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Sheikh Mujibur Rahman: A leader and a statesman

There is not an iota of doubt that Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was the most charismatic political personality that the Bengali nation has ever produced
Syed Mehdi Momin
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman: A leader and a statesman

There is a school of thought in Bangladesh which propagates the view that after returning home on January 10, 1972 from his captivity in Pakistan Sheikh Mujibur Rahman should have handed over power to someone else and exercised “moral authority” without holding any government office. Well even if the man entertained this thought for sometime being a true patriot and the consummate politician that he was, he could foresee what would have happened to the newly born country if he did not agree to become its chief executive. After all, the War was fought in his name and without getting into details of the matter a fierce civil war could have ensued which the nascent nation in its infancy could hardly afford to have.
Bangabandhu was the first Bengali Muslim politician to come into national prominence from a middle-class background. His father was a government employee at the local court.  Bangabandhu  was sent to Kolkata for his  and got the first taste of politics there. Sheikh Mujib worked actively for the Muslim League’s cause of Pakistan and in 1946 he became general secretary of his alma mater Islamia College’s Students Union. After the partition of India his phenomenal rise in the political arena in East Bengal, later East Pakistan, is quite astonishing. He was a founding member of the Awami League and still in his 30s became a provincial minister. He gave up that lucrative post, an action which was rare then as it is now, to organise Awami League at the grassroots level in his capacity as the party’s general secretary. The fruits of his endeavour are still being enjoyed by Awami League, which has a presence in almost every village of the country.  

It was his mentor Husayn Shahid Surawardi who was the last political leader to have a support base in both wings of Pakistan. In his memoirs Suhrawardi has written about his lieutenant Sheikh Mujib’s growing disillusionment with West Pakistani misrule and his determination to do something about it. The genesis of his historic Six-Points programme in 1966 lies there. He called for a federal state structure for Pakistan and full autonomy for Bangladesh with a parliamentary democratic system. The Six-Points became so popular in a short while that it was turned into the Charter of Freedom for the Bengalis or their Magna Carta.

In the meantime he continued his meteoric rise and by the late 1960s became the most popular leader among the Bengalis. It is amazing to think that in his historic 7th March speech he addressed the people of the land as ‘tumi’ and “tomader” (the informal you in Bengali). One has to remember that he was barely 50 at the time.  According to the current writer Bangabandhu’s becoming so popular and loved by the people lies primarily with three things –charisma, courage and his genuine devotion and affection to his people. It is the last factor which is probably the most crucial.  Bangabandhu’s was a genuine people’s leader. It was his love for his people and empathy for his people’s sufferings that made him strive for their freedom.

His popularity which reached the stratosphere could not diminish his love for the common people. Till his last breath he never forgot his real source of power – the ordinary man and woman of Bangladesh.  It was his tremendous love for the people that made him eschew his official residence and continue to live in his Dhanmondi Road 32 residence. Unfortunately, that made things easier for his killers.

Whether Bangabandhu’s Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was the greatest Bengali of the last thousand years can be an interesting subject for debate however there can’t be an iota of doubt that he was the most charismatic political personality the Bengali nation has ever produced. One did not just meet , they circumnavigated around the aura the man exuded. Taller and bigger than the average Bengali, possessing a supremely confident visage and the manner in which he carried himself contribute towards making him a man among men.

Alongside towering international personalities like Fidel Castro, Marshal Tito, Henry Kissinger, Andre Marlaux, Curt Waldheim, Ne Win, Colonel Gaddafi, Motubo,  Zulfikar Ali Bhutto,  never looked out of place or intimidated. In fact, with the ever present pipe in hand it was often  who looked the more impressive.

The famous British journalist Sir Mark Tully had the opportunity to meet and closely observe the Father of the Nation from close quarters. He found him to possess great charisma. “"I attended several public meetings addressed by Sheikh Saheb. He had a wonderful voice that could mesmerise the crowd. I could feel that from the reaction of the people when Sheikh Saheb used to address public meetings."

Ved Marwah, former governor of Manipur and Jharkhand, wrote this while recounting his memory with  “"I have met many charismatic personalities during my service career, including Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and many world leaders, but I must say that among them he (Sheikh Mujib) was the most charismatic personality I had met." Recalling the time  met India Gandhi in Delhi Airport, Marwah writes “Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by nature was a very reserved person. But this occasion was an exception. I had not seen a bigger smile on her face. She was smiling and prancing like a young girl. One could see an immediate personal rapport had developed between the two."

’s legendary courage was simply extraordinary. Poet and journalist Muhammad Nurul Huda writes “ is incomparable because he was courageous, and it was his moral and physical courage combined that was unprecedented in the annals of our historic political struggle. Come to think of it, the man spent almost the best part of his youth in prison for the liberation of his people. The way  conducted himself while confronting the overbearing and scheming top Pakistani military brass in Dhaka in March 1971 spoke volumes of his courage and sense of honour. Persons who have seen the transcriptions of those historic meetings bear testimony to 's bravery and candidness.”

The bravery and steadfastness he showed when facing his killers in too well-known to recall here.

The writer is the Senior Assistant Editor of The Independent

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Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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