History moves on its own path. None can stop it. It runs its own natural course despite twists and turns. History is again in replay in Bangladesh. I wrote in Prabashi (a weekly Bengali Newspaper in NY, now out of business) in 1985/1986 under the caption “Bangladesh e Samarik Shasaner Prekhhapat” that history must take its natural course to restore Bangabandhu with his own dignity. I am lucky to see it happened in my lifetime. The spontaneous digital movement by the youths at the Shahbagh Moar in Bangladesh demanding the death penalty of all well-known war criminals is evolving into a global phenomenon. The youths are true patriots. They proved it again and again since 1952 setting new milestones in history.
I was born in 1952. I had no chance of observing the Language Movement. Later on, I read about it. I became proud of the youths at that time who fought to preserve the mother tongue (Bengali). The attack on Bengali by the then rulers of newly born Pakistan was a brutal attack on the existence of the Bengali nation. The mother tongue and unique national existence were protected and preserved by sacrifices of blood on the streets by the then youths. The language movement planted seeds for independence movement in 1971 led by the undisputed Father of the Nation (Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibar Rahman). The entire nation must remain deeply indebted to him forever for the birth of independent Bangladesh. We all are the beneficiaries, to say the very least.
Meanwhile, the youths of Bangladesh set two other milestones. They spontaneously stood up against the exploitation in multiple forms by the erstwhile West Pakistani rulers and the erstwhile East Pakistani conspirators. They joined the Six-Point Movement led by Sheikh Mujibar Rahman. He stood fast against the exploiters and conspirators without any compromise. To nip the movement in the bud, he was put in jail and framed into Agartala Conspiracy case. He was blamed to conspire for breaking up Pakistan. He truly dreamt of independent Bangladesh in his heart, though. The youths at that time went out to streets with spontaneity against the conspirators to spare the life of Sheikh Mujibar Rahman. In the face of the youths ‘fearless and fierce protests’, Ayub Khan was forced to release him from jail. I was fortunate to participate and observe both as a college and then as a university student. Those memorable days still help me feel young in heart. However, in post-independent Bangladesh his governing mode was not beyond controversies for some corrupt compatriots and close relatives. As an individual, he remains a shining example of honesty.
Ultimately, the war for independence broke out that lasted for about nine months and three million people sacrificed their lives. The independent Bangladesh came into existence through mass participation of the then youths in the war as freedom fighters despite ruthless opposition by the collaborators and Razakars of the same soil. Many mothers and sisters also lost their chastity in the hands of Pakistani soldiers and home-grown conspirators. As an independent nation, we must remain grateful to those who helped us during the war. At the same time, we must safeguard our national interest. The war was successfully executed by the national leaders of that time on the image of Bangabandhu. Independence and Bangabandhu are inseparable. After his assassination in 1975, his name was deliberately erased from history. In its natural course, history gradually restored him correctly after 20 years. Again, I have been fortunate enough to observe them all. As I revisit the brief glorious history of Bangladesh, I feel eternally young in my heart. So do many others like me in all walks of life.
Perhaps, many youths of today are in the age of our grandchildren. They were kept in the dark of this glorious and rich history of selfless sacrifices of their ancestors by the conspirators who ascended to political power after the death of the Father of the Nation. Now, they know the true history. They are the true patriots. Those who committed atrocities and crimes against humanity must not go unpunished. The progress made on this front was undone by Ziaur Rahman. Financially, he was honest. But he was politically too corrupt and ruthless. His biggest political fault was rehabilitation of the conspirators against independence and bringing back some of them into power to make politics complicated in Bangladesh by his own admission. This act on his part is unpardonable. Unreliably foxy Hussain Muhammad Ershad continued this tainted legacy of his immediate predecessor. Forty years passed after independence. Still the conspirators and their off-springs and sympathisers are active to thwart independence. The trial of known criminals against humanity resumed recently. This may seem too late, but late is better than never. The youths must continue their movement until the very end of this disgraced chapter in history. They must remain determined, disciplined and out of politicisation. A new chapter of history is in the making. Like many others, when I see the growing sea of people at the Shahbagh Moar, my heart swells with endless pride and goes back to my youth. The youths of today are roaring tigers and true patriots. The victory is in their hands. This task is relatively simpler than the next one in my view.
They must rise up again to save the country fighting against rampant corruption prevailing in all shades of political colours. I wrote a decade ago in a NY-based weekly Bengali Newspaper under the caption “Bangabandhur Sonar Bangla Swapna Bastabayan”, the two major political parties are competitive in corruption. Their compositions deem different, but they have no policy and ideological differences. They are two sides of the same coin and together apart. They are rosy thorns with false promises, not thorny roses with true spirit of serving the country. They are holding the country hostage. The country must be made free of their grip. The youths of today have undying spirit, power and support of the masses to free the country again and give the real taste of independence to people. This is incumbent upon them as a moral obligation. My generation’s energy of youth has waned to fight against political hegemony. Many of us have also become tainted with corruption. We might have lost the moral zeal to rise against corruption. We are in the past and maybe in the present, but not in the future. The ongoing movement makes us feel back in 1971 in emotion. The youths are the future.
They have proved some of us wrong not being lazy and coward. Only they can save the country through another war for true freedom. To win this war, many pains have to be endured. But dream for a better and secured future must never die. Let the Shahbagh Moar turn into another Tahrir Square as in Egypt. The arrogant and ignorant political leaders must draw lessons from modern history before it is too late. The current spontaneous movement is a wake-up call for them. They must not discount the power of the youths and digital technology. May Allah bless these roaring young tigers. The politicians must correct themselves and stop swindling before it gets too late. Otherwise, dire consequences are inevitable. This is just a matter of time. Unless they learn from history, history will teach them tough lessons. Let the second movement unfold in time with spontaneity. Time is the essence of everything.
Matiur Rahman is the MBA Director and JP Morgan Chase Endowed Professor of finance at McNeese State University, USA.