MNA Editorial Desk: Bangladesh is celebrating the birth centenary of its greatest leader, the best Bengali of all time, the father of the nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Sheikh Mujib is the name of the brightest star of this nation, whose name is written in the golden letters in the history of Bangladesh. Today, we can breathe in the free air of an independent country, walk unchained on a free soil and can chase any of our dreams–all these are mostly the contribution of this great personality. Intellectual leadership, prudent wisdom, uncompromising soul and heart filled with love for his countrymen were the best qualities of Bangabandhu. On this auspicious occasion, we, the millions of Bangladeshis, pay our respect from around the world to this architect of our independence, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
Millions of Bengalis jumped in the liberation war of 1971, in an unequal fight against the West Pakistani military junta influenced by the shine of Sheikh Mujib’s outstanding leadership. A great and unimaginable victory was achieved following this leader’s principles. If Bangabandhu was not our leader, there was no question of the rise of an independent Bangladesh. Without his lion-like roar, none could have inspired the Bangladeshis to get into a David versus Goliath like battle. It is a misfortune for the younger generations of this country that they could not get acquainted with this great personality due to the brutal murder of this great leader along with most of his family members by some coward and shrewd attackers in 1975.
Sheikh Mujib was the third child of his parents Sheikh Lutfur Rahman and Sayera Khatun and was born on 17 March 1920 at Tungipara, presently in Gopalganj district. None might have imagined as he was born that this little child would once give birth to a country named Bangladesh. But from the very early age, the qualities of leadership were revealed in him. From a simple political activist, Sheikh Mujib took himself to such a height that legendary Cuban leader Fidel Castro said, “I have not seen the Himalayas. But I have seen Sheikh Mujib. In personality and in courage, this man is the Himalayas. I have thus had the experience of witnessing the Himalayas.”
Giving independence to Bangladeshi people is not the only political contribution of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Even before the liberation war of 1971, he had great contribution in freeing the Indian subcontinent from British colonialism. He had loud presence in all sorts of political movement. 1952 Language Movement, 6-point movement, mass upsurge of 1969 – he made his lion-like presence felt in every political movement. He secured a unique place in the heart of the people by his lifelong struggle standing beside the common people and fighting for the rights of his fellow countrymen. It seemed like children-teenagers-adults-elders and every people irrespective of male or female did not hesitate to jump into an extremely unequal war in 1971 to pay tribute to his love for his countrymen.
The Bengali nation achieved independence on 16th December, 1971 holding Bangabandhu’s ideals, guidance and inspirations in heart through a nine month long bloody battle at the cost of three million martyrs’ sacrifice and honor of two lacs mothers and sisters. A new country ‘Bangladesh’ emerged on the world map. It is doubtful if any other nation has paid such high price for their independence in the history. Inspired by the thunder-like voice and strong pointing of index finger of Bangabandhu, the Bengalis, usually known for their gentle nature achieved this tremendous victory quite unexpectedly by showing extreme courage within a very short time.
We must gratefully remember the contribution of our neighboring nation India here too not only for providing shelter to millions of Bengali refugees but also for fighting with Bangali Mukti Force shoulder to shoulder observing the barbaric acts of the Pakistani regime, which actually played a huge role in achieving our independence. Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi might have also understood that the Bangalee nation will never come out of the influence of the leadership of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and someday the Pakistani rulers must have to back off.
Freedom was achieved. But Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, whose orders and instructions were the base of this victory, was captured in Pakistani prison. Everyone was afraid if the beloved leader will return or not. But, with million’s prayers, Bangabandhu was released from Pakistani jail on January 8, 1972. Bangabandhu was secretly sent to London on a military aircraft of Pakistan. Afterwards in a crowded conference Bangabandhu spoke publicly for the first time. He said, “I have not forgotten about Bangladesh even for a moment. I knew they would kill me. I will not have a chance to meet you. But my people will achieve freedom.”
On 10th January, Bangabandhu rode on a comet jet of British Royal Air Force to return home. On the way to Bangladesh, the plane stopped for two hours in Delhi. Indian President VV Giri and Prime Minister Indira Gandhi welcomed Bangabandhu. Though Delhi’s tour was short, Bangabandhu drew a complete picture of Bangladesh’s independence during that visit. The depth of his political wisdom became much clearer during this short stoppage in Delhi.
