The untruths around Bangabandhu

A retired deputy head of the BBC’s Bengali Service last week gave a new twist to Bangladesh’s history through a letter to The Guardian newspaper in London. He was responding to an article by Ian Jack on Bangladesh, which article we will, if we so wish, deal with later. At this point, note what this Bengali gentleman had to say about Bangabandhu’s arrival in London on January 8, 1972 following his release from Pakistani detention by the government of President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

On his arrival at Heathrow, said this long-time BBC broadcaster, Bangladesh’s founding father was received by Apa Panth, the Indian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom. When Panth addressed Bangabandhu as “His Excellency,” Sheikh Mujibur Rahman appeared surprised. To all intents and purposes, he had thought that he had been freed by the Pakistan government after full regional autonomy had been granted to East Pakistan. He had absolutely no idea, implied the veteran broadcaster, that Bangladesh had become a free country. And that was not all. This journalist also peddled the untruth that he was the first Bengali to meet Bangabandhu once the latter had checked in at London’s Claridge’s Hotel.

That letter in The Guardian is proof once again of the persistence with which Bangabandhu’s detractors –and sometimes his followers — have been trying to undermine his place in history through their imaginary tales and concocted stories. Let the record of Bangabandhu’s arrival in London in January 1972 be set straight.

At Heathrow, the Father of the Nation, accompanied by his constitutional advisor Kamal Hossain and Hossain’s family, was received by John Sutherland, a senior official at Britain’s Foreign Office. Also on hand was the senior-most Bengali diplomat in London at the time, M.M. Rezaul Karim. In his account of the day’s events, Karim, now deceased, left behind a clear narrative that no one has questioned till now.

Bangabandhu hopped into Karim’s car (and Karim himself was at the wheels) rather than take the limousine the British government had placed at his disposal and on the way pelted the diplomat with endless questions about the just-concluded War of Liberation. Crowds of Bengalis began to gather before Claridge’s once word began to get around that Mujib had arrived there. Our veteran journalist happened to be one of many who turned up there.

Hours later, Bangladesh’s leader spoke at a crowded news conference at the hotel on the matter of his imprisonment in Pakistan and the manner of his release by the Bhutto administration. Prior to the news conference, he had spoken to Prime Minister Edward Heath and Opposition Leader Harold Wilson, both of whom motored down to Claridge’s to greet Bangladesh’s founder-president. Bangabandhu had also spoken to Prime Minister Tajuddin Ahmed and his family as well as Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi soon after stepping into Claridge’s.

His performance at the news conference was a clear demonstration of his command of the situation. Besides, his meetings with Bhutto between the end of December 1971 and his release on January 8, 1972 were crucial: Mujib was informed by Bhutto of the new realities in the subcontinent, of the fact that there was a government at work in Bangladesh. The Pakistani leader wanted, though, guarantees from Bangabandhu that Bangladesh would maintain some kind of link, even a loose one, with Pakistan. Bangabandhu made no response.

And that is the story of January 1972. But when you seriously reflect on the many ways in which certain individuals have endlessly tried running Bangabandhu down, you cannot but be appalled at the depths to which they have gone to denigrate him. There are yet Bengalis whose sense of history and understanding of Bangabandhu’s political career come across as pitiably poor. They will raise the question of why Bangabandhu “surrendered” to the Pakistan army in March 1971. It is then that you are compelled to remind them that Bangabandhu’s politics had always been based on constitutionalism, that fear was never a part of his character, that he did not have it in him to run for his life.

In this country, we have had men, some of them well-known freedom fighters, who have gone around screaming their refusal to honour Sheikh Mujibur Rahman as Bangabandhu. When they do that, you ask them a couple of questions: If you do not honour Bangabandhu, why did you join a war that was waged in his name? And, more significantly, when an entire nation calls him Bangabandhu, who gave you the right to deny him his place in our consciousness and in our history?

There are then a few others who have sought to profit through alleged association with Bangabandhu. A veteran journalist, now living overseas, penned a book on his dealings with the Father of the Nation more than two decades ago. You would think, as you go through the work, that this newsman was the only individual in Bangladesh to proffer words of wisdom to Bangladesh’s founder.

