Bangabandhu garnered an indomitable quest for independence among the people of East Bengal. He established independent Bangladesh through his vision, by organising the people, but remaining steadfast in his aim and by making endless sacrifices. He suffered, was imprisoned and oppressed, but he never wavered from this path. He spent much of his life incarcerated. He rejected all offers of the authorities to be released on condition of signing a bond. He said he was ready to give his life, but nothing would detract him from his struggle until the people of Bengal won their freedom.

Throughout his life Bangabandhu came face to face with death. When he was detained in the cantonment for the Agartala case, a conspiracy was hatched to shoot from the back. But he got news of this plan and remained alert. Sergeant Zahurul Huq was martyred in that prison. The Pakistan military ruler Ayub Khan had planned to hang Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in the Agartala case, but the people of Bengal built up resistance in the valiant uprising of 1969 and freed him from jail. Out of love he was given the title ‘Bangabandhu’, the friend of Bengal. In 1971, not only was he kept isolated in the heat of a prison cell in Pakistan, he was also condemned to death.

Bangabandhu proceeded towards independence in a planned and precise manner. He declared the six-point demand and forced Yahya Khan to hold the election. He was confident of winning absolute majority in the election. And the election took place.

Bangabandhu repaid the people’s love with his blood. But how will we repay our debt to him? This will be done by bringing a smile to the face of the suffering people of Bengal, by establishing a democratic, secular Bangladesh free of exploitation and discrimination

Awami League won an absolute majority in the election in East and West Pakistan together. But the Pakistani rulers conspired not to hand over power to the Bengalis. In March 1971 Bangabandhu called for non-cooperation. In his immemorable speech of 7 March he said, “This struggle is our struggle for freedom, this struggle is our struggle for independence.” This speech, recognised as a world documented heritage, was both poetic and an epitome of astute politics.

In his speech, Bangabandhu called for each home to be made into a fort, for all to prepare themselves to resist the enemy with whatever they had. He called for freedom and independence, but never uttered a word that damaged the political equilibrium.

When he returned back to his homeland on 10 January 1972, Bangabandhu first rushed to the Racecourse Maidan (now Suhrawardy Udyan), to his people. Accompanying him on the same flight was Ved Marwah, a high ranking police officer working at the Indian High Commission in London. In an interview with Prothom Alo editor Matiur Rahman on 31 March 2008, we learn from Ved Marwah about various details of Bangabandhu’s plans.

On his speech on 10 January, Bangabandhu said, “Even at the gallows I will say, I am a Bengali, my language is Bangla, Bangla is my country, independent Bangla, Joy Bangla.” He said this Bangladesh would be a democracy, this Bangladesh would be a secular state. He said, this independence will not be complete if the people of Bengal are not fully fed, if the mothers and sisters of Bengal are not clothed, if the youth are not employed.

Bangabandhu repaid the people’s love with his blood. But how will we repay our debt to him? This will be done by bringing a smile to the face of the suffering people of Bengal, by establishing a democratic, secular Bangladesh free of exploitation and discrimination.

On this 102nd birth anniversary of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman we express our deepest and heartfelt respect.

* The article, originally published in the print and online editions of Prothom Alo, has been rewritten into English by Ayesha Kabir

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