Bangabandhu Murder Hearing, Faruque provoked all with monarchy story

Bangabandhu with cup a tea

The Supreme Court yesterday heard for the second day yesterday the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman assassination case. Syed Faruque Rahman, a convict in Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman assassination case, said that he, on August 14, 1975, had excited his colleagues, saying that President Sheikh Mujibur Rahman would proclaim monarchy in the country on August 15, the democracy will be damaged and the country will go under the possession of India and therefore they should depose the government of Sheikh Mujib.

Following his brief, the army men attacked the Dhanmondi house of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and killed him and others in the morning on August 15, 1975, he said it to the magistrate in his confessional statement.

Barrister Abdullah-al Mamun, counsel for convicts Bazlul Huda and AKM Mohiuddin Ahmed, yesterday placed this confessional statement of Faruque Rahman while placing submission before the Supreme Court (SC) during the second day hearing of the case.

Meanwhile yesterday, the five-member Appellate Division headed by Justice Md Tafazzal Islam asked the lawyers and journalists to be careful in making statements or reports on this case.

At the start of the hearing Attorney General Mahbubey Alam told the court that different lawyers and journalists on television talk shows are making different comments on the consequence of the case, which is not right.

The court can pass order asking the lawyers and journalists to be restraint in making comments, he said.

Barrister Mamun told the court the counsels for both the state and the defence of the case should be restraint in delivering statements on the case.

The attorney general’s office should be careful in delivering statements, as he had earlier said that the case would be resolved within this year, he said.

The court said not only both the parties in the case but all including the media should be restraint on the matter.

The apex court yesterday adjourned the hearing and fixed 9:30 am today for further hearing on the appeals of the five convicts.

The five convicts — dismissed army personnel Syed Faruque Rahman, Sultan Shahariar Rashid Khan, Mohiuddin Ahmed, AKM Mohiuddin Ahmed, and Bazlul Huda — who are in jail now, filed the appeals with the SC in October, 2007.

Mamun in his submission yesterday concluded placing the statement of Syed Faruque Rahman, and started placing confessional statement of another convict, Sultan Shahariar Rashid Khan.

He will also continue submission today.

After the hearing, Mamun told reporters that Syed Faruque Rahman was forced to make confessional statement to the magistrate and then judge of the High Court Justice Md Ruhul Amin in his verdict of this case did not accept this statement.

He said another judge of the High Court Justice ABM Khairul Haque in his verdict accepted the statement.

Mahbubey Alam told journalists at his office that the media can publish reports on the proceedings of Bangabandhu murder case but nobody can make comments on TV talk shows on who are innocent and who will get released.

Meanwhile, the courtroom of the case was shifted to room no 2 from room 3 of the Appellate Division. The first day’s hearing was held at room no 3, which is smaller in size than courtroom 2.

A number of lawyers and journalists were present at the courtroom during the hearing.

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

Bangladesh upholds death sentence for Mujib’s killers

DHAKA: Bangladesh’s Supreme Court upheld the death sentence for five convicted killers of the nation’s founding president Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, setting the stage for their execution.

The court dismissed the men’s final attempt to challenge their sentences for assassinating Mujib, as he was widely known, in 1975.

“The Supreme Court, headed by the country’s chief justice, has dismissed their final appeals,” Syed Anisul Haque, chief counsel for the state, told AFP.

The five former army officers could be hanged “at any moment”, he added.

Mujib led Bangladesh to independence in 1971 during a bloody war against Pakistan.

He was gunned down at his home, along with his wife and three sons, in a coup on August 15, 1975. His daughter, the current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, was abroad at the time.

A total of 20 people, including domestic staff, were killed when army officers stormed his house, but the murder charges that were brought only related to Mujib’s death.

“It is a landmark verdict and we think this will go a long way towards establishing the rule of law in the country,” Haque said.

The case was first heard in 1996 when Hasina became premier for the first time and removed a legal barrier enacted by the post-Mujib government to protect the accused officers.

At that time, 15 men were found guilty and sentenced to death.

Three were acquitted in 2001. Of the remaining 12, five appealed the verdict to the Supreme Court, six are in hiding and one is believed to have died in Zimbabwe.

