He cannot be written out of history
Today, we celebrate a man who was larger than life.
It is said that he is one of the greatest Bengalis of the past thousand years. His March 7 speech is one of the defining moments in the history of Bangladesh, and one of the greatest speeches of all time. His magnificent thundering voice proclaimed: “Our struggle is for our freedom. Our struggle is for our independence.” After the passage of 50 years, Bangabandhu’s speech has become a part of world heritage.
In fact, he was a force whose influence will remain alive for all time in the history of Bangladesh. He was a strong individual who easily understood the desires of his people and of the country.
He was an indomitable force against all kinds of aggression and suppression. As it has been said, his desire for independence radiated as much for the people as it did from his own intellectual outlook. He proved to be a “vessel through which the desires and wishes of East Bengal people were to flow.”
Gaining control of the Awami League, Mujib added a new dimension to the then East Pakistan politics. Long before the Liberation War, Mujib assumed for East Bengal the mentality of the poor victims of Pakistani aggression, thereby giving the Bangalis the moral boost for independence. A remarkable aspect of all these events is that Mujib emerged as a sole personality symbolizing our people’s hopes and aspirations.
Going from Gopalganj to Kolkata, he had, over the years, the chance to meet many great leaders. He honed his skills by observing matters around him. Tragedy struck the nation in 1975, when he was assassinated along with most of his family members at the crack of dawn on August 15.
His two daughters luckily survived the bloodbath, as they were abroad at that time. The people of Bangladesh had experienced military coups before, but the August 15 massacre was one of the most brutal events in our history.
Shaheed Quaderi, one of the most prominent poets of Bangladesh, wrote: “I shall never hear anything more horrifying.” How could Bangladeshis kill a man who loved his people to such an extreme degree? The man who fought all his life to free his people?
It rained the day Bangabandhu was buried. As rain poured on, resistance to the coup was obvious from its absence. The political leaders who could have put up a resistance to the commandeering of power by the soldiers were hiding from the scene. And those who did not resist were already inducted into the cabinet.
Only the four great leaders who were close to Sheikh Mujib and later killed in jail put up the resistance. These men had engineered the provisional government while in exile in 1971, and had planned and executed the guerilla struggle against the Pakistani junta.
Did the Chileans assassinate their great leader Salvador Allende and replace him with General Pinochet, a self-proclaimed military dictator who took his nation a hundred years backward? Were the great patriots of Africa, Asia, and Latin America assassinated by their own people? No. But the greatest final verdict is history. A great patriot doesn’t die -- he arrives again like thunder. He remains alive in people’s hearts and lingers in their memory.
In Bangladesh, the wind is still, the sun also sets, and rivers flow. But Bangabandhu has been buried where once he was born. On the bank of the river Madhumati, a mausoleum stands today in memory of the leader who spent his life in service of his countrymen.
The greatest son of our soil will always be honoured and loved. He was a man of the people -- not for a particular time, but for all times. He cannot be written out of history.
Nuzhat Rifa Ehsan is a practising lawyer. She can be reached at [email protected]