Dhaka::Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had spent his lifetime fighting for the rights and freedom of Bangalis. For raising the ire of the oppressive rulers, he had been arrested an innumerable number of times during the precious years of his youth but he had not given in.
His leadership finally led to East Pakistan breaking out from West Pakistan and the birth of Bangladesh on 16 December 1971.
The country that he once dreamt of has been going ahead, with a consistent, remarkable economic growth acknowledged globally. It has recently received recommendations for its elevation from the status of least developed country to a developing nation.
This is the backdrop to Bangladesh celebrating the 101st birth anniversary of the Father of the Nation, and the golden jubilee of independence.
The long-awaited historic celebration began at 4:30 pm on Wednesday with a grand ceremony at the National Parade Square in the capital.
President Abdul Hamid, his wife Rashida Khanam and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina joined the event, along with visiting Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih and his spouse Fazna Ahmed.
Chinese President Xi Jinping, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and famous British journalist Sir Mark Tully sent congratulatory messages on the first day of the 10-day programme until 26 March.
The national anthem was sung by 100 children reverberated through the Parade Ground to mark the opening of the celebrations. They then performed songs of Rabindranath Tagore and National Poet Kazi Nazrul Islam in chorus.
Video footage of Bangabandhu’s historic speeches were presented while well-known singers sang the Mujib Year’s theme song titled “Tumi Banglar Dhrubo Tara, Tumi Banglar Batighar” authored by poet Kamal Chowdhury and composed by Nakib Khan.
On this day back in 1920, Bangabandhu, the architect of independent Bangladesh was born in Tungipara village of the then Gopalganj sub-division, now a district.
As the chief guest, President Abdul Hamid said, “The cardinal motto of politics should be – party takes precedence over person and country over party. Unfortunately, it seems that politics have taken a backward course.”
He called upon politicians to learn from the life and deeds of Bangabandhu and commit to serving the country and people.
Bangabandhu had never been distracted from his political goals for personal happiness or comfort, Hamid added.
“Overcoming all the obstacles, we shall establish a Sonar Bangladesh as dreamt by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, free of exploitation, deprivation, hunger, poverty, illiteracy and extremism,” Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said.
A good example of the country’s resilience is its ability to deal with the coronavirus pandemic successfully. “But we have to be very careful.”
The PM also cautioned that anti-Bangladesh forces were still active at home and abroad, which wanted to undermine the country’s achievement.
Bangabandhu as a “hero for all Indians” in a tweet coinciding with the celebration.
“He (Bangabanadhu) is a hero for all Indians too. It will be my honour to visit Bangladesh later this month for the historic #Mujib Borsho celebrations,” reads the tweet.
National Professor Rafiqul Islam said Bangalees had been subjugated, oppressed and deprived by outsiders for centuries. There had been movements of resistance but to no avail.
The 1947 partition giving birth to Pakistan did not bring anything good to the Bangalees in East Pakistan, which was earlier called East Bengal.
Finally, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was born to bring emancipation to the nation from slavery, to free it from the clutch of the oppressive Pakistani regime, Rafiqul said, adding that the 24 years spent under the rule of Pakistan was full of unforgettable bitterness.
On his two visits in 1952 and 1957, Sheikh Mujib forged friendships with Chinese leaders of elder generations. “As a Chinese saying goes ‘do not forget those who dug the well when drinking water from it’. We must always remember what the elder generations of leaders did for the growth of China-Bangladesh relations.”
Over the last five decades, Bangladesh has overcome many challenges and entered a fast-lane growth under the leadership of Sheikh Hasina in recent years. As a friendly neighbour, China rejoices at a prospering and progressing Bangladesh, Jinping said.
Joining the celebration virtually, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the world could celebrate the 50th anniversary of Bangladesh now only because of the vision of Sheikh Mujib of an independent and democratic Bangladesh, “one that was built on his love for its people”.
He recalled the strong relationship forged between his father Pierre Trudeau and Bangabandhu when Pierre was prime minister of Canada, which “was rooted in Canada’s early support for an independent Bangladesh”.
Bangladesh and Canada will continue to work together to support the world’s most vulnerable, fight climate change, advance peacekeeping, support women’s and girls’ rights and to build a better world for everyone, Trudeau said.
“We reflect upon the legacy of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman – 100 years after his birth and 50 years of independence. And in doing so, we are reminded of the power that individuals bring to create lasting change,” he added.
Prime Minister of Japan, Yoshihide Suga said Japan was one of the first countries to recognise Bangladesh after its independence.
In a visit to Japan, he said, Bangabandhu had considered Japan’s economic development a model to follow.
“Our traditional friendship is now tied with a strong and firm bond under the spirit of trust, cooperation and mutual benefit,” Suga said. Japan had consistently supported Bangladesh’s efforts towards the realisation of “Sonar Bangla, envisioned by Sheikh Mujib, he added.
Renowned journalist Sir Mark Tully who has a strong bonding with Bangladesh because of his reportage on the sacrifices made for independence and the struggle to recover from the ruins left by war also sent a message for the occasion.
Sheikh Mujib was one of the great leaders of the 20th century, he said, wishing that the nation would realise his dream of a golden Bengal.
Maldives President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih said, “Sheikh Mujibur Rahman will remain as a source of inspiration for many generations to come.”
Sheikh Mujib had championed democracy and political freedom in powerful words that resonated with people from all walks of life, Solih said, adding that cooperation between Bangladesh and the Maldives was extensive and it would only get stronger with time in areas such as climate change and healt