Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman

Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman

Bangabandhu means that Friend of Bengal. Today we will know about Bangabandhu. So let's get started...

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (17 March 1920 – 15 August 1975), often shortened as Sheikh Mujib or Mujib and widely known as Bangabandhu, was a Bengali politician, parliamentarian, diarist, and the founding leader of the People's Republic of Bangladesh. He first served as the titular President of the Provisional Government of Bangladesh between April 1971 and January 1972. He then served as Prime Minister of Bangladesh from the Awami League between January 1972 and January 1975. He finally served as President again during BAKSAL from January 1975 till his assassination in August 1975. In 2011, the 15th constitutional amendment in Bangladesh referred to Sheikh Mujib as the Father of the Nation who declared independence; these references were enshrined in the fifth, sixth, and seventh schedules of the constitution.

Mujib emerged as a student activist in Bengal during the final years of the British Raj. He rose within the ranks of the Awami League as a fiery and charismatic orator. He became popular for his opposition to the ethnic and institutional discrimination of Bengalis in Pakistan, who comprised the largest ethnic group in the federation. He was elected to public office for the first time in 1954 and championed Bengali identity in Pakistan's constitution-making process between 1955 and 1956. Mujib worked in the insurance industry on the sidelines of politics. At the heightening of tensions between East and West Pakistan, he outlined a six-point autonomy plan. He was often jailed for his protests against the Pakistani government. Mujib led the Awami League to win the first democratic election in Pakistan in 1970. Despite gaining a majority, the League was not invited by the ruling military junta to form a government. As civil disobedience erupted across East Pakistan, Mujib edged towards declaring the independence of Bangladesh in a historic speech on 7 March 1971. On 26 March 1971, Mujib declared Bangladesh's independence after the Pakistan Army responded to the mass protests with Operation Searchlight, in which Prime Minister-elect Mujib was arrested and flown to solitary confinement in West Pakistan, while the Bengali population suffered genocide. A nine-month war was fought in his name, which culminated in Pakistan's surrender on 16 December 1971. Mujib was released from Pakistani custody due to international pressure and returned home on 10 January 1972. The jubilation of Bangladeshis over the war's victory and Mujib's homecoming was tempered by the devastation and challenges faced by the new country.

Sheikh Mujib was a major populist leader of the 20th century. In governance, Mujib's legacies include the Constitution of Bangladesh, which was enacted within a year of Bangladesh's liberation; as well as the transformation of East Pakistan's state apparatus, bureaucracy, armed forces, and judiciary into an independent Bangladeshi state. He delivered the first Bengali speech to the UN General Assembly in 1974. Mujib's five-year regime was the only socialist period in Bangladesh's history. In 1975, Mujib installed a one-party state which lasted for seven months until his assassination. His legacy remains divisive among Bangladeshis due to economic mismanagement, the Bangladesh famine of 1974, human rights violations, and authoritarianism. Most Bangladeshis credit him for leading the country to independence in 1971. Many within and outside Bangladesh call him Bangabandhu out of respect. In a 2004 BBC opinion poll, Mujib was voted as the Greatest Bengali of all time and ranked first on the list followed by Rabindranath Tagore (2nd) and Kazi Nazrul Islam (3rd).

Early life and activism

Mujib was born in 1920 in the village of Tungipara in the Gopalganj sub-division of Faridpur district in the province of Bengal in British India. His father Sheikh Lutfur Rahman was a sheristadar (law clerk) in the courthouse of Gopalganj; Mujib's mother Sayera Khatun was a housewife. They were a middle-class Bengali Muslim family. Mujib was the third child in a family of four daughters and two sons. His parents nicknamed him "Khoka".

