The ramifications of August 15, 1975

_46758580_-29The murder of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman has had grave ramifications for Bangladesh. It was, in the immediate sense, an overthrow of constitutional government in the country, which was again a reinforcement of the idea that the long struggle Mujib and the Awami League had waged against military rule in Pakistan had in a way come to nought. The coup d’ etat of August 1975 was to be a precursor to other, newer means of removing governments in Bangladesh. The majors and colonels who had organised the large-scale slaughter of the president’s family quickly made it clear that they intended to run the show. They ensconced themselves at Bangabhavan, the presidential palace, and served as Khondokar Moshtaq’s advisors. That was quite in the fitness of things, for he clearly owed his job to them. The biggest irony arising out of the coup was the continuation of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s ministers, save a few, in office. Syed Nazrul Islam, Mansoor Ali and A.H.M. Quamruzzaman were under arrest, along with Tajuddin Ahmed. Foreign Minister Kamal Hossain, abroad at the time of the coup, refused to return and be part of the new administration. But Moshtaq could and did take satisfaction from the fact that all others among his ministerial colleagues were now serving in his regime as his ministers. The first cabinet meeting Moshtaq presided over was on the day after the coup, even as Mujib’s body and the bodies of his family remained to be buried. One of the first bits of information Moshtaq handed out to the ministers, many of whom were plainly terrified, with some others not knowing what position to adopt given the murders that had already taken place, was that Sheikh Mujibur Rahman would be buried in his village. There was no regret in his voice, no tribute and not many ministers were willing to raise any questions.

Over the years, much has been made of the fact that it was the Awami League that continued in power after the death of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Opponents of the party have, in their untenable way of explaining why there was no proper trial and punishment of Mujib’s killers (until the Awami League returned to power in 1996), sought refuge behind the spurious argument that Khondokar Moshtaq and everyone else in government after 15 August were part of the Awami League. It was sophistry elevated to newer levels. The facts were actually rather different. On 15 August, there was technically and legally no Awami League since the party had already been subsumed in the larger Bangladesh Krishak Sramik Awami League Mujib had formed in January of the year. More importantly, the ministers who worked, or were made to work, with Moshtaq did so as a result of the plain intimidation that was being exercised on them. In the few months the Moshtaq presidency would last, it was not uncommon for the majors and colonels involved in the August mayhem and murder to make themselves present in the room even as cabinet meetings went on.

One of the first moves Khondokar Moshtaq made was to remove General K.M. Safiullah from command of the army and replace him with his deputy Ziaur Rahman. Additionally, an appointment that raised many eyebrows in the country was the return of General M.A.G. Osmany to government. He was appointed defence advisor to the new president. The alacrity with which he accepted the job somehow stood at variance with the intrepidity he had earlier shown when, in defence of the cause of democracy, he resigned from Parliament once Bangabandhu had formed BAKSAL. It did not appear to worry him overmuch that he was now part of a regime that operated on the basis of murder and extra-constitutional rule. In later years, Osmany would try returning to his democratic moorings through founding a political organisation, the Jatiyo Janata Party. In 1978, he would seek the support of the Awami League in his bid to defeat General Ziaur Rahman at the presidential elections, an exercise he would lose. After August 1975, Osmany’s reputation, built as it had been during the war of liberation and in the early years of Bangladesh, would be on a slide. Enayetullah Khan, editor of the weekly newspaper Holiday, had already made arrangements in the pre-coup period with Sheikh Fazlul Haq Moni to take over as editor of the Bangladesh Times. When he took charge of the newspaper days after Moshtaq seized the presidency, it was given out that he was the new man’s appointee, which was misleading. Khan would in subsequent years relentlessly, almost pathologically carry on anti-Mujib propaganda through his writings. He would serve as a cabinet minister in the Zia regime before serving as General Ershad’s ambassador to China and Burma.

The long-term damage caused by the coup to Bangladesh would be far-reaching and terrible. The biggest damage done to Bangladesh’s democracy and constitutional government was the promulgation of the Indemnity Ordinance by Moshtaq on 26 September 1975. Under the provisions of the ordinance, no individual involved in the assassinations of Bangabandhu and his family could be prosecuted in a court of law since the acts of 15 August 1975 were deemed to have been a historical necessity. In his time, General Ziaur Rahman, clearly the most important beneficiary of the change in August, would incorporate the Indemnity Ordinance through the notorious fifth amendment (now annulled by judicial fiat) into the constitution. The amendment would not only protect the assassins of the country’s independence leader and his political associates (who would be murdered in November 1975) from prosecution but would also pave the way for their accommodation in government. Except for Farook Rahman and Abdur Rashid, all other majors, lieutenant colonels and colonels who had taken part in the coup were appointed to various positions at Bangladesh’s diplomatic missions abroad. One of them, Shariful Haq Dalim, would rise to such heights as the country’s high commissioner to Kenya. In the course of the nine-year military rule of Bangladesh’s second dictator, General Hussein Muhammad Ershad, the leader of the 1975 coup, Colonel Farook Rahman, would form the Freedom Party and contest the presidential elections in 1988.

In the three months following the murder of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the country lurched from one crisis to another, owing to the refusal of the assassin majors and colonels to return to the barracks and thereby enable the senior military establishment to restore the chain of command broken by the coup. But by early November, Brigadier Khaled Musharraf and his loyal officers acquired sufficient support from the ranks to force Moshtaq into jettisoning the junior officers who had installed him in office and were propping him up. On the night of 3 November 1975, Musharraf launched his own coup and was effectively in command of the army, having placed General Zia under house arrest and agreeing to let the coup leaders fly out of the country. Unknown to Musharraf, however, the men who murdered Mujib and his family had made their way to the central jail in Dhaka before their departure for exile abroad and murdered the four leaders of the 1971 Mujibnagar government imprisoned there since Mujib’s assassination. Intriguingly, a rightwing Bengali journalist who had co-produced The Plain Truth, a Pakistani propaganda tract over Dhaka Radio in 1971, let it be known in early November 1975 that he had intercepted letters between Indian intelligence and the imprisoned Tajuddin Ahmed. He spread the word that the Indians planned to spring Tajuddin and his colleagues from jail and install them in power. Within hours of his ‘revelations’, Syed Nazrul Islam, Tajuddin Ahmed, M. Mansoor Ali and A.H.M. Quamruzzaman were brought together in a single cell and bayoneted to death by the soldiers. Asked later about the letters, the journalist claimed he had returned them to his source and therefore could not produce them!

