1440Published on January 10, 2022
It was December 16 in 1971 when the Liberation War was over with the surrender of the Pakistani barbaric junta. The red-green flag filled the sky of Bengal. The Bengali nation, on one side, mourned the deaths of near and dear ones, on the other hand, was overwhelmed with the joy of freedom from chains. But yet, everyone was waiting for someone else – the man who called the Bengali nation to join the war and who gave birth to an independent Bangladesh – Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was still in the prison in West Pakistan. The Pakistani junta was plotting to assassinate him there. So, the joy of victory of the Bengalis remained unfulfilled due to unknown fears.
The night before the defeat, the Pakistani junta made their last attempt to assassinate the architect and president of independent Bangladesh, Bangabandhu by creating a riot inside the jail. But due to international pressure, the plot went in vain. Finally, on January 8, 1972, the Pakistanis were forced to release Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman who then returned to his homeland on January 10 via London.
Millions of people, thronging the Dhaka streets, burst into tears on that rainy afternoon when the plane carrying Bangabandhu landed at Tejgaon Airport. They just waited to see the Father of the Nation for a glance. The slogan 'Joy Bangla, Joy Bangabandhu' started vibrating all around. Bangabandhu got off the plane and went straight to Suhrawardy Udyan.
In an emotional but confident voice, he promised his nation to build the country anew. The whole nation became obsessed while looking at Bangabandhu's face amidst the silence of his voice. The nation got a new inspiration as the historic Homecoming of Bangabandhu fulfilled the victory and freedom of the Bengali nation and Bangladesh. Though the nation won the war on December 16, it got its real essence on January 10.
First Return of Sheikh Mujib as Student Leader:
In August 1947, the Indian subcontinent was divided into two parts, with India in the middle and Pakistan with two separate cultures and ethnic groups on its eastern and western ends. Apart from the religion, there was no similarity between the nations of these two isolated lands. So the cunning Pakistanis tried to capitalize the religion to make ordinary religious people fool. Immediately after the partition, they made a blueprint to change the language and culture of the Bengali people which has been existing for thousands of years. But students understood the Pakistani conspiracy from the beginning and started waging protests against their ill-attempt to take away the right to speak in one's mother tongue.
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, a young student leader, was engaged in politics with Husyen Shaheed Suhrawardy in Calcutta in undivided India. After the partition of the country, he started politics as a student at Dhaka University. Young Mujib started campaigning with the student leaders so that Pakistanis could not impose the Urdu language on the people. Then on March 11, 1948, a nationwide strike was enforced demanding Bangla as the state language. On that day, the police arrested Sheikh Mujib and many other student leaders in front of the Secretariat. But the protest of the Dhaka University students spread all over the country. The whole nation became agitated demanding the release of the language activists. As a result, on March 15, the Pakistani government was forced to release Sheikh Mujib and others.
Then on March 16, while presiding over the meeting of the Rastrabhasa Sangram Parishad (State Language Action Council) at Dhaka University, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman gave inflammatory speeches and marched the procession to besiege the assembly building along with people from different walks of life. Veteran leaders like Sher-e-Bangla also joined the procession led by Sheikh Mujib and faced police torture.
Returning From Prison as Awami League Leader:
The basic foundation of the language movement of February 21, 1952, was laid on March 11, 1948, during the strike demanding Bengali as the state language, and the subsequent events quickly united the students. As a result, everyone immediately protested and rejected Pakistani Governor Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s declaration for Urdu as the state language on both occasions on March 19 at Suhrawardy Udyan and on March 24 at Dhaka University. Sheikh Mujib was one of those who protested against Jinnah's proclamation from the front at Suhrawardy Udyan. As the language movement flared up across the country, Sheikh Mujib was arrested again on September 11, 1948.
Though he was released in 1949 but could not stay out for long. He was even expelled from Dhaka University for his involvement in the protest for the rights of its fourth class employees. And then the Pakistan government re-imprisoned him on April 19 April, mainly to halt the language movement. While in jail as a Chhatra League leader, he became the founding joint secretary of the Awami League (June 23-24). After his release, speaking at a public gathering of Chhatra League in Naraynganj on July 29, the young Awami League leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman demanded that Bengali be made the state language, autonomy of East Bengal and relocation of Pakistan Navy headquarters from Karachi to Chittagong.
