Father of the nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman COURTESY
Today we will mark the ending of birth centenary of father of the nation, the architect of Bangladesh’s independence, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman as we will celebrate the 101st birth anniversary of the greatest Bengali of all time. This year, his birthday will have added significance as only 9 days later we will celebrate the 50 years of our independence. Intellectual leadership, prudent wisdom, uncompromising soul and heart filled with love for his countrymen were the best qualities of Bangabandhu. For us, it is of utmost importance to embed his principles in our heart, works and lifestyle.
Sheikh Mujib was born on 17 March 1920 at Tungipara, presently in Gopalganj district. From a simple political activist, Sheikh Mujib took himself to an extraordinary level. Millions of Bengalis jumped in the liberation war of 1971, in an unequal fight against the West Pakistani military junta influenced by the shine of Sheikh Mujib's outstanding leadership. It is a misfortune for the younger generations of this country that they could not get acquainted with this great personality due to the brutal murder of this great leader.
Through this historic 19-minutes speech of March 7, Bangabandhu inspired courageous Bengalis to start preparing for independence. On 30 October 2017, UNESCO added that speech in the Memory of the World Register as a documentary heritage. On the dark night of March 25, 1971, the West Pakistani junta cowardly attacked the helpless and defenceless Bengali people, killing thousands of innocent souls. On that night, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was arrested and taken to a prison in West Pakistan. But before being arrested, he called upon his beloved Bengali nation to begin the liberation war and called for independence.
The Bengali nation achieved independence on 16th December, 1971 holding Bangabandhu's ideals, guidance and inspirations in heart through a long nine-month bloody battle at the cost of three million martyrs' sacrifice and honour of two lacs mothers and sisters. We must gratefully remember the contribution of our neighbouring nation India here too not only for providing shelter to millions of Bengali refugees but also for fighting with Bangali Mukti Force shoulder to shoulder observing the barbaric acts of the Pakistani regime.
Freedom was achieved. But Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was captured in Pakistani prison. Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi sent letters informing this cowardly act to the head of the governments and states of 67 countries requesting them to create pressure on Pakistan to free Bangabandhu. She also successfully pulled the opinion of world people in favour of Bangabandhu and Bangladesh through her visits to five European nations and the USA. In the face of such pressure, the Pakistani military junta finally could not fulfil the dream of killing Bangabandhu. It is the result of millions of Bengalis' prayers that Bangabandhu survived even after digging his grave three times.
Bangabandhu was released from Pakistani jail on January 8, 1972. Bangabandhu was secretly sent to London on a military aircraft of Pakistan. Bangabandhu was taken to the Carriage Hotel in the heart of London. Shortly after, the British Labour Party leader and later British Prime Minister Harold Wilson came to meet Bangabandhu and addressed him, “Good morning Mr. President”.
On 10th January, Bangabandhu rode on a comet jet of British Royal Air Force to return home. On the way to Bangladesh, the plane stopped for two hours in Delhi. Indian President VV Giri and Prime Minister Indira Gandhi welcomed Bangabandhu. Though Delhi's tour was short, Bangabandhu drew a complete picture of Bangladesh's independence during that visit. The depth of his political wisdom became much clearer during this short stoppage in Delhi.
Though indebted to India's contributions to the great liberation war, indefinite stay of Indian soldiers on the soil of this country could have raised a lot of questions. So, despite being busy in so many programs and receptions, Bangabandhu asked Indira Gandhi when the soldiers of Indian Allied forces would leave Bangladeshi soil and return home. Though Indira Gandhi tried to assure him, he did not want to be assured without a promise. In the end, Indira Gandhi had to say, the Allied forces soldiers would return to their own country whenever Bangabandhu wanted.
Bangabandhu knew he had to assure the seven and a half million people also, who flooded him with emotions when he returned home on January 10, 1972. So, on that day at the historic Racecourse field, Bangabandhu did so saying that, “The Indian soldiers will leave Bengal's soil the day I tell.”
After the return of the greatest hero, the soldiers of Indian Allied forces gradually started leaving the land of independent Bangladesh. In February 1972, Bangabandhu visited India for the first time as the head of state of Bangladesh. On the visit, along with exchanging greetings and discussions over different issues, he invited Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to visit Bangladesh and again strongly urged her to quickly remove Indian Allied Forces soldiers from Bangladeshi soil.
On the invitation of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, on the eve of the first birthday of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in independent Bangladesh, Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi came on a visit to Bangladesh and even before that, on 12 March, only within two months of Bangabandhu's return, the last Allied Forces member left the soil of independent Bangladesh. On 17th March, the birthday of Bangabandhu, Indira Gandhi gave a historic speech at Racecourse ground. It was like, by taking away all the Indian soldiers, Indira Gandhi presented any foreign soldiers and all scepticism free truly independent and sovereign Bangladesh to Bangabandhu.
This was the first visit and first speech of any foreign head of state in the independent Bangladesh. In this speech, Indira Gandhi emphasized the friendship between Bangladesh and India. She also expressed hope that Bangladesh and India would cooperate with each other in different future activities and events. Delightfully, this friendship still exists between the two countries.
Removal of the Indian Allied forces soldiers is very important in the history of Bangladesh and also as an example of Bangabandhu's strong leadership. No independent country, where allied forces soldiers had entered to help, received full sovereignty since World War II. But due to Bangabandhu's farsightedness and Indira Gandhi's true sincerity and love for Bangladesh, only within three months of independence, Bangladesh became free of foreign control and a full-fledged sovereign nation and it is an extraordinary example in world politics and history. Hence, 17 March is very important in the history of Bangladesh for achieving full sovereignty.
Since 1994, March 17 is being celebrated as 'National Children's Day' based on the suggestion of the founder adviser of 'Bangabandhu Shishu Kishore Mela', Dr Nilima Ibrahim. Bangabandhu's daughter Sheikh Rehana inaugurated the program of first National Children's Day. Then, in 1997, when Bangabandhu's worthy daughter, current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her government came into power for the first time, 'National Children's Day' on 17 March received government recognition and honour. Through National Children's Day celebration on the birthday of Bangabandhu, the ideals of Bangabandhu can be spread among all children of Bangladesh.
101st birth anniversary of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman will be celebrated on 17 March, 2021. On this day, we offer humble reverence to the father of the nation. During this tough time of COVID-19 pandemic, we should not organize any sort of public programs rather we should focus on creative ways to embed the principles and ideals of the greatest leader among the next generation of Bangladesh, which is very important to take Bangladesh at the position, which Bangabandhu always dreamt about. May we pay him his due tribute by making his dream of golden Bangla a reality.
..........................Mir Mosharref Hossain Pakbir, the writer is Chief Editor at Mohammadi News Agency, Editor at Kishore Bangla