On 6 November, having seen Moshtaq appoint him to the rank of Major General and chief of army staff, Khaled Musharraf forced the usurper to resign. He was replaced by the chief justice of the Supreme Court, Abu Sadat Mohammad Sayem. On the morning of the next day, 7 November, troops loyal to Zia and drawn to the clandestine propaganda mounted by Colonel Abu Taher, an independence war hero and anti-Mujib soldier, about an Indo-Soviet conspiracy to take over the country, mutinied. They were joined by columns of soldiers streaming into Dhaka from Comilla and other cantonments and quickly put Musharraf and his loyalists to flight. General Musharraf, one of the toughest soldiers during the war of liberation and an avowed believer in secular democracy, took refuge along with Colonel Najmul Huda and Major Haider at Sher-e-Banglanagar in the capital. All three men were soon set upon by those they had sought shelter from and brutally killed. As the day progressed, Bengalis knew that a new dispensation was at work. Justice Sayem, who had taken over as president only a day earlier, continued in office, though with the additional responsibility of chief martial law administrator. General Zia, now free and restored to his old job as army chief, was named deputy chief martial law administrator, along with Rear Admiral M.H. Khan of the navy and Air Vice Marshal M.G. Tawab of the air force. Power, of course, was in the hands of Zia who by April 1977 would ease President Sayem out of office and take over as president. In the same month, Zia would organise a referendum seeking his confirmation as Bangladesh’s new leader. Predictably his acolytes arranged the results he needed.

The beginning of General Zia’s rule was also the period when all references to Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and his role in Bangladesh’s history would be papered over. As president and martial law administrator, Zia would tamper with the constitution through replacing its invocations to secularism and Bengali nationalism. In late 1975, he placed Colonel Taher, who had helped free him from house arrest in November, in jail. After a secret trial by a military court, Taher was hanged on 21 July 1976.

Author : Syed Badrul Ahsan is Editor, Current Affairs, The Daily Star

The tale of a troubadour

It is the courage of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman you miss as you go through life. And yet it is something more, something of values that you associate with any remembrance of him.

1000x659He embodied some of the finest traditions that self-respecting people anywhere have, throughout the course of history, upheld in their lives. And among those values is the refusal to compromise, to undermine yourself through a convenient jettisoning of the ideals that you have always held dear.

Even as the round table conference went on in Rawalpindi in 1969, President Ayub Khan suggested to Mujib that he take charge as Pakistan’s prime minister. The Bengali leader spurned the offer. It was a natural gesture on the part of a man who had defied the winds and the trends of the times to come forth with the Six Points in 1966. It was Bengal that mattered to him. Nothing else did, or would. It was all in character for Bangabandhu. He never flinched from doing or saying anything he thought was right, or made good sense. In December 1969, as Bengalis remembered Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy on his death anniversary, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman let them, and by extension the world outside their own parameters, know that thenceforth East Pakistan would be known as Bangladesh. One hardly needed proof that Mujib had come a long way.

Back in 1957, he had caused not a little distress to Suhrawardy, then Pakistan’s prime minister, by asking him bluntly if Bengalis could not opt out of the state Jinnah had cobbled into shape. Suhrawardy reprimanded him for entertaining such thoughts. Mujib then simply bided his time. When it came, he knew the task he needed to perform. His dedication to the causes he espoused was complete and without ambiguity. His disillusionment with Pakistan having taken a firm shape by the early 1960s, he knew which path he needed to take. And he took it resolutely. There was little room in him for second thoughts.

Bangabandhu was the troubadour who moved through the hamlets and villages of Bengal, disseminating the message that freedom from colonial rule and emancipation from economic exploitation were of the essence. Go into the remote regions of the country and you will chance upon men who still recall their “Muzibor” and everything he stood for. And what he stood for came alive assertively in 1971, when seventy five million Bengalis prayed for him even as he languished in solitary confinement in Pakistan.

All politics, all religion, in that year of tragedy and decision focused on Bangabandhu. An entire war of national liberation was shaped and waged in his name. It was no mean feat, one that Fidel Castro remarked on when he met Bangladesh’s founder at the Algiers Non-Aligned summit in 1973. That Bangabandhu was a tall man, and not just in the literal sense, was what delighted Castro. And it subdued other men, like Nigeria’s Yakubu Gowon. A hostile King Faisal of Saudi Arabia was quickly shocked into silence by the courage of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Faisal, a man without vision, could not understand why the Bengalis had driven Pakistan out of their lives. Mujib then lectured him soundly on what Islam signified, and how the Pakistanis had distorted the faith.

Principles, then, were what served as Mujib’s fundamental political premise. When Zulfikar Ali Bhutto came calling in January 1971, clearly to ask for a share of power with the majority Awami League, Bangabandhu made it clear that Bhutto’s People’s Party needed to be where the electoral judgement had placed it, in parliamentary opposition. It was a position he would maintain in the tumultuous season of March 1971, despite the growing pressure on him to relent. The Six Points could not be trifled with. And when the Pakistan army tried to shoot them down, he went for a single point: he declared the nation’s independence before being seized by the army.

There was always prescience in Mujib’s pronouncements. He calmly told a western journalist at the height of the Agartala conspiracy case trial in 1968: “You know, they can’t keep me here for more than six months.” In the event, he was a free man in the seventh month. Throughout the 1960s and early 1970s he went on reassuring Bengalis that freedom would come into their lives. And it did. He prepared for freedom in the way only a man believing in constitutional politics would. He was not a revolutionary, which was why he was not willing to go for a direct confrontation with the Pakistan government. Neither was he an adventurist, for which reason he warded off all calls for a unilateral declaration of independence on March 7, 1971.

And yet the oratory of that day remains part of history, of the Bengali psyche, for everything it pointed to, for the clear set of guidelines he left for his people to follow in the event of his absence from the political scene. It was these guidelines that Bengalis worked on for nine months. His words, his image, his idealism, all of these served as a metaphor for the armed struggle for freedom.

By the time the state of Pakistan took flight from Bangladesh on December16, 1971, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had evolved further, into a liberator in the mould of Simon Bolivar, in the mould of everyone who had ever traversed a path to collective freedom. On a January day in 1972, as he spoke to the world on his arrival in London from Pakistani incarceration, he knew he had turned into an embodiment of history. He spoke of the joy of freedom inherent in the epic liberation struggle that the 1971 war had been. Humility and basic decency defined Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. He never forgot names and always remembered faces, even those he had come across in his youth. He surprised the Indian journalist Nikhil Chakravartty when the latter turned up at Bangabandhu’s news conference in late January 1972, in Dhaka. The two men had not met since 1946, and Chakravartty certainly did not expect Mujib to remember him. He was mistaken. As Bangabandhu entered the room, his gaze fell on the journalist. Then came the question, “Aren’t you Nikhil?”

The rest hardly needs to be recounted. Bangabandhu remembered the names of simple men, of peasants and labourers, inasmuch as he recalled the names of unknown political workers. It was a trait that endeared him to millions, who then spotted in him a guiding spirit who would light their way out of the dark woods. His respect for academics was beyond question, as men like Professor Muzaffar Ahmed Chowdhury, Professor Abdur Razzaque, Dr. A.R. Mallick and Dr. Abdul Matin Chowdhury would know.
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was a natural. He laughed uproariously, and deeply. Anecdotes made him double over with laughter. He himself was a purveyor of tales garnered through his travels all across Bengal. A sense of humour, undiminished despite the long years in prison, marked him out from other politicians. When Abdus Samad Achakzai remarked, on meeting him in 1970, that Ayub Khan had turned him into an old man, he riposted: “Ayub Khan ne tum ko bhi buddha bana diya hum ko bhi buddha bana diya” (Ayub Khan has made you an old man and has made me an old man as well). Welcoming Bangabandhu to his country in 1974, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al Nahiyan of the United Arab Emirates noted that, like him, Mujib was a sheikh. “But there is a difference,” said Bangladesh’s leader. “I am a poor sheikh.” Both men burst into laughter.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the story of a man who scaled the heights of greatness and yet did not lose touch with the dew on the grass. Here was a Caesar. When comes such another?

