Follow Us On:
Sheikh Mujib-ur-Rehman (1922-1975)
The founder of Bangladesh, Sheikh Mujib-ur-Rehman was born on March 22, 1922, in Faridpur, a village in the province of Bengal. Right from the beginning, he had an aptitude for politics. He had a very strong political talent and was a gifted orator who could enthrall all sorts of crowds with his enthusiastic speeches. After passing his matriculation exam at a local school he got admission to Islamia College as a law student. In 1940 he entered student politics and joined the All India Muslim Students Federation. Later in 1943 he joined the Muslim League and became a close aid of Hussain Shaheed Suhrawardy. He played an active role in the League’s struggle for the independence of Pakistan. After becoming a lawyer in 1947 he actively worked with Suhrawardy and other Bengali Muslim Leaguers to curtail the communal violence in Calcutta.
Politics in East Bengal
After the emergence of Pakistan, he founded the East Pakistan Muslim Students League and proved himself to be one of the major student politicians at that time. A Bengali nationalist in him, made him think more about the rights of Bengalis than the future of Pakistan after the independence in 1947. In March 1948 when Quaid-i-Azam visited East Bengal and declared that Urdu would be the national language of Pakistan, Mujib tried to protest. However, he failed to gain much support against the people’s favorite leader.
After the death of Quaid-i-Azam, due to the wrong policies of the establishment in Pakistan, the idea of Bengali nationalism gained roots in East Bengal. On 24 June 1949 many Bengali Muslim Leaguers including Maulana Bhashai and Fazlul Haq founded a new political party called the East Pakistan Awami Muslim League. Mujib was first nominated as the Joint Secretary and was later made the General Secretary of the party. In 1950, Suhrawardy launched a party called All Pakistan Awami Muslim League and Mujib worked closely with him in organizing this new party. From the platform of the party, he was elected to the East Bengal Legislative Assembly in 1954. He was also nominated by the East Bengal assembly as a member of the Second Constituent Assembly of Pakistan. When Martial Law was enforced by Ayub Khan in 1958, Mujib opposed it and as a result, was arrested and imprisoned for a year and a half. He again opposed the unconstitutional composition of the Constitution of 1962 and was once again sent behind the bars.
With the death of Suhrawardy and Khawaja Nazimuddin during 1963-64, Bengali politics, on the whole, came in the hands of Mujib. Under his leadership, Awami League had emerged as the most prominent party of East Bengal. During the elections of 1965, he joined hands with the parties opposing Ayub Khan and played an important role in the formation of the Combined Opposition Party. He and his party launched the campaign of Fatima Jinnah in East Bengal during her elections against the Military General, Field Marshal Ayub Khan. Fatima gained more votes from East Bengal than West Pakistan. He was elected as the Member of the National Assembly and always opposed the activities of the Pakistani establishment in the house. During the War of 1965, he supported Pakistani forces against India.
Dismemberment of Pakistan
Mujib attended the conference called by Choudhary Muhammad Ali at Lahore in 1966 to condemn Ayub for singing the Tashkent Declaration. It was in this meeting where he presented his famous six points for the first time. Since the agenda of the meeting was different, he was asked to focus on the main agenda and not deviate from it. Mujib gave the wrong interpretation to the point presented by the West Pakistani leaders and claimed that his six points were not discussed because the leaders of West Pakistan were interested in giving the Bengalis their basic rights. He left the meeting saying that once again Bengal was being ignored and treated as an indifferent subject by the western wing. Thereafter he published his Six-Point Program that demanded a great deal of autonomy for East Bengal in particular.
After the publication of the Six-Points, he traveled around Bengal to muster the support of the people in favor of the autonomy elaborated in his Six-Point formula. In April Mujib demanded from the government to conduct a nationwide referendum on his Six-Point Program and alleged that East Bengal was being exploited by the West wing and the foreign exchange which was earned due to the export of jute was being utilized to feed the army. He was arrested on April 19, 1966, in Jessore under the Defence of the Pakistan Rules but was bailed out soon. Ayub, who always wanted to handle the political issues with an iron hand, ordered again for his arrest. On 7 May his trial began in Sylhet Jail and nearly after 21 months he was charged with Agartala Conspiracy. It was disclosed that Mujeeb along with 28 East Pakistanis, including military officials and civil servants, visited Agartala in the Indian state of Tripura and planned a conspiracy of the dismemberment of Pakistan. However, when protests started against Ayub Khan, he withdrew this case and all the accused including Mujib were released. On Mujib’s arrival to his province, he was hailed as a hero of the Bengali people.
