Bangabandhu with cup a tea

BANGABANDHU left home or was forced to leave by the Pakistani 0ccupation forces immediately after the ‘Operation Searchlight’ (in reality Operation Genocide) had started on the fateful night of •25 March 1971. He would remain in the Pakistani custody for the following nine agonising months. He would not know how much blood was being spilled in his Bangladesh to free the country as well as him of the occupation forces. He had to leave his country a captive; but on 10 January 1972, he returned to a hero’s welcome. What a turn-around: a captive about to be sentenced to death became free and turned hero of a country which had been occupied, but turned free! History does not bear testimony to such a turn-around having taken place in such a short span of time —that is, a liberation war fought to a successful finish within an unprecedented nine months. The day 10 January is etched in our annals as an episode not simply because Bangabandhu could return alive to lead a victorious nation; it was more so for what he got across in his home-coming address to the exultant and euphoric nation. He addressed at the same place – the Race Course, and the same pulpit from which he had delivered the historic speech of 7 March a year back. In the first speech he laid out a roadmap of liberation; and on 10 January he outlined the future of the victorious and independent state of Bangladesh. On both occasions he appeared, as it were, to fit adequately in the leadership typology as had been delineated by Winston Churchill: “The ability [of a leader] to fore-tell what is going to happen tomorrow next week, next month, and next month, and next year And to have the ability afterwards to explain why it didn’t happen.

” On 7 March 1971, — Bangabandhu foretold the inevitability of independence through a liberation war; and on 10 January he shared a blueprint for the new country the speech was extempore (as had been the case with the speech of 7 March), demonstrating the fact that although physically detached from his country and completely in the dark about the happenings back at home, he remained psychologically close to his country and people. The speech of 10 January touched upon two broad themes: state building and nation—building. These are the two tasks a newly-born state is required to address itself for charting a future for the state of Bangladesh. In retrospect, it appears that Bangabandhu had a clear vision about these two tasks as well as the challenges involved. To meet these challenges he outlined at least fifteen responses; some major ones may be drawn attention to. He began the speech by Expressing his abundant gratitude to the heroes, both fallen and alive, for freeing the country from the occupation forces. But he chirmed in with the popular exuberance as he spoke quite aloud, “I have my desire fulfilled today’ Bangladesh is free,” The following utterance was more emphatic, “I knew Bangladesh would be free;” he did know as in the 7 March speech he had said, “I would surely free the people of Bengal [Banglar] through the mercy of Allah,” and also, “No one can now keep down the people.” As to the nature and quality of the new state of Bangladesh he clearly indicated, “Bangladesh would be an ideal state; it would not be a religion-based state. The foundation of this state would be democracy socialism and religious pluralism? G am using the phrase religious pluralism for dharmanirapeksata, the word used by Bangabandhu, as I do not think This Bangla word can be translated into secularism, Etymologically and in connotation these two words are different).

The socio-economic objective of Bangladesh came out in clearest possible terms as he spoke in emotion-laden words, “I address you as a brother of yours, not president or leader that the independence would be a failure if the people do not ` get food and the young people do not get jobs — if so independence would not be complete? We have to bear in mind that he was taking upon himself as well as the people such a challenge in a country which had emerged completely war-devastated and with no resource base at all. It may be said that Bangabandhu rightly mustered the requisite courage to sensitize himself as well as his people about the enormity of challenge that lay ahead. Bangabandhu acknowledged the pro-Bangladesh role of the members of the international community He had special gratitude for the people, government of India, and their Prime Minster Indira Gandhi. He had words of gratitude for the erstwhile Soviet Union, Germany and France; but he did not have any word on China; and certainly for understandable reasons. But it is to be noted that he thanked the US people not their government; and that too for understandable reasons. He called upon all the members of the international community to extend immediate diplomatic recognition to Bangladesh. He said, “lurge all free countries of the world to recognize Bangladesh.” He also requested them to come forward with aid and assistance for his completely devastated country and demanded immediate UN membership for Bangladesh.

