As the nation prepares to observe, with due solemnity, the fortieth anniversary of the martyrdom of the Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, it is in the fitness of things that we, the people of Bangladesh, recall the immense contributions he made to the shaping of our destiny, through his purposeful leadership of the movement for the national sovereignty of Bengalis on this side of the political and geographical divide.
Bangabandhu's life was cut short when he was a mere fifty five, through conspiracy and perfidy that had been in the making since he began his struggle for Bengali self-expression within the parameters of Pakistan in the 1950s, a struggle that gained newer substance in the 1960s and eventually culminated in the attainment of national independence in 1971. Note, though, that in his relatively brief span of life, Bangabandhu left behind, on the canvas of history, imprints of the kind that only great men and women are capable of making. And he was our great man, the troubadour who led us out of the darkness of social and political deprivation and into a world of light that promised collective self-esteem and with that an honourable niche in the pantheon of illustrious societies.
Politics for Bangabandhu was consistently a matter of principle. Commitment was all, which is what made him different from all other politicians around him. He was not one to waver in his goal of bringing about national emancipation for his people. Having commenced his political career in the tumultuous times prior to the partition of India in 1947, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman turned out to be that rare political leader who could repudiate the communalism engendered by Mohammad Ali Jinnah's so-called two-nation theory in the 1940s and branch out, only months into the creation of Pakistan, towards secular shores. His Six Points were, as he put it, a charter of rights his Bengalis meant to achieve. It was he who informed us, on a December day in 1969, that henceforth this land would be known as Bangladesh. He was reclaiming our history, of legend and heritage.
Two years after that announcement, what had been the exploited eastern province of Pakistan had graduated, through armed struggle, into the People's Republic of Bangladesh. The credit was Bangabandhu's. Through him and because of him, we understood anew the meaning of individual courage and national pride. He walked tall, literally as well as figuratively, in the councils of the world as our undisputed leader. At home, it was to him we looked for guidance in the face of adversity.
And then the wolves lurking in the nocturnal woods of intrigue and bloodlust felled him. We fell with him while, in Shakespearean terms, bloody treason reigned supreme.
Today, on this third day of August, we pause awhile --- to reflect on the sinister darkness which came over Bangladesh forty years ago. We mourn again, as we will mourn all this month, the passing of the greatest man in our national life --- for he was our window to the world, our claim on history.