Do your children know Bangabandhu?
‘Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world’ — WB Yeats
When was the last time you told your children about Bangabandhu? I beg your pardon, what are you saying? You ‘try to stay away from politics’? But, I am not talking about politics here. I just asked how much your next generation knows about him. What? You don’t belong to ‘his party’? That’s insanely ridiculous, man. Bangabandhu does not belong to any particular party; he belongs to you, to your sons and daughters… he belongs to Bangladesh. Bangabandhu is far beyond politics. He is all about what your kids want to grow up to be.
Four decades. For long four decades this is how we are still confused about our history; and this is how our misjudgment, ignorance, and apathy are pushing the next generation, and, of course ourselves, towards the chasm of even a greater confusion and ultimately into a dark chaos. Perhaps this very historic confusion contains in it the answers to some serious questions you have been asking lately.
‘How could my son hack someone to death?’ ‘How in the name of God could he become so devilishly cruel?’ ‘Why did he leave home all of a sudden?’ ‘When did he become so radical in his thoughts without even my noticing it?’ ‘How did anyone manage to brainwash such a smart and educated young man so easily to become a terrorist?’
The answers are rather simple: you did teach your son history, but you left out an essential part because you thought it was either crudely ‘political’ or contradictory to your personal opinion. But it never crossed your mind what terrible consequences these incomplete and prejudiced teaching of history of one’s country could bring in. Being ignorant of a rational and liberal narrative of the country’s history yourself, you almost unknowingly bypassed the very centre of it, and in the process you left your posterity with a rather shaky and weak foundation of patriotism which could not stop them from becoming a killer of their own kinsmen. You failed to teach your son how to be compassionate towards his fellow countrymen and how to love his country. Sad, but it is undeniably true.
Your university graduate son, who has been radicalised and instigated to carry out senseless killings in the name of religion, might have thought a thousand times before even hurting anyone if you had told him the story how selflessly and profoundly Bangabandhu loved the Bengalis. Your young and intelligent nephew, who has pledged allegiance to a terrorist group by questioning the very legality and sovereignty of Bangladesh itself, might never have doubted the spirit of the Liberation War even in his wildest dream, if he had been told how Sheikh Mujib spent almost 12 years in jail sacrificing the happiness of his family for the emancipation of this nation, your daughter could not have said, ‘I hate politics’. Or if you had narrated to her the story of Bangamata Sheikh Fazilatunnisa Mujib’s life-long struggle and her constant support to help her husband become the Friend of Bengal. All the answers to your questions are here. Now, let us face the truth: Bangladesh is in a crisis, which, of course, is not so serious yet, but like an ominous shadow, it is growing bigger with each passing day. The nation lacks a centre to smoothly revolve upon and move forward. The people of this country are in need of Bangabandhu now more than ever. Only he could fill in the current political, social and, above all patriotic, void that exists at the nation’s core.
Yes, I can see that sarcastic frown of yours as you hear me saying that Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman occupies the central position in the history of this country. Also are you ready to refute me by talking about the ‘controversies’ surrounding his role during his regime in the war-ravaged independent Bangladesh. At this point, a violent debate is likely to ensue between you and me and it will end without any practical solution offered to the current problems that we are facing. Sheikh Mujib was an ordinary human being just like any of us; he was no god. He was not immune to making mistakes. I will not say that all of his actions were popularly received. No such ruler has ever lived on earth to satisfy all of his people. Nevertheless, of course, there is no denial of what he did for us: his struggle, mountain-high personality and, above all, his charismatic leadership are exactly what made us vocal about our rights and, eventually, inspired the millions of us to liberate ourselves from the shackle of bondage. What a tremendous effort Bangabandhu employed to rebuild the nation from the rubble of war is well documented. He tried as hard as he could. You cannot afford blaming him so flatly. So, shouldn’t we develop a positive outlook in this regard for our own betterment? Isn’t it time for us to embrace the best of Bangabandhu and make it a vital asset for building a Sonar Bangla? It definitely is.
What now? A certain political party’s overprotective attitude to Bangabandhu is sometimes so bothering? Well, I do agree with you on this point to some extent. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman is too big a figure to be contained by a single political entity. And, no political party of the present time should ever dare to think of doing so. It is, however, not something for which you can blame the whole organisation. There are only a few, both opportunist party members and brazenly sycophant public servants, who arrogantly try to do what they call 'glorifying' Bangabandhu. With their number growing in recent times, I believe these individuals are not as imbued with the ideologies of Bangabandhu as they are obsessed with naming institutions or petty structures after him. Bangabandhu is Bangladesh; he doesn’t need anything to be named after him. Their so-called reverence often has an undercurrent of flattery, insincerity and fraudulence. Party high-ups should take this issue very seriously and quell such practice for good. It should be remembered that human mind never accepts anything, no matter how grand or beneficial it is, which is forced upon them. Doing so will only frighten and confuse people. I am pretty sure the party that truly believes in and follows Bangabandhu’s ideologies will ever let that happen.
Convinced now? What are you waiting for then? Go tell your children what happened on 15 August 1975. Narrate to them how the Greatest Bengali of All Time had fallen that day. Show them how those poisonous snakes did their hellish job and also teach them how to find the hidden enemy. Do not tell your kids that a prime minister was assassinated. Rather tell them that a man along with 16 members of his family was killed that night. Ask them to feel what if it had happened to them; let them feel the pain and learn. Let your children find their centre. Let them know the Father of the Nation.
Jakaria Bulbul is an Assistant Secretary of Bangladesh Chhatra League, Central Executive Committee.