Certainly, the freedom we achieved on 16 December 1971 was the outcome of nine month long battle. But the Bengalis’ history of undergoing tyranny and oppression continued through the ages.
History states that at different times foreign invaders came to the resourceful Bengal and ruled this territory. The description of the Bengal from various historians, rulers and travelers claims that this territory was full of resources. Ibn Battuta, a Moroccan traveler who visited Bengal in 1346 AD, called Bengal a ‘hell full of abundance’.
In the seventeenth century Bargis, the Marathan invaders came to this land and plundered resources in a large scale. Not only that, the people of this territory bore the brunt of oppression by the Bargis. How they caused panic amid the people is simply guessed when a mother used to stop her baby’s cry telling that if it does not stop, the Bargis would come. Even among the children the Bargis were a name of panic.
Over the ages it was the expectation of the Bengalis that once they would become liberated. The nation was really a fortunate one as the greatest leader like Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was born in this territory. He was such a leader who sacrificed his entire life to emancipate the Bengalis from hundreds of years of tyranny and oppression.
There may be many leaders who dreamed of a separate territory for the people of the East Pakistan and there may be some who made gestures and signs at that point but none could be able to give the shape to their dreams. But it was only Bangabandhu who materialized the dream of the Bengalis and became the nation’s architect. He is the greatest Bengali of a thousand years and is the father of the nation. He had the vastness at his heart with all the humane qualities which created everlasting bonds with a huge population.
Bangabandhu was a charismatic leader and this quality made people spell bound. His attractive personal quality made him an iconic leader before the world community. Cuba’s renaissance leader Fidel Castro rightly described Bangabandhu a charismatic leader. In his view he said “I have not seen Himalayas but I have seen Sheikh Mujib. In personality and courage this man is the Himalayas.”
Bangabandhu never compromised with any injustice that put him into enormous sufferings throughout his life. Throughout his life he fought for the political, economic and cultural emancipation of people and never thought of his personal happiness. The vision of this great leader was only serving the humanity irrespective of their cast and creed that made him a man of extraordinary sensitivity. His proactive social consciousness and paramount dedication for politics have made him an unquestionable leader of Bangladesh.
After the end of British colonial regime in this subcontinent, in 1947 Pakistan and India were born as two individual countries. The partition of the two countries was mainly based on religion. Pakistan had two wings and Bangladesh was the part of East Pakistan. Since the creation of Pakistan the people of this territory had been undergoing another episode of suppression and subjugation from its western counterpart. The far-sighted Bangabandhu realized that Pakistan could never talk about the interest of the Bengalis though they were majority in number.
The ill-intention of the West Pakistan grew severe when they wanted to snatch away mother language of the Bengalis. Protests spread among the mass people of the East Pakistan against that decision. Young Bangabandhu along with his many followers made a strong protest against the decision of the West Pakistan rulers to impose Urdu as the state language of Pakistan. It is true that we achieved our right to speak Bengali in 1952 through sacrificing the lives of many heroic sons of this territory. But could we stop the antagonistic attitudes of the West Pakistan? Certainly not, rather unending tortures and different types of evil-doings against the Bengalis abated gradually.
After the death of Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman took the stewardship of Awami League. In 1966 Bangabandhu proposed the historic six point demands as the head of Awami League. The six points was the charter of freedom for the Bengalis. It was a complete road map for emancipating the people of the East Pakistan. Political analysts stated that after the partition of 1947 the politicians of different quarters raised some issues of various times but our architect of freedom Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman proposed six points which combined all in a single platform. Mainly, six-point demand made a bridge to go forward with the demand of autonomy.
The six points became so popular among the Bengalis but as soon as it turned a strong movement and made Bengalis realize their rights, Bangabandhu was sent to jail accusing him of Agartala Conspiracy Case.
Meanwhile, people of all walks of life had been stimulated by the charismatic essence of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. The whole nation came out with a protest to free Bangabandhu from trial. In a short time the movement of the mass people got momentum. To avert the impending civil war Ayub government withdrew the case and Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was released. With the time Sheikh Mujib was not only a leader but an existence of the Bengalis.
The momentous popularity of the father of the nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman gave Awami League 167 seats out of the 169 seats allotted for the East Pakistan in the general election of 1970 while People’s Party led by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto got 81 of 144 seats. Bangabandhu’s Awami League got the mandate of the majority people but they were not allowed to form the government. Rather Ayub government started conspiracy against Bangabandhu and his people.
Bangabandhu was clearly aware that without walking to the path of struggles, the nation would never achieve their freedom. On 7 March 1971 Bangabandhu made a historic address at Race Course Maidan before thousands of people. This speech was a turning point. Through his speech he hinted at the responsibilities of the nation for their liberation.
The great orator Bangabndhu with his charismatic capability inspired the Bengalis infusing patriotic feelings into them. Impliedly, he not only advised people to jump into liberation war but also gave a complete guideline that helped the people to achieve freedom relatively in a short time.
However, Bangabandhu suffered jail terms for about 12 years during the 23 years of Pakistani rule to claim the rights of the people of Bangladesh and to materialize the dream of the Bengalis that they would see since the years. He not only emancipated the Bengalis from injustice and oppressions, after endowing independence to the nation he worked relentlessly to change the fortune of the people. He wanted to make Bangladesh ‘Sonar Bangla’. But his assassination along with his family members on 15 August 1975 brought the darkest episode to the Bengalis’ life.
Bangabandhu is not physically amid us but his presence the nation will be felt through the ages. His ideology and vision will continue regenerating at every Bengladeshi’s heart. Anandashankar Ray wrote rightly, “As long as the Padma, Meghna, Gouri, Jamuna flow on, Your accomplishment will also live on, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.”
The writer teaches at Prime University. He is also a research scholar at the IBS. Email: [email protected]