Bangladesh’s founding father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, fondly revered as Bangabandhu (friend of Bengalis), came back to a newly-independent Bangladesh, from a prison in Pakistan, on 10 January 1972. The return was eventful, and it came to be known as ‘Mujib’s homecoming’ in the country’s politico-historical discourse.
The homecoming was eventful because at the time Mujib announced a blueprint for an indigenous-flavored secular progressive country, which was truly a new prescription in a post-colonial setting during the Cold-War era when it was too easy to drop a country into an ideological camp. Mujib sowed the seed for a pluralistic society and progressive constitution during his homecoming.
Here is all you need to know about Mujib’s homecoming:
- During 1960s, Mujib led a movement and inspired Bengalis to pursue independence from colonial rule of Pakistan.
- Bangladesh emerged as an independent nation, through a nine-month long war against the Pakistan Army, on 16 December, 1971.
- The hard-earned independence of Bangladesh truly completed after the homecoming of Mujib, who was the undisputed leader. Soon after, Mujib would become the Father of the Nation of Bangladesh.
- When the independence movement was at a breaking point, the Pakistani Army arrested Mujib on the night of 25 March, 1971. Mujib was put to confinement in West Pakistan.
- The Pakistani forces surrendered on 16 December 1971 and Bangladesh was born. Then, the Pakistani government was pressured to release Mujib. Upon release, Mujib returned to Bangladesh via London and New Delhi on 10 January 1972.
- There was a public reception for Mujib at Dhaka’s iconic Racecourse ground. It was a mass rally where the people were looking-forward to a policy-prescription for developing a resource-drained war-ravaged country.
- Mujib delivered a speech which reverberated with aspirations, and the vision essential to building of a new nation state. His priority was rebuilding and reintegration in the war-ravaged country.
Mujib took the opportunity to give the roadmap for an inclusive nation for which he and his colleagues had been fighting since the 1960s. He was loud and clear that he wanted to build a secular Bangladesh.
6 points to understand Mujib’s indigenous-flavored secular progressive vision:
- At homecoming, Mujib declared secularism as a guiding principle of the state. This principle would nurture the age-old multi-cultural harmony within the new state.
- The idea emanated from his love for the people (Bengalis living in East Pakistan) who faced repression during the Pakistani-junta regimes since the partition of the subcontinent in1947, on the basis of religion-based identity.
- He envisioned a Bangladesh with equal access to opportunities, where religion will not be used for political maneuvering. The uniqueness of Mujib’s idea of secularism is that people will have freedom of practicing religions, but they cannot use it for political purpose.
- Unlike western concept of secularism, Mujib’s secularism is not the absence of religion. The secularism of Mujib means no community should be marginalized for their faith and practice, and a neutral stance of the state towards religious affairs.
- On 12 January, 1972, Mujib took oath as the head of Bangladesh’s first peace-time government and immediately started laying the foundations of the newly born nation. Mujib boldly pursued the vision which he articulated during his homecoming speech.
- As a major stepping stone, Mujib presented a constitution to the nation, within just a year after the independence. He successfully advocated for the constitutional incorporation of secularism as fundamental principles of state policy.
Mujib was assassinated in just over 3 years into his administration. He never got a fair-shot to administer and rebuild the newly independent war-ravaged Bangladesh. His efforts to reconstruct a war-torn Bangladesh was based on the constitutional principles.
The short period that he served, his administration did the Herculean job of building basic institutions, formulating long-term development plans and attaining sovereign recognition from the international community. He was a champion of freedom. Mujib was a post-colonial leader whose ideals call more research.