Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman returned to the conquered country 25 days after independence of Bangladesh - on January 10, 1972. There is no such homecoming in the history. Homecoming is not just a come back to 'sweet home,' a return to the country, the soil of the country, and the people after a lifelong struggle to finally return to the firm hope of building a dream-Sonar Bangla (Golden Bengal). Waiting for 28 days (9 months 12 days) to return home as a winner, while in the prison in Pakistan it was either death, or freedom. No, not death; Sheikh Mujib made the independence of his men and motherland after about 23 years of struggle, and a total of 13 years of imprisonment. He faced execution twice (1969 and 1971) but survived to implement the country's independence.
When the Bengalis was united for independence at the call of Bangabandhu, the Pakistani military launched a brutal attack on the night of March 25, 1971 on the independence-loving Bengalis and arrested Bangabandhu from his Dhanmondi residence on March 26 at 1.20 pm, shortly after he declared the independence of Bangladesh. He could have escaped if he wanted to. But Bangabandhu was not such a man. In an interview with British journalist David Fraser, he made it clear: 'I thought it is better I die and at least save my people who love me so much. I am their leader, I will embrace death if necessary, but why should I escape? 'However, after the victory of Bangladesh, on international pressure Bangabandhu was released from prison on the morning of January 8, 1972. After his release, he returned to the country on January 10, 1972, via London and Delhi. When the plane carrying Bangabandhu touched the runway of Tejgaon Airport that afternoon, countless crowds greeted their undisputed leader with cheers and sky-scraping 'Joy Bangla' slogans. Bangabandhu went to Suhrawardy Udyan (then Racecourse Maidan) straight from the airport, where he one day urged millions of Bengalis to jump into the freedom struggle. There, he congratulated the country's people in an emotional voice for snatching victory in the bloody liberation war and called upon all to dedicate themselves to rebuilding the war-torn country.
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As soon as he returned to the country on January 10, 1972, getting him back alive millions of Bengalis welcomed him at the historic Suhrawardy Udyan, where once he called for independence ten months back. He firmly called upon people, "If my people are killed again, then my request to you is: 'build fortress in every home'. In his words, the desire to liberate the motherland has fascinated the whole nation, provoked, 'Remember, since we have given blood, we will give more, by we will surely liberate liberate the people of this country, inshallah.' He emphasized, 'The struggle this time is the struggle for our liberation. The struggle this time is the struggle for our independence.' After returning to the country, the father of the nation started tidying up the country. In the beginning, he gave his focus in formulating the state policies- the principles on which the new country Bangladesh would be governed. Mujibbad gave a remarkable imprint of the life, culture, and heritage of the land and people of the country in politics, gifted with his political experience, wisdom, foresight, and the uniqueness of independent Bengal.
He was not unaware of the plight of ordinary people in the war-torn country. He expressed his determination to alleviate their suffering as follows: "From today my request, from today my command, from today my order, as a brother-not as a leader, nor as to the president or as the prime minister, I am your brother, you are my brothers. This independence of mine will be futile-if the people of my Bengal are not fully fed on rice, this independence of mine will not be fulfilled-if the mothers and sisters of Bengal do not get clothes, this independence of mine will not be fulfilled-if the mothers and sisters of this country do not get clothes for the protection of their modesty, this independence of mine will not be fulfilled-if the people of this country, the youth of mine, do not find employment or do not get jobs."
The drafting of the constitution reflected the idea of local, and not the imitation of other developed countries. The views of the people were reflected in the constitution; 98 recommendations were adopted on the basis of public opinion. Bangabandhu always emphasized the will and needs of the people first. In just nine months, Bangabandhu presented the nation with one of the world's best constitutions, which was adopted by the National Assembly on November 4, 1972, and came into effect from December 16 (Victory Day). Speaking on the constitution in the parliament, the country's architect said: "This constitution is written in the blood of the martyrs. This constitution will survive as a tangible symbol of the hopes and aspirations of the entire people."
It is unknown whether anyone else in history got a chance to speak about the passion and love that Bangabandhu expressed at the people's reception at all levels. Emotional Bangabandhu said at that auspicious time; my Bangladesh has become independent today. "My Bangladesh has been independent today, my life's desire has been fulfilled today, the people of my Bengal have been liberated today. My Bengal will remain free. Today I won't be able to make a speech. The way the sons of Bengal, the mothers of Bengal, the peasants of Bengal, the laborers of Bengal, the intellectuals of Bengal did struggle, I was imprisoned, was ready and waiting to go to the gallows. But I knew that they could not suppress my Bangalees. The people of my Bengal would be liberated."
