Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman of Bangladesh on his 99th Birthday

by Anwar A Khan

“As long as Padma, Meghna, Gouri, Jamuna flows on,
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, your accomplishments will also
live on.” - Anandashankar Ray

March 17 of this year will be Bangabandhu’s 99th Birthday. He was born on 17th March 1920 in the village Tungipara under the Gopalganj Sub-division (currently District), Bangladesh. He is our own man; a great human being, the best Bengali of thousand years in the Bengal history; a great patriot; a great politician of world stature; our Father of the Nation; and our beloved Bangabandhu. He is none but Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

It will not be exaggerated to say in the words of eminent Journalist Cyril Dunn, “In a sense, Sheikh Mujib is a greater leader than George Washington, Mahatma Gandhi and De Valera.” Bangabandhu was a Minister in our pre-independence period and became both Prime Minister and President after Bangladesh came into being. He was the dominant figure in Bangladesh’s politics for almost 4 decades.

He always had been strong-willed and determined to create his people’s own country; his beloved Bangladesh. He suffered imprisonment for more than 2 decades at the hands of the Pakistani regime due to the noble cause he pursued for his people. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman does not belong to Bangladesh alone. He is the harbinger of freedom for all Bengalis. His Bengali nationalism is the new emergence of Bengali civilisation and culture. Mujib is the hero of the Bengalis, in the past and in the times that are.

He was born to politics and power, served as a decisive leader. Noted Egyptian journalist Mohamed Hassanein Heikal said, “In the thousand year history of Bengal, Sheikh Mujib is only leader who has, in terms of blood, race, language, culture and birth, been a full blooded Bengali. His physical stature was immense. His voice was redolent of thunder. His charisma worked magic on people. The courage and charm that flowed from him made him a unique superman in these times.”

The sheikh was a veteran fighter for his people, great visionary thinker, founder of the Bengali nationalist movement, a practitioner of common people’s techniques of resistance and an active exponent of the idea of a Bangladesh government. His political followers along with academics, intellectuals, creative writers, artists, journalists —influenced by his ideas and actions—charted out his 99th birth day, on March 17, 2019. We shall remember this stormy petrel of Bengaladesh’s politics in different parts of the country along with general public, workers, political leaders, intellectuals, social workers.

The 99th Birthday of Bangabandhu offered an opportunity to revisit his background, personality formation, political career, thought processes, ideological orientation and stimulated his followers to prepare a comprehensive plan to spread his vision of the restructuring of Bangladeshi society and the world system. This should be an occasion to discuss the utility of his approaches in the present-day context towards the place of common people in Bangladeshi society, preferential opportunities to the weaker sections, rightful place of Benglali language in official work and administration, history writing and researches in Bangladeshi universities.

Bangabandhu tried to revitalise the 6-point movement by giving fresh theoretical, ideological, programmatic and agitational foundations to it. The imprint of the 6-point framework was obvious on the Sheikh’s ideology when he embarked on his famous liberation struggle in 1971. Throughout his life, the Sheikh was a man of action and a hero in leading powerful people’s movements against Pakistan’s colonial rule for more than 2 decades. He developed techniques of peaceful collective actions, non-violent civil disobedience against injustice and finally re-modelled methods of mass protests through armed struggles under the compelling situation.

His speech delivered at that time against the working of the government is regarded as a landmark in the world history. His strategic move to give concrete shape to the Banglees’s freedom movement in March, 1971 is a landmark event in the pages of the world history. At the peak of his political glory, only at the age of 55, his life-journey came to an end in 15 August, 1975. A group of army adventurers assassinated him along with all his other family members except present PM Sheikh Hasina and her younger sister Sheikh Rehana on 15 August 1975.

In the Sheikh’s framework of social-economic transformation, politics is the real moving force. In his concept of political theory and practice, struggle and constructive work, democracy and civil disobedience are combined together. Like Marx, his emphasis was on struggle but he first discarded the idea of violence. He tried to refine the Gandhian techniques of non-violence; by accepting non-violent methods of struggle but adding mass-based civil disobedience against injustice and exploitation.

