My Liberation Hero is Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, otherwise known as “Bangabandhu” in Bangla.
He is my Liberation Hero, because of his role in the struggle, or the unfinished business of partition of the Indian subcontinent, which was the liberation of Bangladesh, the land of Bengalis.
I was very small when I saw the full impact of his oratory and leadership. But I can well recollect one particular date when we went to a family wedding in Dhaka and it was quite clear to us young kids that all the adults were keen on something else. They subsequently left us kids at the wedding to go to a mass rally and demonstration where Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was speaking.
And, if you actually listen to that speech itself, you will see how it inspired a whole nation of people to take the business of liberation into their hands after the electoral victory the previous year in December  which gave them the mandate to walk away from the state of Pakistan.
As a kid at the time, I did not understand the oratory, but subsequently it was quite clear to me that it expressed 23 years of angst from not recognising Bangla as a state language, the economic repression between East and West Pakistan, as well as the military crackdowns over the 1950s and 1960s by various military regimes, predominantly led from the Punjab in West Pakistan.
Thus, for a whole host of reasons, I see [Rahman] as a Liberation Hero not only for that generation, but for subsequent generations also.
The speech he made on the 7 March 1971 at the racecourse in Dhaka is one of the most inspirational speeches made. It is undoubtedly the equivalent of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Speech in the middle of a civil war.
The important thing here is that it convinced people to make the final push for the forming of the state of Bangladesh, the land for Bengalis. It was by far the most important event I have witnessed – apart from the earlier election, which was which was the first free and fair election that Pakistan ever had in 1970.
[Rahman] should have been the 1st Prime Minister of Pakistan on the electoral mandate he was given in December 1970. The subsequent military crackdown meant that there was no way out for those in East Pakistan, the numerical majority of Pakistan’s population, where the Bengalis resided. As a result, we had the formation of the state of Bangladesh and [Rahman’s] role in that is quite clear and categorically documented.
I recommend that everyone watches the speech [Sheikh Mujibur Rahman] gave on the 7 March 1971. It is about 10-15 minutes long. You really do get the sense of power he had behind him and that he had all those 2,000,000-strong people there under his total command. And they would have done anything at that point if he had told them, which they subsequently did to bring about the liberation of Bangladesh by the end of that year itself.
Murad Qureshi is a Liberation Central Council member.
This is a series Liberation is running to raise awareness of people, in history or active today, more or less well known who have made a significant contribution to popular struggles for freedom, against imperialism and for peace, social justice and human rights in the Global South. Who is your Liberation Hero? Get in touch with us at email@example.com – and if you’d like, tell us a bit about this person, why you think deserve recognition and their story told.