The historic Homecoming Day of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the greatest Bangalee of all time, is being observed across the country today.
On this day in 1972, Bangabandhu, the supreme commander of the country’s Liberation War, returned to independent Bangladesh via London and New Delhi after 290 days of captivity in a Pakistan jail.
Bangabandhu proclaimed independence of Bangladesh in the wee hours of March 26 and called upon the people from all walks of life to join the liberation war against the Pakistan occupation forces. Soon after the declaration of independence, Pakistani military junta arrested Bangabandhu from his Dhanmondi residence in Dhaka and launched a crackdown code-named ‘Operation Searchlight’ on the unarmed Bangalees.
The Pakistan military government sent Bangabandhu to a prison in West Pakistan.
Bangabandhu was subjected to inhuman torture in the Pakistan jail where he had been counting moments for execution of his death sentence awarded through a farcical trial.
He was released from jail on January 8, 1972.
Following his release, Bangabandhu flew to London where he met then British Prime Minister Edward Heath and addressed the international media there.
“I was a prisoner in the condemned cell awaiting hanging. From the day I went to jail, I didn’t know whether I would live or not. I was mentally ready to die. But I knew Bangladesh would be liberated,” Bangabandhu told the news conference in an emotion-choked voice about his ordeal in the prison.
About the Pakistani army’s killing of Bangalees, he said, “If Hitler had been alive today, he would have been ashamed.”
Bangabandhu flew to Dhaka on January 10, 1972 after a brief stopover in Delhi where he was accorded a reception by then Indian President VV Giri and Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, council of ministers, chiefs of three services and other dignitaries and common people.
On his return to the country, tens of thousands of people standing by the road from the airport to Racecourse Maidan (now Suhrawardy Udyan) greeted the great leader.
Bangabandhu addressed a huge gathering of people at the historic ground where the Pakistani occupation forces surrendered to the allied forces.
He recalled with respect the contribution of all to the war and urged the people to rebuild the war-ravaged country.
Bangabandhu took oath of office as the country’s prime minister on January 12, 1972.
Marking the day, ruling Awami League, its front organisations and other socio-cultural organisations have taken up elaborate programmes.
The ruling Bangladesh Awami League has chalked out various programmes to mark the day.
The day’s programmes has beun with hoisting of the national and party flags at its offices and Bangabandhu Bhaban at Dhanmondi at 6:30am.
AL leaders and activists placed wreaths at the portrait of Bangabandhu at Dhanmondi-32 at 8:30am while a delegation of the party will place a wreath at the grave of Bangabandhu at Tungipara in Gopalganj at 11:00am.
Besides, the party will hold a discussion at 3:00pm today at Bangabandhu International Conference Centre in the capital.
Awami League President and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is scheduled to spoke at the discussion.
Newspapers published special supplements while radio stations and television channels are airing special programmes highlighting the significance of the day.
On the eve of day, President Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina issued separate messages on the occasion.
The President called upon the people to go ahead with relentless efforts to build a prosperous and developed ‘Smart Bangladesh’ by 2041.
In his message, the President said on the historic January 10 in 1972, the Father of the Nation had returned to independent and sovereign Bangladesh after nine months and 14 days of captivity in Pakistani jail.
Paying profound homage to Bangabandhu, he said, “Though we had achieved ultimate victory on December 16 in 1971 through an armed struggle, the true essence of victory came with the return of the Father of the Nation”.
The President said the anti-liberation forces tried to wipe out Bangabandhu’s ideals and tarnish the image of sovereign Bangladesh through the assassination of Bangabandhu and most of his family members on August 15, 1975.
But Bangabandhu and Bangladesh now emerged as a unique symbol to the people of Bangladesh, he said.
“As long as Bangladesh and the Bangalee nation exist, Bangabandhu will remain as the eternal source of our inspiration,” he added.
In her message, Prime Minister Sheikh urged all to work together with a renewed pledge to resist all sorts of conspiracies being hatched at home and abroad in building Bangabandhu’s ‘Golden Bangladesh’ and a developed and prosperous Smart Bangladesh by 2041.
“On this auspicious occasion of Bangabandhu’s Homecoming Day, let’s pledge to resist all domestic and foreign conspiracies, and being inspired by the spirit of the Great Liberation War, we will together play an effective role in fulfilling Father of the nation’s dream of ‘Golden Bangladesh’ and a developed and prosperous ‘Smart Bangladesh’ by 2041,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina, also eldest daughter of Bangabandhu, said the Father of the Nation struggled for 24 long years to unfetter the Bengali nation from the shackles of subjugation.
Bangabandhu led on all fronts, from the language movement to the Independence War, she said, adding that he endured prison-torture, always made far-sighted decisions, and organised the party well beyond personal interests.
The premier said Bangabandhu was the flame of hope to the freedom fighters.
“Under his unwavering leadership, the Bengali nation fought to the death and snatched victory on 16 December. The defeated Pakistani rulers were compelled to free Bangabandhu in the early hours of 8 January 1972 and he landed in London in the morning on the same day,” she said.