Did we listen to what Bangabandhu tried to tell us?
When Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman first went to China in 1952, he was a young politician, only 14 years into his political career. He visited the country as a member of a Pakistani delegation to attend a peace conference organized by China.
He had just come out of jail after the Language Movement. And he wrote about his visit to China in 1954, again sitting in a prison cell. The book is titled Amar Dekha Nayachin.
The new China was only three years old when Bangabandhu visited that country. After the revolution ended in 1949 and a new China emerged, with it communist values, it was trying to reorganize everything -- from economy to society. Although Bangabandhu didn’t believe in communist values as a political leader, he was wowed at how China had transformed during such a short time after the revolution.
When I started reading Amar Dekha Nayachin, I was first amazed by the simplicity of his language, his narration, his insights about a country he was visiting, and his instant analysis that relates to the then Pakistan and East Bengal.
Bangabandhu didn’t take his visit to China lightly. Amar Dekha Nayachin reveals that he took this journey as a mission to learn from them -- learn about international affairs, how they were dealing with other nations despite being a non-member of the UN, learn their secret of turning the country to a developing one overnight, learn about what Pakistan could do to emulate them.
His narration clearly reveals that Pakistan had numerous internal problems and the West had already started repressing the East.
Despite the differences between the East and the West, as Bangabandhu says, the Pakistani delegation had decided not to talk about any internal problem that may be noticeable by foreign nations. They didn’t want to make their problems public.
The problems were there, as the members of the delegation from East Pakistan had incurred so much trouble to acquire their passports. The passports were issued from Karachi at that time. The entirety of Amar Dekha Nayachin has shown how the two wings of Pakistan were shifting away from each other -- a result of the discriminatory policies of the West.
Another striking feature of Bangabandhu’s visit to China that impressed me very much is that he had delivered his speech in Bangla during the peace conference.
There was another person from India who spoke Bangla, but Bangabandhu’s decision to speak Bangla reflected a very important aspect about Bengali nationhood.
I believe he had already started thinking about a separate nation for the Bengalis back in 52.
Again, he didn’t speak any ill about how the Muslim League government was running the state of affairs in Pakistan. He thought we would be belittled at the global stage if he said anything negative about that government -- a lesson for the present-day Bangladeshi politicians who often speak ill of party in position and party in opposition to the foreign powers.
He had some very good friends who were accompanying him during the visit. They also had some non-Bengalis with them. But the way he described his relationship with them is awesome.
In every page of Amar Dekha Nayachin, Bangabandhu expresses how respectful they were to each other, how respectful the politicians were to other fellow politicians.
Again, a lesson for our present-day politicians.
The book is a shining example of what type of leader Bangabandhu was. He didn’t crowd his mind with petty thoughts. Of course, he was worried about his insolvency, as he repeatedly said that he had very little money to buy things in Hong Kong, Burma, and China. He had financial stress in his personal life, but he was always looking at the bigger picture -- at the state level.
This is a distinguishing feature of Bangabandhu. From a very young age, he had thought like a statesman -- something that our present-day politicians of Bangladesh and wannabe followers of Bangabandhu will perhaps never realize. It takes courage and magnanimity to think like a statesman.
Amar Dekha Nayachin establishes Bangabandhu as a minute observer of everything. His China visit was a pure education for him and he took it that way; he went to learn.
His description of how China made improvements in health care, education, class discrimination, food sufficiency, and pro-people policies for nation-building are eye-opening. Like a wise analyst, he compared these to all those of his own country and started formulating a future agenda in his mind.
That is like a leader, and the book reveals that he was already on his way to lead the then East Pakistan one day. It was bound to happen to a person who thought like that.
He also talked about what kept our country back on our way to development and enlightenment, and frowned in his own mind about our backwardness. Surprisingly, the problems that Bangabandhu talked about back in 1954 still exist in our society. Apart from economic development, we have made little headway.
I’m sure we have done a good amount of research on this leader who led our country to independence, but I believe we haven’t studied the literature written on him or by him. I wonder how many of the wannabe followers of Bangabandhu have read Amar Dekha Nayachin, not to speak about his autobiography.
Many of us try to create waves by giving slogans on Bangabandhu, try to prove our love and admiration for him, but hardly follow the values that he tried to teach us. If we had followed 50% of what he had tried to tell us, this country would be a different one.
Ekram Kabir is a yogi, a story-teller, and a communications professional. His other works can be found on ekramkabir.com.