FB   
 
Powered bysps
        Society for Policy Studies
 
 

 
Mujib, in his own words
Updated:Jul 7, 2012
 
Print
Share
  
increase Font size decrease Font size
 

Syed Badrul Ahsan

Book: The Unfinished Memoirs

Author: Sheikh Mujibur Rahman

(Translated by Dr Fakrul Alam with a preface by Sheikh Hasina)

Publisher: Penguin Viking

Pages: 323

Price: Rs 699

 

On his last night alive before he was murdered along with nearly his entire family by soldiers of the Bangladesh army on August 15, 1975, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, founder of the independent nation of Bangladesh and Bangabandhu (friend of Bengal) to his people, happened to be reading George Bernard Shaw’s Man and Superman. An avid reader, Mujib was an ardent admirer of writers, philosophers and statesmen the world over. Among those he placed on a pedestal were Bertrand Russell, Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill and Mahatma Gandhi. His library at home, today a memorial to his exalted place in Bengali history, bears evidence to the wide reading which shaped his perception of politics in our part of the world. That was somewhat surprising since, from the late 1940s to the early 1970s, he seemed to be constantly going to prison over his rising opposition to the depredations of Pakistan’s ruling classes.

And yet, as The Unfinished Memoirs demonstrate only too well, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, like so many others in thrall to the All India Muslim League in the 1940s, was initiated into politics on the premise of a separate, independent state for India’s Muslims. Under the influence of Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy, then prime minister of Bengal and a leading advocate for Pakistan, Mujib was inexorably drawn to the communal politics pursued by Mohammad Ali Jinnah and defended to the hilt by Suhrawardy. The latter, one might recall, despite being the fount of political authority in Bengal, had no qualms about declaring a government holiday on August 16, 1946, as part of his plan to observe the so-called Direct Action Day that Jinnah had called to press the demand for Pakistan. Tragedy swiftly followed, with tens of thousands of Muslims and Hindus dying in riots that no one had foreseen.

In these incomplete memoirs, Mujib recalls the frenzy with which people hacked one another to death simply because of a difference in religious beliefs. Having survived and saved lives in Calcutta, Mujib moved to Patna, where a reprise of Calcutta had occurred. Despite all these troubles breaking out almost without warning, Mujib’s belief in the political leadership of Suhrawardy never wavered. As these recollections reveal, to the very end — until Suhrawardy’s death in late 1963 — Mujib remained a devoted, almost stubborn Suhrawardy loyalist.

Mujib was placed under arrest for advocating regional autonomy for the federating units of Pakistan and especially its Bengali eastern wing, a spell followed by the even worse period of his trial for sedition in the Agartala conspiracy case in 1968. The beauty of The Unfinished Memoirs, written at a time when he was under the threat of death from the state of Pakistan in the latter part of the 1960s, is that it is a first-hand account of politics in Pakistan between 1947 and 1955. In those formative years, the liberal democratic ambiance that Pakistanis had looked forward to was being steadily eroded.

Jinnah, for whom Mujib retained an abiding respect despite all, planted the seeds of disillusionment with his insistence that Urdu be the language of the new state. Mujib’s impression of Liaquat Ali Khan, Pakistan’s first prime minister, was predictable: he found him arrogant as well as ignorant of political realities. On a visit to Dhaka in 1949, the year in which the Awami Muslim League (subsequently Awami League) was formed by unhappy Bengali Muslim Leaguers, Liaquat pompously told newsmen in Dhaka that he did not know what the Awami Muslim League was.

The year 1949 was revealing for Mujib, in more ways than one. The police pursued him relentlessly. The Awami Muslim League, hounded by the government by the repeated imposition of restrictive orders, found itself unable to organise public rallies in East Pakistan. At one point, when the police went after Moulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhashani, the founding president of the party, and Shamsul Haque, a leading party figure (Suhrawardy was another), the Moulana ordered Mujib to stay a step ahead of the police and evade arrest. More critically, Bhashani asked Mujib to travel to Lahore and brief Suhrawardy, then touring West Punjab, on the travails faced by the party in East Pakistan.

Mujib’s account of his journey to Lahore, in pitiable conditions, makes revealing reading. He had only two rupees on him when he reached Lahore. Worse, he discovered that Suhrawardy had gone out of Lahore and would not be back for days. When Suhrawardy eventually returned, Mujib’s sense of relief was palpable. His leader piled him with warm clothes to cope with a winter Mujib found hard to adapt to.

