All those Bangabandhu baiters . . .
IN BLACK & WHITE
There is quite something to be said about those Bengalis who somehow cannot rest easy with the place of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in history.
More than decades ago, Syed Najmuddin Hashim --- civil servant, diplomat and eminent scholar --- enlightened yours truly with remarkable tales of some Bengali civil service officers trapped in Pakistan in the aftermath of Bangladesh's battlefield triumph in late 1971. Dismissed from service by the government of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and placed in discrete camps all over Pakistan, these Bengali officers spewed venom against Bangabandhu and even made the dire prediction that his new country would soon return to the fold of Pakistan. These men had, after all, lost their cushy jobs and did not quite relish the prospect of working for a country that had till recently been a mere province of the state that now was disowning them. And yet the irony is that these very men came home to Bangladesh and rose to high positions. They proved relentless, though, in their antipathy towards Bangabandhu.
That only reminds you of the Bengali officer in Pakistan's foreign service stationed at the Pakistan mission in Delhi in 1971. On his annual leave he did not go to 'East Pakistan' but travelled to West Pakistan, where he quarrelled with other Bengalis and rudely described the Bengali liberation struggle as a conspiracy against Pakistan. You only have to read the late Khalilur Rahman's book to go into the details. He is today a valued 'Bangladeshi nationalist' in the Begum's party.
There is then the tale of the brother of Munier Chowdhury. An officer in the Pakistan army, he agreed with his Pakistani friends that Bangabandhu was destroying the Muslim country. When he first received news that his sibling had been kidnapped and killed in Bangladesh on the eve of its liberation, he quickly blamed the Mukti Bahini for the tragedy. He lapsed into stupefied silence when it swiftly became known that it was the al-Badr, the collaborators who had served as the quislings of the army he was serving, that had murdered Munier Chowdhury.
In independent Bangladesh, we have had precious little dearth of Bangabandhu baiters. A retired military officer once stranded in Pakistan and who rose to a high perch in the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (before subsequently being sidelined as a reformist in caretaker times) informed a relative without shame at a point that he did not regard Sheikh Mujibur Rahman as Bangabandhu. It did not occur to him that the peaks he had climbed after 1971 all had to do with the politics Bangabandhu had pursued in his career. This man retired as a general in the Bangladesh army. Had Pakistan survived in these parts, he would have retired as a lieutenant colonel. And those men Hashim spoke about would, minus Bangladesh, have gone into superannuation as mere section officers.
Ziaur Rahman did not murder Bangabandhu, sure. But he knew about it and kept quiet. That was a treasonous act, concealing information that your president is about to be murdered by men you hobnob with. The Zia regime made sure that Bangabandhu was airbrushed out of history. In the Ershad period, more humiliation was piled on Bangabandhu, on all of us, when the killers of the nation's founder were allowed the privilege of forming a political party and taking part in elections. The fact that the process of the trial of Bangabandhu's assassins was halted soon after the BNP-Jamaat alliance found itself in power in 2001 was a fresh demonstration of the animosity with which the 'Bangladeshi nationalists' and the old defenders of Pakistan looked upon Bangabandhu.
Go beyond these political spaces. There are journalists in Bangladesh who do all they can to strike at Bangabandhu's stature. Erstwhile pro-Peking elements (and you have journalists among them too) will give you long so-called dialectical arguments on how Bangabandhu and the Awami League 'commandeered' the liberation struggle just when these leftists were about to bring freedom to our people. The fact is that leftists like Abdul Haq were in 1971 busily engaged in subverting the Bengali cause. Their continued links with Pakistan, as late as in 1974, remain proof of their perfidy.
There are newspapers in this country which have taken asinine pride in refusing to accord Bangabandhu his place in history. For the men behind these publications, Mujib has never been Bangabandhu. You double over with laughter when you see the pains these men go through when they refuse to accept the official term of the August 1975 killers' trial as the Bangabandhu murder trial and instead continue to call it the Mujib murder trial. For these men, Bangabandhu was no higher than being president of Bangladesh. And the four national leaders murdered in prison in November 1975 were no more than four Awami League leaders.
You travel abroad, holding that green Bangladesh passport in your hand. If you wish to deny the heritage of the Big Man that was Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, look at that passport. It is the legacy he has left you with.
All those who spend their waking hours cursing Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman travel on passports that came by way of his leadership of this country. When will these people ever feel ashamed of their perfidy?r
Syed Badrul Ahsan is Associate Editor, The Daily Observer. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org