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21 September, 2018 00:00 00 AM

Bangabandhu’s early letters from prison

Salman F Rahman
Bangabandhu’s early 
letters from prison

The character of great men and women are revealed when they are under stress.  Recently discovered letters written in 1950 open our eyes to the then emerging greatest Bengali of all times Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. In 1996, when Sheikh Hasina first became the prime minister of Bangladesh, she learned about the existence of a secret file maintained by the Pakistan Intelligence Branch during the period of 1948-1971 that covered the activities of Bangabandhu. This remarkable file is now being published in multiple volumes titled ‘Secret Documents of Intelligence Branch on Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’. Volume 1 (1948-1950) was recently launched. It is a treasure trove of history unknown to all up until now. Page by page, we see the Pakistan government’s record on the daily activities of Bangabandhu. We are able to comprehend his thoughts, feelings and state of mind as he goes about planning and engaging in political activities revolving around the struggle for a fairer and better treatment for Bengalis, for the realisation of their legitimate rights and for the preservation of their culture and language. This struggle under Bangabandhu’s leadership would ultimately lead to the emergence of an independent Bangladesh.

Bangabandhu was referred to, at times, as “Security Prisoner Sheikh Mujibur” by the Pakistan Intelligence Branch. This commentary deals with two letters, both written in English and in his own handwriting. In a letter addressed to ‘Jonab’ Suhrawardy dated 21/12/1950, while he was in Faridpur jail, Security Prisoner Sheikh Mujibur wrote: “…..those who are prepared to die for any cause are seldom defeated. Great things are achieved through great sacrifices. Allah is more powerful than anybody else, and I want justice from Him.” It was a powerful statement from the man who would lead East Pakistan out of repression and exploitation to establish Bangladesh. Sheikh Mujibur goes on to remind Suhrawardy that he needed books in prison: “You should not forget that I am alone and books are the only companion of mine.”

Earlier in the letter, Sheikh Mujibur complained that he was jailed in Faridpur although his case was to be tried in Gopalganj requiring him to go back and forth. He bemoaned the trip taking 60 hours one way and that the route and the conveyance used was: “proverbially tiresome” The Pakistan authorities kept this letter and did not allow it to be delivered. It was found in the Special Branch files. In another confiscated letter to a relative Jepu, from the Dhaka central jail on 26/5/1950, Security Prisoner Sheikh Mujibur wrote:

“…but you should know, to the man who lives for an idea, for his country, for the good of humanity, life has an extensive meaning, and to that extent pain becomes less important to him.  I know that the world is a comedy to those that think, a tragedy to those who feel.” The last sentence sums up the attitude of too many around us.

Still, the Security Prisoner observed: “I am definite that in the long war between falsehood and truth, falsehood always won the first battle and truth the last.” And, he angrily reacts to the suggestion from his relative, that if he gives an undertaking to the Pakistan authorities that he will not do politics, he could be released from prison: “I cannot understand how you can dare to write this very word ‘bond’ to me. I do not know how to bow down my head to any man except Allah- the Almighty.”

His command of language, his strength of character, his faith in the Almighty, great personal suffering, firm belief that truth always triumphs over falsehood, appreciation of the pain felt by the downtrodden, realisation that without sacrifice goals cannot be reached, to compromise was betraying oneself, adherence to ideals and principles, striving for nation building and passion for serving humanity, are all evident from these letters written way back in 1950. He was only 30 years old at that time.

It is therefore not at all surprising that over the next 21 years, his single mindedness of purpose, dedication, sacrifice and leadership and much more resulted in the birth of our beloved Bangladesh after a war of liberation in which millions sacrificed their lives and honour and Security Prisoner Sheikh Mujibur became Bangabandhu, the Father of our nation.

Salman F Rahman is Chairman of the Board of Editors of The Independent.


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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.

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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