Mujib – a Statesman Forever

Abdul Mannan

সম্পাদনা/লেখক: আব্দুল্লাহ আল মামুন

On 17 March Bangladesh will be observing the 104th birth anniversary of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Bangabandhu not only carved the history of this country but also became a part of it. After his assassination on 15 August 1975, he became an immortal hero, the greatest Bangali to have lived in thousand years.

Anyone can see that since his childhood Mujib could never compromise with any injustice. As a young school boy in Tungipara he had a taste of Bengal politics. He was a fan and follower of Muslim League leader Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy. Suhrawardy was also very fond of young Mujib as he was aware of Mujib’s organising ability.

In 1947, India was partitioned into two, one being Hindustan and the other Pakistan. The state of Pakistan was the result of deception primarily by the elite Urdu speaking Muslims of Uttar Pradesh. Their leader Muhammad Ali Jinnah pretended to have created a sacred land for Muslims which subsequently proved to be just a fallacy.

More Muslims were killed in Jinnah’s Pakistan than anywhere else. Bangladesh of 1971 is the greatest testimony how religion can be used to kill fellow human beings.

Though Mujib was also involved in Muslim League politics in Calcutta, he soon became disillusioned once he came to Dhaka in 1947. Pakistan’s first Governor General and the Muslim League leader Jinnah visited Dhaka (Dacca) in March 1948. In a public rally held in the Ramna Race Course Jinnah declared that ‘Urdu’ shall be the only state language of Pakistan. Jinnah’s declaration was instantly protested by the people attending the rally.

In the evening Dhaka University held a special convocation in honour of Jinnah. In his convocation speech Jinnah reiterated his decision about the language. Mujib was amongst those who protested. However, Jinnah and his political cohorts remained defiant.

Mujib knew that without organisation no movement can be made successful. In 1948 Chhatra League was established by Sheikh Mujib, then a student of Dhaka University. In 1949 with the tireless efforts of Mujib and other leaders Awami Muslim League (later the word Muslim dropped) was born. Chhatra League and Awami League were the first two parties formed to protect the interest of the people of East Bengal. Soon came the language movement culminating in police firing on the student demonstration in Dhaka on 21 February 1952.

Pakistan was an artificial country destined to become a failed state. Pakistan’s first constitution was drafted in 1956. But before it could be implemented, Pakistan’s Governor General Ghulam Muhammad dissolved the Constituent Assembly. A number of attempts were made to draft a new constitution but all attempts failed.

People in Pakistan always had to fight to establish their legitimate rights and till the emergence of Bangladesh in 1971 Mujib and Awami League were always active in all political movements. He was hated by all Pakistani rulers. Pakistan’s first military dictator Ayub Khan saw Sheikh Mujib as a dangerous man challenging the integrity of Pakistan.

During 10 years of Ayub’s rule since 1958, Mujib spent most of the time in prison. In 1965, Sheikh Mujib announced the historic Six-Point programme for the emancipation of the people of East Bengal. Ayub Khan not only announced that ‘Mujib’s Six Point will be answered with bullets but also filed the infamous Agartala Conspiracy case against him accusing him of planning to separate East Bengal from Pakistan.

However, Ayub Khan was forced to withdraw the case on February 22, 1969 and release Mujib. On March 25, General Yahiya Khan, the Chief of Army Staff, seized power by removing Ayub Khan. He announced that general elections would be held in December 1970 on the basis of one person one vote. By 1970 Mujib’s popularity soared sky high and it seemed he was the embodiment Bangladesh.

In the 1970 elections, the Awami League won 167 of the 169 seats and qualified to form the next government. But Bengalis were once again the victims of the Pakistan’s ruling civil-military clique. Yahiya Khan refused to hand over the power. Frustrated, Bangabandhu called for a nationwide non-cooperation movement on 1 March. On March 7 in a speech at a public rally in the Ramna Race Course he declared, ‘The struggle this time is the struggle for independence.’

On the night of March 25, the Pakistan Army pounced on the unarmed Bengalis code named ‘Operation Search Light, triggering the nine month long War of Liberation. That night Bangabandhu was arrested from his residence by the army and taken to West Pakistan.

Another sedition case was filed against him. On 16 December 1971, Pakistan Army was forced to surrender to the joint forces of Bangladesh and India. A new nation, Bangladesh was born. Bangabandhu returned home on January 10 amidst thunderous applause by millions across the country.

Bangabandhu lived for three and a half years in the independent country for which he struggled his entire life. He and his entire family, except his two daughters were killed on 15 August 1975.

Following Bangabandhu’s death General Zia forced his way to become the first military ruler of Bangladesh. Soon he banned Mujib’s name to be taken in public. After long 21 years, Mujib’s one of the two surviving daughters Sheikh Hasina came to power in 1996 and began her political career. Since then, she sreved five terms as the Prime Minister.
Deepest respect for Bangabandhu and those killed on 15 August 1975. Long live their memories.
The writer is a commentator and an analyst


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