To Straighten the Record for Posterity
A tribute to Alexander Isayevic Solzhenitsyn (1918-2008)
I have always felt that my poor little Bangladesh, more importantly its history of birth, has been treated more or less like a soccer ball with twenty two, may be many more, booters kicking it at their own convenience and for their own selfish interests. If it were not so, I think our history from its very birth, would not have had to undergo so many twists and turns. Interestingly many of these booters are, at least in flesh and blood, our own kith and kin. They are not the ones who had occupied our motherland as a colony until the 16th of December 1971. Therefore it was expected that, despite numerous documentary evidence and the recently declassified American papers, some vested quarters would not have tried to re-invent our history with the purpose of suiting their own political ends.
The most recent High Court order and recognition of that by the present government should put an end to this. But despite all evidences and orders by the judiciary and the executive branch of the government, endeavours to reverse the history were only a matter of time. Because, we are possibly one of those very few unfortunate nations where distortion of facts and annihilation of values that gave its birth were allowed to have a field day without much of a protest.
This year, on the day of national mourning, I thought that I'd talk about Bangabandhu, the father of our nation, who has been subjected to a lot of ignominy by the ones who have been trying to reverse the tide of history. I shall start with the title 'father of the nation'. At the very outset let me clarify the fact that I genuinely feel that our war of liberation against the Pakistani colonialists was truly a peoples' war. It was fought by all kinds of people irrespective of caste, creed, colour, gender or vocation living all over Bangladesh. Hence, firstly, was it necessary to have a father of the nation? And secondly, why should Sheikh Mujib be the father of our nation since there were so many others who fought so valiantly in our liberation war?
Let me address these one by one. Yes, as I have said earlier, ours was indeed a peoples' war. But, those of us who were actively involved in this war, can bear testimony to the fact that since Bangabandhu had already earned the mandate of the people of Bangladesh to lead us towards our future in the national election, we were all waiting to see which way he would lead us at that critical juncture. And, it did not need the acumen of an expert interpreter to surmise, from his clarion call to fight for our liberty and freedom through the awe inspiring speech of the 7th of March 1971 that he had already given us the direction. Some adults with an argumentative mind of a child often assert that a nation does not need a father. Well, what was George Washington for the U.S.A or Mahatma Gandhi for India? Mao for China or Fidel Castro for Cuba and Jinnah for Pakistan? The history of human kind is replete with such illustrious individuals who had inspired or led their people to win freedom from enslavement and subjugation. You need a leader with that extraordinary power of infusing the spirit of freedom amongst the people that can earn them their independence. Can any one question this role of Bangabandhu in that? Even then, some time-serving historians or interpreters of history have tried to deny Bangabandhu his rightful place as the father of Bangladesh. Well, history has had to undergo subjective mutilation though these historians have always said that “to the best of their knowledge their account was true, wholly true and beyond debate”. It always was a matter of how a historian had wanted to perceive an event or a series of events that determined “history”. Therefore, we hear that Nawab Siraj-ud-doulah was a hero and a villain at the same time. A debate has also ensued about the period between 1972 and '75 as a tool to discredit Bangabandhu as a leader.
I must start with the fact that I have lived through the period in question. Not only that, I have also been actively associated with the war that brought about this nation and, most importantly, had taken part in it as“thinking” and a “non-party” political being. Yes there may have been a lot of naiveté on the part of the Awami League under the leadership of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in that that they may not have even been ready for a challenge they were thrown in as a corollary to the war of liberation. They were not a party ready for revolution. Having said that, to the best of my knowledge, there was no political party who ever thought of or planned for the contingency of taking charge of an independent Bangladesh with all its manifestations. The “left” was divided into fragments, some actively opposing the independence of the country at the behest of China who were a great friend of Pakistan and were vehemently opposed to Bangladesh. Some of them had not even changed their names, e.g. Purbo Banglar Communist Party and Purbo Pakistaner Communist party. The parties to the right supported the marauding forces of Pakistan. I dare say that no party ever thought of ruling the country if they were called upon to do so.
Against this back drop we found ourselves fighting and winning a war. And a country was born. It was then that those who had opposed the war that started unfurling their plots to undo the newly born country. This was, I dare say now, a plan well laid out by the retreating Pakistanis and their cohorts, the Razakars and Al-Badars. I distinctly remember now having told my leftist friends from the Chhatra Union days about my apprehension of the enemy of our country slowly becoming active again. To this they did not only turn a deaf ear but sermonised me that the real enemies of the country were the bourgeois nationalists under whose leadership the war was fought. Many of these pseudo patriots have subsequently become ultra-rightists and have joined the ranks of the pro-Pakistani nationalists and their fundamentalist cohorts. I think it would not be out of context to recap the condition that prevailed in post liberation Bangladesh. We know that we returned to a liberated land that was reduced to rubble by the war. The roads and bridges were destroyed, industries decimated, banks rid of currency notes, local administration disarrayed and, above all, hundreds of thousands of human beings annihilated. To make things worse the ultra leftists were busy in looting and arson and killing people on the pretext of doing away with class enemies. Did we know that of the nine law makers killed after the independence till now, seven were killed between 72 and 75? A condition of utter lawlessness was let loose by the so called revolutionaries in rural Bangladesh. A residue of this band is still active in certain parts of the country. Add to it the fact that when Bangladesh was groaning in agony and the government was in dire need for help, except India, the Soviet Union and some other poorer friends of Bangladesh nobody extended a helping hand. U.S.A in cahoots with Pakistan and China actively opposed our independence. The entire capitalist west supported this triumvirate. So no help would come from them. The oil-rich Arabs toed the line of Pakistan and did not even recognise independent Bangladesh. We did not know where the succour would come from. The government of Bangabandhu was pushed back to the wall. Being in such anguish, I could not agree more, that there could be some slips. The creation of Rakkhi Bahini, perhaps, was one such slip. But imagine, the entire rural Bangladesh was under the thumb of the lawless thugs, innocent people were getting killed in hundreds every day. What could a democratic government do to address a situation as desperate as this? Some of us consider the formation of RAB pertinent in view of the worsening law and order situation today. Imagine what an isolated government with far worse law and order situation prevailing in a totally disfigured country could do at that point in time?
It should be possible to recall that immediately after dislodging the government of Bangabandhu “recognition galore” started and plenty of help in cash and kind started pouring in from the countries that would not otherwise would have touched Bangladesh with a ten feet pole. If some one said that this sudden change in attitude was too close to being part of an orchestrated series of conspiratorial events could we blame them? It must also be put on record that during the short period of three and a half years the government of Bangladesh did institute some measures towards rebuilding the nation. We see a bumper crop in November of 75. It could not be Mushtaq's (the main beneficiary of Bangabandhu's killing)) doing. Most roads and major bridges, rail roads and highways were repaired paving the way for the subsequent military junta to be able to reach forces to the nook and corners of the country. The river Karnafuli was rid of the debris of sunken ships. There are many more such instances. Suffice it say that the governments that emerged into power subsequently only improved upon the development process initiated by first government of Bangladesh. What they could, however, take pride in doing is the extermination of the values of the liberation war. Therefore, what we have today is far from a secular, democratic and People's Republic. We do need a leader like Bangabandhu today to take us forward.
(R) thedailystar.net 2008