Taj Uddin Ahmad: A Profile

Tajuddin Ahmed (L) along with Sheikh Mujibur Rahman
Tajuddin Ahmed (L) along with Sheikh Mujibur Rahman

Tajuddin Ahmad (July 23, 1925 – November 3, 1975) was a Bangladeshi statesman and freedom fighter. He served as the first Prime Minister of Bangladesh and lead the wartime Provisional Government during the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971.

A close confidante of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Ahmad was the General Secretary of the Awami League in the late 1960s and early 1970s. He coordinated the League’s election campaign for the Pakistani general election, 1970, in which the League gained a historic parliamentary majority to form government. Ahmad, along with Mujib and Dr. Kamal Hossain, led negotiations with President Yahya Khan and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto for the transfer of power to the elected National Assembly.

As the first Prime Minister of Bangladesh, he led people of Bangladesh to victory during the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971. He was a gifted organizer and administrator, characteristics which were surpassed only by his integrity, love for humanity, deep-seated patriotism, and unflinching stand for fairness and justice. A seeker of truth, he rose with purpose and commitment to the rank of statesman.

Tajuddin Ahmad was assassinated along with three other national leaders in Dhaka Central Jail on November 3, 1975 by a wayward section of the Bangladesh Army.

Check his website tajuddinahmad.com for more.

Documentary: Tajuddin Ahmad – An Unsung Hero

Timeline: The life and works of Tajuddin Ahmad

Tajuddin Ahmed - Addressing the nation after the liberation. Image courtesy Tajuddinahmed.com
Tajuddin Ahmed – Addressing the nation after the liberation. Image courtesy Tajuddinahmed.com
Date Event
23 July 1925 Born of Maulabhi Mohd Yasin Khan and Meher-un-Nesa Khan in the village Daradia of Kapasia PS in Gazipur district.

Education

Kapasia Minor English School, St Nicholas English school, Kaliganj, Muslim Boys’ school, Dhaka and St Gregory’s high.
1934 Secured 12th position in the combined merit list in SSC exam.
1938 Secured 4th position in the combined merit list in HSC exam.
1942 Civil Defense training
1943 BA (Honors) in Economics from Dhaka University
1946 Sat for and obtained LLB degree from the prison as a political prisoner

Political life

1943 Active supporter of the progressive faction (Abdul Hashim group) of Muslim League
1944 Elected the councilor of the Muslim League of the Eastern wing of Pakistan
6-7 September, 1947 One of the founding organizers (others being Sheikh Mujib, Mohd Toyaha, Shamsul Huq, Tasadduk Ahmed) of the secular youth forum-Democratic Youth League.
4 January 1948 Founding organizers of East Pakistan Students’ League (now BCL)
1949 One of the founding organizers of East Pakistan Awami (meaning people) Muslim League (AL)
1953-57 General Secretary, Dhaka Zilla Awami Muslim League and Awami League
1955
1954 1954: Elected MLA as a candidate of United Front by defeating the general secretary of Muslim League.
1955 1955: Elected the cultural and welfare secretary of Awami League. Staunch supporter of Mujib in his initiative to secularize Awami League by removing “Muslim” from the party’s name
1962 Played an active role in anti martial law campaign against Pakistani military dictator Ayub Khan
1964 Supported Mujib to revive Awami League severely repressed by Pakistani military dictators. Elected the Organizational Secretary of Awami League
1966 Key figure in drawing up and launching the historic Six Point Movement. Elected the General Secretary of Bangladesh Awami League. Accompanied Mujib to the Round Table Conference in Lahore. Organized and launched the Six Point Movement through out Bangladesh and due to his activism was arrested by the Pakistani rulers on 8 May 1966.
1968 Elected the GS of Awami League while being in the prison.
1969 Released from the prison following the Mass Movement of 1969
1970 Elected the GS of Awami League for the third term. Elected a member of the Pakistan Legislative Assembly
1971
1 March Sheikh Mujib called for a non-cooperation movement throughout Bangladesh as a protest against Yahyah Khan’s annulment order of the Pakistan Legislative Assembly. Awami League virtually took over the governance of east Bangla and Tajuddin as the chief administrator, designated by of Sheikh Mujib, efficiently ran all the public sectors of East Bangla.
25-26 March Massacre of Bangalees by Pakistan occupation army. Escaped the Pakistani SS forces and went underground
27-29 March Headed for Indian border on foot, by motorbike and boat
30 March Reached Meherpur near Indian border. Contacted the Indian officials
1 April Reached Delhi on special arrangement by Indian government to initiate a talk with the Indian prime minister to obtain Indian support for the independence of Bangladesh
4 April Formal meeting with Indira Gandhi, the prime minister of India and negotiated unconditional Indian support for the Independence of Bangladesh.
6 April Gave the prime ministerial speech in support of the independence of Bangladesh from Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendro
10 April Formed the provisional government and took the office of the prime minister.
11 April Addressed the nation via the radio as the prime minister of independent Bangladesh
17 April Formal oath as the prime minister at Mujib Nagar
17 April-16 Dec Led the war of independence against the Pakistani occupation army and achieved victory on 16 December 1971
24 December Returned to Dhaka from Mujib Nagar with the members of his ministry
12 January 1972 Voluntarily quit (the first ever in the history of Bangladesh) the prime ministerial post. Took oath as the Finance and Planning minister
30 June 1972 Gave the first national budget
24 Sept 1972 Gave speech in the Commonwealth conference of the finance ministers
26 April 1973 Represented Bangladesh in the ADB conference held in Manila
14 April 1974 Second National budget
21 Nov 1973 Five Year Fiscal Plan
28 July 1973 Attended the IMF committee meeting
26 September 1973 Represented Bangladesh in the annual conference of International Monitory Fund and the World Bank held at Nairobi
16 January 1974 Ministerial speech at the IMF conference in Rome
20 January 1974 Resigned from the post of the General Secretary of Awami League
24 April 1974 Ministerial speech at the ADB conference in Kuala Lumpur
8 June 1974 Ministerial speech at the IMF conference in Washington
August 1974 Saudi Arab, Kuwait and Iraq visit
September 1974 USSR visit
26 October 1974 Quit the ministry on Mujib’s call (thanks to Mostak gang’s ascendancy over Mujib)
15 August 1975 Assassination of Mujib and Tajuddin house arrested by the coup leaders (Cols Faruk / Rashid) and Mostak
23 August 1975 Taken to the Dhaka central jail on Mostak’s order
3 November 1975 Bayoneted to death in Dhaka central jail by the troops led by Risalder Moslem and sent by the coup leaders (Cols Faruk / Rashid) on express order from Mostak, the president.

