The Legacy of Bangabandhu
Bangabandhu inspired Bangalis to decorate their identity in three steps: first humanity, then nationality, and then religion
In childhood, uncle Omar of our village used to remind us that 'traitors are not to be forgiven and poisonous snakes are not to be let loose.' Realisation of this verse occurred when on August 15, 1975, the Father of the Nation, the architect of Bangladesh was brutally killed along with his kith and kin. Killing Bangabandhu is the most heinous chapter of treachery in the history of our nation.
Acclaimed Indian writer Annada Shankar Roy of West Bengal, hearing of this tragic event called his friend and writer Manoj Bose in Kolkata and said, 'Let's lament together, oh dear!' While people lamented abroad this way, tears of Bangladeshis froze in shock and horror.
Killing Bangabandhu was not merely killing a person plotted by military dictators, they wanted to kill the soul of the nation. Thus, the soul of our nation started to bleed, being stabbed with the cursed dagger of communalism. For long 21 years since 1975, the military dictators kept the name 'Bangabandhu' in exile from the nation he gave birth to. And the return of Bangabandhu commenced only when Prime Miniter Sheikh Hasina formed elected government in 1996.
Apart from the heinous crime in 1975, four more incidents stained the nation's heart. War crimes in the war of Independence in 1971, illegal accession of power and military dictatorship form 1975, scrapping off the spirit of independence from Constitution and intrusion of 'Rajakars' in politics, and the grenade attack on Sheikh Hasina and political leaders on 21 August 2004. Bangladesh has been struggling to move forward with these five stains in the heart of the nation.
Even today, we commemorate the tragic death anniversary of Bangabandhu as stains of communalism and military dictatorship are still to be eroded. The hypocritical theory of 'little democracy, little religion, little autocracy' is still fuming chaos in the air. We have a long way to go.
Knowing Bangabandhu perfectly is knowing Bangladesh. Bangabandhu is – a flag, a map, a country, the epic of Bengali nationalism, a movement, an architect of building a nation, a struggle to give home to a nation, a revolution, an uprising, a history, a pole star of Bengali nation, poet of political rise of the nation, a best friend of people, founder of the nation, symbol of independence, the great hero of time, the greatest Bengali of thousand years.
He was Bangabandhu, who corrected the historic mistake of 1947 partition of the Subcontinent. The Hindus and the Muslims who were separated, Bangabandhu united them all and created one undivided Bengali nation. Bangabandhu said, 'I am human, I am Bengali and I am Muslim.'
Bangabandhu inspired Bangalis to decorate their identity in three steps: humanity first, then nationality, and then religion. This was Bangabandhu's epic of the rise of Independent Bangladesh. Everyone became Bangali, shedding off the cloak of obsolete two-nation theory.
On December 6, 1969, at the death anniversary of Hussain Shaheed Suhrawardy at three-leaders tomb in Dhaka University, Bangabandhu declared: 'From today, the name of the eastern part of Pakistan is not East-Pakistan, it is Bangladesh.' In 1973 at Non-Aligned Movement summit in Algiers, President Sheikh Mujibur Rahman of the just born Bangladesh had a meeting with Saudi King Faisal. Bangabandhu asked the king, 'Bangladesh is the second largest Muslim-majority country after Indonesia. What may be the reason of Saudi Arabia not recognising Bangladesh's Independence as yet?'
King Faisal said that in order to obtain Saudi recognition, Bangladesh will have to change the name to Islamic Republic of Bangladesh.' Bangabandhu replied: 'This condition does not apply to Bangladesh. Though Muslims are a majority, we have about a crore people from other religions. We all fought together for Independence and the war affected all of us. And the Creator is not only for Muslims but for the universe... In addition, your country is also not named as Islamic Republic of Saudi Arabia. Your country is named Kingdom of Saudi Arabia after a famed politician King Ibne Saud. And we haven't opposed to that', sharply added Bangabandhu.
The Father of our Nation also had a surprising presence of mind. When Nigerian General Gawan said, 'Undivided Pakistan was a strong country, why did you have to divide that', Bangabandhu replied, 'Hon'ble President, you might have been correct, undivided Pakistan would have been stronger. But see, undivided Indian sub-continent would have been even stronger and undivided Asia would have been furthermore stronger and an undivided world would have been the strongest. So, Hon'ble President, do we get everything as per our wish?'
In order to earn freedom of Bangali nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman declared to stand firm on 6 points, for self-rule, abandoning military dictatorship and struggle for democracy. Bangabandhu perfectly combined three elements: Mass-movement, Election, and Armed struggle to achieve the nation's goal. He turned the 1970 Parliamentary Election as people's mandate. And in the name of non-cooperation movement, Bangabandhu declared a self-ruled Bangladesh. The unarmed people became ready for armed struggle under the command of Bangabandhu as he established the Bangali nationality at state level. That is why Bangabandhu is the father of modern Bangali nation and Bangabandhu and Bangladesh are one united soul.
French writer Andre Malrux in his last writings depicted an artist in the scaffold, waiting to be hanged, his toes barely touching the ground. From instinct, the artist drew a few mice with the tip of his toe. And miraculously the mice got alive, cut the rope and set the artist free. If ever Bangabandhu's toes had been in such condition, he would have drawn a map, the map of Bangladesh, the whole of which would have been covered by his greatness. As poet Rafiq Azad said, 'The huge figure lay all along the map of the motherland.'
The verses of Poet Bablu Jordar portrayed Bangabandhu as:
'So large a man was he-Fifty thousand square miles-He could grasp in his bare hands, As could grasp seven and half a crore souls, And deep voluptuous summer clouds.'
After the tragic death of Bangabandhu, famed writer Annada Shankar Roy wrote, 'Bangabandhu Mujibur Rahman was not a common politician. He was the Father of a nation. It was not stepping down; it was the supreme sacrifice that was his last duty.'
But the country is not yet free from the curse. The struggle is on. The homecoming of Bangabandhu will only be safe when the five stains will be completely eroded, the dagger of communalism and social imbalances will be fully removed. Then Bangladesh will come out of all shadows and stand with the smiling glory.
(The writer is Minister of Information, People's Republic of Bangladesh. The views expressed are strictly personal)
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