Daughter of Democracy
Mankind has entered a new millennium. New hopes and aspirations, new dreams and hew ideas are sweeping the intellectual realms of the developed as well as the developing world. New ideas and dreams are blooming everywhere around us.
Democracy is said to have been spreading its roots all over the globe. Liberalisation of global economic regimes are opening up a tremendous potential for development that was inconceivable in the past. The information superhighway, computer technology revolution, rapid developments in harnessing reusable and pollution-free sources of energy, maddening progress in gene technology, advancements in medical science and other branches of science and assure us that mankind has scaled an enviable height of. But what did all these mean to Bangladesh at the advent of the new millennium?
They symbolise the following:
- A popular democratic government has been established.
- The economy is being streamlined and a high growth prospects were in view.
- Public sector reforms were generating positive results and a stable economic regime is expected to be in place.
- The Financial sector is being regularised and major reforms are under way.
- Education system is being geared up to meet the needs of the nation and the government worked on a new education policy, which would incorporate all the necessary elements of an appropriate system.
- The civil society movement gained in strength so much so that the NGOs and other social development organizations are playing increasingly important roles in certain fields of social and human development in the country.
- Long standing problems with neighbours have either been solved or at least mitigated, and an aura of good neighbourliness has been created in the eastern flank of the South Asian subcontinent.
- Religious fundamentalism and cultural intolerance against other people's religious practices have been completely eliminated from the soil of Bangladesh. Bangladesh is now an ideal place of religious harmony and ethnic and cultural tolerance.
Taken all these together, Bangladesh can boast as a country that nurtures democracy and respects human rights. Given stable political environment, the country may become an example of democracy and development for others in the first quarter of the 21st century.
Bangladesh has been a quagmire of democracy for more than two decades. The promises that had been there upfront as the nation emerged independent from a sea of blood on December 16, 1971 were blighted with the gruesome murder of the Father of the Nation and the President of the country Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on August 15, 1975. He was murdered by a disgruntled faction of the armed forces who were instigated and financed and later provided with legal cover by the forces that had opposed the independence of Bangladesh. These forces could not accept their humiliating defeat in 1971 in the hands of Bengali freedom fighters, and were waiting in ambuscade for a moment to hit back. As they could not do away with the historical and political reality of Bangladesh as a free and sovereign country they engaged themselves in a conspiracy to eliminate the forces that had provided leadership to the independence movement. They first targeted Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and members of his family including his wife, three sons, two dauthters-in-law, his brother, and his close relatives like Sheikh Fazlul Haq Moni, President of the youth front of the Awami League, and Abdur Rab Serniabat, his brother-in-law and a cabinet minister. After killing them in the early hours of August 15, 1975 the gang of a few Majors killed Syed Nazrul Islam, Tajuddin Ahmed, Capt. Mansur Ali and AHM Quamaruzzaman who formed the top leadership of the Awami League. The first two were Acting President and Prime Minister of the provisional government of Bangladesh at Mujibnagar that led the War of Independence. The killers had put them into jail after killing the Father of the Nation. But apprehending that the people could burst into mass-upsurge and storm the jail to set their leaders free, the murderer Majors killed the four national leaders inside the maximum security cells of Dhaka Central Jail at dead of night on November 3, 1975.
A reign of terror set in under the brutal military authority of General Ziaur Rahman. As the Martial law supremo Ziaur Rahman used all his training and motivation that he had received in the Pakistan army to suppress the democratic aspirations of the people of Bangladesh. Through military decrees he indemnified the killings of August 15 and November 3 and rewarded the killers with diplomatic assignments and big business deals. He rallied the anti-liberation forces around him and proudly announced that he would make politics difficult for the civilians. He was honest to his utterances. The following years saw the emergence of barrack-backed politics and controlled political activities that saw the patronisation of election rigging, massive vote fraud, buying of political favour and rampant embezzlement of aid funds by the allies of self-proclaimed rulers [Army Generals and civil bureaucrats]. The anti-Bangladesh political forces acted as their henchmen. Politics had been militarised in its lengths and breadths.
But there had always been light at the end of the tunnel, and the dark and ominous clouds were not without silver linings. The Awami League was a huge political party with supporters in every household in Bangladesh and its supporters, sympathisers and workers had not accepted the rule of the Generals as a political system. They waged a relentless struggle against military rule in whatever form they could. Those were the most testing years for Bangladesh. The democracy that we now enjoy has been largely the contribution of the followers of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman who refused to wilt under pressure and temptation and stood like a rock against the long military oligarchic rule of General Zia (1975-81) and General Ershad (1982-1990). The silver lining was that Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib's daughter Sheikh Hasina was alive and the nation pinned its hopes on her. They saw the image of the daughter of democracy in her. The nation began to call her by that name.
In an interview with 'Newsweek' on May 11, 1981 following her election as the President of the Awami League Sheikh Hasina said she was neither afraid of being killed nor deterred by the strength of the government she would face. "in one's life," she said, "risks must be taken. If a person is afraid of death, life has no dignity." "One of my priorities will be to restore the full democratic rights of all the people of the nation," Sheikh Hasina added. And she told the people that she was convinced that her father's legacy would strengthen their cause. "The people of Bangladesh had a lot of love and affection for him", she said. "I will be able to complete his work."