Though indebted to India’s contributions to the great liberation war, indefinite stay of Indian soldiers on the soil of this country could have raised a lot of questions. So, despite being busy in so many programs and receptions, Bangabandhu asked Indira Gandhi when the soldiers of Indian Allied forces would leave Bangladeshi soil and return home. Though Indira Gandhi tried to assure him, he did not want to be assured without a promise. In the end, Indira Gandhi had to say, the Allied forces soldiers would return to their own country whenever Bangabandhu wanted.
It seemed like the independence of Bangladesh was not complete before Bangabandhu’s return on 10th January 1972. After the return of the greatest hero, the soldiers of Indian Allied forces gradually started leaving the land of independent Bangladesh. In February 1972, Bangabandhu visited India for the first time as the head of state of Bangladesh. On the visit, along with exchanging greetings and discussions over different issues, he invited Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to visit Bangladesh and again strongly urged her to quickly remove Indian Allied Forces soldiers from Bangladeshi soil.
On the invitation of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, on the eve of the first birthday of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in independent Bangladesh, Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi came on a visit to Bangladesh and even before that, on 12 March, only within two months of Bangabandhu’s return, the last Allied Forces member left the soil of independent Bangladesh. On 17th March, the birthday of Bangabandhu, Indira Gandhi gave a historic speech at Racecourse ground.
This was the first visit and first speech of any foreign head of state in the independent Bangladesh. In this speech, Indira Gandhi emphasized the friendship between Bangladesh and India. She also expressed hope that Bangladesh and India would cooperate with each other in different future activities and events.
The day was the first birthday of the greatest Bengali of all time, the architect of independence father of the nation Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in independent Bangladesh. It was like, by taking away all the Indian soldiers, Smt. Indira Gandhi presented an all foreign soldiers and all skepticism free truly independent and sovereign Bangladesh to Bangabandhu.
Removal of the Indian Allied forces soldiers is very important in the history of Bangladesh and also as an example of Bangabandhu’s strong leadership. Because, from the time of World War II, in no independent country where allied forces soldiers had entered to help, the troops were cent per cent removed or controlled. After achieving independence, many considered that Indian soldiers would not easily leave Bangladeshi soil. But due to Bangabandhu’s farsightedness, wisdom and strong leadership and Indira Gandhi’s true sincerity and love for Bangladesh, only within three months of independence, Bangladesh became a foreign soldiers and control free, full-fledged sovereign nation.
Hence, 17 March is very important in the history of Bangladesh. The day is a very significant one even only as the birth anniversary of the greatest Bengali of all time Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and additionally achieving full sovereignty adds to its importance to a great extent. The history of Bangladesh has been under several attacks from the independence till now. In 47 years of independence, the history has been changed or modified or even damaged multiple times which made it very difficult for the new generation to learn about their country’s past and contribution of the people who sacrificed a lot to gift us ‘today’.
Bangabandhu was a nationalist leader. His greatest trait was his love for the fellow countrymen. He dreamt of a ‘Golden Bengal’ for his people but could not realize his dream due to his brutal killing. That dream is now being chased by his eldest daughter, the current Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina. Her efforts during the last decade have already turned Bangladesh into a role model of development. But along with that, it is very important to embed the ideology of Bangabandhu among the next generation of Bangladesh as they will be responsible to carry on the development of Bangladesh as well as to sustain the developments already made.
We observed ‘National Children’s Day’ on the birthday of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman as it was proposed by the former advisor of Bangabandhu Shishu Kishore Mela, Late Dr Neelima Ibrahim. The intent is to prepare a future generation who will uphold the ideals of the father of the nation. We hope on this celebration of ‘Mujib Year’, all the programs are focused on familiarizing Bangabandhu and his works to the children and teenagers of today as well as to embedding his principles of patriotism, people-orientation, selfless leadership and honesty among the next generation of this nation.
Bangabandhu had left us but we must always keep him shining in our hearts by following his principles. If we do so, nothing will obstruct our progress. We wish happy birthday to the greatest leader of the world and the father of the nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
The writer is Chief Editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA), Editor at Kishore Bangla and Vice-Chairman, Democracy Research Center (DRC)