(1) Bangabandhu’s family in 1971
It was the night of 25th March, 1971. There was a full of quietness at Bangabandhu’s bome at Dhanmondi Road No. 32 throughout the day.
Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and his family members could apprehend that something tragic was going to happen.
Gunshots were heard around the city.
Bangabandhu’s eldest son Sheikh Kamal was out of home for forming barricades against the Pakistan Army who had been killing people indiscriminately that night.
Bangabandhu decided to scad the girls of the family to a safer place for the might and he gave their responsibility to his son in law Mr. Wazed Miah.
Bangabandhu’s daughter Sheikh Hasina, who was expecting a baby soon along with her sister Sheikh Rehana and her cousin Farida were sent to a house at Road no. 15, Dhanmondi for that night.
Bangabandhu’s wife Begum Fazilatunnesa Mujib, stayed with him.
Just before midnight, Bangabandhu sent the declaration of Independence to Mr. Zabur Ahmed Chowdhury at Chattogram via wireless.
At the darkest part of that night, the Pakistan Army surrounded his home and started firing at random.
The situation agitated Bangabandhu much and he asked them to stop. But, soon he was instructed to get ready to go with them.
Begum Mujib packed his necessary belongings. After Bangabandhu left, she was at a loss what to do and where to go with her children.
However, being a supportive wife of the great leader all through her life, she soon pulled up her mental strength. But, her anxiety continued till the end of the war.
The next day Begum Mujib had to leave House No. 32 with her children and other members of her home.
During the next couple of months, they moved from one shelter to another in search of a safer place.
During their stay in those places, some people came forward to helping them while some refused to give them shelter for fear of their own safety.
When their provision ran short, Sheikh Kamal, who had already joined the Liberation War, came to them in disguise and delivered some money. Some very close people also supported the family with money and food stuff.
So far the family members were ignorant about Bangabandhu’s condition. Suddenly they came to know that he was alive and had been taken to Pakistan.
Begum Mujib started to keep contact with Awami League leaders. But soon the family was taken to Dhanmondi, House No. 18 by the Pakistan Army and kept under house arrest.
However, people would come to their home with valuable information in disguise of vendors; also some would throw pieces of waste paper with important information written on them.
In the month of May, the same year, Pakistan Army set fire to Bangabandhu’s Tungipara home in front of his parents.
A young man from the village protested the evil deed and was shot dead.
Both the parents of Bangabandhu fell ill in October and were admitted to the PG Hospital.
Begum Mujib and her family were allowed to visit them two or three times a week for one hour. However, that created the opportunity for them to establish a better communication with the freedom fighters.
Begum Mujib was extremely worried about her children, especially her daughter Sheikh Hasina, because of her health condition.
However, she was not allowed by the Pakistani rulers to be with her daughter, when she was admitted to hospital.
Mr. Wazed Miah and Bangabandhu’s second son Sheikh Jamal accompanied Sheikh Hasina to the hospital. Bangabandhu’s youngest sister, pretending to be a hospital attendant, entered the hospital and looked after her niece.
Sheikh Hasina was blessed with a baby boy on 27 July who was later named Sajeeb Wazed Joy.
As the Pakistan Army often used to threaten Sheikh Jamal that they would hang him upside down, he, finding an opportunity, fled from the hospital and joined the freedom fighters.
Finally the Victory day arrived! There was joy everywhere!
But, Bangabandhu’s family was yet to be freed from captivity.
The Pakistani occupational forces were still cordoning Bangabandhu’s house and firing at people rushing over there chanting Joy Bangla’, the invigorating slogan of the Bangalees. But they fled the next morning when the Indian Army came to rescue the family.
Sheikh Jamal returned home in the afternoon while Sheikh Kamal returned home the next day.
Nevertheless, the biggest anxiety of the family persisted- Bangabandhu was yet to be released from Pakistani prison and they didn’t know when that great moment would arrive and how.
(2) Story of Bangabandhu’s homecoming
Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was arrested by the Pakistani army immediately after his declaration of independence at the first hour of the 26 March 1971.
He was taken to Pakistan as a captive and imprisoned there in a small cell for capital punishment until 7th January, 1972.
Even a grave was dug in front of his cell but Mujib was fearless. He knew nothing would stop the Bangalees to gain independence.
In fact, his name and independence became synonymous. So the whole world was awaiting breathlessly to witness his homecoming.
And he had a grand homecoming indeed narrated by eminent columnist and writer, Syed Badrul Ahsan. An abridged version of that narration is presented below.
In the evening of 7 January, 1972; Bangabandhu left Chaklala Airport in Rawalpindi, from where he would fly to London. Nine months earlier he was brought to Pakistan as a prisoner with little hope to return. And now he was free to go home. Pakistan, as soon as the PIA aircraft took off, was finally behind him….
Early in the morning on 8 January 1972, Bangabandhu arrived at Heathrow Airport.
News of Bangabandhu’s arrival in London spread quickly. Journalists, the general public, British officials and politicians and Bangalee residents in the city made their way to Hotel Claridges. News bulletins on the BBC and other media organizations made note of Bangabandhu’s arrival in their headlines.
