Tribute to Bangamata on her 92nd birthday

Tofael Ahemd
Photo: Collected

Photo: Collected

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Humble tribute to the immortal memory of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's beloved wife Great woman Bangamata Sheikh Fazilatunnesa Mujib on her 92nd happy birthday. His beloved wife was behind the fact that the name of the Father of the Nation was uttered with utmost respect all over the world beyond the borders of his homeland. This majestic woman kept Bangabandhu in her arms with absolute compassion as her life partner from behind the scenes of death. By making realistic and far-sighted decisions at important turning points in the history of independent Bangladesh, she has made a unique and historic contribution in bringing the Bengali national liberation struggle to its desired goal.

Bangamata Sheikh Fazilatunnesa Mujib was born on August 8, 1930. If she were alive today, she would be 92 years old. Bangamata has lived a miserable life for 12 years of Bangabandhu's life. She came to Dhaka in 1954 and rented a house at Rajni Chowdhury Lane in Gandaria. When the Jukta Front cabinet was formed in 1954, Bangabandhu became the Minister of Forests and Agriculture. Then he left Gandaria's house and went to the government house at 3 Mintu Road. Within a few days, the central government of Pakistan issued Section 92-A, dissolved the cabinet and arrested Bangabandhu. With just two weeks' notice, Bangamata had to find a home and the rented a house in Nazira Bazar of old Dhaka.

In 1955, Bangabandhu was elected a member of the Pakistan Constituent Assembly and on 16 September of the same year took over the ministry of industry, commerce, labor, anti-corruption and rural defense in the Awami League-led government. At that time Bangabandhu family was at home on 15, Abdul Gani Road. A few days later, when the question of taking charge of the ministry or the party came up, Bangabandhu voluntarily resigned from the ministry and took charge of the party secretary and Bangamata had to move. This time he took up residence in Segunbagicha. At that time Bangabandhu became the chairman of the Tea board. Bangabandhu was arrested on 12 October when Ayub's military rule was imposed on 7 October 1957. Once again Bangamata was looking for a home with her family and took shelter in a house under construction in Segunbagicha. Later she changed it and moved to the second floor of another house in Segunbagicha. Then 14 cases were filed in the name of Bangabandhu.

In 1961, Bangabandhu was released from prison and took a job with Alpha Insurance Company. The Bangabandhu family started living in a house at Road No. 32, Dhanmondi on October 1, 1961. From this time onwards the house at Dhanmondi Road No. 32 gradually became the address of the national liberation struggle of the Bengalis. Bangabandhu looked after each of the party leaders and workers like a member of her own family. Bangabandhu's family members thought so too. Bangabandhu and Bangamata used to stand by the side of the leaders and workers like absolute benefactors. Bangamata was enlightened in the light of the consciousness that Bangabandhu had the exceptional ability to win the hearts of the workers with his compassionate organizational efforts.

Some of the events carefully stored in the pages of memory still float in my mind. I always remember with gratitude the contribution of Bangamata in the '69 movement. At one time Chhatra League and we were in a very difficult situation. Gone are the days when we could not rent the office of Chhatra League. I remember an incident in 1967-68. Respected leader Abdur Razzak was then the general secretary of Chhatra League, Mazharul Haque Baki was the president. I was the VP of Iqbal Hall (Shaheed Sergeant Zahurul Haque Hall) at Dhaka University. I was riding a motorcycle, sitting behind Razzak Bhai. The destination is the BCL office located in Agamasi Lane. After we got there, the landlord called us and said, ‘Get out of here. Three months rent arrears. You can't rent an office. Chhatra League office cannot be kept here. '

We kindly requested the landlord to give us a few hours. He kept our request. Then the top leaders including Bangabandhu were imprisoned. From there we went to Bangamata at 32, Dhanmondi and told her about our plight. She handed over Tk. 200 to Razzak Bhai. From this Tk. 200 we paid the landlord 3 months rent of 60 rupees per month and 180 rupees. With the remaining Tk. 20 rupees we had lunch at a restaurant. When the mass movement started, she herself, who is today with our Prime Minister Bangabandhu's daughter Sheikh Hasina in Iqbal Hall, Iqbal Hall was the center of the movement, the residential area of the nearby teachers, was sitting in the car. She would call us for financial help and give necessary instructions. She used to meet Bangabandhu and explain the directions she got from Bangabandhu. She also managed the Chhatra League during a very difficult time.