In 1927, Mujib was enrolled in Gimadanga Primary School. In 1929, he entered the third grade of Gopalganj Public School. His parents transferred him to Madaripur Islamia High School after two years. Mujib withdrew from school in 1934 to undergo eye surgery. He returned to formal education after 4 years owing to the severity of the surgery and slow recovery. He began showing signs of political leadership around this time. At the Gopalganj Missionary School, Mujib's political passion was noticed by Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy, who was visiting the area along with A. K. Fazlul Huq. Mujib passed out from the Gopalganj Missionary School in 1942. Mujib moved to Calcutta for higher education. At the time, Calcutta was the capital of British Bengal and the largest city in undivided India. He studied liberal arts, including political science, at the erstwhile Islamia College of Calcutta and lived in Baker Hostel. Islamia College was one of the leading educational institutions for the Muslims of Bengal. He obtained his bachelor's degree from the college in 1947. During his time in Calcutta, Sheikh Mujib became involved in the politics of the Bengal Provincial Muslim League, the All India Muslim Students Federation, the Indian independence movement, and the Pakistan movement. In 1943, he was elected as a councilor of the Muslim League. In 1944, he was elected as secretary of the Faridpur District Association, a Calcutta-based association of residents from Faridpur. In 1946, at the height of the Pakistani movement, Mujib was elected as General Secretary of the Islamia College Students Union in Calcutta. His political mentor Suhrawardy led the centre-left faction of the Muslim League. Suhrawardy was responsible for creating 36 trade unions in Bengal, including unions for sailors, railway workers, jute and cotton mills workers, rickshaw pullers, cart drivers, and other working-class groups. Mujib assisted Suhrawardy in these efforts and also worked to ensure protection for Muslim families during the violent days in the run-up to partition.

After the partition of India, Mujib was admitted into the Law Department of the University of Dhaka. The university was created in 1921 as a residential university modeled on Oxford and Cambridge where students would be affiliated with colleges, but its residential character was dramatically changed after partition, and students became affiliated with departments. Mujib founded the Muslim Students League on 4 January 1948 as the student wing of the Muslim League in East Bengal. This organization later transformed into the Bangladesh Chhatra League. During the visit of Governor General Muhammad Ali Jinnah to Dhaka, it was declared that Urdu will be the sole national language of Pakistan. This sparked the Bengali Language Movement. Mujib became embroiled in the language movement, as well as left-wing trade unionism among Bengali factions of the Muslim League. Bengali factions eventually split away and formed the Awami Muslim League in 1949. These opposition political activities were targeted by the government and police. Mujib was arrested many times. In 1949, Mujib was expelled from Dhaka University on charges of inciting employees against the university. After 61 years, in 2010, the university withdrew its famously politically-motivated expulsion order.

Leader of Pakistan

Mujib emerged as a major opposition figure in Pakistani politics between 1948 and 1971. He represented the Bengali grassroots. He had an uncanny ability to remember people by their first names regardless of whether they were political leaders, workers, or ordinary citizens. Mujib suffered repeated bouts of police detention due to his ability to instigate opposition protests against the Pakistani government. His movements were tracked by spies of the Pakistani government. He was accused of being a secessionist and an agent of India. East Pakistan's Intelligence Branch compiled many secret reports on his movements and political activities. The secret documents have been declassified by the Bangladeshi government. The formerly classified reports have also been published.

Founding of the Awami League

The All Pakistan Awami Muslim League was founded on 23 June 1949 at the Rose Garden mansion on K. M. Das Lane in Old Dhaka. Sheikh Mujib was elected as one of its joint secretaries. The term "Muslim" was later dropped from the party's nomenclature. The Awami League sought to represent both Muslims and Pakistan's religious minorities, including Bengali Hindus and Pakistani Christians. Hence, it dropped "Muslim" from its name to appeal to the minority vote banks. Suhrawardy joined the party within a few years and became its main leader. He relied on Sheikh Mujib to organize his political activities in East Bengal. Mujib became Suhrawardy's political protégé. Before partition, Suhrawardy mooted the idea of an independent United Bengal. But in Pakistan, Suhrawardy reportedly preferred to preserve the unity of Pakistan in a federal framework; while Mujib supported autonomy and was open to the idea of East Bengali independence. Mujib reportedly remarked that " the Bengalis had initially failed to appreciate a leader of Mr. Suhrawardy’s stature. By the time they learned to value him, they had run out of time". At the federal level, the Awami League was led by Suhrawardy. At the provincial level, the League was led by Sheikh Mujib who was given a free region over the party's activities by Suhrawardy. Mujib consolidated his control of the party. The Awami League veered away from the left-wing extremism of its founding president Maulana Bhashani. Under Suhrawardy and Mujib, the Awami League emerged as a center-left party.

