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7 March, 2018 10:54:15 AM
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Bangabandhu: debunking some myths and misconceptions

As a charismatic politician Bangabandhu was unparalleled but at the same time as a statesman and nation builder too he be remembered till the existence of Bangladesh as a sovereign nation
Syed Mehdi Momin
Bangabandhu: debunking some myths and misconceptions

Even after so many years of his tragic murder the Father of the Nation Sheikh Mujibur Rahman continues to be victim of countless canards. In this article we will try and debunk some of these. His statement in the parliament about Siraj Shikder (a notorious Naxalite responsible for the death of numerous innocent people in the name of so-called class-war) is stated often to portray Bangabandhu as a vicious and ruthless monster. His comment is taken totally out of context. Because of continuous propaganda many people have come to believe that Bangabandhu said “Where is Siraj Shikdar now?” immediately after the latter’s death. In fact, the speech was delivered days after the death of Siraj Sikdar. The name of Siraj Sikdar came in passing, after he already delivered some 3,500 words out of total of about 6000 words long speech. It was hardly a ‘bragging’ over a murder as many say. In fact if one follows that speech carefully then it would be clear that he was bragging about catching/arresting Sikdar. “Jey aaj manush-key rater ondhokarey hottya korey, shey mone korey, takey keu dhortey parbena. Kothay Siraj Sikdar? Takey jodhi dhora jay, and tar dolbol --tader shobaikey jodhi dhora jai, taholey dhortey parbona, kone officer ghush khay ? etc.” –The man who kills people at the dead of night thinks nobody can capture him. Where is he now? If he and his cohorts can be apprehended then why can’t we capture those bribe-taking officers?

It is often said Bangabandhu was responsible for the killing of thousands of young and JSD men. There is no doubt numerous insurgents who carried on a ‘war’ against the government were indeed killed by police and other law enforcers. Some were killed during combat and some during raids for collecting arms.  But it is the responsibility of any government to combat insurgency. JSD’s militant wing Gonobahini declared “war” against the state. One can’t expect the state to sit idle.

Bangabandhu was vilified for raising the paramilitary force Rakkhibahi. Many countries have similar forces. In this context, existence of National Guard in USA and RAB in Bangladesh can be mentioned. No doubt Rakkhi Bahini committed many excesses. But they did a lot of good too. They recovered a large quantity of arms and smuggled goods and the hoarders and black marketers were frightened of them. The entire Rakkhi Bahini was composed of irregular Mukti Bahini guerrillas. What is often forgotten that after 1975, almost the entire body of the Rakkhi Bahini (the so-called Indian agents and brutal killers) was absorbed into Bangladesh Army by Ziaur Rahman. Some even rose through the ranks to become Brigadier and Major generals.

Somehow it is believed by many that while Bangabandhu was a great political leader he was a weak administrator. Please remember the state of the country after independence. Almost the entire nation including about ten million people returning from their refuge in India had to be rehabilitated, the shattered economy needed to be put back on the rail, the infrastructure had to be rebuilt, millions had to be saved from starvation and law and order had to be restored. Simultaneously, a new constitution had to be framed, a new parliament had to be elected and democratic institutions had to be put in place. Any ordinary mortal would break down under the pressure of such formidable tasks that needed to be addressed on top priority basis. However Sheikh Mujib was a man of cool nerves and of great strength of mind. Under his charismatic leadership the country soon began moving on to the road to progress. His government successfully rehabilitated ten million refugees who had returned from India, disarmed the Mukti Bahini, re-built the infrastructures damaged during the war and put the economy back on track.

During 1971-1975, some 22 lakh farmers were provided support with agriculture inputs like fertiliser, seeds and irrigation when 36 lakh acres of land were brought under cultivation to bring the food deficit of the country to 30 lakh metric tons, according to available information from related sources. Bangabandhu knew economic growth would not sustain without ensuring participation from the majority and be of benefit to them.  He wanted diminishing dependency on foreign aid and grant, which were initially vital to re-build war ravaged country. Achieving this target, he started using as much domestic resources as he can in the rebuilding process. Besides agriculture, Bangabandhu started liberalising trade and business in 1973 by transferring small businesses to private sector. He also decided to privatise medium business in phases.

Bangladesh framed a new constitution that came into effect on December 16, 1972. It is rare in history for a war-ravaged country like Bangladesh to have achieved such remarkable successes within one year of independence.    

Many have claimed that it was none but Bangabandhu who killed democracy and established authoritarian rule by introducing BAKSAL. On the surface, this seems to be true. But this becomes half-true if we objectively analyse the rationale behind introduction of BAKSAL. In fact, it could be argued that democracy loving Bangabandhu was bound to embrace authoritarian rule in accordance with the demand of the time. At that time, socialism had a special appeal to the common people.  BAKSAL was formed in a democratic way through proper discussion in the parliament, and many people of the country, including leading intellectuals, journalists and other professional, welcomed it–late president Ziaur Rahman was a member. However, right now, no conclusive remark on BAKSAL is possible as it died at its infantile stage.  

There are those who have defined Bangabandhu’s secularism as atheism. Nothing can be further from the truth. In fact as the leader of a major Muslim country by dint of population, he was very eager to build good relationships with other Muslim countries and Bangladesh became a prominent member of OIC. Even before Bangladesh received recognition from Pakistan, he invited and received Z A Bhutto in Bangladesh just to improve the bilateral relation with the major Muslim country in the sub-continent. Throughout his life he believed Bengalis should give priority, not just to its Bengali linguistic and cultural identity, but also, to its Muslim identity.

The forces that grabbed power in 1975 and their successors have tried to portray Mujib’s foreign policy as submissive towards India. But the fact is, Bangabandhu wanted to maintain friendly relationship with India along with Russia in the context of bi-polar international political setup of that time. It may be mentioned that both Russia and India supported our war of Independence while USA supported Pakistan. So, after independence, it was nothing wrong to keep close tie with these two friendly countries. But Mujib’s government was not submissive towards India. Within the shortest time of Mujib’s return from Pakistan jail, he could successfully compel the Indian government to take back their armed forces who fought side by side with our freedom fighters. JN Dixit, the famous Indian diplomat wrote “… even though Sheikh Mujib knew that during those early days of Bangladesh’s existence the country needed India’s assistance, he did not wish Bangladesh to become dependent on its large neighbouring giant, India, who could unduly influence its politics.”

Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was not an ordinary leader. He was different from all of his contemporaries in the sense that, while his colleagues fought for the emancipation of the nation, he alone embodied the aspirations of the entire nation and represented its yearning for a free and just society. This role of Bangabandhu raised him to an elevated stature where none could reach till now, nor is anyone likely to reach in near future. The greatness of Bangabandhu lies in the fact that any deviation from his ideals cannot but be tantamount to betrayal with the hopes and aspiration of the nation.

The writer is a journalist working

for The Independent

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Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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