“As we have already shed blood, we are ready to shed more blood! This time the struggle is for our freedom, this time the struggle is for our independence!”
Those eternal words of the historic March 7, 1971 speech by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman are perhaps the most iconic of the prolific leader. Even after 40 years, the cry continues to energise and empower us. And also reminds nation of the great leader that they have lost on 15 August, 1975.
Born in Tungipara, in the province of Bengal in British India, in 1920, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was one of the greatest Bengali nationalist politicians who earned the honorary title of Bangabandhu (Friend of Bengal). He headed the Awami League, served as the first President of Bangladesh and later became its Prime Minister.
He first became politically active when he joined the All India Muslim Students Federation in 1940 during his studies at Islamia College (now Maulana Azad College). He joined the Bengal Muslim League in 1943 and grew close to the faction led by Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy, a leading Bengali Muslim leader.
Upon his return to East Bengal, he enrolled in the University of Dhaka to study law. Some believes during this time, Bangabondhu developed an affinity for socialism as the ideal solution to mass poverty, unemployment and poor living conditions. In time, he joined Suhrawardy and Maulana Bhashani in the formation of the Awami Muslim League, the predecessor of the Awami League and focused on expanding the grassroots organisation.
Later in 1951, Mujib became started taking more active role in protest during the period of turmoil, later to be known as the Bengali Language Movement. Through his active participation and leadership skills Mujib rose within the ranks of the Awami League as a charismatic and forceful orator.
Known for his stand against ethnic and institutional discrimination of Bengalis, he demanded increased provincial autonomy, and became a fierce opponent of the military rule of Ayub Khan. At the heightening of sectional tensions, Mujib outlined a 6-point autonomy plan, which was seen as separatism in West Pakistan. Moreover later, despite leading his party to a major victory in the 1970 elections, Mujib was not invited to form the government.
Following a political deadlock, it was on March 7, 1971 that Mujib called for independence and asked the people to launch a major campaign of civil disobedience and organised armed resistance at a mass gathering of people held at the Race Course Ground in Dhaka. He was detained and taken to Pakistan but, undoubtedly the speech has been critical event and a catalyst for our liberation war.
Nine months later, East Bengal was no more and Mujib was released to return to newly born Bangladesh as provisional president, and later prime minister. But sadly, depriving the nation from great leadership, he along with his family and personal stuffs were assassinated on 15 August, 1975. The grave incident plunged the country in political turmoil for many years which continued for many years. His legacy lived on through the work of current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
Nonetheless Bangabandhu is still remembered for his contribution to the country and his tragic death is mourned on 15 August which was commemorated as the ‘National Mourning Day’. In a 2004 poll conducted on the worldwide listeners of BBC’s Bengali radio service, Mujib was voted the “Greatest Bengali of All Time” beating out Rabindranath Tagore and others.
He will remain an icon for leading the Bengali struggle for rights and liberty and his ideals of socialism will be professed to future generations.
developed by avocats