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From 'Khoka' of Tungipara to the greatest hero of Bengalis

  • Staff Correspondent,
    Published: 2021-03-17 23:15:47 BdST

He shone as the greatest Bengali ever to walk the face of earth; but how was the childhood of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman?

'Khoka,' who was born in a quiet village of Tungipara, had always nurtured immense affection for the children.

So, Bangladesh celebrates the National Children's Day the same day it commemorates the birth anniversary of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who led the Bengalis to independence.

The nation is celebrating the 101 birth anniversary of its architect on Wednesday.

Amid the festivities surrounding the independence architect’s birth centenary, another momentous occasion has arrived for Bangladesh — the golden jubilee of independence. The celebrations of the twin occasions began the same day.

Bangabandhu was born on Mar 17, 1920 at the village in Gopalganj, which was in Faridpur district at that time.

The third child of Sheikh Lutfur Rahman and Sheikh Saira Khatun, he was fondly called ‘Khoka’.

His siblings were Fatema Begum, Asia Begum, Amena Begum, Khodeja Begum and Sheikh Abu Naser.

Bangabandhu gave a glimpse into his childhood in 'The Unfinished Memoir,' his autobiography.

“In 1934, when I was in grade seven, I became gravely ill. As a child I was very naughty. I used to play a lot and sing, and was proficient in Brotochari, a kind of folk dance,” he wrote.

“I stayed with my father and began my education with him. I used to sleep with my father. I couldn’t fall asleep without holding onto him. Since I was the eldest son, I used to get all his affection,” Bangabandhu wrote about being pampered as the eldest son.

Bursting with energy in his childhood, Mujib also suffered from several diseases. Afflicted by beriberi, his heart became weak. He started wearing glasses following a surgery in 1936 due to glaucoma. Bangabandhu had to take a break in his studies. Later he enrolled at Gopalganj Mission School in 1936.

Mujib married Fazilatunessa at a surprisingly early age, he wrote.

"I was around 13 years when I got married. Renu's (his wife Fazilatunessa) father had passed away when her grandfather called my father and said that his eldest son should marry his granddaughter as he wants to leave all his fortune to the two granddaughters."

“Renu's grandfather was my granduncle. My father registered our marriage to follow the order from his uncle. I heard that I got married. I didn't realise anything at that age. Renu was around 3 years old that time. She lost her mother when she was five and her grandfather when she turned seven. Then she came to my mother and grew up with my siblings."

He nurtured an anti-British feeling from 1930s, when he was a young boy.

“After the eye operation I returned to Madaripur but had nothing much to do for some time. No studies, no sports for me; going to meetings in the evening was the only diversion I had.

“This was the time for Swadeshi Movement…..I began to harbour negative ideas about the British in my mind. The English, I felt, had no right to stay in our country. We had to achieve independence. I too, became an admirer of Mr Bose,” Bangabandhu wrote.

After the division of Congress and Muslim League, Sheikh Mujib was inclined to support Muslim League. His political idol was Suhrawardy.

He had already entered the realm of politics while studying in Gimadanga Primary School, Gopalganj Public School and Missionary School.

In 1938, Sher-e-Bangla AK Fazlul Huq, the chief minister of the undivided Bengal, and Labour Minister Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy visited Gopalganj, when Sheikh Mujib led a group to award a grand reception to them. There he was introduced to Suhrawardy.

“Mr Huq went to the Public Hall, while Mr Suhrawardy went to the Mission School. Since I was a student of the Mission School, I welcomed him. He inspected the school and then walked towards the launch and I followed him all the way. He asked me a few questions haltingly in Bengali that I answered as well as I could.”

Suhrawardy jotted down the name and address of young Mujib following their meeting. A few days later, Mujib received a note from Suhrawardy thanking him and asking to meet if he ever went to Calcutta. Thus their letter correspondence began.

Sheikh Mujib began to work as an active member of ‘Muslim Welfare Association’ when he was in school. The association used to collect rice as alms and provide assistance to the poor student for their studies and other needs.

“He (father) engaged Kazi Abdul Hamid as my tutor. He even set aside a room in our house for him. My father had built the Gopalganj house himself. My tutor established the Muslim Welfare Association, a society to help poor students in Gopalganj. He enlisted our help to collect alms from all over the Muslim part of town for this cause. We used to go from door to door every Friday for this…….If any Muslim refused to help us, we would join forces to make him pay his share. In some cases, we resorted to having such people’s houses pelted with stones at night. My father often punished me for following this policy. However, he would not prevent me from working for the society itself,” Bangabandhu wrote.

In his memoir, Mujib gave an account of his meeting with Suhrawardy in 1939.

“In 1939, I went to Calcutta for a visit. I met Mr Suhrawardy there. Mr Abdul Wasek led students at that meeting. We talked to him and invited him to come to Gopalganj. We told Mr Suhrawardy that we could form a Muslim Students’ League as well as a Muslim League in our town. By that time Khondokar Shamsuddin MLA had joined the Muslim League. He became the president of the Muslim Student League and I was its general secretary. The Muslim League was formed. One Muktar Saheb was made secretary but I used to do all the works. A Muslim League Defence Committee was also formed. They made me its secretary. And so I gradually got drawn into politics.”

Bangabandhu was elected the provincial and Faridpur district councillor of  All Bengal Muslim Chhatra League. He was elected councillor of Bengal Muslim Student Federation for a year in 1941. He was temporarily arrested twice in the same year.

Sheikh Mujib passed matriculation examinations in 1942 and got admitted to Kolkata Islamia College, now known as Moulana Azad College. His political activities intensified. He was elected general secretary of the student council in his college in 1946. He graduated from the college in 1947.

In 1947, Sheikh Mujib joined the movement with Suhrawardy to establish Bengal as a third country beside India and Pakistan. Though the movement failed that time, it laid the foundation for him to establish the country he dreamed of.