By Professor Mamun Al Mahtab (Shwapnil)
With a nation celebrating thirteen festivities in twelve months, it is a mathematical reality that every month of the year means something special to the Bangladeshis and Bengalis as a whole. March of all is perhaps special, as there are several dates in March bearing extra significance to this nation. March comes to us with mixed feelings. The roller coaster ride of our emotions throughout March is not what we experience as a nation in the rest eleven months of the calendar. In March we have two great birthdays to celebrate. One is 17 March, the day when Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was born in Tungipara in 1920. The other is 26 March, when Bangabandhu declared the birth of a new state, as he proclaimed the independence of Bangladesh. Again we have 7 March to celebrate, the day when Bangabandhu gave his historic speech at the then racecourse ground (now Suhrawardy Uddyan) in Dhaka, where he laid down the final path to our journey as an independent nation.
In fact, it will not be over statement that perhaps this very date would have become our Independence Day, had Bangabandhu not formally proclaimed our independence on 26 March, following Operation Searchlight on March 25, the brutal massacre of the Bengali civilians all over the country, but mainly centered in Dhaka round the headquarters of police at Rajarbaag and Dhaka University, the stronghold of the Bengali aspiration for an independent country. It is on this very 25th day of March we the Bengali people, experienced one of the most brutal acts against humanity committed by the Pakistani army that still remains unpunished. We have tried some of the perpetrators responsible for crimes against humanity in 1971, but the Pakistanis are still at large. None of them were ever sentenced by any court anywhere in the world. No wonder Bangababandhu’s historic speech of 7 March made it’s way as the only speech to be recognized by UNESCO as part of our world heritage.
Interestingly all the dates that are meaningful to the Bengali nation in March somehow correlate to Bangabandhu. This is also no wonder as the nation owes every bit of its independence to this greatest Bengali who ever lived. History stands witness that Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman is the Father of the Nation of Bangladesh as well the greatest Bengali of all times, as he and he only in the history of the Bengali nation dreamt of an independent homeland for the Bengali people in the long history of this nation. Not only that, he also realized this dream during his short lived being in this mortal world. We come to know from Annada Shankar Roy’s description that when asked, when he first planned of an independent Bangladesh, Bangabandhu paused for a while, smiled and replied “in 1947’. Imagine in 1947 at the age of 27 years only!
This March bears extra significance as this is the March of Bangabandhu’s birth centennial. The nation is celebrating 17 March 2020 to 26 March 2021 as Mujib Borsho. Elaborate programs have been chalked out both at government and non-government levels to celebrate the life and achievements of Bangabandhu in the most befitting manner in Mujib Borsho. UNESCO has also endorsed this concept and Bangabandhu’s 100th birthday will be celebrated in all member states of this UN body. Invitations have been extended to world leaders by the Bangladesh government to join us in celebrating Mujib Borsho. The government has invited the Hon’ble Indian Prime Minister to be in Dhaka on Bangabandhu’s birthday, which he has very kindly accepted. This is an adorable gesture by the Bangladesh government as the history of our liberation will remain half told if we do not acknowledge the contribution of India and the Indian people especially during those nine months of 1971. Not only they trained and backed our Mukti Bahini, they generously provided food and shelter to ten million Bangladeshi refugees, not knowing whether ever these people will be able to return to their motherland, which was suddenly rendered so unsafe to them by the Pakistanis and their local collaborators. By inviting the Hon’ble Indian Prime Minister on the inaugural day of Mujib Borsho, Bangladesh as actually is trying to return the kind gesture that was shown to us by the Indian government and its citizens forty nine years ago.
So today those who are trying to create confusion by waging a propaganda war in the virtual world against this generous initiative by the Bangladesh government are actually opposing Bangabandhu and his spirit and teachings. Bangabandhu opted to pay a courtesy visit to the Indian capital in 1971 enroute from London to Dhaka after his release from Pakistani prison. He visited Kolkata on his maiden foreign trip as the head of Bangladesh government in 1972 only to reciprocate the love and kindness that the Indians had shown to his people few months earlier.
One more thing I would like to touch upon before concluding this article. We have to receive the Pakistani Prime Minister in Dhaka too during Mujib Borsho. We are hosting the G8 summit in Dhaka during this period. This is group of 8 Muslim dominant countries namely Bangladesh, Egypt, Iran, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistanand Turkey. It is heard that Imran Khan Niazi may seek apology to the Bangladeshi people for the wrong doings of his predecessors. This is something totally unacceptable to me as the bearer of a Bangladesh passport, as the son of a father whom I have seen suffer till his last breath from the pain inflicted to him by the Pakistan army when they picked him up and tortured him, as the husband of a wife whom I have seen suffer every moment from the emptiness of missing her martyred intellectual father soon after her birth and as a follower of Bangabandhu. We demand trial of the Pakistani war criminals and nothing less. This is what late Bhutto agreed to in writing in the Shimla Accord. Finally I demand the compensation from the forty two years of Pakistani colonial rule and the devastations during the nine months of 1971 by the Pakistanis, for the Pakistanis.
Professor Mamun Al Mahtab (Shwapnil) is the chairman of the Liver Department at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University and a member secretary of Sampritee Bangladesh.