By early afternoon, the Father of the Nation had met the British Prime Minister Edward Heath and the Leader of the opposition Harold Wilson. Then he called Dhaka and for the first time since his arrest by the Pakistan Army in March, spoke to his family.
A long conversation then followed with Prime Minister Tajuddin Ahmad.
The conversations with his family and with Tajuddin were emotional affairs, but he now had a clear picture of all that had happened in his absence in Bangladesh. It gave him immense pleasure knowing that he had truly liberated his people.
Bangabandhu’s opening words at a crowded news conference that evening at Claridges was a touch poetic. He expressed the unbounded joy of freedom achieved by his people in an epic liberation struggle.
Bangladesh, he told the crowd, was a reality and would fulfill its obligations as part of the international community.
He made it clear that those who were involved in different types of crimes including genocide would be trialled by his government.
(3) Bangabandhu’s a few more hours of journey towards home
Bangabandhu left London for Dhaka on the 9 January evening in 1972. On the way he would stopover in Delhi.
He was welcomed at Delhi’s Palam Airport in the morning of 10 January by President V.V. Giri, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, West Bengal politician and Chief Minister Siddhartha Shankar Ray and the chiefs of the Indian armed forces.
Bangabandhu stayed in Delhi for about two hours. During this time, he addressed a public rally and mesmerized everyone. There he wholeheartedly thanked Mrs. Gandhi, the people and the politicians of India for the tremendous help they had provided to Bangladesh and its ten million refugees.
Then it was on to Dhaka, where millions of people had begun to crowd the route that their leader would pass and the Race Course Maidan where the leader would deliver a speech before going home.
On the tarmac at Tejgaon Airport, soldiers of the Indian army and the Mukti Bahini were on standby to present Bangladesh’s President with a guard of honour.
Members of the wartime cabinet waited in the winter sun, as did a horde of newsmen. Sometime after 1:30 pm the Comet aircraft made available to Bangabandhu by the British government landed in Dhaka.
As soon as the doors of the aircraft opened, Bangabandhu appeared. It was clear he had lost weight due to imprisonment for nearly ten months in a Pakistani prison. A big smile appeared on his face as he swept back his hair with his right hand.
Prime Minister Tajuddin Ahmad then moved forward and buried his head in his leader’s chest. Both men broke down. Their tears soon led to moist eyes in nearly everyone else present around them.
Once the formalities at the airport were completed, the Father of the Nation climbed on a board of an open truck, with the Mujibnagar government figures and the student leaders crowding around him. He headed for the Race Course.
The two-mile stretch of road would take the procession almost three hours to cover.
At the Race Course, Bangabandhu wept remembering the sacrifices of the Bangalees had made in the war against Pakistan.
He told how the military junta had tried to intimidate him during his trial. He said, “I told them I am a Bangalee and a Muslim, who only dies once. I would walk the gallows with head held high.”
The Father of the Nation remarked, the Bangalees had become the golden children of the Golden Bengal. Quoting the poet Rabindranath Tagore, who once had complained that the people of Bengal had remained mere Bangalees but were yet to become true human beings.
Mujib told the jubilant crowd that the poet had been proved wrong. “Come back, O poet”, he intoned dramatically, “and see how your Bangalees are today transformed into worthy men.”
Moments later, as dusk and a winter haze settled over Dhaka, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman made his way back to his family. They had been waiting for him at the house in Dhanmondi Road 32 where he had left his family before the Pakistan Army arrested him on the eve of the Liberation War.
(4) Bangabandhu at the UN
Bangabandhu’s speech at the United Nation’s General Assembly is a matter of great pride for us. He delivered the speech on 25th September 1974, just after a week Bangladesh became a member of the UN.
To be a member of the UN was not an easy go as some influential countries were opposing the membership for Bangladesh. So it was another war that Bangabandhu had to wage.
But finally, Bangabandhu won. He won not only the UN membership, but also everyone who listened to his ever first speech at the UN. It was a veni vidi vici experience for him – he came, he saw and he conquered everyone.
Bangabandhu was the first person in the history of the UN to deliver a speech in Bangla, the language of the seventy-five million Bangalees, the language of the language martyrs.
The poet of oration, the icon of charismatic leadership touched another milestone and so did the Bangalees through him. It was a speech that revealed Bangladesh’s stand on national and international issues before the global community.
Identifying the UN as the parliament for the humankind, Bangabandhu recognized the moment of delivering his speech historical.
He mentioned that the very moment justified the century-long struggle and sacrifice of the Bangalees for self-rule, independence, dignity and co-existence along with other nations.
He assured that Bangladesh would follow the ideology of mutual respect, national sovereignty, regional integrity, and non-interference into internal issues of other countries.
Bangabandhu explained Bangladesh’s absolute pledge to the UN charters and reminded how the people of his country made the highest sacrifice to achieve the same.
