In Bangladesh’s political discourse, 17 May 1981, is popularly known as “Hasina’s homecoming day.” There is a broad array of developments which makes the day a significant in the history of Bangladesh. Below are some points which explain the context and significance of “Hasina’s homecoming day.”
In less than four years of independence, which was in 1971, Bangladesh’s founding father and then President Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, was brutally assassinated on the night of 15 August 1975. Most of his family members were also brutally killed on that night.
At the time of Mujib’s assassination, Bangladesh was still recovering from the deeply scarred war-ravaged setbacks, arguably the most damaging developmental setback of the time. Mujib was at the center of the reorganizing and rebuilding efforts.
Sheikh Hasina, Mujib’s eldest daughter, escaped the assassination because she was abroad in West Germany, where her husband, M. A. Wazed Miah, was working as a nuclear physicist.
Mujib’s murder was the first assassination-coup in South Asia. The military rulers, who took charge after Mujib, barred Hasina from returning to Bangladesh. It was a heavy-handed strategy adopted to contain any mass movement or political backlash. Hasina moved to Delhi in late 1975 and was provided asylum by India.
After Mujib’s assassination, Bangladesh Awami League, which was the most organized political party both pre- and post-independence era, was systemically and brutally targeted by the military junta. It was yet another strategy to weaken the organization.
As a measure to re-energize the Awami League organization, in February 1981, the party elected Sheikh Hasina as its president in her absence. Soon after there was a new buzz in the organization’s grassroot and the public sentiment at-large. The resistance to restore democracy and oust the military rule got a fresh boost. Grounds were laid for Sheikh Hasina to return to Bangladesh.
In the afternoon of 17 May 1981, Hasina reached Dhaka from New Delhi via Kolkata. The public response was unanticipated. Thousands of people thronged to the airport to welcome her amid inclement weather.
Hasina immediately took charge of the movement to restore the democratic rights of the people. She soon built a progressive coalition. She would spearhead the movement basing it on the progressive and secular values.
The progressive movement was long. Hasina successfully spearheaded it during the 80’s and the 90’s, which would overthrow autocracy and counter regressive politics. In her struggle, she witnessed martial law, house arrest, mass uprising and many course of events.
In 1996, Sheikh Hasina led Awami League to victory in the general election and formed the government. In 2008, she led the alliance to landslide victory in parliament. In 2014, she once again became prime minister. She assumed office of the prime minister for the third consecutive term after winning the December 2018 election.
Hasina’s homecoming changed the direction of Bangladesh’s political and developmental journey. Her long political career after 1981, set the agenda for progressivism and secularism in politics along with pro-people policies in governance.
Under her leadership, Bangladesh has become a development role model among the developing countries, attaining steady economic growth. In 2015, Bangladesh became a lower-middle income (LMC) country from being a low-income country, according to the World Bank’s classification. In 2021, Bangladesh was set to graduate from a least developed country (LDC) to a developing country stipulated under the United Nations’ criteria.