Bangabandhu had his own perception as to what should be done about the collaborators of genocide rape and wanton destruction. He cautioned his countrymen against taking law i.nt0 their hands and going for immediate retribution. His cautionary words were unequivocal, “Steps would be taken against them at the appropriate time. They will be put on trial; and leave this responsibility upon the government.” He also urged the people to refrain from harming the non-Bengalis who had collaborated with the Pakistani occupation forces in letting loose a reign of terror killing and destruction. His specific words were “They are also our brethren. We would demonstrate to the world that while Bengalis can sacrifice their lives for the cause of independence, they can also live in peace.” In both these cautionary utterances Bangabandhu represented the humane and tolerant Bengali psyche. A special point was made on the future •of Bangladesh’s relationship with Pakistan. As Bangabandhu addressed Pakistan: “You live in peace; but we are not with you anymore. The Bengali people would rather die than compromise on independence. I Wish you well. Accept that we are independent. You live as an independent country” Such words had a bearing on the Pakistani move for a Bangladesh-Pakistan confederation; and which was literally dismissed out of hand by Bangabandhu. Bangabandhu outlined the core principles of the would-be Bangladesh foreign policy His initial words were on the relationship with the Muslim countries, who, as we know had anti-Bangladesh role during the Liberation War but Bangabandhu, with a states- manlike foresight knew that Eventually Bangladesh would have to carve out a place in the Muslim Ummah; and this would be because of the country’s Muslim majority demo- graphic status. As he said, “Let it be known to all that Bangladesh is now the second largest Muslim state; Pakistan’s is the fourth place. Indonesia occupies the first position; and India third.” Such an astute wording of this statement pushed Pakistan as a Muslim country behind Bangladesh; and, in consequence of which, the significance of Bangladesh as a Muslim entity ` was enhanced in the eyes of the Muslim Ummah, and that was despite the country’s declared intention to be a Secular political entity this was Bangabandhu the diplomat with an eye to the future of his country ‘ The last point touched upon was the controversy as to when the Indian Army would leave Bangladesh. The sovereign status of independent Bangladesh was being questioned in some quarters of the international community because of the presence of a foreign army on its soil. But Bangabandhu assuaged any fear or suspicion when he said, “I have had words with Srimati Indira Gandhi in Delhi [about this matter]. The Indian Army would leave as and when I would desire.” The 10 January speech was supplementary to the one that had been delivered on 7 March both the speeches were future-oriented; and in which the Bangabandhu was at his best with all the qualities of a political leader and statesman.

Prof. Dr. Syed Anwar Husain

Author : Prof. Dr. Syed Anwar Husain

(English rendering of excerpts of the speech is by the author)

Writer is editor of daily sun.

Bangabandhu’s ideals always inspire to build country

President Zillur Rahman yesterday said Bangladesh would have become a developed country like Singapore and Malaysia many years ago if there was continuity of the implementation of Bangabandhu’s dream and programmes.

The president made the remark while addressing a function titled ‘The Bangabandhu Memorial Lecture’ at Osmani Memorial Auditorium organised by Bangladesh Foundation for Development Research.

Siddhartha Shankar Ray, a veteran Indian Congress leader and also former chief minister of West Bengal, was scheduled to deliver the memorial lecture but could not attend the function due to illness. However, his address recorded in DVD was presented at the function.

Zillur said the nation got rid of the stigma somewhat with the execution of the death sentence of the killers of Bangabandhu and his family members.

He said “Bangabandhu is no more among us but his ideals will always inspire the posterity in building the country.”

The president said there are only a few political leaders in the world with the stature of Bangabandhu considering the height of their patriotism and human values.

“His lifelong dream, devotion and politics were for the welfare of the distressed, deprived, oppressed, neglected, illiterate, and rural poor people.”

He recalled that Bangabandhu was always active against all sorts of injustice and said, “Bangabandhu was expelled from Dhaka University for joining the rights movement of the fourth class employees, but chose not to compromise with injustice.”

He also recalled that while returning to Bangladesh on January 10 in 1972, Bangabandhu had categorically asked Indira Gandhi, the then Indian prime minister, when the Indian forces would be completely withdrawn from Bangladesh.

