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Sheikh Mujib : Triumph and Tragedy

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17th-Mar-2017       
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Dr. Md. Shairul Mashreque :
Bangabandhu is a leader with a difference. Touching upon the life of this heavy weight leader spearheading Bangladesh movement is a Herculean task. I would like to briefly discuss his life. Then I would like to focus on the episode around his assassination that reflected the state of politics at that time with internal and external conspiracies thus woven together.  
A systematic and first biography in English of Bangabandhu was brought to light by  S A Karim  perhaps after 30 years of his assassination in a bloody military coup on August 15, 1975.  "Known to most Bangladeshis as Bangabandhu, or friend of Bengal, a title bestowed on him by acclamation in a mammoth public meeting in Dhaka on 22 February, 1969, he was truly a man of the people, someone who had made the cause of his countrymen and women his own through endless trials and tribulations. And yet he had been assassinated in the country he had championed ceaselessly soon after it became independent. Also, he had disillusioned quite a few people in record time in governing it.
How did he win the hearts of his people as "the father of the nation" and secure a place in their history as Gandhi did in India…..? What caused him to slide in their esteem? But also, what was he like as a human being as well as a leader? And now that three decades have passed since his death, is it possible to arrive at a real estimate of the man and his achievements? (Fakrul Alam, 21 May. 2006)  S A Karim  " has tried to raise these questions implicitly and explicitly and answer them succinctly and objectively in his biography, Sheikh Mujib : Triumph and Tragedy. Drawing on published sources, a few interviews with people who knew Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, his own encounters with him as the first Foreign Secretary of independent Bangladesh, Karim has striven to give a balanced, accurate, and thoughtful portrait of the man. His conclusion is that he was a leader whose triumph was on a heroic scale but whose ending was, at the very least, tragic."(ibid)
"Karim begin his biography by providing us with the background to Mujib's rise to fame, the partition of India, and the rise of the Muslim League. He was barely twenty years old in 1941 when he first encountered Fazlul Haq, the Chief Minister of Bengal, and more importantly, Shaheed Suhrawardy, the Minister of Commerce, when they visited Mujib's hometown Gopalganj, then in the district of Faridpur, for a public meeting. He was immediately drawn to Suhrawardy's brand of politics and Kolkata, where he became a student of Islamia College. Here he began to attract attention as a Muslim League activist, working indefatigably to rally Muslim students of the region to work for Suhrawardy's faction of the party, which, ultimately, joined the movement for Pakistan. After partition, Mujib relocated to Dhaka, but found himself becoming increasingly alienated from the conservative politicians of the Muslim League who had arrogated power in East Pakistan. Inevitably, he became involved in the movement to establish Bengali as a State Language of Pakistan, and the movement in turn led to the creation of the Awami Muslim League. Courting arrest repeatedly, and resorting to hunger strikes time and again when in prison, Mujib immediately became prominent in East Pakistan because of his continuous and principled opposition to the communal and feudal politics of the Muslim League. In quick time, he became the General Secretary of the increasingly secular Awami League (it dropped 'Muslim' from its name in 1955), and a minister of the United Front government that drove the Muslim League from power in the provincial elections of 1954."(ibid)
After liberation, Bangabandhu was released from custody in Pakistan .' He was flown from Pakistan via London, England and then brought to India.'  His home coming was marked with wild celebration and jubilation.  Soon he became the Prime Minister.  He turned out to become the President with virtual no opposition through a Constitutional amendment with due to an unabated political chaos in early 1975 when Pakistani collaborators were regrouping and planning for reestablishing their lost power.
His all on a sudden death in august 15, 1975 came as a bolt from the blue. I was shocked like anything realizing what we had lost. A lot of mysteries hover around August tragedy marked by the grisly murder of Bangabandh and family and some others.   As Afsan Chowdhury revealed, "There are several positions on 1975 and like many things in Bangladesh, most are partisan views. What however most people agree upon is that the situation in 1975 was grim and the AL regime wasn't popular. Some say, that BKSAL had potentials but that within the context of 1975, it's misunderstood. It's not a robust defence to make but most arguments say that nothing merited the kind of extreme responses that resulted. Most agree that the steps were extreme and insist it's not Sheikh Mujibur Rahman who was responsible but the sycophants surrounding him who did all the bad things. Nobody cheers his and his family's death.
Rather than limit it to August 1975, it makes more sense to stretch the lens over the entire 1975, from August to November. There were several parties involved in the events and their identity and characters range from far Right to far Left. Khandaker Mushtaq and his group formed the Rightist bloc, a fact that becomes clearer if one is familiar with the history of Mujibnagar politics of 1971.
Mushtaq was in touch with the US through his representatives -- Zahirul Qaiyum, an MP from Comilla and a few others -- peddling an anti-Communist line to gain US support. Two things must be stated in this connection. One, there is no evidence that Mushtaq was about to form a confederacy with Pakistan by giving up on Sheikh Mujib and his cause of freedom.
The state department archives mention no such conversation or project. Two, the US backed off supporting the Mushtaq contact after Indian intelligence was tipped off and they put an end to Mushtaq's travel plans and the US began to question the value of this contact as well.
Mushtaq was very miffed by Tajuddin's takeover as the PM of Mujibnagar in April 1971, which he as the senior most AL leader thought was his right. Sheikh Moni was another contestant who even tried to shut down the April broadcast of Tajuddin Ahmed. Mushtaq was supported in India by the Rightist lobby inside the Indian government and bureaucracy and I had interviewed several of them for my BBC series on the history of 1971.'
Mushtaq came together with a band of very disgruntled officers and deed was done in August 1975. Nobody has as yet given any evidence about the exact involvement of each other in the plan (http:/opinion.bdnews24.com/ 2010/11/08/ what-really-happened-in-1975/# sthash.9gccsst9.dpuf)

 (Dr. Md. Shairul Mashreque, Professor, Department of Public Administration, Chittagong University, Bangladesh)

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