Author : Syed Badrul Ahsan is Editor, Current Affairs, The Daily Star.

Portrait of a patriot

Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was born on March 17, 1920 at Tungipara in the then Faridpur district. Despite the fact that he was an extraordinary political leader who had spent more than twelve years in jail for articulating the legitimate grievances of his people against the then Pakistani ruling elite, he became a victim of a brutal massacre on August 15, 1975. The bullet-ridden dead body of the Father of the Nation was most dishonourably buried by the murderers at Tungipara.

BangabandhuibanglaAlthough our indebtedness to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman is immense, his name had been officially proscribed for almost three decades, with the exception of those years (1996-2001) when the Awami League formed the government under the leadership of Sheikh Hasina.
Bangabandhu was the saviour of Bangalees of the then East Pakistan. Yet his name has become an object of a systematic vilification and disinformation campaign for over more than thirty years. This extraordinarily charismatic leader became a victim of those reactionary and mercenary forces who had never accepted his clarion call for independence. National documents and school texts were doctored to delete or distort Bangabandhu’s central role in the emergence of Bangladesh as a nation-state.

For instance, it is alleged by the critics that Bangabandhu had no plan for having an independent Bangladesh. According to them, Bangabandhu had never declared independence. They also claim that the creation of Bangladesh was the direct result of a series of blunders and wrong decisions made by advisors of the then dictator Yahya Khan and power greedy Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto.

Some of those critics also floated the idea that Bangabandhu did not care to ascertain what was going on in the then East Pakistan before the Pakistani military junta unleashed gruesome genocide on the night of March 25, 1971. These motivated critics also maintain that neither the Awami League nor Bangabandhu was pivotal in leading our struggle towards independence. In what follows, the main intent is to repudiate such fraudulent claims.

It needs to be underscored that no fair-minded individual can ever claim that Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was beyond or above criticism. History will ultimately cast judgment on Bangabandhu’s life-long struggle and his accomplishments as a political leader. Unfortunately, most of the criticism about the Founder of Bangladesh is nothing but vilification.

The truth of the matter is that the emergence of Bangladesh as a nation-state was the direct outcome of our determination for carving an independent country out of Pakistan. Bangladesh was the outcome of Bangalees’ willingness to fight for their freedom and independence. It is a documented fact that Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman provided the much needed charismatic leadership for our glorious struggle for emancipation and independence.

Bangabandhu’s name is synonymous with Bangalees’ struggle for independence. Even a quisling of Ghulam Azam’s stature can hardly question Bangabandhu’s pivotal contribution towards Bangladesh’s independence. The White Paper on East Pakistan Crisis, which was prepared by the Pakistani military regime during Pakistan’s genocidal war in 1971, had clearly pinpointed that Bangabandhu had refused to compromise on the six-point program during the political negotiations in March 1971. It was also emphasised that Bangabandhu was in total control of the non-cooperation movement that was launched after March 7, 1971.

In his book, The Last Days of United Pakistan, Dr. G.W. Chowdhury (now deceased), a die-hard proponent of pre-1971 Pakistan, verified that Bangabandhu consistently refused to compromise his demands for full autonomy based on the six-point program. Recently published books written by numerous Pakistani scholars and civil servants clearly recognised that it was Bangabandhu who had adamantly refused to compromise his six-point program after the general elections of 1970.

In their recently published memoirs, Abdullah Niazi and Rao Forman Ali vehemently criticised Bangabandhu for his uncompromising stand on his six-point program. A host of outstanding British and American scholars and journalists fully recognised the pivotal role of Bangabandhu’s charismatic leadership in Bangladesh’s struggle for independence.Although some celebrated Bangladeshi political scientists are very critical about Bangabandhu’s performance as the head of the government in Bangladesh (1972-’75), there is near unanimity among them about Bangabandhu’s monumental role in uniting all Bangalees at a critical juncture of our history for waging and sustaining an armed liberation struggle.

It is preposterous to claim that Bangabandhu did not know what was going on in the then East Pakistan before and during March 1971. If Bangabandhu was unaware of the political development in then eastern province of Pakistan then who knew what was going on in there March 1971?

It seems that these Bangabandhu-bashers allude to the idea that the Jamaati leader Ghulam Azam, Pakistan Democratic Party (PDP) leaders Nurul Amin, Hamidul Hoque Chowdhury and Mahmud Ali, and the Muslim League leaders Khan A. Sabur Khan, Khwaja Khairuddin and Fazlul Quader Chowdhury were the real defenders of Bangalees’ legitimate rights in 1971, even though the entire world knew that those certified pro-Pakistani quislings had systematically tormented and persecuted the Bangalees during our liberation war. It is unfortunate that many of those anti-liberation forces claim that the collaborators of the Pakistani regime were the true patriots of Bangladesh!

In view of this, no pro-Jamaati elements of Bangladesh, or Pakistani collaborators or sympathisers of Pakistani war criminals, are in a credible position to verify who had supported or fought for our liberation. Or for that matter, the admirers of military dictators or the supporters of the Jamaat or other rightist parties are not the credible persons to attest to the role of the Awami League or Bangabandhu in the emergence of Bangladesh as an independent nation.The struggle for our freedom did not start all of a sudden on the black night of March 25, 1971. It is totally false to allude to the idea that the restive Bangalees of the then East Pakistan were waiting for a call from an unknown major of the Pakistan army to wage a liberation war. The objective reality was that the actual fighting for our liberation had already started in many places of Bangladesh immediately after Pakistani military forces started the genocidal attack on our people on the black night of March 25, 1971.

The restive Bengali-speaking people of then East Pakistan were ready to resist the Pakistani occupation forces, and they heard what Bangabandhu had to say in his historic speech on the tumultuous seventh day of March in 1971: “The struggle this time is the struggle for our emancipation. The struggle this time is the struggle for our independence.” Indeed, Bangladesh’s struggle for freedom and independence was in the making for a long time.

The emergence of Bangladesh on December 16, 1971 was the culmination of a long struggle of our people. The malicious propaganda against Bangabandhu and the selective distortions of our political history are at sharp variance with most of the universally accepted facts. Bangabandhu is not only part and parcel of our political history but was also the maker of that glorious and robust history.

It was the dynamic and charismatic leadership of Bangabandhu that led us through the historic six-point movement in 1966. By mid-1960s, it was crystal clear to the Bengali-speaking people of the then Pakistan that the Awami League and its leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman were the true instruments and expressions of articulating their genuine demands and grievances. It was the Awami League under the inspiring leadership of Bangabandhu that had earned the electoral mandate in the general elections in 1970 from an extraordinary majority of Bangalees of the then East Pakistan.

