When Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s diaries came to light in 2004, it was an indisputably historic event. His daughter, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, had the notebooks their pages by then brittle and discoloured— carefully transcribed and later translated from Bengali into English.
Written during Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s sojourns in jail as a state prisoner between 1967 and 1969,they begin with his recollections of his days as a student activist in the run-up to the movement for Pakistan in the early 1940s. They cover the Bengali language movement, the first stirrings of the movement for Bangladesh independence andself-rule, and powerfully convey the great uncertainties as well as the great hopes that dominated the time. The last notebook ends with the events accompanying the struggle for democratic rights in 1955.
These are Sheikh Mujib’s own words—the language has only been changed for absolute clarity when required. What the narrative brings out with immediacy and passion is his intellectual and political journey from a youthful activist to the leader of a struggle for national liberation. Sheikh Mujib describes vividly how—despite being in prison—he was in the forefront of organizing the protests that followed the declaration of Urdu as the state language of Pakistan. On 21 February 1952 the police opened fire on a peaceful student procession killing many. That brutal action unleashed the powerful movement that culminated in the birth of the new nation of Bangladesh in 1971.
This extraordinary document is not only a portrait of a nation in the making; it is written by the man who changed the course of history and led his people to freedom.
About the Author
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was born in 1920 and studied for a Bachelor of Arts degree at Calcutta University and a law degree at Dhaka University. One of the founders of the Awami League in1949, he led his party to a dramatic victory in the election of 1970, a key event in the emergence of Bangladesh. He became the new nation’s prime minister in 1972 and held the position of the President of Bangladesh from January 1975. He was assassinated in Dhaka in August 1975 during a military coup d’etat.
My Father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, has to spend the most precious parts of his life in prison. As he got involved in various movements to wrest the rights of his people from those who had snatched them away from them, he had to endure solitary confinement again and again. But he would never compromise on his principles. He was not intimidated even by the hangman’s noose. throughout his life, the cause of his people was dearest to his heart. Their sufferings would sadden him. The only vow he ever took was to bring smiles on the faces of Bengal’s impoverished people and build a golden Bengal. HE believed that by enjoying their basic rights to food, Clothing, accommodation, education and health they would be able to lead an honourable life. The one thought that was constant in the mind was freeing them from the shackles of poverty. That is why he gave up all comforts and happiness and fought ceaselessly and selflessly to attain the rights of his people through a continuous campaign till he was able to bring freedom to the Bengali nation. He was able to establish the Bengalis as a heroic race in the eyes of the world and create an independent and sovereign country. He was able to make the dream of freedom that Bengalis had been dreaming for a thousand years come true. Just when he had succeeded in achieving their economic emancipation he was snatched away from his people by the bullets of assassins. He was made to lie down forever in the green grass of Bengal that had been splattered with his blood. The assassins had thereby managed to mark the forehead of the Bengali nation indelibly with the stamp of infamy.
Twenty-nine years after he had passed away, the autobiography that this great leader had written came into my hands. In what he was able to write we have got the opportunity to learn about many incidents of his passage from childhood to adulthood, his family, and the movements he had become a part of since the time he was a student, his struggles, and many hitherto unknown events of his life. We come across the diverse experiences of his remarkable life in the pages that he had written. He articulates in simple and flowing prose what he had seen, felt and observed in politics. The fact that are revealed by his account of his struggles, his steadfastness and his sacrifices will inspire future generations. Those who have been misled by the fictions of people who distort history will provide invaluable information and an authentic account of history to researchers and historians.
This autobiography has been written in my father’s own hand. How I came across the notebooks in which this autobiography was inscribed is a long story. At one point I had completely given up the hope of publishing this book and presenting it to you all.
Shortly after he had declared independence at midnight on 25 march 1971, the pakistani army assaulted the road 32 home (Now house no. 10 on road no. 11) of the Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, arrested him and took him away. After my father was arrested, my mother, Russel, Jamal and everyone else in the house took refuge in the house next door. Our home was raided again the next day and looted. The raiders took away whatever they could, smashed the rest of the things and took over the house. My mother had stowed away the notebooks, including his autobiography, diaries and travelogues along with her accounts books, with great care in an almirah in the dressing room attached to my father’s bedroom. No doubt because there were a large number of these notebooks which by then may have been discoloured over time, The raiders did not consider them worth looting and left them intact. I thus came across these notebooks as they had been kept.
