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A Political Journey

Smruti S. Pattanaik

By Syed Badrul Ahsan
Niyogi Books, New Delhi, 2014, pp. 289, Rs. 595.00


This book is a biography of Bangabandhu Shiekh Mujibur Rahman, his early life as a politician and the events post Partition that shaped his outlook and approach to politics. Written by Badrul Ahsan, current Executive Editor of the Daily Star newspaper this book depicts the life of Mujib and his brutal assassination that closed an important chapter of Bangladesh’s political history.   Though there are many books on Mujib, (S.A. Karim, Sheikh Mujib: Triumph and Tragedy, University Press Limited, 2005)and his politics including an autobiography based on his diaries which was published posthumously (Sheikh Mujibur Rahman: The Unfinished Memoir, translated by Dr. Fakrul Alam, University Press Limited, 2012), this book makes a significant contribution in terms of Mujib’s early days in politics.   Mujib’s transition from ‘one steeped in the communal politics of the Muslim League’ (foreword) to the one where he forcefully articulated a secular order based on Bengali nationalism describes his political journey. This transition is marked by the Bengalis’ own journey as citizens of Pakistan and their opposition to the nomenclature of Pakistan as an Islamic Republic and to a separate electorate. The demand to accord Bengali the status of national language, parity between East and West Pakistan in terms of employment, development and recruitment in the Army are some of the instances of growing democratic consciousness of East Pakistanis.   The birth of the Awami Muslim League in 1949 symbolized disenchantment of the Bengalis with the politics of the Muslim League. Mujib tried to create a niche for himself within United Pakistan. He also criticized the reference to East Pakistan and preferred that part to be called East Bengal which describes the unique history and linguistic heritage of Bengalis. Bengali got recognized as a national language only after protest and sacrifice of lives by the Bengalis in 1952. Autonomy became the new buzz word for Mujib and Awami League politics after a series of measures that undermined the numerical majority of Bengalis through the one unit formula.   The military takeover of 1958 crashed all the hopes of a democratic election. Mujib toyed with the idea of autonomy/independence with the establishment of Shwadhin Bangla Biplobi Parishad while publicly maintaining distance from it given the Army’s suspicion regarding his activities. The Pakistan Army also started the programme to Islamize the Bengalis whom they thought are corrupted by Bengali language and culture and banned Tagore songs from Pakistan Radio instantly ...

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