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Bangabandhu’s deeds echo in eternity: An enduring glory for Bengalis

  • News Desk, bdnews24.com
    Published: 2021-03-17 00:01:52 BdST

Bengalis have titled him Bangabandhu or ‘friend of Bengal’ out of sheer respect and love for him, while the constitution of independent Bangladesh honoured him as the Father of the Nation. The nation has geared itself up to celebrate on Wednesday the 101st birth anniversary of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who led it to independence from the oppressive Pakistan.

Were he alive today, Bangabandhu would have hoisted the flag of Bangladesh on the occasion of the golden jubilee of independence, nine days after his birthday.

Bengalis have always profusely expressed their love and respect for Bangabandhu in poems, songs or other genres of arts and literature. Poet Jasimuddin used the analogy of volcano Visuvius to pen Sheikh Mujib’s strong personality in a poem published on Mar 17, 1971, Bangabandhu’s birthday.

Bangabandhu never paid any importance to his birthday.

“What is the significance of my birth anniversary or death anniversary? My life and death are both dedicated to my people. I have dedicated my life to them,” he used to say.

It was Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib who ushered the Bengalis to independence. He is the inspiration behind the journey of half a century through which the Bengalis have reached the point where they see economic liberty on the horizon.

Last year, the government had planned to celebrate the birth centenary of Bangabandhu with majestic grandeur. The authorities, however, scaled down the celebrations considering the health hazards amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Nevertheless, the celebration will continue until the next Dec 16 Victory Day. Amid the festivities of Bangabandhu’s birth centenary, another moment of celebrations is arriving for Bangladesh — the golden jubilee of independence.

The National Implementation Committee on the Celebration of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s Birth Centenary has designed a 10-day programme in the Mujib Barsha and golden jubilee of independence focusing on ‘Mujib Forever’. The theme of this year’s birth anniversary of Bangabandhu is ‘Bhengechho Duar, Esechho Jyotirmoy.’

Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, president of the Maldives, will be present at the event on Bangabandhu’s birth anniversary at National Parade Ground on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will preside over the event while President Abdul Hamid will be the chief guest.

Video messages of greetings from Chinese President Xi Jinping and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will be played.

Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib dedicated his entire life for the Bengalis. He never feared the gallows, which meant his family were deprived in many aspects.

The independence architect spent almost a quarter of his life, which spanned for 54 years only, in jail. Hasina, Bangabandhu’s daughter, explained how it led to the deprivation for his children.

“Sheikh Kamal hadn’t met father (in those days). When I was running to father and calling him, he was looking at him, astonished. Suddenly, he (Kamal) asked me ‘can I call your father as mine?’” Hasina wrote.

Sheikh Mujib is an inseparable part of Bangladesh and Bengalis. Hailing from a small village in Tungipara, he rose to be the greatest Bengali to ever walk the face of the earth.

FROM KHOKA OF TUNGIPARA TO FATHER OF THE NATION

Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was born on Mar 17, 1920 at Tungipara, Gopalganj in the Faridpur district.

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

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

Khoka in his childhood and adolescence was brimming with energy and took an active part in several student movements. By the time he reached the age of 55, he had spent 4,682 days -- that's 13 years -- in jail.

Khoka went on to emerge as the Father of the Nation by putting Bangladesh on the world map with his vision and leadership.

Sheikh Mujib studied at Gimadanga Primary School, Gopalganj Public School and Missionary School. He had a passion for football before he actively engaged in student movements and politics.

Mujib was married to Sheikh Fazilatunnesa. Their offspring include daughters Sheikh Hasina, Sheikh Rehana and sons Sheikh Kamal, Sheikh Jamal and Sheikh Russel.

Sheikh Mujib began to work as an active member of the organisation 'Muslim Seba Samity' from his school days. The organisation used to collect rice in donation from Muslim households and pay for the education of poor students by selling it.

He organised a reception for Sher-e-Bangla AK Fazlul Haque, chief minister of undivided Bengal and Labour Minister Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy in 1938 during their visit to Gopalganj.

Sheikh Mujib was also vocal about student demands. It was the time he established contact with Suhrawardy.

