Father of the Nation' is an honorific bestowed on individuals who are considered the most important in the process of the establishment of a country or a nation. They are the ones who had been instrumental in the birth of their nations by way of liberating them from colonial occupation. As George Washington is the father of the United States, Peter I of Russia, Sun Yat-sen of China, Sir Henry Parkes of Australia, Miguel Hidalgo of Mexico, Sam Nujoma of Namibia, William the Silent of the Netherlands, Einar Gerhardsm of Norway, Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya, Carlos Mannel of Cuba, Mustafa Kemal of Turkey, Sukarno of Indonesia, Tunku Abdul Rahman of Malaysia, Mahatma Gandhi of India, Don Stephen Senanayake of Sri Lanka, and Mohammad Ali Jinnah of Pakistan- so is Mujib-Sheikh Mujibur Rahman -the Father of Bangladesh.
Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (1920-1975) is the architect of our country and the nation by all implications of the term. What we now call Bangladesh was never independent in the truest sense of the term before 1971. It was Mujib, who gave the nation a real touch of freedom. That was quite a trek into the long way of struggle for freedom in which he gave the most active lead. Mujib was a fearless fighter in the Language Movement of 1952; one in the vanguard of the democratic movement of 1962; the architect of the Six-point Programme of 1966; the life force of the Mass Movement of 1969; the enviable victor of the election of 1970 and, above all, the greatest hero of the Liberation War of 1971. He is indisputably the founder of independent Bangladesh and, therefore, the Father of the Nation.
Bangabandhu has thus an unrivalled position in the history of Bangladesh independence. On 7th March, the whole nation was prepared to listen to nobody else's speech; on 25th March, the occupation army thought of arresting nobody else; the world's conscience pressurized the then Pakistan Government into releasing nobody else; nobody else was made the founding president of new-born Bangladesh; on 10 January, 1971, nobody else was given the historic reception; nobody else was entrusted with the responsibility of reconstructing the war-ravaged country! It was Mujib and only Mujib who was the protagonist of the whole play. If the prime credit of the Liberation War had depended only on the charisma of any oral declaration, the people of Bangladesh would have given Zia all they had given Mujib.
The range of Mujib's preceding and succeeding politicians would include leaders like Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy, AK Fazlul Huq, Mawlana Bhashani, Syed Nazrul Islam, Tajuddin Ahmed, Captain Mansur, AHM Quamruzzaman and Ziaur Rahman. The question of comparing between Mujib and Zia not only makes us feel distinctly uneasy, but also becomes the angst of history.
In fact, all histories are contemporary. So, the contribution of Mujib should be evaluated on the basis of contemporary facts, not of any posthumous fabrication. If we look back to our history of independence, we would see Mujib was the supreme leader of our liberation struggle. Mujib bears comparison to none in his country. He can be compared only with the world leaders like-Abraham Lincoln of America, Lenin of Russia, Winston Churchill of Britain, De Gaulle of France, Mao-Tse-Tung of China, Ho Chi Minh of Vietnam, Ahmed Sukarno of Indonesia, Kemal Ataturk of Turkey, Nelson Mandela of South Africa, Patrice Lumumba of Congo, Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya, Ahmed Ben Bella of Algeria, Fidel Castro of Cuba, and Mahatma Gandhi of India. This is history based on the bare bones of things that really came about. Travesties of facts must be spoilt by the unrealistic contrivances!
To look into one's own history and culture and to go for the quest for national identity and cultural heritage have become an imperative in these postcolonial days. Ours is not a poor socio-political and cultural legacy. We fought valiantly a war of independence under the leadership of Bangabandhu. We can very well come up with this political legacy and assert ourselves more. We can uphold the ideals of Bangabandhu to rebuild our nation. With this end in view, we must have a very good sense of history.
Mujib is really Bangabandhu, friend of Bangladesh. Hence, he could utter: 'Standing on the gallows, I will tell them, I am a Bengali, Bangla is my country, Bangla is my language". On the black night of March 25, when he was requested to go into hiding, he flatly refused and retorted: "I must share the sufferings of my people along with them. I must share. I cannot leave them in the face of fire. I cannot." Really, he did not flee to safety from the war-torn country. Rather he willingly became the first prey to the marauding force. Love for the motherland had prompted him to risk his neck. Afterwards, over nine long months, day after day and night after night in the dark cell of the prison camp, he longed for the freedom of his country. The unbearable suffering of the dungeon could not sap the strength of his patriotism.
On his return home on 10 January 1972, addressing a huge gathering in Suhrawardy Uddyan, Bangabandhu declared: "Bangladesh has earned independence. Now if anybody wants to seize it, Mujib would be the first man to sacrifice his life for the protection of that independence". His country was all-important to him. He believed it was his calling to do good to his country, not to look forward to anything in return. He often used to mention the famous quote by President John F. Kennedy: "Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country".
Such a big man is Bangabandhu! The undisputed Father of the Bengali Nation! The architect of sovereign Bangladesh! To be unaware of this is sheer ignorance. To deny this is an offence against history.
The writer writes fiction and columns, and teaches English literature at Islamic University, Kushtia. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org