Bangabandhu’s birth centenary today: His legacy is our beacon of hope
"The killers' bullets took away the Father of the Nation. They tried to erase his name from the history of Bangladesh. But they could not. The killers could not realise that Bangabandhu's blood flowed down the stairs of the Dhanmondi-32 house and spread all over Bangladesh and gave birth to crores of Mujibs. And that is why, today, the people of Bangladesh are wide awake in search of truth."
This is how Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the daughter of the undisputed leader of the Bangalees, tried to introduce Bangabandhu to the children in a letter she penned on the eve of his birth centenary and National Children's Day today.
It is, however, very hard to describe in a few words the man who was larger than life in every sense of the phrase.
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was the epitome of courage. In the collective memory, he will always be etched as that towering figure under whose magnificent shadow Bangladesh became a sovereign country.
Tall for an average Bangalee, he had all the traits that underline the making of a political giant. He was a thinker, a strategist and a tough negotiator. His smile radiated confidence and instilled courage in people.
It was his lifelong devotion to the cause of the toiling masses that made him Bangabandhu. He united the nation more than anybody else, first for language and then for political and economic autonomy and finally for independence.
The courage and clarity with which he was steering us to independence gave us a new self-confidence that was hitherto missing.
The greatest Bangalee of a thousand years was born on this day in 1920 to Sheikh Lutfar Rahman and Sheikh Sayera Khatun in Tungipara village under the then Gopalganj subdivision.
His political life began as a humble activist while he was still a student.
Having completed studies from Islamia College in Calcutta in 1947, he took admission in law at Dhaka University. However, his active involvement in politics led to his expulsion from the university in 1948.
It was also in 1948 when he went to jail, twice. That was but the beginning of a political career that would lead to innumerable spells in incarceration for the future founder of Bangladesh.
In fact, during his lifetime, he spent nearly one-fourth of his time or 4,682 days in prison.
By 1954, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had transformed himself into an activist politician thanks to his involvement in the formation of the Awami Muslim League in June 1949.
In the provincial elections of March 1954, the Awami League played a pioneering role in the creation of the Jukto Front.
Following Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy's death in 1963, Sheikh Mujib revived the Awami League in January 1964. It was a move which clearly demonstrated his desire to mould the party along the lines he thought would turn it into a voice of the Bangalee masses.
In February 1966, he announced the Six-Point programme of regional autonomy at a conference of Pakistan's opposition parties in Lahore.
In May that year, he was arrested under the Defence of Pakistan Rules. While in prison, he was charged, in January 1968, with conspiracy to break up Pakistan through what was given out as the Agartala Conspiracy Case.
At the height of the Agartala conspiracy trial in 1968, he coolly told a western journalist that the Pakistani authorities would not be able to keep him incarcerated for more than six months.
He was freed in seven months.
A mass upsurge forced the withdrawal of the case on February 22, 1969. The next day, at a huge rally at the then Race Course Maidan, Sheikh Mujib was officially honoured by a grateful Bangalee nation as Bangabandhu -- Friend of Bengal.
Bangabandhu led the Awami League to a decisive victory in Pakistan's first general elections in December 1970.
However, as the Yahya Khan regime and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto began to conspire against the Awami League to deny it the right to form a government at the centre, Bangabandhu went before the nation on March 7, 1971 and delivered what clearly was the finest speech of his career.
He called the struggle one of emancipation and independence. His speech changed the course of the history of struggle for independence and gave millions of Bangalees a new sense of direction.
As the Pakistan army launched its genocide on March 25, 1971, Bangabandhu declared Bangladesh's independence early on March 26. He was arrested soon afterward by the army and flown to West Pakistan, to be put on trial on charges of treason.
After a trial in-camera, he was sentenced to death by a military tribunal in early December 1971. An all-out guerrilla war began against the Pakistani oppressive regime and victory achieved on December 16, 1971. It was his political inspiration and moral persuasion that made mass people sacrifice their lives.
Pakistan's defeat in Bangladesh and the emergence of the Bangalee nation saw him return home a hero on January 10, 1972.
Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had just fulfilled his life's dream of freeing his people and giving them an independent country before he was assassinated, along with most of his family members, in a bloody coup in the pre-dawn hours of August 15, 1975.
Bangabandhu was our own. He is our emancipation – for today and the days to come. The greatest treasure of the Bangalee nation is his legacy.