Sitting in a dark cell of a prison (multiple prisons - Karachi, Faisalabad) and dreaming of freedom, he was not sure he would return to his beloved motherland alive. "I did not know I would return to you", fascinated by the motherland, Bangabandhu uttered. "I have come. I did not know I was sentenced to death by hanging. A grave was dug for me beside my cell. I prepared myself, I said I'm a Bangalee, I'm a man, I'm a Muslim-who dies once not twice. I said, if death comes to me, I'll die laughing."
Although Bangabandhu was imprisoned in Pakistan from March 26, 1971 to January 8, 1972 (9 months and 12 days), obviously he was alive in Bangladesh's consciousness and liberation struggle, and inspired them for nine months. He was the President of the Mujibnagar Government and the first President of the country. In his physical absence or absence, the four national leaders conducted the Mujibnagar government i.e., the war of liberation, by embracing his ideals, thoughts, and consciousness.
Although he was in prison in Pakistan, he was not unaware of the atrocities that the Pakistanis had inflicted on the Bengalis in the nine-month war. Mentioning that 3 million people have been killed in the war, Bangabandhu aggrieved, "In the Second World War and also in the First World War, such a number of people, such a number of common citizens did not die, were not martyred, which happened in my 7-crore people's Bangladesh." While in prison in Pakistan, he was never disturbed or intimidated by the thought of execution. His compassion for the country was expressed in his speech: "I told just one thing, I have no objection if you kill me. Please return my dead body to my Bangalees, this is my only request to you."
He was a prison, but he believed that no one could keep the Bengalis in suppress. Bangladesh would be independent. And so he prepared in his mind about what to build an independent country. That is why he did not have to hurry or take time to concentrate on the task of building a Sonar Bangla, including the drafting of the constitution in the earliest possible time.
The ruthless Pakistani military could not kill this great humane-the leader of the seven-crore Bangali. But he had to give his life in the hands of his 'loved' ones, in the plan of the very own traitors, while the chief mastermind Mushtaq sent the cooked the sand duck to Bangabandhu's home just two days ago (13 August). Who knew that this 'lovely' feast was also an exercise in plotting to assassinate Bangabandhu! By killing Bangabandhu, the murderous circle silenced his dream of Sonar Bangla. The Bangladeshi forms of politics that he has formulated in this country taken from the soil and people's lives was also blocked. When the people of Bangladesh, under the leadership of Bangabandhu, were determined to transform the country into Sonar Bangla in a democratic state system with a secular mindset of the 1970s, they stopped that progress by killing him and went back to the 'religion'-centric social divisions like the 1940s.
But the killers did not know that Bangabandhu could be killed and could not be kept suppressed (dabay rakha). He was, is, and will, always be. That is why the people overthrew the then military government in the late 1990s, overcoming all obstacles and bearing his secular mentality. He has always been equally popular, no matter whether his party is in power or not. For example, in a 2004 BBC poll, Bangabandhu was elected the greatest Bengali of all time (then the BNP-led government in power (2001-2006)). In 2005, the High Court quashed the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution and ruled to restore the 1972 constitution, which was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2010. Meanwhile, since 2010, people have rallied in various places, including the capital, to restore the 1972 constitution. In this favorable environment, the government led by his daughter restored the main provisions of the 1972 constitution in 2011. In addition to any emergency of the Awami League, Bangabandhu is still more relevant and influential in any crisis of the nation. As long as Bangladesh, so long Bangabandhu. In fact, Bangladesh and Bangabandhu are synonymous.
On the question of Bangabandhu's relevance, Bengali economist and Nobel laureate Amartya Sen recently stated that 'Bangabandhu and his ideals are still relevant'. He further emphasized that Bangabandhu's philosophy and ideology should be imitated in the conflicting contemporary world, especially in South and South-East Asia. Bangabandhu's need for secularism and religious freedom in resolving ethnic and religious conflicts not only in Asia but also in the Western world is undeniable and socialist democracy is essential to build an exploitation-free society. The country lost its genuine architect and friend- Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib a quarter century ago. But he was, is, will be in the arteries of Bengalis: "As long as Padma, Meghna, Gouri, Jamuna flows on, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, your accomplishment will also live on."
Dr. Ala Uddin, Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Chittagong. Email: [email protected]