Mujib, in his own words
Book: The Unfinished Memoirs
Author: Sheikh Mujibur Rahman
(Translated by Dr Fakrul Alam with a preface by Sheikh Hasina)
Publisher: Penguin Viking
Price: Rs 699
On his last night alive before he was murdered along with nearly his entire family by soldiers of the Bangladesh army on August 15, 1975, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, founder of the independent nation of Bangladesh and Bangabandhu (friend of Bengal) to his people, happened to be reading George Bernard Shaw's Man and Superman. An avid reader, Mujib was an ardent admirer of writers, philosophers and statesmen the world over. Among those he placed on a pedestal were Bertrand Russell, Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill and Mahatma Gandhi. His library at home, today a memorial to his exalted place in Bengali history, bears evidence to the wide reading which shaped his perception of politics in our part of the world. That was somewhat surprising since, from the late 1940s to the early 1970s, he seemed to be constantly going to prison over his rising opposition to the depredations of Pakistan's ruling classes.
And yet, as The Unfinished Memoirs demonstrate only too well, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, like so many others in thrall to the All India Muslim League in the 1940s, was initiated into politics on the premise of a separate, independent state for India's Muslims. Under the influence of Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy, then prime minister of Bengal and a leading advocate for Pakistan, Mujib was inexorably drawn to the communal politics pursued by Mohammad Ali Jinnah and defended to the hilt by Suhrawardy. The latter, one might recall, despite being the fount of political authority in Bengal, had no qualms about declaring a government holiday on August 16, 1946, as part of his plan to observe the so-called Direct Action Day that Jinnah had called to press the demand for Pakistan. Tragedy swiftly followed, with tens of thousands of Muslims and Hindus dying in riots that no one had foreseen.
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