BANGABANDHU AND HIS IDEOLOGY
ARUN KUMAR GOSWAMI
THE UNDYING IDEOLOGY OF BANGABANDHU SHEIKH MUJIBUR RAHMAN
The most recent observation of Public Administration Minister, Syed Ashraful Islam, M.P. on Bangabandhu’s assassination in the night of 14 August is worthy enough to analyze the tragic episode through the prism of ideology. Islam said, ‘The night of 14th August was chosen to kill Bangabandhu, because Pakistan was born on this Day. Bangabandhu’s sin had been that he led the birth of Bangladesh by breaking their (killers) desired Pakistan. For this reason only, those who opposed the liberation war had brutally killed Bangabandhu.
Such conspiracies are still going on.’ Bangladesh’s Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and India’s Father of the Nation Mahatma Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi had been the worst victims of violence. The assassinations were most atrocious form of national tragedy that the two nation-states had witnessed. However, the ideological consequences of Bangabandhu’s assassination in 1975, were much more grievous than the killing of Mahatma in 1948.
Since the assassination of Bangabandhu actually, a culture of violence has been growing in Bangladesh with the active patronization of ‘dominant groups’. The process could be termed as Pakistanization of Bangladesh. Nevertheless, the trial of assassinating Mahatma had been accomplished within a very short time. On the other hand, trial of killing Bangabandhu had been fully stopped by beneficiaries by enacting `indemnity law’. Besides, it was none other than the daughter of Bangabandhu, who dared to repeal the notorious law for bringing the killers into book.
Bangabandhu witnessed Mahatma Gandhi’s nonviolent action to stop the blood-spattered hostility during ‘Direct Action Day’ of Muslim League in 1946, when communal violence had broken out in Kolkata. Written during Bangabandhu’s stay in jail as a state prisoner between 1967 and 1969, “The Unfinished Memoirs” begins with his recollections of his days as a student activist in Kolkata in the run-up to the movement for Pakistan.
Describing about a time when people had been attacking and killing each other every now and then and an occasion when Gandhiji did not speak to anyone or give speeches as he did on Sundays, Bangabandhu wrote, “The Mahatma wrote something for the occasion and his secretary read it out. The man was a magician. People cried out immediately, ‘Muslims and Hindus are brothers.’ The whole atmosphere changed instantly.” Bangabandhu cited another instance when rioters pledged not to indulge in violence after Gandhiji told them that he would resort to a hunger strike if they did so.
After Kolkata, Gandhiji had gone to Noakhali on 7 November, 1946. He stayed there for four weeks.
‘In Noakhali, Gandhiji went from village to village through the muddy paddy fields. He carried his holy books. He appealed to Hindus and Muslims, men and women that they should pledge not to kill each other and ensure peace. …All the Muslims were pleased to see him and respected him (Shaheen Choudhury 2012).’
Both Bangabandhu and Mahatma were not in favour of leaving one’s motherland. With a few exceptional situations, they were also not in favour
It is often pointed out that Mahatma Gandhi came to Noakhali (Bangladesh) to stop Hindu-Muslim riot, on the other hand, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah came to
Dhaka (Bangladesh) to confiscate Bengalee’s mother tongue in the name of religion. However, since Gandhiji’s mission of peace in 1946 (in Bangladesh), two most important things happened. The British colonizers left and Bangladesh was entrapped into the religious-colony of Pakistan in 1947.
Later on, after bloody struggle led by Bangabandhu against Pakistan, the country became independent in 1971 under the leadership of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib. Like the general perceptions of the people, legendry Professor Abdur Razzak had considered Bangabandhu as “a symbol of Bangladesh”. In a seminal talk at the University of Dhaka in 1980 Razzak said “. . . in those dark days, in that testing time, among the millions wh00o would constitute the nation, there was no misunderstanding and there was no ambiguity. Bangabandhu alone was the symbol.”
However, the ugly face of communalism reappeared more violently following the assassination of Bangladesh’s Father of Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahaman in 1975. When Gen Zia-ur-Rehman became the president of Bangladesh and launched the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, he rejected ‘Secularism’ and ‘Bengali nationalism’ from the constitution. The erosion of the secular character of Bangladesh further deepened when Gen Ershad declared Islam as the state religion. However, the promotion of Bangladeshi nationalism and the declaration Islam as the state religion by the martial law regimes of Gen Rehman and Gen Ershad aimed to provide legitimacy to their undemocratic rule.
