What does Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman mean to the 150 million people in Bangladesh? He was the best politician we ever had. He was the selfless leader who fought his whole life for an independent country for his Bangali brothers and sisters. He achieved his goals but, tragically, he had to leave us too soon, like quite a few other third world nationalist leaders.
His people still love and respect him beyond words. He loved them to a fault, and they still love him in return. As long as the Padma and the Meghna flow, Bangabandhu will be fondly remembered by his people. His deeds will keep him immortal. Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman founded independent Bangladesh after fighting for our rights for 24 long years. He spent many years in jail. He accomplished deeds which lesser leaders could not even dream of.
He was a legend. He taught us to live with honour and dignity. A true friend of Bengal, he had a heart proportionate to his handsome physique. His voice was thunderous. His oratory was matchless. His indomitable spirit, his bravery, his charm, and his self-confidence were beyond the ordinary. His personality cast a magical spell on the people -- no wonder he was called the poet of politics.
The Bangalis from East Pakistan accepted the famous Six Point program of the Awami League from the bottom of their heart. They wanted provincial autonomy and economic emancipation. Bangabandhu fought against the autocratic Pakistani governments and organised mass movements. Slowly and surely, he grew in stature. The Pakistani military regime was afraid of him, and committed the great mistake of taking him into custody for the so-called Agartala conspiracy case.
Bangalis didn’t fail to recognise their greatest nationalist leader and supported him whole-heartedly. Students and the common folk took the 1969 movement for democracy to great heights and achieved full success, and the Pakistani rulers had to release Mujib from custody. Ayub Khan had to leave, handing over power to army chief Yahya Khan, who was quick to promise early elections.
Bangabandhu’s AL won 167 out of 169 seats in East Pakistan. This made him the leader of the biggest party in the whole of Pakistan. But Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, who won 80-plus seats in West Pakistan, conspired with Yahya and his generals to start the unfair post-election game. The West Pakistanis had been in power for 24 years since Pakistan’s birth, how could they give up power so easily?
So, they very wrongfully decided to dishonour the clear popular verdict given to the charismatic Bangabandhu by his people. Yahya Khan canceled the national assembly session he had called earlier.
The people of East Pakistan were seething in anger. They went for a month-long peaceful non-co-operation movement under Bangabandhu’s leadership. He was the de facto prime minister of the land. His political wisdom impressed his people as well as the international community.
He could rightly feel the pulse of his people. Stalwarts like Syed Nazrul Islam -- father of the party’s present General Secretary Syed Ashraful Islam -- and Tajuddin Ahmed assisted him during the most critical period of Bangladesh’s history.
Yahya Khan and his aides came to Dhaka for a dialogue with Bangabandhu and AL. But Yahya, advised by Bhutto, decided not to finish the talks and engage in treachery.
He and his government went for a military crackdown on the night of March 25, 1971. Thousands of innocent civilians were killed in one night. Bangabandhu ordered for a total war of independence, hints of which he had given in his historic speech of March 7 at the Suhrawardy Udyan. He himself courted arrest to save Dhaka from total destruction, but directed his close aides to form a government and carry on our war of independence to final success.
We fought our noble war of independence in the name of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, an orator of the highest order and a giant with the soft heart of a Bangali mother. Our women prayed for his release from jail. The people fought heroically for independence. The government-in-exile of Syed Nazrul Islam, Tajuddin Ahmed, Mansur Ali, Qamruzzaman, and others guided the nation during its time of crisis, with wisdom, sincerity, and sacrifice.
The governments of India and the Soviet Union were our great friends in 1971. We Bangalis proved to the whole world that we were a heroic nation and the leader who turned us into a confident and united country was none other than Bangabandhu himself.
Our losses were great but we were a free nation. Our future generations would not be colonial citizens any more. When we think of Bangabandhu’s tragic murder in 1975, we are engulfed with unbearable sorrow.