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Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was born in the village of Tungipara under the then Gopalganj Subdivision (now District) of the then Faridpur District on March 17, 1920. His father Sheikh Lutfar Rahman and his mother Sheikh Sayera Khatun had four daughters and two sons. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was their third child. His parents used to adoringly call him “Khoka”.
At the age of seven in 1927, Sheikh Mujib began his schooling at Gimadanga Primary School. At nine, he was admitted to class three at Gopalgonj Public School. Subsequently, he was admitted to Gopalgonj Missionary School. Before becoming active in student movements and politics, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had an affinity toward sports like any other teenager. He possessed a special love for football. A talented football player, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman spent his adolescent years playing in competitive tournaments, where he received awards for his outstanding performances.
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman married Sheikh Fazilatunnesa (Renu). Together they had two daughters, Sheikh Hasina and Sheikh Rehana, and three sons, Sheikh Kamal, Sheikh Jamal and Sheikh Russel.
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman passed Matriculation examination from Gopalganj Missionary School. The same year he got himself admitted into the Islamia College (currently Maulana Azad College), Kolkata. From there he completed his graduation in the year 1947.
In 1943, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was elected councillor of All India Muslim League from Bengal. He continued to serve admirably in this position till the partition of India in 1947.
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was elected uncontested as the General Secretary of Islamia College Students Union. During the communal riots of Kolkata known as ‘The Great Calcutta Killing’ on August 16, 1946, he engaged himself in maintaining peace and communal harmony, saving lives of many a member of both Hindu and Muslim communities even at the risk of his own life.
Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman joined Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy’s move for a United Independent Bengal as a third free state along with India and Pakistan. However, the move was aborted and subsequently became the foundations of the Father of the Nation’s vision for an independent Bangladesh. Unlike many others, he did not rush into East Bengal (Pakistan) immediately after Partition, rather stayed over in Calcutta for a few weeks, joining Mahatma Gandhi’s Peace Mission along with his political mentor Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy.
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman took admission in the Department of Law at the University of Dhaka. He founded the East Pakistan Muslim Students’ League, the first opposition student organization in Pakistan on January 4. He rose in spontaneous protest on February 23 when Chief Minister Khawaja Nazimuddin declared in the Constituent Assembly: ‘The people of East Pakistan must accept Urdu as their state language.’ Sheikh Mujib immediately plunged himself in overt activities to build a strong movement against the Muslim League’s resolve to make Urdu the only state language of Pakistan. On March 2, a meeting held at Fazlul Huq Muslim Hall approved a resolution placed by Sheikh Mujib to form an All-Party State Language Action Committee. He was arrested along with some political workers on March 11 while they were picketing in front of secretariat building in observance of the `State Language Bangla Day.’ The student community of the country became restive following his arrest. In the face of overpowering student protests, the Muslim League government was forced to release Sheikh Mujib and other student leaders on March 15.
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman extended his support to a movement of the Class 4 employees of the University of Dhaka aimed at realizing their rights and job security. He was arrested on April 19 from the Vice-Chancellor’s residence, where he along with some students had assembled for a demonstration. On June 23, the East Pakistan Awami Muslim League (present Awami League) was founded and he was elected as the joint Secretary whilst in prison.
On January 26, the then Prime Minister of Pakistan Khawaja Nazimuddin declared at a public meeting in the Paltan Maidan that Urdu would be the only state language of Pakistan. While in captivity, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman stayed in constant touch with those waging the movement to realize Bangla as one of the state languages. He issued key directives to make the movement a success even from the confines of his prison. On February 16, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman started a hunger strike unto death that lasted for 11 days and was released on February 27. On February 21, the agitated students came out on strike in order to press hard their demand to make Bangla as one of the state languages of Pakistan in defiance of the curfew enforced by the authorities. Salam, Barkat, Rafiq, Jabbar, Shafiur and many others were martyred when the police fired on a rally. In a statement released from the jail, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman expressed deep sorrow for those who lost their lives and continued protesting against the unjust police firing through hunger strike. The same year he visited China to attend World Peace Conference, where he delivered a resounding speech in Bangla, taking the cause of the mother language movement to a global audience.
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was elected General Secretary of the Awami Muslim League at its council meeting and continued to gain prominence as a Bengali leader.
The first elections in East Bengal were held on March 10. The United Front won 223 seats out of 237 Muslim reserved seats. The Awami League alone obtained 143 seats. Sheikh Mujib won the election from the Gopalganj constituency and took oath on May 15 as Minister for Co-operative and Agricultural Development in the new provincial government. The central government arbitrarily dismissed the United Front cabinet on May 30, and as Mujib landed back in Dhaka from Karachi the same day, he was immediately arrested. He was released on December 23.