He informs us, to our disbelief, that in the late hours of the night and buffeted by crises, Bangabandhu would seek his advice, call him and ask him to come over to 32, Dhanmondi. Of course, nothing of the sort happened. There is then the story of another individual (and he too lives abroad) who has tried convincing people that in the heady days of March 1971, he was press secretary to Bangabandhu. He was not. No one recalls him in that position.

Lord, forgive them, for they know not what they do!

Author : Syed Badrul Ahsan / Daily Star

The writer is Editor, Current Affairs, The Daily Star. E-mail: bahsantareq@yahoo.co.uk

‘Why did they kill Bangabandhu?’

“Why did they kill Bangabandhu? I’m feeling very bad [about it],” a six-year old Suha asked his father while visiting the Bangabandhu Memorial Museum in the city on Monday.

The house at Dhanmondi Road 32, where the country’s founding president Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and most of his family members were killed by a handful of renegade army officers on Aug 15, 1975, is now known as Bangabandhu Memorial Museum.

Mujib, who led the country’s independence struggle, has been nick-named Bangabandhu, or friend of Bengal.

His body was found lying in a pool of blood on the stairs of the second floor of the house on the fateful night.

There were signs of shots almost everywhere on the wall of the second floor. The body of his wife, Begum Fazilatunnesa, sons Sheikh Kamal, Sheikh Jamal and Sheikh Russel, daughters-in-law Sultana Kamal Khuki and Parveen Jamal Rosy were found in his bedroom.

Mujib’s daughters, incumbent prime minister Sheikh Hasina and Sheikh Rehana, were in Belgium, and thus escaped the massacre.

There are signs of blood in the room where Hasina used to live. A photograph hung outside the room shows that Bangabandhu is looking at some pigeons.

The house was the centre point of the 1969 mass-uprising, 1970 general elections and non-cooperation movement of March 1971.

Curator of the memorial museum Syed Siddiqur Rahman said over 1,000 people visit the historical house every day.

Physician Mahbubur Rahman, who came from Jessore district to pay respect to Mujib, said: “Until I come here, I did not know what a simple life he (Mujib) led despite being such a great man.”

“How such a man of great mind and his family were so brutally killed?” he asked.

The people coming to pay their respect to the great leader demanded that his fugitive killers be brought back home through diplomatic efforts or otherwise and be hanged.
A government official, Shafiqur Rahman, who came to the museum along with his family said: “The nation won’t be free from disgrace if the killers are not hanged. And those who are opposing it should be punished too.”

“We should remember that those who are involved in the killing are not actually human beings…,” he contended.

Awami League general secretary and local government minister Syed Ashraful Islam has already said that the government has taken initiatives to bring the killers back.

Author : Mamunur Rashid /  Source : bdnews24

The nationalist that was Mujib

#bangabandhu : Eminent scientist Professor Abdus Salam had been invited by the then Islamic Academy, Dhaka to give a lecture on religion and nationalism a couple of months before the presidential election in 1964. The Academy was housed in an old two-storey abandoned building. That house was demolished to construct Bailul Mokarram shopping complex in the late sixties. My friend Ahmed Safa, the late writer, and I attended the lecture.

After the seminar was over, the Director of the Islamic Academy, Abul Hashim, a politician and thinker, was chatting with Dr. Salam and some other distinguished persons including Dr. Muhammad Shahidullah and Dr. Qudrat-e-Khuda. All on a sudden, Awami League leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Dr. Mofazzar Ahmed Chowdhury, a reader in the political science department at the University of Dhaka, showed up on the veranda of the Islamic Academy. Seeing Prof. Salam and Abul Hashim in the auditorium, they joined them. It was a Sunday morning. Perhaps they had gone to Awami League office, opposite the Academy, for party work. We were listening to their conversation from a considerable distance.

Almost all major political parties in East Pakistan had been supporting “provincial autonomy.” Their idea of autonomy was some kind of “political autonomy.” But Maulana Bhasani and Sheikh Mujib’s concept of autonomy was different from that of other Bengali leaders. They demanded full provincial autonomy and an “autonomous economy” for East Bengal.

