Mujib and the Declaration of Independence

bb7th_marchThe vow to reveal the rights and wrongs of the history of our Liberation War, and to give individuals the credit they deserve, is a welcome gesture on the part of the caretaker government. The chief of the army General Moeen U. Ahmed has made an overt declaration that they will settle the long-standing disputes about the history of our independence, and deal with them fairly and squarely on the basis of fact.

This sounds very good indeed, especially to those who want to read an undisputed history of our Liberation War, which has undergone huge distortion at the hands of vested quarters and political governments. Party intellectuals held repeated postmortems of history to use it in their favour. This tug of war with our history has caused serious harm to our national integrity. The impressionable young learners have been the worst victims of this. They are confused with the frequent changes in the historical accounts, which are in a state of flux in keeping with the change of the governments.

This long-drawn-out hostility between the two major rival parties, Bangladesh Awami League (AL) and Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), revolves around their two political idols — Mujib and Zia.

The caretaker government seems to be making an attempt to bury the hatchet between these two parties by settling the dispute about who really declared independence of Bangladesh.

The government appears to be taking a conciliatory step to please both the parties. It seem to be keener on mediation than on unearthing the truth.

The government recognises Mujib as the Father of the Nation and Zia as the declarer of independence on Mujib’s behalf. This is good. Mujib was the undisputed leader of our independence and deserves this appellation, regardless of anybody’s recognition. And Zia read out the declaration note on behalf of Mujib on March 27, 1971.

This is surely based on hard fact, but the question is how far this reading out of the declaration note of March 27 could be considered as the formal declaration of the independence of Bangladesh, which was virtually made on March 26, 1971. History should be treated dispassionately, with cool and clinical impersonality. It does not bother about negotiations. So the facts about the declaration of our independence should be taken into consideration by the government.

It is Mujib and only Mujib who, for the first time, formally made the declaration of the independence of Bangladesh on March 26, 1971. S. A. Karim in his Sheikh Mujib: Triumph and Tragedy writes that the wife of M.R. Siddiqi was given over telephone an urgent message from Bangabandhu received through the wireless operators of Chittagong. The message reads as follows:

“Message to the people of Bangladesh and the people of the world. Rajarbagh police camp and Peelkhana EPR suddenly attacked by Pak Army at 2400 hours. Thousands of people killed. Fierce fighting going on. Appeal to the world for help in freedom struggle. Resist by all means. May Allah be with you. Joy Bangla.”

This message from Bangabandhu was then taken as the declaration of independence, which was read out by M.A. Hannan, general secretary of district (Chittagong) Awami League at 2:30 p.m. On this basis, March 26 was declared Independence Day.

The declaration of independence made by Major Zia took place on the following day (March 27,1971). As a matter of fact, Zia made two speeches. In the first speech, he claimed himself as the president of Bangladesh and urged upon the people to fight the Pakistan army.

When this unauthorised speech created confusion among the people, the Awami League leaders asked Zia to read out a text prepared by A. K. Khan to nullify the effect of the speech he had previously made. Zia followed the suggestion and made a second speech, where he categorically mentioned that he was speaking on behalf of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the great national leader. Had there been some other army official, a major or a colonel or the like, the effect would have been the same. Moreover, March 27 has not been declared Independence Day on the basis of Zia’s declaration.

So, Zia should not be said to have declared independence of Bangladesh. He only read out the message of declaration on behalf of Mujib, which, too, has an historic significance that was duly recognised by the Mujibnagar government. In addition, the constitution, which was accepted as the “Declaration of Independence” on April 10, 1971, by 403 elected MPAs and MNAs also bears the testimony to the declaration of independence by Bangabandhu.

Under that constitution was formed the first government of independent Bangladesh (Mujibnagar Government) with Mujib as the first president. The constitution of 1972 was later written in the light of that constitution. As it is put in the sixth section of that constitution (Declaration of Independence):
“Whereas in the facts and circumstances of such treacherous conduct Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the undisputed leader of 75 million people of Bangladesh, in due fulfillment of the legitimate right of self-determination of the people of Bangladesh duly made a declaration of independence at Dacca on March 26, 1971 …”

Again, in Section 10 of that constitution, Mujib’s declaration of independence is confirmed:

“We the elected representatives of the people of Bangladesh … thereby confirm the Declaration of Independence already made by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman”

That Mujib declared independence is an historical truth, which is properly substantiated by the Declaration of Independence of April 10, 1971, which can be considered as the precursor of the constitution of 1972. Bangabandhu is regarded the Father of the Nation for his contribution to the birth of our nation. Although this is a much bigger thing than being the claimant for a declaration, nevertheless, facts cannot be reduced to fantasies.