Language Movement

The Awami League strongly backed the Bengali Language Movement. Bengalis argued that the Bengali language deserved to be a federal language on par with Urdu because Bengalis formed the largest ethnic group in Pakistan. The movement appealed to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan to declare both Urdu and Bengali as national languages, in addition to English. During a conference in Fazlul Huq Muslim Hall, Sheikh Mujib was instrumental in establishing the All-Party State Language Action Committee. He was repeatedly arrested during the movement. When he was released from jail in 1948, he was greeted by a rally of the State Language Struggle Committee. Mujib announced a nationwide student strike on 17 March 1948.

In early January 1950, the Awami League held an anti-famine rally in Dhaka during the visit of Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan. Mujib was arrested for instigating the protests. On 26 January 1952, Pakistan's then Prime Minister Khwaja Nazimuddin reiterated that Urdu will be the only state language. Despite his imprisonment, Mujib played a key role in organizing protests by issuing instructions from jail to students and protestors. He played a key role in declaring 21 February 1952 as a strike day. Mujib went on a hunger strike from 14 February 1952 in the prelude to the strike day. His own hunger strike lasted 13 days. On 26 February, he was released from jail amid the public outrage over police killings of protestors on 21 February, including Salam, Rafiq, Barkat, and Jabbar.

United Front

The League teamed up with other parties like the Krishak Praja Party of A. K. Fazlul Huq to form the United Front coalition. During the East Bengali legislative election, in 1954, Mujib was elected to public office for the first time. He became a member of the East Bengal Legislative Assembly. This was the first election in East Bengal since the partition of India in 1947. The Awami League-led United Front secured a landslide victory of 223 seats in the 237 seats of the provincial assembly. Mujib himself won by a margin of 13,000 votes against his Muslim League rival Wahiduzzaman in Gopalganj. A. K. Fazlul Huq became Chief Minister and inducted Mujib into his cabinet. Mujib's initial portfolios were agriculture and forestry. After taking oath on 15 May 1954, Chief Minister Huq traveled with ministers to India and West Pakistan. The coalition government was dismissed on 30 May 1954. Mujib was arrested upon his return to Dhaka from Karachi. He was released on 23 December 1954. Governor's rule was imposed in East Bengal. The elected government was eventually restored in 1955.

On 5 June 1955, Mujib was elected to a newly reconstituted second Constituent Assembly of Pakistan. The Awami League organized a huge public meeting at Paltan Maidan in Dhaka on 17 June 1955 which outlined 21 points demanding autonomy for Pakistan's provinces. Mujib was a forceful orator at the assembly in Karachi. He opposed the government's plan to rename East Bengal as East Pakistan as part of the One Unit scheme. On 25 August 1955, he delivered the following speech.

Sir [President of the Constituent Assembly], you will see that they want to use the phrase 'East Pakistan' instead of 'East Bengal'. We have demanded many times that you should use Bengal instead of Pakistan. The word Bengal has a history and tradition of its own. You can change it only after the people have been consulted. If you want to change, we have to go back to Bengal and ask them whether they are ready to accept it. So far as the question of one unit is concerned it can be incorporated into the constitution. Why do you want it to be taken up right now? What about the state language, Bengali? We are prepared to consider one unit with all these things. So, I appeal to my friends on the other side to allow the people to give their verdict in any way, in the form of a referendum or in the form plebiscite.

