In the year 1971, when Bangladesh achieved the immortal boon of independence wading through a sea of blood, there was only one superstar in its political skies, obliterating all others with its glare and greatness. That superstar was none but the undisputed hero of our liberation, the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. With all the expanse of his humongous heart, he loved Bengal and the Bengalis and hence spent every drop of his sweat to take the war-torn young country towards gradual development. He left no stone unturned in his effort to make Bangladesh stand tall upon its own potential. Unfortunately, the brutal bullets of his killers did not spare him enough time to fulfill his dreams.
Once again there has risen in the firmament of the nation’s fortune another superstar, Jononetree Sheikh Hasina, to offer before the world’s eyes a renewed hope for Bengal, waning away under tantalising torments, by refurbishing its greenery and charms once again by upholding the spirit and inspiration of the Father of the Nation. She also carries the legacy of his genes in her. Over the past decade, she has guided Bangladesh to reach such an escalating platform of development that the Asian Development Bank has recently declared Bangladesh the fastest growing economy in the Asia-Pacific region surpassing China, Vietnam and India. In any international forum, when the development of Bangladesh becomes a topic, the person who is credited as the metaphor for the recent economic development of Bangladesh is none other than the Deshratna Sheikh Hasina, daughter of Bangabandhu and the successful materialiser of Bangabandhu’s dreams.
When the military uniform-clad assassins went into the Dhanmondi 32 residence of Bangabandhu with the vicious mission to kill the Father of the Nation along with members of his family, Sheikh Hasina too could have been a victim along with the rest of her family on that fateful night of August 15, 1975. But her lot was differently written by the Almighty, as she was in Europe with her younger sister Sheikh Rehana. She was saved to navigate the boat of post-Bangabandhu Awami League and to be the benevolent future superstar in the political sky of Bangladesh.
The military junta’s misrule after the assassination of Bangabandhu in 1975, affected the progress of Bangladesh, making her lag years behind. With the rise of political corruption, the basic rights of common people were eroded. Poverty rose to a tremendous height. Bangabandhu’s dream was choked and suffocated. But dreams cannot die. So, the dream of Sonar Bangla lived on. Bangabandhu’s daughter Sheikh Hasina had been carefully nurturing her father’s dream at the core of her heart. To materialise that dream, she ignored the bloody glare of the military regime and returned to her homeland, took the responsibility of Awami League and restored it to life once again. She took the helm of the Awami League in her able hands and created a huge mass movement and dragged the dictator down from power. Quite like her father, she also wants the true liberation of the people of Bangladesh—from hunger, from poverty, from injustice, from oppression. As a result, people gave a decisive mandate to her leadership in the elections of 1996. In response, Jononetree Sheikh Hasina has shown how to awaken an ailing country with the magic wand of development.
On April 2, 2004, the Jamaat-BNP killer circle opened fire targeting Sheikh Hasina’s convoy at Gournadi, Barishal. But the biggest attack by far was unleashed on August 21 that year in front of the Awami League central office on Bangabandhu Avenue in the country’s capital. The Dhaka Mohanagar Awami League held a rally in front of the party’s central office that afternoon to protest against the bomb blasts by militants across the country and police brutality in Gopalganj. Sheikh Hasina, the Chief Guest of the rally, arrived at the venue at around 5 p.m., and announced the start of the protest rally after a twenty-minute speech from a platform built on a truck. As soon as she finished her speech and began to get down from the platform, a grenade attack began on the stage. Within a minute and a half, 11 powerful grenades exploded. 12 people were killed at the scene and 12 more perished later in the hospital. About 400 people, including Sheikh Hasina herself, were injured in the attack, many of whom had to accept lifelong disability.
On the occasion of the birth anniversary of our leader, the question may pop up why I am so worried about the old issues like assassination attempts on her, while everyone would be making a social media buzz with colourful and attractive delineation of her extraordinary achievements. I am worried, and there are so many reasons for that. Jononetree Sheikh Hasina is the only hope for the nation. Coming to state power four times including the 1996 elections, the stability and equilibrium she has ensured in politics and public life by means of innumerable programs and projects is unique in the world. She can only be compared to herself. That is to say, in the current socio-economic and political context of Bangladesh, there is no alternative to Sheikh Hasina as a leader of the nation. It is our sacred duty to keep her well and safe.
On the auspicious occasion of the birth anniversary of the beloved leader, we pray for her long life with sound health. Honourable Prime Minister, may you remain like a canopy of blessings over our heads. Wish you every happiness and success. Happy Birthday, O Deshratna, O leader of the common masses, O author of Democracy!
The writer is a Professor of English and Pro-Vice-Chancellor of Islamic University, Kushtia, Bangladesh