The great leader
Mohammad Mamun Mia :
The name which has been engraved deeply on the heart of world people especially to Bengali speaking people is none but the great leader Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. He was an advocate of Democracy and Architect of the nation. His charismatic power and the landmark speech on 7 March 1971 led the people of the then East Pakistan to final struggle. His speech aroused them to fight for their rights and responsibilities. We find him everywhere at every crisis moments of the people.
Bangabandhu showed the potential of leadership since his school life. While a student of Gopalganj Missionary School, AK Fazlul Huq, the then Chief Minister of Bengal came to visit the school (1938). The young Mujib is said to have organized an agitation in order to impress the Chief Minister about the depressed situation of the region. While a student in Islamia College he was elected General Secretary of the College Students Union in 1946. He was an activist of the Bengal Provincial Muslim League and a member of the All India Muslim League Council from 1943 onwards. In politics he had been a fervent follower of Great leader Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy.
This great leader (1920-1975), Father of the nation and first President of Bangladesh, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was born on 17th March, 1920 in the village Tungipara under Gopalganj subdivision in the district of Faridpur. His father Sheikh Lutfur Rahman was a Serestadar in the Civil Court of Gopalganj. Mujib, the third among six brothers and sisters, had his primary education in the local Gimadanga School. His early education suffered for about four years due to eye problems. He passed Matriculation from Gopalganj Missionary School in 1942, Intermediate of Arts from Calcutta Islamia College in 1944 and BA from the same College in 1947.
During the General Elections of 1946, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, a born leader without doubt, was deputed by the Muslim League to work for the party candidates in the Faridpur district. After partition (1947), he got himself admitted into the University of Dhaka to study Law but was unable to complete it, because he was expelled from the University in early 1949 on the charge of 'inciting the fourth-class employees' in their agitation against the University authority's indifference towards their legitimate demands.
He was one of the principal organisers behind the formation of the East Pakistan Muslim Students League (1948). He was elected to one of the posts of Joint Secretaries of the newly established East Pakistan Awami Muslim League (1949) while interned in jail. In 1953, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was elected General Secretary of the East Pakistan Awami Muslim League, a post that he held until 1966 when he became President of the party. It was due to his initiative that in 1955 the word 'Muslim' was dropped from the name of the party to make it sound secular. It is indicative of his secularist attitude to politics that he developed after 1947. Later in one of his speeches, we find secularism in a public meeting at Suhrawardy Udyan, 9 June 1972:
"Bangladesh will be a secular state. Secularism is not anti-religion. Muslims will be practicing their religion. Hindus will be observing their faith. The Christians will be exercising their religion. Buddhists will be practicing their religion. In this land there is no anti-religion but there is secularism. This has a meaning. Here religions cannot be used as commodity for political purposes. Here people cannot be looted in the name of religion. Politics in the name of religion to create Razakars and Al-Badars in the soil of Bengal will not be tolerated any longer. The politics of communalism will not to be allowed."
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was one of the first among the Language Movement detainees (11 March 1948). His address on 21 September 1955 in the Pakistan Constituent Assembly on the question of Bangla language is noteworthy. Claiming the right to speak in his mother tongue, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman said :
"We want to speak in Bengali here, whether we know any other language or not it matters little for us. If we feel that we can express ourselves in Bengali we will speak always in Bengali even though we can speak in English also. If that is not allowed, we will leave the House, but Bengali should be allowed in this house; that is our stand."
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman grew in political eminence in the early 1960s. Through his captivating organizing ability he was able to retrieve the Awami League from intra party politics and exits of a number of factions from the party's mainstream. A magnetic organiser, he had established his full command over the party. In 1966, he announced his famous Six Point Movement what he called 'Our' [Bangalis'] Charter of Survival'.
The mass movement, organized especially by the younger generation, reached such a momentum in early 1969 that the Ayub regime tried to avoid an impending civil war in the country by withdrawing the case. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was released on 22 February 1969 unconditionally.On the following day of his release, the Sorbodoliyo Chhatro Songram Porishod (All Parties Students Action Committee), which proved to be the most effective political and social force in compelling the government to free him unconditionally, organised a mass reception to Sheikh Mujibur Rahman at Ramna Racecourse (now, Suhrawardy Udyan). On behalf of the Songram Porishad Tofael Ahmed, the President of the Songram Porishod, bestowed on Sheikh Mujibur Rahman the title of 'Bangabandhu' (Friend of the Bangalis). In him, they saw a great sacrificing leader who suffered jail terms for about twelve years during the 23 years of Pakistani rule. Twelve years in jail and ten years under close surveillance-Pakistan to Sheikh Mujib proved to be more a prison than a free homeland.
According to Evening Standard "Sheikh Mujibur Rahman now appears to be the boss of East Pakistan, with the complete support of the people. Rahman's home in Dhanmondi, already known as Number 10 Downing Street in imitation of the British Prime Minister's residence, has been besieged by bureaucrats, politicians, bankers, industrialists and people from all walks of life."(12 March 1971).
However, after the Liberation of Bangladesh on 16 December 1971 from Pakistani occupation, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was released from Pakistan jail and he made a triumphant homecoming via London arriving in Dhaka on 10 January 1972 in the midst of joy and jubilations throughout the country. Hundreds of thousands of people of all walks of life received him at the Tejgaon old Airport according him a heroic welcome. With his homecoming, all uncertainties loomed large around the leadership of the new republic, for that matter, the future of Bangladesh were removed, as Daily The Guardian (published from London) in an editorial on 10 January 1972 wrote: 'Once Sheikh Mujibur Rahman steps out at Dacca Airport the new republic becomes a solid fact.'
Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman headed the first government of the post-liberation Bangladesh for a short period of three years and a half. Starting from scratch his government had to deal with countless problems of a war ravaged country. Under the leadership of Bangabandhu, the state-building and nation-building took off the ground covering all important fields. Restoring law and order, recovering illegal arms, rehabilitating the mukhtijoddhas, rebuilding the communication system, saving lives of the people hostile to the War of Liberation from the public wrath, and, most importantly, feeding the hungry millions and many others were the formidable challenges before his government.
In spite of all these problems, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman never faltered to enact a Constitution, which he did within ten months. Return of Indian allied forces was ensured within three months of Liberation. Within a period of fifteen months general elections were held (7 March 1973). As many as 140 countries recognized Bangladesh. Bangabandhu set forth the guiding principle of Bangladesh's foreign policy : 'Friendship to all and malice to none'. Indeed, his government laid down the edifice of fundamental state institutions covering all important fields. However, despite all these achievements, the opposition mainly from the ultra lefts, who considered the War of Liberation as 'an unfinished revolution' taking recourse to arms, created a most difficult situation in the country. Law and order situation was deteriorating very rapidly, which was frustrating for all. At the top of all, a famine (1974) ravaged the country taking its tolls by the thousands. Bewildered Bangabandhu first attempted to confront the situation by creating a special security force called Rakshi Bahini. Depending on his charisma, his next move was introduction of a single-party (BKSAL) system.
Taking advantage of such a fluid and unstable situation, a group of disgruntled army adventurers assassinated him on 15th August 1975 along with all his family members present. We lost Star of Bengal forever. He will be ever remembered for his great leadership for the Freedom of Bangladesh. His forceful speech of historic 7th March has recently been recognized by UNESCO as part of the world's documentary heritage.
(Writer: Mohammad Mamun Mia is the Principal (Acting), Mohanagar Ideal School and College, 44 North Mugdapara, Dhaka-1214. He is also a poet.)