Let us build on his legacy
Remembering Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman is fundamentally a recalling of some of the most glorious moments in the history of Bangladesh. For it was under his leadership and on his watch that we waged a long, tortuous struggle for democratic rights and national liberty. It was through his inspiration that this nation emerged into freedom and took its place on the global stage. In Bangabandhu was personified the most articulate spokesperson of Bengali aspirations, the most visible and vibrant face this nation could present to the world.
As we observe National Mourning Day, we remember with profound distress the calamity which befell us on this day in 1975 when a sinister alliance of conspiracy and darkness put an end to the lives of the Father of the Nation and nearly his entire family. If the attainment of liberty under Bangabandhu’s leadership was our finest moment, his assassination and all that followed in the immediate aftermath of it were our darkest hour. Bangabandhu’s murder was to set off a chain of tragedy — of coups, counter-coups, murder and intrigue — which was to keep this nation shackled to instability and uncertainty for years. It was not until measures were initiated against his murderers, not until the wheel of justice began to turn slowly and yet surely, that we rested easy.
This morning, it must be for us to recall the spirited, long struggle Bangabandhu waged in our name and try understanding the nature of that struggle in our interest and in the interest of generations to come. Bangabandhu’s ideal was the shaping of Shonar Bangla, Golden Bengal, where his people would weave a rainbow pattern of dreams to live by. His faith in his people never wavered, as our conviction in the strength of his leadership was never shaken. He envisaged smiles on the faces of his countrymen; he envisioned a society where collectively we could put the forces of exploitation to flight and reclaim our country for ourselves.
Our best tribute to Bangabandhu will be to recall his dream of a democratic, secular and economically viable Bangladesh and translate it into reality. That is how we can uphold his legacy, for all time.
Remembering a giant
The most significant memory I have of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, is of course that of his March 7 speech. We as students of Dhaka University, as the rest of the students and the people of the country, were following his every directive during the non co-operation movement, triggered by Gen Yahya’s decision to postpone the convening of the parliament on March 1, 1971, in which Sheikh Mujib had a clear majority which entitled him to become the prime minister of undivided Pakistan. As his thunderous voice rose above the slogan chanting multitude, a silence descended as anticipation rose to fever pitch that he would make that seminal declaration that would set us formally on our independence road. The millions who gathered on that day were far too emotional to fully grasp the challenge that Bangabandhu faced. For, only he would know the implication of what the agitated public wanted him to do.
Rising to the challenge, Bangabandhu delivered that day, what I consider to be one of the great political speeches ever. There was this massive audience whose enthusiasm he could not dampen. However, there was also that vicious military killing machine that waited in the military barracks to attack the moment he would utter anything that they could use to justify such an attack.
Thus he made a magnificent balance between saying everything about our wishes for freedom and independence without giving any cause to the enemy to attack. I was the general secretary of Mohsin Hall back then. I remember returning to the hall with a few fellow residents that evening, having gotten the full message of what the leader wanted, and marvelling at the fact that he did it in such an audacious and yet clever manner. Throughout my days as a freedom fighter, in mukti bahini camps and later during my military training, Bangabandhu’s speech would resonate in my ears, inspiring me, encouraging me, emboldening me, and filling up my heart with the dream of living in an independent country.
The other significant memory I have of Bangabandhu is of the August 15, 1975 when he was so brutally murdered along with all members of his immediate family, save Sheikh Hasina and her younger sibling, Sheikh Rehana. I remember vividly hearing over the radio in the early hours of the fateful day, “Ami Major Dalim Bolchi. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’ke hottya kora hoyechey…” (“This is Major Dalim speaking, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman has been killed…”).
Oh, what arrogance, what viciousness, what a vile act. I kept on asking myself, did these people understand what they had done? A giant felled by some petty, depraved souls. There have been political murders in history but few have been as brutal, senseless and blood thirsty — killing the whole family including a child and two newly wedded wives of Sheikh Kamal and Sheikh Jamal, the two sons of Bangabandhu.
If the murder of Bangabandhu is our biggest shame, what followed in the name of politics is no less. For the next 21 years under Gen Ziaur Rahman, Gen HM Ershad, and during the first term of the democratically elected government of Khaleda Zia — Bangabandhu’s self professed killers were never brought to justice. Why? What did they owe to these murderers? To our eternal shame, Gen Zia perhaps made us the only country in the world that protected murderers through an amendment in the constitution.
We have crossed much of that shameful episode. Today when we observe the National Mourning Day, we must remember never to go back to the dark period of political murders, illegal capture of power, rule by the military or military backed government. We must also resolve never to be ruled by any government other than elected, and never to embrace any political system other than democracy.
We must however also be conscious about what factors strengthen democracy, and conversely what weakens it. Corruption, partisanship, nepotism, politicization of organs of the government, misgovernance, and lack of accountability and transparency in the use of power — weaken democracy. There cannot be any question that we have plenty of all the above in the present day Bangladesh. This is not the occasion to discuss these in details.
Let our mourning for Bangabandhu turn into a resolve to build the Sonar Bangla of his dreams.
Author : Mahfuz Anam