Under the leadership of the Party General Secretary Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the Awami Muslim League was renamed as the Awami League by dropping the word ‘Muslim’ to open the doors of the party to all, regardless of religion. This decision was made at the council session of the party during October 21-23, 1955. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was once again elected as the General Secretary of the party in the Council.
In September Sheikh Mujibur Rahman joined the provincial Awami League government headed by Khan Ataur Rahman as a minister. He remained in this position for 9 months only. Sheikh Mujib voluntarily resigned on May 30, 1957 from the Cabinet in order to continue as the General Secretary of the party to build the organization on a firm footing as a platform of the Bengalis.
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was re-elected as the General Secretary of the Party at its council meeting held during June 13-14, 1957. From June 24 to July 13, he visited China on an official tour.
On October 7, Major General Iskander Mirza took over power as President of the country imposing Martial Law and banning all political activities. Three weeks later he was toppled by the army chief General Ayub Khan and ousted him from the country. Meanwhile on October 11 Mujib was arrested. Thereafter, he was continuously harassed in false cases. He was released from prison after fourteen months but was arrested immediately at the jail gate.
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was released from jail after the high court declared his detention unlawful. He set up an underground network called `Swadhin Bangla Biplobi Parishad’ (Revolutionary Council for Independent Bangladesh) comprising leading student leaders in order to work for the independence of Bangladesh.
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was again arrested by the Ayub government on February 6, 1962. He was freed on June 18 following the withdrawal of the four-year-long martial law on June 2. He travelled to Lahore on September 24 and with Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy and other opposition parties formed the National Democratic Front (NDF).
On January 25, a special meeting of the party leaders including Presidents and Secretaries of the district committees was held at Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s Dhanmondi 32 residence. In this meeting, the decision was taken to leave the National Democratic Front (NDF) and revive the activities of the Awami League at its council meeting during March 6-8, proposals containing the right of the general people of the country to vote and elect their own parliamentary government were accepted. In the same meeting, Maulana Abdur Rashid Tarkabagish and Sheikh Mujibur Rahman were elected President and General Secretary respectively. As a communal riot broke out in East Pakistan during 1964, a strong Riot Resistance Committee was formed under the initiative of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. He made a clarion call to the people to stand up and resist the communal forces. After the riots, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman took the initiative to prepare for a united movement against the then Pakistani military dictator General Ayub Khan. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was arrested 14 days before the 1965 presidential election.
The Pakistani government charged Sheikh Mujibur Rahman with sedition and for making a ‘so called’ objectionable statements. He was sentenced to one-year imprisonment and was released by an order of the high court.
On February 5, 1966, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman presented his historic six-point programme known as the `charter of freedom of the Bengali nation’. It drew the roadmap for the independence of Bangladesh under the garb of greater autonomy. The programme hit hard at the roots of Pakistani colonial rule over the Bengalis. In the Council Meeting held during March 18-20, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was elected the President of Awami League. He travelled far and wide in order to gain support for his 6-Point programme and was arrested 8 times, during the campaign, leading the regime to arrest him finally on May 8, 1966. He was imprisoned for nearly 3 years during this time.
On January 3, the Ayub government filed a case, known as the ‘Agartala Conspiracy Case’ against a number of Bengalis (Politicians, members of the Army, Navy and Air Forces, Civil Servants etc) on the charge of treason. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was shown arrested on January 18, while already in jail. He was made number 1 accused and the official name of the case was ‘The State vs Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Others’. Along with him, 34 others were implicated in the case, bringing the charge of forced secession of East Bengal with the assistance of India. Mass movement spread across the country demanding the release of all the accused including Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. On June 19, the trial of the accused began at Dhaka Kurmitola Cantonment under intense security and scrutiny.
The Agartala Conspiracy Case resulted in a nationwide student movement and mass upsurge demanding the withdrawal of the case and the release of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. With continued pressure from the public, the Ayub Khan government on February 22 was forced to withdraw the Agartala Conspiracy Case and release Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and others. Afterwards, Sheikh Mujib was awarded with the title ‘Bangabandhu’ at a reception of millions of students and masses in a mammoth public meeting organized by Central Student Action Committee at the Race Course (now Suhrawardy Udyan) on February 23. At a discussion meeting held on December 5 to observe the death anniversary of Shaheed Suhrawardy, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman declared that henceforth East Pakistan would be called Bangladesh.
Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the Awami League President, urged his countrymen to elect Awami League candidates on the basis of the 6-point demand in the country’s first general elections held on December 7 (National Assembly), and December 17 (Provincial Assembly), barring few seats in the cyclone affected coastal areas in the south. He chose ‘boat’ as the symbol to represent Awami League and the nation’s hope. When a million people died in a catastrophic cyclone in the coastal areas on November 12, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman suspended the election campaign and rushed to the affected areas. Awami League achieved absolute majority in the general elections on December 7, winning 167 (including 7 women reserved seats) out of the 169 seats of the National Assembly in East Pakistan and 298 seats (including 10 women reserved seats) of the 310 seats of the Provincial Assembly of East Pakistan.
Following general Yahya khan’s postponement of the National Assembly session on March 1, 1971, only two days before the session was due to take place, every section of the Bengalis instantaneously came out onto the streets in massive demonstrations. The Bengalis’ aspirations for freedom reached an indomitable height. From March 1 onward Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was virtually running East Pakistan as its de-facto head of government. On March 7, in his historic speech before the millions of people at the Racecourse Maidan (Suhrawardy Udyan), Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman called his fellow countrymen to take all out preparations for the war of liberation and independence of Bangladesh. In this grave situation Pakistan’s President General Yahya Khan came to Dhaka and held a series of meetings with Sheikh Mujibur Rahman between March 16 and March 24, none of which brought about any resolution. On the midnight of March 25, the Pakistan army launched its heinous campaign of genocide against the unarmed Bengalis. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman proclaimed the Independence of Bangladesh in the early hours of March 26. Right after the proclamation, he was arrested and taken to a Pakistani prison. On April 10, 1971, the first government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh was formed, and Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was elected as President by the constituent assembly. Syed Nazrul Islam was elected Vice President and acting President in the absence of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Tajuddin Ahmed as Prime Minister. The government took oath of office on April 17 at a famous mango garden (Amrakanan) of Baidyanathtala in Meherpur, which is now known as Mujibnagar. After nine months of bloody war Bangladesh was liberated with the surrender of Pakistan occupation army on December 16, 1971. During August & September of 1971, the Pakistan Junta held a secret trial of Bangabandhu and sentenced him to death. The freedom loving people of the world was enraged and demanded the security of the President of Bangladesh. On December 27, the Bangladesh government sought Mujib’s immediate and unconditional release.
The Government of Pakistan was forced to release Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on January 8, under immense international pressure. On that very day, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman traveled to London on his way to Dhaka. There at a crowded press conference in his hotel in London, he spoke to the world press and on January 9, met the British Prime Minister, Edward Heath. Prior to returning to Dhaka, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman stopped over at Delhi, where the Indian President V. V. Giri and Prime Minister Indira Gandhi along with others welcomed him with grace. When the Father of the Nation reached Dhaka on January 10, millions of jubilant citizens of the newest country in the world welcomed him with open arms. He went straight from the airport to the Race Course Maidan now renamed Suhrawardy Udyan, where he addressed the people of independent Bangladesh for the first time. On January 12, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman took charge as the Prime Minister of Bangladesh government and embarked on the reconstruction of a war-ravaged country. Within a period of three and half years, Bangabandhu laid the foundations of the new Republic by putting into effect several measures, including rehabilitation of 10 million Bengali refugees, withdrawal of all allied forces within 3 months of victory, formation of the constituent assembly & a constitution for the new state within 10 months, recognition of Bangladesh by more than a hundred state, Bangladesh’s membership of important international bodies including Commonwealth of Nations, the United Nations, NAM, OIC, enactment of International (Crimes) Tribunal Laws, etc.
Led by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the Awami League secured 293 seats out of 300 in the Jatiya Sangsad (Parliament) in the first general elections held on March 7 in an independent Bangladesh and subsequently formed a new Government on the basis of the newly framed constitution. The World Peace Council awarded “Julio Curie” Peace Prize to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman for his contribution to world peace on May 23. On September 6 Sheikh Mujib set off to Algeria to participate in the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Summit Conference. On the sideline of the summit he had bilateral talks with the world leaders.
Bangladesh received world recognition by becoming the 136th member of the United Nations on September 17. On September 25, at the 29th General Assembly of the United Nations, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman addressed the world in Bangla, the first ever Bangla speech delivered at the UN.
Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the architect of Bangladesh, was assassinated by a handful of army renegades as part of a larger national and international political conspiracy hatched by anti-liberation forces in the pre-dawn hours of August 15. They murdered in cold blood every member of his family except his daughters Sheikh Hasina and Sheikh Rehana, who by fortune alone were abroad at that time. Bangladesh observes August 15 as the National Mourning Day and remembers the noblest and the greatest Bengali who ever lived, through his spirit, ideology, courage and love for the people of his nation.