I was a participant in an instant speech competition during the late ’70s at my college. When my turn came, I randomly got my topic “What will you do if you were the President of Bangladesh?” Considering the context of that time, I suggested digging canals to ensure water flow, eliminating illiteracy and ensuring ownership of sharecroppers-all are relevant even today. From then I started thinking about different national issues. Recently a huge controversy and threat is prevailing throughout the country regarding creation of sculptures of the father of the nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Considering the situation, I just feel to go back to my student life competition and express my opinion against today’s milieu. As that remains impossible, I take shelter of my writings.
The government of Bangladesh and open-minded citizens including the intellectuals had come face to face with the Islamic leaders and activists of the country over the issue of creation of Bangabandhu’s sculpture recently. The exchange of words and protests between the two groups made the situation very intense. Many silent and active groups, from inside and outside the country, are closely monitoring the development and even using it to implement their own agenda. Whatever the case is, any hostility concerning the issue will halt our development and will take our country backwards.
While celebrating the birth centennial of Bangabandhu and victory day celebration on the doors, this dispute and hostility is totally unacceptable and demeaning towards the honor of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the greatest Bengali of all times, the architect of our independence and undeniably the greatest leader of our history.
Bangladesh is a country with around 89% Muslim population and we cannot deny that, Islam has some specific guidelines against creation of sculptures or statues. We should not use this truth to hurt the honor of Bangabandhu. But we should not also do anything to hurt the religious sentiments of 89% Muslims. Moreover, it is not understandable that why we should be contained in the idea of creating sculptures to honor Bangabandhu as it cannot be a sole mean to pay tribute to him. Rather it is being used as a tool to destabilize the country to foil all the good works of Bangabandhu’s daughter Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
Unfortunately, in the name of Bangabandhu’s sculpture, we are just creating meaningless statues of Sheikh Mujib which have no artistic or abstract value. And there is also huge corruption associated with this construction of cheap statues. Moreover, the sole purpose of these statues is to gain political and financial benefit from the government and these merely clay-built statues will not last for long. Regretfully, Bangabandhu’s valor, leadership, honor and principles do not reflect through these sculptures.
We need to build something with the name of Bangabandhu, which will be considered an architectural marvel as well as will uphold his glorious life. We may build monuments, stages, towers, gates, amphitheaters, museums etc. The core idea has to be the spread of Bangabandhu’s ideals.
Bangabandhu has visited almost every district of Bangladesh and during all his visits, he had given speeches in open places. The district authority can take initiative to build iconic stages at places where Bangabandhu delivered speeches. We can even build stages like Colosseum of Rome. The stages may contain sculptures with the words of the great leader, which are actually our greatest asset as well as the base of our inspiration during tough times. Beneath those iconic stages, we can build museums, libraries etc.
We can also build marvelous towers like Eifel Tower of Paris, CN Tower of Toronto or Big Ben of London etc. to uphold the honor, valor and glory of Bangabandhu. Moreover, these will turn into popular tourist destinations and will attract tourists from all around the world. We can also build monuments like; Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial etc. with Bangabandhu’swords at the core.
We can build Bangabandhu Gates at both entry points to the Padma Bridge and but also at other places, which share significant history related to Bangabandhu. India Gate, Gateway of India or The Gateway Arch can be great example in this regard. Amphitheaters like; Sydney Opera House can also be built to pay tribute to Bangabandhu.But it is a must that all of these establishments must have such architectural excellence so that those turn into global landmark and tourist attractions. We can deploy world’s top architects like; Louis Isadore Kahn, the famous architect of our National Parliament Complex,in this mission.
We should not put Bangabandhu in the middle of any debate at any cost. Building sculptures only will only create controversies and will always remain under threats of vandalism and fundamentalism. Moreover, we cannot eliminate the chance of foreign power’s engagement also. The Talibans in Afghanistan tried to destroy a historic statue of Buddha known as ‘Buddhas of Bamiyan’ in March, 2001, which eventually accelerated the engagement of NATO in the same year. We, the Bangladeshis, never want such fate and cannot allow such silly issues to stop our development.
We have to uphold the significance of Bangabandhu from every aspect. Even, only the capable ones and real Bangabandhu researchers should be allowed to write books on Bangabandhu as many carelessly or intentionally or due to lack of knowledge distort the history of Bangabandhu. Most importantly, we should not create conflict with the majority’s religion in the name of Bangabandhu under the shrewd conspiracy of the ill forces, which include both representatives from groups against Bangabandhu’s statue and in favor of the same while we have great options to honor him while exposing every global citizen to his principles.
The construction of Padma Bridge, infrastructural capacity building, ensuring electricity throughout the country, punishment of Bangabandhu’s killer and 1971 liberation war criminals, launching of Bangabandhu Satellite etc. are the results of visionary and bold leadership of PM Sheikh Hasina and her consecutive terms as head of the government. Ensuring smooth development of Bangladesh should be the only concern of all Bangladeshis. Controversy over Bangabadhu’s statue must not outcast that goal. We must remember that, not building Bangabandhu’s statues is not a defeat to the extremist forces, rather a step to protect secularism in Bangladesh while ensuring national progress.
We have full faith on the visionary leadership of PM Hasina to solve this crisis soon as it is a strong conspiracy targeting the birth centennial of Bangabandhu, our upcoming Victory Day and 50 year of our independence. Progress and development of Bangladesh was the core target of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the same should be of every Bangladeshis.
The writer is Chief Editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA), Editor at Kishore Bangla and
Chief Patron, Bangabandhu Shishu Kishore Mela