Birth Centenary of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman
Bangabandhu and Netaji : Untold stories
Professor Anwarul Karim :
Bangabandhu was born on March 17, 1920 in his village home at Tungipara now an Upazila under the present Gopalganj district. Netaji Subhas Bose was born in Cuttack in British India on January 23, 1897. Netaji as a freedom fighter against the British was very popular among all Bengalis and was a source of inspiration to all and sundry. Bangabandhu also paid glowing tributes to Netaji in his 'Unfinished Memoirs.' In fact Netaji played a great role and left a tremendous impact on his life from his young age.
Bangabandhu had points of similarities with Netaji Subhash Bose as both developed a feeling for the people since their young age. Both had seen how the British looted the country's wealth and destroyed the unity between Hindu and Muslim and both desperately tried to save the country from the hands of the British. Netaji was killed as a victim of a conspiracy and Bangabandhu, too, met the same fate when he was killed by a section of the misguided army personnel who betrayed him through a coup. The difference is : Netaji had to step down at the point of victory to India with his Azad Hind Fauj when both Japan and Germany surrendered following bombing of Atom bomb at Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan. But Bangabandhu was successful defeating Pakistan on his soil with the Mukti Bahini he formed. Netaji and Bangabandhu were both rebels and non-communal. Netaji always upheld the contribution of the Muslims in India during the period of the Mughals and particularly of Nawab Sirajuddowla. It is a strange coincidence that all these three great souls of the soil met tragic end because of conspiracy that was hatched against them by their own men who betrayed their cause.
Bangabandhu had tremendous love for his people and the country he owned. On occasions, Bangabandhu appeared to me as the Netaji of Bangladesh so far as the struggle for freedom is concerned. But Bangabandhu outshines him in regard to the ultimate goal that speaks of an emancipation of a nation-Bangladesh and Bangali through her language, which is certainly unique in the world. And here, Bangabandhu becomes a kind of a Superman to his people. Netaji and Bangabandhu have points of similarities. Both suffered equally in prisons. Both were betrayed by friends and trusted persons. Both met deaths following conspiracies. But Bangabandhu finally could successfully lead his country to the coveted Freedom against Pakistan.
Both Netaji and Bangabandhu admired Kazi Nazrul Islam, the Rebel of the Rebels, who inspired Netaji and Bangabandhu. Netaji in a number of speech congratulated Kazi Nazrul Islam for his fearless poems and songs directed against the British. He declared that he had never heard of any song as of 'Kandari Hushiar' (Oh! Leader, beware and careful of the traitors) which represents the unity of people, the Hindu and the Muslim together. He emphatically stated that he heard national songs of many provinces of India and none excels what the Poet said in his poem, Kandari Hushiar. Netaji added, 'Wherever we go, be in the war field or in the prison house of the British, we will continue singing the songs of Nazrul uninterrupted. Dilip Kumar Roy, the composer and performer stated whenever he used to sing before Deshbandhu Chittaranjan Das and Netaji Subhash, the songs Kandari Hushiar (Oh! Leader Beware of dangers!) or Karar oi louhokopat (The iron gate of the prison house). Deshbandhu wept. Tears oozed out his eyes drop by drop and Subhash Bose was excited and sparked in joy when he heard these songs.
Bangabandhu in his 'Unfinished Memoirs' expressed greatly his deep attachment with Netaji and his elder brother, Sarat Bose. He mentioned Sarat Bose extending full support to H.S. Suhrawardy, the then Prime Minister of Bengal in 1946 for his move to work for the United Bengal. In fact, Mohammad Ali Jinnah also agreed to the proposal of Suhrawardy and Sarat Bose tried his best to convince Jawaharlal Nehru and Gandhi for this. But the Congress did not agree. Sarat Bose was severely condemned by Sardar Vallavbhai Patel. Netaji's family, particularly Dr. Sisir Bose (February 2, 1920), the son of Sarat Bose, the elder brother of Netaji Subhas Bose played a great role during the War of Liberation of Bangladesh. We are fortunate that we could discover stories yet untold and unknown to all and sundry, and these have been available and now revealed in the letter of Professor Krishna Bose, showing how deep was the attachment of the two great families of Netaji Subhas Bose and Bangabandhu family even after their death.
