Mujib is dead, long live Bangabandhu

Sheikh Hasina’s ideal and inspiration is her father Sheikh Mujib. In 2020, next year, Bangabandhu’s birth centenary will be celebrated throughout the world and especially in Bangladesh with pomp and glory.


August is a month of mourning and also of remembrance. In this month we mourn the brutal killings of our father of the nation along with almost his entire family. The nation remembers him throughout the year but especially in August because he was killed in this month, like the month of Muharram— which is also a month of mourning.  Muslims all over the world observe Muharram as a month of mourning because in this month, the grandson of Prophet Mohammad (Pbuh) Imam Husayn was killed along with his family members in the war field of Karbala more than a thousand year ago by conspirators and power hungry people. A poet wrote about Karbala that ‘Islam revived again and again in every Karbala’. It is also true of the slaughter at Dhanmondi, Dhaka on 15th August 1975. Sheikh Mujib’s ideals revived and became more powerful after this barbarity. In Karbala a son of Imam Hussain, Zayn al-Abidin was one of the few survivors. The gang of killers offered him freedom and safety if he showed his allegiance to the King of Damascus, Yazid. He boldly refused and also refused to lead the Jumma prayer with a Khutba praising Yazid. Likewise, in Bangladesh only two daughters of Bangabandhu survived the massacre, because they were abroad during this killing. The killers did not even spare the life of Bangabandhu’s youngest son, sheikh Russell who was only 10 years old. His two daughters survived— the present Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her younger sister Sheikh Rehana.


This year 2019 we are observing the 44th anniversary of Bangabandhu’s untimely demise. We call him father of the nation, but in reality he not only revived a nation but also created a nation-state. Although other great leaders of other nations have liberated their people from foreign domination and exploitation, Bangabandhu is unique in this regard. With the division of India in 1947, the rulers of Pakistan very cleverly erased the name of Bangalis and Bangladesh. They even tried to destroy the thousand year old Bangali culture and civilization. If that conspiracy was successful then there would have been no Bangladesh and Bangali nation in the world. In the division of 1947 half of Bangladesh was consumed by India and the other half was practically occupied by the non-Bengali rulers of Pakistan, who lived 1500 miles away from Bangladesh, renamed as East Pakistan. There was no land connection between these two parts of Pakistan- East and West. Democracy was uprooted within a few years in Pakistan and a military constituted of only non-Bengali Pakistanis took over power. Their policy of discrimination was aimed to make the Bangali people a slave nation. They tried to abolish not only Bangla language and culture branding it as anti-Islamic but also tried to change the food habit and other national lifestyle of the Bangalis.


The military dictator General Ayub declared the people of East Pakistan should give up the habit of eating rice and take corn instead. Roti should be their staple like West Pakistanis. Ayub regime did not try to increase the production of rice, instead they sent corn and wheat to the-then East Pakistan. People of Pabna revolted against this and police open fired killing a good number of people. The revolt succeeded and the Ayub government had to abandon their project of changing the food habit of the Bangalis. The discrimination between West and East Pakistan was increasing every year. When Pakistan was founded it was agreed that at least the Naval Head quarter will be located in East Pakistan. The majority people of Pakistan though lived in the Eastern wing, the capital, military and Naval Head quarter and the economic center-all were concentrated in West Pakistan and the Eastern wing was suffering from discrimination and exploitation. East Pakistan was earning foreign currency and it was being invested in West Pakistan. Food crisis and natural disasters were a regular feature in the East and the central government was reluctant take proper steps.


To keep East Pakistan’s unity, the people of the-then East Pakistan sacrificed their majority and accepted parity in job, business and in every other sphere of life. But the discrimination continued. After long struggle for the autonomy of the people of the-then East Pakistan, Sheikh Mujib declared his historic six-point which would distribute the political and economic power between the east and west equally. Ayub furiously refused the proposal announcing, ‘I will confront Mujib with the language of weapon’. In reply Mujib declared ‘I will face the military regime with the language of movement’. He was accused of treason, thrown into jail and a case was instigated against him and other 38 co-conspirators known as Agartala Conspiracy case. If the case was proved the highest punishment was death by hanging. There was a people’s revolution. Ayub had to withdraw the case and resign and another general took over power.


