The tragic hero of a distorted history

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Category : Nurul Islam Anu

BBNurul Islam Anu
Assessing post-revolutionary political heroes is a challenging exercise. They are heroes because they are so different from the ordinary — traversing the complex and difficult course of the history of a nation. In that journey they demonstrate qualities or virtues they have been endowed with so eminently by the creator to make history.

They evoke excitement and are never dull or boring; they are tree-shakers; they gamble with life with amazing ease for the realisation of ideals they believe in; they infuse a lethargic nation with inexhaustible energy with the dexterity of a magician. They embrace fame with grace and face abandonment with courage, remaining confident in the underlying strength of the ideals they champion; they are idolised and despised; they are controversial and yet noble. They are most often rebels restlessly uncomfortable with the existing order and relentless in their efforts to create a new future for humanity.

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, one of the greatest Bengalis of all times, belongs to this rare breed of political heroes.

This is a tragic day to remember him — the day when he was brutally assassinated by a group of military adventurers abetted by unscrupulous and self-seeking politicians. It was a debased and heinous act conducted under the guise of a dubious claim to patriotism. It represented the ominous induction of the overthrow of constitutional government through violence and an invitation to a process of military dictatorship.

The process was to inspire and foster horrendous distortions in the political evolution of Bangladesh from which the nation is yet to recover. The verdict in the most celebrated criminal case of the nation is yet to be executed by the conniving abettors.

How long would the nation be subjected to the agonising spectacle of a judicial “embarrassment” with the custodian of the constitution blissfully remaining inactive in correcting the process?

Should the theory of the judiciary acting outside the concept of overall social accountability be acceptable as a part of jurisprudence? Why is a Law Minister, showing unwelcome and morally unacceptable enthusiasm in commuting the sentence of a murderer, suffering from an induced indifference to perform his constitutional responsibility as the chief law enforcer of the republic?

Is not the Prime Minister accountable to the nation for setting a dangerous precedent of murder going unpunished in a society committed to the ideals of rule of law? Is selective impunity going to be a regular feature of the administration of justice?

Revolutions, the process of realisation of their objectives, and the heroes of the revolution will always be subjected to the inescapable scrutiny of history. A ruthless sense of honesty and objectivity has characterised this process. In post-independence Bangladesh an ominous tendency to “administer” history and scarifice it at the altar of subjectivity has been most pronounced. Regrettably much of distortion has been directed at Bangabandbu, the hero of the independence movement and the father of the nation.

This vicious propaganda is well-conceived, articulately administered, and has a sinister consistency. The glory of the independence movement and its finest days — March 7, March 26, December 16 — are observed by state controlled media without even a scant reference to this great name. The television screen remains barren and incomplete without a pictorial presentation of that majestic figure.

Dear readers, is it honest history being presented to a future generation about a glorious past they can legitimately feel proud of? Why should text books lie about history to a young impressionable mind — confusing an entire generation? This process has been brilliantly illuminated with fascinating and authentic records by the eminent historian, Muntasir Mamun, in his book entitled: “Itihash Bikritir Itihash” –a must read for those seeking the truth.

This process of distortion and tarnishing of Bangabandhu’s image has been extended to ridiculous propaganda campaign on invented issues — Sheikh Mujibur Rahman did not want to see Bangladesh independent, and was prepared to succumb to the temptation of becoming Pakistan’s prime minister. People who are knowledgeable about the political career of Bangabandhu would testify to the vicious and baseless character of such assertions. In his politics and the defiant political positions he assumed, he demonstrated the critical difference between a mere political agenda and a philosophy imbued with a noble commitment to emancipate an exploited people, defiant and ready to lay down his life for the cause. To make the point, I feel tempted to quote excerpts from one of my previous columns.

“His commitment was intense and absolute; he took his message with relentless determination to the people, spread it from village to village inspiring the common man continuously to the content of his message. Suffering imprisonment for 17 years of his life, under grave threat several times — Agartola conspiracy case — arrest in 1971 — he continued to gamble with life — with an astonishingly serene confidence, remaining loyal to his cause. His thunderous voice roared on the historic 7th of March at the Ramna race-course in a feat of rare eloquence — Bangladesh, as a nation was born.”

Bangabandhu has been accused of failing to define the core of the nationhood or erecting the edifice of a new state. Nothing can be more untrue than these malicious allegations. He continuously endeavoured to identify himself with the dream of a secular democratic Bangladesh where the poor man’s economic interest is safeguarded against any form of exploitation.

As a political practitioner he enacted the constitution in 1972 incorporating this core element of nationhood. Debates about socialist experiment apart, the economic interest of the common man and its guarantee has formed a core element in any form of economic management in Bangladesh. He put an end to the dogma of unbridled capitalism as a cure to Bangladesh’s economic ills and even the most capitalist of financial managers has to recognise this inescapable reality. He elevated the status of the common man from being an object of economic exploitation to that of an economic beneficiary.

Any post-revolutionary situation is characterised by misdirected passion and certain dangerous centrifugal tendencies. Sometimes it tends to degenerate into anarchy. Bangabandhu could clearly see the need for a cohesive political focus which would neutralise these centrifugal tendencies. His personal charisma and image provided the critical element in ensuring this national cohesion, and he engineered it consciously out of a deep realisation of a post-revolution Bangladesh.

With arms all around, the civil administration disrupted and paralysed, restoration of order and establishment of the civilian authority were essential pre-conditions to Bangladesh’s sovereign existence and its recognition by the rest of the world. He achieved these with amazing speed. The task was enormously complex and the writer of this column having the privilege of serving this great man at that formative stage most humbly testifies to that astounding achievement.

The fundamental pillars of Bangladesh as a new state were clearly identified by Bangabandhu with a clear vision and the superstructure was laid under his caring guardianship.

Creators of a distorted history engage themselves in an ignoble purpose. They tinker with the surface of superficiality and are destined to fail because history moves onward to eternity with a pristine purity and self-sustaining virtue. Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman will stand tall, majestically looking into the eyes of history, remaining defiant to the vicious propaganda of the enemies of the revolution as he remained defiant to the monstrous repressive machinery of the Pakistanis. This is a position he has earned at a cost unparalleled in contemporary political history. He was scornfully indifferent to the allurements that were held out to him to derail him from his mission.

From one who had the rare honour to serve him, this column is a humble tribute to the sacred memory of that great soul. Let him be as glorious in death as he was in life.

Nurul Islam Anu, a former member of CSP, is a political activist and columnist.

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