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Tajuddin Ahmad: An Inspiration for Future Leaders

Tajuddin Ahmad the first Prime Minister of Bangladesh, was born on 23rd July 1925 at village Dardaria in Kapasia of Gazipur District. He was son of Moulavi Muhammad Yasin Khan and Meherunnesa Khanam. Being the child of a Bangalee middle class Muslim family, his education began at the village madrasah founded by his father, where he became a Hafez-e-Quran. Tajuddin passed matriculation in 1944 from St. Gregary’s High School in Dhaka, IA in 1948. He earned a BA in Economics degree in 1954 from Dhaka University and was a resident student of Fazlul Hauqe Muslim Hall. Being a full time political and social worker he could not devote enough time to education. Even so he excelled in academics. He earned a law degree in 1964 from the same University. As a political prisoner, he appeared in law exam while in prison.

Since his school days Tajuddin had been involved in progressive movements, politics and social works. From the very beginning he was connected with the kind of politics which aimed to emancipate the people of Bengal. He had been imprisoned numerous times for his political activities for freedom, democracy, economic and social justice. As a general trend of Bengali Muslim youth of 1940s, Tajuddin joined Muslim League. But soon realizing the reactionary role of Muslim League he left Muslim League and became the founder of East Pakistan Students League, formed on 4th January 1948. He was amongst those who floated the Awami Muslim League in 1949. He was an active member of All-Party State Language Movement which aimed to establish Bengali as the State Language of Pakistan and was arrested and detained during the movement. In the Provincial Election of 1954 he ran on the ticket of the Jukta Front and defeated the General Secretary of the Muslim League by a wide margin and was elected MLA. Tajuddin Ahmad was elected as general secretary of the Awami League in 1966. As the General Secretary he made immense contribution in the formation and advancement of the party. Tajuddin was one of the key architects of the Six Points, the charter of liberation of the Bangalees.

Although Awami League received overwhelming majority in the 1970 election. The Pakistan authorities have not fulfilled their promise to hand over the powers to the Bangalees.  At the beginning of March 1971, the unprecedented Non-Cooperation Movement was launched under the leadership of Bangabandhu. In directing the organizational strategies of this movement and negotiating with the military rulers at the discussion table Tajuddin Ahmad proved his great talent and capabilities. While Bangabandhu could inspire people with hopes and dreams, it was Tajuddin who through his foresight and talent transformed those aspirations into realities. Indeed, Bangabandhu and Tajuddin were complimentary to each other.

The Pakistan authorities declared an unjust and treacherous war, Military junta arrested Bangabandhu and begun genocide in Bangladesh. Tajuddin was wise enough to understand that, forming a government was the only way to fight against the occupational power and to gain international support for to be a free nation. Tajuddin along with other leaders of Awami League went India and met with Indira Gandhi. After their meeting, Tajuddin immediately decided to form a government with the elected members of National and Provincial Assemblies. On 10th April the Proclamation of Independence was declared and the Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh formed, and on 17th April the Oath of the Government took place in Mujibnagar. Tajuddin Became the Prime Minister of the Mujibnagar Government.

During the liberation war the office of the exile Mujibnagar Government was established at No. 8 Theatre Road in Kolkata. In two rooms Tajuddin set up his office and his residence. He took a vow that till Bangladesh was liberated he would not lead a family life. As the Prime Minister of a nation ridden in war and its freedom fighters’ away from their families Tajuddin wanted to share their sufferings as well as set an example. His firm resolve and commitment on the question of the country’s liberation had no parallel. He was far from an opportunist. He would never compromise the interest of the nation. Because of his clear pragmatic thinking and courage he could reach the cherished goal within a record time of 266 days. An achievement that might not have been possible with any other leader. Tajuddin Ahmad possessed the rare ability to make the right decision with intelligence in a moment of crisis. On 6th December after formally recognizing Bangladesh, Indian Army took part in the war in a big way. The Pakistan Army was defeated and surrendered to the joint command of the Mukti Bahini and the Indian army on 16th December. Bangladesh emerged as an independent state.

Even though the credit for the victory goes to a large extent to Tajuddin Ahmed, he never claimed any recognition for his achievement. On the contrary when he was surrounded by journalists who asked him about his reaction. He said that he had performed his duty “merely as a midwife” and that he felt “sad” for not being able to “deliver the news of the child’s birth to its father” Sheikh Mujib. He never sought publicity nor media attention for himself. After independence Tajuddin Ahmad returned on 22nd December and directed the affairs of state till Bangabandhu’s return on 10th January. On the next day Bangabandhu as president issued the Provisional Constitution of Bangladesh Order providing for a parliamentary form of government and he became the Prime Minister. Tajuddin Ahmad became the minister for Finance and Planning in the Cabinet. He was proactive in the economic development of this newly independent country devastated by war. It was unfortunate for Bangladesh that Bangabandhu’s relationship with Tajuddin, who was his most competent lieutenant, became sour. On 26th October 1974 Tajuddin resigned from Bangabandhu’s cabinet as per his direction.

On 15th August 1975 Bangabandhu was assassinated with most of his family members by a wayward section of Bangladesh Army. On the same day Tajuddin Ahmad was house arrested. He was taken to the central jail on August 22. On 3rd November 1975, while in custody, Tajuddin Ahmad along with three other leaders of the nation Syed Nazrul Islam, M Mansur Ali and Kamruzzaman were brutally assassinated inside the Dhaka Central Jail in violation of all prison rules and the laws of the land. Yet, there is no death of an ideal. Tajuddin is immortalized in the history of Bangladesh and Bengalee peoples’ Liberation through his noble works and glorious deeds; and remains a great source of inspiration for future leaders.

Imtiaz Ahmed Sajal

LLM Student in International Law at South Asian (SAARC) University, New Delhi, India
Imtiaz Ahmed Sajal is currently pursuing LLM in International Law at South Asian (SAARC) University, New Delhi, India. He serves as an Editor in Chief of the Bangladesh Law Digest (BDLD).
He is more interested to do research on different environmental issues in Bangladesh. He has already written a good number of articles on environment adjudication of Bangladesh and some of them have already been published in various law journals and dailies.
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