My gratitude to Professor Krishna Bose, the wife of Dr. Sisir Bose, the nephew to Netaji Subhas Bose, knows no bound as she wrote a personal letter to me detailing information regarding contribution of Bose family towards Bangabandhu family and the Freedom Movement of Bangladesh. This has now a national appeal.
Professor Krishna Bose was happy to know that I had been at Harvard University in 1985. His son Sugata Bose has been working at Harvard. In fact, Professor Krishna Bose, distinguished and three time Member of the Indian Parliament from Trinomul Congress, West Bengal appreciated our efforts to set up Bangabandhu Research Centre and the Netaji Research Centre at Northern University Bangladesh. The letter of Professor Krishna Bose is a historic one because of the fact that it was written to me on January 23, 2019. January 23 was the birth date of Netaji. The date was chosen to give it a historically significant status keeping in view the birth anniversary of Netaji Subhas Bose and also of Bangabandhu that falls on March 17. 2020. Dr. Sisir Bose was also born in the year 1920. The two great families were thus tagged to each other.
Professor Krishna Bose in her letter highlighted Netaji and Bangabandhu and their unique contribution to the respective countries and the people. In fact, the letter of Professor Krishna Bose is an important document concerning Netaji and Bangabandhu. India now has realized how much she owes to Netaji and Bangladesh too, feels how great was the contribution of Bangabandhu to her identity and also in getting a place in the world map. Over 400 million people in the world take pride in themselves being Bangali with other nationals.
Bengalis are now the third largest ethnic group in the world. They have four major religious subgroups: Bengali Muslims, Bengali Hindus, Bengali Christians, and Bengali Buddhists. Today, 400 million or more Bangali are living all over the world. In Bangladesh, there has been a total of 170 million and in West Bengal, Andaman, Nicobar, Tripura, Assam and Barak valley the Bangali population would be around 100 million. During the British period, Khudiram, Bagha Jatin, Surya Sen, Kalpana, Pritilata, Titu Mir sacrificed their lives and fought for Bangali identity. Netaji Subhas, though fought for Freedom of India, had dreams of keeping Bangla as independent. Finally, it is Bangabandhu who gave the Bangali a free nation. The world has now recognized Bangla and Bangali as a strong nation. Bangladesh is now on the threshold of celebrating the hundred year birth anniversary of Bangabandhu in 2020. Strangely enough, Dr. Sisir Bose, who risked his life in helping his uncle Netaji escape from the British India, was also born in the Year 1920. He also covers hundred years of his birth. The years 1920/2020 thus become a red letter day for all patriotic people. The letter is thus most valuable in the context of national importance. It reminds me an occasion when in December 2017, I had the privilege to accompany Dr. Mashiur Rahman, Adviser , Economic Affairs to the Honorable Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina as he visited the Netaji Research Bureau in Kolkata and met Professor Krishna Bose at her office at Netaji Research Bureau, Kolkata . The Chairman, NUB, Professor Dr. Abu Yusuf Mohammad. Abdullah was also with us in the team. I was then working at Northern University Bangladesh as Pro-Vice Chancellor. Professor Krishna Bose received us very cordially. Her son Sumantra Bose, who was a Professor at London School of Economics, London was also present on the occasion. Her another son, Sugata Bose has been working as a Professor at Harvard University.
