Ansar Ahmed Ullah:
The 7th March Foundation and SOAS South Asia Institute, University of London held the first ever Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Lecture 2018 on 10 April 2018. The inaugural lecture took place at the Brunei Gallery Lecture Theatre, SOAS, University of London celebrating the life and work of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and 7 March, timed to commemorate a momentous day in the history of Bengali-speaking people in Bangladesh and the diaspora.
The inaugural Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Lecture was given by James Manor, Emeka Anyaoku Professor Emeritus of Commonwealth Studies in the School of Advanced Study, University of London. In his Lecture titled ‘Understanding Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman: The Hard Road to Bangladesh’s Independence and the Meaning of March 7th’ Prof James Manor said Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was the father of the nation. He had to wage a much more severe struggle for a democratic alternative to military rule and for the independence of Bangladesh than most leaders of the other new nations of Asia and Africa. Unlike many other such leaders, he understood the need to build a strong party organisation to meet the harsh challenges that he faced. He was also a subtle tactician. He stressed secularism in the teeth of intolerance.
When opportunities appeared to emerge to make progress through negotiations, he treated adversaries with civility. But when the defiant words and action were required, he led the way with a shrewd sense of timing when other leaders hesitated. This was vividly apparent in his great speech on 7 March 1971, a turning point in his country’s history. He was also willing to make great personal sacrifices – not least, twelve years in the jails of undivided Pakistan. Young people today, born after his assassination during a military coup in 1975, need to hear his story.
Welcoming speech was given by Professor Edward Simpson, Director SOAS South Asia Institute and introductory remarks were made by Nooruddin Ahmed, Chair of 7th March Foundation. The lecture was followed by a reception which provided opportunity for networking amongst academics, politicians, policy makers, business, religious and community leaders, students and a wide range of people from the fields of art, culture and literature. The Lecture was originally planned for 7 March to coincide with Bangabandhu’s famous speech on 7 March in 1971 but due to industrial action by university staff the date had to be moved to April.