A centenary and a golden jubilee -- two different occasions but how intrinsically inseparable from each other! The two meet at the confluence of history. Hardly a nation is privileged to celebrate such an extraordinary meeting point of two events of immeasurable national importance. The people of Bangladesh has this privilege to pay their homage to the man who led them to freedom from subjugation on his centenary of birth and at the same time observe the golden jubilee of the country's independence.
The two historic occasions coming closer within days -- March 17 and 26 respectively -- only remind the nation that nothing could be more appropriate than this co-existence of chronicle. Although the founding father of the nation will no longer be physically present to witness the rich tributes the nation pays to him, he will be everywhere across the length and breadth of this Gangetic plain in his everlasting spirit. When the 50th anniversary of the country's independence follows a week later, this nation will once again express its indebtedness to his hallowed memory and the martyrs of the Liberation War.
Sure enough fresh spike in coronavirus infection cases will more than dampen celebration of both occasions already curtailed. So far as his birthday is concerned, Bangabandhu might not have been displeased if the grand rites and rituals of its celebration were so limited. On March 17, his birthday, 1971, when a journalist questioned about its celebration, true to a leader of the people he answered, "In this doleful Bangla, is my birthday or anniversary of death significant? I don't observe my birthday".
This was on the morning of the day he was supposed to meet President Yahya Khan in the evening. To him, it was the people of this land who mattered most not his personal moments of happiness. His was a dream of an independent and sovereign land where people will share their sorrows and happiness together. His lifelong mission was to bring smile on what he termed 'sad people of Bangla'.
Thus the limited celebration of his centenary of birth and that of the independence is in a way symbolic. The trying times of the 2020-21 transpose the nation to even more apprehensive days before the declaration of independence. In that sense, along with the celebration of the country's achievements and progress over the past 50 years, it is also incumbent upon the nation to go for introspection if Bangabandhu's dream of a golden Bangla has been realised at all.
He himself was a victim of bloody politics orchestrated by local and international intrigues and conspiracies. His name was an anathema let alone recognition of his role as the country's liberator. Even the March 7 speech now recognised by the UNESCO as a documentary heritage was banned. Such was the about-turn of the country's political landscape! For almost two decades the country lost its way in the woods.
Happily it has been put back on the right political track but at an enormous cost. Materialistically speaking, of late the country is doing fine. Its gross domestic product (GDP) growth, per capita income and improved rating in social indices such as immunisation, child and maternal mortality, sanitation together with increased literacy, reduction of poverty and higher longevity ---all speak of a steady progress.
Yet it cannot be denied that the space of liberal politics could not be expanded desirably. There still lurks the threat of regression if the political forces opposed to a secular and liberal dispensation can somehow rare their heads. Bangladesh should never allow its guard to be lowered in terms of holding on to the values, principles and spirit that went into the making of this nation.
It was Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the iconic leader, who had that Midas touch to transform an oppressed people into a valiant one in the throes of revolution. For, he could feel the pulse of his people. Great leaders like him alone can set in motion the collective aspiration lying dormant in the peoples' bosoms. Thus triggered, the aspiration takes a shape of indomitable will ultimately making revolutionary changes possible.
Till his last day, Bangabandhu remained true to his belief and his people. Now is the time to translate his dream into a reality. Much of the progress the country has made so far has followed the pattern of capitalist economy. It has certainly created wealth but at the same time ended up accelerating gaping social disparities. The arrival of coronavirus has only made the situation worse for the less privileged in society.
In this context, paying the best homage to Bangabandhu would be to commit to the cause of gradually narrowing the gap between the extreme poor and the superrich and ultimately doing away with poverty in society. By way of doing so, the celebration of the country's independence will be really meaningful. A happy and contended people alone can be the ultimate guarantee against any threat of a return of the forces inimical to the country's independence and interests.