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Dhaka Tribune

How Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman shaped our identity as a nation

Bangabandhu’s conviction informed his vision for a distinct Bangladeshi culture, built on the foundation of the land, its people, and their aspirations for happiness, peace, and prosperity

Update : 26 Mar 2024, 11:17 AM

“As a human being, I think about the entire human race. As a Bengali, anything related to Bengalis makes me think deeply. The source of this constant connection is love, which gives meaning to my politics and existence.” 

These are the words of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, written in his book “Oshomapto Attojiboni” (The Unfinished Memoirs). This great man of Bengal is a constant source of inspiration for Bengalis. Like a beacon of light, this greatest son of the Bengali nation shows us the way.

Today, the Bengali nation stands tall with its head held high in the world arena, carrying the red and green flag. This results from Bangabandhu’s lifelong sacrifice and far-sighted, wise political leadership. The historical journey of the Bengalis, led by his daughter Sheikh Hasina, is rooted in Bangabandhu’s dream of building a “Shonar Bangla.”

The blueprint for development

If we properly analyze Bangabandhu’s life philosophy, his dreams for Bangladesh, and the steps and plans he took for the development and establishment of Bangladesh’s dignity in just three and a half years after the country’s independence, we will get a clear path for Bangladesh’s development. This path is the blueprint for the development of present-day Bangladesh. 

The philosophy of life of Bangabandhu was all-encompassing in Bengali nationalism. Bangabandhu loved the people of this country more than life itself. On January 10, 1972, he set foot on his homeland and rushed to the historic Racecourse Maidan to attend a gathering of the people. He proclaimed in a loud voice, “... I am a Bengali, I am a human being, I am a Muslim. A Muslim dies once, not twice. I had said, if my death comes, I will go with a smile. ... I will not ask for your forgiveness and while leaving I will say, Joy Bangla.

The red and green flag that flutters on the map of South Asia today is the result of struggle, movement, and bloody battles by the Bengali nation. This struggle was against British colonial rule and the exploitation and oppression of the Pakistani government. Through this struggle, through the armed Liberation War, through the pain of losing loved ones and the exchange of the honour of mothers and sisters, we were victorious on December 16, 1971. The main hero of this independence movement was Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who organized the Bengali nation with the mantra of independence through 23 long years of continuous and tireless struggle.

A long road

The context of independence that was created in 1971 did not come suddenly. The birth and development of the Bengali nation as an ethnic group took place hundreds of years ago. With the commonality of language, socio-economic lifestyle, physical, mental, and psychological structure, this nation gradually evolved into an advanced community. 

The strategic approach adopted by Bangabandhu in his speech on March 7, 1971, surprised even the world's greatest military strategists. Through an unforgettable speech, Bangabandhu redeemed the Bengali nation's thousand-year-old debt. He incredibly united the people of Bengal on the path to freedom, as a result of which, no matter what happened in the days to come, the united Bengali nation stood up with unparalleled determination to face it. 

His vision continues to inspire and guide Bangladesh as it strives to build a prosperous, just, and inclusive society for all its citizens

Professor Ajoy Roy expressed his feelings about the March 7 speech: “My heart said that today a new chapter in the history of Bengal and Bengalis will be written. The opportunity to be present at this moment of history comes once in a thousand years. So those who were present in this field that day were more fortunate than many; they participated in the making of history.

Bangabandhu fought relentlessly for the betterment of the Bengali nation until his last breath. Standing in the face of certain death, he proudly declared, “You will not be able to suppress us.” His bold statement was not in vain. He proved that the Bengali nation cannot be quickly subdued. He led this slumbering nation, step by step, through a series of movements toward ultimate victory. 

Bangabandhu stood unwavering in the face of imprisonment, oppression, tyranny, and even death, all for the sake of Bengali interests. Author Humayun Azad eloquently described Sheikh Mujib's leadership: "The masses can be led astray. Dictators like Hitler and Mussolini turned the masses into raging infernos, floods, and volcanoes, resulting in catastrophic consequences. They reduced the masses to frenzied, mindless creatures. In March 1971, Sheikh Mujib ignited a righteous inferno, a benevolent flood, a salutary volcano. He rekindled the Bengali nation, and as a result, we achieved independence.”

Sheikh Mujib's unwavering commitment to Bengali nationalism and the ideals of secularism were instrumental to all of it. He famously proclaimed, "Without cultural freedom, political and economic freedom are meaningless." This conviction informed his vision for a distinct Bangladeshi culture, built on the foundation of the land, its people, and their aspirations for happiness, peace, and prosperity.

He further reiterated that without Bengali nationalism, the very existence of our independence would be at risk. He envisioned a truly secular Bangladesh, where "Muslims will practice their religion, Hindus will practice their religion, and Buddhists will practice their religion. No one will be able to obstruct anyone else." 

Sheikh Mujib's legacy is one of unwavering courage, unyielding dedication to his people, and an unwavering commitment to the principles of Bengali nationalism and secularism. His vision continues to inspire and guide Bangladesh as it strives to build a prosperous, just, and inclusive society for all its citizens.

Md Ashikur Rahman and Anupom Sarker are Freelance Contributors and postgraduate students of Public Administration and Governance Studies, Jatiya Kabi Kazi Nazrul Islam University.

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