152Published on March 17, 2023
Dr. Rashid Askari:
The world sometimes gives birth to individuals who change the course of history. They are great men. Shakespeare in his play Twelfth Night classifies great men into three categories, i.e. ‘some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them’. The architect of independent Bangladesh Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was, by all accounts, such a great man who achieved greatness, neither by birth nor by a thrust, but by a lifetime of sacrifice for his country and its people. True greatness hinges on an individual’s enormous confidence, the strength of purpose, tireless toil and the sweet smell of success. In the realm of politics such people are not very large in number. They are political prodigies.
Bengali nationalism has evolved from a train of events spread over a period of about five thousand years. During this long time, Bangalees could hardly get any opportunity of self-determination. Their thirst for freedom was never quenched until 1971. They earned independence for the first time ever in 1971 by means of a liberation war unique in history. No country had paid so much in terms of loss of life as Bangladesh to gain its independence. And in the entire process of achieving independence -- from the 1952 Language Movement to the 1971 Liberation War, Bangabandhu played the most instrumental role in providing leadership for his people and emerged as their political messiah. He translated the long-cherished dream of Bangalees into a tangible reality by bringing them the Promised Land.
That a man was born for the people, lived for the people and died for the people is best epitomized by Bangabandhu. He is a larger-than-life personality. What he did throughout his life amounted to putting his motherland on the map. He created a nation-state, an independent country, a national flag and the national anthem first ever in the history of the Bengali people. And hence he won the appellation—the greatest Bengali of all time—for his unrivalled contribution to the making of the nation. Pakistan founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s biographer, the famous American historian and Indologist, Stanley Wolpert considered Jinnah as one of the few individuals who altered the course of history, modified the map of the world and created a nation-state. However, Wolpert’s eulogy to Jinnah is not beyond question. Because, the creation of Pakistan based on the notorious ‘Two Nation Theory’ was, as the veteran congressman Maulana Abul Kalam Azad found it, “one of the greatest frauds” that vitiated the true spirit of a nation-state. Jinnah’s only daughter Dina Wadia was unhappy with the partition of India and did not venture into settling in Pakistan leaving behind her ancestral home in Bombay. Wolpert’s analysis is, however, more applicable to Mujib for, Mujib did ‘all the three’ that Jinnah actually failed to do. Mujib altered the course of the history of the sub-continent by transforming a subordinate province into an independent state; modifying the world map by putting it on it; and creating a nation-state called the People’s Republic of Bangladesh. And he did all these as a perfect foil for Jinnah. Jinnah planted the seeds of religious militancy while Mujib fostered the cause of secularism.
The two alliterative words ‘Bangladesh’ and ‘Bangabandhu’ are complementary to and inseparable from each other. In fact, Bangladesh is Bangabandhu’s dream come true. He dreamt of an independent sovereign country for Bangalees and translated it into tangible reality. The life of Bangabandhu is a shining example of how a man’s life struggle can change the fate of a nation and how an individual’s word of mouth can infuse a new life into his people. His whole life was dedicated to the emergence of his country, and he became the symbol of the hopes and aspirations of his countrymen. Love of his country and people transformed Mujib into Bangabandhu.
The trajectory of Mujib’s life from a naïve teenage rebel to a legendary political revolutionary; from his long turbulent career in politics to his becoming the Father of the Nation contributed to the making of Bangladesh. He carried out his political struggle and developed his ideologies to build a brave new state breaking away from the bonds of neo-colonial subjugation. Mujib’s credos are epitomized by the elements of postcolonial nationalism which constituted the core of his nationalist politics. What he did, thought, believed, disbelieved, loved and hated for the sake of his country and its people, contributed to the making of the Father of the Nation.
Bangabandhu is the architect of our country and the nation by all implications of the term. It was Mujib, who gave the nation a real touch of freedom. It was quite a trek into the long way of struggle for freedom in which he gave the most active lead. He was a fearless fighter in the Language Movement of 1952; one in the vanguard of the democratic movement of 1962; the originator of the historic Six-point Programme of 1966; the life force of the Mass Movement of 1969; the enviable victor of the election of 1970 and, above all, the greatest hero of the Liberation War of 1971. He is undisputedly the founder of independent Bangladesh and, therefore, the Father of the Nation.
Bangabandhu has thus consolidated his position in the history of Bangladesh's independence. On 7 March 1971, the whole nation was prepared to listen to nobody else's speech; on 25 March, the occupation army arrested nobody else; the world conscience pressurized the then Pakistan Government into releasing nobody else; nobody else was made the founding president of new-born Bangladesh; on 10 January 1971, nobody else was given the rousing reception; nobody else was entrusted with the responsibility of reconstructing the war-ravaged country! It was Mujib and only Mujib who was the protagonist of the whole play.
Bangabandhu has earned an unrivalled place in history based on contemporary facts which any posthumous fabrication cannot twist. If we look back on our history of independence, we would see Mujib was the supreme leader of our liberation struggle. He bears a comparison to none in his country. He can be compared only with the world leaders like--Abraham Lincoln of America, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin of Russia, Winston Churchill of Britain, De Gaulle of France, Mao-Tse-Tung of China, Ho Chi Minh of Vietnam, Ahmed Sukarno of Indonesia, Kemal Ataturk of Turkey, Nelson Mandela of South Africa, Patrice Lumumba of Congo, Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya, Ahmed Ben Bella of Algeria, Fidel Castro of Cuba, and Mahatma Gandhi of India. This history is based on the bare bones of things that came about. Travesties of facts must be spoilt by the unrealistic contrivances and the very essence of Bangabandhu’s politics will shine through in days to come.
Writer: Former Vice Chancellor of Islamic University Bangladesh
Courtesy: Daily Sun