THE people of Bangladesh mourn today, as they have mourned all these long years since August 15, 1975, the absence of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in national life. The tragic, sudden end to the life of the Father of the Nation was an ugly blow to the aspirations of the people of Bangladesh for a secular, democratic and heritage-driven society based on the noble principles of the 1971 War of Liberation.
Today, thirty nine years after that darkly vicious day, the best way for us to remember Bangabandhu will be to recall the high ideals he brought into politics through his long struggle for the rights of his fellow Bangalees. His political consistency, his clear enumeration of national goals and his long spells in prison owing to his uncompromising stand on popular rights are the ideals we in these fraught times, when forceful national leadership is called for, need to remember and revive in our individual and collective life. The dreams he fashioned through the 1960s and in post-liberation times of a Bangladesh free of corruption and ready and willing to emerge as a nation of hard-working people are ideas we need to implement in reality if our loyalty and love for him truly matter for us.
There is little question that Bangabandhu led a remarkable life, in the sense that he gave every bit of it, till the last measure, to the struggle for democratic rights. He spoke of creating the conditions where smiles would light up the faces of all citizens of Bangladesh. He envisioned the possibility of Bangladesh becoming the Switzerland of the east. He foresaw a time when the people of South Asia would leave the past behind them and stride confidently into the future. In the Third World, he could conceive of a future that would bring nations and societies together. He belonged, as Bangladesh's leader, to a new generation of statesmen in whose hands such necessary alliances as the Non-Aligned Movement would be secure.
At home, Bangabandhu's commitment to democracy, Baksal notwithstanding, was total. He was a leader who rose to the heights through his unrelenting struggle for political pluralism. The courage with which he took up the responsibility of administering Bangladesh barely weeks after the emergence of the country through a tortuous struggle for liberty would have led any other politician into despair. Bangabandhu persevered, informing the nation along the way that he needed three years to turn things around. His enemies murdered him before he could redeem his pledge to the nation.
It is these ideals we must go back to if a happy future is our goal. Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman gave us the structure of an inclusive society resting on the principles of nationalism, secularism, socialism and democracy. It was his conviction that these principles were the fulcrum on which the overriding goal of national development would be achieved.
The Father of the Nation died too young for him to preside over a full, satisfying transition to the high goals we set for ourselves in the days of the War of Liberation. He was only fifty five when the murderers shot the life out of him. It is for us, the inheritors of his rich legacy, to pick up where he left off and go meaningfully into the task of giving his dreams the shape of substantive reality. That will be our true tribute to him. That is our pledge to ourselves today.