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20 March, 2020 01:00:45 PM

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Bangabandhu: Courage personified

The massacre of Bangabandhu and his family will forever remain an infamous chapter in the history of this country. With the trial and execution of some of his killers the blot has been removed, but not totally
Syed Mehdi Momin
Bangabandhu: Courage personified

A tall and wiry young Bengali man was walking fast to his hotel in Lahore in the evening. Suddenly he was surrounded by half a dozen strapping Punjabi thugs who were there to beat him up.

The young Bengali was not unnerved by the sight. He just put his spectacle in his pocket and prepared to fight. He told them that he had heard that the Punjabis were a chivalrous race and asked them to come one by one. We I will not get into the details of the fight. Suffice it to say that the thugs soon realised that here was a real man and who do not have any resemblance to their stereotyped image of the timid and feeble Bengali that was propagated by the Punjabis’ British masters. They beat a hasty retreat. The incident is described in Bangabandhu’s Unfinished Autobiography.
Instances of his courage abound. In this article I will share with the readers some interesting and thought provoking anecdotes about the father of the nation.
My uncle the Mahbubul Alam, former editor of this newspaper had many opportunities to get in close touch in Bangabandhu. And he was his first press secretary in independent Bangladesh. Once he told me that in the mid 1960s Bangabandhu was conversing with some journalists at Dhaka park while munching on peanuts. Yeah he was that kind of a man. He told them (I am paraphrasing) “Look considering the military and political establish¬ment of West Pakistan we can’t stay with them.” You have to remember it was after the 1965 Indo-Pak War and emotions were running high. When somebody said that his statement may be interpreted as secessionist Banga¬bandhu said that the majority does not secede and “I have to look after my people.” The well-being of his people was behind his every action.
Someone once asked the famous politician Oli Ahad why Awami League selected Banga¬bandhu as leader when there were so many other senior leaders. He was just 43 when he became the head of Awami League, the biggest political party of Pakistan. At the time when he was asked this the politician had left Awami League and often criticised the man. Yet his reply was “Who else was there? Who else had that kind of charisma and courage? Look, at the RTCs (Round Table Conferences) when one of those burly Punjabi or Pathan Generals thumped on the table all the other leaders cast their eyes down. Only this young man looked straight back at them and thumped on the table twice. Each time the thump was louder than any General’s. This courage was evident when the cowardly goons assassinated him. Not once did he beg for his life. After all a wounded lion lion can’t cow down to a pack of jackals. It is said that two Bengali journalists were produced before the secret mili¬tary tribunal trying Banga¬bandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on charges of treason in Mianwali in 1971. One of the journalists was Shahidul Haq. When he came face to face with Bangabandhu, he broke down and through his tears gave the Yahya Khan regime to understand the affection and loyalty he had for his leader. Bangabandhu, touched by Haq’s gesture, asked the tribunal to ensure the journalist’s safety. Shahidul Haq was eventually to serve as a respected editor of the Bangladesh Times.

Sheikh Moni, the founder president of Jubo League and Bagabandhu’s nephew was sitting at his office in Bangladesh Times. He was the editor of the newspaper. A young journalist came to meet him for something. He noticed a huge bowl with the cover on. Being curious the young man asked his editor what was in the bowl. Sheikh Moni said with a smile “There are big live ‘koi’ fishes there. Mama (uncle meaning of course Bangabandhu) wants Maulana Bhashani, who was very fond of this fish, to have them. And he has instructed me (Sheikh Moni) to take this to Bhashani. Clearly Bangabandhu had great regards for the old man. I mean no disrespect to Maolana Bhanshani, but this ‘prophet of violence’ did all he could to make life difficult for ‘Mojibor’ as he used to call him. Often the red maolana used such language against the prime minister that verged on the vulgar. Yet being the magnanimous soul that Bangabandhu was he was sending fish for the man. There are many such instances of large-heartedness of the great leader,

It was not only Bhashani, extremists from both the left and the right virtually waged a war against him and his government. Bangabandhu was trying hard to rebuild the war ravaged country. These elements put up stumbling blocks on every step and were hell-bent on creating anarchy. Yet Bangabandhu never shied away from a challenge and was prepared to fight against all odds. And he was being successful. Law and order situation had improved, prices of essentials were coming down, and the economy was getting better. Just take a look at the newspapers of the time and things will become clear. Just when he was about to out the country on the right track he was murdered.   

He embodied some of the finest traditions that self-respecting peo¬ple any¬where have,throughout history, upheld in their lives. And among those values is the refusal to compromise, to undermine yourself through a convenient jettisoning of the ideals that you have always held dear. Even as the roundtable confe¬rence went on in Rawalpindi in 1969, President Ayub Khan suggested to Mujib that he take charge as Pakistan’s prime minister. The Bengali leader spurned the offer. It was a natural gesture on the part of a man who had defied the winds and the trends to come forth with the Six Points in 1966. It was Bengal that mattered to him. Nothing else did, or would.

Bangabandhu never flinched from doing or saying anything he thought was right. In December 1969, as Bengalis remembered Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy on his death anniversary, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman let them and by extension the world outside know that thenceforth East Pakistan would be known as Bangladesh. A hostile King Faisal of Saudi Arabia was quickly shocked into silence by Bangabandhu’s courage. Faisal, a man without vision, could not understand why Bengalis had driven Pakistan out. Mujib then lectured him soundly on what Islam signified, and how the Pakistanis had distorted the faith. Principles, then, were what served as Mujib’s fundamental political premise. Thus so impressed the iconic Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro that he said “ I have not seen the Himalayas but I have seen “Sheikh Mujib”. When Zulfikar Ali Bhutto came calling in January 1971, clearly to ask for a share of power with the majority Awami League, Bangabandhu made it clear that Bhutto’s People’s Party needed to be where the electoral verdict had placed it, in parliamentary opposition.

It is well-known that when asked by a journalist what his greatest weakeness was, he said “I love my people too much.” That he did and what price he had to pay for his love. I heard from a family member of Major Dalim, one of the leading figures in murdering the Father of the Nation regularly visited Bangabandhu’s residence. Not only that, Sheikh Kamal behaved in a friendly manner with him. Bangabandhu’s wife cooked for the man– who was to play a pivotal role in slaughtering the First Family– and served him herself. Major Dalim was the type of man who almost literally bit the hand that fed him.

And this man and the other murderers were dubbed as “shurjo shontan’ by that most devoted student of Judas Khondokar Moshtaq Ahmed. What does that even mean?  Bangabandhu forgave his many misdeeds hoping that he will change. Well a serpent remains one until the day it dies.

When Bangabandhu’s father passed away and brought to the graveyard this Khondokar was sobbing uncontrollably. Some eyewitnesses say it was quite an Oscar worthy performance by the master crook. It actually took the bereaved son Bangabandhu himself to pacify him. Evidence shows at the time he was already in cahoots with the murderous gang and plotting with his trusted aides to not only ensure Bangabandhu’s downfall but his death. The massacre of Bangabandhu and his family will forever remain an infamous chapter in the history of this country. With the trial and execution of some of his killers the blot has been removed, but not totally. There are still murderers, who are at large. Let’s hope they are brought back to the country and pay for their monstrous deeds.

The writer is the Senior Assistant Editor of The Independent and can

be contacted at: syed.mehdi@theindependentbd.com.

 

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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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