February 14 was an important day in the mass movement of '69. The meeting of the Democratic Action Committee (DAC) was held at Paltan Maidan that day. Bangabandhu's daughter Sheikh Hasina took me to the place where Bangabandhu's trial was going on as Bangabandhu was interested in seeing me that day. The car was driven by the late Dr. Wazed Mia, the late husband of the Hon'ble Prime Minister. Bangabandhu pulled me to his chest and caressed me and said, ‘Today you are giving a speech in the paltan.’ I said, we do not give speeches in the meetings of political parties. Then he said, ‘You will be where the journalists are sitting. People will want to see you. You give speeches. '

A man has been imprisoned for about 33 months, but what he said has happened literally. The public meeting started, we went to the student body, we stayed close to where the journalists sat. Nurul Amin was the president of DAC. When the name of Nurul Amin was proposed from the platform, the people of the public meeting rejected it with hatred. The top leaders picked me up from the stage. Holding Bangabandhu's picture on my chest, I said, the day is not far away, the day our beloved will return among us.

It may be mentioned that Ayub Khan then called an all-party roundtable meeting. The question was whether to go to the round table meeting. We said, ‘Let’s go. However, our beloved leader Sheikh Mujib will lead the Awami League. 'With this situation in mind, I wanted to ask the people,' Do you want a roundtable meeting without the release of Sheikh Mujib? ' Meanwhile, there was a conspiracy to release our beloved leader on parole and take him to the round table meeting. I also raised the issue in front of the people and asked, ‘Do you want to be released on Sheikh Mujib’s parole?’ People said, ‘No, no, I don’t want to.’ Then we said to the leaders, ‘Leaders, you will go. But you will not sit in the roundtable meeting without the beloved leader Sheikh Mujib. ' Every effort was made to release Bangabandhu on parole and bring him to the round table meeting. Pakistan's Information Minister Khwaja Sahabuddin, Naval Chief AR Khan and many others came. But Bangamata Sheikh Fazilatunnesa Mujib played a major and historic role against all those efforts. After meeting Bangabandhu, Bangamata informed Bangabandhu of the decision of the people in the meeting of the paltan and said, 'People want your complete release. There is a conspiracy against you to release you on parole. You will never agree to parole. The people of Bengal do not want to be released on your parole. The people of Bengal do not want a round table meeting without you. If you are not released completely, there should be no attempt to release you on parole. 'Bangabandhu himself would not go to the roundtable meeting to be released on parole. When the offer was made to Bangabandhu, he rejected the offer in disgust and said, "I will go to the round table meeting as a free man."

Then on 15 February Sergeant Zahurul Haque was shot dead while detained in the cantonment. Fires raged like wildfire all over the country. On February 18 Rajshahi University teacher Dr. Shamsuzzoha was brutally killed by the Pakistani army on a bayonet charge and the evening law continued till February 20. We have decided not to break the curfew and transform the city into a city of processions. By turning the whole city of Dhaka into a city of torches and processions on February 20 and forcing the repeal of the evening law, we issue a 24-hour ultimatum to demand the unconditional release of all political prisoners detained in the Agartala case, including beloved Sheikh Mujib. Fearing public outrage, the beloved leader was released unconditionally at 12 noon on February 22 and taken to his residence. A flood of joy swept across the country.

Beloved leader was conferred the title of 'Bangabandhu' on 23 February at the Racecourse Maidan (Suhrawardy Udyan). The Awami League delegation led by Syed Nazrul Islam-Tajuddin Ahmed went to Lahore for the round table meeting. But they conditioned, ‘Our party will be led by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Until he comes, we will not sit in the round table meeting. 'The round table meeting was waiting for Bangabandhu; Bangabandhu participated there as a 'free man' and this is what the people of Bengal expected. In those turbulent days of the mass uprising, Bangabandhu's foresight and the contribution of Bangamata floated in the pages of memory.

One thing seems to be repeated. How far-sighted a leader is that he always knew how to make the right decision. I have never seen a person like him who knew what to say at any time. I have noticed that Bangabandhu did not make contradictory statements in his life. He never denied a statement or contradicted it. What he believed, thought, thought it was realistic, he said thoughtfully. Once he said that, he remained uncompromising even in the face of death.