In course of our discussion I brought this to her notice that the Northern University Bangladesh, Dhaka planned to set up two research centers at NUB, One, Bangabandhu Research Center and the other, Netaji Research Center. Netaji and Bangabandhu were the two great sons of the soil. Netaji was always a source of inspiration to Bangabandhu when he freed Bangladesh from the colonial rule of Pakistan. She disclosed that her husband Dr. Sisir Bose visited Bangladesh and met Bangabandhu in Dhaka on January 17, 1972 after he returned to Bangladesh being released from Pakistani jail on January 10, 1972. The meeting was full of emotion and love. She also disclosed that she belonged to Bangladesh and was born in Dhaka. She visited Bangladesh several times in 1979 and in 2006 with her son Sumantra and at that time they were fed by Sheikh Hasina at her residence and she personally cooked for them. She mentioned that Netaji Research Bureau came into being with the initiative of her husband Dr. Sisir Bose. He also contributed greatly to the Freedom Movement of Bangladesh setting up Hospital for the injured Muktijoddhas and providing all out support and taking care of those who took refuge in West Bengal. He engaged people to look after them. We are grateful that Professor Krishna Bose has disclosed many untold stories which became a part of our national history and national achievement. Bangabandhu upheld the tradition what Netaji had successfully conveyed to him. 'The Unfinished Memoirs' bears the testimony to this truth and nothing but the truth. In many pages of this great book Bangabandhu had made it clear how deep was his love for Netaji. The Netaji is reborn in Bangabandhu and so are all those who shed their blood for Bangla and Bangali.
Professor Krishna Bose in her letter mentioned: "Netaji and Bangabandhu represented similar ideals of national liberation and social transformation. Both led lives of struggle suffering and sacrifice. Today both are revered icons of their respective nations-India and Bangladesh.
But they are not just national heroes. Bangabandhu is deeply respected in West Bengal and throughout India as the founding father of Bangladesh. Their appeal cuts across border and divides.
I have been the chairperson of the Netaji Research Bureau (NRB) in Kolkata since the death 18 years ago of my husband, Dr. Sisir Kumar Bose (1920-2000). Sisir Bose was a freedom fighter in his youth and Netaji's chief lieutenant during his daring escape from India in 1941. In 1957 Sisir established the NRB at Netaji Bhavan, the Bose family's ancestral house on Kolkata's Elgin Road, and built it to be a world class museum, archive, and research and conference centre on Netaji's life and his struggle for Indian freedom.
During Bangabandhu's liberation war in 1971, Netaji Bhavan became a center of many activities in support of Bangladesh's freedom movement. Dr. Sisir Bose, a pediatrician by profession, established a field hospital along with his doctor colleagues at a place on the West Bengal-Bangladesh border to treat injured Muktijoddhas, as well as civilian refugees from the Pakistani terror campaign. Just after the liberation of Bangladesh Dr. Sisir Bose drove a vehicle from Kolkata to Dhaka and met Bangabandhu in Dhaka on 17 January 1972. They have a most touching meeting. Dr. Sisir Bose returned to Kolkata with a moving audio message from Bangabandhu for Netaji's 75th birth anniversary, which was broadcast to a large audience at Netaji Bhavan on 23 January 1972.
My own family is entirely Bangladesh origins; from Dhaka and Narsingdi on my mother's side and Mymensingh/Kishorganj on my father's side. I have visited Bangladesh several times in 1970 with my husband, in 2006 with my son Sumantra when we were treated to a delicious lunch personally cooked by Sheikh Hasina and then again a few years ago, when Sheikh Hasina's government posthumously honored my husband at a ceremony in Dhaka for his support to Bangladesh's Freedom. Sheikh Hasina and Sheikh Rehana visited Netaji Bhavan in May 2018.
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I pray that the two parts of our Bengal develop ever closer ties, and that India - Bangladesh relations scale new height of cordiality, cooperation and friendship."
The letter of Professor Krishna Bose is very significant and also illuminating in a number of ways. First, the letter is a kind of big tribute to Bangabandhu on the eve of his hundred year birth anniversary. The respect and love she had shown to Bangabandhu is deep and touchy. She had eulogized the contribution of Bangabandhu and shared it with the contribution of Netaji. She remembers her husband Dr. Sisir Bose who was also born in the year 1920 and expresses how deep was the attachment between the two. Dr. Sisir rushed to Dhaka to greet Bangabandhu on his return from Pakistani Jail.