In fact, after December 1970 general elections, especially after March 1, 1971, Bangabandhu had undeniably symbolised the entire Bangalee population of the then eastern wing of Pakistan even though he was the President of the Awami League. Although our liberation war was a people’s war by any definition, the Awami League led our Muktijuddha. It was the top Awami League leadership which had legitimately formed the Bangladesh government-in- exile.

Our liberation war was fought in Bangabandhu’s name. In the absence of Bangabandhu during our liberation war, it was Tajuddin Ahmed, the dynamic prime minister of the Bangladesh government-in-exile, who had successfully led our Muktijuddha. It was Bangabandhu’s inspiration and Tajuddin Ahmed’s competent leadership that led us to our decisive victory over the brutish Pakistani forces on December 16, 1971. These are independently verified and fully validated historical facts.

No amount of distortions can change the fundamental fact that it was Bangabandhu who had first formally declared independence for Bangladesh on March 26 (immediately after midnight of March 25, 1971). The original Constitution of the Republic and all other relevant documents have affirmed that Declaration of Independence. Doubtless, there were very capable leaders in the caliber of Tajuddin Ahmed and Dr. Kamal Hossain in the then Awami League. There were many dedicated political leaders in the Awami League both before and during our liberation war. Yet it was Bangabandhu who was the unifier of all Bangalees of the then East Pakistan in 1971. It was Bangandhu alone who was the sole spokesman of the entire Bangalee people of the then East Pakistan. It was Bangabandhu’s inspiring speech of March 7, 1971 speech that lit the torch of freedom for his people from the subjugation of the oppressive and repressive occupation forces of Pakistan.

The coup d-etat of August 15, 1975, in which Bangabandhu was brutally murdered and his elected government overthrown along, with the subsequent political developments in Bangladesh were not as surprising as they seemed to the outside world. The assassination of the Father of the Nation along with his family members was one of the cruelest political murders in human history. This ghastly killing and its aftermath, littered with illegal seizures of state powers through coups, blackmails, and counter-coups, have been characterised by some observers of Bangladesh politics as the direct result of the manner in which politics and administration of the new nation were managed.

There is no doubt that the perceived failure of his leadership in the post-liberation period can be linked to numerous causal factors. We are often allured to the idea that Bangabandhu “lost out’ partly because the situation in the early years of independent Bangladesh was so desperate but mainly because he failed to translate his charisma and tremendous popularity into an efficient and effective government.

Yet if we look back, it is fair to suggest that Bangabandhu’s accomplishments as the head of the government of a newly established country were of monumental proportions. Despite the seething criticisms of his elected regime of only three and a half years, Bangabandhu has remained synonymous with Bangalees’ relentless struggle for freedom and independence.

Aimed at banishing the Founding Father from the pages of our history and the memories of our people, deliberate attempts were made by various regimes (Mustaque-Zia-Ershad-Khaleda) during the post-1975 era. Yet Bangabandhu’s pivotal role in the emergence of Bangladesh as a sovereign nation-state couldn’t be washed away from the memories of his people. Notwithstanding the alleged mismanagement of the economy and administrative machinery in early years of our independence, the role of Bangabandhu in igniting our struggle for freedom and independence can never be marginalized. Bangabandhu’s name has remained enshrined and engraved in the minds of our people as the emancipator and saviour of the Bangalees. The immortal name of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the legacy of his extraordinary accomplishments will live through ages.

Dr. M. Waheeduzzaman (Manik) writes from the city of Clarksville, Tennessee, USA where he is a Professor and the Chair of the Department of Public Management and Criminal Justice at Austin Peay State University.

Author – M. Waheeduzzaman Manik

Life of the Greatest Poet of Politics

Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman is not just a name, an icon of freedom, an institution who portrayed the image of a most successful global leader and became voice of the people. The title of greatest man of the millennium or greatest man of Bangladesh ever lived – is not enough. His whole life symbolize of a leader who sacrificed his life for betterment of his people, of his country. His significant role entitled him as Bangabandhu, founder of Bangladesh, father of the nation and one of the most influential world leaders.


Life of the Poet of Politics:

Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was born in a respectable Muslim family on 17 March 1920, in Tungipara village under the then Gopalganj subdivision (at present district) of Faridpur district. He was the third child among four daughters and two sons of Sheikh Lutfar Rahman and Siara Begum. His parents used to call him Khoka out of affection. Bangabandhu spent his childhood in Tungipara.

At the age of seven, Bangabandhu began his schooling at Gimadanga primary school. At nine, he was admitted to class three at Gopalganj public school. Subsequently, he was transferred to a local missionary school.

Bangabandhu was forced to go for a break of study when, at the age of fourteen, one of his eyes had to be operated on.

Bangabandhu returned to school after a break of four years caused by the severity of the eye operation.

At eighteen, Mujib married Begum Fazilatnnesa. They subsequently became the happy parents of two daughters, Sheikh Hasina and Sheikh Rehana, and three sons, Sheikh Kamal, Sheikh Jamal and Sheikh Russel. All the sons were to be killed along with their parents on 15 August 1975.

Bangabandhu’s political career was effectively inaugurated while he was a student at Gopalganj missionary school. He led a group of students to demand that the cracked roof of the school be repaired when Sher-e-Bangla A. K. Fazlul Huq, Prime Minister of undivided Bengal, came to visit the school along with Husein Shaheed Suhrawardy, later chief minister of Bangla and even later prime minister of Pakistan.

Sheikh Mujib joined the Nikhil Bharat Muslim Chhatra Federation (All India Muslim Students Federation). He was elected to a one-year term.

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman passed the Entrance (currently Secondary School Certificate) Examination. He then took admission as an intermediate student in the Humanities faculty of Calcutta Islamia College, where he had lodgings at Baker Hostel. That same year Bangabandhu got actively involved with the movement for the creation of Pakistan.

Sheikh Mujib’s busy and active political career took off in the literal sense with his election as a councilor of the Muslim League.

Bangabandhu took part in the conference of the All Bengal Muslim Students League held in Kushtia, where he played an important role. He was also elected secretary of Faridpur District Association, a Calcutta-based organization of the residents of Faridpur.

Sheikh Mujib was elected General Secretary of Islamia College Students Union.

Bangabandhu obtained Bachelor of Arts degree from Islamia College under Calcutta University. When communal riots broke out in the wake of the partition of India and the birth of Pakistan, Bangabandhu played a pioneering role in protecting Muslims and trying to contain the violence.