I still remember the gist of this informal conversation. Speaking on the provincial autonomy, Sheikh shaheb pointed out the disparity between the two wings of Pakistan. He quoted from Dr. Mahbubul Huq’s newly published Strategy of Economic Planning in Pakistan, and said that in order to redress the economic disparity between the two wings it was necessary to dismantle the central Planning Commission to create two powerful regional planning bodies. He emphatically said that the region should have the authority to tax, and the power to make fiscal and monetary policy on its own. So far as I can recollect, Dr. Salam endorsed the views of Sheikh Mujib. Bangabandhu further said that the provinces should have the power to form foreign policy and conduct foreign relations. It was two years before the announcement of his Six Points.

By the early 1960s, Sheikh Mujib was known to all as the standard-bearer of Bengali nationalism. It was the period of military dictatorship of Field Martial Ayub Khan. Sheikh Mujib was his greatest opponent. He fought relentlessly for the revival of democracy in Pakistan and provincial autonomy for East Pakistan. From the nationalist and from the conservative standpoint, his role in power politics was unparalleled.

In 1963, Sheikh Mujib went to London to consult with his ailing political guru, Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy, who was in self-exile. The two had detailed discussions on the political situation prevailing in Pakistan. Mujib didn’t like foreign involvement in achieving the rights of the people of East Pakistan.

Suhrawardy wrote in his unfinished memoirs: “Mujib has doubts that national unity and national integration will solve the problems of East Pakistan. He is not interested in the field of foreign politics as he does not believe that any foreign country should become deeply committed here; East Pakistan must work out its own destiny. Hence, there is no point seeking foreign political involvement.” [Memoirs of Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy, P. 71]

After the death of Suhrawardy in December 1963, it became difficult to keep the party together. Ataur Rahman Khan was a gentleman politician. He had neither courage nor charisma. Neither he nor any other leader had any command over the younger leaders and workers. At that crucial time, Mujib took over the helm of the party. Sheikh Mujib not only led the Awami League, but also led the nation to independence in seven years.

After liberation, Bangabandhu had to tackle multifarious problems. He faced severe opposition from various quarters at home and abroad. Anti-liberation parties like Jamat-e-Islami, Muslim League and Nezam-e-Islam, which were banned by the government, and other reactionary forces, communal elements, and underground ultra-Left outfits went on with their conspiracy and anti-government propaganda. The political and social elite did not cooperate with the government. Because of economic hardship the ordinary people were frustrated. In the meantime, creation of Baksal — one-party rule — angered the Western capitalist bloc.

The Bangladesh liberation war got active support from the Soviet Union and its East European allies. Both the US and the Soviet Union were trying to gain influence in the impoverished nation. The influence of US was more than that of the USSR as the US was able to pour in more aid and assistance and its intelligence was more efficient and pro-active. Pakistani intelligence was also active and got support from the US. China and Muslim countries were against the Bangladesh freedom movement because of India’s total support to Bangladesh. In these circumstances, Bangabandhu had become a victim.

The people of Bangladesh had experienced the military coups of Ayub and Yahya Khan. Both were bloodless. But the August 15 coup was the worst possible military savagery.

Who killed Sheikh Mujib? Dalim-Faruk and others in the army were mercenaries. And Mushtaq? Brutus was better.

Samar Sen, an astute diplomat, was India’s high commissioner to Bangladesh in 1975. He saw the political developments in Bangladesh from close quarters. Twenty-three years after the coup, Sen told the Frontline journalist Sukumar Muralidharan in 1998: “We had been keeping in touch with all elements within Bangladesh. India’s intelligence services — whose operations few of us know much about — retained contact even with elements hostile to Sheikh Mujib. He felt that these contacts were uncalled for and asked us to stop them. We did so. As a result, until the time of the coup, we had no idea that things had deteriorated quite so badly. In retrospect, it is clear that the August coup, apart from being a rude awakening, was perhaps a logical outcome of the situation of chaos that prevailed.”

The August 15 military action was a coup with a difference. It changed, among other things, the secular and democratic character of Bangladesh.

