By Md. Kamruzzaman
DHAKA, Bangladesh (AA) - Bangladesh is commemorating the 44th anniversary of the assassination of its founding father, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who was murdered with most of his family on Aug. 15, 1975 in a military coup.
It is also a national day of mourning.
The Bangladeshi politician and statesman, widely known as "Sheikh Mujib", served as the country’s first president and later as its prime minister.
His eldest daughter, Sheikh Hasina, who is also the current prime minister of Bangladesh, escaped the deadly military crackdown along with her sister, Sheikh Rehana, as they were abroad at the time.
Mujib is popularly known as "Bangabandhu,” or “Friend of Bengal.” He struggled to gain political autonomy for then-East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) and eventually became the central figure behind the "1971 Liberation War".
His contribution earned him the title Father of the Nation. In 2004, BBC announced him as the Greatest Bengali of all time follow an opinion poll among Bengalis across the world.
Born to a Bengali, Muslim family in a village in Gopalganj district of the province of Bengal in British India (now Bangladesh) on March 17, 1920, Mujib started his education life at Gopalganj Public School. He completed his Bachelors of Arts Degree from Islamia College in central Calcutta in 1944.
As a student at the college, Mujib started his political life in 1940 by joining the All India Muslim Students Federation. In 1943 he joined the Bengal provincial branch of All India Muslim League [popularly known as the Muslim League], a political party known for its strong advocacy for a Muslim-majority state of Pakistan.
In 1949, after two years of the partition and subsequent establishment of Pakistan, politicians of East Pakistan broke away from the Muslim League and established the All Pakistan Awami Muslim League [known as Awami Muslim League], as Mujib was elected as one of the party's joint secretaries.
Later the word "Muslim" was dropped from the party name and it continued as Awami League. Sheikh Mujib hosted the post of joint secretary until 1966 when he became president of the party.
Under his leadership, the Awami League secured a landslide victory in the 1970 general elections across Pakistan to form a one-party government.
But the central government refused to allow him to form the government and in early March 1971, President Yahya Khan postponed the National Assembly session amid huge demonstrations in East Pakistan.
On March 7, 1971, Mujib addressed a mammoth public rally in Dhaka where he called on the people to prepare for the struggle for independence.
His landmark speech is considered the first indirect announcement of the country’s "liberation war".
“The greatest achievement of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was that he congregated the people of Bangladesh and declared liberation,” senior Awami League leader and former Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed told Anadolu Agency.
Ahmed said, "his sole dream was to free Bangladesh from the misrule of Pakistan".
“He is a great leader who never compromised with oppression.”
But Syed Anwar Hussain, a historian at the University of Dhaka, told Anadolu Agency that Bangabandhu had a multidimensional personality.
“His greatest quality was that he loved the Bengalis. But his excess love to Bengalis was also his limitation,” Hussain said, adding this emotion made him indifferent to intelligence reports on a possible attack on him.
“Some evil Bengalis took the opportunity and brutally killed him.”
In independent Bangladesh, Mujib got only 1,314 days to build up the country, and in his 55-year life, he spent 3,053 days in jail, he added.
- Role during "liberation war"
Until the eve of the Liberation War, Mujib tried to reach a solution on the basis of the 1970 general election in which his Awami League party won a landslide victory that gave him a legal mandate to become prime minister of united Pakistan.
On March 16, 1971, Pakistani President Yahya Khan came to Dhaka for talks with Mujib on a transfer of power. The founder of the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, came a few days later to join the talks.
The Mujib-Yahya-Bhutto talks continued until March 24. Yahya left Dhaka on the evening of March 25 in secrecy as the talks failed and the Pakistani army launched a crackdown on the same night.
Politician Tofael Ahmed said the talks with Yahya and Bhutto were a political tactic of Mujib. He kept Pakistani politicians busy on one hand and prepared Bengalis for a great liberation war on the other.
The talks did not mean Mujib was trying to become prime minister of a united Pakistan, Ahmed claimed.
Professor Husain, however, said: “As a human being, he might have some limitations.”
“The formation of the Bangladesh Krishak Sramik Awami League (BAKSAL) party, banning all other political parties by Sheikh Mujib in 1975 developed an adverse political environment.”
But a few months, on Aug. 15, 1975 he was assassinated with almost all of his family members.
“What his intention was behind this one-party state could not be known.
“He was a man who loved this country, who devoted his life to the welfare of his countrymen. His works are bigger than his life,” said Husain.
“Mujib’s great limitation was that very often, he was motivated by emotion, not by intellect. Some evil people around him took the chance,” Husain said. “We have to remember that Mujib was a human being, not a god.”