Bangabandhu’s belief was simple: democracy needed to be the underlying principle of society but democracy could be there only when the exploited gained the power to shape the future of the country.
We celebrate today the life and achievements of the Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. On this day, the hundredth anniversary of his birth, we recall with humility and with pride his singular contributions to the emergence of a sovereign Bangladesh. And while we do so, we cannot but remember the endless travails he went through, as a prisoner of the state and as a victim of various other forms of persecution, and the unflinching courage --- physical, psychological and political --- he demonstrated throughout his remarkable political career in the pursuit of his goals. It is for us to recall, in these centenary celebrations of the birth of the liberator, the dedication he brought to the cause of national freedom, the leadership he demonstrated all through his political career in advancing the cause of his people.
Bangabandhu remains our hold on history for the good reason that his was a voice which constantly and powerfully spoke for us. In the twenty fours of our existence as a neglected province of Pakistan and then in the three and a half years in which the Father of the Nation provided leadership to independent Bangladesh, it was his vision of a happy, prosperous society which drew us to his politics. Add to that the huge charisma he brought into his exercise of leadership, the calm he displayed in the most trying of circumstances as he went about trying to bring, as he said repeatedly, smiles to the faces of his suffering people. His struggle, both before and after the liberation of the country, was focused on the idea that society was divided into an immeasurably large section of the exploited and a small but powerful group of exploiters. Bangabandhu's belief was simple: democracy needed to be the underlying principle of society but democracy could be there only when the exploited gained the power to shape the future of the country.
Today, we must not forget that Bangabandhu's purposeful leadership was instrumental in the emergence of Bangladesh when the Father of the Nation was only fifty-one years of age. By the age of fifty-five he was dead, done to death by local and international conspiracy. Yet in the three and a half years in which he presided over the fortunes of a war-ravaged country, he made sure that all the instruments and all the institutions necessary for a modern nation-state to rest on were in place. The nation was given a constitution within a year of liberation; meaningful steps were taken in establishing the three branches of the state --- executive, legislative, judicial --- with a view to solidifying the structure of the state. Bangabandhu's administration ensured the return of all ten million refugees who had gone over to India during the war and also oversaw the return of four lakh stranded Bangalis from Pakistan. In the interest of peace and reconciliation in South Asia, Bangabandhu allowed the Pakistani war criminals to go back to their country. On his watch, Bangladesh attained swift diplomatic recognition and gained membership of global institutions.
Bangabandhu's legacy rested on his dreams of creating a prosperous country where all citizens would be privy to secular democracy. Bangali nationalism was at the core of his philosophy through which he envisioned a structure where every citizen would be the recipient of and contributor to the benefits accruing from social democratic foundations. Politics of conviction was all for Bangabandhu and within the ambit of that belief came his dedication to the principle of the rule of law.
A hundred years after his birth and forty-five years after his tragic passing, it is fitting and proper that we uphold and strengthen the ideals that the Father of the Nation lived and died for. His dreams were many; and unless we see those dreams take realistic shape, we will be failing in demonstrating our love for and loyalty to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
Bangabandhu lives in all of us. We reinforce this truth this morning.