|Sheikh Mujibur Rahman
শেখ মুজিবুর রহমান
11 April 1971 – 12 January 1972
|Prime Minister||Tajuddin Ahmad|
|Preceded by||Position established|
|Succeeded by||Nazrul Islam (Acting)|
25 January 1975 – 15 August 1975
|Prime Minister||Muhammad Mansur Ali|
|Preceded by||Mohammad Mohammadullah|
|Succeeded by||Khondaker Mostaq Ahmad|
|Prime Minister of Bangladesh|
12 January 1972 – 24 January 1975
|President||Abu Sayeed Chowdhury
|Preceded by||Tajuddin Ahmad|
|Succeeded by||Muhammad Mansur Ali|
|Born||17 March 1920
Tungipara, British Raj (now Bangladesh)
|Died||15 August 1975 (aged 55)
|Political party||Bangladesh Krishak Sramik Awami League (1975)|
|All-India Muslim League (Before 1949)
Awami League (1949–1975)
|Alma mater||Maulana Azad College
University of Dhaka
A student political leader, Mujib rose in East Pakistani politics and within the ranks of the Awami League as a charismatic and forceful orator. Though he was an insurance company broker in occupation Mujib became popular for his leadership against the ethnic and institutional discrimination of Bengalis. He demanded increased provincial autonomy, and became a fierce opponent of the military rule of Ayub Khan. At the heightening of sectional tensions, Mujib outlined a six-point autonomy plan, which was seen as separatism in West Pakistan. He was tried in 1968 for allegedly conspiring with the Indian government but was not found guilty. Despite leading his party to a major victory in the 1970 elections, Mujib was not invited to form the government.
After talks broke down with President Yahya Khan and West Pakistani politician Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Sheikh Mujib on 26 March 1971 announced the declaration of independence of East Pakistan and announced the establishment of the sovereign People's Republic of Bangladesh. Subsequently he was arrested and tried by a military court. During his nine month detention, guerrilla war erupted between government forces and Bengali nationalists aided by India. An all out war between the Pakistan Army and Bangladesh-India Joint Forces led to the establishment of Bangladesh, and after his release Mujib assumed office as a provisional president, and later prime minister. Even as a constitution was adopted, proclaiming socialism and a secular democracy, Mujib struggled to address the challenges of intense poverty and unemployment, coupled with rampant corruption. In the aftermath of the 1974 famine and amidst rising political agitation, he banned other political parties and most of the newspapers but four Government owned. He established a one party state. After only seven months, Mujib was assassinated along with most of his family by a group of army officers.
Early lifeRahman was born in Tungipara, a village in Gopalganj District in the province of Bengal, to Sheikh Lutfur Rahman, a serestadar, an officer responsible for record-keeping at the Gopalganj civil court. He was the third child in a family of four daughters and two sons. In 1929, Rahman entered into class three at Gopalganj Public School, and two years later, class four at Madaripur Islamia High School. However, Mujib was withdrawn from school in 1934 to undergo eye surgery, and returned to school only after four years, owing to the severity of the surgery and slow recovery. At the age of eighteen, Mujib married Begum Fazilatnnesa. She gave birth to their two daughters—Sheikh Hasina and Sheikh Rehana—and three sons—Sheikh Kamal, Sheikh Jamal and Sheikh Russel.
Mujib became politically active when he joined the All India Muslim Students Federation in 1940. He enrolled at the Islamia College (now Maulana Azad College), a well-respected college affiliated to the University of Calcutta to study law and entered student politics there. He joined the Bengal Muslim League in 1943 and grew close to the faction led by Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy, a leading Bengali Muslim leader. During this period, Mujib worked actively for the League's cause of a separate Muslim state of Pakistan and in 1946 he was elected general secretary of the Islamia College Students Union. After obtaining his degree in 1947, Mujib was one of the Muslim politicians working under Suhrawardy during the communal violence that broke out in Calcutta, in 1946, just before the partition of India.