Later, he became secretary to Gopalganj Bengal Muslim Chhatra League and provincial councillor of Faridpur wing of All Bengal Muslim Chhatra League.

Mujib was elected secretary to Gopalganj Muslim Defence Commitee. He was known as a brave person and a rebel in his student days.

In 1941, Sheikh Mujib was elected councillor of Bengal Muslim Chhatra Federation for a year. He was arrested twice that year.

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman cleared matriculation examinations in 1942 from Gopalganj Missionary School. He graduated from Kolkata Islamia College, now known as Moulana Azad College, in 1947.

In 1943, he was elected councillor of Bengal Provincial Muslim League, a branch of All India Muslim League. He was also elected, uncontested, general secretary of the student council in Kolkata Islamia College in 1946.

With a vision to establish a sovereign and independent Bengal as a third country besides India and Pakistan, Mujib joined the movement led by Suhrawardy in 1947.

Though the initiative was scrapped later, Bangabandhu nurtured his dream of an independent country based on the idea.

He took part in Mahatma Gandhi's peace mission with his political idol Suhrawardy.

POLITICAL CAREER BEGINS

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman enrolled to study law in Dhaka University in 1948. He formed the East Pakistan Muslim Chhatra League, the first-ever student organisation in Pakistan that opposed the government.

It was in the same year that Mujib initiated a movement against the Muslim League's conspiracy to establish Urdu as the sole national language in Pakistan.

He proposed the 'Sarbadoliyo Rashtrabhasha Sangram Parishad' or an all-party council for national language, in the meeting at Fazlul Haque Muslim Hall in Dhaka University.

Mujib along with his associates were arrested when they went on strike over the demand to establish Bangla as a national language. But the authorities had to release them in the face of agitations.

While studying in Dhaka University, Mujib was arrested because of his role in the struggle for establishing the rights of fourth-class  employees of the university.

The Awami Muslim League, which is now known as the Awami League, was formed on Jun 23, 1949 while Mujib was in prison. He was elected joint secretary of the organisation.

Bangabandhu spent two years - 1950 and 1951 - in jail.

In 1952, the then Pakistan Prime Minister Khaja Nazimuddin announced that "Urdu will be the only national language in Pakistan." Protests broke out against the decision and Sheikh Mujib actively engaged with the demonstrations by sending directives from prison.

On Feb 21, 1952, the Chhatra Sangram  Parishad called for a general strike to press their demand of making Bangla the national language. Protesters took out a procession, defying the Section 144 imposed by the government. Police opened fire on the procession killing Rafique, Salam, Barkat, Jabbar, Shafiur and others.

Sheikh Mujib went on a hunger strike in jail and was released after 11 days on Feb 27.

SHEIKH MUJIB - THE RISE OF A BENGALI LEADER

Sheikh Mubiur Rahman rose to lead the Bengalis when he was elected general secretary of Awami Muslim League in 1953.

The first general election in East Pakistan was held on Mar 10, 1954. Jukto Front had a landslide victory in the election, winning 223 of the 237 seats, with the Awami League itself bagging 143 seats.

Sheikh Mujib was elected from the Gopalganj constituency and took oath as the cooperative and agriculture minister of the new provincial government. He was the youngest member of the Jukto Front cabinet.

Mujib returned to Dhaka from Karachi when the Pakistan central government abruptly declared the cabinet null and void. Later he was arrested and then released on Dec 23.

Under the leadership of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the word ‘Muslim’ was dropped and the party was renamed as the ‘Awami League’ during its council in 1955. Mujib was re-elected general secretary of the party.

He then joined the provincial government as a minister, but left the cabinet after nine months only to organise his party. He was elected the Awami League general secretary again in 1957.

To move towards his goal of achieving independence for Bangladesh, Mujib had formed a secret organisation called ‘Swadhin Bangla Biplabi Parishad’ with student leaders.

Pakistan President Major General Iskandar Mirza and Army chief General Ayub Khan imposed martial law and banned all political activities the next year.

Mujib was arrested and harassed with multiple false cases. He was released after four years when the martial law ended.

He went to Lahore and under the leadership of Suhrawardy, formed the ‘Gonotantrik Front’ that included other opposition parties.