Rise of Sheikh Mujib as Awami League's Gemstone & Minister:
Pakistanis became jealous of Sheikh Mujib as he became the mouthpiece of protest across the country against dictatorship and exploitation in the early stages of the language movement. As a result, on January 1, 1950, the junta arrested him again but he continued to communicate and instruct like-minded student leaders including Chhatra League from jail. That is why he was transferred from Dhaka to Faridpur Jail.
Earlier, after planning with the student leaders, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman announced to go on a hunger strike from February 16, 1952. In the meantime, the agitating students and mass people broke section 144 on February 21 and laid their lives for the right to speak in their mother tongue, Bengali. Finally, in face of the protests, the Pakistani government was forced to release Sheikh Mujib on February 26 and accept Bengali as one of the state languages.
Later as the Awami League general secretary, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman started reaching to the mass people across the country. He was widely accepted as the face of the Awami League ahead of the election to the United Front in 1954. He was elected for the first time in the election by defeating Wahiduzzaman, an influential Muslim League leader from Gopalganj by a huge margin. He then got the responsibility for the Ministry of Agriculture, Forest and Cooperatives of the provincial government.
Return of Bengalis to the Spirit of Non-Communalism:
In less than two months, the Pakistanis managed to abolish the Awami League-led United Front provincial government, elected in 1954 by the votes of ordinary Bengalis. They even arrested Sheikh Mujib and kept him in jail for around seven months. However, on release, he became a member of the Constituent Assembly in 1955. In a public meeting at Paltan Maidan, he placed 21 points including the autonomy of Bengal. In the same year, as per his proposal, the term ‘Muslim’ was removed from the party name and renamed as 'Bangladesh Awami League'.
Sheikh Mujib took this decision after the Muslim League won only 9 out of 223 seats in the United Front elections in 1954 and the Awami League alone won 143 seats, exposing the Pakistani hypocrisy about religion. He carried out these reforms hoping for building a prosperous economy and a society based on equality and non-communalism. Later, based on his ideology, 70 million Bengalis irrespective of religion and caste came together for independence.
Sheikh Mujib resigned from the post of the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Labor of the provincial government in May 1957 to spend more time to unite the nation for liberation from the shackles of slavery. And as the General Secretary of the Awami League, he started touring across the country and spreading the dream of economic liberation.
Returning to the Shaken-politics as the Torchbearer for Liberation:
Military rule was imposed in Pakistan in October 1958. Awami League leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was immediately arrested again and the veteran leaders were forced to leave politics. The Pakistani junta detained Sheikh Mujib either in jail or sometimes under house arrest till 1963. However, the Awami League was revived at a meeting of central leaders held at Sheikh Mujib's Dhanmondi residence on January 25, 1964.
At the same time, Sheikh Mujib led the anti-Ayub movement to get it intensified. It resulted in his imprisonment again in 1965 on charges of treason. After his release, he placed the 'Six Points' titled ‘Our Demand for Survival’ at a conference of opposition parties held in Lahore on February 5 and 6 in 1966. It got massive support from all Bengali people.
Meanwhile, former student leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was elected president of Awami League, the largest political party in the subcontinent. But again he was arrested on May 8 after holding 32 public rallies in three months. On June 7, a mass movement began in the streets in support of the Six Points and demanded the release of Sheikh Mujib. Sheikh Mujib, the Six Points and the rights of Bengalis – became complementary to each other at this time.
Returning as the Bengali’s Sole voice amid Conspiracy:
After the Six-Point declaration, the Pakistanis tried to suppress the mass movement by arresting Sheikh Mujib on June 8, 1966. But, by that time, the Bengali had been aware of their rights and started raising voices – inspiring Mujib to spread the spirit of the Six Points at the doorsteps of every people. Meanwhile, the junta filed a case titled 'State vs. Sheikh Mujib and others' aiming to eliminate Bangabandhu. But people understood the vicious plan of the Pakistani junta.
As a result, people of all walks of life, including students, workers and farmers of Bengal, took to the streets demanding the release of Sheikh Mujib and supporting the Six Point programme. Since the partition and till the Liberation War, it was the largest and most united movement of all classes of people in Bengal. The demand for the unconditional release of Sheikh Mujib turned into an intense mass movement against the dictatorship.