Early political careerMujib launched his political career, leaving the Muslim League to join Suhrawardy and Maulana Bhashani in the formation of the Awami Muslim League, the predecessor of the Awami League. He was elected joint secretary of its East Pakistan unit in 1949. While Suhrawardy worked to build a larger coalition of East Pakistani and socialist parties, Mujib focused on expanding the grassroots organisation. In 1951, Mujib began organising protests and rallies in response to the killings by police of students who had been protesting against the declaration of Urdu as the sole national language. This period of turmoil, later to be known as the Bengali Language Movement, saw Mujib and many other Bengali politicians arrested. In 1953, he was made the party's general secretary, and elected to the East Bengal Legislative Assembly on a United Front coalition ticket in 1954. Serving briefly as the minister for agriculture during A. K. Fazlul Huq's government, Mujib was briefly arrested for organizing a protest of the central government's decision to dismiss the United Front ministry. He was elected to the second Constituent Assembly of Pakistan and served from 1955 to 1958. During a speech in the assembly on the proposed plan to dissolve the provinces in favour of an amalgamated West Pakistan and East Pakistan with a powerful central government, Mujib demanded that the Bengali people's ethnic identity be respected and that a popular verdict should decide the question:
"Sir [President of the Constituent Assembly], you will see that they want to place the word "East Pakistan" instead of "East Bengal." We had demanded so many times that you should use Bengal instead of Pakistan. The word "Bengal" has a history, has a tradition of its own. You can change it only after the people have been consulted. So far as the question of one unit is concerned it can come in the constitution. Why do you want it to be taken up just now? What about the state language, Bengali? We will be prepared to consider one-unit with all these things. So I appeal to my friends on that side to allow the people to give their verdict in any way, in the form of referendum or in the form of plebiscite."In 1956, Mujib entered a second coalition government as minister of industries, commerce, labour, anti-corruption and village aid, but resigned in 1957 to work full-time for the party organization. When General Ayub Khan suspended the constitution and imposed martial law in 1958, Mujib was arrested for organising resistance and imprisoned till 1961. After his release from prison, Mujib started organising an underground political body called the Swadhin Bangal Biplobi Parishad (Free Bangla Revolutionary Council), comprising student leaders in order to oppose the regime of Ayub Khan and to work for increased political power for Bengalis and the independence of East Pakistan. He was briefly arrested again in 1962 for organising protests.
Leader of East Pakistan
Unrest over continuing denial of democracy spread across Pakistan and Mujib intensified his opposition to the disbandment of provinces. In 1966, Mujib proclaimed a 6-point plan titled Our Charter of Survival at a national conference of opposition political parties at Lahore, in which he demanded self-government and considerable political, economic and defence autonomy for East Pakistan in a Pakistani federation with a weak central government. According to his plan:
Mujib's points catalysed public support across East Pakistan, launching what some historians have termed the 6 point movement — recognized as the definitive gambit for autonomy and rights of Bengalis in Pakistan. Mujib obtained the broad support of Bengalis, including the Hindu and other religious communities in East Pakistan. However, his demands were considered radical in West Pakistan and interpreted as thinly-veiled separatism. The proposals alienated West Pakistani people and politicians, as well as non-Bengalis and Muslim fundamentalists in East Pakistan.
- 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 universal adult franchise.
- The federal government should deal with only two subjects: defence and foreign affairs, and all other residuary subjects shall be vested in the federating states.
- 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.
- The power of taxation and revenue collection shall be vested in the federating units and the federal centre will have no such power. The federation will be entitled to a share in the state taxes to meet its expenditures.
- 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.
- East Pakistan should have a separate militia or paramilitary forces.
Mujib was arrested by the 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 Indian state of Tripura. The outcry and unrest over Mujib's arrest and the charge of sedition against him destabilised 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 charged and unconditionally released Mujib. He returned to East Pakistan as a public hero.
Joining an all-parties conference convened by Ayub Khan in 1969, Mujib demanded the acceptance of his six points and the demands of other political parties and walked out following its rejection. On December 5, 1969 Mujib made a declaration at a public meeting held to observe the death anniversary of 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 the 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 declaration heightened tensions across the country. The West Pakistani politicians and the military began to see him as a separatist leader. His assertion of Bengali cultural and ethnic identity also re-defined the debate over regional autonomy. Many scholars and observers believed the Bengali agitation emphasized the rejection of the Two-Nation Theory — the case upon which Pakistan had been created — by asserting the ethno-cultural identity of Bengalis as a nation. Mujib was able to galvanise support throughout East Pakistan, which was home to a majority of the national population, thus making him one of the most powerful political figures in the Indian subcontinent. It was following his 6-point plan that Mujib was increasingly referred to by his supporters as "Bangabandhu" (literally meaning "Friend of Bengal" in
1970 elections and independence
Liberation War, 1971Following political deadlock, Yahya Khan delayed the convening of the assembly — a move seen by Bengalis as a plan to deny Mujib's party, which formed a majority, from taking charge. It was on March 7, 1971 that Mujib called for independence and asked the people to launch a major campaign of civil disobedience and organised armed resistance at a mass gathering of people held at the Race Course Ground in Dhaka.
