THE SHEPHERD KING
SAIFUL ISLAM AZAD
This year the nation observed the 41st death anniversary of the founder of Bangladesh, the Father of the nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. On August 15, 1975 he was brutally murdered by a group of assassins, along with most of his family members. On the darkest day of our history, the loving and affectionate Begum Mujib, her sons and their newly married wives, 10-year-old Russel, and other members of the family were killed.
We mourn this loss more and more with each passing year, as his towering image dawns on our mind and consciousness, with greater relevance — and we express our wrath and abhorrence towards the disgruntled military officials who were involved in the massacre, more with each passing year.
It is true that a bullet can kill a human’s life, but it cannot kill the ideologies, thoughts, and achievements of a man like Mujib as he was a rare personality in contemporary history. He was a statesman — handsome, charismatic, confident, popular, simple, farsighted, and patriotic.
Newsweek Magazine on April 5, 1971, following the declaration of independence on March 26, 1971, said: “Tall for a Bengali (he stood at 5 feet 11 inches), with a touch of graying hair, a bushy moustache, and alter black eyes — Mujib can attract a crowd of million people to his rallies and hold them spellbound with great rolling waves of emotional rhetoric. He is a poet of politics. So his style may be just what was needed to unite all the classes and ideologies of the region.”
Time Magazine, on January 17, 1972, wrote: “The history of the Indian sub-continent for the past half-century has been dominated by leaders who were as controversial as they were charismatic — Mahatma Gandhi, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, and Jawaharlal Nehru. Another name now seems likely to join the list, Sheikh Mujibur (“Mujib”) Rahman, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh.”
The great modern Bengali novelist Tarashankar Bandyopadhyay said: “From the ocean of time, the eastern part of Bangladesh — otherwise known as East Bengal or East Pakistan — is emerging with a new spirit, a new aura, in a new magnificent figure. She is borne up on the head, deity-like, by the 75 million people of East Bengal.
Mujib was such a revolutionary leader that his name and fame spread worldwide. The Cuban revolutionary leader, Fidel Castro said: ‘I have not seen the Himalayas. But I have seen Sheikh Mujib. In personality and in courage, this man is the Himalayas’
“Their leader is Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the friend of Bengal. A historical conflict has drawn to a close and a new chapter is being written.”
Mujib was indeed a popular leader who had reached the pinnacle of political fame and authority by the hard work of ceaselessly addressing the people’s problems, and not by whining about his own misfortunes.
James J Novak said: “Sheikh Mujib brought an immediacy to the political environment. He never tired the people by sophisticated ploys or half-measures. He had no love for the government office.”
Novak portrayed Mujib’s personality by saying: “As for the Sheikh, hard work shaped his style. Indefatigable, he walked across fields from village to village, and mingled with the people, sharing their rice, dal and salt, remembering names, praying at mosques, sweating in fields, visiting flood sites, weeping at funerals and milads.
He empathised mightily, instituted sympathetically, and reached out and touched — not golf clubs and club chairs but the people’s sweaty hands. He knew what the people believed because he could explain things not only in terms they could understand but in one they respected. Knowing that, they believed he did not need to lie.”
Mujib was such a revolutionary leader that his name and fame spread worldwide. The Cuban revolutionary leader, Fidel Castro said: “I have not seen the Himalayas. But I have seen Sheikh Mujib. In personality and in courage, this man is the Himalayas.”
Castro made these observations after he met Bangabandhu in 1973 during the Non-Aligned Summit in Algiers. His remarks reflect the height of respect Bangabandhu commanded, internationally.
Journalist Cyril Dunn of the London Observer said: “In the 1,000-year history of Bangladesh, Sheikh Mujib is the only leader who has, in terms of blood, race, language, culture, and birth, been a full-blood Bengali. His voice was redolent of thunder. His charisma worked as magic on people. The courage and charm that flowed from him made him a unique superman in this time.”
It was Bangabandhu who brought freedom to this land named Bangladesh, which never existed as a free state in greater Bengal before.
This portion of Bengal was once part of Vanga, Samatata, and Pundra State and it was also part of large empires such as the Maurya Empire and Gupta Empire, and part of the regional Buddhist Pala Empire (8th-11th century) and Sena Empire (11th–12th century).
Thirteenth century onward, the region was controlled by the Bengal Sultanate, Hindu kings, and Baro-Bhuyans landlords under the suzerainty of the Mughal Empire, until the British East India Company took control of the region from the Mughals in the late 18th century.
The greater Bengal was divided during India’s independence in 1947 along religious lines into two separate entities: West Bengal (a state of India) and East Bengal, a part of the newly created dominion of Pakistan that later became the independent nation of Bangladesh in 1971.
After the pre-historic period till 1971, no leader or king ruled this part of Bengal (Bangladesh) as an independent state. And no ruler was a Bangalee like Bangabandhu in terms of blood, race, language, culture, and birth.
We know about many kings who were prone to extend their state’s area, but they never thought or fought for the freedom of the people like Bangabandhu did.
As a human being he had too much belief and confidence in his people for whom he struggled his entire life, not realising that all good people had enemies. History will remember him as a person who loved his country and its people — unconditionally.
AUGUST 20, 2016