When the floods and cyclones hit East Bengal in 1970, Mujib was not satisfied with the performance of the Government and declared that the West Pakistanis treated them as a colony. In the elections of 1970, he presented his six-point agenda as the manifesto of the Awami League. During the election campaign, the speeches of Mujib reflected more and more pro-Bengali and anti-Pakistan ideas. However, he managed to win over the sympathies of the Bengali masses and his party managed to win 162 out of 165 general seats reserved for East Bengal. After the elections, the president was supposed to give a date for the first session of the National Assembly but the AL and the PPP failed to abridge their differences on the Six-Point Formula. Yahya twice requested Mujib to come to Islamabad for resolving their differences but Mujib adamantly refused. To end the political deadlock Yahya had to visit Mujib himself but it was all in vain. Mujib didn’t move even an inch from his rigid stance.
Mujib, with the help of India, launched Mukti Bahini, a militant wing to fight against Pakistan Army to achieve independence from Pakistan. When the situation became out of control, Yahya decided to launch a military action, and Mujib-ur-Rehman, who had announced a parallel government in East Pakistan, was sent to jail in West Pakistan. Meanwhile, India intervened; the evil intrusion of the Indian army under the command of Lieutenant-General Jagjit Singh Aurora was warmly welcomed by the Mukti Bahini and the followers of Mujib in East Bengal. After a brief resistance of 18 days, the Pakistan army surrendered 93,000 soldiers, and officers were taken to India as Prisoners of War. Pakistan was divided into two as East Bengal declared its independence and Bangladesh emerged on the map of the world.
Prime Minister of Bangladesh
Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, who assumed the power in remaining Pakistan, surrendered to the international pressure and released Mujib on January 8, 1972. He was sent to Dhaka via London and New Delhi. He was given protocol at both places as had a meeting with British Prime Minister, Edward Hearth in London and was warmly welcomed by the President, Prime Minister, and the entire Indian cabinet at New Delhi. On his arrival at Dhaka he we received by a huge crowd, all of whom considered him as their hero and rescuer.
For a short period, Mujib assumed the charge as the President of Bangladesh and then he became the country’s first Prime Minister. Candidates elected in the elections of 1970 from East Pakistan took oath as the members of the provisional legislative assembly and the Awami League under the leadership of Mujib was now in office. The people of Bangladesh were expecting a revolutionary change in their lives after their liberation, for which they had paid a big price. However, Mujib as the Chief executive of the country failed badly to meet the expectations of his people and could not provide good governance to the newly established state. His over-ambitious social programs had little success. Though he raised the slogan of secularism he soon started presenting moves that could take the country towards Islamization. The revival of the Islamic Academy, ban on alcohol and gambling and membership of OIC and Islamic Development Bank are a case in point. Most of his programs failed because of a lack of trained manpower and the centralization of power. To add to his miseries, a famine broke out in the country in 1974 which resulted in the death of a huge number and the destruction of the economy of the county.
Mujib, who a couple of years ago was considered as the father of the nation by the overwhelming majority of people living in East Bengal, lost popularity at a fast pace. His desire to dominate the affairs of the country and habit of not tolerating the difference of opinion became the main causes of his decline. According to the reports he was accused of killing thousands of his opponents. On January 25, 1975, he declared a state of emergency in Bangladesh and his party in the assembly amended the constitution in which they banned all the opposition parties and enhanced the political powers of Mujib. To rescue the people of Bangladesh, some junior officers of his army, backed by his close aides including Khondaker Mostaq attacked Mujib’s residence on August 15, 1975. They destroyed by building by bombarding the house and killing their “Bangabandhu” alongside his family and his personal staff. His daughters Sheikh Hasina and Sheikh Rehana, who were out of the country were the only survivors.