A tribute to Bangabandhu

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Published on March 17, 2023
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Dr. Pranab Kumar Panday:

On March 17, 1920, Banga­bandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rah­man, later known as the Father of the Nation, was born into a prominent Muslim family in the village of Tungipara in the district of Gopalganj. In the annals of Bangladeshi history, this is a momentous day. His birth was a pivotal moment in Bangladesh's quest for independence, and we should all recognise that. Indeed, if Bangabandhu hadn't been born, Bangladesh's emergence on the global stage would have been delayed by many years. As long as Bangladesh exists, its residents should be eternally thankful to him and acknowledge his contribution. Bangladesh's freedom from Pakistan was achieved under his wise and pragmatic leadership. As such, Bangabandhu has become an inseparable part of Bangladeshi history, and his legacy cannot be erased.

One may wonder how Bangabandhu was transformed from the "Khoka" of Tungipara to the "Father of the Nation". To be honored as a "Father of the Nation," one must have played a unique role in the struggle for the formation of a state. Their pivotal role in helping build their nation during the War of Independence is often regarded as inspiring. Given that no one else has come close to Bangabandhu in terms of importance in the formation of Bangladesh as a nation-state, direct comparisons are difficult.

Bangabandhu's outstanding leadership inspired the entire nation to fight for their freedom. Similarly to Peter I of Russia, Sun Yat-sen of China, Sir Henry Parkes of Australia, Mahatma Gandhi of India, and Mustafa Kamal of Turkey, the people of Bangladesh honored him with the title "Father of the Nation" in recognition of his contribution and sacrifice in the war against the Pakistani army and the creation of Bangladesh.

The War of Independence was led by his strong and persuasive command. He was a true visionary who played an instrumental role in all political movements, starting with the language movement in 1952 and travelled through the democracy movement in 1962, the six-point movement in 1966, the mass movement in 1969, and the liberation war in 1971. He gave up his own happiness to steer the ship of state. Millions of people in Bangladesh were moved by his fervor and adopted his idea wholeheartedly as a result of his dedication.

Perhaps many politicians prior to Bangabandhu yearned for the day they could rule their own country. Some political figures may have broached the subject of a sovereign state in the early part of the twentieth century. These leaders were unable to achieve their goals by proclaiming independence and mobilising the people to fight for it. They failed to present the East Pakistani people with a comprehensive plan for achieving independence.

Yet, in his momentous address on March 7 that inspired his fellow citizens to wage the struggle for emancipation with resolve, Bangabandhu provided a detailed roadmap to independence. As his name is so intrinsically linked to the birth of Bangladesh, it is inevitable that it will come up first in any discussion about that country and its people, the Bangalees. Lord Fenner Brockway, a forerunner of the British humanism movement, once said of Bangabandhu, "In a sense, Sheikh Mujib is a greater leader than George Washington, Mahatma Gandhi, and De Valera." As a result, Bangabandhu's influence spread well beyond the limits of Bangladesh.

Before the Awami League came to power in Bangladesh, various regimes tried to erase Bangabandhu from the country's history. Due to the inseparability of Bangladesh and Bangabandhu, their efforts were unsuccessful. Therefore, one of the Awami League's and Sheikh Mujib's harshest detractors, Lawyer Moudud Ahmed, once stated that "the appearance of Sheikh Mujib was the biggest event in the national history of Bangladesh. His burial did not take place through his death. More pragmatic, efficient, capable and dynamic political personalities than Sheikh Mujib might have emerged or may emerge. However, it will be challenging to find someone who has contributed more to Bangladesh's independence movement and the shaping of its national identity" (Translation from the author's writing).

This praise from an adversary suggests that Bangabandhu never wavered from his commitment to improving society in Bengal without resorting to extreme measures. Hence, Bangladesh's citizens have conferred the honors of "Bangabandhu" and "Father of the Nation" on him.

The AL government under Sheikh Hasina has made efforts to highlight Bangabandhu's contribution to many areas of Bangladeshi society, and for that, we are indebted to them. Our children and grandchildren will be able to learn about his contribution to the war for independence in this way. We should also acknowledge the wisdom of designating Bangabandhu's birthday as "National Children's Day" all around the country.

The primary objective of this holiday is to inspire the country's next generation to keep up his legacy. If our youth can take something from his beliefs, then they will be better equipped to represent our country as mature citizens.There is a need for the young and progressive citizens of the country to find motivation in the struggles of the Father of the Nation's life. His unfinished memoirs paint a picture of his deep affection for the people of Bangladesh. Because of his dedication to the freedom of its people, he spent most of his life behind bars. The perpetrators did not want him to complete the "Sonar Bangla," so they brutally murdered him and the rest of his family on August 15, 1975. Sheikh Hasina's strong determination to realise her Father's unfinished vision of constructing "Sonar Bangla" is ultimately responsible for the positive improvements that have occurred in Bangladesh during the past decade. If she keeps up her current pace, we may soon be able to call ourselves citizens of "Sonar Bangla".

Meanwhile, we have been recommended by the UN CDP to embrace the ranks of developing nations. This happened in the same year that Bangladeshis celebrated the centennial of this great leader's birth and the half-centennial of our nation's independence from Pakistan. By 2031, the country is projected to have an upper-middle income, and by 2041, it will achieve the status of a developed country. Sheikh Hasina's unrelenting efforts are what have made these accomplishments possible.Sheikh Mujibur Rahman is more than just a politician in Bangladesh; he symbolises the country itself. Hence, we shouldn't try to limit his greatness to just a few circles. As opposed to putting him in a narrow setting, we should work hard to preserve his ideal so that it can serve as a source of inspiration for generations to come. Even though he is no longer physically present, his memories may still inspire us.

Writer: Professor of Public Administration at the University of Rajshahi, Bangladesh

Courtesy: Bangladesh Post