The Antigone of Sophocles is a story of courage and determination in which the protagonist along with her sister attempt to secure a respectable burial of their brother Polynices. The tragic hero of Greek mythology, Polynices, was killed in a battle he fought against his brother over the throne. His brother also gets killed in the process that paved the way for King Creon to ascend the throne of Thebes. In one of his first act of treachery soon after becoming the king, Creon decreed that Polynices was not to be buried or even mourned. The sisters then defy the order and were eventually caught and imprisoned for violating the decree.
Do our readers find any similarity with this tragic play attributed to Sophocles and written in fifth century BC with a somehow similar incident happening in our country with the gap of two millennium years and more? Our present story too is the story of two sisters trying not only to get a respectable burial of one of their brothers, but that of the whole family slaughtered mercilessly by the heartless Creons of our time. Unlike Antigone, the sisters in our time were able to get their sweet revenge after overcoming obstacles standing as a solid mountain of rock; and thus, restoring the honor and the rightful place in history that their father and the whole family deserve for their contribution in leading the nation to statehood. The book entitled "Sheikh Hasina: on the Right Side of History" is the story of this Antigone of our time.
Written and edited by Enayetullah Khan and published by Cosmos books, the anthology is a combination of the life story and political career of Sheikh Hasina depicted not only in written text, but also through paintings and photographs that turned the album into a worthy collection of valuable historic documentation.
The book traces back the political career of Sheikh Hasina over the period of more than four decades and also focuses on her struggle and achievement as a leader of the nation that had travelled hand in hand with the family she represents. A number of forwards written by eminent personalities of the country and abroad outline the importance of the publication and also give a brief detail of what the readers are to expect from this unique publication, which has been launched during the commemorative year of the centenary of birth of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, as well as the fiftieth anniversary of the independence of Bangladesh.
Sheikh Hasina is not only one of the two surviving members of the family at the center of the tragic history of Bangladesh; she is also the leader of the country trying relentlessly to fulfill the dream of her father to make the country what Poet Tagore once visioned as the "Golden Bengal". And in her pursuit to achieve that dream, she had never been immune from the threat and intimidation from adversaries who would like to see that the same fate of the rest of her family befalls to her as well. But nothing could deter her from the resolve of bringing smile to the faces of the children of Bangladesh. And here we see a different Antigone, for whom the forward march of the country represents a much sweeter revenge than simply sending to the gallows the killers of her family. The anthology provides enough evidence of this determination of a leader whose personal tragedy knows no bordering perimeter. This particular aspect has been reflected beautifully in the forward written by our retired diplomat Tariq A. Karim, as he described what Sheikh Hasina once told her about the threat she had to endure all along by saying, "I know a bullet is chasing me, trying to find me. But I shall do what I have to do, to translate all my father's vision for Bangladesh into reality" Nothing fits more to the heroic conviction of Sophocles' Antigone than this firm conviction of Sheikh Hasina. We know for sure the danger she is encountering right from the day she landed in the country putting an end to the exile life she had to endure following the family tragedy.
Unlike the forward written by various personalities, the text part of the book does not give credit to any single author, as we can rightly presume it to be written by the main author. This might sound a bit out of touch with what we see in anthologies or albums. However, since the thrust is on depicting the heroic struggles as well as the achievement of a lady who destiny had pushed to the place where she stands now, this slight deviation cannot be seen as a fault in any way. It rather compliments photos and paintings that accompany the text part throughout the book.
The author has carefully collected and chosen pictures of Sheikh Hasina and her family from various sources and combined those with a carefully written descriptive part that covers the whole spectrum of the political involvement of Sheikh Hasina from the days of her return in 1981 to what she represents now as a long-serving head of the government. The whole anthology has been given added flavor by many of our eminent artists who had drawn portraits of this brave lady at various phases of her life. Prominent among those are two important art works by Maqbul Fida Hossain and Sahabuddin Ahmed.
There had been hundreds of books written these days on Sheikh Hasina and also on the tragedy that had befallen to her extended family. However, among many of such hurriedly written and carelessly published books and anthologies, there are hardly handfuls that can portray rightfully the depth of what this family had gone through during the last five decades. Destiny had dictated Hasina to be at a safe distance at the time of unfolding of the great tragedy, as if to ensure not only her own return to the land of her ancestors at the right time, but also as if to ensure that with her return, justice and faith on the goodwill of human being can also make a comeback to this land of hope. If any politician in Bangladesh is in a rightful position to claim credit for making meaningful contribution in that process, it is no doubt Sheikh Hasina, and this credit should rightfully go to her despite the existence of a sharp dividing line separating those liking her from others who loath. In short, Hasina today is what Hasina represents to the world; a desired abode of hope for all of those who see hope as the last resort for their survival. This is also what the anthology in general talks about, and it talks about this aspect of her life in a very convincing way, putting aside the unnecessary debate over we like her or not.
A very personal tragedy in her life had the immense power of igniting the process of a magnificent metamorphosis, at the end of which we encounter Hasina as Hasina of today; representing our hope and aspiration at the time of colossal changes the world is going through. As a result, "Sheikh Hasina: on the Right Side of History" is destined to be a testament of our turbulent time, standing out as a single most important publication focusing on that trans-border and multi-dimensional aspects of a leader who from a reluctant torch bearer transformed herself into a symbol of new hope.
The book has also been rightfully dedicated to the lonely fallen hero who did not stay away from responding to the call of our great leader at the time of distress; and thus, sacrificing his life in the course of that futile but heroic attempt to save the life of Bangabandhu. The fact that the slain hero, Brigadier General Jamil, is also remembered in the sideline is no doubt, an added decoration to this valuable publication.
(Tokyo, November 24, 2021)
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