Engineer MD Habibur Rahman:
8th August 2020 is the 90th birth anniversary of Bangamata Sheikh Fazilatunnesa Mujib, the wife of the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, one of the greatest leaders in the world, greatest Bengali of the past thousand years, Supreme Command of the Liberation War, Father of the Nation and the architect of Bangladesh.
Among the wives of great leaders in history who have been remembered for ages are Mahatma Gandhi’s wife Kastri Bai, Jawaharlal Nehru’s wife Kamala Nehru, Deshbandhu Chittaranjan’s wife Basanti Devi, Nelson Mandela’s wife Winnie the Pooh. Similarly, Bangamata Begum Sheikh Fazilatunnesa Mujib, the wife of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, has become famous as her husband’s companion-in-arms. In history, Begum Fazilatunnesa Mujib is not only the First Lady of a former Prime Minister and President of Bangladesh, but also one of the behind-the-scenes inspirers of the Bangladesh Liberation War. She has actively supported Bangabandhu in every step of the long freedom movement of the Bangladesh nation. She has followed the ideal of her beloved husband Bangabandhu like a shadow. Contributed to the implementation of this ideal. She has done many risky things in her life, for which Bangamata has suffered a lot.
She was born 90 years ago in Tungipara village of Gopalganj district. Bangamata Sheikh Fazilatunnesa lost her father at the age of three and mother at the age of five and married her cousin Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (Bangabandhu) at an early age. She took primary education at Gopalganj Mission School. After that he studied with the Home schooling due to social norms at that time. Her memory was very keen. He has dealt with any situation with utmost intelligence, infinite patience and courage.
In Bangabandhu’s political life, his wife Begum Fazilatunnesa Mujib gave him courage. During Bangabandhu’s political engagements and during Bangabandhu’s 14 years of imprisonment at different times of his long political life, she took all the responsibility of taking care of the family, joining relatives and social circle, looking after the children, education. Inspired by her husband’s ideals, she raised children. Although she suffered for her husband, she was never blamed. For her responsibility, the family did not become an obstacle in Bangabandhu’s political life. She has endured poverty, hardship and embarrassment in silence. But she did not complain to anyone, never got angry.
During Bangabandhu’s imprisonment, in his absence although she was an ordinary housewife, but she has shown great skill in handling political cases, helping to organize the party, giving advice in leading the political movement. Even during the political movement, every incident was reported to Bangabandhu during the meet in the jail. She used to bring Bangabandhu’s necessary advices and instructions from the jail and inform the Central Awami League and Student League key leaders. The current Prime Minister of Bangladesh and Bangabandhu’s daughter Sheikh Hasina used to do that from time to time as well. From behind the scenes, Bangamata played a strong role in the mass uprising of ’69 and mass demonstrations. The mass uprising of 1969 was accelerated based on important information of Begum Fazilatunnesa. She kept in touch with the leaders and workers of the organization by keeping an eye on the police and intelligence agencies and gave necessary instructions on behalf of Bangabandhu. On the other hand, she kept Bangabandhu’s morale strong by meeting him in jail. Even though Bangabandhu was in jail, Fazilatunnesa Mujib used to keep track of the party leaders and workers by being their companions in their joys and sorrows.
Begum Sheikh Fazilatunnesa Mujib has dealt with the situation with infinite courage, fortitude and patience during the entire nine months of the Bangladesh Liberation War. Even in the “The Historic 7th March Speech of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman” (which later included in the Memory of the World International Register, a list of world’s important documentary heritage maintained by UNESCO) and the hoisting of the Bangladesh flag on March 23, 1971 (“National Flag Day”) before independence day 26th march 1971, Begum Sheikh Fazilatunnesa contributed as the main stimulus and advisor to Bangabandhu.
After the arrest of Bangabandhu on the night of March 25, 1971, Begum Fazilatunnesa Mujib hid in the besieged city of Dhaka with the family members of Sheikh Hasina, Sheikh Rehana, Sheikh Jamal and Sheikh Russell. But the Pakistan army looked for them like mad hyenas. After fleeing for several days, Pakistan military intelligence arrested them from a house in Moghbazar, Dhaka. Begum Fazilatunnesa Mujib was then placed under house arrest along with other members of her family at a house on Dhanmondi Road No. 18 Dhaka. After the victory of the Bangladesh 16th December 1971 in the war of liberation and the surrender of the Pakistan Army, their captivity came to an end on 17th December 1971.
Begum Mujib was an ideal Bangladeshi woman in her heart. With extreme intelligence, calmness, infinite patience and courage, she faced any situation in life with determination. she did not have any material needs and desires. Whenever Bangabandhu needed extra money during student politics time, Begum Mujib used to send the money earned from her father’s property without any hesitation. When Bangabandhu was repeatedly imprisoned, Begum Mujib had to sell household goods. She has sold many used jewelleries. She was very generous and hospitable. The leaders of the War of Independence and Liberation still remember the affection, kindness and compassion of this great woman with sincere respect.
When Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was heading and leading the country to prosperity, a group of derailed and misled armed forces assassinated brutally the Father of the Nation and Begum Mujib along with other members of her family on August 15, 1975, plunging the whole of the nation in grief. In the words of the Prime Minister and her daughter Sheikh Hasina, “Even during the cruellest massacre in history, Bangabandhu’s lifelong companion of happiness and sorrow remained his companion even after his death.”
Bangamata Fazilatunnesa Mujib has played an outstanding role in the establishment of the Bangladesh nation as a courageous observer and organizer. We would not have got an independent Bangladesh without the emergence of a great hero like Bangabandhu. And it is precisely with the contribution of Bangamata Fazilatunnesa that the dream of a great hero turned into a liberated Bangladesh. Begum Fazilatunnesa Mujib was inaugurated as “Bangamata” by her immense sacrifice for the country and the nation. Bangamata’s patience, tolerance and patriotism will inspire the people of Bangladesh for ages and inspire them to build the country.
The unforgettable role of Bangamata Begum Sheikh Fazilatunnesa Mujib as one of the inspiring great women in the liberation war of Bangladesh will be remembered in the history and by the future generations.
Author: Organising Secretary, German Awami League, Germany.