been possible because of the sacrifice and great leadership of the Bangabandhu.
Read More: Bangladesh graced with Sheikh Hasina
However, following the independence, the Bangabandhu was released from Pakistan’s prison on January 8, 1972, and he came to Bangladesh on January 10, 1972 via England and India. On January 12, 1972, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was sworn in as the Prime Minister of Bangladesh.
Great men and leaders of the world are great because of their sacrifice and love for the country and countrymen. We feel proud of such sacrifice and love of our great leader Sheikh Mujib. After his return from Pakistan’s prison, David Frost an international television celebrity interviewed Bangabandhu on many points. One of the points of interview was as follows:
David Frost: “When you saw them digging a grave (beside your cell), which did you think of first, your country, or your wife, or sons or other members of your family?”
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman: “My first concern is for my country. My love for the country is more than that of my friends and relatives. All my feelings are only for my county. You have seen how deeply they (people) love me.” From this statement we understand that this patriotic leader loved his country and its people more than his own life.
Effective leaders can solve many problems by dint of their image and quality. In this context some incidents of Bangabandhu need to be cited. In the middle of 1972, students of Dhaka University launched movements in demand of having educational degrees at BA, Bsc, Bcom levels without appearing at the examinations. Their arguments were that they could not study or take preparation during the nine months of liberation. The students shut down the doors of the office room of the then vice-chancellor and the doors of the rooms of some the then professors, and imposed the condition that they would not allow them to go out until they fulfilled their demands. Bangabandhu came to know that incident, and the then Home Minister asked Bangabandhu if he would send police to the place of occurrence. At this, Bangabandhu roared and said, “Shall I send police to Dhaka University where the base of my struggling life was formed, and where I was a student? Shall I send police to that sanctified place? How could you think of it?” He believed that police were not needed to bring the situation of Dhaka University under control. He started from his office and came in front of the room of the vice-chancellor of Dhaka University within ten minutes. When the students came to know that Bangabandhu had arrived, they became speechless in reverence and devotion. Then and then the students opened the doors and there came over the deep and dead silence that reigned over the campus of the university. About four or five thousand students became quiet. The Bangabandhu said to the teachers, “Sir, come out and go home. Have your lunch and take rest there” This fearless leader whose head is held ever high managed to send them home and then he left the university.
While Bangabandhu was the Prime Minister another incident happened, which needs to be cited in this context: In one afternoon, the vehicle that was carrying the Prime Minister came to a halt near the Dhaka University. Then the Prime Minister himself got out of the vehicle and walked to a tree-- a little distance away. Near the tree two students-- a boy and a girl were having a chat sitting together. The Bangabandhu approached them and said, “You girl, you are supposed to be at home now to help your mother in her household work. And also you are supposed to bring a napkin and a pot filled with water for ablution of your father who will return home from office. But instead, (without performing all those things) what are you doing here? Go, and go home now.” The girl felt ashamed and left the place as fast as she could. Then the Bangabandhu came to the boy and said to him, “In the afternoon, you are supposed to play on the field to maintain and improve your health. But instead, you are having a chat here. Your mother wears rent saris, father uses torn lungis, and they send you money in the hope that you will acquire education and will be a qualified man and then alleviate their misery and eliminate their poverty. But have you forgotten the responsibility? As a reasonable person if you evade your responsibility, then by whom shall I build up the country?” Then Bangabandhu left the place. It is possible only for a leader of great heart and broad mentality.
However’ in course of time as the political situation demanded, the country switched over to the presidential system of governance, and Bangabandhu became the President of Bangladesh on January 25, 1975. Then this great leader and Father of the Nation did a lot for the reconstruction and development of war-ravaged country. When he was heading and leading the country to prosperity, a group of derailed and misled armed forces assassinated the Father of the Nation and other members of his family on August 15, 1975, plunging the whole of the nation in grief. Thus, Bangabandhu embraced martyrdom and the nation became mournful. He is immortal in the hearts and midst of the people for the noble deeds and lifelong dedication.
In conclusion, it may be said that Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was a great political leader in the world. We pay him honour for his great leadership role and outstanding contributions. We remember him with great respect, and pray to the Almighty for the eternal peace and salvation of the departed soul of the charismatic and great leader.
The writer is a former Joint Secretary to the People’s Republic of Bangladesh and regular contributor to the Bangladesh Post.