To show Mujib as the architect of the declaration of independence has got very little to do with his being the founding father of the nation. Even then, all these arguments can be ignored, but the course of history cannot be changed. This is what history is. We can hold it down or repress it. But we cannot stop it. The caretaker government should take great care of the history of the liberation war, bring all these into consideration, and go about the job of amending the text books of the primary and secondary classes in right earnest.

Author : Dr. Rashid Askari, writer, columnist and Professor of English, Islamic University, Kushtia.

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.


Life of My Father : Sheikh Hasina

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 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.

BANGLA PM HASINA GARLANDS FATHER'S PORTRAIT.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.

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/Editor : Sheikh Hasina

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

I remember the day

BBC (53)Does anyone need to remember the sun, the moon, the Himalayas or, for that matter, the primordial oceans? Does anyone need to put in some conscious efforts to remember the air that one inhales, the heartbeat that goes on unceasingly till death?

They are all there, always there, absolutely inseparable from one’s life, one’s surroundings and one’s existence as an entity governed by one’s conscience. We do not need to remember Bangabandhu the way we need to remember our mundane jobs because remembering is linked to forgetting that is to be recollected only at some time or other. The phenomenon that is Bangabandhu is never a matter of forgetting even in the minimal which is tantamount to forgetting one’s own identity in a green, riverine expanse of promising alluvial soil. Therefore, the rationale is since we do not, we cannot forget Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the question of remembering him consciously cannot arise at all because he is enmeshed with every breath of our life, merged with every bit of our sensibilities, and, therefore, he is not for us to be remembered on some days only. He is all around us and certainly with us, his own people. There has been no separation, no rift in this respect in spite of the willful determination of some conspirators for decades. The sun sets for a while only to rise in its full radiance and glory for all days to come. It does not set forever. Short sighted, ill-motivated people hardly realise this.

But I remember this day when early in the morning on BBC television we heard the news of his killing by some indoctrinated conspirators who, immersed in their self-righteous way and unable to face him with moral principles, summoned up their cowardice to bring an end to his mortal life. Of course, my first reaction was feeling an ocean of grief. Nevertheless, I felt a strange kind of boldness in spirit inside me that told me that as earthly life is ephemeral for everybody so is an impulsive act of some wild marauders. And my intuition told me that was not going to be the end-all.

Next we called up Major Mustafizur Rahman, who later became army chief of staff and was then undergoing higher training at a military academy in Chatham, Kent, the hometown of the outstanding writer Charles Dickens, and drove to his place from Gravesend, Kent, where we lived. We met with his wailing wife, one of the first cousins of Bangabandhu. There was nothing we could offer her as solace. An avalanche of grief surrounded all of us, all Bengalis, one that knew no bounds.

For days together, I carried out household chores mechanically, managing to remain calm and be the same sincere teacher in a primary junior school in Dartford bordering Essex county. A grief that is your own may make others bored after a while. So the thought that the ‘poet of politics’ was no more could not be shared much with others at the workplace. News and commentary went on BBC every now and then, narrating the gruesome story and at the same time covering the outbursts of some ‘disgruntled’ persons telling reporters about their ‘grievances’ that seemed to have been removed by the killing of Bangabandhu. Some of their gleeful assertions only exposed their crooked minds, a scene comparable to the jubilation of some Bengalis of East Pakistan in London on hearing the news of Jawaharlal Nehru’s death in 1964 and that I witnessed from the window of our room facing the street at Kensington Garden Square. Vandalising and ransacking our High Commission premises, pulling down Bangabandhu’s portraits and stepping on them were some of the ugly spectacles that we watched in shame and sorrow. My conscience told me that those who had planted their feet on the portraits certainly had no right to put their feet on the soil of Bangladesh.

Several phone calls came in for days together that spoke of two distinctive groups of people diametrically opposite to each other in mindset and who naturally could not see eye to eye. After a couple of days, I called up the residence of our High Commissioner, His Excellency Syed Abdus Sultan, owing to an irresistible desire to talk to Kulsum Apa, the High Commissioner’s wife who had been my colleague at the Teachers’ Training College for Women in Mymensingh. Syed Abdus Sultan himself answered the phone saying that she was busy otherwise and so could not be reached. He sounded distraught. The rest was understood.

An episode ends, a carnage ends, but its legacy does not. Those who are blinded by their self-grown reasons rush into violence that gratifies only them. They eventually get lost in the dark alleys of life. Our Bangabandhu could not be pushed back into oblivion and how could he? One should read and re-read those two famous lines in the poem by the great scholar poet Annada Shankar Roy to get an answer.

Author : Dr. Nazma Yeasmeen Haque is Principal, Radiant International School.