Under Martial law a general election was held. Bangabandhu won the election massively, but the military regime refused to transfer power peacefully. These are old history but I am narrating this to explain the background of 15th August. Though Sheikh Mujib was thrown to jail, an armed struggle for independence started under his leadership and Bangladesh won its independence. It was a historic event for the whole subcontinent. The century old communal politics which divided the Indian people and served the purpose of western imperialism collapsed. Jinnah’s religious two-nation theory which caused the division of India and caused suffering of millions of people of all religion was condemned. A nation under Sheikh Mujib emerged on secular nationalism and equal rights for all religious communities. Bangladesh came out of all military pacts with western powers signed by Pakistani rulers and took an independent sovereign state in South Asia. It had such profound effect on the entire subcontinent that in the Indian held Kashmir, Sheikh Abduallh was released and the bloodshed stopped there. Pakistan made a treaty with India, known as Simla Pact to abandon all sorts of military conflict and live peacefully.


An international peace award called Julio-Curie Prize was awarded to Sheikh Mujib. To his people so far he was known as Bangabandhu (friend of Bangalis). But now he was declared Bishwabandhu (friend of the World). When he met Fidel Castro in Algiers in 1973 at the conference of the Head of non-aligned countries, Fidel Castro, after his first meeting with Mujib said, ‘I haven’t seen the Himalayan Mountains but I have seen Sheikh Mujib’. Bangabandhu made a history giving a general election just two years after independence and giving the nation a unique constitution with four state principles: nationalism, secularism, democracy and socialism. The rise of an independent Bengal was a blow to imperialist interest in South Asia and its religious-political structure. So a counter revolution was organised with international patronization. A man-made famine was created in 1974 and Sheikh Mujib had to declare a state of emergency to confront the national and international plots. He even united all political parties who participated in the war of liberation under the banner of BAKSAAL and wanted to decentralize power up to grass roots replacing the century old colonial bureaucratic rule. The counter-revolutionaries with some foreign powers struck hard the newly found Mujib government and killed him in the month of August with his family and within the next 3 months they killed all his lieutenants- the other national leaders.


Almost for two decades his name was erased from the history of the country and he and his ideals were maligned but truth has prevailed finally. The leader has come back more powerfully after his death and has risen from the ashes like the legendary Phoenix. Sheikh Mujib died in the month of August which is observed to remember and honour him all over the world. His daughter Sheikh Hasina took up his ideals and rebuilt the Awami League. She has also suffered many vicious attacks on her life. It is also a historical event in Asia that a civilian woman re-established democracy in Bangladesh after fighting a prolonged war and defeating military and autocratic rules. She rebuilt a political system and restructured the economy of Bangladesh. The country is no more a bottomless basket but going to be again a great developing country with political and social importance in South Asia.


Hasina was awarded many prizes and accolades from all over the world and has been given the title of ‘Mother of Humanity’. When Nelson Mandela visited Bangladesh with Yasir Arafat, one called her his daughter and the other called her his sister. Even the Indian Prime Minister said that as long Sheikh Hasina is in power, peace and prosperity will prevail not only in Bangladesh but the whole subcontinent. Sheikh Hasina’s ideal and inspiration is her father Sheikh Mujib. In 2020, next year, Bangabandhu’s birth centenary will be celebrated throughout the world and especially in Bangladesh with pomp and glory. The preparation has already started. We can say that the month of August is not a month of sorrow only. This sorrow has made an iron cast sword. This sword has the strength to fight against poverty, hunger and all sorts of repression. Sheikh Mujib is dead but long live Bangabandhu. We cannot separate the man from his country.


Abdul Gaffar choudhury
London, Friday 02 August, 2019
The Independent, 10 August, 2019 link

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