Mujib later became the provincial minister of commerce and industries in the cabinet of Ataur Rahman Khan. These portfolios allowed Mujib to consolidate his popularity among the working class. The Awami League's demand for Bengali as a federal language was successfully implemented in the 1956 constitution, which declared Urdu, Bengali, and English as national languages. East Bengal, however, was renamed East Pakistan. In 1957, Mujib visited the People's Republic of China. In 1958, he toured the United States as part of the State Department's International Visitor Leadership Program. Mujib resigned from the provincial cabinet to work full-time for the Awami League as a party organizer. Between 1956 and 1957, his mentor Suhrawardy served as the 5th Prime Minister of Pakistan. Suhrawardy strengthened Pakistan's relations with the United States and China. Suhrawardy was a strong supporter of Pakistan's membership in SEATO and CENTO. Suhrawardy's pro-Western foreign policy caused Maulana Bhashani to break away from the Awami League to form the National Awami Party. But Mujib remained loyal to Suhrawardy.

The 1958 Pakistani coup d'état ended Pakistan's first era of parliamentary democracy. The 1956 constitution was abolished. Martial law was imposed. General Ayub Khan emerged as the country's dictator. Many politicians were imprisoned and disqualified from holding public office, including Mujib's mentor Suhrawardy. A new constitution was introduced by Ayub Khan which curtailed universal suffrage and empowered electoral colleges to elect the country's parliament.

Mujib joined the Alpha Insurance Company in 1960. He continued to work in the insurance industry for many years.

Six point movement

Following Suhrawardy's death in 1963, Mujib became General Secretary of the All Pakistan Awami League with Nawabzada Nasrullah Khan as its titular president. The 1962 constitution introduced a presidential republic. Mujib was one of the key leaders to rally opposition to President Ayub Khan who enacted a system of electoral colleges to elect the country's parliament and president under a system known as "Basic Democracy". Universal suffrage was curtailed as part of the Basic Democracy scheme.

Mujib supported opposition candidate Fatima Jinnah against Ayub Khan in the 1965 presidential election. Fatima Jinnah, the sister of Pakistan's founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah, drew huge crowds in East Pakistan during her presidential campaign which was supported by the Combined Opposition, including the Awami League. East Pakistan was the hotbed of opposition to the dictatorship of Ayub Khan. Mujib became popular for voicing the grievances of the Bengali population, including under-representation in the military and central bureaucracy. Despite generating most of Pakistan's export earnings and customs tax revenue, East Pakistan received a smaller budget allocation than West Pakistan.

The 1965 war between India and Pakistan ended in a stalemate. The Tashkent Declaration was domestically seen as giving away Pakistan's gains to India. Ayub Khan's foreign minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto resigned from the government, formed the Pakistan Peoples Party, and exploited public discontent against the regime.

In 1965, Pakistan banned the works of Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore in state media. Censorship in state media spurred Bengali civil society groups like Chhayanaut to preserve Bengali culture. When Ayub Khan compared Bengalis to beasts, the poet Sufia Kamal retorted that "If the people are beasts then as the President of the Republic, you are the king of the beasts". The Daily Ittefaq led by Tofazzal Hossain voiced growing aspirations for democracy, autonomy, and nationalism. Economists at Dhaka University pointed to the massive reallocation of revenue to West Pakistan despite East Pakistan's role in generating most of Pakistan's export income. Rehman Sobhan paraphrased the Two-Nation Theory into the Two Economies Theory. He argued that East and West Pakistan had two fundamentally distinct economies within one country.

In 1966, Mujib put forward a 6-point plan at a national conference of opposition parties in Lahore. The city of Lahore was chosen because of its symbolism as the place where the Lahore Resolution was adopted by the Muslim League in 1940. The six points called for abolishing the Basic Democracy scheme, restoring universal suffrage, devolving federal power to the provinces of East and West Pakistan, separate fiscal, monetary, and trade policies for East and West Pakistan, and increased security spending for East Pakistan.

