Bangabandhu – The People’s Protagonist-10

A Righteous Man

Dr Atiur Rahman

11th May, 2020 09:55:35 printer

A Righteous Man

We previously discussed the incident of Bangabandhu’s expulsion from University of Dhaka. Following his expulsion, Mujib devoted himself fully to the practice of politics and that was when he understood the bond he had already developed with the people. People started trusting him as a potential spokesman who could articulate their dreams in the most objective manner. Moreover, he emerged as a righteous man who was liked by many, including both his co-leaders and the followers. He did not take part in politics for his own benefit. Rather, he wanted justice for the people of East Pakistan. This was why he left everything else behind, even his formal studies. But the vast mass of the ordinary people of East Bengal became his new course of study. He became enmeshed in their deeper aspirations and became one of them. He was lovingly acclaimed by the people at large as Bangabandhu, the friend of Bengal, right after his release from jail in February 1969 amidst a mass uprising demanding democratic rule and release of Sheikh Mujib.

 It may be recalled here that Sheikh Mujib was expelled from the university because of his involvement in the movement of fourth-class employees that took place in March 1949. Mujib writes, “Ten to fifteen days later we found out that one by one employees were signing bonds and rejoining work. Within a month most of them had resumed work. The strike was effectively over. Around this time some of my colleagues and I went to Dinajpur. This was because some students had been jailed and Dabirul Islam had been beaten up inside the Dinajpur jail. Section 144 had been imposed in the town and we weren’t able to hold meetings outside. We decided to hold an indoor meeting. We had put up in a hostel. Abdur Rahman Chowdhury was the secretary of the student league then. On the train from Dinajpur to Dhaka, we read in a newspaper that 27 of us students had been expelled from the university.”(‘The Unfinished Memoirs’, UPL, 2019, pp. 121-122).

The Secret Documents of the Intelligence branch also mention Mujib’s involvement in the movement for fourth class employees. From the police report made on 8th April, 1949, we get to know that Sheikh Mujib and six other students were fined 15 rupees for their absence from classes. Bangabandhu was a sophomore at the law department during this time. On 29th April, 1949, the magistrate arrested Sheikh Mujib when he was surrounding the VC’s house alongside students. He was arrested on charges of anti-government activities. The report of 30th April tells us that Mujib was delivered to the Dhaka jail whereas the other students arrested with him were freed. (Secret Documents Of Intelligence Branch On Father Of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, edited by Sheikh Hasina, Hakkani publishers, Volume-1, page-141)

The report of 9th May, 1949 tells us that Maulavi Fazlul Qader Chowdhury visited Mujib in the Central Jail in Dhaka. During the interview he asked Mujib why he was not admitting his faults and coming to an agreement with the university as that would make it easy for him to get freed. To this Sheikh Mujib answered that they had not done anything wrong and that the university should free them without any conditions (ibid, Volume-1, page-165).

Bangabandhu knew that he had not committed any crime by supporting a just cause and thus he did not sign the bond or pay the fines. If he did that would have meant he was admitting the mistake which he felt strongly that he didn’t. All other students who were expelled along with Mujib came from middle class families and could not afford to lose their studentship. All of them except Bangabandhu signed the bond and paid the fine to regain their studentship in Dhaka University. Bangabandhu, however, remained firm on his decision and as a result he could not pursue a career in law. His dream of studying law remained unfulfilled.

However, he likely could have studied law elsewhere. He consciously chose to devote himself full-time to politics instead. He writes, “My father was very upset when he heard that I didn’t want to study law at Dhaka University anymore. He said ‘If you can’t continue your studies at the university, go to England and get a bar at law degree from there. If necessary, I will sell my land to finance your studies.’ I said, ‘What is the point of going to England now? I don’t run after money by becoming a lawyer.’

I was still angry at the Muslim League leaders. What they were doing with Pakistan was contrary to the Pakistan I had dreamed of. Things needed to change.” (‘The Unfinished Memoirs’, op.cit. p.134).

On 23rd June, 1949 the Awami Muslim League was established at Rose Garden in Dhaka while Bangabandhu was still in prison. The Intelligence Branch report of 26th June, 1949 records about the establishment of a counter Muslim League in East Bengal. It says that in a meeting of Muslim League staff led by Ataur Rahman (Khan), the workers have established a rival Muslim League called “East Pakistan Awami Muslim League”. The President of this new party was Maulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhashani. Shamsur Rahman (Shamsul Haque) MLA was made the General Secretary. And Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was made the Joint General Secretary. Both Maulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhashani and Shamsur Rahman, along with other top leaders of the party, went to see Sheikh Mujib at the jail gate.

Bangabandhu had enrolled in Dhaka University with the dream of becoming a lawyer just like his classmates. However, his strong sense of righteousness led him to abandon his dream. When he left his studies and got fully involved in politics, Sheikh Mujib did not have any assurance that he would one day become the greatest leader this nation has seen. But his opponents could easily grasp the strength of his political commitment, as can be seen in the pages of secret police reports. The Intelligence Branch Police moved like a shadow around him and reported dozens of thousands of pages just on him. No other Bengali leader received that much attention from the state police. He simply devoted himself to what he thought was right. Sheikh Mujib could not stand the corruption of the higher ups. He could not stand the exploitation of the general people. And so, despite being the father of two young children at that time, he walked into a path that was very difficult and uncertain. However, history has paid him back sumptuously for his steadfast and righteous politics.

The writer is the Bangabandhu Chair Professor, Dhaka University and former Governor, Bangladesh Bank. He can be reached at: [email protected]