Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman is one of the greatest sons of Bengal in its one thousand years of history. He was a fiery and charismatic orator in the world's history of movement and he became the founding leader of the People's Republic of Bangladesh that was born through a bloodbath in 1971. He is called Father of the Nation.
Mujib in his early childhood was fondly called Khoka. He was born on March 17 in 1920 in a small village of Tungipara under Gopalganj subdivision during the British India colonialism. In 1927, he was admitted to Gimadanga Primary School and in 1929 he entered the third grade in Gopalganj Public School. He was transferred to Madaripur Islamia High School in 1934. However, there was an impediment to his learning schedule owing to a bad surgical interference on his eye that caused a loss of four years in his educational life. Finally, he completed his matriculation in 1942 from Gopalganj Missionary School and opted to move to Calcutta for higher education. After getting admitted to Calcutta Islamia College, he got involved in student politics in full swing. At that time Calcutta was the capital of British Bengal and the largest city in undivided India. He studied liberal arts including political science at the erstwhile Islamia College of Calcutta and resided in the Baker Hostel. During his time of apprenticeship, he became heavily involved in the politics of Bengal's provincial Muslim League, the All India Muslim Student Federation, the Indian Independence Movement, and Pakistan Movement. He was elected counsellor of Muslim League in 1943. In 1946 at the height of the Pakistan Movement, Mujib was elected general secretary of Muslim Student Union of the Islamic College of Calcutta. During his stay at Calcutta he received political inspiration both from chief minister AK Fazlul Haque and prime minister of Pakistan H.S. Suhrawardy because of his intellect and political virtue. Basically H.S. Suhrawardy is considered as his political mentor who led the centre-left faction of Muslim League and Mujib protected many Muslim families during the turbulent days in the run-up to partition of India. Amidst this conundrum of politics, he obtained his bachelor degree from Islamia College of Calcutta in 1947. After the partition of India, Mujib was admitted to the Law Department of Dacca University.
Mujib founded the Muslim Student League on 4 January 1948 as a student wing of Muslim League in East Bengal. This organisation later on was transformed into the Bangladesh Chhatra League, a stronghold of Awami League politics. Since the inception of Pakistan in 1947, it remained divided into two parts and named as East and West Pakistan. Literally Pakistan was riddled with ethnic diversity, crude provincialism and linguistic incongruity that became a matter of discontent among the denizens of Pakistan. The West Pakistani leaders by dint of power and privilege always had a skew-eyed vision about the rights of the people of East Pakistan, the majority of whom were Muslims. East Pakistan, mostly a habitat of Bengali Muslims, constituted about 54% of the entire population of Pakistan. Rude provincialism, varied ethnicity and multifaceted linguistic variation became a big threat to the stability and independence of Pakistan. Aiming to bring linguistic uniformity among the peoples of Pakistan, Quaid-I-Azam, governor general of Pakistan, came to Dhaka on March 21, 1948 and at a huge gathering of 300,000 people on the Fazlul Haque Muslim Hall premises of Dhaka University declared, "Urdu and Urdu shall be the state language of Pakistan." Instantly Sk. Mujib, a young student leader, came up with a protest against this declaration and a sense of outrage gripped the people of East Pakistan. In the wake of Language Movement Sheikh Mujibur Rahman emerged a preeminent leader of East Pakistan. Mujib, a political protégé of Suhrawardy, turned a prudent opposition figure in Pakistani politics between 1948 and 1971. Mujib for his strident political indoctrination for the autonomy and economic emancipation of East Bengal was sentenced to jail several times by Pakistani rulers. In the turbulence of political upsurge in Pakistani politics, Field Marshal Ayub Khan staged a coup d'etat in 1958 and grabbed the state power of Pakistan that ended Pakistan's first era of parliamentary democracy. Military dictator Ayub Khan first curtailed the universal suffrage and created an unprecedented political turmoil in East Pakistan. Meanwhile, Mujib was elected president of Awami League at the height of political turbulence in Pakistan. Earlier Mujib floated a Six-Point Movement plan in 1966 which many historians believed was the turning point of the birth to two separate nations. As part of vengeance against this plan Mujib was arrested by the Pakistani army and awarded him two years' imprisonment. In a bid to award Mujib capital punishment the military ruler also implicated him in the Agartala conspiracy case that was tantamount to state treason. This stirred countrywide demonstration, outrage, outcry and strikes by the people of East Pakistan. It was aimed at compelling General Yahya Khan to set Mujib free and declare a general election to be held on 7 December of 1970. In that general election Awami League won 167 seats out of 169 belonging to East Pakistan in the National Assembly of Pakistan and Awami League emerged as the single largest party in the federal parliament of Pakistan. Sheikh Mujib was widely considered the prime minister-elect of Pakistan. On the other hand, Pakistan People's Party chief Bhutto tasted a heavy defeat in that election that made him more furious and refused to accept Mujib as the prime minister of Pakistan. Being squeamish Mr. Bhutto along with President Yahya Khan hatched a deep-rooted conspiracy against Mujib and postponed the assembly meeting scheduled to be held on 3rd March in 1971. Sensing a gruesome crackdown by the Pakistan military junta, Mujib declared independence and autonomy of East Pakistan at a mammoth rally of one million people at Suhrawardy Udyan on 7 March 1971. Basically it was a rhetorical speech by a Bengal leader towards an oppressed nation to get free from the shackles of captivity. On the contrary, to stop the voice of common masses of East Pakistan, President Yahya Khan ordered its brutal regiments to carry out a planned genocide titled as 'operation search light 'at the dark night of 25 March 1971. At this critical juncture of political plateau brave and intelligent Mujib, prime minister-elect of Pakistan, before his captivity declared independence of Bangladesh through a wireless message on 26 March 1971 and the text of Mujib's telegram, sent at the midnight of 26 March 1971, stated the following: "This may be my last message, from today Bangladesh is independent. I call upon the people of Bangladesh, wherever you might be and with whatever you have, to resist the army of occupation to the last. Your fight must go on until the last soldier of the Pakistan occupation army is expelled from the soil of Bangladesh and final victory is achieved". Shortly after the declaration of independence, Mujib was arrested from his Dhanmondi residence and was sent to Pakistan to have a solitary confinement in a jail at Faisalabad. Amidst the ongoing brutal genocide by the Pakistani occupation forces, the Liberation War of Bangladesh started under the titular provincial govt. of Bangladesh. After nine months of fierce fighting by the Mukti Bahini the occupation forces were compelled to surrender to the allied forces and victory was achieved on 16 December 1971 with a new flag fluttering in the blue sky of Bangladesh. Of course, this blood-soaked independence was achieved at the cost of lives of three million people and the chastity of two lakh women. The agony and atrocities unleashed by the horrendous predator gang of Pakistan by mass killing, deportation and genocidal rape turned this serene land into a purgatory hell that would be ingrained as a stinking sore in the hearts of millions of Bengalis, for ever. The great saviour of this land, principal stanchion and lone architect of the nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman brought the dawn of independence of this country which was once under the wings of the vultures of West Pakistan.
The writer is Prof. Dr. Syed Mozaffar Ahmed, Dept. of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation &
Ex-Proctor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University.