I saw Bangabandhu for the first time in 1954 on the banks of the mighty Padma at Aricha ghat. The last I saw him was in the Bangabhaban Darbar Hall on July 31, 1975. To him, personal relationship was very important. He maintained excellent relations with his opponents and adversaries. Two weeks before the 1973 elections, National Awami Party chairman Maulana Bhasani was admitted to PG Hospital. Bangabandhu rushed to visit him. Hearing the voice of Bangabandhu, the Maulana sat up from the bed. Bhasani touched the hands of Mujib and wished him all success in the election. He stressed on “a stable government” under his premiership.

While in the IPGMR, the Maulana did not have the chance to eat any food supplied by the hospital. Admirers sent home-made food for him. Begum Fazilatunnesa Mujib herself went or sent somebody to the hospital almost everyday with big tiffin-carriers. She cooked small fish curries with hot green chilly and spices to the taste of the Maulana. This gesture of the Mujibs annoyed the leaders and candidates of NAP.

I would like to cite another anecdote. A couple of months before the August tragedy, poet Jasimuddin asked me: “Bhai, could you accompany me to Dhanmondi? I’ve an urgent talk with Bangabandhu.” I gladly agreed. So far as I can recollect, the rickshawalla demanded taka two. It was exorbitant. The poet got angry. He haggled with the rickshaw-puller over the fair and hired the rickshaw from Bangladesh Bank to Bangabandhu Bhavan for taka one and a-half.

On reaching Bangabandhu Bhavan, the poet paid and patted the rickshawalla and walked straight to the drawing room. I followed him. Bangabandhu came down from the first floor. The two great Bengalis exchanged warm greetings and sat down on a sofa.

The poet said: “You’re from Faridpur, I’m also from Faridpur (district). I’ve come to you for a tadbir (a favour). My son-in-law is your son-in-law. Isn’t it?” “Of course,” Bangabandhu laughed and quipped: “Your son-in-law (meyejamai) is my son-in-law. I do understand what you want to say. You and Bhabi should not worry for Maudud. He is alright in jail. He will be released as soon as possible. I’m giving the order.”

Then they chatted for some time. The poet was highly gratified by the gesture of the president and supreme leader of the nation. Bangabandhu knew very well that the palli-kavi shouldn’t be entertained with tea or coffee. So, he asked his servant to serve him with muri, gur (molasses) and coconut — favourites of the poet.

This was Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. As a politician and statesman, he was not above mistakes or follies. As a mortal human being, he had his weaknesses and limitations. History will absolve all his mistakes and weaknesses. As the independence hero and nationalist leader, he is second to none.

Author : Syed Abul Maksud is a noted writer, researcher and columnist.

It’s Bangabandhu, not Zia HC rules Sheikh Mujib declared independence

In a watershed judgment, the High Court yesterday ruled that Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, not Ziaur Rahman, proclaimed the republic’s independence on March 26, 1971. The proclamation was relayed by Kalurghat Betar Kendra (radio centre) in Chittagong the following day, it added. Observers say the judgment will help end the long, bitter wrangle over a significant episode of the country’s independence history.

The unwanted debate over a settled issue began after the assassination of Ziaur Rahman in 1981 with his party BNP claiming he was the proclaimer of independence, not Bangabandhu. The HC bench comprised of Justice ABM Khairul Haque and Justice Mamtazuddin Ahmed yesterday dismissed that claim, which had befuddled many over the Liberation War history. It also ordered cancellation of second edition of the third instalment of 15-volume war documents that portray Zia as the declarer of independence. The Liberation War affairs ministry brought out the publications during the BNP-Jamaat-led alliance government in June 2004. The court said the government could take actions against those who sought to rewrite history. In the judgment containing several rulings and observations, it directed the administration to confiscate the books presenting Zia as proclaimer of independence. It also ordered the government to ensure that textbooks at all levels and for all mediums have the facts about the independence struggle.

The HC gave its verdict after reviewing all relevant documents, books, newspapers published at home and abroad in March 1971, and arguments of the lawyers. It directed the Attorney General’s Office and the petitioner to send a copy of the judgment to the education ministry.