“We will decide on the date for the execution as soon as we receive a copy of the Supreme Court order,” said additional inspector general of prisons Syed Iftekher Uddin.

The appeal argued that Mujib’s death was part of a mutiny and the defendants should therefore have been tried under martial law instead of through the civilian court system.

Author : Muhammad Faisal Jawaid Attari

The Life and Death of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman



This, surprisingly, is the first biography in English of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the founder of Bangladesh, even though more 30 years have passed since he was assassinated in a bloody military coup on August 15, 1975. Known to most Bangladeshis as Bangabandhu, or friend of Bengal, a title bestowed on him by acclamation in a mammoth public meeting in Dhaka on 22 February, 1969, he was truly a man of the people, someone who had made the cause of his countrymen and women his own through endless trials and tribulations. And yet he had been assassinated in the country he had championed ceaselessly soon after it became independent. Also, he had disillusioned quite a few people in record time in governing it. How did he win the hearts of his people as “the father of the nation” and secure a place in their history as Gandhi did in India or Jinnah did in Pakistan? What caused him to slide in their esteem? But also, what was he like as a human being as well as a leader? And now that three decades have passed since his death, is it possible to arrive at a real estimate of the man and his achievements?

It is to S. A. Karim’s credit that he has tried to raise these questions implicitly and explicitly and answer them succinctly and objectively in his biography, Sheikh Mujib: Triumph and Tragedy. Drawing on published sources, a few interviews with people who knew Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, his own encounters with him as the first Foreign Secretary of independent Bangladesh, Karim has striven to give a balanced, accurate, and thoughtful portrait of the man. His conclusion is that he was a leader whose triumph was on a heroic scale but whose ending was, at the very least, tragic.

Karim begin his biography by providing us with the background to Mujib’s rise to fame, the partition of India, and the rise of the Muslim League. He was barely twenty years old in 1941 when he first encountered Fazlul Haq, the Chief Minister of Bengal, and more importantly, Shahid Suhrawardy, the Minister of Commerce, when they visited Mujib’s hometown Gopalganj, then in the district of Faridpur, for a public meeting. He was immediately drawn to Suhrawardy’s brand of politics and Kolkata, where he became a student of Islamia College. Here he began to attract attention as a Muslim League activist, working indefatigably to rally Muslim students of the region to work for Suhrawardy’s faction of the party, which, ultimately, joined the movement for Pakistan. After partition, Mujib relocated to Dhaka, but found himself becoming increasingly alienated from the conservative politicians of the Muslim League who had arrogated power in East Pakistan. Inevitably, he became involved in the movement to establish Bengali as a state language of Pakistan, and the movement in turn led to the creation of the Awami Muslim League. Courting arrest repeatedly, and resorting to hunger strikes time and again when in prison, Mujib immediately became prominent in East Pakistan because of his continuous and principled opposition to the communal and feudal politics of the Muslim League. In quick time, he became the General Secretary of the increasingly secular Awami League (it dropped “Muslim” from its name in 1955), and a minister of the United Front government that drove the Muslim League from power in the provincial elections of 1954.

From this point onwards, there was no stopping Mujib, except by confinement in jail. As Pakistani politics more and more became the preserve of the military, as the military conspired with a few West and East Pakistani politicians and bureaucrats to deprive Pakistan of democracy, and as the numerically superior Bengalis of East Pakistan found themselves increasingly thrust out of power, Mujib was in the thick of the action to wrest back the rights of his people through a secular, organized, and democratic movement, even as a succession of military generals attempted to rule Pakistan through martial law. In and out of jail in the latter half of the 1950s and throughout the 1960s, Mujib became convinced that Pakistan was a dead end for his people and that a way out of the clutches of the military-bureaucratic coalition that was ruling Pakistan at this time was needed urgently.