BECOMING BANGABANDHU

The Awami League was revived in 1964 at a special meeting at Sheikh Mujib’s residence in Road No. 32 in Dhanmondi. Moulana Abdur Rashid Tarkabagish was elected party president and Sheikh Mujib general secretary. The Awami League emerged as an independent party breaking out of the Jatiya Gonotantrik Front.

Mujib was arrested prior to the presidential election and jailed for a year. He was released only on a High Court order.

During the conference of opposition parties in Lahore, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman presented the historical ‘Six Point Charter of Demands.’

The proposed charter was the base of the independence of the Bengalis. The Six Point charter sowed the seed of struggle to attain economic and social independence for the people in Bangladesh, as it struck the Pakistani colonialism.

After serving the Awami League as its general secretary for 15 years, Sheikh Mujib was elected president of the party. He then began to travel across the country to create public opinion in favour of the Six Point charter.

He was arrested eight times in three months during that time. He spent the entire 1967 in prison and was later jailed for about three years.

AGARTALA CONSPIRACY CASE

The Pakistan government started a sedation case against 35 persons, naming Sheikh Mujib as the prime accused while charging them with initiating a separatist movement in Pakistan with the assistance of India. The case ‘State vs Sheikh Mujib and others’ would become known as the ‘Agartala Conspiracy Case’.

People took to the streets demanding the withdrawal of the case and release of Sheikh Mujib. The widespread agitations forced the Ayub Khan government to release him and other prisoners in the Agartala conspiracy case on Feb  22, 1969.

On Feb 23, the Kendriya Chhatra Sangram Parishad honoured Sheikh Mujibur Rahman with the title ‘Bangabandhu’ at the Race Course ground, now known as Suhrawardy Udyan, in a rally attended by thousands of students.

In a rally organised by the Awami League on Dec 5, marking the death anniversary of Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy, Mujib changed the name of East Pakistan to ‘Bangladesh.’

The Awami League won a landslide in the 1970 general elections with the symbol of 'boat'.

It won 167 of the 169 seats in the East Pakistan part of the national council and 298 seats of the 310 in the provincial council.

FATHER OF THE NATION LEADS TO INDEPENDENCE

The national council session was postponed for an indefinite period in 1971 and it fuelled the Bengalis’ dream to achieve freedom.

From Mar 1 onwards, Bangabandhu was the one who led the country.

On Mar 7, he declared in a huge rally in the Race Course ground, ‘Ebarer sangram amader muktir sangram, ebarer sangram shadinotar sangram,’  -- this time the struggle is for our freedom, this time the struggle is for our independence.

Through this historical speech, Bangabandhu called on the people to prepare for the Liberation War.

On Mar 25, the Pakistani military launched a genocide against unarmed Bengali civilians.

Bangabandhu declared the independence of Bangladesh on the first hour of Mar 26.

The first government of the People's Republic of Bangladesh was formed on Apr 17 with Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman as its president.

Syed Nazrul Islam was chosen acting president in the absence of Bangabandhu and Tajuddin Ahmad was made prime minister. The government took its oath in Baidyanathtala, Meherpur.

Bangladesh achieved its independence after a bloody nine-month war with the surrender of the Pakistan forces on Dec 16, 1971.

Bangabandhu returned home to an independent Bangladesh on Jan 10 in 1972 via London and New Delhi.

He became prime minister of war-torn Bangladesh on Jan 12, 1972 with a vision to rebuild the country.

The Awami League formed government on Mar 7, 1973 by winning 293 out of a possible 300 seats in the first general election in Bangladesh held under the new constitution.

During his rule of three and a half years, Bangabandhu positioned the new country on a robust platform.

Bangladesh commemorates Aug 15 as the National Mourning Day, the darkest day in its history when the father of the nation was killed. They also pay their tribute to the greatest leader nurturing his courage and ideology in their hearts.

The Awami League has changed its economic philosophy but still follows in the footsteps of Bangabandhu to translate his dream of a Golden Bangla into reality, says his daughter Hasina. With his charisma, Bangabandhu still lives on in the hearts and minds of the nation.