Thursday, July 16, 2020 | ePaper

Bangabandhu : The Ballad of a Patriot

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Professor Anwarul Karim, PhD :
The sudden and unusual end of a Great Hero: The Founding Father of Bangladesh  on August 15, 1975 was a bolt from the blue.  Every year this day comes back to every Bangalee wherever one lives. Bangabandhu would remain the Patriot for all ages to come and his life and  activities strangely coincide with the fate of  Browning's  Patriot who was falsely murdered by his men. The Patriot in  Browning's poem,  talks about  the harsh reality of the leaders who are true to their sense of patriotism. It speaks about the sacrifice of such kind of leaders who are thus misunderstood by his own people.'The Patriot of Browning'  was  completely  innocent and was not at all responsible for any kind of misdeeds as alleged. It could be a matter of conspiracy that helped create the misunderstanding among his  people who caused his death by hanging.In  fact he was falsely executed and although he tried to persuade his  people to listen to him, it did not, however, work out. He thus  met a tragic death. 'The Patriot' was  a harsh critique on false public sentiment and morality. He  stressed on the point that not all decisions made or supported by the people could be proper at times, even in their own interest. The poem has a sense of universality to it as history has witnessed the rise and fall of  such kind of 'patriots.'The poem is heavy with irony as it describes a man who had given everything up for his people and was initially revered by them, only to be killed at their hands without a second thought in the end.
I have  used the title for Bangabandhu's conspiratorial killing as 'The Ballad of a Patriot' to glorify it as the death of a hero who was falsely murdered by the agents of his  enemies. Browning's Patriot has points of apparent similarities with Bangobandhu  to the extent of  his rousing reception on his home-coming  after he was released from Pakisdani  prison and  his return to his free country. And his murderous death within a short time so much so that none could ever guess that such heinous crime would  take lace on the soil of Bangladesh which he had freed.
The ballad of a patriot centers on the chequered and charismatic life of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman beginning from the Language Movement to the emergence of Bangladesh as an Independent and Sovereign country. He was a great patriot, struggling for liberating the then East Pakistan from the hands of the West Pakistani leaders who introduced Urdu as the State language of Pakistan ignoring Bangla as the language of the majority people and also from the Pakistani Army junta who usurped power from the Democratic government. East Pakistan was, however, able to force Bangla as one of the State Languages beside Urdu in 1956. The Army came into power following a coup in 1958.
During these periods, Bangabandhu experienced continuous imprisonment and also braved death a number of times   in the hands of the Pakistani Army junta for his all-out efforts towards   emancipation of his people as a strong nation. Finally his most unfortunate and tragic death at the hand of a handful of ignominious army personnel of his own country who betrayed his trust as they worked on the instruction of conspirators of national international origin. And all these equal him with a poem of Robert Browning, 'The Patriot.' Bangabandhu was the singularly one in Pakistan after the demise of three great leaders, H.S. Suhrawardy, Sher-e-Bangla AK Fazlul Haque and Mawlana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhasani and spent most of the time in jail and was about to be killed  by the Pakistani Army junta involving him in Agartala Conspiracy case with thirteen others.
'The Ballad of a Patriot' is dedicated to Bangabandhu, The Patriot of all time and it  is written with his blood as an ink, in view of his supreme sacrifice to the cause of the people, he loved. Bangabandhu is the greatest son of the soil for thousands of years. His killers were assuredly motivated by a group of insurgents who were involved in a coup as a part of an interntional conspiracy. The killers were, in fact, the 'Traitors to the Humanity'.
Below is quoted the poem, "The Patriot", by Robert Browning. The poem has points of apparent similarities in some cases with Bangabandhu and his killing by his enemies.  

The Patriot

It was roses, roses, all the way,
With myrtle mixed in my path like mad:
The house-roofs seemed to heave and sway,
The church-spires flamed, such flags they had,
A year ago on this very day.

The air broke into a mist with bells,
The old walls rocked with the crowd and cries.
Had I said, ``Good folk, mere noise repels---
But give me your sun from yonder skies!''
They had answered, ``And afterward, what else?''