In his desperation, Mujib even thought of seeking the help of India. Karim suggests that it could have been his admiration for Subhas Bose that led Mujib to take a secret trip to Agartala in January 1963 where he met Satindranath Sinha, the Chief Minister of Tripura, to see if Indian assistance would be forthcoming for a separatist movement. But according to Sinha, whom Karim quotes without citing the source, Nehru was not interested and the trip was inconsequential. It is ironic, then, that it was for a trip to Agartola that he never took that the Pakistani government would try him for treason in what has come to be known as the Agartola Conspiracy case in 1967. Unfortunately for them, the effort at concocting a conspiracy backfired, for not only were they unable to sustain their case in front of the special tribunal that was set up for the purpose, they were also forced to release Mujib in the face of increasingly violent agitation against them in both wings of Pakistan. Indeed, the Pakistani dictator of the period, Ayub Khan, was forced to resign, and Mujib left the jail triumphantly in 22 February 1969, widely acknowledged by this time in his part of Pakistan as the man most suited to lead it forward to autonomy and prosperity.

The next two years saw Mujib at his best: inspiring his people through fiery speeches in countless meetings, seemingly inexhaustible energy, and an indomitable will. He kept highlighting his party’s demand for complete autonomy in East Pakistan until the message went home: in the elections held in December, 1970, the Awami League won 167 of the 169 seats in the province. But Mujib, committed to negotiations through democratic channels, was mistaken in his assumption that the Pakistani generals and Zulfiquer Bhutto, the clear winner in West Pakistan, were going to hand over power to his party merely because it had a clear majority when it was bent on getting the maximum autonomy conceivable for East Pakistanis.

In fact, Yahya Khan, the general who replaced Ayub Khan, colluded with Bhutto to postpone the March 3, 1971 opening of the National Assembly. The result was a spontaneous and angry civil disobedience movement in East Pakistan which, in effect, negated the Pakistani state, making Mujib the de facto ruler of East Pakistan. As if to show that he was worthy of the part, Mujib gave what is undoubtedly his finest speech to his people on 7 March, stopping just short of independence, but claiming self-rule in almost all matters. Yahya Khan’s response, once again was to scheme with Bhutto, and make a show of negotiations, bent as they were on keeping West Pakistan dominant in deciding the future of Pakistan. And so Mujib and his party kept negotiating with Yahya and Bhutto in good faith, even as the Pakistani army prepared themselves for a crackdown that would decisively and brutally neutralize Mujib and his party and ensure perpetuation of their hegemonic rule.

The date in which the Pakistani army moved to destroy Mujib and thwart the Bengali desire for complete autonomy was the night of March 25. As far as Karim is concerned, Mujib and his party leaders had “ignored signs of the gathering storm” and thus an unsuspecting, unprepared people were brutalized, the movement for autonomy stunned, and Mujib himself captured. Here again Karim is critical of Mujib’s decision to let himself be arrested to deflect the Pakistan army from wrecking havoc in his country, Mujib, reportedly, told his followers who wanted him to flee, “If I leave my house (Pakistani) raiders are going to massacre the people of Dhaka. I don’t want my people to be killed on my account”, but his decision did not prevent genocide; on the contrary, it exposed his people to the wrath of the Pakistan army.

While the Pakistani army went on the rampage, Mujib himself was taken to prisons in West Pakistan where he underwent a trial at the end of which he was found guilty of trying to break up Pakistan and was awarded the sentence of death by hanging. Meanwhile, Bengali troops who had defected, political activists of various parties, and students and refugees who had fled to India came together to organize a guerilla campaign against the Pakistani army and to launch a war that would liberate their country. Inevitably, India was drawn into the conflict, and on December 16, 1971, the Pakistani army in East Pakistan surrendered in Dhaka to the combined Indian and Bangladesh forces. This was how Bangladesh was born after nine blood-soaked months. With the Pakistani army in disgrace, and Bhutto calling the cards, and in the face of international pressure, Mujib was released from jail and flown back to Dhaka via London in a RAF plane on 9 January 1972.

Mujib’s homecoming marked the most triumphant moment of his career as a politician who had worked steadfastly and whole-heartedly for his people. But the next few years saw him sliding in popularity and having a torrid time coping with the innumerable problems facing a poor nation that had been denuded for over two decades by the West Pakistanis and that had hemorrhaged steadily for nine months. The prescriptions that he got from his advisers in the Planning Commission, inclement weather conditions that led to a terrible famine in 1974, rising global oil prices, growing lawlessness, his unwillingness or disinclination to be firm with party men and women and relatives who were clamoring for benefits and sinecures, underground movements that appeared to be gathering momentum and threatening the state, all appeared to conspire to show Mujib as unable to cope with the responsibility of steering a nation from political independence to peace, stability, and prosperity.