The debate had the nation deeply split for nearly three decades, much to success of those relentlessly trying to warp the young minds. The most damaging was inclusion of distorted history in the textbooks. The judgment, first of its kind, came in response to a writ petition filed by freedom fighter MA Salam. Salam filed the petition as public interest litigation (PIL) on April 19, seeking court directives to stop distortion of history. Later, Wing Commander (retd) Hamidullah Khan, a freedom fighter and BNP leader, became party to the case, opposing the petition. Former chief of army staff Lt Gen (retd) Harun-ar-Rashid endorsed the petition and became involved in the proceedings on behalf of the Sector Commanders Forum. The court completed hearing last month.


The High Court bench observed that the Proclamation of Independence published on April 10, 1971, states beyond doubt that Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman made the declaration of independence. The Proclamation is protected by article 150 of the constitution and thus cannot be changed at will, it added. The court also declared illegal and unconstitutional the publications of the third volume of the books titled ‘Swadhinata Juddho: Dalilpatra’ (The Liberation War of Bangladesh: Documents). It directed the government to confiscate the books painting late president Ziaur Rahman as declarer of independence. Besides, it wants the government to stop sale, distribution and reprint of the books at home and abroad. The bench said the government might take initiative to bring to trial those involved in attempts to establish an untrue version of the Liberation War. It observed that the persons responsible have in fact committed an offence against the nation and the constitution.

The committee formed by the BNP-led alliance government to write and print history of the Liberation War had recommended that Ziaur Rahman be declared as the independence proclaimer in place of Bangabandhu, without having any authentic documents at its disposal. The court, however, said Zia had a valuable contribution to the independence war, and that he never claimed in his lifetime to be the proclaimer. Additional Attorney General M Enayetur Rahim, petitioner’s counsel Manzil Murshid, and Muntasir Mamun, a professor of history at Dhaka University, were present at the court during delivery of the judgment. They hailed the judgment as an epoch-making event. Talking to The Daily Star, they hope it would help restore the authenticated narrative of the Liberation War.


Originally, the information ministry compiled and published the documentary evidence of the Liberation War in 15 parts in 1982. Edited by Hasan Hafizur Rahman, those were reprinted in 2003. The Liberation War affairs ministry, set up during the BNP alliance regime, changed some of the facts in the second edition published in 2004. It deleted the first document of the third part that contained Declaration of Independence made in the name of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and broadcast from Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra on March 26, 1971. Instead, it included a document stating that Major Ziaur Rahman first declared independence from ‘Biplobi Betar Kendra [Chittagong]’ on March 27, wherein he claimed to be the ‘provisional president and commander-in-chief of the liberation army’. The second document of the third part stated that Zia made another declaration on March 28 from Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra, this time on behalf of Mujib. In the first edition, the date was March 27. As the second edition caused an outcry, officials told The Daily Star, the then secretary Dr Mahbubul Alam had asked to stop selling the volume published under a Tk 5-crore project. Following his verbal orders, officials withdrew thousands of copies from the press.


According to the petition, the government on February 13, 1979, constituted an authentication committee for writing and printing history of the Liberation War. Dr Mofizullah Kabir was the committee chairman and Hasan Hafizur Rahman member-secretary. The books published by this committee in November 1982 were reprinted in December 2003. Both editions said Sheikh Mujibur Rahman declared independence on March 26, 1971. Besides, the petitioner says, the fact was recognised in the Proclamation of Independence. The Liberation War affairs ministry on approval of the then prime minister Khaleda Zia formed a committee to reprint the 15-volume books. Rejaul Karim, Prof M Moniruzzaman Mia, Prof Emazuddin Ahmed, Barrister Moinul Hossain, Dr Kamal Uddin Siddiqui, Prof Sirajul Islam, Prof KM Mohsin, Prof Abul Kalam Monjur Morshed and Prof Jasim Uddin Ahmed were members of the committee. In June 2004, the committee published the books giving an inaccurate report of the declaration of independence. During hearing of the petition, the court assigned Barrister M Amir-Ul Islam, one of those involved in framing the Proclamation of Independence, as amicus curiae (friend of the court) on the issue

Author : Julfikar Ali Manik and Ashutosh Sarkar?

