The Homecoming of Bangabandhu: Recollections of the Past

M. Shahinoor Rahman
The return of Bangabandhu to his homeland holds the most significant event in the historical context. On January 10 1972, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, known as the “Father of the Nation,” arrived back in Bangladesh, 15 days after the country was freed entirely from the control of Pakistani invaders on December 16 1971. The day is celebrated as Bangabandhu’s “Homecoming Day” by the people of Bangladesh, who will never forget it. There have been numerous instances in the past of leaders from different parts of the world returning to their homelands after spending time away due to exile, revolution, or other circumstances. However, the homecoming of Bangabandhu has demolished all past ceremonies of the same kind. This day, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the revered leader of the valiant Bengali people and Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, was liberated from Pakistani captivity and set foot on the battle-torn ground of independent and sovereign Bangladesh. The completion of the country’s victory in the independence war coincided with the homecoming of Bangabandhu to the Nation.

On January 10, after arriving in Dhaka, millions of people joyfully greeted him with spontaneous messages of welcome from the airport to the Racecourse Ground (currently, Suhrawardi Udyan). Around one million people had gathered in the Racecourse Ground when he began speaking at five o’clock that day. During the 17-minute long speech, at one point, he added, “A grave was dug out beside my cell.

I was ready to go.
I am Bengali.

I am a man.

Since I am a Muslim, I know that a person only passes away once.

The Pakistani forces went to Bangabandhu’s home in Dhanmondi 32 on the evening of March 25, 1971, and arrested him there. The tyrants of Pakistan kept him imprisoned in the pitch black of a cell at Layalpur, Pakistan, for nine months. During Freedom Fighters’ battle for their independence on the battlegrounds, Bangabandhu was condemned in a painful trial staged by the Pakistani military junta and was waiting for his impending execution due to the verdict. Because Bangabandhu spent most of his political career inside, he did not view jail as terrifying. After the Bengalis won the decisive victory in December, politicians worldwide, most notably the Prime Minister of India at the time, Shrimati Indira Gandhi, called for Bangabandhu’s release. After being defeated, the Pakistani administration was under intense pressure from the world community to free Bangabandhu. After Bangabandhu’s triumphant return to independent Bangladesh, he was lauded as the brave leader of the Bengalis. After the return of the Bengali nation’s hope, Sheikh Mujib, the capital of Bangladesh, Dhaka, on January 10, turned into a sea of people. The seasoned writer Abdul Gaffar Chowdhury writes in a column that describes the day that he was “blinded by the tears of emotion.” when he had a bird’s eye view of the torrents of people on the streets of Dhaka and could see them from a distance. From Pakistan, Bangabandhu made his way back to Dhaka by way of London and Delhi. The 13-hour trip from London to Dhaka was punctuated by the presence of Indian diplomat Sashanka Shekhar Banerjee at various points throughout the journey.

After some time had passed, he reflected on what had transpired, saying, “Sheikh Mujib landed at London’s Heathrow Airport after being released from prison in Pakistan.” On the recommendation of Mrs. Indira Gandhi, I accompanied him on his journey from Delhi to Bangladesh as a fellow traveller. At six o’clock in the morning on January 9, 1972, Bangabandhu arrived at the Heathrow Airport VIP lounge. The Indian High Commissioner to London, Apa B. Panth, and the British Foreign and Commonwealth Officer, Ian Sutherland, were on hand to greet him as he arrived.

There was a meeting between Mujib and British Prime Minister Edward Heath. Then he communicated with the Indian Prime Minister, Mrs. Indira Gandhi. The phone call between Indira and Mujib continued for half an hour. “After this event, Indira Gandhi again talked to Bangabandhu.” Sashenka Banerjee travelled with Bangabandhu on their way to an independent Bangladesh. They shared a seat together in the airplane. The dry leg pipe and the well-known aromatic Erinmore tobacco were displayed on the table. The ecstatic Mujib appeared to be quite excited to go back to his house. He spoke tremblingly as he proclaimed, “Independent Bangladesh, my Bangladesh.” He expressed his gratitude for the sustained partnership. He asked, “Banerjee, this time I want a particular favour,” and he stated it. My response was, “of course, if it’s within my capabilities.” He advised us that we should contact Indira with a message before we see her in Delhi. The Indian and Allied Forces had to completely depart from Bangladesh until March 31, 1972. He said he had discussed this matter with the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. If the Indian Allied forces leave, Bangladesh will have no more challenges to obtain recognition from the British government. Following a stop for refuelling in the Middle East, the aircraft has resumed its flight.
Bangabandhu strained his eyes to look at the milky-white clouds. After an eternity, he eventually got to his feet and started singing, “My Bangla of gold, I adore you.”

His eyes started to fill up with wetness.

He answered, ‘Banerjee, you too.

Let’s run through this one more time,'”

They all sang the song at the same time.

While making an effort to suppress his tears, Bangabandhu stated, “The war-torn country is ready for a more severe struggle to move forward.”

The average citizens of my nation are the only source of strength that can keep the fire burning in my breast.

Bangabandhu made an unexpected announcement, much to Sashanka’s astonishment, that “This song will be the national anthem of Bangladesh.”

Please describe the outcome to me. Sashenka Banerjee answered, “Then, for the first time in the history of the world, Rabindranath Tagore would be the author of the national anthems of two different countries.”

