Hasina recalls birth of son Joy, his making of Digital Bangladesh

Sheikh Hasina has recalled the tumultuous days of 1971 when she gave birth to son Sajeeb Wazed Joy amid the Liberation War.

“The Digital Bangladesh I’m talking through now is Joy’s idea,” the prime minister said of her son who advises her on ICT affairs, after joining a National Public Service Day event via videoconferencing from the Ganabhaban on Tuesday.

Born to nuclear scientist MA Wazed Miah and Bangabandhu’s eldest daughter Hasina in Dhaka on Jul 27, 1971, Joy turned 50 on Tuesday.

Although Joy is not actively involved in politics, Awami League leaders credit him for the ‘Digital Bangladesh’ idea that played a key role in the party’s election victory in 2008 by winning young minds.

He was listed by the World Economic Forum as one of its Young Global Leaders in 2007.

It was 23 March in 1971 when Bangabandhu hoisted the flag of Bangladesh at their Dhanmondi 32 home, Hasina recalled.

All other families also hoisted the flag on that day, the Pakistan Day, ignoring Pakistani ruler Yahya Khan who was in Dhaka at the time.

“It was my routine job to cut the nails of Bangabandhu’s fingers and toes. With a mug of water, I was cutting the nails of his toes when he was resting in the afternoon.

“He said ‘do it well. I don’t know if you will get the chance (to cut my nails) again. But you will have a son and he will be born in an independent Bangladesh. Name him Joy’,” Hasina recalled.    

The Pakistani military launched genocide of unarmed Bengalis in Dhaka on the night of Mar 25 that year. Before his arrest, Bangabandhu proclaimed independence in the first hours of Mar 26 and the Bengalis launched the nine-month bloody war.

The Pakistan military later confined Bangabandnu’s wife Bangamata Sheikh Fazilatunnesa Mujib, sons Sheikh Jamal and Sheikh Russel, and daughters Hasina and Sheikh Rehana to a house on road No. 18. 

“When the time of my son’s birth came, the Pakistani military allowed me to go to hospital, but without my mother,” Hasina said, adding that she continued communicating with the freedom fighters from the hospital.

“Joy was born in that confined state. And we named him Joy.”

A Pakistani officer asked what his name was when they returned to the house. He became mad and swore at Joy when he learnt that Joy means victory in Bangla, Hasina recalled. 

“We slept on the floor of the single-storey house, and there was no privacy. The meals were not regular. I don’t know how I survived. My mother and I just prayed to Allah for a healthy baby.”

“And today is the birthday of that Joy. He is 50 years old now. We could not be together for the coronavirus – that’s another sad thing. I thank you for remembering the day,” she said.

She unveiled two books – ‘Sajeeb Wazed Joy, Tarunyodeepto Gorbito Pothchola’ and ‘Sajeeb Wazed Joy: A Spirited Graceful Journey’.

She also unveiled special commemorative postage stamps, an opening day cover and a data card marking the birthday of Joy.

Joy was in Europe with his parents when Bangabandhu was assassinated in the Aug 15 1975 massacre of the family. He then travelled to India with his mother.

He studied at St Joseph’s College, India. He enrolled in Computer Science at the University of Bangalore, and then moved to The University of Texas at Arlington and received BSc degree in Computer Engineering.

Joy later completed a Masters in Public Administration from Harvard University.

When they were in exile in India, Bangabandhu’s friend Aziz Sattar admitted Joy and his sister Saima Wazed Hossain, popular with her nickname Putul, to a school in Nainital where Joy learnt computing.

“I’ve also learnt about computers from Joy. He used to bring a computer home on holidays.”

The Awami League bought a computer, which was very costly at the time, in 1991. “He (Joy) had the thoughts about how to introduce computer education in Bangladesh at the time.”

It was Joy on whose advice the Awami League withdrew taxes on computers in order to make the technology available to all when it returned to power in 1996, Hasina said.

“This is how Digital Bangladesh started its journey.”

“Joy, and my nephew Radwan Siddiq (Rehana’s son) have worked from the beginning to make technology education popular among the youth so that they can work on their own.”

“If we didn’t have this digital door open now, it would have been difficult for us to run the government in the time of the coronavirus.”