Bangabandhu took admission in he Law Department of Dhaka University. He founded the Muslim Students League on 4 January. He rose in spontaneous protest on 23rd February when Prime Minister Khwaja Nazimuddin in his speech at the Legislative Assembly declared : “The people of East Pakistan will accept Urdu as their state language.”
Khwaja Nazimuddin’s remarks touched off a storm of protest across the country. Sheikh Mujib immediately plunged into hectic activities to build a strong movement against the Muslim League’s premeditated, heinous design to make Urdu the only state language of Pakistan. He established contracts with students and political leaders. On 2 March, a meeting of the workers of different political parties was held to chart the course of the movement against the Muslim League on the language issue. The meeting held at Fazlul Huq Hall approved desolation placed by Bangabandhu to form an All-Part State League age Action Council.
The Action Council called for a general strike on 11 March to register its protest against the conspiracy of the Muslim League against Bangla. On 11 March, Bangabandhu was arrested along with some colleagues while the were holding a demonstration in front of the Secretariat building. The student community of the country rose in protest following the arrest of Bangabandhu. In the face of the strong student movement the Muslim League government was forced to release Bangabandhu and other student leaders on 15 march. Following his release, the All-Party State Language Action Council held a public rally at Dhaka University Bat Tala on 16 March. Bangabandhu presided over the rally, which were soon sets upon by the police.
To protest the police action Bangabandhu immediately announced a countrywide student strike for 17 March. Later, on 19 May, Bangabandhu led a movement in support of the Dhaka University Class Four employees struggling to redress the injustice done to them by their employers. Mujib was arrested again on 11 September.

Sheikh Mujib was released from jail on 21 January. Bangabandhu extended his support to a strike called by the Class Four employees of Dhaka University to press home their various demands. The university authorities illogically imposed a fine on him for leading the movement of the employees. He rejected the unjust order. Eventually, the anti-Muslim League candidate Shamsul Huq won a by-election in Tangail on 26 April, Mujib was arrested for staging a sit-in strike before the vice-chancellor’s residence. When the East Pakistan Awami Muslim League was formed on 23 June, Bangabandhu was elected its joint secretary despite his incarceration. He was released in late June. Immediately after his release, he began organizing an agitation against the prevailing food crisis. In September he was detained for violating Section 144. Later, however, he was freed.
He raised the demand for Chief Minister Nurul Amin’s resignation at a meeting of the Awami Muslim League in October. Immediately afterward, he was arrested again alone with Moulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhashani for leading a delegation to Liaquat Ali Khan. That was towards the end of October.

On the first of January, the Awami Muslim League brought out an anti-famine procession in Dhaka on the occasion of Pakistan’s Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan’s visit to the province. Once again Bangabandhu was arrested and jailed, this time for two years, for leading the demonstration.

On 26 January, Khwaja Nazimuddin declared that Urdu would be the state language of Pakistan. Though still in jail, Bangabandhu managed to play a leading role in organizing a protest against this announcement. From prison he sent out a call to the State Language Action Council to obverse 21 February as Demand Day for releasing political prisoners and making Bangla the state language. He began a hunger strike on 14 February. On 21 February the student community violated Section 144 and brought out a procession in Dhaka to demand the recognition of Bangla as the state language. Police opened fire, killing in the process Salam, Barkat, Rafique, Jabbar and Shafiur, who thus became martyrs of the Language Movement. In a statement from jail, Bangabandhu condemned the police firing and registered his strong protest. He was on hunger strike for 13 consecutive days. He was moved from Dhakacentral jail to Faridpur Jail to prevent him from making contact with the organizers of the movement. He was released from jail on 26 February.

On 9 July, Mujib was elected general secretary of East Pakistan Awami League at this council session. Efforts were made to forge unity among Moulana Bhashani, A.K. Fazlul Huq and Shaheed Suhrawardy with the objective of taking on the Muslim League at the general elections. To achieve this goal, a special council session of the party was called on 14 November, when a resolution to form the Jukta Front (United Front) was approved.

The first general elections were held on 10 March. The United Front won 223 seas out of a total of 237, including 143 captured by the Awami League. Bangabandhu swept the Gopalganj constituency, defeating the powerful Muslim League leader Wahiduzzaman by a margin of 13,000 votes. On 15 May, Bangabandhu was given charge of the ministry of agriculture and forests when the new provincial government was formed. On 29 May, the central government arbitrarily dismissed the United Front ministry. Bangabandhu was again arrested once he landed at Dhaka airport after a flight from Karachi on 30 May. He was freed on 23 December.

Bangabandhu was elected a member of the legislative assembly on 5th June. The Awami League held a public meeting at Paltan Maidan on 17th June where it put forward a 21-point program demanding autonomy for East Pakistan. On 23rd June the Working Council of the Awami League decided that this members would resign from the legislative assembly if autonomy was not granted to East Pakistan. On 25ht August Bangabandhu told Pakistan’s assembly in Karachi:

On 21st October the party dropped the word ‘Muslim’ from its name at a special council of the Bangladesh Awami Muslim League, making the party a truly modern and secular one. Bangabandhu was reelected General secretary of the party.

On 3 February, Awami League leaders, during a meeting with the Chief Minister, demanded that the subject of provincial autonomy be included in the draft constitution. On 14 July, the Awami League at a meeting adopted a resolution opposing the representation of the military in the administration. The resolution was moved by Bangabandhu. On 4 September an anti-famine procession was brought out under the leadership of Bangabandhu defying Section 144. At least three persons were killed when police opened fire on the procession in Chawkbazar area. On 16 September, Bangabandhu jointed the coalition government, assuming he charge of Industries, Commerce, Labor, Anti-Corruption and Village Aid Ministry.

On 30 May, Bangabandhu resigned from the cabinet in response to a resolution of the party to strengthen the organization by working for it full-time. On 7 August, he went on an official tour of China and the Soviet Union.

Pakistan’s President, Major General Iskandar Mirza, and the chief of Pakistan’s army Genera Ayub Khan, imposed martial law on 7 October and banned politics. Bangabandhu was arrested on 11 October. Thereafter, he was continuously harassed through one false case after another. Released from prison after 14 months, he was arrested again at the jail gate.

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 organization called “Swadhin Bangal Biplobi Parishad” or Independent Bangla Revolutionary Council, comprising outstanding student leaders in order to work for the independence of Bangladesh.

Once again Bangabandhu was arrested under the Public Security Act on 6 February. He was freed on 18 June following the withdrawal of the four-year-long martial law on 2 June. On 25 June, Bangabandhu joined other national leaders to protest the measures introduced by Ayub Khan. On 5 July he addressed a public rally at Paltan Maid an where he bitterly criticized Ayub Khan. He went to Lahore on 24 September and joined forces with Shaheed Suhrawardy to form the National Democratic Front, an alliance of the opposition parties. He spent the entire month of October traveling across the whole of Bengal along with Shaheed Suhrawardy to drum up public support for the United Front.

Sheikh Mujib went to London for consultations with Suhrawardy, who was there for medical treatment. On 5 December, Suhrawardy died in Beirut.

The Awami League was revitalized on 25 January at a meeting held at Bangabandhu’s residence. The meeting adopted a resolution to demand the introduction of parliamentary democracy on the basis of adult franchise in response to public sentiment. The meeting elected Maulana Abdur Rashid Tarkabagish as party president and Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib as general secretary. On 11 March, an All-Party Action Council was formed. Bangabandhu led a committee to resist communal riots. Following the riots he took the initiative to start a vigorous anti-Ayub movement. Bangabandhu was arrested 14 days before the presidential election.

