We celebrate today the 97th anniversary of the birth of the founder of Bangladesh, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
We remember the larger than life man he was. And we do that because of the fundamental human qualities that defined his being. He inhabits our consciousness in all his glorious presence. Tall for a Bengali, he gave us all to understand that in him shone bright all those traits which underline the making of a political giant. His height mattered. So did his convictions. He was our face to the world, in every sense of the meaning. Of all the historical icons we have had cause to observe in our political ambience, only Bangabandhu stayed steadfast in purpose. The element called compromise, or a shifting of the ground, was not part of his nature.
It became clear to Bangabandhu towards the end of the 1950s that Bengalis needed to make their way out of Pakistan. That Sheikh Mujibur Rahman could break out of the communal mould, that he was beginning to question the very basis of the country in whose creation he, like millions of other young men, had once taken immense interest was an early hint of the greatness he was destined for. The path to that greatness was clearly laid out in 1966 when he overrode every other concern to inform the ruling classes of Pakistan as well as his people that it was time to reinvent the state through his Six Point programme for regional autonomy.
Bangabandhu was a man of huge self-esteem and an abundance of confidence.
Bangabandhu was our own. The mores and social norms we have grown up with were all exemplified in him. His smile radiated confidence and instilled courage in us. His sense of humour remains unmatched. He never forgot a face and always remembered names. His laughter reverberated across the room and beyond. He was always filling the room with his presence. When he met complete strangers, he made them feel they had known him all their life. When he found himself in the company of academics, he did not forget that these were men who deserved his unqualified respect. Across this land men of letters speak of Bangabandhu with reverence.
We recall yet again the glory with which he came back home from incarceration after Liberation. And home was the country which he provided distinguished and purposeful leadership to, preparing it for the gigantic struggle for liberty. Seventy five million Bengalis waged a war in his name. They won the war — because Bangabandhu was their inspiration.
Once again, we celebrate history. And there can be no history without Bangabandhu.