On January 10, 1972, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman returned to an independent and sovereign Bangladesh after over nine and a half months of captivity in a jail near Pakistani city of Rawalpindi.
After the release from prison Mujib lay forth the blueprint for a new country which would be inclusive. He was clear that he wanted to build a pluralistic and secular Bangladesh. Here are 8 quotes from Mujib during the homecoming era:
- Mujib’s multicultural salutation: “The youth of the liberation forces, take my salaam. The student community, take my salaam. The working community, take my salaam. The peasantry, take my salaam. The luckless Hindus and Muslims, take my salaam” (arrival speech in Dhaka on 10 January 1972).
- Mujib recognizes the sacrifices of all: “At first, I remember the students, the workers, the peasants, the intellectuals, the soldiers, the police, the people, the Hindus and the Muslims of my Bangladesh who were killed. I am wishing for their souls and paying tribute to them.” (arrival speech in Dhaka on 10 January 1972).
- Mujib highlights the founding principles: “In this Bangladesh, there will be a socialist system. There will be democracy in this Bangladesh. Bangladesh will be a secular state.” (arrival speech in Dhaka on 10 January 1972).
- Mujib reminds everyone that nation-building is a task for all: “My brothers, you know that we have a lot of work to do. I want all my people to begin working on repairing broken roads. I want you all to go back to the fields and cultivate paddy.” (arrival speech in Dhaka on 10 January 1972).
- Mujib warns against opportunists: “I urge you all to be fair, maintain unity, and do not listen to the words of the mischief-makers.” (arrival speech in Dhaka on 10 January 1972).
- Mujib’s humble request to his compatriots: “From today my request, my command, my order, as a brother—not as a leader, nor as the president or the prime minister, I am your brother, you are my brothers. Our independence will be futile, if the people of my Bengal are not fully fed” (arrival speech in Dhaka on 10 January 1972).
- Mujib on women’s and youth empowerment: “Our independence will not be fulfilled, if the mothers and sisters of this country do not get clothes for the protection of their modesty. Our independence will not be fulfilled, if the people of this country, the youth, do not find employment” (arrival speech in Dhaka on 10 January 1972).
- Mujib clarifies his ideology: “I believe in secularism, democracy and socialism” (speech during pit-stop in New Delhi on 10 January 1972).
Mujib who was already lovingly called Bangabandhu, meaning friend of Bengalis, returned to Dhaka on a chilly and windy late afternoon from London, via New Delhi, to be welcomed by hundreds and thousands of people. Mujib was soon to become the founder of a sovereign nation-state.
How Mujib returned to Dhaka:
- Mujib was taken as prisoner when the Pakistani army launched the “Operation Search Light” on the night of March 25/26, 1971, to annihilate the people of East Pakistan.
- For next nine months, Mujib was tried in a Martial Law court in the Pakistani city of Mianwali, charged with 12 counts of crime, some of which carried the death penalty.
- Mujib was put away in the darkness of an alien prison cell, unsure of whether he would be permitted to live by his captors.
- Before Pakistani Junta could execute Mujib, East Pakistan was liberated and half of Pakistan was lost.
- The Pakistani military dictator was replaced by Pakistan People’s Party Chief Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. After assuming the presidency Bhutto released Mujib from prison.
- Mujib was sent to London on a special flight. Mujib arrived at Heathrow in the early hours of January 8, 1972 to return to Dhaka on January 10.
- The saga of Mujib’s homecoming was culminated in hope and joy for the people of the newly independent Bangladesh.
- His homecoming day would be popularly known in Bengali as the “Bangabandhur Sodesh Prottaborton Dibosh.”