As the nation prepares to solemnly remember the gory happenings of August 15, 1975 when the emancipator of Bangalis was brutally assassinated along with most of his family members, it is only proper that the post-liberation generations, particularly the younger segment amongst them, get to know the real dimension of the towering Bangabandhu. Events need to be put in the correct historical perspective to enable proper understanding of the lifelong struggle of this iconic leader.
Bangladeshis need to gratefully appreciate that Bangabandhu is incomparable because he was courageous, and it was his moral and physical courage combined that was unprecedented in the annals of our historic political struggle. One needs to know that he spent almost the best part of his youth in prison for the liberation of his people.
Coming to facts, the young men and women need to appreciate that it is only the myopic elements that have focused their attention on the charged protests of March 1971 in Chittagong and credit a military commander with the declaration of independence although the same figure made a proclamation in the name of Bangabandhu. Such deliberate distortion has ignored the broader canvas of our independence movement traversing four decades.
If young Bangladeshis have a caring mind to know the supreme leader and also the proclaimer of our independence, they need to hear Bangabandhu's historic speech of March 7, 1971 wherein he explicitly said, “The struggle this time is for our emancipation. The struggle this time is for independence.” What greater clarity could one seek in locating the proclaimer of our independence movement?
Dispassionate Bangladeshis can gauge the intrepidity of Bangabandhu by understanding the socio-economic realities of post-partition East Pakistan. At a time when there was real dearth of educated and conscious Bangali activists, Bangabandhu was Bengal's fearless spokesperson continuously defying the establishment. Here was a leader who spent two-third of his youth in jail for advocating Bengal's causes. History testifies that he never compromised with his political commitment and the decade of 1960s witnessed proud and forthright Bangalis protesting and dominating Pakistan's political landscape. Bangabandhu's deft political stewardship galvanised the entire Bangali population and the rest is history.
One has to imagine the initial years of the decade starting 1960, when the military junta took upon itself the task of teaching the nation about the basics of democracy and found spineless collaborators from this part of the world; one has to think of that time when East Bengal's political world was pathetically lackadaisical and courage was in short supply. It was in such circumstances that the Bangalis had to be awakened from their somnolence, if not deep slumber.
One also has to imagine the 1960s when Bangalis of erstwhile East Pakistan were subjected to the most humiliating treatment. It was no exaggeration to say that they were experiencing the tribulations of a colonised people. In an atmosphere of all-pervasive fear and subjugation, it was Bangabandhu who confronted the mighty Field Marshal Ayub Khan and showed the guts to forcefully advocate the rights of fellow Bangalis. During the trial of the so-called Agartala Conspiracy Case in Dhaka Cantonment, Bangabandhu took to task the rogue Pakistani army personnel and cautioned them to behave. He did not agree to participate in the Round Table Conference as a prisoner. The 1960s were, in fact, a time when all Bangalis could justifiably take pride in their gutsy manners that drew sustenance from Bangabandhu's defiant disposition.
Bangladeshis need to know that Bangabandhu was a real epitome of courage, both in physical and moral sense. The historic Six Point Programme, an explicit embodiment of Bangali nationalism was unfurled at Lahore, the heart of Punjab by Bangabandhu. In Lahore, the bastion of arrogant Punjabi power, Bangabandhu displayed admirable physical and moral courage during the course of a public meeting in 1970 that he was addressing.
It so happened that his speech was being purposely interrupted by some Muslim League- Jamaat hirelings. When these elements did not stop despite being cautioned, Bangabandhu shouted at them by threatening that he has not come to Lahore for seeking votes as he had plenty of them in his place, and that they either listen to him or disappear from the meeting area. No Bangali had ever publicly ventured to rebuke the power-obsessed high nosed Punjabis in such a raw manner.
History tells us that when Bangabandhu, the poet of politics, spoke, it had an electrifying impact on the Bangalis whose spirit soared immeasurably in heightened expectations. Their support for their leader was total as evidenced in the historic landslide electoral victory of the nationalist causes in 1970. When the time came for tough talks across the table Bangabandhu did not wilt. In fact, the cabal of Pakistani army generals that accompanied General Yahya Khan for the mischievous meeting in March 1971were awed and surprised by his forthright presentation.
It is also a fact of history that the post-partition scenario in Pakistan did not witness much of a change. The military-civil bureaucracy conspired with the business oligarchy and the landed gentry to protect their vested interests. People's emancipation did not figure seriously in the politician's scheme of things. It was in these circumstances that Bangabandhu could galvanise a somnolent people into unprecedented political activism for achieving real freedom.
Bangladeshis need to recognise that Bangabandhu was gifted with extraordinary organisational acumen and had the inkling of the mischief of the Pakistani military junta. Accordingly, he exhorted the people for an imminent armed struggle. His historic March 7 speech bears eloquent testimony to that. Precariously positioned as he was in the extremely demanding tumultuous days of March 1971, Bangabandhu acted as a constitutional politician with supreme forbearance.
We need to appreciate that Bangabandhu could never be cowered into submission. The trappings of power did not allure him and he remained a solid rock in the shifting sands. It is time once again for grateful Bangladeshis to remember and pay homage to the great patriarch.
Muhammad Nurul Huda is a former IGP and a columnist at The Daily Star.