Alack, it was I who leaped at the sun
To give it my loving friends to keep!
Naught man could do, have I left undone:
And you see my harvest, what I reap
This very day, now a year is run.

There's nobody on the house-tops now---
Just a palsied few at the windows set;
For the best of the sight is, all allow,
At the Shambles' Gate---or, better yet,
By the very scaffold's foot, I trow.

I go in the rain, and, more than needs,
A rope cuts both my wrists behind;
And I think, by the feel, my forehead bleeds,
For they fling, whoever has a mind,
Stones at me for my year's misdeeds.

Thus I entered, and thus I go!
In triumphs, people have dropped down dead.
"Paid by the world, what dost thou owe
"Me?''---God might question; now instead,
'Tis God shall repay: I am safer so
Bangabandhu: The Patriot of Browning
The aforesaid poem reminds us of a Great Hero who was no less a person than Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the founding father of Bangladesh. He it was who gave his people the hard earned freedom after a great deal of sufferings. More than 3 million people, men, women and children  beside the feedom fighters were killed but later he was a victim of an international conspiracy and this caused an  involvement of  a group of misguided army personnel who was instigated by the conspirators both from within and outside the country and brutally  killed him and the members of his family.     
The article, 'The Ballad of a Patriot' is a legacy of a heroic soul -  the Great Bangalee of thousands of years, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman who 'plucked the freedom sun from the yonder sky' for his people to keep it with love and dedication for generations and not to lose it under any circumstances.  Bangabandhu fought against Pakistan after the Great Divide and the creation of Pakistan on the basis of the Two Nation Theory and could successfully lead the country to victory after a 9-month war of liberation. He was a source of inspiration to his people when he was in Pakistani jail counting moments of death but freed following international pressure after the country was liberated. His killing took place  at a time when he was working for rebuilding the new nation. The Patriot of Browning's poem experienced the same fate as of Bangobaddhu only a century back. It was indeed a strange phenomena that Bangabandhu stood as equal  with the Patriot of Browning after a century when Bangabandhu and Browning's patriot  faced a similar kind of fate. He faced the tragedy at the hand of his misguided army personnel. He was certainly betrayed by his own men who worked as agents of national and international conspiracy.
The Patriot is a tragic poem concerning of a great soul who dedicated his entire life to the cause of his country, but his efforts were forgotten. The poem thus speaks of a hero who  had given everything up for his people who were mad after him for giving them the freedom  and was given a heroic and rousing reception as he returned from the battlefield; but was killed a year after at their hands without a second thought in the end. The Poet speaks of politics, patriotsm and religious faith. He feels pity for his people for misunderstanding him falsely for reasons known only to them. He also made it clear that they were misled and as such unable to take the right decisions, or even in their own interest.
 I remember, I had been working in the Kushtia College as a teacher in the Department of English. It was far as back as 1962. The aforesaid poem was included in an English text, named 'The Magic Casement.' The poem speaks of a patriot who fought for freedom of his country and was given an unprecedented rousing reception so much so that there had been roses all the way  and all roads were bound up with uncountable myrtles signifying a mad love of his people for the Patriot. The house-tops were full of people and so much was the gathering that it 'heaved and sway' when people intended to have glimpse of the Patriot as he was charioted to the capital of the city. Gates were decorated and the people stood on either side of the road with the flags of freedom fluttering. The Church-spires also flamed to greet the hero. And it was he who leaped at the sun that symbolized the freedom and he handed it over to his people to keep. But within one year, the stage looked different. He was falsely charged with misdeeds and he was killed by his own people he loved most. But God knew he was right and had not done anything wrong to the nation and to his people. And thus God said to him humorously :
            "Paid by the world, what dost thou owe,
"Me?''---God might question; now instead,
'Tis God shall repay: I am safer so."
   The Patriot reacted.
We have no knowledge about Browning's Patriot who was thus killed by his own people in such a tragic way. Browning did not make it known to others about such a person who brought freedom for his people, but killed a year after for allegedly a total false allegation for reasons known only to him.
Bangabandhu had points of similarities with the Patriot of Browning
