Autobiography of Bangabondhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

Oshomapto Atmojiboni

Writer: Sheikh Mujibur Rahman
Reviewed by: Md Khaled Bin Chowdhury.
Associate Professor, Department of English, BGC Trust University Bangladesh.

Bangabondu with sunglass

Oshomapto Atmojiboni by the father of the nation Bangabondhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman is an autobiography dealing with  memoirs of his eventful  life from his birth  till 1954  which was penned   during his time in jail through 1967-69. In the preface to the book Prime Minister Sheikh  Hasina wrote that these memoirs came to  her possession after 39 years of the tragic assassination of her father.  These memoirs  were   written in a number of notebooks which were luckily saved  by Fazilatunesa Mujib  among other  manuscripts and papers. After Bangabondhu was arrested on the black night of 25th  March, 1971,  these  notebooks remained piled among other  papers at his Dhanmondi house. The  Pakistani forces deemed them to be rubbish  papers and hence did  not  destroy them during the occupancy of the house. Hence, these notebooks became  priceless pieces of memoirs like Anne Frank’s diary of the Second World War. As the diary of Anne Frank was  so far translated in to more than 50 languages,  Bangabondhu’s    Oshomapto Atmojiboni has been  translated into English, Urdu, Assamese, Arabic, Italian and many more  languages.

The answer to the query why these memoirs were published as autobiography after so many years  was given by Sheikh Hasina. Sheikh Hasina knew that Bangabondhu wrote memoirs  but she still could not  trace where they were. They were not in their Dhanmondi house. At last these four note books came under her custody in 2004 after a brutal attack on her and others at the Awami League Meeting  on 21st August at Bangabondhu Avenue.  Sheikh Hasina’s cousin handed them over to her. They were found coincidentally in the table drawer of the office room of another cousin  Late Sheikh Fazlul Hoque Moni, the then  editor of  the newspaper Banglar Bani. Bangabondhu  might have given  these note books to Moni for typing   during any time between  1972 and  August 1975 so that they might  be published as autobiography. But, it could not be accomplished because Moni  was also killed in August  1975  along with Bangabondhu. Sheikh Hasina  and Sheikh Rehena were surprised as well as overwhelmed with joy to find these notebooks. The leaves of these notebooks were so ragged and delicate that it was difficult to turn them over  and they might be torn any time.

This autobiography  covered the life of Bangabondhu  till 1954. He  mentioned that he wrote this autobiography  in  his captivity  during  1966-69. Bongbondhu did not dedicate this book to anybody. Bangabondhu’s friends, well wishers requested him to write an autobiography. He replied humbly that he did not do any  great things for the country that  they  need to be written  down. However, he agreed to do it at last  after Fazilatunnesa  left some notebooks for him at the jail gate to write down the memoirs. In the first few pages Bangabondhu narrated his ancestry.

These memoirs are about the way he grew up from his boyhood, his family lineage, his movements as a student organizer and leader, and most importantly, his  struggle to establish the rights of the people. The father of the nation narrated his feelings, sentiments in a simple lucid language without any bias. This autobiography  narrates  the twists and turns of history of the last decade of the undivided India, eight years of the Pakistan regime and the struggle of the people against the oppressive Pakistani regime.

Shiekh Mujibur Rahman comes of  the Sheikh lineage, an aristocratic family of Gopalgonj. This lineage was established by Sheikh Borhan Uddin. The four buildings where Mujib and his ancestors lived date back to more than  two hundred years. Mujib inherited the  title  Sheikh from  both  of his parents’ side. His paternal grandfather was Sheikh  Abdul Hamid and maternal grandfather was  Sheikh Abdul Majid. It is interesting that his marriage with Renu, the nickname of Fazilatunnesa was registered when he was 12/13 years old and Renu was  only 3.  Mujib says that he developed his knack for reading from his boyhood. His father subscribed to   a number of newspapers, such as, the Anandabazar,  Azad, monthly Mohammadi and  Swogat.

