Speakers at a seminar on Tuesday said that Bangabandhu not just led the country to its freedom but also, he had long-time visions to develop the war-ravaged nation to a self-reliant country.
The observations came at a virtual discussion titled: “Founding Bangladesh: Centenary Reflection on Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the Father of the Nation,” on Tuesday night.
Oxford Political Review (OPR) and Dhaka University Law and Political Review (DUPLR) jointly organized the event which was streamed live on their respective Facebook pages.
OPR Managing Editor Nicholas Leah and DUPLR Editor-In-Chief Md Azhar Uddin Bhuiyan jointly moderated the discussion.
Education Minister Dr Dipu Moni, Awami League Information and Research Secretary Salim Mahmud and Emeritus Professor of Commonwealth Studies at University of London Prof James Manor attended the discussion.
Dr Dipu Moni said, “The Bangladesh that we see today, which is holding her head high on the road to development, is indebted to Bangabandhu for not just leading us to freedom, but also for the dreams he showed us.”
“He had always dreamt of a Sonar Bangla, a Bangladesh full of happiness and prosperity. We are so grateful to him for showing us how to chase these dreams,” said the minister, also the joint secretary of the ruling Awami League.
Dipu Moni further said that after independence, Bangabandhu helped produce the constitution in just ten months. It was given as the solemn expression of the peoples’ will. The constitution was based on four principles: democracy, secularism, socialism, and nationalism.
“Bangabandhu borrowed none of the four concepts from anywhere else. Rather, he defined each of them in the context of our struggle, history, people, and the land we have been living in for thousands of years,” she described.
“In three and half years, Bangabandhu built the peoples’ republic by developing the war-ravaged country. Whichever sector we look at now, in today’s Bangladesh, whether its education, agriculture, science, health, law, communication, foreign policy, and even energy and power—is driven by the dreams he gave us.… all the groundwork of our present achievements was initited by him,” said Dipu Moni.
“After his assassination, we had lost the path of growth and were unaware of what to do for nearly 21 years,” she stated, adding: “Bangabandhu is relevant for us every day as he was, and hopefully, will remain so.”
Salim Mahmud, Awami League Information and Research Secretary, while participating in the discussion said that there was a UN charter, adopted in 1960, which said countries that are not independent would be eligible for decolonization.
“Defying the world order, Bangabandhu led Bangladesh to its independence, which in fact was not an easy task,” he said.
“After independence, he took the initiative to get collective recognition for the new-born Bangladesh from countries across the world and international organizations,” said Salim, also a Dhaka University professor of law department.
“He eventually succeeded despite acceptance by a very few countries while some denied giving Bangladesh the recognition of an independent country,” he said.
“The withdrawal of Indian soldiers in the post-Liberation War period was another of his key contributions to Bangladesh as the development made the country more protected,” Salim stated.
Terming the constitution adopted by Bangabandhu very unique, he said: “Bangabandhu wanted Bangladesh to be a welfare state despite it being in a very fragile and vulnerable state at that time due to the nine-month-long Liberation War.”
Bangabandhu put the four principles in the constitution as he understood that the people wanted economic, social, and cultural emancipation, Salim added that food, clothing, education, housing, and health were five major issues that were categorized as fundamental rights in the state policy.
“Bangabandhu wanted Bangladesh to be a true republic; a country which is owned by the people” he said.
Emeritus Professor of Commonwealth Studies at University of London Professor James Manor said: “If we look at many Asian and African countries, there was no leader who faced tougher times, both during and after independence, than Sheikh Mujib did.”
“During the struggle of independence, he had to make much more sacrifices than almost all other fathers of nations. He spent years in jail, was arrested for more than 20 times,” the US-based academic said.
“After independence, he faced even tougher times than the other leaders. He took charge of a country almost devastated by war, and witnessed atrocities by the Pakistani army who killed many key people and burnt down hundreds of thousands of homes,” Manor said.
He mentioned about Bangabandhu that almost no other leaders in Asia, Africa, or Latin America had faced this kind of ordeal.
“So, I think Bangabandhu tackling all these challenges in such a crucial time and stage make him special,” Manor concluded.