175Published on November 5, 2021
Syed Badrul Ahsan:
They were the brightest stars in our dark firmament a half century ago, for they provided leadership to a nation looking for a way out of the dense woods. They were men who, in the luminosity that was the leadership of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, were ready to travel the miles in setting his vision to reality. They knew the supreme leader of the people, the Father of the Nation, had been spirited away to alien territory by a junta adamant on keeping their country subjugated through genocide, through the thousand other atrocities which leave societies scarred for long, often for all time.
And yet they persevered, for these four men, each one of them an astute politician, knew full well that on them devolved the sacred responsibility of shaping and conducting a guerrilla war that would open out to the valley of freedom. At Mujibnagar, they shaped political strategy, they formulated the means of battlefield struggle. It was on their call that droves of Bengalis — political activists, students, artistes, policemen, soldiers, civil servants, journalists and so many others — made their way to the fields of war, to let the world know that the birth of Bangladesh was a matter of time.
These four men — Syed Nazrul Islam, Tajuddin Ahmad, M Mansoor Ali, AHM Quamruzzaman — embodied the spirit of the War of Liberation. They sent out the message of liberty to the world, informing global leaders and nations that the Bengalis were on their way to sovereign nationhood. Away in distant Mianwali, Bangabandhu was on trial, before a military tribunal operating in-camera, for waging war against Pakistan. In their occupied homeland, his four lieutenants grown to mature leadership in his brilliance, were making sure that the war their supreme leader was accused of waging was indeed being prosecuted in full measure.
The dedication of these four men to the principles of liberty and democracy was destined to find fulfilment in national victory. That moment made its way into our history on a December afternoon when the enemy bit the dust. A week later, these valiant leaders brought the Mujibnagar home to Dhaka. In the weeks and months ahead, they formulated, under a freed Bangabandhu, the structure upon which Bangladesh was to be governed. The end of the war necessarily led to a need for a consolidation of the gains that had been made. We were part of the global society of free men and women.
These four men, with the Father of the Nation embodying the aspirations of the nation, all of them pivotal in the Bengali democratic struggle pre-1971 and in the War of Liberation in 1971, became marked men, for conspiracy lurked in the bushes. Our tragedy commenced in mid-August when intrigue, shaped locally and internationally, put paid to the life of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Barely three months later, the four Mujibnagar men were murdered in the putative security of prison.
That was the end of the dream. That was the beginning of a new nightmare.
Syed Nazrul, Tajuddin, Mansoor Ali and Quamruzzaman led this nation to the valley of liberty through the struggle they shaped and conducted — even as the monsoon rains battered the land, even as ten million Bengalis trekked to safety across the frontier, even as the enemy burnt Bengal’s villages and murdered and raped its people, even as the Father of the Nation suffered in his lonely confinement a thousand miles away from his country.
And then, in tragedy barely four years on, in irony which often mars the glory of historical grandeur, these very men, in grief over the assassination of the founding father, were put to death in the land they had guided to liberty.
On Nov 3, 1975, this nation, having experienced the inglorious moment of the Father of the Nation losing his life to political brigandage, went through new shame when the agents of evil who carried out the carnage at 32 Dhanmondi, went for a sinister nocturnal murder of the four imprisoned Mujibnagar leaders.
These four men took up the cause of liberty once Bangabandhu had been abducted by the enemy in March 1971. After August 1975, these were the very men upon whom would likely fall the onerous responsibility of leading the nation to a restoration of the old ideals of democracy, secularism, socialism and nationalism. In them we glimpsed hope in 1971. In them, in 1975, we thought we would see the light of national self-esteem light up our skies once more.
They were not to have that opportunity. They brought freedom to this land. In this land of freedom, they lost their lives in circumstances that did not allow them to be free. In their free land, they were prisoners condemned not to live. They were done to death in brutal incarceration.
On Nov 3, it is unmitigated shame we as a nation go through. We did not emerge on the streets on Aug 15, 1975 to drive Bangabandhu’s assassins out of town. When these four battlefield icons were shot and bayoneted to death nearly three months later, we stayed within the safe confines of our homes.
And we let treason reign supreme all across this People’s Republic of Bangladesh. We the people stayed pusillanimous and silent. We have paid the price. We go on paying the price. A nation which does not stand up in defence of its leaders, of the ideals espoused by its leaders, is a society doomed to historical perdition.
Writer: Political and History Analyst
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