  1. The constitution should provide for a Federation of Pakistan in its true sense on the Lahore Resolution and the parliamentary form of government with supremacy of a legislature directly elected on the basis of the universal adult franchise.
  2. The federal government should deal with only two subjects: defense and foreign affairs, and all other residuary subjects shall be vested in the federating states.
  3. Two separate, but freely convertible currencies for two wings should be introduced; or if this is not feasible, there should be one currency for the whole country, but effective constitutional provisions should be introduced to stop the flight of capital from East to West Pakistan. Furthermore, a separate banking reserve should be established and separate fiscal and monetary policy be adopted for East Pakistan.
  4. The power of taxation and revenue collection shall be vested in the federating units and the federal center will have no such power. The Federation will be entitled to a share in the state taxes to meet its expenditures.
  5. There should be two separate accounts for the foreign exchange earnings of the two wings; the foreign exchange requirements of the federal government should be met by the two wings equally or in a ratio to be fixed; indigenous products should move free of duty between the two wings, and the constitution should empower the units to establish trade links with foreign countries.
  6. East Pakistan should have a separate paramilitary force.

Mujib's points catalyzed public support across East Pakistan, launching what historians have termed the 6-point movement – recognized as the turning point towards East and West Pakistan becoming two nations. Mujib insisted on a federal democracy and obtained broad support from the Bengali population. In 1966, Mujib was elected as President of the Awami League. Tajuddin Ahmad succeeded him as General Secretary.

Agartala Conspiracy Case

Mujib was arrested by the Pakistan Army and after two years in jail, an official sedition trial in a military court opened. Widely known as the Agartala Conspiracy Case, Mujib and 34 Bengali military officers were accused by the government of colluding with Indian government agents in a scheme to divide Pakistan and threaten its unity, order, and national security. The plot was alleged to have been planned in the city of Agartala in the bordering Indian state of Tripura. The outcry and unrest over Mujib's arrest and the charge of sedition against him destabilized East Pakistan amidst large protests and strikes. Various Bengali political and student groups added demands to address the issues of students, workers, and the poor, forming a larger "11-point plan". The government caved to the mounting pressure, dropped the charges on 22 February 1969, and unconditionally released Mujib the following day. He returned to East Pakistan as a public hero. He was given a mass reception on 23 February, at the Ramna Race Course and conferred with the popular honorary title of Bangabandhu by Tofail Ahmed. The term Bangabandhu means Friend of the Bengal in the Bengali language. Several of Bengal's historic leaders were given similar honorary titles, including Sher-e-Bangla (Lion of Bengal) for A. K. Fazlul Huq, Deshbandhu (Friend of the Nation) for Chittaranjan Das, and Netaji (The Leader) for Subhash Chandra Bose.

Round Table Conference

In 1969, President Ayub Khan convened a Round Table Conference with opposition parties to find a way out of the prevailing political impasse. A few days after his release from prison, Mujib flew to Rawalpindi to attend the Round Table Conference. Mujib sought to bargain for East Pakistan's autonomy. Mujib was the most powerful opposition leader at the Round Table Conference. Ayub Khan shook hands with Mujib, whom Khan previously had imprisoned. Talking to British media, Mujib said "East Pakistan must get full regional autonomy. It must be self-sufficient in all respects. It must get its due share and legitimate share in the central administration. The West Pakistani people support [East Pakistani demands]. Only the vested interests want to divide the people of East and West Pakistan". When asked about the prospect of East Pakistan ruling West Pakistan if the Awami League gained power, Mujib replied that majority rule is important in a democracy but the people of East Pakistan had no intention to discriminate against West Pakistan and that West Pakistani parties would continue to play an important role. Mujib toured West Pakistani cities by train after the Round Table Conference. West Pakistani crowds received him with chants of "Sheikh Saheb Zindabad!" (meaning Long Live the Sheikh!). He was received by huge crowds in Quetta, Baluchistan. He spoke to West Pakistani crowds in a heavily Bengali accent in Urdu, talking about chhey nukati (six points) and hum chhoy dofa mangta sab ke liye.

Mujib demanded that Pakistan accept his six-point plan for federal democracy. He wasn't satisfied with Ayub Khan's pledges. When he returned to Dhaka, he declared that East Pakistan should be known as Bangladesh. On 5 December 1969 Mujib made a declaration at a public meeting, held to observe the death anniversary of his mentor Suhrawardy, that henceforth East Pakistan would be called "Bangladesh":

There was a time when all efforts were made to erase the word "Bangla" from this land and its map. The existence of word "Bangla" was found nowhere except in the term Bay of Bengal. I on behalf of Pakistan announce today that this land will be called "Bangladesh" instead of East Pakistan.