The stage was set, in other words, for triumph to turn into tragedy. The man who had staked his life repeatedly for democracy now attempted to create a one party state, proscribe newspapers, and stifle dissent. A radical leader died mysteriously while in police custody. Members of Mujib’s extended family suddenly began to assume more and more power. People who had shown total devotion to him and Bangladesh like Tajuddin Ahmed was dropped and sycophants were promoted to important positions. The air in Dhaka was rife with rumors of conspiracies and coups but Mujib chose to ignore them, convinced that the people he loved and had been ready to die for would never harbor conspirators against him. And so it was that he rendered himself completely vulnerable and was murdered by some adventurous, resentful, and ambitious military men in the early hours of August 15, 1975.

Karim’s verdict on Mujib’s rise to fame and the darkening world in which he died and his assessment of his subject’s personality, career and contribution to Bangladesh is surely sound. His Mujib is a gracious and compassionate person, generous almost to a fault. His love for his people and willingness to sacrifice himself for them is never in doubt. He had more or less “single-handedly” spearheaded the movement for Bangladesh in its climactic phase and until his incarceration in 1971. And he had struggled to cope with extremely difficult situations the best he could till desperation forced him to adopt undemocratic measures. He was, in short, a “tragic hero” flawed and yet great and even grand.

S. A, Karim’s Sheikh Mujib: Triumph and Tragedy seems to have been written at leisure; the consequence is that it is even-paced, well-organized and sedate. He strives to be balanced and objective in his presentation and he writes out of a conviction that as a biographer he must be committed to presenting his subject truthfully and adequately. He has also tried to come up with a book that will be read by many and to that end he has decided not to overload it with “notes and references”.

It must be said though that Karim’s book is not the “comprehensive biography” he claims it to be in his Preface. For one thing, he spends far too much time sketching in the background and often loses sight of his subject in dealing with the historical contexts. At times, a few chapters might go by without any reference to Mujib and in scores of chapters he makes only a fleeting appearance. Indeed, one may occasionally even be mislead into thinking that one is reading a political history of Bangladesh where Mujib is the main actor and not his biography. Moreover, Karim appears to have not realized that a biographer’s task includes looking at archival material and contemporary newspaper reports and tracking down unpublished written sources as well as perusing published books and documents. He could have, for example, tried to include excerpts from the many speeches Mujib gave on public occasions that have been surely recorded in parliamentary proceedings; talked to his admirers, tracked his path to power doggedly instead of spending most of his time giving sketches of the political history of East Pakistan.

But what appears to be the singular defect of this biography is Karim’s reluctance to imagine himself into positions, crises and situations Mujib had to negotiate or to come close to his subject through what Keats had once characterized as “negative capability”. In his introduction to his incomparable biography of Samuel Johnson, James Boswell had claimed that the “more perfect mode of writing any man’s life” involved “not only relating all the most important events of it in order, but interweaving” it with the subject’s words and thought till “mankind are enabled to see him live”. In his conclusion, too, Boswell had felt with satisfaction that in his book the character of the great man had been “so developed “in the course of his work “that those who have honored it with a perusal, may be considered as well acquainted with him”. Karim follows Mujib from a great distance and almost never allows him to speak for himself. There is little or no effort to see Mujib from up close and there is definitely no attempt to get into his mind. The result is a biography that does not make us “see him live” and think and feel and this is a pity for by all accounts Mujib was a passionate, loving and caring man. Karim tries to make a virtue out of detachment and objectivity not realizing that what he needed to do was creatively represent the thoughts and emotions of a man who was overpowering because of his love for his people and conviction about what was right for them.

Nevertheless, there is a lot to be thankful for in Karim’s Sheikh Mujib: Triumph and Tragedy. At the very least, a sensible effort has been made to present the life of a great and generous even if flawed leader; surely others will now follow to give us a more intimate, imaginative, intensely realized and fuller portrait of the father of Bangladesh and the friend of all Bengalis everywhere. Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman deserves no less!

Author : S. A. Karim.

The University Press Limited, 2005. pp. 407, Tk. 500.00 ISBN 984 05 1737 6
Fakrul Alam is on leave from the University of Dhaka and now teaches English at East West University, Bangladesh.