On the occasion of his 99th Birthday, let us resolve to re-analyse his intellectual contributions. Let us try to spread his re-examined messages of broad nationalism, democracy, socialism and the international order. As a nationalist, Bangabandhu was a valiant fighter for Bangladesh independence and his primary concern was to rebuild Bangladesh through principled politics, approximate equality, decent standard of life, capital formation through control over wasteful expenditure and conspicuous consumerism, rightful place of Bengali language, human being based society and time-bound preferential opportunity for the backwards. His nationalism was not narrow. He was a champion of a new civilisation based on democracy, socialism, non-violence and disarmament. He was a great votary of an egalitarian international order and a world government. He considered himself a world citizen. During the course of his 99th birth anniversary, his ideas pertaining to society, polity, economy, culture, world system have thoroughly to be discussed, examined and wherever found appropriate, as per the demands of time and place, they have to be sought to be operationalised.

The cries of “Joy Bangla” and “Joy Bangabandhu” will fill the air on this great day. From the banks of the great Ganges and the broad Brahmaputra, from emerald rice fields and mustard- colored hills of the countryside, from the countless squares of countless villages will cry in the same way to celebrate, The Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s 99th Birthday.

He was a dedicated nationalist par excellence. His life is entwined with Bangladesh. Bangabandhu became the international symbol of a free Bangladesh. His brutal murder was regarded as an international catastrophe. His place in humanity was measured not in terms of the 20th and 21st centuries but in terms of history. He was full of nationalist ideas. The Sheikh represented the season of youth and triumphant joy of an invincible spirit of fight and uncompromising loyalty to the cause of freedom.

He was a tall man with a lean charming body. His eyes were wide as the wheels of a cart. His clothes were simple, his voice thunderous. But there was always a smile, which overarched his words. He never praised himself. Power and authority came in search of him. Fame set a crown on his head. The tall man grew into a colossus. He showed by his work that, though he was tender like a flower, he could be hard as diamond, too. At a time when the world sang his praises as a hero, an incomparable patriot-hero and as the architect of peace, and just as he touched the peak of his life, he passed away all too suddenly. He came to power and he left the world suddenly. The 15th of August 1975 is an unforgettable day in the history of Bangladesh. On that day the citizens of Bangladesh woke and came to know shocking news that he was brutally murdered in the wee hours of that morning.

He is the patriot of patriots. His “Joy Bangla" slogan was the battle cry of our freedom fighters during our glorious Liberation War in 1971 and he roused the nation to a great patriotic heights. He is the symbol of the heroism of the Bengalis of Bangladesh. Bangabandhu was a fountain of zeal. All over the country tributes shall be paid to this great hero who fought for freedom and sacrificed his life for the cause of his people. Even today, the heroic spirit of Bangabandhu is an unfailing source of inspiration to the youth of the country. His courage, spirit of adventure and patriotism are an example to one and all. He is a great patriotic Bangladeshi political leader, Bangladesh has ever produced.

A political leader, or a politician, can be anyone who has taken up the responsibility of governing a tribe, city, state, region or even an entire nation. History has given us a plethora of political leaders, both good and bad, who have dedicated their lives to the betterment of their countries and the people living in the country. Political leaders are not just people who govern nations during peace times but also during times of crisis. They are people who are responsible for making and implementing strategies and policies meant to better serve the interests of the country they govern. These leaders are chosen through various processes, some examples of which would be through elections, in a democratic nation, and through lineage or birthright, in case of a monarchy, or even dictatorships wherein one individual declares himself the head of state. A look at the political leader’s hall of fame would reveal names like Bangabandhu Sheikg Mujibur Rahman, Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi, Winston Churchill…

Turn the pages of Bangladesh’s political history, and you are sure to find one man who clearly outshines all others and manages to attract the attention and interest of all, till date, - Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman! Rising from a modest and humble beginning, it was his sheer determination and honest effort that led him to the nation’s highest office.

A devoted nationalist, he adapted to rapidly changing tides in Bengali politics, dedicating his entire career towards the creation, development of his homeland and its people. It was all for these reasons that he is rightly known as “The Father of the Nation”. His birthday is a public holiday in Bangladesh and celebrated throughout the country with due honour. The Sheikh is remembered as one of the greatest figures in Bengali nationalism.

The national leaders lead their nations. But the best of them give their lives for the good of their nations. They dedicate themselves in the interest of their nations. So, if they die they become martyrs and if they live they become heroes. Bangabandhu was the greatest national leader of Bangladesh. He is a martyr. He died for his country. He built the Bengali Nation. He brought freedom to Bangladesh and his people. So, he is revered as “The Father of the Nation.” As a visionary political thinker, we should pay our due respect to him on March 17. We salute him on his 99th Birthday. Joy Bangla. Joy Bangabandhu.

-The End-

The writer is a senior citizen of Bangladesh, writes on politics, political and human-centred figures, current and international affairs


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