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OP-ED: Chasing ideals that we don’t know of

  • Published at 07:06 pm August 14th, 2021
Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman acknowledging the cheers of a huge gathering of followers upon his landing at the Tejgaon Airport on January 10, 1972 Mujib100.gov.bd

Bangabandhu faced steep challenges of nation-building in the aftermath of the war, and now we must face those challenges

On his return to an independent Bangladesh, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had a heap of problems that needed unravelling and addressing. Having been totally in the dark about what had happened in the country during his nine-month internment, he had to be updated. 

There was hardly anything in the coffers, the country lay in infrastructural ruins, and the crop-fields were burnt bareness. One can imagine but not comprehend the thoughts that must have been swirling in his mind with the combined nature of the gargantuan task.

From a governance point of view, there was no constitution, and therefore laws and public administration ran along the similarly extra-constitutional martial law rule of Pakistan. A rule that he had been seeking to dismantle. Balancing needs of the population, establishing law and order and putting an economy in place fought for priority alongside the need for arms surrender, ensuring Indian troops withdrew quickly, and garnering aid and recognition of the new nation. 

His deep personal reserves were of courage, vision, and faith in the people and those around him. What he didn’t accept, couldn’t believe, was that there were, mostly among those around him, dissimilar thoughts that existed prior to the War of Liberation, during it and in the new country. 

He was brave enough to tell the nation not to expect anything in the coming five years. Even as the benefits of providing for without commitment, began to happen he pleaded, nudged, cajoled, and warned the unholy elements involved in profiteering, hoarding, corruption and “chataras” (gobblers) to desist. He went to the extent of asking the people to identify these elements and uproot them. Most didn’t listen, they did not know how. 

In this longer version celebration of his 100th birth anniversary as well as the 50th year of independence, there has been a surfeit of communication to follow his ideals and the spirit of the War of Independence. On August 15, the tragedy of his death along with most members of his family, the pledges will or have been repeated, except they sound like a cracked, repetitive record player, extinct as they are. 

The ideals, based on the 11 points declared by students and his own six-point movement, have not been communicated as they should have been, even in the last 12 years or so. The spirit of the Liberation War, too, has not been amply disseminated. Above all, they haven’t been adapted in terms acceptable to the new generation.

It wasn’t scaling a mountain. Re-runs of the important speeches made, comments on various occasions have been loosely aired but in lip-service form. His comments in particular were simple and succinct. The relevant parts of the speeches were as straightforward, but pregnant in essence. 

During the pandemic, with more people using cell phones, Youtube, and the growing number of pro-Liberation minded groups and individuals emerging from hibernation, an opportunity was lost. The ideals of Bangabandhu could have been seamlessly communicated. Instead of the rather meaningless messages sent through text of observance of so and so day or occasion, these would have been more meaningful. 

The prime minister’s Eid greetings honoured each and every individual; it made us proud. The impact of the Father of the Nation’s vision and ideals would be understood, especially by a generation that probably doesn’t know of them. 

Some of the messages should have us hang our heads in shame. “Use respect in addressing farmers and workers,” “give farmers fair prices and workers their dues,” “haul profiteers and hoarders to task,” “for God’s sake reduce corruption in development projects.” 

Compare these appeals with the pitiful state of addressing people as tui or tumi. Think of the tears rolling down the cheeks of farmers having to see their crops rot because they can’t get fair prices. Does the wailing of workers touch us for not being paid their pay and bonuses on time? 

A vision comes from a visionary. This realization has been incorporated by companies worth their salt. But unless these are lived and practiced, they remain confined to mere discourse. Various organizations, political and otherwise, must live and practice these words of wisdom in personal and practical life. Bangabandhu lived simply, engrained this in his family, and ate frugally. The obscene display of wealth, the ivory towers, living beyond means, and above all, taking public office for personal gains are an insult to the man who made so much possible. Floral wreaths are important but till their fragrance reaches the remote corners, organization’s and fealty is meaningless.

Mahmudur Rahman is a writer, columnist, broadcaster, and communications specialist.

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