 

Stamp commemorating Tajuddin Ahmed
Stamp commemorating Tajuddin Ahmed

Tajuddin’s Appeal to the International Community in support of Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971

TO THE PEOPLE OF THE WORLD

A statement issued by the Prime Minister of Bangla Desh Tajuddin Ahmad, on 17.04.1971

Bangla Desh is at war. It has been given no choice but to secure its right of self-determination through a national liberation struggle against the colonial oppression of West Pakistan.

In the face of positive attempts by the Government to distort the facts in a desperate attempt to cover up their war of genocide in Bangla Desh, the world must be told the circumstances under which the peace-loving people of Bangla Desh were driven to substitute armed struggle for parliamentary politics to realize the just aspirations of the people of Bangla Desh.

The Six Point Program for autonomy for Bangla Desh within Pakistan had been put forward in all sincerity by the Awami League as the last possible solution to preserve the integrity of Pakistan. Fighting the elections to the National Assembly on the issue of Six Points, the Awami League won 167 out of 169 seats from Bangla Desh out of a house of 313. Its electoral victory was so decisive that it won 80% of the popular votes cast. The decisive nature of its victory placed it in a clear majority within the National Assembly.

The post election period was a time of hope, for never had a people spoken so decisively in the history of parliamentary democracy. It was widely believed in both wings that a viable constitution based on six points could be worked out. The Pakistan Peoples party which emerged as the leading party in Sind and Punjab had avoided raising the issue of Six Points in their election campaign and had no obligation whatsoever to its electorate to resist it. In Baluchistan the dominant party, National Awami Party, was fully committed to Six Points. In NWFP, the NAP dominant in the Provincial Assembly, was also a believer in maximum autonomy. The course of the elections, which marked the defeat of the reactionary parties, therefore, gave every reason to be optimistic about the future of democracy in Pakistan. Preparatory to the convening of the National Assembly talks were expected between the main parties in the political areas. However, whilst the Awami League was always willing, preparatory to going to the Assembly, to explain its constitutional position and to discuss alternative proposals from other parties, it is believed that the spirit of true democracy demanded that the constitution be debated and finalized in the National Assembly rather tan in secret sessions. To this end, it insisted on an early summoning of the National Assembly. In anticipation of this session, the Awami League worked day and night to prepare a draft constitution based on Six Points and fully examined all the implications of formulating and implementing such a constitution.

