On March 17, People of Bangladesh will be celebrating the birth centenary of the Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. The United Nations General Assembly, UNESCO, has also decided to jointly celebrate the Mujib Year with Bangladesh at the UNESCO 40th General Assembly. The day will also be celebrated by millions of Bangla-speaking people in India’s West Bengal and the world, as Bangabandhu is seen as the greatest leader in thousands of years by the world populace. Cuban leader Fidel Castro, after meeting Sheikh Mujibur Rahman said: “I haven’t seen the Himalayas – I have seen Sheikh Mujib”. The celebration of Bangabandhu’s birth centenary also coincides with the celebration of the Golden Jubilee of the independence of Bangladesh.
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was born on March 17, 1920 in a respectable family in Bangladesh’s Gopalganj district. He played the role of the source of inspiration to Bengali nation during the war of independence. People call him Bangabandhu (the friend of the people of Bangladesh) with utmost respect, adoration and admiration. His eldest daughter Sheikh Hasina is currently the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, who also is leading the nation, and has already succeeded in transforming a ‘bottomless basket case’ nation into one of the fastest growing nations in the world. Bangladesh and Sheikh Hasina are seen as role models by the international community.
Before joining politics, Sheikh Mujib studied law and political science in Kolkata and Dhaka, and took part in the movement of the independence of India from British colonial rule. In 1949, he joined the Awami League, a political party which advocated greater autonomy for East Pakistan.
A popular leader in East Pakistan, Bangabandhu played an important role in the six-point movement and the Anti-Ayub movement. In 1970, his party secured an absolute majority in the Pakistani general elections, the country’s first, winning more seats than all parties in West Pakistan, including Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party.
The election results were not honored by the Pakistani rulers thus leading to a bloody civil war, and Sheikh Mujib declared Bangladesh’s independence from Pakistan on March 26, 1971. The declaration coincided with a ruthless show of strength by the Pakistani military, in which tanks rolled out on the streets of Dhaka and several students and intellectuals were killed. Three million people had sacrificed their lives during the war of independence of the country, while few hundred thousand girls and women were raped by the Pakistani occupation forces and their local collaborators.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a virtual summit with his Bangladeshi counterpart, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, recently released a commemorative postage stamp on the occasion of the birth centenary of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. India issuing a stamp to honor a foreign leader is a rarest of rare events and in the past such stamps were only issued on the death centenary of Abraham Lincoln (1965), in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. (1969) and on birth centenaries of Vladimir Lenin (1975) and Ho Chi Minh (1990).
In 2004, BBC organized an opinion poll to find out the greatest Bengali of all time as perceived by Bengalis at that time. Bengalis from India, Bangladesh and overseas participated in the poll. Bangabandhu was voted to be the greatest Bengali of all time.
To every Bangladeshi – Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman will always remain a source of inspiration – for years and centuries to come.