By Nazrul Islam
Dhaka – Bangladesh on Friday started countdown to the celebration of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who founded the country nearly five decades ago after bloody war against Pakistan.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, eldest daughter of Bangabandhu, formally inaugurated the nationwide countdown in Dhaka’s old airport, where the victorious leader had landed on the liberated soil upon his release from Pakistani jail on January 10, 1972.
She also opened the logo of the Mujib Year, to be celebrated from March 17, 2020 to March 26, 2021 to highlight the Bangabandhu’s life of struggle through various programmes.
Born on March 17, 1920, Bangabandhu, one of the leading politicians of his time in the world declared Bangladesh’s independence on March 26, 1971 hours before he was arrested by Pakistani military junta and then transported to Pakistan.
His people liberated the country, the then eastern wing of Pakistan, waging an armed struggle in his name and came out successful with the allied Indian forces on December 16, 1971 forcing the defeated Pakistan authorities to release him from the nine month of captivity.
Four years into his office, Bangabandhu was assassinated along with most of his family by a group of disgruntled military officers on August 15, 1975 when he has concentrated on building the war-ravaged impoverished nation. The massacre and subsequent military takeover had put Bangladesh’s development on hold for a long period until a quasi-democratic culture began in the early 1990s.
Bangabandhu’s two daughters – Sheikh Hasina and Sheikh Rehana- survived the massacre as they were out of the country at that time and his Awami League party led by Hasina needed more than two decades to reassume office crossing an ocean of political adversaries.
“Bangabandhu had handed us the victory torch and we want to move forward with it,” Hasina, a four-time Prime Minister of the country, told a crowd of more than 10,000 people who thronged countdown inauguration ceremony to the old airport site which is now the National Parade Ground.
Hasina was flanked by her sister Rehana and son Sajeeb Wajed Joy who chorused the Joy Bangla slogan along with the crowd to vow to carry out the unfinished tasks of Bangabandhu.
As the countdown ceremony coincided with Bangabandhu’s homecoming day from Pakistani jail, the government arranged a symbolic landing of a C-130J aircraft, which carried Mujib from London via New Delhi to Dhaka on January 10, 1972, at the airport. A laser-light show presented symbolizing Bangabandhu waving hands to the crowd.
A 21 gun salute was given when the light moved to the red carpet portray the Bangladeshi hero greeted with garlands as he was descending from the aircraft. This was done to give a feel of Bangabandhu’s homecoming day to the crowd.
Pigeons and colourful balloons were released alongside a song by noted Indian artist Shandhya Mukherjee on Bangabandhu’s return was played.
A total of 83 big screens were set up in Dhaka and elsewhere in the country for the countdown to the celebrations. The main celebration porgramme on March 17 is expected to be attended by some of the global leaders.