Bishawjit dutta, Dhaka, 28 January : Nobel Laureate Professor Amartya Sen has said Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was one of the clearest proponents of secularism from which the world can learn.
He said all the countries of the Indian sub-continent in particular can take guidance and inspiration from Bangabandhu.
The renowned economist made the observations while speaking at the Bangabandhu Birth Centenary Talk on “Bangabandhu and Visions of Bangladesh” organised by the Bangladesh High Commission in the UK and the South Asia Centre of the London School of Economics (LSE) on Wednesday night.
The commemorative lecture was part of the celebrations of the ‘Mujib Year’ by Bangladesh High Commission, London which is being observed in 2020-2021 by the government of Bangladesh and UNESCO, marking the 100th Birth
Anniversary of Bangladesh’s Founding Father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
Sen said the idea of secularism that Bangabandhu advanced was set apart from the western version of secularism.
He never intended to curtail religious freedom, said the economist and philosopher.
Reflecting on Bangabandhu’s absolute dedication, he said, “The concept of ‘freedom’ was pervasive throughout Sheikh Mujibur’s political life. For instance, his leadership in the movement for establishing language rights of Bengalis stemmed from his focus on people’s freedom to use their own language.”
He said in seeking independence from undivided Pakistan, the egalitarian concerns played a significant role in the thinking of Awami League led by Sheikh Mujib.
In his campaign speeches at the crucially important 1970 general election, Sheikh Mujib did not hesitate to place the issue of ‘equity’ among the people of different religious communities in front of a heterogeneous, and at that moment unpredictable, voting public,” he added.
Drawing a parallel between his struggle for independence and the universal concept of freedom, the economics maestro said, “It would not be too much to call Sheikh Mujibur Rahman ‘Bishwa Bandhu’ or ‘Friend of the World’ since his ideas can as easily relate to people from all over the world.”
“Bangabandhu’ or ‘Friend of Bangladesh’ is a very modest term to describe Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. The fact that Mujibur Rahman did not ask for a grander designation than ‘Bangabandhu’, and satisfied with ‘friendship’, says a very important thing about him: he did not seek name or glory. People admired him instinctively,” he added.
This was the first ever talk by Prof Amartya Sen on Bangabandhu during the Mujib Year. Born to Bengali parents, both from erstwhile East Bengal (Bangladesh), Amartya Sen has a strong connection to Bangladesh and has visited the country on several occasions.
Prof Sen has been found to have praised Bangladesh for its social inclusion and gender equality successes.
Currently, Prof Sen is Thomas W. Lamont University Professor, and Professor of Economics and Philosophy, at Harvard University.
He was also a Professor of Economics at the London School of Economics and Drummond Professor of Political Economy at Oxford University and the Master of Trinity College, Cambridge. He was awarded the 1998 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences for his contributions to welfare economics and social choice theory.
Professor Rehman Sobhan, an LSE alumnus, participated in the talk.
During Bangladesh’s War of Liberation in 1971, Prof. Sobhan was appointed the Envoy Extraordinary with special responsibility for Economic Affairs and was later appointed by Bangabandhu as a member of Bangladesh’s first Planning Commission to frame a long-term economic and development plan for the newly independent country.
High Commissioner for Bangladesh to the United Kingdom and Ireland Saida Muna Tasneem also spoke at the event as a distinguished panelist.