Translated by Alamgir Mohammad
‘Y our leader, my leader – Sheikh Mujib, Sheikh Mujib’—once it had been a slogan of some youths or a particular political party, but later became a unique slogan in the war of liberation against the brutal fascist Pakistanis.
In history the names of the great people are recorded. We have read the names of San Yat Sen, Lenin, Stalin, Gandhiji, Nehru and others. But history means the past. To me, they are distant and unseen. That’s why readers of one age cannot connect emotionally reading the lives of the great person of the past. With the use of intellect we can realize the significance of the lives of great persons. The relation of Bangabandhu and the seven and a half crore people of Bangladesh in 1971 and its significance will be a matter of research in future. Today it’s a matter of pride and joy for every Bangalee. And it is also an unprecedented, but a surprising part of history.
I heard an anecdote and that is once Sheikh Shaheb went to one of his colleagues’ home either on an assignment or to just meet. Reaching the yard, he had met an alliance of children aged five to ten. They were giving slogan carrying something like modern day placard or festoon: ‘Your leader, my leader—Sheikh Mujib, Sheikh Mujib; Kick Bhutto on face, Free Bangladesh; Circumcision of Yahya Khan- in a quarter milk, three quarter water.’ They again uttered, ‘your leader, my leader—Sheikh Mujib, Sheikh Mujib’. A slogan uttered, not under the sun of free Bangladesh. It was a slogan before an upcoming great storm in the tongue of some tender voices. We do not know what he felt seeing this team of children uttering his name. But the man who can laugh standing before the hellfire, standing before the alliance of the children uttered: Ah! Baba I don’t dare to be a leader of such daredevils like you.’
But Bangladesh knows, Sheikh Mujib became the leader of these daredevils who by taking away arms from the hands of the butchers fought heart and soul and sacrificed blood to rescue the motherland. ‘Sheikh Mujib’ a name lighted before their eyes as ray of hopes in the battle field, concentration camp, at the bunker, in darkness and in secret meetings.
Sheikh Mujib is a human being. We know it. He is a man of flesh and blood. He is not free from sickness and has also near and dear ones. He has old parents and innocent children. Still, the luminary of struggles and fights of Bangladesh, Sheikh Mujib has crossed the boundary of individual Sheikh Mujib. This luminary had been working as a dream of Bangladeshis irrespective of age, caste and creed since the dark night of 25th March 1971.
It was 27th March. The butcher Pakistani army softened curfew for a few hours. I went out from home with fear. Adorned with guns and weapons, the army was on round. Seeing them I was nearly trembling and proceeded towards Fakirapul slowly. The opening of the bazaar locked up with barriers of bricks till then. Some frightened people were in a crowd. Seeing a military truck they became isolated again. Frightened, I entered the T&T colony area. It seemed some people were talking to a Bengali policeman about something. I went close to them. Hundreds of people were asking questions to the policeman: Had you been at Sheikh Shaheb’s home at the night of 25th March? Had you been a guard there? How is Sheikh Shaheb? Where is he? What did he say? Did they arrest him? My God! Is he alive? These are the questions of all! These were not only the questions of the seven crore people but also of the sensible and sympathetic people of the world.
I am an inhabitant of a city called Dhaka captured by the brutal Pakistani army. I roam around my small home. I move very carefully. With the fascist hyenas, some native dogs have also joined hands. They are arresting people now and then from streets, homes and bazaars. Yet, people communicate with each other, whispering. They want to listen to the news and ‘Charampatra’ of Bangladesh Betar keeping the radio closer to ears. They get frustrated if they fail to listen to those voices one day. ‘Have you heard that some were arrested for listening to ‘Akashbanii’ from Jatrabari? They have menaced publicly in old Dhaka that if someone utters the name of Bangabani and Swadin Bangla, they will open fire.’ Yet people are listening to the affectionate voice of Debdulal Babu: ‘Do not fear. After this death, the sun of life will rise definitely. Listen, the flute of the Muktibahini is ringing.’