Bangabandhu The generator of Bangalee nationalism


BANGABANDHU SHEIKH MUJIBUR RAHMAN DEDICATED his life to establishing a democratic, peaceful and exploitation-free society called “Sonar Bangla” – Golden Bengal. He sacrificed his life to liberate the Bangalee nation, which had been groaning under the colonial and imperialist yoke for nearly 1,000 years. He is the founding father of the Bangalee nation, generator of Bangalee nationalism and creator of the sovereign state of Bangladesh.

My father spent nearly half his life behind bars and yet with extraordinary courage and conviction he withstood numerous trials and tribulations during the long period of his political struggle. During his imprisonment, he stood face to face with death on at least two occasions, but never for a moment did he waver.

As a daughter of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, I heard many tales about him from my grandfather and grandmother. He was born on Mar. 17, 1920 in Tungipara, in what was then the British Raj. During the naming ceremony my great-grandfather predicted that Sheikh Mujibur Rahman would be a world-famous name.

My father grew up rural – amid rivers, trees, birdsong. He flourished in the free atmosphere inspired by his grandparents. He swam in the river, played in the fields, bathed in the rains, caught fish and watched out for birds’ nests. He was lanky, yet played football. He liked to eat plain rice, fish, vegetables, milk, bananas and sweets. His care and concern for classmates, friends and others was well-known. He gave away his tiffin to the hungry, clothes to the naked, books to the needy and other personal belongings to the poor. One day, my grandfather told me, he gave his clothes to a poor boy and came home in his shawl.

At the age of 7, he began his schooling, though an eye ailment forced a four-year break from his studies. He married at the age of 11 when my mother was 3. He demonstrated leadership from the beginning. Once in 1939, he led classmates to demand repair of the school’s roof – just when the premier of then undivided Bengal happened to be in town. Despite a deep involvement in politics, in 1946 he obtained a BA.

Bangabandhu The generator

Bangabandhu was blessed from boyhood with leadership, indomitable courage and great political acumen. He played an active role in controlling communal riots during the India-Pakistan partition. He risked his life for the cause of truth and justice. He rose in protest in 1948 against the declaration of Urdu as the state language of Pakistan and was arrested the following year. He pioneered the movement to establish Bangla as the state language. In 1966, he launched a six-point program for the emancipation of Bangalees. In 1969, my father was acclaimed Bangabandhu, Friend of Bengal. His greatest strength (and weakness) was his “love for the people.” He is an essential part of the emotional existence of all Bangalees.

The appearance of Bangladesh on the world map in 1971 was the culmination of a long-suppressed national urge. On Mar. 7, 1971, my father addressed a mammoth public meeting in Dhaka and declared: “The struggle now is the struggle for our emancipation, the struggle now is the struggle for Independence.” He sent a wireless message, moments after a crackdown by the Pakistani army, declaring the Independence of Bangladesh in the early hours of Mar. 26. The world knows he courted arrest – and yet Bangabandhu emerged as the unquestioned leader of a newborn country.

Once in power, my father pursued a non-aligned, independent foreign policy based on peaceful coexistence. Its basic tenet: “Friendship to all, malice to none.” He advocated world peace and declared his support for all freedom struggles. He supported the concept of a “Zone of Peace” in the Indian Ocean. In 1974, he was awarded the Julio Curie Prize for his devotion to the cause of peace.

But at a time when Bangladesh was emerging as an advocate for oppressed nations, his foes assassinated him on Aug. 15, 1975. My mother and three brothers were also killed. Even my younger brother Sheikh Russel, who was then nine, was not spared. The only survivors were my younger sister Sheikh Rehana and myself; we were on a trip to Germany.

Consequently, the political ideals for which Bangladesh sacrificed three million of her finest sons and daughters were trampled, and Bangladesh became a puppet in the hands of imperialism and autocracy. By assassinating Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the conspirators wanted to stop the country’s march to freedom, democracy, peace and development. The process of law and justice were not permitted to take their course; human rights were violated. It is, therefore, the solemn responsibility of freedom- and peace-loving people to help ensure the trial of the plotters and killers of this great leader, my father.

Author : Sheikh Hasina, daughter of the late Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, is the prime minister of Bangladesh.