 Bangabandhu had points of similarities with Browning's 'The Patriot' who remained unknown as the poet never disclosed his name. Browning (1812-1889) was a Victorian poet and one can understand that his poem, 'The Patriot' was based on facts that involved the life of a Patriot who was falsely killed by his people.  . Whatever be the fact, Bangabandhu has many things common with him, particularly, his freedom struggle and the rousing reception he was accorded when he reached his home free from domination by Pakistan after he was released from Pakistani prison on January 8, 1972 and returned home on January 10, 1972.            
Since Pakistan was created following the Partition of India with two of its wings as East and West Pakistan, there had been efforts by the leaders of West Pakistan to dominate over East Pakistan in all matters, particularly political and economic. The seat of the central government was located at West Pakistan either in Karachi or in Islamabad. The then Pakistan government made Urdu as the State language of Pakistan ignoring the vast majority people's language Bangla for their own interest in providing jobs and other facilities. Bangabandhu protested against all these. He organized movements. The government tried to suppress and there had been bloodsheds. And finally Bangla became one of the State languages of Pakistan in 1956. But after that the Army took over. And they represented West Pakistan and looked to the interest of the West Pakistani people. They were backed by many West Pakistani leaders like Z.A. Bhutto.  They started looting East Pakistan. Bangabandhu severely protested. There had been mass movement against the Army government known as 62 Movement. A lot of killings took place in East Pakistan by the army. However, a good sense prevailed in the mind of the then President General Ayub Khan who stepped down only to be replaced by a blood-hungry Pakistani General named Yahya Khan. Mean while the Army government included civilian people in the government. But they kept the control in the hands of the army. In 1966 Bangabandhu presented his Six Point proposal to the Army backed Pakistani government. It was considered as the Charter of Freedom and this was taken as a secessionist proposal. The Army Government put Bangabandhu into jail in a false case known as Agartala Conspiracy case. But people of East Pakistan organized agitation and the Army tried to suppress the Movement. There had been a lot of killings in East Pakistan. However, the Army agreed to form a civil government through national election and Bangabandhu, the leader of the Awami league got the highest number of 169 seats as against 81 secured by Z.A. Bhutto of Pakistan People's Party of West Pakistan centrally. In East Pakistan the Awami League also secured the highest number of votes. Bangabandhu was supposed to form the government but he was denied by the Army government in league with Z.A. Bhutto. People of East Pakistan vehemently protested.
Bangabandhu was forced to take the lead and there had been a meeting of the millions of East Pakistanis in the Race course ground and here Bangabandhu took the defacto command of East Pakistan and delivered his historic speech known as March 7,1971 speech. Bagabandhu cautioned the Pakistani government he would go for freedom movement had they fail to hand over power to him.
The speech that changed the history : A New Nation was born
The March 7, 1971 speech was unique and unparalleled in the history of the world. The person who made this speech was no other a politician than Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the world never heard of and in fact, the speech had changed the history once for all. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and his Awami League party  won the  election by a majority of the votes and Bangabandhu  was supposed to form the government; but denied by the Army junta who was holding the power quite illegally in Pakistan. The Army had no guts to prevent Sheikh Mujibur Rahman from giving his speech. He became the uncrowned leader of the masses. Never such things happened in the world and the whole of East Pakistan was spell bound as Sheikh Mujib found delivering his speech. It had the waves of a violent sea flowing majestically caring none and it produced music and poetry and made people enchanted and engrossed by the magical power of words used as a speech. The News Week rightly named Bangabandhu, a Poet of Politic's in its April issue showing Bangabandhu on its cover.
