1110Published on March 17, 2022
His childhood was spent under the shade of green trees, enjoying the serene breezes from the rivers of the Madhumati and the Baigar. But while serving the country, he could not make the childhood of his children as fantastic as he had. He had to stay away from his family because of his imprisonment for the conspiracies from the Pakistani junta and his engagement in political activities. Yes, that was the family life of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the architect of Bangladesh. That is why one of his first initiatives after independence was to ensure the development and growing up of children in a congenial environment.
Bangabandhu’s activities for children reflected his unconditional love for children. Therefore, Bangabandhu's birthday on March 17 is celebrated as National Children's Day. Top author and intellectual Akhteruzzaman Elias in his article ‘Samajer o Rashtrer Haty Prathomik Shiksha (Primary Education under the society and state)’ of his best-seller book ‘Sangskritir Bhanga Setu (Broken Bridge of the Culture)’ elaborated Bangabandhu's initiatives to enlighten children in the light of education.
Bangabandhu believed that Bangladesh would stand upright in the world only if it could properly educate a new generation with humanities and modern education. He took multi-dimensional initiatives to raise children as an elegant generation in post-independence Bangladesh. The education commission, which he formed on July 26, 1972, with Muhammad Qudrat-i-Khuda as chair, recommended adequate allocations for child education and the introduction of free compulsory primary education up to Grade 8. In 1973, 37,000 primary schools were nationalized. He enacted the Children's Act on June 22 in 1974 to ensure the overall protection and rights of children. Distribution of free books, other educational materials and foods began in primary schools during Bangabandhu’s regime to motivate the children in education. Poor meritorious students were also given free clothes.
The Childhood of Bangabandhu’s 5 Kids
Bangabandhu used to visit various children's competitions on different national occasions after independence. He even bypassed all security and protocol to join with the children then. In the joy of the country’s children, maybe he was trying to find the childhood that his children had lost. If we look at Bangabandhu’s family life at a glance, we see that he was very busy every time during the childhood of all his five children. He always gave more importance to the struggle for the liberation and realization of the rights of the country’s people than his family.
Particularly in Bangabandhu's book 'Prison Diary', the child Russel has come up again and again. After the declaration of the Six Point Programme in 1966, the Pakistanis took Bangabandhu to jail. At that time little Russel, 3-4 years old then, used to go to see Bangabandhu at the jail gate with his mother Fazilatunnesa, he used to hug his father's neck and he did not want to go back. Bangabandhu used to cry for Russel. But the cruel irony of fate was that after the meeting time was over, he had to leave the baby Russel and go back to his cell. Bangabandhu's writings also mention Russel's crying while he used to leave his father. Bangabandhu was in jail for the whole period of Russel's childhood, then the rest of the time he was busy articulating the liberation struggle of Bengalis.
When Bangabandhu returned to his Dhanmondi House at Road No. 32 after his release from jail in 1969, there was still a tide of a mass uprising of people demanding his release and freedom. Therefore people used to meet him at his residence. In those days, little Russel used to peek into Bangabandhu's room one after another. He would go and see if his father was at home, or if he went missing again!
Bangabandhu’s daughter Sheikh Hasina also mentioned a heart-touching memory about Sheikh Kamal in her book titled 'Mujib Amar Pita (Mujib is My Father)'. The Pakistanis sent the young leader Sheikh Mujib to jail on various excuses for leading in creating wider ground for the Bengali language movement. Bangabandhu was kept in jail after he led the movement in Dhaka University boldly to get it intensified in the early stages of the language movement. Though Sheikh Kamal was born in 1949 at such a time, Bangabandhu had to spend a total of 850 days in jail in two phases till February 26, 1952.
As a result, Kamal, two and a half years old then, could not even recognize his father who returned home from jail. He used to see his elder sister Sheikh Hasina (his Hasu Apa) calling Bangabandhu her father. So he requested his sister: “Hachu apa, Hachu apa - May I call your father my father?”
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, known for his boldness and courage, this time broke into tears carrying his son Kamal in his arms. His fatherhood heart was desiring to get close to the children again and again. Even after the birth of Sheikh Jamal, Bangabandhu had a very busy time. At that time, he was busy with the election of the United Front in 1954 to lead the progressive Bengali nation of the province to expose the deception of the Pakistanis in name of the religion. Bangabandhu even could not give much time after the birth of Sheikh Rehana too. Between 1958 and 1962 when little Jamal and Rehana began to grow up on their own feet, he spent 1,153 days at a stretch in jail while turning Awami League into a non-communal party and leading the anti-Ayub movement. In the absence of the father, children of the father of the Bengali nation grew up with such a painful childhood.
Even when his eldest daughter Sheikh Hasina was just five and a half months old, Bangabandhu went to jail for the first time for a language movement on March 11, 1948. In the same year, he was again imprisoned for 132 consecutive days from September 11 to January 21, 1949. He went to jail again in April for 80 days more.
Bangabandhu's eldest daughter Sheikh Hasina also grew up seeing her father rarely. Sometimes she found her father, sometimes she did not. However, there was a majestic lady named Begum Fazilatunnesa over their heads. She herself became the father of the children in the absence of Bangabandhu. She used to play a role both as their mother and father. That is why she always taught them morality and sacrifice like their father since their childhood.
Bangabandhu's Wholehearted Relations with Children
Bangabandhu could not stay by the side of his own children in their childhood. He could not give time to his family for the greater welfare of the country and the nation. That is why ordinary people one day became like his children. The whole nation unanimously accepted him as their father who brought independence for his nation. From his far-reaching thoughts, Bangabandhu continued to take child-friendly initiatives one after another to ensure the proper growing-up of all the children of the country.
As he believed that the country would automatically stand on its own if it could develop a generation appropriately, the country’s children gave him the dream of a better future for the Bengali nation. That is why whenever he got a chance, he would pull the school students to his chest. He used to share the joy with the children through the smile. They also used to surround Bangabandhu with comfort and gossip about everything they wanted randomly. Bangabandhu would listen and laugh, then he would pray for them with his hand over their head as blessings.
When he went among the children, Bangabandhu would go back to the childhood that his children had lost. The heart inside got filled with tears of joy secretly. Bangabandhu could see the future of a modern, advanced and elegant Bengali nation when he went among the children.