We begin in the words of Irving Berlin: “The song is ended, but the melody lingers on...” Yes, it is absolutely true. We know very well that the very name of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman is the embodiment, not of sentiment, but of a glorious history.
As we mourn for him on this month and as we remember our history on Bangladesh’s achievement in 1971, Independence Day, and as we celebrate the Victory Day that will allow us the chance to reunite with our children, we fight for a large battle that will recognise the most venerable veteran like the Sheikh Mujib and his great contributions to our country. A noted journalist and columnist has aptly described him “From rebel to Founding Father” of the country, Bangladesh in his book titled ‘Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.’
While typically associated with progress and change, and, indeed, with new citizens-cum voters, ‘People’s Power,’ as perhaps all too familiar repertoire of protest, may also have emerged as part of the challenges to institutionalising democratic consolidation under the able leadership of Bangabandhu’s worthy daughter - Sheikh Hasina in Bangladesh. “For every end no matter how tragic, there will be a new beginning” and this new beginning has already started under the able leadership of PM Sheikh Hasina. Veteran freedom fighter Md. Shafiqur Rahman lamented that “the youths today are not aware of the heroism of our veterans during the 1971 War of Liberation and they want to impart to them that their selfless sacrifices must be emulated in our everyday lives to achieve lasting peace or progress.” “Because of the advancement of technology, there is less focus on the valour of our heroes. That’s why, we are trying to help bring consciousness of the importance of their sacrifices,” he has further added.
The month long observance of Bangabandhu’s assassination on this August month also an opportunity to remember those who rendered honourable service in defending the country in times of war or peace to gratefully acknowledge their contributions in preserving our sovereignty and defending our national security. It is like: “My loyalty to my party ends where my loyalty to my country begins.” Mujib promised to usher in a new politics, improve moral standards, and provide leadership by example. He was an unyielding public opposer of Pakistani corrupt and tyrannical regime. Our country has a colourful political past and present. He was a firebrand orator. Once he said, “We will applaud if we make the right decision or we will weep in the end if we make a mistake.” His term was battered by what at times seemed a never ending string of socio-political crises because of emergence of some evil forces that were on the run because of their grave misdeeds during our glorious Liberation War in 1971. But his administration had doggedly and consciously focused on pro-poor policies.
In early 1971, “the images of “people’s power” were about to fade into history, but remain iconic: leaders kneeling in prayer in front of tanks, and unarmed civilians trying to push back military vehicles with their bare hands. People were determined that before the sun sets on this terrible struggle, our flag will be recognised throughout the world as a symbol of freedom on the one hand and of overwhelming force on the other.
Thucydides said, “The secret of happiness is freedom. The secret of freedom is courage.” Bangabandhu was always very courageous for his people and the country. Like Greek poet Dinos Christianopoulos, he used to say. “They tried to bury us. They didn’t know we were seeds. It is through difficulty that we must discover our true ability.” The strength of will is the grace of survival. The struggle of change is all ways winning.
Challenges make us grow in faith, in spirit and in strength. “The anchor of my life is the grace of Allah” was his firm conviction. Brute force, no matter how strongly applied, can never subdue the basic human desire for freedom. Rabindranath Tagore said, “Death is not extinguishing the light; it is putting out the lamp because dawn has come.” The Sheikh was a great soul. “A great soul serves everyone all the time. A great soul never dies. It brings us together again and again” has correctly been spelt out by Maya Angelou.
If we remember Bangabandhu, we should also remember what Angelo Patri said, “In one sense there is no death. The life of a soul on earth lasts beyond departure. You will always feel that life touching yours, that voice speaking to you. He or she lives on in your life and in the lives of all others that knew him or her.” The next generation should also know that leadership is critical in all struggles: It is critical to harnessing free elements to produce results, to uniting and conjugating human forces to achieve desired ends and to achieving successful human interactions. Strong leadership must work for the general interest as opposed to personal enrichment. Leadership should create durable democratic institutions that could operate independent of charismatic leadership. Sheikh Mujib’s politics was in line with these spirits. We can call him, “the incarnation of the heroic figure of the fighter”.
