Bangabandhu fought for the welfare of the people all his life
Bangabandhu and Bangladesh are inseparable. He has gifted an independent country by uniting the disenfranchized Bengali people. The Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman started working to rebuild war-torn Bangladesh from a fragile economy.
He has thought of the exploited people of the world and fought for their rights all his life.
He could understand the unexpressed thoughts of the Bengali people. That is why he united the whole nation and prepared them for the War for Independence. Speaking about the rights of Bengalis, Sheikh Mujib spent 13 precious years of his youth in a Pakistan jail.
The leader painted the picture of dear motherland Bengal sitting in the dark cell of the prison with his heart, stood on the gallows and embraced death with a smile, and was gratefully awarded the title of Bangabandhu by the nation on February 23, 1969. February 23, 2020 marks the 51st anniversary of Sheikh Mujib’s Bangabandhu title.
He was not only the great leader of the Bengali nation, he was also one of the best leaders of the oppressed people all over the world. Soon after the establishment of Pakistan, he realized that this Pakistan was not for the Bengalis. One day Bengalis will have to decide the fate of Bengal. With that goal in mind, he established Chhatra League on January 4, 1948 and Awami League on June 23, 1949.
Then Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman established the independent sovereign People’s Republic of Bangladesh by organizing the Bengali nationalist movement. The mass movement of 1969 is a glorious chapter in the history of the Bengali liberation struggle.
A total of 35 people, including Sheikh Mujib, were convicted in the “state vs Sheikh Mujib and others” for declaring the nation’s six-point charter of liberation. It is known in history as the Agartala conspiracy case. Then the student community protested.
In this context, a united platform of all student organizations, Kendriya Chhatra Sangram Parishad, was formed on January 4, 1969. The 11-point united program was announced under the leadership of Tofail Ahmed, a senior leader of the present Awami League and the then VP of DUCSU, where the students and young society of this country play a leading role. In the meantime, people started a movement across the country.
The people of Bengal erupted in protest after Sergeant Zahurul Haque on February 15 and Dr Shamsuzzoha on February 18 were brutally killed by the security forces. The Ayub government enacted the Sandhya Act to quell the agitated people. Even then the young people of Bengal did not stop protesting.
At one stage, on February 22, Ayub Khan withdrew the Agartala case, fearing public outrage, and released all political prisoners, including Bangabandhu, unconditionally. Then a flood of joy swept across the country.
The day after his release, that is, on February 23 of that year, a public reception was organized at the historic Race Course ground (Suhrawardy Udyan). On that day, millions of people gathered in the capital to see their beloved leader in person.
In that historic public meeting, Sheikh Mujib was given the title of Bangabandhu. In a memoir, Tofail Ahmed, the then VP of DUCSU and convener, spokesperson and coordinator of the Central Students’ Action Committee wrote: “I would like to give a title with gratitude. It was an unprecedented sight when 1 million people raised 2 million hands. That is when the beloved leader was awarded the title of Bangabandhu.”
Since then, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the leader of the oppressed, has been called Bangabandhu by people all over the world. Now, he is also recognized as a “a friend of the world.” In a discussion held at the United Nations on August 15 last year, the leaders of different countries called him a friend of the world.
In his first speech as Bangabandhu on February 23, 1969, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman said: “When I was arrested as an accused in the Agartala case and released from jail and re-arrested and taken to the cantonment, I thought that they would hang me. Then I picked up a piece of clay and wiped it on my forehead and uttered, ‘O soil, I love you. If they hang me, I will be able to sleep in your lap after death.’”
At the end of his speech, he said: “Those of you who have freed me from prison by sacrificing your life and blood, if I can, one day I will repay the debt of that blood with my own blood.” He is survived by his two daughters and one of them is the prime minister of Bangladesh.
Bangabandhu dreamed of an independent Bangladesh which he had materialized. He also wanted to establish a hunger-free and poverty-free Sonar Bangla. But it is our misfortune that we could not save him.
However, his eldest daughter Sheikh Hasina is moving ahead to implement the unfinished work of the Father of the Nation efficiently. She is implementing Digital Bangladesh, ie Vision-2021. She has announced Vision 2030, 2041, and a 100-year Delta Plan.
Accordingly, various initiatives and steps have been taken. Bangabandhu was imprisoned for 4,682 days for the freedom of the oppressed people of Bengal. What Bangabandhu used to say would come from his soul naturally.
Once, he said he would not compromise with his struggle for the Bengali people, even if he was placed before the gallows. After independence, he was released from prison in Pakistan on January 8, 1972.
Later, he went to London. Then, at a press conference in London on January 9, journalists asked him: “Your Bangladesh has been ruined. There is nothing, only rubble.”
He replied: “I have soil. I have people. If I have soil and people, one day from this rubble I will turn my Bangladesh into a hunger-free, poverty-free, grain-rich golden Bengal.”
Bangabandhu did it. Therefore, he knew the truth that the people of this country, that they have the ability to overcome many obstacles, and success must come. He took initiatives by uniting the people of the country for inclusive development. The constitution was made focusing on that goal. That 1972 constitution of the republic reflected Bangabandhu’s philosophy of inclusive growth.
Realizing the importance of quality education, he took ground-breaking steps at all levels from primary to higher education. He established the University Grants Commission (UGC) of Bangladesh in 1972.
Wherever the Father of the Nation went, he spoke for the poor, miserable, peasant, workers of Bengal. Attending a non-aligned conference in Algeria, Bangabandhu stood on the stage and said: “Today the world is divided into two parts -- the exploiter and the exploited. I am with the exploited.”
He was really on the side of the exploited people. He fought for the welfare of the people and human rights throughout his life. The ruler’s bullets or bloodshot eyes could not stop him.
Bangabandhu’s life was dedicated to the people of Bengal. He himself said that. When being interviewed by British journalist David Frost, he was asked, “What is your qualification?”
In reply, Bangabandhu, the great hero of politics, said, “I love my people.” The next question was: “What is your disqualification?” He said: “I love them too much.”
Truly, Bangabandhu’s love for the people of Bengal was deeper than the depth of the sea. His love for the Bengali nation, the oppressed people is immeasurable.
And that is why the title Bangabandhu is appropriate before his name. He was a true friend of the Bengalis. He possessed great qualities. This year is the birth centenary of the Father of the Nation.
Let it be our firm oath on the birth centenary of the Father of the Nation to build the “Sonar Bangla” that he dreamed of.
Prof Dr Sazzad Hossain is an ICT Expert. He is a Member, University Grants Commission of Bangladesh (UGC) & Director, Bangladesh Satellite Company Limited (BSCL).