An Eternal Legacy
“When a violin player in Berlin wanted to know about Bangladesh from me,
I took out a folded ten taka note from my breast pocket and showed the picture of Sheikh Mujib,
I said look this is Bangladesh;
I don’t know anything more than this about Bangladesh.”
It was his lifelong devotion to the cause of toiling masses that made Sheikh Mujib Bangabandhu and made us independent.
The greatest Bangalee of a thousand years was born on March 7 in 1920 to Sheikh Lutfar Rahman and Sheikh Sayera Khatun in Tungipara village under the then Gopalganj subdivision. His love for the people helped him to transform into an active politician within a very young age.
Clearly, in view of the burgeoning disparity between East and West Pakistan, our sense of Bengali identity began to be stronger. In that backdrop, Sheikh Mujib unveiled his six points formula on February 5, 1966, the goal of which was not only to end the disparity and deprivation, but also to gain the recognition of our Bengali identity.
In May 1966, Bangabandhu was arrested under the Defence of Pakistan Rules. While in prison he was charged, in January 1968, with conspiracy to break up Pakistan through Agartala Conspiracy Case. A mass upsurge forced the withdrawal of the case on February 22, 1969. The next day, at a huge rally at the then Race Course Ground, Sheikh Mujib was officially honoured by a grateful Bangalee nation as ‘Bangabandhu’— Friend of Bengal.
Bangabandhu led the Awami League to a decisive victory in Pakistan’s first general elections in December 1970. However, as the Yahya Khan regime and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto began to conspire against the Awami League to deny it the right to form a government at the centre, Bangabandhu went before the nation on March 7, 1971 and delivered what clearly was the finest speech of his career. Newsweek on April 5, 1971 sketches an emotive figure and an artistic altruism of Sheikh Mujib by terming him a “poet of politics.” The magic of the speech is that it is erroneous to regard it simply as a politician’s speech; rather it can be compared with the tune of the Pied Piper of Hamelin, behind whom successive generations run. It is not an address of 19 minutes, but a reservoir of the ideology Bangabandhu professed throughout his political career, and instilled in us a powerful nationalistic value. This speech gained international recognition when UNESCO enlisted the historic speech as part of the world’s documentary heritage and also included it in the “Memory of the World Register”, a list of the world’s important documentary heritage.
On the night of 25 March 1971, immediately before the military crackdown and moments before Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was arrested by the Pakistan Army, he made a Declaration of Independence, “This may be my last message: From today Bangladesh is independent. I call upon the people of Bangladesh wherever you may be and with whatever you have, to resist the army of occupation to the last. Your fight must go on until the last soldier of the Pakistan occupation army is expelled from the soil of Bangladesh and final victory is achieved.” These words reached the masses inside and outside the borders of Pakistan which would later on change the world map. He was arrested soon afterwards by the army and flown to West Pakistan, to be put on trial on charges of treason.
After a trial in-camera, Bangabandhu was sentenced to death by a military tribunal in early December 1971. An all-out guerrilla war began against the Pakistani oppressive regime under the command of Mujibnagar government formed on April 10 where Bangabandhu was the President while Syed Nazrul Islam and Tajuddin Ahmed played the role of Acting President and Prime Minister respectively and victory was achieved on December 16, 1971. It was his political inspiration and moral persuasion that made mass people sacrifice their lives.
Pakistan’s defeat in Bangladesh and the emergence of the Bangalee nation saw him return home a hero on January 10, 1972.
Joseph Campbell, an American Professor of Literature, wrote: “A hero is someone who has given his life to something bigger than oneself.” No word could be truer than these when one assesses the contribution of Mujib to the history of this nation. It was his ability to unify that made us come together; quality to inspire that made us dream of independence; capacity to mesmerise with his words and oratory that made us bold; enormous courage that drove us to strive for the impossible. His life past behind a legacy for the nation to cherish even decades after his death.