One of his true votaries and a 1971 war veteran Syed Shahidul Haque Mama once said, “He did politics with integrity, commitment, dedication and honesty. After him, there is no one who will take a principled stand in politics. I used to say to him that he should write his memoirs. He would reply that he was writing them. He knew a lot. Sad, I don’t see the kind of integrity that he had in any of the current lot of politicians except some few ones.” Another 1971 war veteran and Editor of weekly Postcard Md. Mujibur Rahman has said, “His death has brought a chapter of progressive politics to a close. He ended his journey from where he began, that is, he never moved away from his path. He always preferred society’s happiness to personal happiness. He did not succeed to shape society the way he wanted because of his brutal murder, so his dreams remained unfulfilled. We shall have to work more hard to fufill his dreams for betterment of our people.” A few days back, there was an event held to celebrate Bangabandhu’s life. There were many participants and Dhali Moazzem Hossain, a senior most 1971 war veteran and once senior post holding leader in BCL, Juba League and AL was discussing that these days people like Mujib are hard to find. It is a great loss for us and for Bangladesh.” He further added, “Bangabandhu belonged to that generation which was full of imagination and had ideals. It was a time when there was commotion in the entire world: Several countries were gaining independence, American imperialism was being protested against, in America itself street fighting was happening. At that time, he played an important part in the movement and protested against Ayub Khan’s military dictatorship. …. jailed for the Agartala Conspiracy case which elicited a strong response from the whole country. Because of his clarion call for independence, we pledged to leave our families to go out on the battlefield in 1971 to attain Bangladesh.”
In 1971, bullets were whizzing right over our heads but our people cared very little to them. Bangladesh had to be achieved- that was the principal motto of them. “August is the cruellest month” for us as correctly said by noted educationist Dr. Rashid Askari. On this cruellest month, the spirit of remembrance remembers and honours Bangabandhu and for those whose sacrifices have provided us with the freedom that we enjoy today. Our dedication is from the heart, as we provide a complete form of remembrance that comes from understanding and explaining the events that has led to the immense sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of our men and women in innumerable incidents almost three decades in particular. True understanding of remembrance comes from visiting where history was made in the company of like minded people and expert battlefield guides like the above-mentioned great freedom fighters.
The Sheikh led the Bangladesh people to its greatest victory against impossible odds – daring to defy the red eyes of the Pakistani rulers. His battle was like: “We shall defend our land, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills … we shall never surrender.” However, the highpoint in his career came when he addressed the nation on 7th March, 1971 in the Race Course Ground in a thunderous voice: “The struggle this time is for emancipation. The struggle this time is for independence.” He is known for his extensive work of fighting for the rights of his own people. His story is one of perseverance and success against all odds. …..thereby earning the title, “Father of the Bengali Nation” from his people. He combined an unapologetically progressive view of what the country could be with a pragmatic willingness to work across party-lines to get things done. The momentous shift of the political landscape in that time has enshrined him in the pantheon of Bangladesh’s people. He remains as the most popular and beloved political leader in history during his time and afterwards.
Politicians play an important role in the development of a country. The world has seen many great politicians emerging out in last decade. Mujib committed his life to working with the poor throughout the country. He loved to live among impoverished people so that he could better serve them. He personified the potential for goodness in humans and in doing so; he became a role model for people throughout the world. A great orator, Bangabandhu felt that liberation of the nation was more important than his great personal sacrifice throughout his life. He inspired people of Bangladesh to rise up and challenge injustices and exploitations imposed on us by the Pakistani rulers. He continued to fight for human rights, democracy and creation of Bangladesh. His 7th March speech served as a model for other political revolutionary movements leading to a large scale armed struggle against the Pakistani occupation forces. He is known as a great politician, and a world leader. He was noted for his courage in directing his people, his vision in protecting his people from exploitation by the Pakistani regime and his commitment to the cause of betterment of his people.
He transformed all people of Bangladesh into a single platform to fight against the brutal Pakistani Military junta and achieve our beloved country in 1971. “One thing I believe profoundly: We make our own history. The course of history is directed by the choices we make and our choices grow out of the ideas, the beliefs, the values, the dreams of the people. It is not so much the powerful leaders that determine our destiny as the much more powerful influence of the combined voices of the people themselves” and these words of Eleanor Roosevelt are truly compatible with Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s long struggle for Bangladesh’s independence. His political voice was continued to have heard throughout his life and his legacy as an advocate for the downtrodden has continued. His ability to summarise the range of human emotions in simple yet eloquent words and phrases have led to his enduring popularity and power and the standard to which others are held.
