The inhabitants of Bangladesh had dreamt of a free land for long.Many individuals had sought to materialise this dream in the past. Many had spoken about that land during the first forty years of the last century. That plan was once again drawn during the partition of India. Moulana Bhashani had spoken about an independent territory for the Bangalis during the decade of 1960s. But none could give complete shape to that dream. That dream was finally realized on 16 December 1971 under the leadership of a pure Bangali Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. It was he who could erect for the Bangalis the geographic boundaries of a free state. Bangabandhu, Father of the Nation, or Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in whatever name we may call him, his iconic figure looms large whenever we talk about Bangladesh. That is why, his name has become ingrained in our history and because of that we repeatedly reminisce about him. There are numerous claimants to the Bangladesh dream. Many might have dreamt it; many had talked about Bangladesh through signs and gestures; but Sheikh Mujib had completed the task like an architect. Like many others, he also thought of Bangladesh, but preparations for the purpose continued up to 1971.Moulana Bhashani had also spoken about Bangladesh in open forums. But his role was negligible in this field. However, all those dreams and speeches had prepared the people.
Journalist Abdul Matin had written in his autobiography: He met Mujib one day at noon during the military rule of Ayub Khan. Sheikh Saheb said that he did not care about Ayub Khan. He knew the minds of the people. After remaining silent for a few moments, he talked about using the Agartala case in the anti-Ayub movement”.It can be said in this context that the Agartala conspiracy case might not have been fully cooked up. That dark gentleman had emerged from the very midst of our rural paddy culture. His heart was vast like nature itself, and he wanted to cover the Bengalis with that the whole of Bangladesh. The Bangalis had repaid that gesture as long as he lived. One day on 27 March 1971, a Major suddenly told the Bangalis to snatch freedom and they jumped for the Bangalis are not made of such stuff. It took a long time to awaken them and it was Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman who succeeded in doing that. Consequently, whether one likes it or not, can there be any option other than calling him the architect of our freedom. For Bangladesh to be celebrating its golden jubilee at a time when it has achieved remarkable economic growth, despite all the hurdles and challenges of the first few decades of its existence, is no mean feat. After gaining independence at the cost of millions of lives and the trauma of unbelievable violence, Bangladesh had to rise up from the ashes of a ravaging war.
Despite the formidable obstacles in its path to progress-the assassination of Bangabandhu along with most of his family members, the killing of the four great leaders, and the subsequent series of military coups and military rule-Bangladesh was able to pull through and restore democracy in 1991, through which we were able to put a representative government back into the driver’s seat.Thus, for us to move forward on this trajectory of growth, we must make all efforts to make this economic growth more inclusive by reducing the rising gap between the rich and the poor and removing all kinds of discrimination against those who are marginalised and voiceless. Women who have been at the forefront of our liberation movement, and instrumental in our development success, must be recognised for their contributions and freed from the discrimination, violence and deprivation imposed by a patriarchal system. Our developmental aspirations, moreover, must take into account the sustainability of the environment without which development will not reach the desired level and will be severely compromised in the long run. While we build our nation, we must also save our forests and rivers, and make our air breathable and our cities liveable. We must protect our natural resources so that our future generations can lead healthy, wholesome lives.
At 50, Bangladesh has belied many of its critics and become a symbol of success and resilience for many developing countries.The aspiration of the people to have a healthy democracy, however, was repeatedly challenged by the acrimonious politics of the two major parties resulting in hartals, parliamentary boycott and violent confrontations on the streets.However, in the last decade, despite the bottlenecks, economic growth has been robust leading to our graduation from an LDC to a developing country. Our perseverance during the catastrophic pandemic, which began last year and continues to wreak havoc even now, has been commendable. The resilience of Bangladeshis, especially during crisis situations, has brought about this remarkable success. This includes the toil of our people—our farmers, migrant workers and garment workers who have steered our nation into an ascending path.There are, of course, many challenges in our journey to further progress. In order to take advantage of the momentum, we must establish greater democratic practices in line with Bangabandhu’s vision for an equitable, egalitarian, free nation released from the shackles of discrimination and oppression. This was also the dream of our freedom fighters who sacrificed their lives for such a motherland. The Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman is the supreme leader of the people of this country.
The greatest Bengali of all time and, above all, the architect of independent Bangladesh. Hailing from a remote village in Gopalganj, he raised himself to this towering height by dint of his love for the country, dedication for the noble cause of the countrymen and his unparalleled personality traits like perseverance and sacrifice. Mujib occupies such a prestigious position in history that no other son of the soil could come closer to it. Bangabandhu remains closest to the hearts of his countrymen and will remain ever so. Mujib had much earlier occupied an exalted position among his contemporaries and front-ranking global leaders. More such accolades are likely to pour in as the year long programmes proceed.The love and respect Bangabandhu receives from world leaders make us proud as a nation and inspire us to uphold the great ideals left behind by him for building the Shonar Bangla under the able leadership of his worthy daughter Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. However, Bangabandhu was not a narrow national leader, preoccupied only with his own affairs; worried as he was about global issues, the transcending nature of his political philosophy always kept him concerned with the problems of the oppressed across the globe. He had the deepest sympathy and support for the people of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia as well as South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Angola and Mozambique.
Bangabandhu always stood strong with people including the Palestinians who were struggling for freedom from oppression. Mujib was a world leader in the truest sense of the term.To this end, Sheikh Mujib was the pioneer who made history contributing whole-heartedly to the birth of Bangladesh and his worthy daughter Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has already made many glaring instances uplifting the country to a global height that materialize the Bangabandhu’s dream of Sonar Bangla.Along with the growing digitization the country has already achieved the status of middle income country before we observe 50 years of independence and likely to achieve the status of a developed country by 2041.The world has already recognized Bangladesh as one of the countries with rising economy. Now Sheikh Hasina has led the country to the height of success representing it as an abode of huge possibilities to the global community.
Cherishing the dream of Bangabandhu at heart she is working relentlessly for the people of Bangladesh. Bangabandhu lies at the heart of all Bengalis. On this birth anniversary, our salute is to the greatest leader. Everyone around us would do well to try and fathom better where we, as a nation, come from, just as we too shall respect their own visions. The art of arriving at an equilibrium will be dependent on how skillfully we manage these different sets of relationships, hewing to the timeless foundational tenets enunciated by our Father of the Nation.
Rayhan Ahmed Topader is a writer and columnist