We wish to begin this piece in the words of Dr. Seuss, “Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”March 17 is his Birthday. Today will be his 103rd birthday. He was born on 17 March 1920 in this land of Bangladesh. He is our own man; a great human being, the greatest Bengali of the thousand years in the Bengal history; a great patriot; a great statesman of world stature; a remarkable fiery orator; our Father of the Nation; and our beloved Bangabandhu. He is none but the greatest political stalwart - Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. More than decade ago, BBC announced him, the founding father of Bangladesh, as the Greatest Bengali of all time voted by Bengalis worldwide.The way we see it, you should live every day like it is your birthday.
Eminent Journalist Cyril Dunn is correct when he says, “In a sense, Sheikh Mujib is a greater leader than George Washington, Mahatma Gandhi and De Valera.” Because he was always found strong-willed, and determined to create his people’s own country; his beloved Bangladesh. He suffered imprisonment for more than 2 decades at the hands of the Pakistani regime due to the noble cause he pursued for his people. He was the dominant figure in Bangladesh’s politics for more than 4 decades.
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman does not belong to Bangladesh alone. He is the harbinger of freedom for all Bengalis. His Bengali nationalism is the new emergence of Bengali civilization and culture. Mujib is the hero of the Bengalis, in the past and in the times that are. He was born to politics and power, served as a decisive leader. Noted Egyptian journalist Mohamed Hassane in Heikal said, “In the thousand year history of Bengal, Sheikh Mujib is only leader who has, in terms of blood, race, language, culture and birth, been a full blooded Bengali. His physical stature was immense. His voice was redolent of thunder. His charisma worked magic on people. The courage and charm that flowed from him made him a unique superman in these times.”
The sheikh was a veteran fighter for his people, great visionary thinker, founder of the Bengali nationalist movement, a practitioner of common people’s techniques of resistance and an active exponent of the idea of a Bangladesh government.
His political followers along with academics, intellectuals, creative writers, artists, journalists —influenced by his ideas and actions—have charted out his 102 birth day, on March 17, 2023. We shall remember this stormy petrel of Bangladesh’s politics in different parts of the country along with general public, workers, political leaders, intellectuals, social workers and sons. The 103Birthday of Bangabandhu has offered an opportunity to revisit his background, personality formation, political career, thought processes, ideological orientation and stimulated his followers to prepare a comprehensive plan to spread his vision of restructuring of Bangladesh’s society and the world system.
This should be an occasion to discuss the utility of his approaches in the present-day context towards the place of common people in Bangladesh’s society, preferential opportunities to the weaker sections, rightful place of Bengali language in official work and administration, history writing and researches in Bangladeshi universities. As a visionary political thinker, we should pay our due respect to him on March 17.
Bangabandhu tried to revitalise his 6-point movement by giving fresh theoretical, ideological, programmatic and agitational foundations to it. The imprint of the 6-point framework was obvious on the Sheikh’s ideology when he embarked on his famous liberation struggle in 1971. Throughout his life, the Sheikh was a man of action and a hero in leading powerful people’s movements against Pakistan’s colonial rule for more than 2 decades. He developed techniques of peaceful collective actions, non-violent civil disobedience against injustice and finally re-modelled his methods of mass protests through armed struggles under the compelling situation.
His speech delivered at that time against the working of the government is regarded as a landmark in the world history. His strategic move to give concrete shape to the Banglis freedom movement in March, 1971 is an epoch-making event in the pages of the world history. At the peak of his political glory, only at the age of 55, his life-journey came to an end in 15 August, 1975. A group of army adventurers assassinated him along with all his other family members on 15 August 1975.
In the Sheikh’s framework of social-economic transformation, politics is the real moving force. In his concept of political theory and practice, struggle and constructive work, democracy and civil disobedience are combined together. Like Marx, his emphasis was on struggle but he first discarded the idea of violence. He tried to refine the Gandhian techniques of non-violence; by accepting non-violent methods of struggle but adding mass-based civil disobedience against injustice and exploitation.
On the occasion of his 103 Birthday, let us resolve to re-analyse his intellectual contributions. Let us try to spread his re-examined messages of broad nationalism, democracy, socialism and the international order. As a nationalist, Bangabandhu was a valiant fighter for Bangladesh independence and his primary concern was to rebuild Bangladesh through principled politics, equality, decent standard of life, capital formation through control over wasteful expenditure and conspicuous consumerism, rightful place of Bengali language, human being based society and time-bound preferential opportunity for the backwards.
His nationalism was not narrow. He was a champion of a new civilisation based on democracy, socialism, non-violence and disarmament. He was a great votary of an egalitarian international order and a world government. He considered himself a world citizen. During the course of his 103 birth anniversary, his ideas pertaining to society, polity, economy, culture, world system have thoroughly to be discussed, examined and wherever found appropriate, as per the demands of time and place, they have to be sought to be operationalised.
The cries of “Joy Bangla” and “Joy Bongabandhu” will fill the air on this auspicious day. From the banks of the great Ganges and the broad Brahmaputra, from emerald rice fields and mustard- colored hills of the countryside, from the countless squares of countless villages will cry in the same way to celebrate, The Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s 103Birthday this year.
He is the patriot of patriots. His “Joy Bangla" slogan was the battle cry of our freedom fighters during our glorious Liberation War in 1971 and he roused the nation to a great patriotic height. He is the symbol of the heroism of the Bengalis of Bangladesh. Bangabandhu was a fountain of zeal.
All over the country tributes shall be paid to this great hero who fought for freedom and sacrificed his life for the cause of his people. Even today, the heroic spirit of Bangabandhu is an unfailing source of inspiration to the youth of the country. His courage, spirit of adventure and patriotism are an example to one and all. He is a great patriotic Bangladesh’s political leader that Bangladesh has ever produced.
On his 103rd birthday, we shall recall with highest regards the kind words as pronounced by revered Anandashankar Ray in memory of Bangabandhu, “As long as Padma, Meghna, Gouri, Jamuna flows on, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, your accomplishments will also live on.” His is a life that lighted many lives throughout his life. He is honoured, by his people as the 'Father of the Nation'. The Sheikh was a Golden Age superhero who possessed the power of flight, the World's Mightiest Mite, A man of supreme patriotism for his people and for his country.
The Bangladesh’s people remember him as 'Bangabandhu', an affectionate title used to address this sky-touching political figure. In remembering Bangabandhu today, we wish to finish-off today in the words of William Shakespeare, “The golden age is before us, not behind us.” He lived for something rather than die for nothing. Joy Bangabandhu. Joy Bangla. Long live Bangladesh.
Anwar A Khan writes on politics
and international affairs.