The president said although Indira Gandhi, who offered all possible Indian assistance during the War of Liberation, became somewhat embarrassed over the question, but Bangabandhu got the reply he wanted.

“Bangabandhu’s role was that of a statesman, as people’s interest was embedded in it,” he said.

National Professor Kabir Chowdhury presided over the function while MA Monayem Sarker, director general of Bangladesh Foundation for Development Research, gave the address of welcome.

Bangabandhu life, struggle


Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was born on 17 March 1920 to Sheikh Lutfur Rahman and Shahara Khatun in village Tungipara under the then Gopalganj subdivision. Affectionately called Khoka by his parents, he began his school education at Gimadanga Primary School. He then moved on to Gopalganj Public School before being transferred to a missionary school. However, in 1934, he had a break of studies, which lasted four years, owing to an operation on one of his eyes.

Having completed his studies from Islamia College in Calcutta in 1947, Bangabandhu took admission in law at Dhaka University. However, his active involvement in politics led to his expulsion from the university in 1948. It was also the year in which he went to jail, twice. That was but the beginning of a political career that would lead to innumerable spells in incarceration for the future founder of Bangladesh.

By 1954, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had transformed himself into an activist politician thanks to his involvement in the formation of the Awami Muslim League in June 1949. At the provincial elections of March 1954, the Awami League played a pioneering role in the creation of the Jukto Front, which convincingly defeated the ruling Muslim League by winning 223 seats out of a total of 237. The AL alone won 143 seats. Mujib won his seat from Gopalganj and joined Sher-e-Bangla’s cabinet as minister for agriculture and forests. The new ministry was, however, dismissed under Section 92-A by the Pakistan central government at the end of May. Mujib was arrested at Dhaka airport on his return from Karachi. He was to remain in prison till December of the year.

In 1955, Bangabandhu was elected member of the Pakistan constituent assembly. On 25 August, as moves got underway to establish One Unit in West Pakistan and change the name of East Bengal to East Pakistan, he demanded a referendum or plebiscite on the issue. It was also the year when his party shed the term ‘Muslim’ from its name and became the Awami League. By 1956, Mujib was a minister in the provincial government of Ataur Rahman Khan. In May of the following year, however, he resigned in order to focus on the organizational activities of the Awami League.

Following the imposition of martial law throughout Pakistan on 7 October 1958, Bangabandhu was arrested on 11 October and implicated in one case after another. Released after fourteen months, he was re-arrested at the jail gate. He was freed in 1961 after he had filed a writ petition before the East Pakistan High Court. On 6 February 1962, he was arrested again but released on 2 June. He travelled to Lahore in September and assisted his leader Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy in the formation of the National Democratic Front, an alliance of political parties opposed to the Ayub Khan regime.

Following Suhrawardy’s death in Beirut on 5 December 1963, Sheikh Mujib revived the Awami League in January 1964. It was a move which clearly demonstrated his desire to mould the party along the lines he thought would turn it into a voice of the Bengali masses. He campaigned all over East Pakistan to drum up support for Miss Fatima Jinnah at the upcoming presidential election. He was arrested by the regime fourteen days before the election but later freed by order of the High Court.

In February 1966, Mujib announced the Six Point programme of regional autonomy at a conference of Pakistan’s opposition parties in Lahore. In May, he was arrested under the Defence of Pakistan Rules. While in prison, he was charged, in January 1968, with conspiracy to break up Pakistan through what was given out as the Agartala conspiracy case. A mass upsurge forced the withdrawal of the case on 22 February 1969. The next day, at a huge rally at the Race Course, Mujib was officially honoured by a grateful Bengali nation as Bangabandhu — Friend of Bengal.

Bangabandhu led the Awami League to a decisive victory at Pakistan’s first general elections in December 1970. However, as the Yahya Khan regime and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto began to conspire against the Awami League to deny it the right to form a government at the centre, Bangabandhu went before the country on 7 March 1971 and delivered what clearly was the finest speech of his career. He called the struggle one of emancipation and independence.

