The tragic assassination of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman along with most of his family in August 1975 made the country’s political situation upside down. The independent Bangladesh visibly returned to former East Pakistan climes overnight. We were perplexed and moving here and there aimlessly. It could easily be understood the magnitude of the hostile situation prevailing in the country under then military rule.
Movement was very difficult as an unfathomable adversity descended on Bangladesh after the assassination of the Bangabandhu. His killers and the murder conspirators, who grabbed the state power immediately, arrested and threw into jail myriads of his close associates, and kept on the run many others.
Fears gripped the Bangabandhu admirers, who thought anything could happen to them when the enemies could show the audacity of killing the Father of the Nation. The situation reached such a hopeless point that many Awami League leaders and activists started distancing themselves from the party, let alone, anyone daring mourn him or talking against the gruesome murder.
But a man stood out from the rest at that hostile time. He braved all the odds and obstacles to arrange a Qulkhawani (a prayer event) seeking salvation of the departed soul of the Father of the Nation on August 19, 1975, just four days after the massacre, when the killers were still moving brandishing arms. He did not arrange it indoor; rather he held it publicly and in a big way in the very capital city of Dhaka. And he had to pay the price! The killers harassed and sent him to jail for his love for the Bangabandhu and his party – the Awami League. I am talking about Mr Zainul Haque Sikder, a long-time and trustworthy associate of the Bangabandhu, who lapsed into eternal silence two days ago, leaving us in an ocean of sorrow and grief.
Amid the adversity after the Bangabandhu murder, many Awami League stalwarts deviated from the path they once took, but nothing could budge Mr Sikder even an inch from the ideology he believed in, until the last day of his life.
Zainul Haque Sikder joined the war of freeing Bangladesh from poverty and hunger after the independence to make the country a Sonar Bangla (Golden Bengal) as dreamt by the Bangabandhu. He founded the nationally and internationally famed Sikder Group of Companies, one of the largest industrial conglomerates in Bangladesh, whose business spans from real estate to power generation, tourism and aviation to hotel management, health sector to education. The business entities he established have employed thousands of people and as an entrepreneur his reputation went beyond the national frontier as he established several international ventures.
But he will be remembered more for his love for the Bangabandhu and Awami League than for his contribution to the economy. On the day of the gruesome grenade attack on the Awami League pubic rally on August 21, 2004, in which Bangabandhu’s daughter Sheikh Hasina along with many of her party leaders was injured and at least 24 others were killed, hospitals in the capital could not treat the injured because of a restriction imposed by the BNP-Jamaat regime. Zainul Haque Sikder once again came forward risking the wrath of the rulers. He asked his hospital in the capital to admit every wounded who could reach there. And the treatment was totally free.
No words are appropriate enough to express Zainul Haque Sikder’s love for the Bangabandhu and his political party. Where will you find a man, living in luxury, who can leave the comfort of sleeping on cosy bed in protest against the murder of the Bangabandhu? Yes, Zainul Haque Sikder was a man of that rare genre. He stopped sleeping on the cot and started sleeping on the floor out of love for his beloved ‘Mujib Bhai’ after the death of the Bangabandhu. And he continued the painstaking until the trial of the brutal murder began.
He was and will remain, forever, a great source of inspiration for those who really love the Bangabandhu and his political party, and remain ready to make any sacrifice for the love.
- The writer is the Editor-in-Chief of Bangladesh Post