The most disgraceful tragedy in the history was the cruelest assassination of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, founding architect of Bangladesh, father of the nation, the magnificent leader of the liberation war. Bangabondhu struggled throughout his life (17 March 1920 – 15 August 1975) for country people and made them united to throw out the shackles of Pakistani oppression and led them towards independence. His stirring speech on March 7, 1971, before one of the largest crowds of the history made the Bangalies ready to stake everything for the freedom: “The struggle now is the struggle for our emancipation; the struggle now is the struggle for our independence. Joy Bangla!..Since we have given blood, we will give more blood. By the bless of almighty Allah, the people of this country will be liberated … Turn every house into a fort. Face (the enemy) with whatever you have.”
Before Bangabandhu was kept under military custody at early hour (midnight) on 26 March he passed a terrifying time in the evening of 25 March 1971. He found speaking on radio was difficult as the army began on it embargo. He asked his fellows to create resistance against Pakiskani Army of occupation by a telegraph: “Pakistan Army have suddenly attacked the Pilkhana EPR Headquarter and tha Rajarbag Police Line as well as killed many innocents in Dhaka.
The battle has started in various places of Dhaka and Chittagong. I am asking help to all the nations of this world. Our freedom fighters are valiantly fighting against the foes to save their motherland. In the name of Almighty Allah my last request and order to you all is to fight for independence till death. Ask your brothers of Police, EPR, Bengal Regiment and Ansar to fight with you. No compromise, the victory is ours. Execute the last foe from our holy motherland. Carry my message to all the leaders, activists and the other patriots from the every corner of the country. May Allah bless you all. Joy Bangla.”
On 16 December 1971 Bangladesh achieved independence from Pakistan. Beyond a nine-month active fighting and struggle, people in general had to sacrifice much more. Almost every family suffered in many ways. Massacre, abduction, rape, brutality, destroying houses and infrastructure, seizing wealth and mass-refugee living are features of the sufferings of the horror war. A further vital sacrifice was made on December 14, 1971 when many outstanding scholars and professionals were killed by Pakistani military in collaboration with in-country war criminals just two days before the victory came.
People in general were job less for months, even after winning. So, economic depression crossed the border. And rebuilding the family was as difficult as that of the state. Despite the fact of defeating the enemy, people looked gloomy due to having pain of the cost and seeing devastating post-war environment.
The hope and happiness suddenly returned on 10 January 1972 when father of the nation and founder president Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman returned to the country via London and New Delhi from the Pakistan jail. Since then the leader was trying hard to rebuild the state and to strengthen the governance in a distressing environment.
Unbelievably on 15 August 1975 a group despoiled army officers collaborating with some perverted and conspirator politicians assassinated him and his family members except his two daughters, Sheikh Hasina and Sheik Rehana, who were outside the country at the time of the brutality. Then on 3 November 1975 the traitors harshly killed the four national leaders – Syed Nazrul Islam, acting president of Bangladesh probationary government in 1971, Tajuddin Ahmed, prime minister of the same, M Mansur Ali, finance minister of the same , and AHM Qamaruzzaman, minister for home affairs of the same – in Dhaka Central Jail.
Surprisingly involvement of some lateral beneficiaries of those brutalities is evident now. For example, someone, with a very responsible position in the military, who had noticed the assassination plot against Bangabandhu in 1975 and indirectly encouraged it by not showing respect to his own professional responsibility to save the life of the father of the nation, later gained benefits of the secrecy – became head of the army and snatched de-facto power under martial law and subsequently took over the presidency in 1977 and formed a political party named “Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP)”.
That military and quasi-military regime restricted the Sheikh Hasina, Sheik Rehana and their family members’ entrance in the country until 1981, while it stubbornly rewarded the assassins, helped welcome back some of the aboriginal criminals who conducted the massive crimes against humanity during the liberation war, removed the ban on religion-based political parties and passed indemnity act to restrict justice for father of the nation and his family.
What did happen next? A series of counter-coups resulted as aftermath of the 1975, and the Major General (later became Lieutenant General) was brutally assassinated by a small group of army – just within 6 years in 1981.
Yet the military dictatorships continued until 1990. Human rights were extremely violated. Corruption flourished and discrimination grew up. Some military people and their alliance civilians became rich by overnight. Poor became poorer. Democracy and governance sought for decades. And more importantly, killing and feudal politics continued.
Consequently people had to fight another time against the military dictatorship, which resultant in a democracy for following 16 years. Then again a military backed interim government ran over the country for two years – 2007-8.
Furthermore, following the assassination of Bangabandhu, succeeding governments offered very limited tributes to him until his eldest daughter Sheikh Hasina came into power in 1996. More than 20 years the assassins had been immune from prosecution due to the Indemnity Ordinance, which was repealed in 1996 and since then the 15 August has been observed as the “National Mourning Day”. In October 1996, a murder case was filed. In November 1998, a trial court awarded death penalty to 15 former army officers for killing Bangabondhu and his family members, while the High Court (HC) endorsed the death sentences of 12. Then BNP formed the government following the national election held on 1 October 2001 and no progress towards appellate division hearing or execution of the court verdict was evident during the tenure of that government, which was also acknowledged by the then Law Minister Barrister Maudud Ahmed.
After holding the national democratic election on 29 December 2008 people in general youths were in particular did not like to see a confrontational politics. Both major political parties had to realize the fact that time had changed. New generations grew up. Five condemned killers of Bangabandhu – Syed Farooq Rahman, Sultan Shahriar Rashid Khan, Bazlul Huda, AKM Mohiuddin Ahmed and Mohiuddin Ahmed – were hanged at early hour on January 28, 2010. Also the court verdict – in terms of declaring illegal of constitutional amendments done by a military government – was welcomed by those new generations.
Initiatives of the Government, led by Hon’ble Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, for trial of the native war criminals or criminals against humanities and retrial of the killing of the four national leaders were widely accepted by the people, especially by the young people.
As the same political party came into power following the national election held on 5 January 2014, expectation of the young generations to the government grew up. They expected the government to ensure well-being of the people and human development, reduce social injustice as well as violence against children and women, show respect to the civic rights, curve corruption, rebuild the state and run towards a stable democracy. While government was passing a challenging time to run into the expectations of the new generations, opposition party ran out violently, destroyed the many state owned and individual assets, and burned many general citizens by the name of political grievances and movements. The Government, however, with the help of citizens and law enforcement agencies, controlled the situation. Unfortunately now a new dimension of disturbance for citizens is going on, and that is militancy by the name of religion. The sudden rise of such terrorism and militancy in a country where people respect each other regardless ones religious views is really surprising. Some people hint a concern whether any political backstopping or linkage is evident in this regard. Regardless the fact, the nation must collectively move against terrorism and militancy; and in my view point, it requires consciousness of the guardians, social movement and political commitment. Politics with such an issue shall be boomerang for any political party.
By the way next generations are coming out. So both parties must keep the fact in mind: without a fresh democratic political practice, surviving here would be difficult. As times go, it would be further difficult. People are means and ultimate of the power – it shall neither be just a speech of paper nor be limited into a paper aspiration. Finally let’s learn from the history and make a robust political culture.
Political contenders should no more turn into individual’s maneuverer. And we must tribute to the father of the nation regardless the political views we hold.
The writer is a columnist and political analyst, and has authored three books.