As the Pakistan army launched its genocide on 25 March 1971, Bangabandhu declared Bangladesh’s independence early on 26 March. He was arrested soon afterward by the army and flown to West Pakistan, to be put on trial on charges of treason. After a trial in camera, he was sentenced to death by a military tribunal in early December 1971. Pakistan’s defeat in Bangladesh and the emergence of the Bengali nation saw him return home a hero, the father of his people, on 10 January 1972.

Bangabandhu took charge of free Bangladesh as prime minister on 12 January 1972. The Jatiyo Sangsad adopted a constitution for the country in December 1972. In early 1975, Bangabandhu went for a change in the system of government, became president of the country and declared a Second Revolution.

In the pre-dawn hours of 15 August 1975, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was assassinated, along with most of his family, in a bloody coup that was to take Bangladesh back to medieval darkness. source: The Daily Star

Bangabandhu – A Name that Goes with Eternity


Embracing Bangabandhu at the Algiers Non-Aligned Summit in 1973, Cuba’s Fidel Castro remarked, “I have not seen the Himalayas. But I have seen Sheikh Mujib. In personality and in courage, this man is the Himalayas. I have thus had the experience of witnessing the Himalayas.”
This Sheikh Mujib is not just a mere individual or a name. He in an institution. A movement. A revolution. An upsurge. A tidal boar. A Lenin, a Mao, a Netaji, a Gandhi, a Fidel, a Kemal… He is the essence of epic, poetry and history. He is the architect of a nation – the Bengali Nation. He is Bangabandhu – friend of Bengalis.
The history of Bengali Nation goes back a thousand years. That is why contemporary history has recognised him as the greatest Bengali of the thousand years. The future will call him the idol of eternal time. And he will live, in luminosity of a bright star, in annals of historical legends. He will show the path to the Bengali Nation that his dreams are the basis of the existence of any nation struggling for freedom. A remembrance of him is the culture and the society that Bengalis have sketched for themselves. His possibilities, the promises put forth by him, are the fountain-spring of the civilised existence of the Bengalis.
Bangabandhu’s political life began as a humble worker while he was still a student. He was fortunate to come in early contact with such towering personalities as Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy and AK Fazlul Huq, both charismatic Chief Ministers of undivided Bengal. Adolescent Bangabandhu grew up under the gathering gloom of stormy politics as the aging British Raj in India was falling apart and the Second World War was violently rocking the continents. He witnessed the ravages of the war and the stark realities of the great famine of 1943 in which about five million people lost their lives. The tragic plight of the people under colonial rule turned young Bangabandhu into a rebel.
This was also the time when he saw the legendary revolutionaries like Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and Mahatma Gandhi challenging the British Raj. Also about this time he came to know the works of Bernard Shaw, Karl Marx, Rabindranath Tagore and rebel poet Kazi Nazrul Islam. Soon after the partition of India in 1947 it was felt that the creation of Pakistan with its two wings separated by a physical distance of about 1200 miles was a geographical monstrosity. The economic, political, cultural and linguistic characters of the two wings were also different. Keeping the two wings together under the forced bonds of a single state structure in the name of religious nationalism would merely result in a rigid political control and economic exploitation of the eastern wing by the all-powerful western wing which controlled the country’s capital and its economic and military might.
Bangabandhu started his fight against the British colonial overlords and then he directed his wrath against the then Pakistani neo-colonialists. Step by step he prepared his people for their eventual destination. He was in the forefront of mass movements. From his imprisonment in 1949 he gave active support to the formation of the first mass-based opposition political party, the Awami League, under the leadership of Maulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhasani, which subsequently spearheaded the struggle for independence. In the 1954 provincial elections, the Bengalis overwhelmingly voted the Awami League-led United Front to power. The victory was, however, short-lived. In order to maintain their sway and dominance, the rulers in the western wing of Pakistan through coercive means, imposed military rule in 1958. Bangabandhu and other nationalist leaders put up stiff resistance against it and were detained for years together.
In 1961 Bangabandhu was released from jail after he won a writ petition in the High Court. Then he started underground political activities against the martial law regime and dictator Ayub Khan. During this period he set up an underground organisation called “Swadhin Bangia Biplobi Parishad” or Independent Bangia Revolutionary Council, comprising outstanding student leaders in order to work for achieving independent Bangladesh.
Keeping the essence of Swadhin Bangladesh, Bangabandhu placed his historic Six-Points in 1966. He called for a federal state structure for Pakistan and full autonomy for Bangladesh with a parliamentary democratic system. The Six-Points became so popular in a short while that it was turned into the Charter of Freedom for the Bengalis or their Magna Carta. The Army Junta of Pakistan threatened to use the language of weapons against the Six-Points movement and the Bangabandhu was arrested under the Defence Rules on May 8, 1966. To subdue him, Bangabandhu was charged with secession and high treason, which was known as the infamous Agartala Conspiracy Case. But mass people burst into upsurge against his arrest.
With the defeat of Ayub Khan regime in 1969 in a mass-upsurge which led to the unconditional withdrawal Agartala conspiracy case, Bangabandhu had become an undisputed, home grown hero for the Bengali nation. People’s admiration to his unfathomable courage and yearning for his guidance convinced that he was the friend of Bengal. They then start calling him Bangabandhu. The torch of politics Bengali Nation was truly and irreversibly in his hands. He would carry it ahead, undaunted in his determination to transform the destiny of his people to make Shonar Bangla.

