Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina today inaugurated the countdown for yearlong celebration of the “Mujib Year” marking the birth centenary of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, coinciding with his 1972 return home from Pakistan captivity.
“I open the countdown,” she said at a grand ceremony at the Old Airport, the scene where Bangabandhu first touched the soil of his independent Bangladesh on his return home, celebrated as his historic Homecoming Day.
Accompanied by Bangabandhu’s younger daughter Sheikh Rehana and grandson Sajeeb Wazed Joy on the podium, Sheikh Hasina expected the people to put Bangladesh in a dignified position on the world stage by establishing “Sonar Bangladesh” as dreamt by the Father of the Nation.
“He had handed over to us the victory torch and we want to move forward with it,” said the premier, Bangabandhu’s elder daughter.
Weeks after the December 16, 1971 Victory from the Pakistani occupation, Bangabandhu landed at the then Dhaka International Airport at Tejgaon while a British Royal Air Force aircraft, a C-130J jet, carried the country’s founding father from London en-route New Delhi.
A recently procured British C-130J aircraft, identical to the jet carrying Bangabandhu, was set on the airport’s tarmac while a laser light symbolized Bangabandhu with a waving hand.
The light slowly moved to the red carpet descending from the aircraft amid a 21-gun salute to be greeted with wreaths in an effort to reconstruct the January 10, 1972 scene at the airport.
A contingent of army, navy and air force troops offered an honour guard in line with the event on that day 48 years ago.
One hundred pigeons along with green and red balloons were released while Shandhya Mukherjee’s “Bangabandhu feere ele tomar shopner swadhin banglaye” was played ahead of landing of the aircraft.
“The nation was waiting with all their eagerness for the return of Bangabandhu since the December 16 (1971) Victory,” the premier said revisiting the memory lane.
She recalled that on that day, her mother, younger sister and she herself were following the radio commentary on the historic event from their house as they could not move to the scene with minor children including her son Joy and youngest brother Russell.
Dr Kamal Hossain, who accompanied Bangabandhu from Pakistan to Bangladesh, and national Professor Anisuzzaman were present as a witness to the today’s ceremony along with some 2,000 guests and another 10,000 spectators.
Chairman of the Bangabandhu’s birth centenary celebration national implementation committee National Professor Dr Rafiqul Islam and its chief coordinator Kamal Abdul Naser handed over to the premier the Mujib Borsho logo at the ceremony.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) will also celebrate the Mujib Borsho along with Bangladesh in line with the decision of its 40th General Assembly held at its headquarters in Paris.
Bangladesh Awami League and its different wings have chalked out many programmes across the country throughout the ‘Mujib Year’ along with the government while the year-long event is expected to draw major world leaders and global figures to Dhaka.
Several of them are expected to join the grand opening the ‘Mujib Year’ in the capital on March 17, Bangabandhu’s birthday.
The figures included Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Secretary General of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Dr Yousef A Al-Othaimeen, former Indian President Pranab Mukherjee, former Indian National Congress President Sonia Gandhi, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Bhutanese King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, and former UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova.
Bangladesh’s 77 missions abroad have taken 261 programmes, including introduction of ‘Bangabandhu Chair’ in a number of universities abroad as well as naming roads after Bangabandhu, foreign ministry officials said.
The government formed a National Committee and a National Implementation Committee to stage the Mujib Year events.
The celebration committee selected over 299 proposals of programmes, proposed by people at home and abroad, which will be observed across the ‘Mujib Year’.