The government charged Sheikh Mujib with sedition and making objectionable statements. He was sentenced to a one-year jail term. He was later released on an order of the High Court.

On 5 February, a national conference of the opposition parities was held in Lahore. Bangabandhu placed his historic 6-point demand before the select committee of the conference. The 6-point demand was a palpable charter of freedom of the Bengalee nation. On the first day of March, Bangabandhu was elected president of the Awami League. Following his election, he launched a campaign to obtain enthusiastic support for the 6-point demand. He toured the entire country. During his tour he was arrested by the police and detained variously at Sylhet, Mymensingh and Dhaka several times. During the first quarter of the year he was arrested eight times. On 8 May, he was attested again after his speech at a rally of jute mill workers in Narayanganj. A countrywide strike was observed on 7 June to demand the release of Bangabandhu and other political prisoners. Police opened fire during the strike and killed a number of workers in Dhaka, Narayanganj and Tongi.

The Pakistan government instituted the notorious Agartala conspiracy case against Bangabandhu and 34 Bengalee military and CSP officers. Sheikh Mujib was named accused number one in the case that charged the arrested persons with conspiring to bring about the secession of East Pakistan from the rest of Pakistan. The accused were kept detained inside Dhaka Cantonment. Demonstrations started throughout the province to demand the release of Bangabandhu and the other co-accused in the Agartala conspiracy case. The trial of the accused began on 19 June inside Dhaka Cantonment amidst tight security.

The Central Students Action Council was formed on 5 January to press for the acceptance of the 11-point demand that included the 6-point demand of Bangabandhu. The council initiated a countrywide student agitation to force the government to withdraw the Agartala conspiracy case and release Bangabandhu. The agitation gradually developed into a mass movement. After months of protests, violations of Section 144 and curfews, firing by the police and the EPR and a number of casualties, the movement peaked into an unprecedented mass upsurge that forced Ayub Khan to convene a round-table conference of political leaders and announce Bangabandhu’s release on parole. On 22 February, the central government bowed to the continued mass protests and free Bangabandhu and the other co-accused. The conspiracy case was withdrawn. The Central Student Action Council arranged a reception in honor of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on 23 February at the racecourse (Suhrawardy Uddyan). At this meeting of one million people, Mujib was publicly acclaimed as Bangabandhu (Friend of Bengal). In his speech on the occasion, Bangabandhu pledged his total support to the 11-point demand of the student.

On 26 February, Bangabandhu joined the round-table conference called by Ayub Khan in Rawalpindi. At the conference Bangabandhu placed the 6-point demand of his party and the 11-point demand of the students and said: “To end the people’s anger there is no alternative to the acceptance of the 6-point and 11-point demand and the granting of regional autonomy”. When the Pakistani politicians and rulers rejected his demand he left the conference on 13 March. The next day he returned to Dhaka. On 25 March, Gen. Yahya Khan seized power and imposed martial law. On 25 October, Bangabandhu went to London on a three-week organizational tour. On 5 December, Bangabandhu declared at a discussion meeting held to observe the death anniversary of Shaheed Suhrawardy that henceforth East Pakistan would be called Bangladesh. He added: “There was a time when all efforts were made to erase the word ‘Bangla’ from this land and its map. The existence of the word ‘Bangla’ was found nowhere except in the term Bay of Bangal. I on behalf of Pakistan announce today that this land will be called ‘Bangladesh’ instead of ‘East Pakistan.’

Bangabandhu was re-elected President of the Awami League on 6 January. The Awami League at a meeting of the Working committee on 1 April decided to take part in the general elections scheduled for later that year. On 7 June, Bangabandhu addressed a public meeting at the racecourse ground and urged the people to elect his party on the issue of the 6-point demand. On 17 October, Bangabandhu selected the boat as his party’s election symbol and launched his campaign through an election rally at Dhaka’s Dholai Khal. On 28 October, he addressed the nation over radio and television and called upon the people to elect his party’s candidates to implement the 6-point demand. When a mighty cyclone storm hit the coastal belt of Bangladesh, killing at lest one million people, Bangabandhu suspended his election campaign and rushed to the aid of the helpless people in the affected areas. He strongly condemned the Pakistani rulers indifference to the cyclone victims and protested against it. He called on the international community to help the people affected by the cyclone. In the general elections held on 7 December, the Awami League gained an absolute majority. The Awami League secured 167 out of 169 National Assembly seats in the then East Pakistan and gained 305 out of 310 seats in the Provincial Assembly.

On 3 January, Bangabandhu conducted the oath of the people’s elected representatives at a meeting at the Race Course ground. The Awami League members took the oath to frame a constitution on the basis of the 6-point demand and pledged to remain loyal to the people who had elected them. On 5 January, Zulfiquar Ali Bhutto, the leader of the majority party, the People’s Part, in the then West Pakistan, announced his readiness to form a coalition government at the centre with the Awami League. Bangabandhu was chosen as the leader of his party’s parliamentary part at a meeting of the National Assembly members elected from his party. On 27 January, Zulfiquar Ali Bhutto arrived in Dhaka for talks with Bangabandhu. The talks collapsed after three days of deliberations. In an announcement on 13 February, President Yahya Khan summoned the National Assembly to convince in Dhaka on 3 March. On 15 February, Bhutto announced that he would boycott the session and demanded that power be handed over to the majority parties in East Pakistan and West Pakistan. In a statement on 16 February, Bangabandhu bitterly criticized the demand of Bhutto and said, “The demand of Bhutto sahib is totally illogical. Power has to be handed over to the only majority party, the Awami League. The people of East Bengal are now the masters of power.”

On 1 March, Yahya Khan abruptly postponed the National Assembly session, prompting a storm of protest and throughout Bangladesh. Bangabandhu called an emergency meeting of the working committee of the Awami League, which called a countrywide hartal for 3 March. After the hartal was successfully observed, Bangabandhu called on the President to immediately transfer power to his party.

On 7 March, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman addressed a mammoth public rally at the Race Course ground, where he declared:


He advised the people to prepare themselves for a guerilla 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. Ever organization, including government offices, banks, insurance companies, schools, colleges, mills and factories obeyed Bangabandhu’s directives. The response of the people of Bangladesh to Bangabandhu’s call was unparalleled in history. It was Bangabandhu who conducted the administration of an independent Bangladesh from March 7 to March 25.

On 16 March, Yahya Khan came to Dhaka for talks with Bangabandhu on the transfer of power. Bhutto also came a few days later to Dhaka for talks. The Mujib-Yahya-Bhutto talks continued until 24 March. Yahya Khan left Dhaka in the evening of 25 March in secrecy. On the night of 25 March, the Pakistan army cracked down on the innocent unarmed Bangalees. They attacked Dhaka University, the Peelkhana Headquarters of the then East Pakistan Rifles and the Rajarbagh Police Headquarters.

Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman read out a wireless message, moments after the crackdown began, declaring the independence of Bangladesh as 25 March gave way to 26 March. His declaration was transmitted over wireless to the country:

He called upon all sections of people, including Bangalee military and civilian personnel, students, workers and peasants, to join the resistance against the occupation Pakistan army. This message of Bangabandhu was immediately disseminated throughout the country through radio equipment under special arrangements. The same night jawans and officers in Chittagong, Comilla and Jessore cantonments put up resistance to the Pakistan army after receiving this message. Bangabandhu’s declaration was broadcast by Chittagong Radio station. The Pakistanarmy arrested Bangabandhu from his Dhanmondi residence at 1-10 A.m. and whisked him away to Dhakacantonment. On 26 March he was flown to Pakistan as a prisoner. The same day, General Yahya Khan, in a broadcast banned the Awami League and called Bangabandhu a traitor.

On 26 March, M.A Hannan, an Awami League leader in Chittagong, read out Bangabandhu’s declaration of dependence over Chittagong radio. On 10 April, The Provisional Democratic Government of Bangladesh was formed with Bangabandhu as President.

The revolutionary government took the oath of office on 17 April at the Amrakanan of Baidyanathtala in Meherpur, which is now known as Mujibnagar. Bangabandhu was elected President, Syed Nazrul Islam acting President and Tajuddin Ahmed Prime Minister. The Liberation War ended on 16 December when the Pakistani occupation forces surrendered at the historic racecourse ground accepting defeat in the glorious was led by the revolutionary government in exile. Bangladesh were finally free.

Earlier, between August and September of 1971, the Pakistani junta held a secret trial of Bangabandhu inside Lyallpur jail in Pakistan. He was sentenced to death. The freedom-loving people of the world demanded absolute security of Bangabandhu’s life. Once Bangladesh was liberated, the Bangladesh government demanded that Bangabandhu be released immediately and unconditionally. A number of countries, including India and the Soviet Union, and various international organizations urged the release of Bangabandhu. Pakistan had no right to hold Bangabandhu, who was the architect of Bangladesh. In the meantime, Bangladesh had been recognized by many countries of the world.

The Pakistan government freed Bangabandhu on 8 January 1972. Bangabandhu was seen off at Rawalpindi by Zulfiquar Ali Bhutto, by now Pakistan’s president the same day Bangabandhu left for London en route to Dhaka. InLondon, British Prime Minister Edward Heath met him. On his way back home from London Bangabandhu had a stop-over in New Delhi, where he was received by Indian President V. V. Giri and Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

A memorable reception was accorded to Bangabandhu when the Father of the Nation reached Dhaka on 10 January. From the airport he drove straight to the Racecourse Ground where he made a tearful address before the country. On 12 January, Bangabandhu became Bangladesh’s Prime Minister. On 6 February he traveled to India at the invitation of the Indian government. After twenty-four years the Dhaka University authorities rescinded his expulsion order and accorded him the University’s life membership.

On 1 March he went to the Soviet union on an official visit. The allied Indian army left Dhaka on 17 March at the request of Bangabandhu. On 1 Ma he announced a raise in the salary of class three and four employees of the government. On 30 July Bangabandhu underwent a gall bladder operation in London. From there he went toGeneva. On 10 October the World Peace Council conferred the Julio Curie award on him. On 4 November, Bangabandhu announced that the first general election in Bangladesh would be held on 7 March, 1973. On 15 December, Bangabandhu’s government announced the provision of according state awards to the freedom fighters. On the first anniversary of liberation the constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh was framed.

Among the important achievements of the Bangabandhu government:

The reorganization of the administrative system, framing of the constitution, rehabilitation of one crore people, restoration and development of communication system, expansion of education, supply of free books to students upto class V and at low price to students upto class VIII, effective ban on all anti-Islamic and anti-social activities like gambling, horse races, drinking of liquor, establishment of Islamic Foundation, reorganization of Madrasa Board, establishment of 11,000 primary schools, nationalization of 40,000 primary schools, establishment of women’s rehabilitation centre for the welfare of distressed women, Freedom Fighters Welfare Trust, waiving tax upto 25 bighas of land, distribution of agricultural inputs among farmers free of cost or at nominal price, nationalization of banks and insurance companies abandoned by the Pakistanis and 580 industrial nits, employment to thousands of workers and employees, construction of Ghorasal fertilizer factory, primary work of Ashuganj complex and establishment of other new industrial units and reopening of the closed industries. Thus Bangabandhu successfully built an infrastructure for the economy to lead the country towards progress and prosperity. Another landmark achievement of the Bangabandhu government was to gain recognition of almost all countries of the world and the United Nations membership in a short period of time.

The Awami League secured 293 out of the 300 Jatiya Sangsad (parliament) seats in the first general elections. On 3 September, the Awami League, CPB and NAP formed Oikya Front (United Front). On 6 September, Bangabandhu traveled to Algeria to attend the Non-Aligned Movement summit conference.

The People’s Republic of Bangladesh was accorded membership of the United Nations. On 24 September, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman addressed the UN General Assembly in Bengali.

On 25 January, the country switched over to the presidential system of governance and Bangabandhu took over as President of the republic. On 24 February, Bangladesh Krishak Sramik Awami League, comprising all the political parties of the country, was launched. On 25 February, Bangabandhu called upon all political parties and leaders to join this national party. He felt the need for making Bangladesh a self-reliant nation by reducing dependence on foreign aid. So he overhauled the economic policies to achieve the goal of self-reliance, He launched the Second Revolution to make independence meaningful and ensure food, clothing, shelter, medicare, education and work to the people. The objectives of the revolution were: elimination of corruption, boosting production in mills, factories and fields, population control and establishment of national unity.

Bangabandhu received an unprecedented response to his call to achieve economic freedom by uniting the entire nation. The economy started picking up rapidly within a short time. Production increased. Smuggling stopped. The prices of essentials came down to within the purchasing capacity of the common man. Imbued with new hope, the people untidily marched forward to extend the benefits of independence to ever doorstep. But that condition did not last long.

In the pre-dawn hours of 15 August, the noblest and the greatest of Bengalees in a thousand years, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the architect of Bangladesh and the Father of the Nation, was assassinated by a handful of ambitious and treacherous military officers. On that day, Bangabandhu’s wife, a noble woman, Begum Fazilatunnessa; his eldest son, freedom fighter Sheikh Kamal; second son Lt. Sheikh Jamal; youngest son Sheikh Russel; tow daughters-in-law Sultana kamal and Rosy kamal; Bangabandhu’s brother Sheikh Naser; brother-in-law and agriculture minister Abdur Rab Serniabat and his daugher baby Serniabat; Arif Serniabat, grand son Sukanto Abdullah and nephew Shahid Serniabat Bangabandhu’s nephew, youth leader and journalist Sheikh Fazlul Huq Moni and his pregnant wife Arzoo Moni; Bangabandhu’s security officer Brig. Jamil and a 14-year-old boy Rintoo were killed. In all the killers slaughtered 16 members and relatives of Bangabandhu’s family.
Martial law was imposed in the country after the killing of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Democracy was done away with and basic rights were snatched away. Thus began the politics of killing, coups and conspiracy. The people’s rights to food and vote were taken away.