Mujib also narrates how he organized political programs  under the supervision of Hossain Shahid Sohrawardy,   how he organized Muslim Chatra League, his days in Islamia  College at Calcutta. As a good soul he did not hesitate to acknowledge the positive sides  of a leader holding different opinions. Bangabondhu narrated how he along with Fazlul  Qader  Chowdhury  of Chittagong protested against the  tyrannical attitude  of  Mr. Waseq, the president of  All Bengal  Muslim Chatra League for the latter’s  holding the post of president illegally. This happened in 1945 or 46. But, Mujib wrote about this event while writing the memoirs during 1966-69 when Mujjb was already fed up with F Q Chowdhury for his anti-Bangali attitude and activities.

He also narrated how he organized relief operation during  the famine of  1943. Mujib  must be appreciated  for his sharp  memory  and apt skill  in  narrating  anything in detail  but with a non-partisan stand as an expert historian. He gave true account of  all political leaders of his time and their activities. He could remember and narrate the activities of all of his  contemporary leaders living even in the district levels. He narrated about the activities of two prominent leaders of Chittagong Awami  League, MA  Aziz  and Jahur Ahmed Chowdhury, among others.

Mujib  narrated the communal riot in India  on the  eve of the Partition of India and Pakistan. He reminisces  how the Muslims were  brutally killed and  maimed in  Calcutta  at that time. Mujib’s political leader Sohrawardy was in Calcutta at that time. The unruly Hindus even  attacked Sohrawardy several times and his car was burnt.   Mujib tried to convince Sohrawardy to migrate to Dhaka  or  any other  city of Pakistan from Calcutta. But Sohrawardy  declined saying,  “I will go but not now.  If I   leave the Muslims of the West Bengal  in this volatile condition, who will save them? You had better go and work so that   communal riot does not start in the East Bengal. If there is communal riot in the East Bengal, the Hindus will migrate to the West  Bengal and after coming here  they will start riot and the Muslims  from here will migrate to the East Bengal. If the Muslims of the West Bengal, Assam and Bihar start moving to the East Bengal, it will be difficult to protect Pakistan especially the East Bengal. Where will you accommodate so many people? So, for the safety of Pakistan, stop communal riot. ” (P.82).

Mujib  shows his feeling of respect for his political mentor Sohrawardy mentioning another incident of kindness. It relates to how Sohrawardy  paid his hotel bills, bought  air ticket for him up to Delhi, gave some pocket money and arranged for his  trip to the airport  by giving a companion etc. when he met Sohrawardy  at Lahore in  the independent Pakistan for the last time. Mujib  says that his heart  was broken while taking  leave from Sohrawardy at Lahore. He reminisces the pitiable condition of his mentor Sohrawardy in the following words. “He is financially  so much insolvent that  he cannot manage food unless he runs cases, how helpless he has become, his colleagues who were once proud of him have now become his enemies.”   Bangabondhu  also assured Sohrawardy  saying, “We will form political party in the East Bengal and Muslim League will have no place here if you join with us. The nation will  again get benefit from your strong leadership and organizing skill”.(P.144).

While working to realize  the rights of the Bangalees, he passed almost one-fourth of his life-time in prison.  While once reminiscing  about his imprisoned life in  Dhaka jail in 1950,  his responsibility was to weave yarn. He says he enjoyed doing it because he got tired of sitting idle. He also narrates his tour to China as a delegate of Pakistan  team  at the Congress of the Communist Party of China. Mujib also narrated about  his role in the Language Movement of 1952.

This autobiography  tells  about his life from birth till 1954. That is why, this autobiography is called  Oshomapto Atmojiboni.  The remaining 20 years or so of his life were not less illustrious  than the ones narrated in the autobiography. The dexterity  with which Mujib narrated  everything in great detail was  unique. The book is worth reading by  readers of any age and any level of literacy. The language is lucid, the description is convincing and detail is explanatory at their highest.  The book was published by University Press Limited. The price is only 220 Tk. The copyright of the book is owned by Jatir Janak Bangabondhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman  Memorial Trust.

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