Bengal Chronicle

Tajuddin Ahmad the first Prime Minister of Bangladesh

Tajuddin Ahmad

Tajuddin Ahmad was a pioneer of the Independence movement of Bangladesh. He was born on the 23rd of July 1925 to Maulavi Muhammad Yasin Khan and Meherunnesa Khanam at Dardaria village in Kapasia thana(Police Station) of Gazipur district in Bengal Presidency, British India. Tajuddin spent his childhood and grew with his nine siblings. Although he came from a middle-class orthodox Muslim family, he had a keen interest in politics from a very early age. He often mingled with the anti-colonial activists of Bengal at that time, resulting in a disruption in his studies. He enrolled his name as a student in a few schools in the Gazipur district. After completing his primary education, he went to Dhaka(district Head Quarter of Gazipur and the principal town in East Bengal) for his next academic career. He was admitted to Saint Gregory’s High School and did his matriculation from there in 1944, acquiring 12th rank in undivided Bengal. Being matriculated, he broke apart from his usual academic education for about three years due to his passionate political involvement. Only after his mother’s insistence, he enroll in Dhaka College. He was also irregular in his lesson only because of that political activism. In the meantime, his father died, and all responsibilities fell on his shoulder. He could not appear in his intermediate of Arts examination. Instead, he completed his intermediate course from a private college as an irregular student in 1948 and attained 4th place in East Bengal(now Bangladesh). Tajuddin achieved his B.A. degree with honours in Economics from the University of Dhaka in 1953. And finally, he completed his law degree when imprisoned in 1964 and joined the Dhaka Bar.

As it is an important aspect of Tajuddin’s political career that he started his first wend towards his future at an early age of life, he had a keen faith in the liberal section of the Muslim League since 1943 and joined actively in the Pakistan Movement. Along this way, he was an active member of all progressive movements of the country, such as the Language Movement of 1952, the economic freedom movement of the people and the anti-communal movement. It was an unprecedented decision of Tajuddin that he forsook the Muslim League due to its anti-people politics. He was instrumental in founding the ‘East Bengal Chhatra League’, established in 1948. He became a member of the All-Party Language Movement Committee, and on the occasion of that, he was arrested and remained held up during that period. Tajuddin was both a founder and a member of the East Pakistan Juba League(East Pakistan Youth League) and continued its executive committee member from 1951 to 1953. He also held the General Secretary of Dhaka district unit of Awami Muslim League from 1953 to 1957. He was elected as a member of the East Pakistan Provincial Assembly in 1954. But surprisingly, he was arrested in the very same year. Next year he was elected secretary for the cultural, social welfare of the Awami League.

In 1958, the inhabitants of East Pakistan witnessed a new background of martial law in the country on behalf of Field Marshal Ayub Khan. Consequently, the Awami League was officially compelled to postpone its political affairs, and Tajuddin was thrown behind jail once more for about a year.

Tajuddin played a vital role, participating in a movement organised by the National Democratic Front led by Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy. But he was arrested once again. The year 1964, the Awami League got its resurrection by Tajuddin’s handhold, and for that, he was elected unanimously organising secretary of the party.

In April 1964, he was again thrown into jail and was released in the subsequent year. In the following year, 1965, he was very busy with his election campaign for Fatema Jinnah, the presidential candidate of the combined opposition party. He again was elected the General Secretary of the Awami League in 1966. In the same year, he attended the opposition parties conference rendered in Lahore as a representative of the delegation of the Awami League. Six-point movement (a movement held in East Pakistan, called for greater autonomy from the extreme exploitation of East Pakistan by the West Pakistani oppressive rulers, and it was treated as the path to Bangladesh’s independence) was massively broke out in East Pakistan in 1966. Tajuddin was arrested under the ‘Safety Act’ and was detained for a few years ahead during that period. In 1969 an ascendancy forced the West Pakistani government to make him free. An initiative was taken to sort out the existing emergency between the government and the oppositions in the Round Table Conference at Rawalpindi by Ayub Khan. Tajuddin Ahmad accompanied the Awami League delegation. In 1970, he was an elected member of the National Assembly.

Although Awami League won the absolute majority(won 160 of the 162 general seats and all seven women’s seats in East Pakistan) in the first-ever Democratic general election 1970, the West Pakistani rulers did not recognise people’s mandate and refused to hand over the Victorians of their constitutional authorities.

On the 7th of March, Bangabandhu gave a fiery speech in Dhaka Race Course and indirectly called for the Independence of East Pakistan from the West Pakistani military junta. His speech rejuvenated the Bengali youth. Behind the scene, Tajuddin Ahmad organised the biggest civil disobedience, non-cooperation movement across East Pakistan since the Salt March led by Mahatma Gandhi. West Pakistani government started planning the crackdown of Bengali Freedom fighters. Tajuddin Ahmad understood that he was soon to be arrested again, so with Bangobandhu’s blessing, he and a few of his comrades left Dhaka for India on the 25th of March, 1971. The next day, the Pakistani army launched ‘Operation Searchlight’, now known as the most brutal oppression of innocent civilians and genocide since the second world war. Bangabandhu had been arrested and was taken away to West Pakistan, where he was kept in solitary confinement for the rest of the war.

In India, he became the Prime Minister of the Bangladesh government in exile at Mujibnagar and led the Liberation War. He returned to the newly formed named ‘Bangladesh’ on the 22nd of December 1971 and became the Prime Minister of Bangladesh unanimously. Bangladesh got its first cabinet under Sheikh Mujibar Rahman, and Tajuddin took charge of the Ministry of Finance. In composing the constitution of Bangladesh, Tajuddin was a member of the committee and played an important role in framing that independent state’s utmost sacred law book, the constitution of Bangladesh. He was an elected member of the Jatiya Sangsad(National Parliament) in 1973. He became a member of the cabinet in the same ministry. In 1974, he was instructed to resign from the cabinet due to some disagreements on some policies between Bangabandhu and Tajuddin. On the 15th of August in the year, 1975 Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibar Rahman was assassinated, and coincidentally, Tajuddin was arrested, accusing him as a part of that conspiracy. At first, Tajuddin was put under house arrest, but he was taken to jail on the 22nd of August,1975. Finally, on the 3rd of November, 1975, he and his three other national leaders, namely Syed Nazrul Islam, AHM Qamaruzzaman and M Mansur Ali, were brutally killed inside the Dhaka Central Jail by a group of army officers allegedly on the instructions of then-President Khondaker Mostaq Ahmad. Every year Bangladesh mourns the day as ‘Jail Killing Day’.

Tajuddin was a confidante associate of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibar Rahman. It can be ascertained that he was the builder of independent Bangladesh along with the ‘Father of Nation’ Sheikh Mujibar Rahman. He played a vital role in establishing Bangladesh as a democratic and sovereign country. He was also a leader of the nationalist movement. He spent his span of life as an ardent devotee of distressed humanity. So, it can be said that Tajuddin was not only a politician of Bangladesh, but also he established his identity as a social worker rather a social reformer.

In 2014, Shahid Tajuddin Ahmad Medical College in Gazipur was named after Tajuddin.

Image courtesy: Wikipedia

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