The first major talks over Pakistan’s political future took place between General yahya and Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in Mid-January. In this session General proved the extent of the Awami League’s commitment to its program and was assured that they were fully aware of its implications. But contrary to expectation did not fully spell out his own ideas about the constitution. General gave the impression of not finding anything seriously objectionable in Six Points but emphasized the need for coming to an understanding with the PPP in Western Pakistan.

The next round of talks took place between the PPP and the Awami League from 27th January, 1971 in Dacca where Mr. Bhutto and his team held a number of sessions with the Awami League to discuss the constitution.

As in the case with, Mr. Bhutto did not bring any concrete proposals of his own about the nature of the constitution. He and is advisors were mainly interested in discussing the implications of Six Points. Since their responses were essentially negative and they had no prepared brief of their own it was not possible for the talks to develop into serious negotiations where attempts could be made to bridge the gap between the two parties. It was evident that as yet Mr. Bhutto had no formal position of his own from which to negotiate.

It must be made clear that when the PPP left Dacca there was no indication from their part that a deadlock had been reached with the Awami League. Rather they confirmed that all doors were open and that following a round of talks with the West Pakistani leaders the PPP would either have a second and more substantive round of talks with the Awami League or would meet in the National Assembly whose committees provided ample opportunity for detailed discussion on the constitution.

Mr. Bhutto’s announcement to boycott the National Assembly, therefore, came as a complete surprise. The boycott decision was surprising because Mr. Bhutto had already been accommodated once by the President when he refused Sheikh Mujib’s plea for an early session of the Assembly on the 15th of February and fixed it, in line with Mr. Bhutto’s preference, for 3rd March.

Following his decision to boycott the Assembly, Mr. Bhutto Launched a campaign of intimidation against all other parties in West Pakistan to prevent them from attending the session. In this task there is evidence that Lt. General Umer, Chairman of the National Security Council and close associate of, with a view to strengthening Mr. Bhutto’s hand, personally pressured various West Wing leaders not to attend the Assembly. In spite of this display of pressure tactics by Mr. Bhutto and Lt. Gen Umer, all members of the National Assembly from West Pakistan, except the PPP and the Qayyum Muslim League, had booked their seats to East Pakistan, for the session on 3rd March.

Within the QML itself, half their members had booked their seats and there were signs of revolt within the PPP where many members were wanting to come to Dacca. Faced with the breakdown of this joint front against Bangla Desh, General obliged Mr. Bhutto on 1st March by postponing the Assembly, not for any definite period, but sine die. Moreover he dismissed the Governor of East Pakistan, Admiral S. M. Ahsan, who was believed to be one of the moderates in his administration. The Cabinet with its component of Bengalis was also dismissed so that all power was concentrated in the hands of the West Wing military junta.

In these circumstances Yahya’s gesture could not be seen as anything but an attempt to frustrate the popular will by colluding with Mr. Bhutto. The National Assembly was the only forum where Bangla Desh could assert its voice and political strength, and to frustrate this was a clear indication that Parliament was not to be the real source of power in Pakistan.

The reaction to the postponement in Bangla Desh was inevitable and spontaneous and throughout the land people took to the streets to record their protest at this arbitrary act. People now felt sure that they (Pakistani authority) never really intended to transfer power, and was making a mockery of parliamentary politics. The popular mood felt that the rights of Bangla Desh could never be realized within the framework of Pakistan, where could so blatantly frustrate the summoning of an assembly proclaimed by his own writ and urged that Sheikh Mujibur Rahman must go for full independence.

Sheikh Mujib however continued to seek a political settlement. In calling for a program of non-cooperation on 3rd March he chose the weapon of peaceful confrontation against the army of occupation as an attempt to bring them to their senses. This was in itself a major gesture in the face of the cold blooded firing on unarmed demonstrators on the 2nd and 3rd March which had already led to over a thousand casualties.

The course of the non-cooperation movement is now a part of history. Never in the course of any liberation struggle has non-cooperation been carried to the limits attained within Bangla Desh between first and 25th March. Non-cooperation was total. No judge of the High Court could be found to administer the oath of office to the new Governor Lt. General Tikka Khan. The entire civilian administration including he police and the Civil Service of Pakistan, refused to attend office. The people stopped supply of food to the army. Even the civilian employees of the Defense establishment joined the boycott.

Non-cooperation did not stop at abstention from work. The civilian administration and the police positively pledged their support to Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and put themselves under his orders.

In this situation the Awami League without being a formally constituted Government, was forced to take on the responsibility of keeping the economy and administration running whilst non-cooperation lasted. In this task they had the unqualified support not only of the people but the administration and the business community. The latter two subordinated themselves to the directives of the Awami League and accepted them as the sole authority to solve their various problems.

