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19 March, 2017 11:12:50 AM
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The man is no more with us, but his ideals and dreams are

Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib is not only a liberator of his land but also the founder of a nation based on its language and geographical identity
Abdul Gaffar choudhury
The man is no more with us, but his ideals and dreams are

Only two days ago (17th March) we have observed the birthday of the Father of the nation. Other big leaders of the subcontinent like Gandhi, Nehru and Jinnah were the architect of their country's independence. However, the difference between them and Sheikh Mujib is that, he not only liberated his country through armed struggle but also revived a nation and a nation state. Bangladesh was there for thousands of years but it lost its identity several times in the past, finally losing its identity completely under Pakistani rule. 

The geographical and linguistic identity of Bangladesh was obliterated and replaced by East-Pakistan. The Pakistani rulers wanted to replace their mother tongue Bangla, by Urdu and declared Bangla language and culture as un-Islamic. Even among a large section of Bengali Muslims there was confusion whether they were Bengali or Muslims. They thought themselves as a Muslim nation and their country as an Islamic country and a large number of minority community lost their civic rights and became second and third-grade nationals of a religious state. 
At one time it was feared that there will be no Bangladesh and Bengali nation. That this most fertile and culturally advanced country would no more keep its identity of 1000 years. Its western part would be dominated by northern India's culture and language of the ruling class and the eastern part would be ruled by culturally and linguistically less advanced military ruler who lived far away in West Pakistan. This fear became a reality after the division of India in 1947. 
Within a year of the partition of India the educated and young generation of the-then East Pakistan realized the folly of their elders. They saw the immediate danger for their national existence was coming in the form of an attack on their language and culture. They realized that if they could not resist this attack they would become a slave nation like pre-independent black nation of South Africa. 
Sheikh Mujib's leadership evolved from this realization and he gradually became a secular nationalist. He fought for Bangla language and declared-'We are first Bengalis and then Muslims'. His six-point movement was nothing but a first step towards creating a new nation on the basis of secularism. He first declared in the huge meeting at Ramna Racecourse, 'My land, from now on, will be known as Bangladesh, not East Pakistan'. He replaced the religious slogan by a secular one-Joy Bangla (Viva Bengal). 
Eventually on 7th March 1971 he declared that our struggle would be for national independence. Bangladesh achieved its independence through armed struggle. There is also a difference between its independence and that of other countries in the subcontinent. India and Pakistan got their independence with prolonged peaceful negotiations with the British Raj and even these two countries remained members of the British Commonwealth for some time. The British monarch used to appoint their head of the state for some time even after their independence. 
For Bangladesh negotiation did not work. Even the massive victory of Awami League in the general election of 1970 was not accepted by the Punjabi dominated military rulers. Bangladesh won its independence through a nine-month long bloody war. A nation was created or revived on the basis of four state principles including secularism. Bangla became its sole state language.
So, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib is not only a liberator of his land but also the founder of a nation based on its language and geographical identity. In this respect some historians compare Sheikh Mujib with Kemal Ataturk of modern Turkey. After the first World War, the-then Ottoman empire was almost under the subjugation of victorious British rulers. Different European countries tried to colonize different parts of that empire. Then Kemal Pasha, a Turkish General, organized an army and started a war against Greek and other colonial forces and defeated them. He did not go for the revival of the Ottoman Khilafat or empire. He rebuilt his own land, achieved its independence and declared it as a secular republic. He opposed the re-establishment of an Islamic empire in Turkey, replaced Arabic byTurkish language and made it compulsory for Turkish Muslims to read Quran and offer prayer in Turkish language. Kemal was declared as Ataturk or Father of Turkey. 
Secular Turkey was a powerful country in the Middle-east long after World War-II. In the war Turkey remained neutral. However, the present rulers of the country are not secularist or a follower of Kemal. The rise of fundamentalism has made present Turkey another battle field in the Middle-east. It is not relevant to discuss the present Turkey here. I only agree with some historians that both Sheikh Mujib and Kemal are the architects of two nations. Mujib's Bangladesh is also now under attack from medieval fundamentalism. The only difference between the two countries is that the fragile democracy and secularism is still surviving in Bangladesh because the daughter of the father of the nation is still at the helm of the affairs of the country.
A renowned Turkish columnist wrote in Hurriyet Daily News that the main reasons for the ills of the present Turkey is because the rulers have drifted away from the basic principles of Kemalism. Kemalism should be reformed with the demand of the time, but its basic tenets should not be abandoned. Turkey can achieve its former status and power by returning to Kemal's ideals. This observation of the Turkish columnist is also applicable for present Bangladesh. If our politics could be freed from the medieval irrationality and the basic principles of Mujib's ideals are revived, then we might find a way ahead for the rejuvenation of the nation. The man is no more with us but his ideals and dreams are still with us. His every birthday reminds us of these ideals. We should listen to it and unite ourselves again as we united in 1971 against all the odds and a powerful enemy.

London, 17th March, Friday 2017

 

 

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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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