Bangabandhu’s finest hour came on 7th March 1971. His historic speech on that day changed the course of the history of struggle for independence in the then Pakistan and gave millions of Bengalis a new sense of direction. Bangabandhu possessed the rare quality of harnessing the awesome power of the masses that overthrew the military regime standing in the way of Bangladesh’s liberation.
He declared in his speech, “The struggle now is the struggle for our emancipation, the struggle now is the struggle for our independence.” In this historic speech, Bangabandhu urged the nation to break the shackles of subjugation and declared, “Since we have given blood, we will give more blood. The people of this country will be liberated Inshallah. He called upon people to turn every house into a fortress with whatever they had to fight the enemy.
He advised the people to prepare themselves for a guerrilla war against the enemy. He asked the people to start a total non-cooperation movement against the government of Yahya Khan. There were ineffectual orders from Yahya Khan on the one hand, while the nation, on the other hand, received directives from Bangabandhu’s Road 32 residence. The entire nation carried out Bangabandhu’s instructions. All institutions, including government offices, banks, insurance companies, schools, colleges, mills and factories obeyed Bangabandhu’s directives. The response of the Bengalis to Bangabandhu’s call was unparallel in history. It was Bangabandhu who conducted the administration of an independent Bangladesh from March 7 to March 25.

Another finest hour for Bangabandhu was when he declared independence of Bangladesh and all-out guerrilla war began against the Pakistani oppressive regime. In his declaration he said, “This may be my last message. From today Bangladesh is independent. I call upon the people of Bangladesh, wherever you are and with whatever you have, to resist the army of occupation to the last. Your fight must go on until the last soldier of the Pakistan occupation army is expelled from the soil of Bangladesh and final victory is achieved.”

And the victory achieved on the 16th December 1971 – a dream come true for Bangabandhu. Thousands of people sacrificed their lives in the name of Bangabandhu. It was his political inspiration and moral persuasion that made mass people to embrace martyrdom in Bangabandhu’s name. The quest for his independence became synonymous with his title “Bangabandhu”. And eventually he embraced martyrdom on the 15th August 1975 for the Bengali Nation.
The multifaceted life any great man cannot be put together in language or colour. Bangabandhu was such a great man that he has become greater than his creation. It is not possible to hold him within the confines of picture-frame when his greatness is so unfathomable. He is our emancipation – for today and tomorrow. The greatest treasure of the Bengali nation is preservation of his heritage and sustenance of his legacy. He has conquered death. His memory is our passage to the days that are to be.

By: shazzad

[Shazzad Khan works for Manusher Jonno Foundation]

A Golden Age

In December of 1970, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s party, the Awami League, wins elections in Pakistan with a clear majority. However, the victory of Awami League, a major political party in East Pakistan, is not acceptable to those in West Pakistan.

There is widespread opposition in the Pakistani military and the Islamic political parties to Mujibur becoming Pakistan’s prime minister. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, leader of Pakistan People’s Party, the largest West Pakistani party at that time, even threatens to boycott the assembly if Mujibur is allowed to form the new government.