Mentionably, losing the Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of Nation of India just after the hard-won independence under his leadership was the biggest misfortune for the country.
However, Bangabandhu’s assassination on 15 August 1975 deprived Bangladesh of its founding father at a time when the process of nation building had been going on.
The assassin of Mahatma Gandhi, Nathuram Godse was arrested immediately after he assassinated Gandhiji, based on a F. I. R. filed by Nandlal Mehta at the Tughlak Road Police station at Delhi. The trial, which was held in camera, began on May 27, 1948 and concluded on February 10, 1949. He was sentenced to death. On the other hand, to save the killers, the beneficiaries of Bangabandhu’s assassination, declared notorious ‘Indemnity Ordinance’. Later on, another beneficiary and the martial law administrator and President General Ziaur Rahaman incorporated this ‘ordinance’ in our holy ‘Constitution’ as ‘Fifth Amendment’. The killers were “sent abroad as diplomats,” observers said. “Many countries, especially in the Middle East, accepted them.”
To mark the day of assassinating Mahatma Gandhi the Republic of India observes 30 January as ‘Martyr’s Day’. However, Bangladesh began the trial of Bangabandhu’s
assassination after his daughter, Sheikh Hasina Wajed, who was abroad during the coup, became prime minister in 1996 and overturned the notorious indemnity law after 21 years of its enactment. Apart from the beginning of the trial, the government had declared 15 August as National Mourning Day. Nevertheless, the murder of Bangabandhu, along with his family members, was followed by a series of killings. In November 3, 1975, four of his close associates and veteran leaders of liberation war were brutally killed in Dhaka Central Jail.
This event both damaged and produced a crack within the nation which has not yet been bridged. This dissection and decay of the polity deflected Bangladesh from the course set by its liberation struggle which had provided the basis for the foundational principles of the Bangladesh constitution: democracy, nationalism, secularism and socialism.
Since that fateful day in August, each of these basic principles has been uncovered to contestation or even utter repudiation. This assault on the very principles of our
nationhood has destabilised the nation, compromised the working of our democratic institutions and thereby weakened the process of governance. It could, thus, be safely
said that the bullets which killed Bangabandhu were also intended to destroy the very idea of Bangladesh for which the liberation war was waged.
The assassination of Gandhiji was a culmination of decades of systematic brain-washing. Gandhiji had become a thorn in the flesh of the hard core Hindus and in course of time this resentment turned into a phobia. Beginning with the year 1934 over a period of 14 years on as many as six occasions attempts were made to kill Gandhiji. The last one by Godse on 30-1-48 was successful. The remaining five were made in 1934, during the months of July and September 1944, September 1946 and on 20th January 1948. Godse was involved in two previous attempts. When the unsuccessful attempts of 1934, 1944 and 1946 were made, the proposal regarding the partition and the matter regarding release of Rs. 55 crore to Pakistan were not in existence at all. The conspiracy to do away with Gandhiji was conceived much earlier. The grounds advanced for this heinous crime are clever rationalization to hoodwink the gullible. The staging of the play entitled, “Mee Nathuram Godse Boltoy” is a clear proof of the fact that the mindset that led to Gandhiji’s assassination has not disappeared from the national psyche of India.
Under the leadership of Bangabandhu’s daughter, today we have already brought some of the killers to justice. We are honouring Bangabandhu’s memory through forty days of mourning. But can we reignite the message of his life by re-establishing the values of humanity, democracy, secularism, nationalism and social justice which guided his political life? Can we construct a society which can re-establish the rule of law, which punishes criminals irrespective of their political colour, which can let our minorities enjoy the same rights and opportunities open to the majority community, not just in principle but in practice?
Can we look forward to a Bangladesh where the landless could aspire to cultivate their own land, the property-less could become shareholders in the corporate empires of the business world, the slum-dwellers could expect to own their own homes, our small farmers could share in the value created by their insistent work on the farm-land or our millions of women who sustain our garment industry could expect to share in the profits created by their long hours of labour?
When the followers of Banglabandhu speak of implementing his dreams, they should keep such goals in mind. Otherwise, Bangladesh will continue along the long path we
have travelled since 15 August 1975, which has distanced us from Bangabandhu and his ideology.
The writer is Chairman, Department of Political Science and Director, South Asian Study Circle, Jagannath University, Dhaka
SEPTEMBER 10, 2015