Following a last ditch attempt to foster agreement, Yahya Khan declared martial law, banned the Awami League and ordered the army to arrest Mujib and other Bengali leaders and activists. The army launched Operation Searchlight to curb the political and civil unrest, fighting the nationalist militias that were believed to have received training in India. Speaking on radio even as the army began its crackdown, Mujib asked his fellows to create resistance against Pakiskani Army of occupation by a telegraph at midnight on March 26, 1971:
Governing BangladeshMujibur Rahman briefly assumed the provisional presidency and later took office as the prime minister, heading all organs of government and decision-making. In doing so, he dismissed Tajuddin Ahmad following a controversial intra-party power struggle that had occurred during Mujib's incarceration. The politicians elected in 1970 formed the provisional parliament of the new state. The Mukti Bahini and other militias amalgamated to form a new Bangladeshi army to which Indian forces transferred control on March 17. Mujib described the fallout of the war as the "biggest human disaster in the world," claiming the deaths of as many as 3 million people and the rape of more than 200,000 women. The government faced serious challenges, which including the rehabilitation of millions of people displaced in 1971, organising the supply of food, health aids and other necessities. The effects of the 1970 cyclone had not worn off, and the state's economy had immensely deteriorated by the conflict. There was also violence against non-Bengalis and groups who were believed to have assisted the Pakistani forces. By the end of the year, thousands of Bengalis arrived from Pakistan, and thousands of non-Bengalis migrated to Pakistan; and yet many thousands remained in refugee camps.
After Bangladesh achieved recognition from major countries, Mujib helped Bangladesh enter into the United Nations and the Non-Aligned Movement. He travelled to the United States, the United Kingdom and other European nations to obtain humanitarian and developmental assistance for the nation. He signed a treaty of friendship with India, which pledged extensive economic and humanitarian assistance and began training Bangladesh's security forces and government personnel. Mujib forged a close friendship with Indira Gandhi, strongly praising India's decision to intercede, and professed admiration and friendship for India. But the Indian government did not remain in close cooperation with Bangladesh during Mujib's lifetime.
He charged the provisional parliament to write a new constitution, and proclaimed the four fundamental principles of "nationalism, secularism, democracy and socialism," which would come to be known as "Mujibism." Mujib nationalised hundreds of industries and companies as well as abandoned land and capital and initiated land reform aimed at helping millions of poor farmers. Major efforts were launched to rehabilitate an estimated 10 million refugees. The economy began recovering and a famine was prevented. A constitution was proclaimed in 1973 and elections were held, which resulted in Mujib and his party gaining power with an absolute majority. He further outlined state programmes to expand primary education, sanitation, food, healthcare, water and electric supply across the country. A five-year plan released in 1973 focused state investments into agriculture, rural infrastructure and cottage industries.
Although the state was committed to secularism, Mujib soon began moving closer to political Islam through state policies as well as personal conduct. He revived the Islamic Academy (which had been banned in 1972 for suspected collusion with Pakistani forces) and banned the production and sale of alcohol and banned the practice of gambling, which had been one of the major demands of Islamic groups. Mujib sought Bangladesh's membership in the Organisation of the Islamic Conference and the Islamic Development Bank and made a significant trip to Lahore in 1974 to attend the OIC summit, which helped repair relations with Pakistan to an extent. In his public appearances and speeches, Mujib made increased usage of Islamic greetings, slogans and references to Islamic ideologies. In his final years, Mujib largely abandoned his trademark "Joy Bangla" salutation for "Khuda Hafez" preferred by religious Muslims. He also declared a common amnesty to the suspected war criminals in some conditions to get the support of far right groups as the communists were not happy with Mujib's regime. He declared, " I believe that the brokers, who assisted the Pakistanis during the liberation war has realized their faults. I hope they will involve themselves in the development of the country forgetting all their misdeeds. Those who were arrested and jailed in the Collaborator act should be freed before the 16 December 1974.".