From Banerjee’s description, we can ascertain two things with absolute certainty. Bangabandhu was acutely aware from the beginning of the importance of the problem of removing any foreign influence from the Bengali people to preserve Bangladesh’s status as a free and independent nation. And as he was walking back to his house, he came up with the idea to make the song “My Bangla of gold” the national anthem of Bangladesh. At the time, this was the song that came to him most naturally, both in his head and in his voice, so he decided to go with his gut and make it the country’s official song. Again, Sashanka Shekhar Banerjee stated, “The message of West Bengal Chief Minister Siddhartha Shankar Ray came in urging him to halt at Kolkata on the way to his country—the people of Kolkata want to visit Bangabandhu.”

He conveyed his appreciation by sending a reply stating that he was thankful for the support of the people of Kolkata in the fight for freedom. But he could not wait to return to Dhaka after seeing Delhi first. However, he was planning to visit Kolkata shortly. Following the delivery of the message, Bangabandhu remarked, “The road seems to go on forever. “I feel the call of the free skies, the people, and the natural world. I have no words to describe the sensation!”

When Sheikh Mujib arrived at Delhi, he was greeted by several prominent Indian politicians, including Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, Foreign Minister Sardar Sharan Singh, and others. At the Presidential Palace, he was served Darjeeling tea alongside sandesh, samosas, singara, and other snacks imported from Kolkata. During the discussion between Mujib and Indira, the subject of India pulling its troops out of Bangladesh within the next three months was finalised.

“On January 10, 1972, after landing in Dhaka at midday, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, known as the “Superhero of the Independent Land of Bangladesh,” exited the aircraft. The atmosphere was utterly saturated with the resounding chants of the crowd as they shouted out various catchphrases. “Joy Bangla,” “Joy Bangabandhu,” and “Joy Muktijoddha” could be heard ascending into the air. From the airport to the Paltan Ground, there was a seemingly endless sea of people. That was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to celebrate the triumph of independence and the safe return of the great leader. The image of Great Leader Bangabandhu’s return home is still fresh in people’s minds. In the depiction of Sashanka Banerjee, the day of 1972 is presented as though it were a living day.

At the time, Deb Mukherjee was a young officer working for the Indian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. After that, he worked at Dhaka’s office of the High Commissioner of India. In an interview with BBC Bangla, Mukherjee stated that many people were very anxious about Sheikh Mujib for several weeks before the event because many were skeptical about whether or not he was alive in Pakistan’s prison. Mukherjee recalled the day of Bangabandhu’s homecoming when he made this statement. Sheikh Mujib is said to have delivered a heartfelt address. At the same time, he was stationed in Delhi, where he thanked India for her assistance throughout Bangladesh’s struggle for independence, as reported by Deb Mukherjee. Both Indira Gandhi and Sheikh Mujib gave speeches on the same stage on that particular day. During that speech, Sheikh Mujib expressed his gratitude to Indira Gandhi for the diplomatic role she played in shaping public opinion across the globe concerning the independence war. He stated, “The people of Bengal would never forget the compassion and sympathy that your Prime Minister, your administration, your army, and your people had extended to my people when they were in need.” He continued, “I was in a dark cell in West Pakistan just a couple of days ago.” Mrs. Gandhi has gone to every possible length in the world to attempt to guarantee that I am safe. I would like to express my appreciation to her.” Although they had already spoken on the phone the day before, this was the first time Bangabandhu and Indira Gandhi met in person. He was in London at the time of their conversation. According to Deb Mukherjee, the initial encounter with Indira Gandhi was pivotal in establishing the groundwork for the connection between India and Bangladesh.

Bangabandhu was held captive in Pakistan for nine months during the liberation war. However, the profound words he uttered in his historic speech on March 7 have left an indelible mark not only on the hearts, spirits, and very existence of the entire Bengali people but also on the hearts, spirits, and very existence of the entire Bengali nation. Brave Bengalis fought against all circumstances, following the directions of Bangabandhu, to bring their country closer and closer to the point where it might declare its independence. If Bangabandhu had not been cruelly murdered by the conspirators on August 15, 1975, Bangladesh would have made significant progress toward becoming a Malaysia or a Singapore much before the remarkable development made recently under the capable leadership of Sheikh Hasina.

Sheikh Hasina and Sheikh Rehana, the two daughters of Bangabandhu, were both able to avoid harm on that fateful night of August 15 because they were away from the country. The governments that came to power after 1975 did all in their ability to prevent Sheikh Hasina from returning home from exile. As a result, she felt an immense urge to return to the country on May 17, 1981, when she faced the same difficulties as her father had in the past. The situation in Dhaka, the capital of the country, was still very overwhelming, with a sizable throng gathered because it was Bangabandhu’s day to return to his home.

Every year, Bengalis come together to celebrate Bangabandhu’s return to his homeland to remember how vital dependability and trust are to the smooth operation of their community. Because it inspires them to stay connected to their motherland, this day is, therefore, very significant to the people of Bangladesh. Bangabandhu came to us in the same way on January 10, 1972, after navigating a sea of darkness as the sun of a new day rises with fresh light and hope. This day will live forever in indelible letters in the annals of Bangladeshi and Bengali history.

(Author is a columnist, writer, researcher, Folklorist, Professor of English and former Pro-Vice-Chancellor of Islamic University, Kushtia, Bangladesh.)

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