As the rift between leaders of East and West Pakistan widens, Mujibur calls for independence of East Pakistan and asks the people to launch civil disobedience campaigns against the West Pakistani regime which had always treated them as third-class citizens. The people of East Pakistan, who were infuriated by the central government’s treatment of the devastating November’s cyclone victims, readily join in.

Following this, then Pakistani president Yahya Khan bans the Awami League, declares martial law and orders the army to arrest Mujibur and other East Pakistani leaders and activists. The ruthless decision, however, forces Mujibur to declare independence of East Pakistan at midnight on March 26, 1971, giving birth to Bangladesh.

Mujibur is later arrested and sent to prison in the West. But this does not quell the tension and the army can do nothing to stop the people, who by that time were determined to liberate Bangladesh from the hands of the authoritarian West Pakistani regime.

Bangladeshi writer Tahmima Anam’s debut novel, A Golden Age, finds its root in this tensed environment, where West Pakistan’s so-called attempt to restore order in Bangladesh results in terror and bloodshed. It is a story of a country at war, where chaos is the order of the day and disappearance and murder of people become everyday affair.

Amidst this situation, Rehana Haque, a widowed mother of two, finds it increasingly difficult to protect her children. Like every mother she has selfish love for them and since she had once been separated from them after her husband’s death she does not want to repeat the same ordeal.

But the war’s intensity is so great, no one can easily isolate or escape from it. As some of the characters of the novel put it: “Everyone is fighting—even people who weren’t so sure, people who wanted to stay with Pakistan.”

Then finally one day, Rehana’s eldest son, Sohail, comes home and says he has joined a clandestine guerilla operation launched by university students.

At first Rehana finds it hard to believe him. Yes, he was the revolutionary type who had posters of Lenin and Che Guevara on his room’s walls. He also recited speeches like ‘Peking or Moscow? Third World Socialism’ and ‘Jinnah: Statesman or Imperialist Demagogue?’ in college. But Rehana never thought her son would go this far. After all, she had always known him as a pacifist, someone who would not rush to join a war.

In this, as in all other things, Rehana tries to veer between “indulgence and censure”. “There was a part of her that wanted to allow her children to do anything—any whimsy, any zeal, any excess,” the author explains. “Another part of her wanted them to have nothing to do with it all, to keep them safe, at home.”

Rehana chooses the former and allows Sohail to go to war. In the meantime, her daughter, Maya, who had also joined the revolution, moves to Kolkata in India to work for a newspaper, which was supporting the Bangladeshi independence movement.

At this juncture, Rehana finds herself all alone in the house. Instead of Sohail and Maya, she starts living with talks about whereabouts of Mujibur and Anwar Sadaat and uproar, in the city or beyond, in Islamabad, where one punishing law after another was passed. “And every hiccup of the political landscape made its way to their door,” Tahmima writes.

A Golden Age is a story about a mother trying to keep her family intact during war. It is about the contribution made by a liberal middle-class Muslim family—living in harmony with Hindus—in liberating Bangladesh from the hands of Pakistan. It is a story about curfew sirens, empty streets, closed shops, locked gates, a burned and blistered city. At the same time it is also a story about courage and sacrifices, where mothers lose their children, wives mourn the death of their husbands and friends bury their fellow companions.

However, to give a light flavour to the gripping story the writer also talks about the love life of central character, Rehana, with a former army major who stays in her house for 96 days to recuperate from a major injury. She also talks about delicious foods like, paratha, samosa and puri and old Hindi as well as some English songs to give a breezy touch.

Tahmima’s style is sure and sharp, studded with illuminating images. She has not gone to the extent of over-explaining her characters and the novel’s plot is not monotonous.

Try the novel and you will have a sound knowledge on how Bangladesh emerged as an independent country in the 1970s. The book will also give you an insight into the strong ties that Bangladeshi family members maintain that provide them support in times of trouble. Moverover, it also gives you a bird’s eye view of Bangladeshi culture, their idea of merrymaking and their fondness for food.

Author : Rupak D Sharma