I have heard from the revered Bangamata that Bangabandhu walked restlessly on the night of March 7, before the historic speech of March 7, 1971 and wondered what to say! Bangamata said, ‘Why do you think so much? All your life you have struggled with a goal, you have gone to jail, you have gone to jail, you have gone to the gallows. In this meeting you will say whatever you think is best from your believing heart. Let's see, people will accept that. You sleep now. 'Bangabandhu spoke that day with deep faith in his heart. Inspired by Bangabandhu, she was Bangabandhu's constant companion like a shadow. She has repeatedly requested Bangabandhu to provide the documents and say that you should write these while sitting in jail. At the beginning of the first page of the book 'Unfinished Autobiography', Bangabandhu wrote, "One day my wife sat at the jail gate and said, 'You are sitting, write the story of your life.' ‘My wife, whose nickname is Renu, bought me some notebooks and deposited them at the jail gate. The jail authorities have given me the register as usual. Renu sat at the jail gate one more day and requested me. So I started writing today. 'He wrote under the inspiration of Bangamata.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, daughter of Bangabandhu, handed over the manuscript of that day in the form of a book to the people today. Bangabandhu never celebrated his birthday. He wrote about this on page 209 of the book 'Prison Diary', 'Today is my 47th birthday. On this day I was born in 1920 in a small village in East Bengal. I never celebrated my birthday myself at most my wife would have given me a small gift on this day. On this day I tried to stay at home. 'Bangabandhu loved Bangamata very much, knew her well and looked at her with respect. Bangamata was the companion of happiness and sorrow in Bangabandhu's life. In the difficult days of the life of the Father of the Nation, Bangamatai has held the Awami League and Chhatra League. Then there were two organizations. One is Awami League, the other is Chhatra League. Krishak League, Sramik League, Juba League and other organizations have fallen. Those of us who used to do Chhatra League, when we went to meet Bangamata for some work, she gave us wisdom and advice.

She had helped financially even in difficult times. We used to collect money from people with coupons of Tk. 5, Tk. 10, Tk.100. Gone are the days when someone would give Tk. 100 and we would look at his face. Even at that time, Bangamata extended a helping hand to the organization and kept our activities active. After 9 months of bloody liberation war, on December 16, the day the country was liberated from the enemy, we returned to our beloved motherland in the guise of a victor. On December 18, Abdur Razzak and I landed in independent Bangladesh in a helicopter. The joy of ‘Joy Bangla’ all around, cannot be expressed in words! At first I ran away - including the revered Bangamata, Sheikh Hasina, Sheikh Rehana and Sheikh Russell - where the Bangabandhu family was imprisoned. Sheikh Kamal, the eldest son of Bangabandhu, joined the war of liberation and was the ADC of General Osmani, the Commander-in-Chief of the Liberation Army. Sheikh Jamal participated in the war of liberation with training in Dehradun.

During the war of liberation no one wanted to rent a house to Bangamata. If Sheikh Mujib's wife rents a house, the landlord will be taken away by the Pakistan Army. If a house has been rented out by hiding one's identity due to hardship, one has to leave the house with a few hours' notice after getting the identity again. Later, the Pakistan Army placed Bangamata under house arrest in a house at No. 18, Dhanmondi. Bangamata has gone through a difficult time in the days of the great liberation war.

Bangabandhu became the Prime Minister after the independence of the country. However, Bangamata was not in the official residence, but in the unofficial residence 32, Dhanmondi. The door of Bangabandhu's house was open to all. People from all walks of life used to travel. Bangamata used to receive and accept everyone with a smile. In the absence of Bangabandhu, she would look for every leader and worker of the party and help as much as he could. After independence, when I was Bangabandhu's political secretary, I used to go to Bangabandhu's residence at 32, Dhanmondi every morning at 9 am, from there to Ganobhaban with Bangabandhu. Then at 9 pm I would take Bangabandhu to his residence 32, Dhanmondi and return home. When I went to Bangamata's house, she took care of us like her own child. Bangamata used to cook for Bangabandhu by herself. Bangabandhu used to keep everything in order. Bangabandhu used to call Bangamata 'Renu'. Bangabandhu and Bangamata was an ideal couple.

In the historic public meeting after receiving the title of 'Bangabandhu', the Father of the Nation said, 'Those of you who have freed me from prison with blood, if I can one day I will repay the debt of your blood with the blood of my own chest.' Yes he repaid! On the night of August 15, 1975, when the assassin's bullet pierced the chest of the Father of the Nation, Bangamata shouted and told the assassins to kill him too. At the time of the death of his spouse, she became his companion forever. Father of the Nation and Mother of Bengal loved the people of Bengal very much. With the rise of independent Bangladesh, their genuine creative love will be immortalized and written in golden letters on the pages of history. In the words of the rebellious poet Kazi Nazrul Islam about the Father and Mother of the nation-

‘Any great creation on earth is eternally auspicious

Half of it is done by women, half by men. '