There is that great proverb – “that until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.” He was like a lion. He wrote history through his great deeds. He made history by his unswerving services to his nation. He inspired so many by his example of caring for the poor and needy. He was canonised as “The Friend of Bengal” or Bangabandhu by our people. He began his leadership role early in life. He was integral to the rise and power of Bangladesh. He was the leader of Bangladesh during its height and greatness in the world. He developed a cult following and remains an icon of the politically revolutionary-minded people worldwide. He is an iconic symbol of revolutionary movements worldwide. Even after his passing, the Sheikh has become a household name, a true testament to his perseverance and dedication to the cause of people’s welfare. Leading by example, Bangabandhu embodied the love, hope, and understanding that he expressed in his sermons and speeches. Over the course of its magnificent history, Bangladesh has been led by the most charismatic of leaders who have guided this country’s people and served as an inspiration for all of us. But one of the greatest personalities ever born in this country and he is Mujib, The Great. He is also known as People’s Politician – one of the most charming leaders in the country even in today’s time.
The world is full of aspiring political leaders but sadly, very few live up to the leadership ideals. In fact, many political leaders seem to severely lack some of the most important leadership qualities, such as, integrity and accountability. It is no coincidence that for many people, the word politician has such negative connotations! However, histories – and present day – show us that there are still a few who come close to the leadership ideals and who are good examples of an effective political leader and Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was the most effective political leader.
Political leaders are vitally important – through the authority of government, they assess the distribution of power and resources, build relationships with other stakeholders and make decisions that can have great impact on the well-being of a nation and its people. Leadership in the political framework requires a focus on the long-term good of a country, above and ahead of any personal short-term gains. Good political leadership requires a combination of charisma and integrity, as well as the ability to assess a situation and make a decision based on what would be best for the greatest number of people. Most of all, leadership in a political framework requires statesmanship – as opposed to just being a politician – this means having the integrity and willingness to stand up for what is right, even if it means resigning a position in government or losing an election.
Ironically, those who make good political leaders are often those who least want the position in the first place! These are individuals who do not seek power but who have authority conferred upon them by others who value their judgment. A good political leader is someone who serves as an example of integrity and loyalty to the people they represent, both to the public and to other political leaders; someone with good communication and inter-personal skills, who can work with a wide range of other people, regardless of political party or opinion, to achieve the greatest good for the general population; someone who can resist various temptations and lures of the political arena; someone of strong character, with both conscience and charisma; someone willing to listen to the needs of the common people and to represent them faithfully; someone with the courage to stand up and say what needs to be said – rather than just tell the general public what it wants to hear; and someone who is willing to make difficult (and possibly unpopular) decisions for the greater good.
An effective political leader will have a leadership style that focuses on coalition and building, while an ineffective leadership situation results from a leader who is a hustler – i.e. who uses manipulation to get what they want, instead of inspiration and motivation. While negotiation and even coercion are sometimes necessary, a good political leader will always try to use persuasion first. One of the key leadership qualities many political leaders lack is ability to take responsibility. A lot of political leaders are very adept at pointing the finger at everyone else and few seem able to accept responsibility for their mistakes, admit their political failures and acknowledge their own contribution to a problem. Accountability is crucial to effective political leadership, as without this; there will be no respect from the followers. A good political leader is someone who will be honest and responsible for his own actions and decisions and who is willing to admit when they have made a mistake. They will focus their energies and time on representing the people rather than spending all the time covering their backs and criticising others. Team work is a great way to build confidence and teach leadership to youths and for many, the thought of leading a group of youths can be a daunting one. However, youths respond to the same principles of respect, integrity and communication that defines good leadership in other arenas so by applying the same skills when dealing with a group of youths, it is possible to achieve success. Mujib set his principles in the right direction to achieve success and they worked very well to attain Bangladesh.
The inevitable Bangabandhu: Possibly the greatest Bangladesh’s political leaders of all times, who profoundly influenced the political ideas of Bangladesh’s people as no one else could, and left his indelible impact on the course of the country’s history both before and after his brutal assassination. He hugely altered the course of the movement as well as the destiny of the Nation itself. To summarise, we can say Bangabandhu had great love for Bangladesh’s people and genuine concerns for the poor and the down trodden. He was unmatched for his political acumen and intrepid boldness, and was a leader of towering stature, whom one may adore, and can never afford to ignore. Mujib was the only Great Political Leader of pre and post-independence polity, and also the last in the line of all Great Political Leaders of Bangladesh. No one else after him qualifies for this tag until this day and time. Let us pay rich tribute to him and his party stalwarts on this cruellest month of August.