He too had been working in the field assisting the Muktijoddha for the liberation of Bangladesh providing all kind of support, more by setting up a hospital at the border to treat the injured. He bore the blood of Sarat Bose and Netaji and he it was who helped Netaji escape braving death. We also were thus moved to know how emotional Bangabandhu had been when he received Dr. Sisir in his house. Professor Krishna Bose, however, mentioned that it was a most 'touching meeting'. The letter suggests that she too was emotional as she recollected the moment as narrated by Dr. Sisir Bose to her when he returned from Bangladesh.
Let us hope and expect that the desire of Bangabandhu for making Bangladesh as a world power would soon come to be true. Netaji had the same dream but could not materialize as Japan surrendered following destruction of the two cities Hiroshima and Nagasaki by Atomic bombing - a heinous crime that America committed against humanity. And Bangabandhu had fulfilled his dream by liberating Bangladesh from the hands of the Pakistani domination-British like colonialism. Let the blood of Bangabandhu and Netaji along with those who sacrificed their lives to the cause of Bangla and Bangali do not go in vain. Let no patriots like Bangabandhu and Netaji ever suffer the way they had suffered. We are happy to know that the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Sheikh Rehana visited Netaji house and well received by Professor Krishna Bose to share the sad and sensitive feeling of one with the other-the mute monument of glory in tears of love and affection.
Professor Krishna Bose has rightly said, "Netaji and Bangabandhu represented similar ideals of national liberation and social transformation. Both led lives of struggle suffering and sacrifice. Today both are revered icons of their respective nations-India and Bangladesh."
Indeed they are not just national heroes. They are the symbols of freedom for all nationalists who dream to make their land Free from those who usurped their land like British and Pakistan. We feel happy and proud to know that Bangabandhu is deeply respected in West Bengal and throughout India as the Founding Father of Bangladesh. Both Netaji and Bangabandhu have their position felt by all and sundry. Their appeal cuts across border and divides. The sun also rises in the east.
Let us all share the glory and sufferings of these two undisputed leaders of Bangla and Bangali with love and respect.
Professor Krishna Bose evaluated the two great leaders, Netaji and Bangabandhu and their position in the mind of the people. She has shown tremendous love for Bangladesh. She was telling, "Bangladesh is my homeland. I was born in Dhaka and I am a 'Dhakayya."
Professor Krishna Bose was born on 26 December, 1930 in Dhaka to Charu C. Chaudhuri and Chhaya Devi Chaudhurani. Her father was specialized in constitutional studies and was one of the Secretaries of the West Bengal Legislative Assembly. She was married to Sisir Kumar Bose, son of Sarat Chandra Bose, elder brother of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose on 9 December 1955 and has two sons, Sumantra Bose, Sugata Bose and a daughter Sharmila Bose who works at London School of Economics as a teacher. Sisir Bose too fought against the British Raj and was imprisoned in Lahore Fort and Red Fort for his role in Subhas Chandra Bose's escape from Calcutta in 1941 during the Quit India Movement and World War II.
Krishna Bose has a B.A. (Hons.) and an M.A. in English Literature from Calcutta University, Calcutta, West Bengal and the prestigious degree of Sangeet-Visharad from Bhatkhande Music Institute, Lucknow. Krishna taught for 40 years at the City College, Kolkata, where she was the Head of the Department of English and served as the Principal of the College for eight years. She was first elected as a Member of Parliament to the 11th Lok Sabha during the 1996-1998 terms. She was also a Member of Parliament in 12th, (1998-1999) and 13th (1999-2004) Lok Sahah's. During her 3rd term, she served as Chairperson, Committee on External Affairs.
Let us hope and expect that the desire of Bangabandhu for making Bangladesh as a world power would soon come to be true. Let the blood of Bangabandhu and Netaji do not go in vain. Let no traitors get any entry into the holy homeland of these two great leaders who remained Bangali to their last breath.
(Professor Anwarul Karim is presently the Executive Director, Bangabandhu Research Center, Northern University Bangladesh,formerly Visiting Scholar at the Divinity School Harvard (1985) and Guest Professor at Ten Indian Universities(1983),Founder Director, Lalon Academy, Kushtia and Founder Chairman, Folklore Research Institute, Kushtia (1970-till date.)