Soon after all the members of our home who were inside it on 15 august 1975 were murdered, the government sealed the house. I myself returned from exile to our country on 17 May 1981. The Zia government had the house sealed even then. They would not allow me to enter it. On 12 June the Sattar government handed over the house to me. I then found my father’s memoir, his diaries and the notebooks of his travels in China. However, I did not find the notebooks of his travels in China. However, I did not find the notebooks containing his autobiography. I also found some typed pages which had been destroyed by termites. Only the upper halves of these foolscap pages remained. Reading whatever was still Intact in them, I could guess that they were from his autobiography, but since so much was lost, I decided that what was left would not be of any use. Afterwards, I carried out an extensive search for the notebooks but found nothing. I looked for the original notebooks, the typist and for whatever remained with whoever had taken them, but to no avail. At one point I completely gave up hope of finding them.
However, in 2000 we decided to prepare for the publication of Bangabandhu’s memoirs, diaries and his china travelogues. Professor Enayetur Rahim of Ammerica’s Georgetown University had come to the Enayetur Rahim of America’s Georgetown University had come to the University of Dhaka to do research on him. Professor Rahim’s main area of research was the Agartala Conspiracy case. He had come to Dhaka to hold the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Chair established by the Mahbubullah-Zebunnesa Trust. In addition to working on the Agrtala Conspiracy case for his research, he also began to work on Bangabandhu’s life, memoirs and diaries. The journalist Baby Moudud and I assisted professor Rahim at this time. He started to translate them from Bengali into English. But his untimely death resulted in a great loss as far as this gigantic task was concerned. I had not even dreamed that he would leave us so suddenly.
I began to despair at the turn of events. Professor A.F. Salahuddin Ahmed, Professor Shamsul Huda Harun and Mr. Shmsuzzaman Khan gave us valuable advice and assisted us at this juncture. Subsequently, Professor Salahuddin Ahmed and Professor Harun Accepted the responsibility of translation. Baby Moudud and I worked with Mr Khan on editing and typesetting and also made the necessary corrections. We compared what had been typeset with the original manuscript again and again. The work proceeded gradually, overcoming all sorts of obstacles along the way. A deadline was now fixed for publication.
When the work on the `Memoirs’ and the `Diaries’ was almost over, I came across four new notebooks in which the autobiography had been written. On 21 August 2004 a political rally organized by the Bangladesh Awami League was targeted by a horrifying grenade attract. It was aimed at killing me. Twenty-four people, including Mrs Ivy Rahman, president of the Women’s Awami League, died in the incident. Miraculously, I survived this assassination attempt. But I was overwhelmed by grief, pain and depression. And it was then that my father’s invaluable notebooks containing his autobiography came into my possession. What a remarkable turn of events! It was as if a light had suddenly been sparked in the midst of darkness. I had myself come back to life from the jawa of death. It was as if I had been given a new lease of life. One of my cousins handed these notebooks over to me. He had found them in an office drawer of another cousin, Sheikh Fazlul Haq Moni. Moni was the editor of the newspaper Banglar Bani. In all probablility, my father had handed the notebooks to this cousin so that he could have them typed Perhaps he was thinking of having them published. Because Sheikh Fazlul Haq Moni too was martyred on 15 August 1975 he was unable to complete this work. The work thus remained unfinished.
When I had the notebooks in my hand I was at a loss for words. The handwriting was a very familiar one. I called my younger sister, Sheikh Rehana. Our eyes were soon awash in tears. We went over the lines our father had written with our hands so that we could touch him again. It was as if our father was blessing us through the notebooks just after I had come back from the dead. I still had work to do for the poor people of our country-the very people my father used to always describe as Bengal’s `suffering poor’. It was as if the notebooks were telling me that the golden Bengal he had dreamed of still needed to be built. As I turned over the pages of the notebooks and caressed his handwritten lines it seemed to me my father was telling me, `Don’t be afraid, dear; I am with you; go ahead, and be resolute.’ It seemed to me that God had miraculously sent a message to me to be indomitable. In the midst of all the grief, pain and depression I had found a shaft of sunlight.
