277Published on March 17, 2023
M Nazrul Islam:
Today is March 17, birthday of the greatest Bengali of all time, who is the symbol of Bangalees’ self-identity. Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was born on this day in 1920 in a sleepy village of Tungipara in Gopalganj. Therefore, March 17 is a historic day for us, and the month March is eventful in many other ways in our national life. It was in this month – on March 7, 1971 – Bangabandhu made a clarion call to his people to fight for freedom, and the people duly responded.
Growing up in the lap of nature, amid scenic beauty and lush green fields of rural Bengal, Sheikh Mujibur was politically and socially aware since his childhood. Always vocal against any kind of injustice and oppression, he exhibited an extraordinary leadership trait since his childhood.
Young Sheikh Mujib (known as Khoka in childhood) was active in politics since his school days and was arrested for getting involved in anti-British movement. He was just a student of class eight then.
In 1939 when he was a high school student the then Prime Minister Sher-e-Bangla AK Fazlul Huq and Minister Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy came to visit his school. They inquired about the wellbeing of the school but every student including the teachers kept mum. Then one boy stood up with courage and said the roof is damaged and rain water leaks into the classroom and classes are disrupted during the rainy season. That boy was none other than our Bangabandhu.
By dint of leadership qualities, one day that boy from Tungipara became the symbol of hopes and aspirations of the whole nation. The adorable Khuka from Tungipara became known as Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and our beloved Bangabandhu (friend of Bengal). His name became synonymous with the liberation struggle of the Bangalees. The people used to chant slogan – ‘Ek Neter Ek Desh, Bangabandhu’r Bangladesh’ (One leader’s one country, Bangabandhu’s Bangladesh).
It did not become possible in a day. Bit by bit, step by step, his undisputed leadership evolved. To ascend to this height, he had to endure great personal sacrifice.
In 1947, the state of Pakistan was created. It did not take him long to realize that the West Pakistani rulers would discriminate against the people of East Pakistan. So, he started preparing to come out of the shackle of oppression. He formed Chhatra League in 1948 with his fellow political comrades. Then he formed Awami Muslim League on June 23, 1949, which was the first opposition party against the then ruling Muslim League government in Pakistan. Later, the word ‘Muslim’ was dropped from Awami Muslim League for the sake of secularism and non-communalism. Thus, the emergence of a powerful non-communal force led by young Sheikh Mujibur Rahman took the West Pakistani rulers by surprise.
Since then there has been a continuous movement – the Great Language Movement of 1952, the Education Movement of 1962 and the historic Six-point Movement in 1966. At that time, he was imprisoned in the Agartala Conspiracy Case.
Bangabandhu began to prepare for independence from the beginning of the sixties. In 1969, the students gave him the title of ‘Bangabandhu’ during the heady days of popular uprising. In the elections of 1970, Bangalees gave unreserved support to Bangabandhu’s six points. As a result, Awami League got the mandate of the majority political party in Pakistan. However, the Pakistani ruling group did not accept this electoral victory of Bangalees led by Mujib.
After that, Bangabandhu transformed the movement for autonomy into the movement for independence. Since then there was no looking back. An unprecedented non-cooperation movement started under the leadership of Bangabandhu in March 1971. “The struggle this time is the struggle for emancipation. The struggle this time is the struggle for independence,” Bangabandhu roared before a sea of people at the then Race Course Maidan (now Suhrawardy Udyan) on March 7, 1971.
Bangabandhu’s fiery speech on that day created an epic of politics. By calling upon the people to stay prepared to fight with whatever they have, he literally changed the course of history. The speech galvanized the Bangalees with the mantra of freedom. Such a powerful speech is unprecedented in world history. It has been compared with the Gettysburg speech of Abraham Lincoln and other famous speeches in the world.
The speech not only revealed Bangabandhu’s identity as a determined leader, but also carried the direction of the liberation war. He literally declared the independence of Bangladesh through the speech by saying “The struggle this time is the struggle for emancipation. The struggle this time is the struggle for independence.” The historic speech of March 7, 1971 laid the foundation for liberation of Bangladesh and it has got UNESCO recognition as world documentary heritage.
On the night of March 25, 1971, the Pakistani military attacked the unarmed Bengalis like a ferocious hyena. In the early hours of March 26, Bangabandhu made a wireless declaration of independence from his residence on Road No. 32 in Dhanmondi. After this announcement, Bangabandhu was arrested from his residence and taken to a Pakistani prison. There begins his secret trial. After a nine-month armed war of liberation, the brave Bengalis won on December 16. Thus an independent, sovereign Bangladesh was born.
Bangabandhu was the supreme leader of our independence movement. The independent Bangladesh has been achieved through a long struggle, and Bangabandhu was the foremost leader in that struggle. Our liberation war was conducted in his name.
On January 10, 1972, Bangabandhu returned to his homeland after being released from Pakistan prison. After coming to the country, he concentrated on the task of rebuilding the country. But he did not get that opportunity for long. In 1975, he announced the National Program aimed at economic liberation of the country. However, within a few days of this announcement, he was brutally killed by assassins along with most of his family members on August 15, 1975.
Nevertheless, it was Bangabandhu, and nobody else, who launched Bangladesh on the road to freedom and prosperity. In this context, the words of John C. Maxwell sound relevant: “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way; and shows the way.”
Writer: President of the All European Awami League
Courtesy: Daily Sun