Not as Bangabandhu’s wife in every step of the struggle to establish Bangladesh, Bangamata Begum Fazilatunnesa Mujib is a silent skilled organizer who has devoted herself to the liberation struggle of the Bengalis and has brought Bangabandhu to the Himalayan seat.Born on 8 August 1930 in Tungipara, Gopalganj, Begum Fazilatunnesa Mujib is a name of respect and love to the people of Bengal. During the war of liberation, she was by Bangabandhu’s side like a shadow in his entire political life. That is why Bangabandhu was able to bring the taste of independence into the mind of a nation. Sheikh Mujib’s favorite Renu has worked from behind to implement his political philosophy and ideology. Just as Bangabandhu, Bengali, and Bangladesh are built on the same thread, so Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Bangamata Begum Fazilatunnesa Mujib are inseparable names.
Whenever we talk about Bangabandhu, the name of Bangamata comes implicitly. She got married to Bangabandhu through family sources. From Khoka to Mujib, from Mujib to Bangabandhu, and finally from Bangabandhu to becoming the Father of the Nation, the contribution of women is undeniable, she is our Bangamata Sheikh Fazilatunnesa Mujib. Bangabandhu has spent his entire life in the service of the people, for the welfare of the country. Bangabandhu had to spend most of his time in jail. And in those times Begum Mujib took the helm like mail accountable.
Bangamata took to the streets with leaflets to garner public support and mobilize the people for the six-point movement of 1966. During this time, she sold her jewelry to meet the needs of the organization. Bangabandhu’s historic speech on March 7 also had his right direction behind it. During the turbulent times of the movement, she used to entertain the relatives of the tortured leaders and workers in her own house with absolute compassion and would take action after hearing about the advantages and disadvantages. Desperate leaders and activists could find hope and light, the fuel of the movement came from Begum Mujib’s hopeful speech. She has personally helped the families of the martyrs and the freedom fighters with money.
Apart from realizing the rights of the Bengalis, Sheikh Mujib had no attraction to the Prime Ministership or power. Bangamata also raised herself and her children in that ideal. Sheikh Fazilatunnesa Mujib was the shadow companion of lifelong beloved husband Sheikh Mujibur Rahman not as a wife but as a political colleague. Until the last moment of his life, she was by the side of Sheikh Mujib, the great hero of history. What a cruel irony of destiny. On 15 August 1975, all the members of the Bangabandhu family, including Bangamata, had to give their lives in the brutal bullet of the assassins’.
In recognition of Begum Fazilatunnesa Mujib’s contribution to the history of Bengal’s freedom struggle, the people of Bengal conferred on her the title of ‘Bangamata’. In the life of Bangabandhu, Bangamata is as enlightening as her contribution to our freedom and the people of the country is uniquely unforgettable. The more there is discussion about Bangabandhu, the more the contribution of Bangamata will be revealed. The names of Bangabandhu and Bangamata will remain forever in the history of Bangladesh.
Bangamata Sheikh Fazilatunnesa married Bangabandhu at the age of eleven and had three sons and two daughters. She was killed along with Bangabandhu and most of her family members by a disgruntled group of army officers on August 15, 1975. Sheikh Hasina and Sheikh Rehana are her two surviving daughters. Fazilatunnesa is also known as Renu inspired Bangabandhu in all the movements and through numerous hardships.
Bangamata Begum Fazilatunnesa Mujib lived a life of deep insight as a heroic, passionate, dedicated, and enlightened soul as expressed by the above lines that the struggles for freedom, sacrifice, heroism, bravery, and patriotism of the people of the world, the Liberation War of Bangladesh will always be considered as a leading light. The victory that Bangladesh achieved through the nine-month-long war of liberation under the call and leadership of the Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, is the greatest achievement of the people of this country. In the historic and massive journey of the struggle for independence, Bangabandhu was inspired by his life partner, Fazilatunnesa Mujib. For her extraordinary patience, integrity, honesty, kindness, compassion, cooperation, wisdom, profound patriotism, and dedication, she has been honored as our ever-remembered mother.
Bangamata played a pivotal role in building the nation staying beside Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Bangamata Sheikh Fazilatunnesa Mujib is a pride of the Bengali nation and a source of inspiration for womenfolk. Bangamata, who had courageous and indomitable characteristics since her childhood, used to face any situation with her intellect and prudence. Staying beside her husband she faced the difficult days with firmness during Bangabandhu’s frequent imprisonments. Bangabandhu had to go to jail many times for the sake of the country. Bangamata had to run Bangabandhu’s cases, gave directives, and extended cooperation to organizational activities of the party side by side looking after her family.
Bangamata Sheikh Fazilatunnesa Mujib was not only the wife of the father of the nation but also one of the pioneers of the Bengalis’ struggle for freedom. Bangamata had also a significant role from behind the scene in Bangabandhu’s historic March 7 speech. With her inspiration, the unwritten speech Bangabandhu had delivered emitting from his heart was the call for independence. Her contribution to the history of struggle for independence and the Liberation War would be ever remembered.
Bangabandhu gave examples of many countries of the world and also informed the family about the dire consequences of the unilateral declaration of independence. When Bangabandhu presented many examples to his family members in this critical moment of indecision, Bangamata Mahiyasi Begum Fazilatunnesa (Begum Mujib) said, ‘No, you cannot do this. You have made a permanent seat in the hearts of the Bengalis through the six points, what harm will your announcement do to them – you have thought that the Pakistan Army is waiting for your announcement. They will kill you; they will also destroy your beloved Bengali nation.’ Hearing Begum Mujib’s words, Bangabandhu held the pipe in silence for a while. Begum Mujib, despite being a housewife, was a great politician, thinker, and philosopher.Bangamata played a unique role in bringing motivation, strength, and courage for Bangabandhu to guide the struggle of independence and Liberation War towards its right direction side by side carrying out family responsibilities.
Bangamata was a constant associate and inspiration of Bangabandhu in his political, social, and family life. She had a remarkable role in the political success of Bangabandhu. Bangamata was an adept and genuine associate of Bangabandhu in his struggle to realize the rights of the Bengali nation and the struggle for independence. During the Liberation War in 1971, Bangamata faced the situation with patience, courage, and wisdom when her husband remained imprisoned in Pakistan. After the independence, Bangamata devoted herself to rebuilding the war-ravaged country. She stood beside the violated, repressed, and self-sacrificing women and sisters by ensuring their treatment, sympathizing and extending cooperation to them, and took initiative to make them socially established. The nation has genuinely bestowed the Bangamata title on Fazilatunnesa Mujib because of her unparalleled sacrifice, cooperation, and prudence. The ideology and examples Bangamata had set will remain as a source of inspiration for Bengali women throughout the ages.The new generation will be imbued with patriotism through the practice of life and works of Sheikh Fazilatunnesa and could learn many unknown chapters of the Liberation War, the struggle for independence, and Bangabandhu’s life and struggles.
Hiren Pandit is a researcher and columnist