Four notebooks in my father’s hand! the notebooks had to be handled with great care. Their pages had become yellow, fragile and frayed. In many places the handwriting had become so indistinct that it was difficult to figure out the words. Some pages inside one of the notebooks had become unreadable and deciphering then lines in these cases proved to be extremely difficult. The next day Baby Moudud, Sheikh Rehana and I started work on the notebooks. Rehana would break down every time we tried to read them. There would be no stopping her flow of tears then. When I began work on the memoirs and diaries I too had often broken down in tears in the initial months. However, I gradually decided to steel myself to the task. The first thing we did was photocopy the notebooks. Abdur Rahman (Roma) helped us do this. We had to be very careful in making the copies for if we moved the pages too often they would tear. Then Baby and I took turns reading all the pages of the note books while munirun Nessa Ninu composed them on the computer. This enabled us to work repidly since it takes much longer to compose directly from a handwritten script. We took this strategy to save time. The writing had faded so much in places that reading often became a very difficult task. In some places we had to deal with torn pages and writing that had become illegible. In such cases we used a magnifying glass to try to decipher the work. All that had been written in the four notebooks was eventually composed on a computer. The entire notebooks had been signed by the jailer who had noted the number of pages in them. His signature also enabled us to discover their dates of composition.
Next, Baby moudud and I compared what had been composed on the computer with the notebooks. In this manner we finished the first stage of editing and emending the writing. Then Mr shamsuzzaman Khan worked with the two of us to edit again, Profread, Prepare the notes, scan the work done, and choose the illustrations. Sheikh Rehana was part of everything we did and took overall responsibility of the project.
Even after they have been read repeatedly, one feels like reading these notebooks again. They reveal to us how for the sake of the country and its people a man can sacrifice everything, risk his very life, and endure endless torture in prison. We discover a personality who gave up the prospects of happiness, comfort, relaxation, wealth- everything. How he had forsaken all for the sake of ordinary people can be discovered by an analysis of the autobiography. Following the leads contained in these pages will enable us to gather information about much that still remains to be found out about our past. Many unknown stories will come to light. This fact-filled narrative will allow us to learn a lot more about the movement for independence and self-rule, the struggle for democratic rights and different conspiracies concocted by the Pakistani government. We will get the opportunity to learn about many other incidents and facts of history. In addition, we will find out how Bangabandhu’s experience led him to recognize the machinations of self-seekers and the bid to exploit the country by those who pretend to be administering it. The people of Bangladesh are still going through a lot of hardship. I hope that future generations will be inspired to serve the country and will resolve to do so after going through this autobiography.
This book gives us the story of Bangabandhu’s life in his own words till 1955. He wrote it while he was all by himself in the central prison from 1966 to 1969 as a state prisoner. We did not have to do much editing of his writing. Only a few words and the language have been occasionally changed to make the narrative more readable. Because he had intended to publish the story of his life he has going to have it typed. Since he has not dedicated the autobiography to anyone there is no `Dedication’ in this book.
Professor Salahuddin Ahmed offered us valuable advice from the inception of this project. The work of translating the autobiography into English has been done sincerely by professor Fakrul Alam of the University of Dhaka’s English department who was able to complete the translation swiftly. I express my gratitude to them both. Without their valuable advice and assistance it would not have been possible to undertake this great task.
I would like to thank everyone else who assisted in the publication of this book.
PS: I wrote the preface to this work when I was imprisoned. I took steps to publish it after I had been released from jail. I would like to thank Mr Mohiueddin Ahmed, the publisher of UPL, and Mr Badiuddin Nazir, Consulting Editor of UPL, for taking up the responsibility of publishing this work at home and abroad. Dhaneswar Das Champak also helped us with Computer Graphics and Scanning.