Sheikh Hasina's homecoming and resurrection of democracy


Published on May 17, 2022
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Sheikh Wali Asif:

Bangladesh's political discourse, 17 May 1981, is popularly known as "Hasina's homecoming day". The homecoming of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was not only the individual return of Bangabandhu's daughter but also the return of democracy and the spirit of the liberation that had been halted after the brutal killing of the father of the nation in 1975.

Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was brutally murdered along with most of his family members on 15 August, 1975. In less than four years of independence, the nation lost its founding father and the then President. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was killed at a time when Bangladesh was still recovering from the war-ravaged setbacks, arguably the most damaging developmental setback of the time. Sheikh Mujib was at the centre of the reorganizing and nation building efforts.

Bangabandhu's two daughters Sheikh Hasina and Sheikh Rehana luckily escaped the brutal assassination as they were living abroad in West Germany, where Sheikh Hasina's husband, M A Wazed Miah, was working as a nuclear physicist and Sheikh Rehana was visiting them at that time.

Sheikh Mujib's murder was the first assassination-coup in South Asia. The military rulers, who took charge after Mujib, barred his daughters from returning to Bangladesh. It was a forceful strategy adopted to contain any mass movement or political backlash. Bangabandhu's daughters moved to Delhi in late 1975 and was provided asylum by India. After Sheikh Mujib's assassination, Awami League, which was the most organized political party both pre- and post-independence era, was systemically and brutally targeted by the military junta. It was yet another strategy to weaken the organization.

As a measure to re-energize the party. in a national council session of the Bangladesh Awami League in February 1981, Sheikh Hasina was elected as the party president in her absence. Soon after there was a new thrill in the organization's grassroot and the public sentiment at-large which laid the grounds for Sheikh Hasina's return. Not surprisingly, the military ruler turned president and the mastermind of the Bangabandhu assassination, Ziaur Rahman had imposed restriction on Sheikh Hasina's arrival.

Defying all odds, Sheikh Hasina on boarded on an aircraft of the Indian Airlines41 years back on 17 May and reached the then Kurmitola Airport in Dhaka from the New Delhi via Kolkata in the afternoon. While Sheikh Hasina entered Bangladesh with a risk of losing her life, her indomitable stance to restore the power back in people's hand from the anti-liberation despotic forces changed the course of Bangladesh's political and social history in the upcoming decades.

The public response was unanticipated. Thousands of people swamped before the airport to welcome her amid inclement weather. When she addressed nearly 1.5 million people at the airport, she uttered words of hope, courage and salvation as she said, "I have returned to the country not to become a leader of the Awami League, rather to participate in the struggle for freedom by staying beside the people". With this, Bangabandhu's eldest daughter opened to write a new chapter in the history of Bangladesh, the one of people, democracy and rights.

When Sheikh Hasina returned to the country, Ziaur Rahaman did not allow Sheikh Hasina to enter her house in Dhanmondi 32 and did not even allow a Milad Mahfil for her family. With no option left at her disposal, she had to recite Milad on the road outside her house. Ziaur Rahman formed a resistance committee with his torturous forces to encumber Sheikh Hasina and her endeavours.

Nevertheless, Sheikh Hasina immediately took charge of the movement to restore the democratic rights of the people. She soon built a progressive coalition. She would lead the movement basing it on the values of the liberation war. The progressive movement was long. Sheikh Hasina successfully spearheaded it during the 80's and the 90's, which would overthrow autocracy and counter regressive politics. In her struggle, she witnessed martial law, house arrest, mass uprising and many courses of events.

In 1996, Sheikh Hasina led Awami League to victory in the general election and formed the government. In 2008, she led the alliance to landslide victory in parliament. In 2014, she once again became the prime minister. She assumed office of the prime minister for the third consecutive term after winning the December 2018 election. Sheikh Hasina's homecoming changed the direction of Bangladesh's political and developmental journey.

Her long political career after 1981, set the agenda for progressivism and secularism in politics along with pro-people policies in governance. Under her leadership, Bangladesh has become a development role model among the developing countries, attaining steady economic growth. In 2015, Bangladesh became a lower-middle income (LMC) country from being a low-income country, according to the World Bank's classification. In 2026, Bangladesh set to graduate from a least developed country (LDC) to a developing country stipulated under the United Nations' criteria.

Bangladesh is a prosperous country today owing to Sheikh Hasina's perseverance, struggle, patience, sacrifice, and relentless hard work. Bangladesh's achievements in various indicators of finance and trade in the 50 years of the victory have stunned the world as the Awami League adopted the country's economic master plan for the first term (1996-2001) and later during the three consecutive terms from 2008 under her strong leadership.

Before the Awami League came to power in the second term, the lives of the people were fraught with the difficulties like the scarcity of electricity and food. In just a decade, changes took place under the leadership of Sheikh Hasina. Electricity has now reached to every rural household, and the latest annual total power generation is 24,000 MW. The production of food grains stands at 451 lakh tons. Post-independence, the export earnings have risen from USD 348.33 million to USD 2,586 million. Bangladesh is now the third-largest producer of rice and fourth-largest producer of freshwater fish in the world.

Bangladesh is now far ahead of Pakistan in development indices like education, life expectancy, imports, exports, reserves, GDP growth rate, and per capita income. Pakistan sympathizers in Bangladesh have constantly tried to overthrow Sheikh Hasina and the progress of democratic and secular Bangladesh to bring back the ghosts of oppressors and tyrants. During the tenure of Zia-Ershad and Khaleda Zia, 19 attempts were made to assassinate Hasina, and miraculously she survived all.

While many influential statesmen in the world have surrendered to economic, political and health catastrophes Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has fought victoriously against all conspiracies, collusions and calamities with her boundless courage and statesmanship. Thus, there is a broad array of historical developments, which makes "Hasina's homecoming day" a significant chapter in the history of modern Bangladesh.

Courtesy: The Daily Observer