Mujib Borsho – from March 17, 2020 to March 26, 2021 – is a momentous year for Bangladesh as we celebrate the 100th birth anniversary of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Not only Bangladesh, but the world is observing the auspicious occasion by recognising Bangabandhu as a symbol of peace, freedom, courage, sacrifice and struggle against injustice and oppression.
To us, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman is not merely a name. He evokes enormous love, respect and passion – as if he is the heartbeat of the Bengalees. It is not only because we owe our freedom to him, but also because he is a towering figure for us who exhibited great political acumen, endured great personal pain and dedicated himself selflessly for our political and economic emancipation. Apart from his political contribution which gave birth to independent Bangladesh, he left a treasure trove of ideals which, if followed sincerely, will enlighten us as a nation.
Let us start with his famous line – “As a man, what concerns mankind concerns me. As a Bengalee, I am deeply involved in all that concerns Bengalees. This abiding involvement is born of and nourished by love, enduring love, which gives meaning to my politics and my very being.”
This candid remark of the Father of the Nation is suggestive of the fact that love for people was at the core of his political ideology. With love comes responsibility. Thus he took it upon himself a lifelong fight to safeguard people’s interest. This principle of loving the people selflessly and fighting for their cause holds an important lesson for present-day politicians. At a time when politics, to a large extent, has been relegated to gaining money and muscle power and serving self-interest, replicating Bangabandhu’s way of pro-people politics is now more important than ever.
As a matter of fact, the life of the Father of the Nation is a lesson for us because he led an exemplary life and demonstrated his guiding principles through actions in all phases of his life. Boldness, courage to speak out the truth and to stand by what seemed right to him, always defined Bangabandhu as an individual. As a realistic leader, he would spare less time in theoretical discussions and would remain busy in navigating the challenges of everyday life.
An indomitable willpower to fight against injustice was the hallmark of his character. He said, “The world is divided into two halves, the oppressed and the oppressors. I am with the oppressed”. He was arrested around 20 times and in total spent around 14 years of his life in jail, not for committing any crime but for protesting against injustice and speaking the truth against those in power. His studentship at Dhaka University was cancelled not because he had done anything wrong, but because he was vocal for the rights of the fourth class employees.
Thus, history is replete with examples of his immense courage, selflessness, unending sacrifices and unwavering commitment to protecting the people’s interests.
He used to respect all religions and wanted the people to be tolerant towards religious differences so that people of diverse religions can coexist amid peace and harmony.
After the independence of Bangladesh he firmly proclaimed, “Bangladesh will be a secular state. Secularism is not anti-religion. Muslims will be practicing their religion. Hindus will be observing their faith. Christians will be exercising their religion. Buddhists will be practicing their religion.”
Sadly, tolerance still runs thin and violence in the name of religion is still happening from time to time. That is why we need to hammer home secular principles of Bangabandhu in the core value system of our society so that we can have more and more faith-wise tolerant people in societies.
Meanwhile, the foreign policy adopted by Bangabandhu – Friendship to all, malice to none – is still the cornerstone of Bangladesh foreign policy. This amicable policy of Bangabandhu helped Bangladesh make many friends in the international arena and enter various international platforms. The government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina also managed to excel in the complex global affairs by maintaining a delicate balance in foreign relations in the light of Bangabandhu’s policy of friendliness.
Socialism is another key element of Bangabandhu’s philosophy. Although his view of socialism is not typical of the leftist organisations, he aspired to implement this school of thought in a democratic framework. He strived to build an inclusive society with no poverty, no hunger, no exploitation, no unemployment and education and health for all, which is a reflection of his dream of ‘Sonar Bangla’.
He used to be more concerned about putting smiles on the faces of the common people instead of talking about GDP growth and other theoretical issues, because he knew how precious a smile is. He strived to achieve that goal until his last breath.
Today, however, as the country’s economy flourishes with widening inequality, Bangabandhu’s concept of inclusive development holds the key as a guiding principle. His idea of an inclusive society is also mirrored in the motto of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals – leaving no one behind.
Bangabandhu also put great emphasis on education as he realised it was not possible to build golden Bengal without golden people. He wanted to have a time-befitting education system and ensure that everyone has access to it. He said, ‘no investment could be better than investment in education.’ His idea of investment in education is also the key to transforming our growing young population into human resources.
Regarding ethics and morality, Bangabandhu’s principles are of enormous significance today because we are witnessing a serious degradation of values. Throughout his life, Bangabandhu never compromised his integrity, neither for political gain nor for any material benefit, not even under political pressure. The sin of luxury and greed could never touch him even when he was made president and then prime minister, after the independence of Bangladesh. In his every action there was a reflection of patriotism, love for the people, honesty and simplicity.
Therefore, those who really love Bangabandhu from their heart and claim to follow his ideals in principle and practice, can never resort to looting of the country's resources, harm or deceive people in any way, and never mortgage their morality and shy away from saying or doing the right thing.
Last but not least, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and his ideals were always more than what we knew before. Perhaps this was known to Cuban leader Fidel Castro as he had rightly said, “In personality and courage, Sheikh Mujib is the Himalayas.”
Bangabandhu’s ideology, thus, can become a lighthouse of the country’s policymakers and leading citizens. Besides, every individual should follow his principles in their day-to-day life both for personal enlightenment and building a happy, harmonious, just and prosperous nation.
The writer is a journalist