There is international provision to hold trial of killers to protect human rights in the world. But unfortunately inBangladesh, a law was enacted under a martial law ordinance exempting the self-confessed killers of Bangabandhu from any trial. Having captured power illegally through a military coup, Gen. Ziaur Rahman spoiled the sanctity of the constitution by incorporating the notorious Indemnity Ordinance in the Fifth Amendment to the constitution. He rewarded the killers by providing them with jobs in Bangladesh diplomatic missions abroad. The people are suffering from lack of security as the killers, instead of being punished, have been rewarded. The Indemnity Ordinance, which is opposed to basic human rights, has to be repealed and the killers punished to restore rule of law in the country. The indemnity Ordinance was repealed by parliament only after the Awami League led by Bangabandhu’s daughter Sheikh Hasina returned to power in 1996.

August 15, 1975, is the blackest day in Bangladesh’s national life. The nation observes this day as National Mourning Day.

He liberated his country twice

Moujib20110110093603Just after three days (15th August), the nation is going to observe the national mourning day. 37 years ago, the father of the nation was brutally murdered this day along with most of his family members. Now I think we should not mourn but remember him as the saviour of a lost nation and its thousands-of-years-old culture.

Though he was killed, he is not a dead person. He is very much alive among his people and they adore him as the founder of their free homeland. We only mourn for dead persons but he is still alive in the history that he himself created. In the US, President Abraham Lincoln was killed long ago. The Americans still remember him and do not mourn for him because Lincoln is still the living symbol of modern American democracy. He is still a living person in their memory and in their history.

I think, in Bangladesh, national mourning day should have been called a national memorial day. Now, Sheikh Mujib is called the founding father of Bangladesh throughout the world. His ranking is now with some other greatest world leaders like George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Kemal Ataturk, Ahmed Sukarno and many others.

After his murder, a great British humanist, Fenner Lord Brockway, sent a condolence letter to a Bangladeshi community leader in London. In the letter he said, “Sheikh Mujib might not be as great leader as Gandhi, Washington or Lincoln; but his achievements were greater than all other great leaders. Gandhi or Washington liberated their country once but Sheikh Mujib liberated his country twice.” He fought against the Pakistani Military rulers risking his own life and liberated his country. After returning to his independent country, he took a stand which made it possible for Bangladesh to get itself free of the presence of Indian forces. If Sheikh Mujib could not come back to Bangladesh in time after independence, the Indian forces might not have left the country in such a short period.

It was very unfortunate that Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman did not get the time to rebuild his country, but what he achieved within the short time of three and half years, was a miracle. He reconstructed the war devastated economy of the country, got recognition from most of the countries of the world including the US and formulated a new system of governance which would change the face of the country and could pave the way of its development.

In his political thinking, Sheikh Mujib was a social democrat like Jawaher Lal Nehru of India. But his difference with Nehru was in political goal. Nehru followed a policy of mixed economy and gradually took a more capitalistic path than a socialistic one, but Mujib wanted to go for command economy of socialism and left the political multi-party system.

In one of his speeches, he explained that the society was very class ridden and one of the classes was extremely powerful with the privileges of colonial times. We needed to break the shackles of that system. He wanted to establish a democracy not only for the urban middle class but for the whole exploited classes of the country. That is why he termed his new system as his second revolution. But Sheikh Mujib could no mobilize the social forces to finish his second revolution. A counter revolutionary force in the country conspired to murder him and overthrow his government with the help of world imperialism and capitalism. They were afraid that Mujib would go for socialism and already he had an alliance with the Indo-Soviet bloc. The Middle Eastern kings and sheikhs were afraid of his secularism. So, some of the kingdoms also joined their hands with these conspirators.

After the murder of Mujib, the civil and military bureaucracy of Bangladesh, which was under the heavy influence of the past British and Pakistani colonial masters, took over power with the support of discredited politicians and communal elements. They immediately removed two of the main principles of the state: socialism and secularism from the Constitution. A military dictator Ershad arbitrarily introduced the state religion in the Constitution. It was the military rulers who rehabilitated the communal and fundamentalist forces in national politics.

Sheikh Mujib’s political party BAKSAL (Bangladesh Krishok Shromik Awami League) was a political conglomeration of left and centre left parties. After the revival of political activities in the country BAKSAL was dissolved. Old parties were revived. The Awami League was also revived. But without a proper leadership it was unable to confront the military rulers.

When Sheikh Hasina, the daughter of Sheikh Mujib, came back to Bangladesh from abroad and took the leadership of the party then the party became active and vibrant again. Though she was not an experienced leader at that time, she brought back the magic touch of her father to the party. It became the most powerful political organization again. Her task was enormous. There was a fight between the right and the left groups of the party and the older leaders like Dr Kamal Hossain and others were waiting in the wings for Hasina to fail so that they could capture the leadership.
It was like a fight between Indira Gandhi and the Kamaraj group of the Congress party of India for the leadership of the party. When Indira Gandhi became the Prime Minister of India, the older leadership of the Congress under Kamaraj, first supported her in the hope that she would eventually fail and they would be at the top of the party.
But Indira with the support of the left wing of the Congress defeated them and proved she was a much more capable politician than the elders. The same thing happened in Bangladesh. The older leadership in spite of their manoeuvring capacity and outside support could not defeat Hasina and did not succeed in their plan. Hasina won two elections and in the face of numerous attempts on her life she is still alive and is the Prime Minister of Bangladesh. She hanged those killers, after a proper trial, who had murdered the father of the nation and has started the trial of war criminals of 1971.

She has tried to restore the secular character of the Constitution and started pursuing a foreign policy to keep the country in the middle path. She also has failures. Her government, though it had success in the field of agriculture and education, failed to combat corruption, social crimes, especially the misdeeds of the Students’ League.

The urban people are not satisfied with the government’s handling of water, electricity and gas problems. They are vocal about the law and order situation also. The government has failed to get help from the World Bank for constructing the Padma Bridge. And the Nobel laureate Dr Yunus is also gathering support to fight the government’s decision about the Grameen Bank.

Not only the external powers but a large number of the elite in the country and a section of the media are supporting Dr Yunus for various reasons. The opposition BNP, after their devastating defeat in the election of 2008, is showing their strength again in the streets and Jamaat is fighting tooth and nail to thwart the trial of the war criminals of ‘71.

Now Hasina is facing opponents on many fronts. Though the government is not unpopular among the rural voters, but most of the urban population is against them. Some people compare the present time of Sheikh Hasina with the earlier period of 1975 when her father’s government was in power. They say, “She should learn from the history of her father’s government, and should take strong corrective measures to combat not only her political opponents but the enemies of the ideals of independence.”

This year Awami League should not only observe the national mourning day. They should use this day to arm themselves with the ideals of the Father of the Nation. There is only a year for the Awami League government to face another election. Still there is time and the 15th August should alert the government and the party in power to correct themselves and to mobilize the social forces to fight against a very powerful combination of antagonists and enemies.

London, 10 August 2012

Author/Editor : Abdul Gaffar Chowdhury