Where the Head is Held High
AAMS Arefin Siddique
Forty-five years ago, at the dawn of 15 August 1975, the Father of the Nation of Bangladesh, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, along with 18 members of his family, was assassinated.
On the occasion of this National Mourning Day, we remember the Father of the Nation with deep reverence and pray for the salvation of his departed soul. We also extend our deepest respect to all those including his members of the family, who were martyred on that accursed day. This year, we are observing the National Mourning Day amid the deadly outbreak of novel coronavirus by shelving all formalities.
On this occasion, we recall the farsighted leadership of Bangabandhu which led to the creation of an independent country, Bangladesh.
The lines of the poem ‘Where the Mind is without Fear’ composed by the Nobel Laureate Poet Rabindranath Tagore about 120 years ago appeared to be a reflection of Bangabandhu’s life. He could embrace death with fearless and silent sophistication even during the accursed dawn of 15 August 1975; while staying at his own residence on Dhamondi’s road-32 during the terrifying night of 25 March 1971, he could declare the independence of Bangladesh resolutely without any fear in the first hours of 26 March, “This may be my last message, Bangladesh is independent from today”; he could proclaim in a thunderous voice at Dhaka’s the then Racecourse Maidan (now Suhrawardy Udyan) in the afternoon of 7 March 1971, while helicopters of the Pakistani forces hovered above, “The struggle this time is a struggle for our freedom, the struggle this time is for our independence”; he could start a hunger strike while in jail on 16 February 1952 with the demand for making Bangla the principal state language of Pakistan.
Therefore, no Bangalis need to repeat what Rabindranath had hinted by saying “The great man is coming”, as that was fully synonymous with the brief but colorful life and mesmerizing personality of Bangabandhu, which was full of struggles, suspense, and empathy for the liberation of humans. Bangabandhu is today recognized globally as the greatest Bangali of a thousand years due to his founding of an independent nation-state for the Bangalis and endowing them with a cohesive national identity. He could raise the Bangali nation to this unique height by providing leadership up to his death, while always holding his head high with honour and dignity.
The renowned British journalist David Frost had taken a long interview of Bangabandhu after coming to Dhaka in January 1972. At one stage, Frost asked the question, “[In the first hours of 26 March 1971] As you left your home at 32, Dhanmondi, did you think you would ever see it again?” In reply, Bangabandhu had said, “I didn’t, I thought this was the last, but if I die as a leader with my head up, at least they will not be ashamed; but if I surrender to them, my nation, the people of my country could not show their face to the world. It is better that I die keeping the prestige of my people.”
Bangabandhu was similarly calm, tranquil, bereft of worries and fear before the killers of 15 August 1975. He embraced death by holding his head high. Bangabandhu’s memoirs written in jail have now been published. His books ‘Unfinished Memoirs’, ‘Prison Diaries’ and ‘The New China as I Saw’ should be essential reads for the children of our new generation. I discern many unknown facts of history from these valuable books. We are forever grateful for the tireless effort and inspiration extended by Bangabandhu’s wife Sheikh Fazilatunnesa Mujib for her supportive role in writing of these books as well as her important contributions toward our national life. Begum Mujib has indebted the whole nation forever through her timely and sagacious advice to Mujib during various critical junctures of the nation.
We observe strange similarities in so many instances of human lives. The book ‘Unfinished Memoirs’ was written by Bangabandhu while in jail. Its preface was written by his daughter Sheikh Hasina on the 7th day of the grief-stricken month of August 2007, while sitting in the dark room of a sub-jail set up in Dhaka. His daughter Sheikh Hasina has been providing leadership to this country’s 160 million people by upholding the ideals of his father. In the preface to the book ‘Unfinished Memoirs’, Sheikh Hasina has written, “My father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s most precious times were spent as a prisoner. Those intolerable and secluded prison-days came up when he waged movements for realizing the rights of the masses. But he never compromised. Neither did he fear the gallows.
The people were the inner driving-force of his life. His lone vow in life was to bring smiles to the sad faces of Bangla’s inhabitants by building a Golden Bangla. The only perennial concern in his mind was to endow the people with a prosperous life by ensuring their fundamental rights of food, clothing, shelter, education and health, and freeing them from the clutches of poverty. For that reason, he had continued his lifelong struggles as an idealistic and self-sacrificing leader in order to realize people’s rights by shunning all happiness, comforts and luxuries in his own life, ultimately bestowing the Bangali nation with independence.”
We can feel the patriotism, the intense rhythm of human love, and the euphoria of liberation from all chains whenever we utter the name of Bangabandhu. The liberator of the Bangalis- Bangabandhu will forever remain luminous as a symbol of inspiration, faith, belief and sanctuary among the Bangali nation. The philosophy of life of Bangabandhu will remain forever as the ever-vigilant sentinel of our independence and sovereignty.
On the occasion of this National Mourning Day during the birth centenary of Mujib, let the ideals of Bangabandhu and the spirit of the liberation war remain as our guide. Glory to Bangabandhu.
Translation: Dr. Helal Uddin Ahmed
cap: Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman speaks at a crowded press conference in London after his arrival there following his release from Pakistani prison (January 8, 1972).