On the 15th of August, 1975, the country’s founding father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was assassinated. In the sinister darkness of that night, he along with most of his family members was murdered save his two daughters Sheikh Hasina and Sheikh Rehana who fortunately were out of the country. Bangabandhu’s name is uniquely placed in the history of Bangladesh not only for playing the decisive leading role for its emergence as an independent country but also for its rebuilding, reconstruction and consolidating its position in the comity of nations within a very short period of time under his unique leadership. Bangabandhu from a humble origin rose to the insurmountable height of greatness by his dedication, commitment, farsightedness and sacrifices for the causes of the common people of Bangladesh. He with his unmatched leadership qualities achieved the impossible of establishing an independent and sovereign country for them. He became a political activist from his school days. After completing school final he went to Kolkata, now in India, and enrolled himself in the Islamia, now Moulana Azad College. Bangabandhu completed his graduation from there. In fact, while studying there he got intimately involved in the political movements for the independence of the country from the British rule. During those days, he developed close relationships with leaders of all India stature and eminence.
In 1947, the Indian subcontinent was divided and granted independence with the creation of two independent states, Pakistan and India, on the basis of the Two Nation Theory. From Kolkata, Bangabandhu came to Dhaka and got enrolled in the University of Dhaka to study Law. Soon after the creation of Pakistan, the question of state language came up and the Pakistani leadership decided to adopt Urdu as the only state language of Pakistan. The people of East Pakistan protested the move and developed a mass movement. Bangabandhu as a student leader played a decisive role in the language movement.Just after the creation of Pakistan, a new political party ‘Awami Muslim League’ was formed in Dhaka. Bangabandhu joined the new political party and became a leader at a very young age. This in fact decided the course of his political life which ultimately culminated in becoming the undisputed leader of the people and finally leading them to victory and establishing an independent country with great sacrifices of millions. In the process, Bangabandhu had to languish in jail for many years.
He at the very beginning of his political career realised that Bengalis need to chart their own ways to safeguard their interests. This prompted him to put forward famous six-point programme. This unnerved the vested quarters in Pakistan. To get rid of him permanently from the political scene he was implicated in the infamous ‘Agartala Conspiracy Case’ as the main or key accused. But the people thwarted the unholy design of the Pakistani regime and freed him through a mass movement in 1969. Upon release, he was accorded a public reception and was bestowed with the title of ‘Bangabandhu’.
Then on, political developments in the then East Pakistan became faster in terms of pace and consequences. The general elections were held in 1970 for the Pakistan national assembly which was mandated to frame a new constitution for Pakistan. The Awami League got absolute majority in the Parliament. The military junta in connivance with Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto of the Pakistan Peoples’ Party hatched a conspiracy to deny the Bengalis under the leadership of Bangabandhu to form the government in the then united Pakistan.
Bangabandhu called for peaceful non-cooperation movement till demands are realised. On the 7th of March, 1971 he delivered the historic speech at the ‘Race Course Maidan’ now ‘Suhrawardy Udyan’ and called for resistance and fight to the last for the independence and emancipation of the people and the country. In the midst of these developments, talks were held with the Pakistanis to find a peaceful political solution. But the Pakistanis had other heinous intention of unleashing a reign of terror through mass killings and committing all sorts of crimes to suppress the hopes and aspirations of the people. On the fateful night of 25th March, 1971 the Pakistani military attacked the unarmed people and started mass killing, rape and arson.
Bangabandhu in the early hours of 26th March declared the independence of the country and directed all citizens to fight to the last for the independence of the country from the Pakistani occupation. After nine months of war at great costs of lives and mass destruction the victory was achieved with the surrender of the occupation forces to the joint command of the Mukti Bahini and the Indian armed forces.On January 10, 1972, Bangabandhu came back to his people from the captivity of the Pakistanis. From then on, a new phase in the life of Bangabandhu started with new challenges of building a nation from the ashes of deaths and destruction. In this new journey, he also created history by achieving different milestones within a short span of about three and half years as the head of the government and the state. During early 1972, the allied forces or the Mitra Bahini- the Indian military forces left Bangladesh at the request of Bangabandhu.
In no time, Bangladesh armed forces consisting of military, air and naval forces took their formal shapes at the instruction of Bangabandhu. The paramilitary force like the erstwhile Bangladesh rifles was also reorganised. Another paramilitary force ‘Rakkhi Bahini’ was also created that was later merged with the Bangladesh Army. The civil law enforcement agency, the Police took over the charge to restore and maintain law and order in the country. In no time, the civil character of the administrative system from that of the military one was restored. It took over the responsibility of running the administration of a newly independent country under the political leadership. Here it must be remembered that the administrative system that we inherited at the time of liberation was meant to run a provincial government. However, with appropriate initiatives, the provincial secretariat was transformed into the national secretariat with ministries and related directorates/departments and corporations. Later, the government appointed two major committees in 1972 with the responsibility of suggesting measures towards reorganising the central bureaucracy, including local government, accompanied by devolution of power from the central to the local level and a national pay structure. Relief and rehabilitation was the other huge task that the government embarked upon to address. About 10 million refugees went to India during the war. They were brought back and rehabilitated. Repair and reconstruction of the nearly destroyed infrastructure of rail and road communication turned out to be a daunting task for the government.
However, in no time, Bangabandhu’s government restored the communication network of the country. During the war, mines were laid all over in the Chittagong port channel. With the help of the then Soviet Union, in the shortest possible time, the mines were removed and the port was made operational.
During the Liberation War, the economy of the country came to a standstill. Moving forward the wheels of the economy and putting it on the growth path was the other urgent need that needed government interventions. Bangabandhu’s government took a number of initiatives in this regard. Several public corporations were created and industries and businesses were incorporated into them. Here it needs to be mentioned that several industries and businesses were owned by the Pakistanis who abandoned them and left for Pakistan. The new government had to take them over and started running them under state management. Slowly the economy started to move forward and was gaining momentum.
The other glaring success of Bangabandhu was the framing of a foreign policy of the new born country. The main theme of the policy was ‘friendship to all and malice to none’. Under Bangabandhu’s leadership, in no time, Bangladesh could become a member of the UN, OIC and other world bodies and also secured recognition of most of the countries of the world.
The most noteworthy contribution of Bangabandhu after liberation was presenting the country with a constitution within just one year of its independence. The Constitution has been acclaimed around the world for its egalitarian principles safeguarding and guaranteeing particularly the equal and human rights of all citizens of Bangladesh irrespective of religion, caste, creed, culture and ethnicity. As a nation builder, Bangabandhu started from scratch. But within the shortest possible time of just three and a half years, everything that a country needs to survive and move forward were created, framed, established and made functional. But the conspirators and the defeated forces of the Liberation War had other design in their minds to turn Bangladesh into another Pakistan which would be dysfunctional, backward and outdated. They fully realised that with Bangabandhu alive their heinous dreams would never be realised. They hatched the conspiracy and killed him, his family members and other next of kin on the fateful night of August 15, 1975. A parallel to such crime cannot be found in the history of the mankind.
(The different sources of information are acknowledged with gratitude)
The writer is a Professor, Department of Public Administration, University of Dhaka