There is no denying the role that Begum Mujib, also known as Bangamata, and beloved wife of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, had played a crucial role in all important decision-making processes of Bangabandhu.
Some people are born to do something for the nation, and they love to dedicate themselves to the cause of the people. Bangamata Sheikh Fazilatunnessa Mujib belonged to such a rare class of people. It would not be surprising to say that Begum Mujib played a crucial role at the critical junctures of the nation. She made bold and clear decisions whenever Awami League central leaders had been suffering from acute indecisions in the absence of Bangabandhu. It would have been impossible for Bangabandhu to achieve a monumental success in politics, had Begum Mujib not been with him.
Only a few people, except for some senior leaders in Awami League and family members of Bangabandhu, know about the crucial role Bangamata Fazilatunnessa Mujib was playing for the Awami League and in the interests of the nation. Begum Mujib was the most impactful and inspiring woman Bangladesh has ever seen.
It was 1969 when General Ayub Khan, the iron man of Pakistan, was thrown out of power in the face of mass movement led by the people of then East Pakistan and the country’s only iconic leader Bangabandhu was released from jail as a political hero and the champion of the causes of the oppressed people. Following the great success of the pro-democracy movement, there was a general election held in December, 1970 in which Awami League led by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib won a landslide victory.
And with that unprecedented victory Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib became the iconic leader of peace, liberty and democracy. There was a time when Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib was making headlines in the world media every day. The leading global media outlets were constantly monitoring day-to-day happenings centring Sheikh Mujib and running stories with his pictures almost every day.
The military clique hatched a deep-rooted conspiracy in connivance with Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, and subsequently, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib was denied his right to form the government of Pakistan as the leader of the majority party, to the utter surprise of the peace- and democracy-loving people of the world.
The people of Bangladesh took to the streets in protest against the undemocratic action of the Pakistani military junta and the spontaneous protest spread throughout the country immediately. Amid the conspiracy, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib made a clarion call to the people of Bangladesh to fight till the last drop of blood. Following his call, the Liberation War started and only in nine months, the Pakistani occupation army was compelled to surrender on 16 December 1971. And Bangladesh emerged as an independent and sovereign country with the defeat of the marauding Pakistan Army.
Before the fall of General Ayub Khan that ended his 10 years of misrule, the government wanted to release Sheikh Mujib on parole, but the Awami League leaders were divided on the issue. One group was in favour his conditional release while the other was against it. At that critical moment, Begum Mujib stepped in and made the decision that Bangabandhu would not get released on parole; he would return to the people as a free man. And everybody in the Awami League accepted that decision. After that tough decision, Ayub Khan was compelled to release Awami League chief Sheikh Mujib, who subsequently took part in the roundtable conference held in Lahore.
Another decision of Begum Mujib, regarded as a game-changer, happened when crucial talks between Bangabandhu and President Yahya Khan were going on. No significant progress in the talks was in sight as the military rulers were not at all ready to hand over power to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib.
Though he was supposed to be invited by the president of the country to take oath as the Prime Minister of Pakistan and subsequently the national assembly meeting was supposed to be held to pass a constitution that Pakistan could not frame since its inception in 1947. But the Pakistani military rulers got engaged in a conspiracy with Bhutto not to hand over power to Sheikh Mujib.
Bangabandhu knew well ahead that the Pakistani military rulers and some political leaders would not allow that to happen. And he had an idea about their motives. That’s why he had plan A and plan B. The plan A was that he would try his best to gain maximum benefit for the people of then East Pakistan by taking power of Pakistan through the peaceful settlement. He was also aware of the brutality of the Pakistani military. He wanted to get maximum benefits and lose less.
He knew that the Pakistani military rulers were looking for excuse to unleash genocide on Bangladesh. So he wanted to get a peaceful settlement. It was the most difficult time in the life of the people of Bangladesh and in the life of Bangabandhu himself. It was a question of life and death. Just at that time, Begum Mujib gave a clear and resolute decision observing the attitude of the Pakistani military Junta and Mr Bhutto. She said to Bangabandhu, “You have no option other than pursuing independence of Bangladesh.” Finding the path of peaceful settlement closed as Mr Bhutto and the generals were stubborn with their point and took a hard line, Bangabandhu, being encouraged with the idea of Begum Mujib and youth leaders, made a clarion call in his historic 7 March speech in 1971 to fight the enemy till the last drop of blood with whatever they have in possession.
And even the 7 March speech was guided by the idea of Begum Mujib. She told Bangabandhu, “Say [in the speech] whatever you feel right in light of your experiences in the last 23 years.” Begum Mujib was a silent observer of the day-to-day happenings in politics of Pakistan. She observed every odds and obstacle by sacrificing her family life. She has total devotion to the cause of her family and the nation. And that’s why she could make a very clear and fair judgement on the national issues. The country will remember her contribution with fond respect.
By Sharif Shahab Uddin
Published : Bangladesh Post, 07 Aug 2022