The Unfinished Memoirs are an exposition of the wrong turn politics was beginning to take in Pakistan. In 1954, already a political organiser of proven skills, Mujib savoured the electoral triumph of the Jugto Front (United Front) over the ruling Muslim League in East Pakistan. The combined force of Suhrawardy, Bhashani and AK Fazlul Huq at the head of an Awami League-led alliance humiliated the decadent Muslim League administration led by Chief Minister Nurul Amin. The government formed by the United Front was short-lived, though. The day Mujib joined the cabinet violence, patently fanned by the Karachi-based central government, led to the deaths of as many as five hundred Bengalis and non-Bengalis at Adamjee jute mills in Narayanganj on the outskirts of Dhaka. And then, on a visit to Calcutta, new chief minister Fazlul Huq waxed eloquent about his pre-1947 association with the city. These two incidents were a godsend to the Punjabi-dominated establishment in Karachi. The United Front ministry was dismissed under a law of arbitrary import, Section 92-A. Not a single minister, not even the chief minister, raised his voice in protest. Mujib was the only minister who was carted off to prison.

One wishes, even as one turns the pages of this work remarkable for its spontaneity driven by clarity, that Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had written the tale of his life in its entirety. But then, the times after February 1969, when the Agartala conspiracy case was withdrawn and he was released through a mass upsurge, assumed dramatic, volatile dimensions. Mujib and his party won Pakistan’s first general elections in December 1970, were denied the right to assume power and launched an armed struggle for Bangladesh’s liberation from Pakistan.

The rest, as they say, is history. Mujib the ardent Muslim Leaguer evolved into a secularist of conviction, arguing throughout the 1960s that Pakistan needed to reinvent itself through respecting the aspirational politics of its various regions. In a broad sense, The Unfinished Memoirs subtly presage the transformation of a firebrand young politician into a national leader prepared to lead a people to freedom.

Syed Badrul Ahsan is Executive Editor of the Daily Star, Dhaka

Indian Express, 7 July 2012

 
 
 
 
Print
Share
  
increase Font size decrease Font size
 
Comments (Total Comments 0) Post Comments Post Comment
Review
 
 
 
 
The first India-China strategic dialogue is to be held on February 22, 2017. This dialogue was proposed during the visit of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in August last year and it was propagated as a new mechanism for a more comprehensive dialogue between the two countries. 
 
read-more
The Islamic State (IS)  and its ideological affiliates  in Pakistan have claimed responsibility for this attack and threatened that this is only the beginning of such an anti-Sufi /Shia  campaign to exterminate the apostate – or ‘non-believer’ writes C Uday Bhaskar for South Asia Monitor.
 
read-more
spotlight image India has vital interests in the Middle East and going by the spurt in political engagements since May 2014, the region is a top priority for Prime Minister Narendra Modi writes Md. Muddassir Quamar for South Asia Monitor
 
read-more
The recent violence that took place in Nagaland against the 33 per cent reservation given to women is not only sad, but it would certainly hurt the holistic development of the entire State. The recent violence that took place in Nagaland against the 33 per cent reservation given to women is not only sad, but it would certainly
 
read-more
Society for Policy Studies in association with India Habitat Centre invites you to a lecture in the Changing Asia Series by Dr.Pratap Bhanu Mehta, President and Chief Executive, Centre for Policy Research on Asia: Hope for the Future or Prisoner of the Past?    ...
 
read-more
spotlight image Earlier this week, just after United States President Donald Trump’s top adviser on national security resigned in controversy, a European intelligence official asked a reporter the question on everyone’s mind: “I was hoping you could tell me what’s going on over there [in the US].”
 
read-more
It is high time that Taiwan differentiated its position from Beijing’s claim on South China Sea, writes Namrata Hasija for South Asia Monitor.
 
read-more
At the moment, Nigerian President Muhammad Buhari is able to stop the violence by pushing the Islamists to the vast Sambisa forests of the Borno State At the moment, Nigerian President Muhammad Buhari is able to stop the violence by pushing the Islamists to the vast Sambisa forests of the Borno State
 
read-more
Every year during the budget, many defence and strategic experts start clamouring for a higher budgetary allocation for the defence sector and this year was no different. The allocation of Rs 2.74 lakh crore (excluding defence pensions) is being perceived as “too less”. Every year during the budget, many defence and
 
read-more
Column-image

India remians the inflexible bête-noir for Pakistan, yet there are few books by Indian authors that have sought to interpret the prodigal neighbour in a holistic, informed and empathetic manner.

 
Column-image

The line that Mortimer Durand drew across a small map in 1893 has bled the Pashtun heart ever since. More than a century later both sides of that line remain restless. But the mystery behind what actually happened on 12 November 1893 has never ...

 
Column-image

What went wrong for the West in Afghanistan? Why couldn't a global coalition led by the world's preeminent military and economic power defeat "a bunch of farmers in plastic sandals on dirt bikes" in a conflict that outlasted b...

 
Column-image

What will be Pakistan's fate? Acts of commission or omission by itself, in/by neighbours, and superpowers far and near have led the nuclear-armed country at a strategic Asian crossroads to emerge as a serious regional and global concern whi...

 
Column-image

Some South African generals, allied with the British forces, sought segregation from the enlisted men, all blacks, after being taken prisoners of war. The surprised German commander told them firmly that they would have to share the same quarte...

 
Subscribe to our newsletter
Archive