Mujib's fiery rhetoric ignited Bengali nationalism and pro-independence aspirations among the masses, students, professionals, and intellectuals of East Pakistan. Many observers believed that Bengali nationalism was a rejection of Pakistan's founding Two-Nation Theory but Mujib never phrased his rhetoric in these terms. Mujib galvanized support throughout East Pakistan, which was home to most of Pakistan's population. He became one of the most powerful political figures in the Indian subcontinent. Bengalis increasingly referred to him as Bangabandhu.

1970 Election

Prior to the scheduled general election for 1970, one of the most powerful cyclones on record devastated East Pakistan, leaving half a million people dead and millions displaced. President Yahya Khan, who was flying back from China after the cyclone, viewed the devastation from the air. The ruling military junta was slow to respond with relief efforts. Newspapers in East Pakistan accused the federal government of "gross neglect, callous inattention, and bitter indifference". Mujib remarked that "We have a large army but it is left to the British Marines to bury our dead". International aid had to pour in due to the slow response of the Pakistani military regime. Bengalis were outraged at what was widely considered to be the weak and ineffective response of the federal government to the disaster. Public opinion and political parties in East Pakistan blamed the ruling military junta for the lack of relief efforts. The dissatisfaction led to divisions between East Pakistanis and West Pakistanis within the civil services, police, and Pakistani Armed Forces.

In the Pakistani general elections held on 7 December 1970, the Awami League won 167 out of 169 seats belonging to East Pakistan in the National Assembly of Pakistan, as well as a landslide in the East Pakistan Provincial Assembly. The Awami League emerged as the single largest party in the federal parliament of Pakistan. With 167 seats, it was past the halfway mark of 150 seats in the 300-member national assembly and had the right to form a government of its own. Sheikh Mujib was widely considered to be the Prime Minister-elect, including by President Yahya Khan. The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) came in second with 86 seats. The new parliament was scheduled to hold its first sitting in Dhaka, Pakistan's legislative capital under the 1962 constitution. The political crisis emerged when PPP leader Zulfikar Ali Bhutto declared that his party would boycott parliament if Mujib formed the next government. Bhutto threatened to break the legs of any West Pakistani MP-elect who accepted Mujib's mandate. However, Khan Abdul Wali Khan of the Awami National Party from North West Frontier Province was open to accepting an Awami League government and traveled to Dhaka to meet with Mujib. Many in Pakistan's establishment were opposed to Mujib becoming Pakistan's prime minister. At the time neither Mujib nor the Awami League had explicitly advocated political independence for East Pakistan, but smaller nationalist groups were demanding independence for Bangladesh.

Both Bhutto and Yahya Khan traveled to Dhaka for negotiations with the Awami League. Mujib's delegation included the notable lawyer and constitutional expert, Kamal Hossain. The Bengali negotiating position is extensively discussed in Kamal Hossain's autobiography Bangladesh: Quest for Freedom and Justice. The Pakistani government was represented by former chief justice Alvin Robert Cornelius. At the InterContinental Dhaka, Bengali chefs refused to cook food for Yahya Khan. Governor Sahabzada Yaqub Khan requested the Awami League to end the strike of the chefs at the InterContinental Hotel.

Bhutto feared civil war and sent a secret message to Mujib and his inner circle to arrange a meeting with them. Mubashir Hassan met with Mujib and persuaded him to form a coalition government with Bhutto. They decided that Bhutto would serve as president, with Mujib as Prime Minister. These developments took place secretly and no Pakistan Armed Forces personnel were kept informed. Meanwhile, Bhutto increased the pressure on Yahya Khan to take a stand on dissolving the government.

More about Sheikh Mujibur Rahman click here:- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sheikh_Mujibur_Rahman

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