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Remembering Bangabandhu

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15th-Aug-2017       
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Dr. Md. Shairul Mashreque and Dr. M. Abul Kashem Mozumder :
No single leader had bothered about just share of the then East Pakistanis in public service, military establishment and development than Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. He never negotiated with military junta who decapitated democracy with ethnocentric predisposition to deny Bangalees' access to power in a federal state based on flimsy foundation. The words 'compromise' and 'equation' were unknown in his dictionary. For this uncompromising attitude altogether with daunting courage Mujib becarne the target of the ruling coterie who put him to jail several times.
Had there been no jailed leader like Bangabandhu there would have been no platform for the development of Bengali nationalism. The rising consciousness of the toiling masses about their political rights, cultural freedom and economic emancipation free from exploitation was a real force behind rising militancy of autonomy movement with Mujib playing a sheet anchor role. He spent almost the life-long time in imprisonment for a marathon trail of struggle against palace politics, semi-colonial rule, cultural indoctrination and use of religion to political advantage.
When we remember Mujib we go back to the stormy days of mass agitation that unnerved each successive ruling regime responsible for distorting political institutions. Mujib did all necessary ground works since 1948 creating a host of historic moments that in the long run turned into Bangladesh movement. Six-point formula was a magna carter of the people of this land orchestrating their political rights, cultural freedom and emancipation from the onslaught of the semblance of colonial exploitation. Six-point being identified with Bengali sentiment was a real force behind rising struggle for a separate homeland.
Several times Mujib staged a come back after suffering imprisonment thus bearing the brunt of all troubles. Every time Bangabandhu came out of jail popular movement in the erstwhile East Pakistan used to get extra-momentum. He mobilised people from all walks of life with new zeal setting immediate course of action as a great tactician and skilled political engineer. What appeared to be politically efficacious and appealing was his charismatic personality with elegant face and towering height. Never was he cowed down by any intimidation and liquidation facing the ruling clique with tough political programmes. Aflamed with Bengali nationalism thrusting million of Bangalees gave bandwaging response to his call during the tumultuous days of Bangladesh movement.
Mujib was at the forefront of popular movement from the very beginning of the creation of Pakistan. At that time students were very active in the movement and Mujib was identified with the student sentiment, their aspirations, political perception and revolutionary mind-set. Much of the dynamics of progressive movement hovering around Language Movement (1948-1952) was provided by the students' organizations with Mujib as their great inspirator. He was arrested during the agitation and was in jail until 1952.
Standing antagonistic relations with the Punjabi dominated civil-military bureaucracy who used religion as an instrument of manipulation Bangabandhu took a leading role in championing the cause of the backward ethno-linguistic sub-nationals. He was not against Punjabis but against regionally dominant power and uneven economic growth.
His fresh and dynamic political leadership was quickly popularising secular ideology to the country somewhat tormented by the vested interests that whipped up communalism to retain power. The way he conducted himself with rising popularity generated intellectual climate in favour of secularism. Time was propitious for the Bengali intelligentsia to nourish cultural and progressive movements drawing inspiration from historical dynamics of Bengali culture to build a democratic and enlightened society.
Since mid-fifties the Awami league operated as a secular organization. Mujib realised that 'without a clearly defined platform of secular politics, the Awami League would become one of the many ordinary bodies struggling for a share of spoils in the Pakistani structure.' With Six Point Movement he wanted to reconfigure the federal state with a new formula for Pakistan, the country that exhibited peculiar geo-political characteristics contrary to the notion of federation. The growing popularity of student's movement for the realisation of six and eleven point demands with the participations of moderate right, socialists and radicals in response to Bangabandhu's clarion call upset Ayub's regime. He was continually onward in imprisonment until 1969 as he was involved in Agortola case. The main resistance against Ayub shahi came from the students during 1969 Mass Upsurge. The Six Point plan of provincial autonomy and Students' Eleven Point demand coalesced to merge into a single political entity. Moulana Bhasani who staged a 'gathering of storm' to threat Ayub demanded immediate release of Shaikh Mujib. Mass upheaval 'reached a logical conclusion on 22nd February through the release of Mujib and his fellow accused in the Agartala case from custody and the unconditional withdrawal of the case itself. On 23rd February, 1969 Tofail Ahmed conferred the 'honorific of Bangabandhu' on Sheikh Mujib.
Thus came to an end of much trumpeted Ayub's decade of progress. Then came another military regime led by Yahya Khan during transition that marked the beginning of an end. Bangladesh movement in fact begun when Bangabandhu declared in a meeting to observe death anniversary of Shaheed Suhrawardy that henceforth East Pakistan would be known as Bangladesh'. The landslide victory of Awami league in 1970 general election was a turning point in the history of Bangladesh movement. The development of Bengali nationalism reached its zenith by this time. Much of the dynamics of  post-election politics happened to be a mark of an intensification Bangladesh movement with flaming Bengali nationalism. Bangabandhu rose to the occasion as the man of the moment. His leadership style in the crisis moment was a booster to the struggling masses.
Bangsbandhu launched Non-Co-operation movement as reaction to postponement of the first session of national assembly at Dacca. The surge of radicalism of student politics in Dacca University produced knee-jerk reaction on the part of the conspirators who sought military solution of the crisis. At that time student stalwarts marked their presence in the street scenario with opposing programmes, and were united on the issue of secession from Pakistan under the compelling circumstances. The prominent student leaders organised the youngsters and mobilised mass support for taking to arms.
The dream of Sonar Bangla (Golden Bengal) cherished by Bangabandhu is no longer a distant dream. Bangabandhu is dead but his dream of an affluent and enlightened society has not faded into oblivion. "Mujib dead is stronger than Mujib alive." There has been a resurgence of Bangabandhu's dream and vision with the stunning victory of Al-led grand alliance in 2008 Parliamentary election. Bangabandhu tried to shape perceptions of countless admirers and supporters around his long cherished dream of Golden Bengal. He pioneered nation building albeit with reformation line in a new country as a new beacon in the realm of nation building. His vision of development is mass oriented with the programmes of nationalization, removal of private ownership of the means of production, land reform and land redistribution, revamping rural economy, and changes in revenue system, especially tax exemption up to 25 bighas of land.
Bangabandhu turned out to be symbol of new dream. This was the happy beginning of social transformation. He felt a strong sense of involvement in changing the lots of the masses. As far as my remembrance goes Bangabandhu so often uttered with blazing words that we fought Liberation War and won freedom; now we set to fight against hunger and starvation. Freedom was meaningless without economic emancipation. He deeply felt for the depressed class and was finding ways and means to make them happy with radiant face. This could be possible if they were provided with two square meal a day. He said, "the needy and poor masses of my Bengal do not demand much, they are gentle. My entire struggle through out my life will be of no use unless I do something for them."
He attempted at structural reconfiguration with a mix of participatory democracy and socialism aided by his economic advisors. This was to effect a breakaway from feudal capitalistic system and the great flux of colonial orientation based on exploitation. Article 10 of the original Constitution (1972) thus provided : "A socialist economic system shall be established with a view to ensuring the attainment of a just and egalitarian society, free from the exploitation of men by men."

(Dr. Md. Shairul Mashreque, Professor, Department of Public Administration, Chittagong University and Dr. M Abul Kashem Mozumder, Professor, Department of Public Administration, Jahangirnagar University and also Member, PSC.)

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