   Bangabandhu's charismatic speech had the power of an atom bomb that could destroy anything that would come on its way. It was more powerful than the 'West Wind' of Shelley or the 'Baishakh' of  Rabindranath. In fact Bangabandhu was a Rebel like Nazrul's 'Bidrohi' who was second to none on earth and represented the soul of Supreme Allah and bowed his head to none on earth. His speech worked in and through his people as an 'electric' motion that finally pushed the Nation over the edge, driving the countrymen to make their final stand against years of oppression and torture. Bangabandhu tied himself on the same string to overcome the political situation of the time. He represented the Bengali nation's emotion, dream and aspiration with his extraordinary oratory and political sagacity. The directives of the Father of the Nation worked as  the main 'montro' and stood as  solid as a rock of  national unity during the heroic movement and armed struggle in 1971. The speech inspired the young generation to fight for their motherland. The significance of the speech resonates within every Bangalee till date and now. The 7th March speech of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman provided inspiration to the Bangali people in their quest for freedom and emancipation. The speech also energized the entire nation and prepared the people for the forthcoming liberation struggle. It also worked as the ultimate source of inspiration to the countless freedom fighters who joined the Mukti Bahini.
And after this came the Operation Searchlight by the Pakistani Army junta and the Midnight massacre and genocide started on  March 25 night in1971 Bangabandhu was arrested and was to taken to Pakistan. The people of East Pakistan under the leadership of  Syed Nazrul Islam and Tajuddin Ahmed along with few others formed the Mujibnagar Government of Bangladesh and Bangabandhu was made the Head of the State and the President of  Bangladesh. India supported and after a 9-month War against Pakistan finally the country was liberated on December 16, 1971.               
Bangabandhu reached Dhaka airport
Promptly at 1.30 pm, a blue and silver British Royal Air Force Comet dropped out of a brilliant sunny sky and ground to an abrupt halt on the shortened war-damaged runway of Tejgaon Airport. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was home at last. As the Comet's door opened, the first gun of a 21-gun salute cracked through the air. Then Sheikh Mujibur Rahman stepped out to a tumultuous welcome. A sea of crowd roared with 'Joi Bangla, Joi Bangabandhu' (Long live Bangla, long live Bangabandhu).
A Report by TIME magazine on 17 January 1972
"From the airport he drove straight to the Racecourse Ground where he made a tearful address before the country. Meanwhile, all weekend long the people of Bangladesh thronged into Dhaka, preparing to welcome their beloved 'Bangabandhu' (Friend of Bengal). By Monday noon 10 January 1972, hundreds of thousands of jubilant Bengalis lined the streets of the capital, waving flags and shouting over and over, "Sheikh Mujib! Sheikh Mujib!"
Bangabandhu reached his own free country Bangladesh, Dhaka around 1-30 p.m.  by the Royal British Air force jet on January 10, 1972. As soon as the crowd saw Bangabandhu, there was a thunderous roar by the attending people, 'Joi Bangla, Joi Bangabandhu' and this spontaneous emotional outburst of people could not be measured by any means. He made a triumphant homecoming in 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 in Dhaka according him a heroic welcome. Bangabandhu went to the Ramna Racecourse by a microbus. There had been a stream of jubilant crowd to greet Bangabandhu for his home coming.  From Airport to the Ramna Race Course, the whole road was full of people, old and young, women and children.
Bangabandhu got a limited years for rebuilding the  povery-stricken war-torn shattered  economy of  the totally damaged country. Administration suffered. Roads and bridges were damaged.  Freedom fighters were yet to surrender arms. Thanks to the very strict  leadership of  Bangabandhu and his associates  who helped make the country free. There had been enemies all around.
The Sun eclipsed
Bangabandhu got only four years for restructuring the country as he wished to make it so. International and national  conspirators were active. Bangabandhu was fearless as he could never think of being killed by his own me. In fact, he was not killed by the people who loved him and were ready to sacrifice their lives for him. Bangabandhu wanted to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor and made attempts to bring a thorough change in the social, economic and political life in Bangladesh. He had visions and  missions. But unfortunately, the conspirators were successful in using a  very few army personnel who betrayed his trust and also his love and killed him on August 15,1975  making the sun totally eclipsed into an irrecoverable darkness. Thus goes the man who loved his people more than anything and braved death several times and never he thought he would be killed by his own men and such was the trust that proved so false and fatal.
No words are sufficient to describe the crime committed.  The  Patriot of Browning's poem experienced the same fate as of Bangabandhu only a century back.
 It remains a  kind of very inscrutable mystery behind his sudden  killing.People all over the world were in a fix :  Who gained most by this killing?  Let the history speak.
The whole world was stunned and became spell bound. The sun was totally eclipsed and an irrecoverable complete  darkness prevailed everywhere  without the hopes of day.

(Author is a Columnist, a former Visiting Scholar, Divinity school, Harvard University, USA (1985), e-mail :

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