So, the government was forced to release all the accused including Sheikh Mujib on February 22, 1969. Sheikh Mujib was honoured with the title of 'Bangabandhu' on February 23 by the millions of people at Suhrawardy Udyan. He became the sole voice of the people of Bengal. The junta government of General Ayub was also forced to resign in such backdrops. Bangabandhu also called this territory ‘Bangladesh’ at the meeting on the death anniversary of Suhrawardy on December 5, 1969.
Becoming the 'Father of the Nation' of Bengalis from the Dreamer of the Millennial:
In face of the bold leadership of Bangabandhu and the uncompromising movement of the Bengalis, the new dictator General Yahya had to hold the national election for the first time. During his visit to London, Bangabandhu expressed his gratitude to the expatriates and in an interview with the BBC, he also expressed hope for a landslide victory for the Awami League in a fair election.
Finally, in the 1970 general election, the Awami League won an absolute majority by getting 167 out of 313 seats in the National Assembly and 298 out of 310 seats in the Provincial Assembly. Keeping their faith in Bangabandhu who showed them the dream of freeing the nation from the shackles of exploitation, the people of Bengal exclusively cast their vote for the boat symbol.
But the Pakistani junta refused to accept this victory of the Bengalis. Rather they tried to put the elected representatives into a chaotic situation like they did with the United Front government. But Bangabandhu, this time, was very cautious and continued uniting people. General Yahya Khan suddenly postponed the National Constituent Assembly, supposed to begin on March 3, 1971. At this, protests flared up and Bangabandhu along with people started non- non-cooperation movement across the country.
On March 3, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was hailed as the 'Father of the Nation' in front of millions of people at a public meeting in Paltan. He then asked the countrymen for taking full preparations for the Liberation War through his historic speech at Suhrawardy Udyan on March 7. Sheikh Mujib started governing the whole country as Awami League and its associate bodies took control of law and order and built resistance against Pakistani occupiers – leaving the Pakistani rule obsolete.
Finally, at midnight on March 25, the barbaric Pakistanis attacked the sleeping Bengalis. Immediately in the early hours of March 26, Bangabandhu made the final declaration of independence of Bangladesh through wireless. Copies of the declaration of independence spread out everywhere including Dhaka and Chattagram that night and the next day. At the risk of their lives, our Bengalis fought against the Pakistani occupiers. After the end of nine-month of bloody battles, the independent flag of red and green started flying on the world map. For the first time in the thousand years of history, the Bengalis achieved an independent and sovereign state under the leadership of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
Sheikh Mujib to Return to the Bengalis’ Entity Again & Again:
The foundation of today's digital Bangladesh has been laid during the three and a half years of Bangabandhu's rule. So as long as there is the Bengali language, there will be Bangladesh, there will be Bengali culture; the triumph of 'Joy Bangla, Joy Bangabandhu' will flow in the blood cells of this nation.
Sheikh Mujib is alive in world history as a legend will be always. Stunned by the news of Bangabandhu's death, the British Lord Fenner Brockway said, "In a sense, Sheikh Mujib is a greater leader than George Washington, Mahatma Gandhi and De Valera.”
The West German newspaper said, 'Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib can be compared to Louis XIV. He was so popular with the people that, like Louis, he could claim, "I am the state."
Meanwhile, according to a BBC survey, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman is the greatest Bengali of all time. The United Nations has recognized his historic speech of March 7 as a part of world documentary heritage. Bangabandhu's speech is called one of the best 100 speeches in the history of the world including Europe-America. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was such a rare personality who inspired a nation to wage a deadly war for liberation, staying in a prison- thousands of miles away.
That is why the former President of France, while visiting Bangladesh in 1990, said, 'Mujib has done what Napoleon could not do. Inspired by the radiant light of his name alone, a nation has changed the map of the world. No one has ever witnessed such a wonderful event in the history of the entire human civilization.”
Bangabandhu did not only establish one state, but also he gave new life to a nation's thousand-year-old tradition and culture. After establishing a sovereign state for a nation, he adopted a plan to establish that nation as a leading one in the world. Bangabandhu and Bangladesh are similar to each other. From the Bengali language to Bangladesh's independence and the new struggle to stand upright with pride in the world, Bangabandhu's name will come again and again in every aspect.