In 1974, Bangladesh experienced the deadliest famine ever, which killed around 1.5 million Bangladeshi people from hunger. The Bangladesh famine of 1974 is a major source of discontent against Mujib's government. Bangladeshi people feel ashamed, insulted and demoralised as a nation for this famine that was not due to a food crisis but, according to Amartya Sen, but due instead to the lack of governance and democratic practices.
BAKSALMujib's government soon began encountering increased dissatisfaction and unrest. His programmes of nationalisation and industrial socialism suffered from lack of trained personnel, inefficiency, rampant corruption and poor leadership. Mujib focused almost entirely on national issues and thus neglected local issues and government. The party and central government exercised full control and democracy was weakened, with virtually no elections organised at the grass roots or local levels. Political opposition included communists as well as Islamic fundamentalists, who were angered by the declaration of a secular state. Mujib was criticized for nepotism in appointing family members to important positions. A famine in 1974 further intensified the food crisis, and devastated agriculture — the mainstay of the economy. Intense criticism of Mujib arose over lack of political leadership, a flawed pricing policy, and rising inflation amidst heavy losses suffered by the nationalised industries. Mujib's ambitious social programmes performed poorly, owing to scarcity of resources, funds and personnel, and caused unrest amongst the masses.
The 1974 famine had personally shocked Mujib and profoundly affected his views on governance, while political unrest gave rise to increasing violence. In response, he began increasing his powers. On January 25, 1975 Mujib declared a state of emergency and his political supporters approved a constitutional amendment banning all opposition political parties. Mujib assumed the presidency and was given extraordinary powers. His political supporters amalgamated to form the only legalised political party, the Bangladesh Krishak Sramik Awami League, commonly known by its initials—BAKSAL. The party identified itself with the rural masses, farmers and labourers and took control of government machinery. It also launched major socialist programmes. Using government forces and a militia of supporters called the Jatiyo Rakkhi Bahini, Mujib oversaw the arrest of opposition activists and strict control of political activities across the country. Members of Jatiyo Rakkhi Bahini were granted immunity from prosecution and other legal proceedings. The militia known as RakhiBahini and police were accused of torturing suspects and political killings. While retaining support from many segments of the population, Mujib evoked anger amongst veterans of the liberation war for what was seen as a betrayal of the causes of democracy and civil rights.
Criticism and legacy
It was Bhutto, not Mujib, who broke Pakistan. Bhutto's stance in 1971 and his stubbornness harmed Pakistan's solidarity much more than Sheikh Mujib's six-point demand. It was his high ambitions and rigid stance that led to rebellion in East Pakistan. He riled up the Bengalis and brought an end to Pakistan's solidarity. East Pakistan broke away.Several historians regard Mujib as a rabble-rousing, charismatic leader who galvanised the nationalist struggle but proved inept in governing the country. During his tenure as Bangladesh's leader, Muslim religious leaders and politicians intensely criticized Mujib's adoption of state secularism. He alienated some segments of nationalists and the military, who feared Bangladesh would come to depend upon India and become a satellite state by taking extensive aid from the Indian government and allying Bangladesh with India on many foreign and regional affairs. Mujib's imposition of one-party rule and suppression of political opposition alienated large segments of the population and derailed Bangladesh's experiment with democracy for many decades.
Following his death, succeeding governments offered low-key commemorations of Mujib, and his public image was restored only with the election of an Awami League government led by his daughter Sheikh Hasina in 1996. August 15 is commemorated as "National Mourning Day," mainly by Awami League supporters. He remains the paramount icon of the Awami League, which continues to profess Mujib's ideals of socialism. Mujib is widely admired by scholars and in Bengali communities in India and across the world for denouncing the military rule and that what he maintained was 'ethnic discrimination in Pakistan', and for leading the Bengali struggle for rights and liberty. In a 2004 poll conducted on the worldwide listeners of BBC's Bengali radio service, Mujib was voted the "Greatest Bengali of All Time" beating out Rabindranath Tagore and others.