The Father of the Nation added that Bangladesh would look forward to such a world where peace and justice would take their rightful place. It was essential to justify the sacrifice of the countless martyrs.
In his speech, Bangabandhu expressed his utmost gratitude to the UN and the international community for standing beside Bangladesh with their aids and support in the reconstruction of the war-ravaged country, relocation of 10 million war-refugees who took shelter in India during the Liberation War.
The leader of the country reminded the world how Bangladesh stood on the ruins and debris of a war where people were just struggling for survival.
However, the repeated natural calamities were making their life harder and people even didn’t have a minimum intake of food for a day.
Going beyond Bangladesh, he expressed solidarity for all the oppressed people around the world and denounced racism, discrimination, imperialism, and the use of force to stop people’s justified movements for their rights.
Referring to the struggle of the people in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Namibia, Palestine and Zimbabwe, he expressed his worry about people’s plight to achieve their own rights.
The leader of the oppressed noted when millions of people were destitute with unending miseries, only a handful of people were enjoying the highest luxuries. He emphasized quick measures for global financial management based on justice.
Bangabandhu warned that an absence of such a system would lead the world to experience an unprecedented misery of the history.
The leader of the third world countries expressed his deep concerns over a global recession and inflation, unemployment, unequal distribution of wealth and opportunities, and the gap between the rich and the poor countries. He described how those had hit the development plans in many poor countries of the planet.
To Bangabandhu, it was a global responsibility to fight these problems and take concerted efforts to put an end to these.
Before he concluded his speech, Bangabandhu declared that Bangladesh would follow the paths of togetherness, brotherhood, and mutual respect and cooperation. He expected the UN would take substantial roles in solving the prevailing human crises in the subcontinent as well as in other countries. Bangladesh has been following the paths of Bangabandhu, the dreamer and thepeople’s leader, even after his death nearly five decades ago.
(5) Bangabandhu’s relationship with other countries
“I have not seen the Himalayas. But, I have seen Sheikh Mujib. In personality and in courage this man is the Himalayas. I have thus had the experience of witnessing the Himalayas.” said Fidel Castro, the then Prime Minister of Cuba in 1973, when he first met Bangabandhu.
Such was the impression Bangabandhu left on the minds of world leaders. He owned the position in the heart of people across the world by his selflessness, courage and greatness.
Any country has to determine its mode of dealing with other countries of the world. The constitution of Bangladesh of 1972 clearly reflects the philosophy, ‘Friendship for all, malice to none.’ Bangabandhu led new government decided to maintain friendly ‘co-existence’ with other countries based on this principle.
The charismatic leadership of Bangabandhu inspired India to extending its support during the Liberation War even in his absence. It played an active role to convince the world leaders about sufferings of the people of Bangladesh and their right to be free.
Moreover, this country supported the freedom fighters with its army fighting the Pakistani occupation forces in a frontal war, Bangabandhu was grateful to India for this.
Yet it was Bangabandhu who could ask the Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on their first meeting when she would withdraw her army from Bangladesh. Mrs. Gandhi soon replied, “Any time when you wish”.
Noticeably, the great leader Bangabandhu had a strong personality to ask for any clarification from any other leader of the world! Consequently, very soon, before Bangabandhu’s next birthday, the withdrawal was completed.
Bangabandhu had an open mind to maintain good relationship with all countries irrespective of their capitalist, democratic or socialist ideologies. He left no stones unturned to make entry into different global organisations.
During the period between 1972 and 1975, Bangladesh signed more than seventy treaties, agreements, memoranda and contracts with different countries of the world. Managing entry into OIC (Organisation of Islamic Cooperation) and attending its conference at Lahore filled up a major gap in diplomacy of Bangladesh. It opened opportunities to explore all the possibilities of trade and other potentials with the Islamic world.
Bangabandhu charmed common people all over the world. His speech in different summits revealed that Bangladesh did not only think about its own self, it was also concerned about injustices prevailing in the rest of the world.
Bangabandhu sent a medical team to Egypt and Syria for the treatment of the war victims of Arab-Israel war. He always used to say, “Today the world is divided into two parts – the oppressors and the oppressed. And I am with the oppressed.” This kind of strong voice and wisdom made his position firm as a global leader.
He was such a leader for whom the British Prime Minister Edward Heath broke all the protocols to welcome him at Claridge’s Hotel on 8 January, 1972 while Bangabandhu was returning from Pakistani prison. His elegance was reflected in the voice of a renowned journalist, “The courage and charm that flowed from him made him a unique superman of these times.”
Bangabandhu’s philosophy of secular democracy honoured him with a firm position in the world.
The period from 1972 to 1974 was actually a bright and busy era for Bangabandhu Government, when he visited many countries of Asia, Africa, Europe and Latin America. He made those visits to gain support from those countries and to promote friendly relationships with them.
Consequently, wherever he went, he cast a very positive influence on the leaders of those countries. Among the world leaders who admired him were India’s Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Cuba’s President Fidel Castro. His leadership, wisdom and personal relationship with world leaders made him a successful politician of international repute.