Special Supplement

The darkest night and its implication in Bangladesh politics

Published : 14 Aug 2021 08:28 PM

Bangladesh's Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's charismatic leadership was instrumental in the country's independence. Therefore, he has become an inseparable part of the country's history. Bangabandhu's mature and courageous leadership made independence possible. As long as Bangladesh remains on the world map, he will be remembered by the millions of Bangladeshis for his tremendous contribution to building an independent country.A remarkable speech delivered by Bangabandhu on March 7 of 1971 galvanised the Bangalees, allowing them to liberate themselves from Pakistan's grasps. His motivational speech persuaded countless people to sacrifice their lives for the sake of the country's freedom.

Leaders like him could understand the magnitude of any political issue with a keen sense of awareness. As a result, instead of pronouncing the nation's independence more clearly and straightforwardly, he did it diplomatically, saying, "Ebarer Shongram Amader Muktir Shongram, Ebarer Shongram, Shadhinotar Shongram" (The struggle now is the struggle for our emancipation; the struggle now is the struggle for our independence). He was unable to be read correctly by the Pakistani Janta on March 7. Despite their best efforts, they were unable to brand him as a revolutionary leader. A nine-month period was all it took for us to become independent due to his spiritual direction.

Bangabandhu began the second episode of his life after gaining independence by revitalising a country ravaged by war. It would not take him long to put the country on the road to growth. Unfortunately, we could not honor him for his lifelong dedication to the nation's cause by paying him a tribute. A group of betrayals of AL and a part of the army conspired to assassinate him with most of his family members in a horrific assassination that took place on the darkest night of August 15, 1975. I still try to find the answer to why Rasel, who had no political awareness, was assassinated. Perhaps the conspirators were so afraid of Bangabandhu that they did not want to risk leaving any of Bangabandhu's offspring alive.

The betrayers tried their best to obliterate Bangabandhu's name from the history of the country. Instead of bringing the betrayers and the conspirators before the judicial trial, the post-1975 government offered them indemnity and compensated them. Numerous trustworthy men who enjoyed various benefits from Bangabandhu at different periods remained involved in the ploy. Their main intention was to seal the Bangabandhu's chapter in the history of Bangladesh through the brutal killing of August 15. The conspirators did not imagine that Bangabandhu's daughter would return and regain power someday. From 1975 until 1996, no government paid homage to him on August 15, 1975. 

The killers never thought that Skeikh Hasina, Bangabandhu's older daughter, would come to Bangladesh in 1981 to take over the leadership of the AL after the military rulers had induced a rift in the party. It was Sheikh Hasina who organised the party and brought it to power in 1996. She also started legal procedures against the assassins, who had been protected for 21 years by the state's indemnity. It was a delightful moment for us to see the Sheikh Hasina government continuing to pursue legal action against those responsible for the horrific crime. It was a pity that so many regimes had tried to erase Bangabandhu's legacy in Bangladesh's history in numerous manners. However, after resuming power, Sheikh Hasina rectified those initiatives by putting the real history of Bangladesh's battle for independence and his father's contribution into school textbooks that the previous government twisted. 

While Sheikh Hasina was in office from 1996 to 2001, she could not complete the assassination trial of Bangabandhu due to AL's fall from power in 2001. The process of the trial was halted for the next five years. The most heinous murder was brought to justice despite delays and hurdles once the AL regained power in 2008. However, not all the conspirators have been hanged as some have been hiding in different countries.  Therefore, the government should invest all-out efforts to bring back the absconding conspirators to execute the court's verdict. Only then, we as a nation will be able to pay our tribute to Bangabandhu. 

One may wonder: What is the influence of August 15 in the history of Bangladesh. The death of Bangabandhu caused a reversal in the course of development since creating an economically and socially equal Bangladesh was not possible until 1996. Knowing that the country is divided into two halves is not a surprise to us. Nevertheless, despite differences, we must adhere to a few unifying principles to honor some events. It goes without saying that one of these events is the liberation war. On the other hand, August 15 should be considered an event that all should respect irrespective of political affiliation.

We may have had various political ideas and beliefs. However, we can all agree that the atrocities on August 15, 1975, should never have occurred in our nation.We have yet to fully comprehend what we have lost through the tragic assassination of Bangabandhu with most of his family members. Therefore, we all should pay homage to the national tragedy of August 15, 1975. It should not be considered as a responsibility of Bangabandhu's family or the AL. Every proud Bangladeshi and every human being should grieve that day since it was a national catastrophe.

So, we have to consider August 15, 1975, as the darkest night in the perspective of Bangladesh's history. Meanwhile, we might pay respect to him by helping the process of establishing an independent and secular Bangladesh where the spirit of independence would be preserved, and people of all castes and beliefs could enjoy equal rights. Bangabandhu's daughter has been working hard to establish his father's unfished dream of establishing a "Sonar Bangla". We need to work collectively to attain this objective. From the brutality of August 15, we have learned a lesson that a leader's contribution cannot be erased from the country's history by killing him.  Bangabandhu was a stalwart of Bangladeshi politics and would stay alive through his contribution, ideals, and values as long as Bangladesh would remain an independent country in the world.  

Pranab Kumar Panday is a Professor of Public Administration and an Additional Director of Institutional Quality Assurance Cell (IQAC) at the University of Rajshahi.