To write about a man with a mythic aura around him, one is to take venture on separating legends from facts. Assessment of Bangabandhu is organically represented both from history and ideology. Thereby acceptance and renunciation syndrome have roots in history amounting to acceptance and denial of the message of Bangladesh---an opposite reality to the two nation theory, lifeblood philosophy of Pakistan on which it came into being. The evaluation of Mujib, his acceptance and denial are being and are to be viewed or weighed with that spirit of message of Bangladesh. Other variables to judge are hypocritically determined.
If Bangladesh is the summation of Bengali nationalism, secularism, democracy and an economy free from injustice, then no one can deny, for sure, the political role of Bangabandhu if one is to stay honest to history. Sheikh Mujib was a larger-than-life figure in the political landscape of the subcontinent. Because, only his leadership shaped the emerged Bengali nationalism into a statehood. That is why he is the Founding Father of a new nation, Bangladesh. Acceptance of this truth amounts to acceptance of Bangladesh. For it, one does not need to be a member of Awami League or its front organisations or supporters of them.
Starting from the Language Movement in 1948 to 1970, the essence of all political and social developments contributed to enrich nationalism culminating in making statehood in a bloodbath. In a long trajectory, we saw the only political leadership of Mujib in every turning of development in history. Can we cite any other name parallel to Mujib who was steering the whole political landscape to a destination? Mujib was the only politician in the subcontinent to be tried for alleged crimes on charges that carried death penalty. Not once but twice. In the first one, the Agartala Conspiracy trial, he was set free only because popular uprising against the Ayub Regime obliged it to set him free. In the second, that was held secretly in West Pakistan while the liberation war was going on, he was sentenced to death by hanging but the execution was not carried out because of the defeat and surrender of the Pakistan armed forces in Dhaka and the replacement of Yahya Khan by Bhutto. These experiences left Bangabandhu's physical courage undiminished and he became most organically connected with the people. He had a firm conviction that he had a mission to fulfil. That conviction grew stronger as he saw that the other politicians did not have the inner strength to confront the power structure in West Pakistan when the going got rough, especially after the advent of the military rule in 1958.
Let us look at the trajectory of the heroic leadership of Sheikh Mujib. Not all but only some heroic leaders came to the fore usually during periods of the crisis. As the prospect for the restoration of genuine democracy looked gloomy in the aftermath of Ayub Khan's military coup in 1958, Bengali masses began to feel instinctively that only a courageous man willing to stake his life for his mission could lead a movement to overthrow the military rule. As Ayub Khan gradually consolidated his position, almost all of the then leaders, more or less, compromised with the Ayub regime, while Bhashani actually collaborated with Ayub with his remarkable theory "Don't disturb Ayub" and others were maintaining low profile with that regime. But Mujib, even at the risk of alienating Awami Leaguers in the western wing and causing unhappiness among more cautious members of the party in East Pakistan, almost singlehandedly dared to put forward his programme of six points in the mid 1960s. It was a call for a radical change in the structure of power relations between the two wings of Pakistan through a loose federal form of government.
Naturally it was regarded as a challenge by the Ayub Regime and responded it with the language of weapons. Charges of treason were brought against Mujib. But in protest, demonstration in Dhaka became so violent that Ayub Khan thought it prudent to drop the case against him. Mujib became Bangabandhu. At a mammoth public meeting he was accorded this title by acclamation. People legitimised his charismatic leadership by giving Awami League a landslide victory in the only general election held in Pakistan. Negation of people's verdict by Pakistan junta led Bangabandhu to declare War of Independence. Did seven and a half crore people hear any other name in the helm of political leadership other than Bangabandhu in the entire circumambulation?
Our instinctive mindset and delusion often deter us to be honest to history. Problems originally lie in the development of middleclass. The ghost of Two Nation Theory is still chasing away many of us. Whatever camp or party we belong to, the grandeur of Bangabandhu cannot be bleak so far his political philosophy, nature of his long struggle, his stepping to destination, background of rising of the Bengali nationalism, its turning to becoming statehood and the inner message of six points are concerned. Then why do the Awami League and its front organisations, cultural bodies and members of a section of civil society under its umbrella politically own Bangabandhu to be the Father of the Nation only and why does he lack universal acceptance? This narrowness or lack of loftiness is not coming out of void. Ideology that chasing detractors of Mujib not being the Father of Nation is that either they want to see a Bangladesh with religion-based nationalism or a regimented one. Both are incompatible to the motto behind the creation of Bangladesh.
Yet they might disagree with Bangabandhu's policies pursued after the liberation. They might have a question on governance during his regime. Effectiveness of wholesale nationalisation, downward spiral of falling production, rising prices, wide corruption, smuggling and famine in 1974 might have created anti-Mujib environment and invigorated enemies at home and abroad. Anti-Bangladesh elements had deep socio-political roots and they proved their existence being able to bag nearly 12 per cent votes in elections both in 1970 and 1973. Notwithstanding Bangabandhu as an administrator and Bangabandhu as a founder father of a political landscape are two dimensions to be evaluated on. Overlapping is a crime.
Bangabandhu's policies and doings demand analysis in perspectives of reality prevailed at home and abroad in the 1970s. He set to realise the importance of market economy and hence enhanced investment ceiling at that time. Wading all odds, statistics say when country was going nearly alright, Bangabandhu was assassinated at that moment. Anti-Mujib stance demands fresh remembering with that episode.
It reminds a saying, "Show me a hero and I shall write you a tragedy". Mujib was larger than his life.
Haradhan Ganguly, a retired Professor, is Assistant Editor, Daily Sangbad, and Secretary, United Nations Association of Bangladesh-UNAB. Email: [email protected]