I was walking along a road. An old woman, burdened with her age, was passing by me. What is the fear of life amidst such countless deaths! Probably that’s why she was talking to her sideman with much courage: ‘Are you listening? The butcher might hang Sheikh Mujib to death. They are burning houses across the country and killing thousands of people. Moreover, they will kill him. Isn’t Allah there? He won’t tolerate this sin. They will die. This ‘haramzadas’ will lose lives. The old woman continued speaking.
Brutes never think twice to show off ridiculous courage. So, when the journalists asked: Is Sheikh Shaheb alive? Then the brute Yahya replied: Yes, alive today. But who will guarantee that he will be alive tomorrow? We got scared at the arrogant reply of this brute that day. People across the country asked each other about the meaning of this arrogant reply. Then, have they killed Sheikh Shahib?
But who can destroy the flag of hope? The more you try to stop it, the quicker it rises into multiplications.
On 7th September, I was taken away by the followers of the brutes. Who do not get frightened of losing life? Who is not hurt at the loss of near and dear ones? With this fear, on my entrance to Dhaka Central Jail I heard about Sheikh Shaheb from a Bangalee Sepoy.
‘You are an experienced person. In this place where you are now Sheikh Shaheb had been kept; beside this room when he was arrested in Agartala Conspiracy Case. In 1968, he had been taken to the cantonment in the dark night from here. I was one of the sepoys, who were deployed as guards. When he had been compelled to go to the cantonment, Sheikh Shaheb came out from the Dewani custody without any objection. He took a handful of soil. It seemed as if Khudiram of Bengal had been going to the gallows laughing. Taking a handful of soil he said: I love my Bangla Ma. Then he hugged us and said: ‘Brother, let me go. Pray for me.’
Listening to this story, I didn’t know when my personal sadness died out. It seems Sheikh Shaheb had spread courage, ray of hope and lesson to love the motherland among the detained.
It was in 1969. When I had heard that Sheikh Shaheb was freed from cantonment, I cried, forgetting the range of age and intellect. Knowing that it was impossible to see him amidst lacs of people, I went towards his house. I consoled my mind: I have failed to see Sheikh Shaheb. Seeing the mass is similar to seeing Sheikh Mujib. Crowd is formed from individual. I will be one of them and consider myself proud at seeing them.
‘TIME,’ a weekly from America, would be forbidden in Pakistan – I had never thought it before. In East and West Pakistan, this magazine was forbidden. In their general issues there had been no mention of Bangladesh. But in the special issues of the readers, it was heard that there had been something about Bangladesh. Those copies were being collected secretly. Someone distributed handwritten copies. We were reading those issues with much tension. In one of these issues, I found that the picture of 7th March had been covered widely and it was written: ‘From hero to Martyr.’ The US really wanted to destroy this abode of dreams. The candid as well as conscientious people of America did not agree with the conspiracy of their government. The democratic leaders of India and the sensible people of the world extended their all-out support to the struggles of the freedom seeking Bangalees.
Proving the countless lies wrong, the luminary of the independent and sovereign People’s Republic of Bangladesh came back home on 3rd January 1972. After returning, he again stood in the Ramna premises before the masses where he had stood for the last time on 7th March and asked: ‘This struggle is for the liberation, this struggle is for the independence.’
Detained in the distant jail of Yahya and tensed about the nation, Sheikh Shaheb’s health deteriorated to a great extent. Standing before lacs of masses, he spoke out wiping his eyes:
‘I have come to you again. Lacs of my countrymen and women sacrificed their lives for the independence of Bangladesh and for freeing me from the shackles of the butcher Pakistanis. Your love for me is immeasurable. I could not give you any return.’ Hearing this, every Bangalee present could not but shed tears and feel sad.
(This essay was written in 1972.)
The translator is a lecturer, Department of English Language and Literature, Premier University.
Illustration : Najib Tareque