In these unique circumstances the economy and administration were kept going in spite of the formidable problems arising out of the power vacuum which has suddenly emerged in Bangla Desh. In spite of the lack of any formal authority, Awami League volunteers, in cooperation with the police, maintained a level of law and order which was a considerable improvement on normal times.

Faced with this demonstration of total support to the Awami League and this historic non-cooperation movement, General appears to have modified his tactics. On the 6th March, he still seemed determined to provoke a confrontation when he made his highly provocative speech putting the full blame on the crisis, on the Awami League and not even referring to the architect of the crisis, Mr. Bhutto. It seems that he expected a declaration of independence on 7th March. The Army in Dacca was put on full alert to crush the move and Lt. Gen. Tikka Khan was flown in to replace Lt. Gen. Yakub to signify the hardening of attitudes within the Junta.

Sheikh Mujib, however, once again opted for the path of political settlement in spite of massive public sentiment for independence. In presenting his 4-point proposal for attending the National Assembly he not only had to contain the public mood but to leave a way open for to explore this last chance of a peaceful settlement.

It is now clear that Pakistani Generals never had the slightest intention of solving Pakistan’s political crisis peacefully but were only interested in buying time to permit the reinforcement of their military machine within Bangla Desh. Yahya’s visit to Dacca was a mere cover for his plan of genocide. It now becomes clear that contingency plans for such a crisis had already begun well in advance of the crisis. Shortly before 1st March tanks which had been sent north to Rangpur to defend the borders were brought back to Dacca. From the 1st March the families of Army personnel were being sent off to West Pakistan on a priority basis as were the families of West Pakistani businessmen.

The military build-up was accelerated after 1st March and continued throughout the talks up to 25th March. Members of the armed forces dressed in civilian clothes were flown in PIA commercial flights via Ceylon. C 130s carrying arms and provisions for the garrisons flew in to Dacca. It is estimated that up to one division, with complementary support, was brought into Bangla Desh between 1st and 25th March. To ensure security, the airport was put under strict air force control and heavily guarded with artillery and machine gun nets whilst movement of passengers was strictly supervised. As SSG commando group especially trained in operations in sabotage and assassinations was distributed in key centers of Bangla Desh and were probably responsible for the attacks on Bengalis in Dacca and Saidpur in the two days before 25th march to provoke clashes between locals and non-locals so as to provide a cover for military intervention.

As part of this strategy of deception adopted the most conciliatory posture in his talks with Mujib. In the talks beginning on the 16th of march, he expressed regrets for what had happened and his sincere desire for a political settlement. In a crucial meeting with Sheikh Mujib he was asked to positively state the Juntas position on the Awami Leagues 4-point proposal. He indicated that there was no serious objection and that an interim constitution could be worked out by the respective advisors embodying the four points.

The basic points on which agreement was reached were:

  • 1.Lifting of Martial Law and transfer of power to a Civilian Government by a Presidential Proclamation.
  • 2. Transfer of power in the provinces to the majority parties
  • 3. To remain as President and in control of the Central Government
  • 4. Separate sittings of the National Assembly members from East an West Pakistan preparatory to a joint session of the house to finalize the constitution.

Contrary to the distortions now put out by both Yahya and Bhutto the proposal for separate sittings of the Assembly was suggested by to accommodate Mr. Bhutto. Hi cite the practical advantage that whilst 6-points provided a viable blueprint to regulate relations between Bangla Desh and the Center its application would raise serious difficulties in the West Wing. For this reason West Wing MNAs must be permitted to get together to work out a new pattern of relationships in the context of the Six-point constitution and the dissolution of One Unit.

Once this agreement in principle had been reached between Sheikh Mujib and there was only the question of defining the powers of Bangla Desh vis-a-vis the Center during the interim phase. Here it was again jointly agreed that the distribution of power should as far as possible approximate to the final constitution approved by the National Assembly which, it was expected, would be based on Six Points.

For working out this part of the interim settlement Mr. M. M. Ahmed, the Economic Advisor to the President was specially flown in. In his talks with the Awami League advisors he made it clear that provided the political agreement had been reached there were no insuperable problem to working out some version of Six Points even in the interim period. The final list of three amendments to the Awami League draft which he presented as suggestions, indicated that the gap between the Government and Awami League position was no longer one of principle but remained merely over the precise phrasing of the proposals. The Awami league in its sitting of 24th March had accepted the amendments with certain minor changes of language and there was nothing to prevent the holding of a final drafting session between the advisors of the President and Mujib when the interim constitution would be finalized.

It must be made clear that at no stage was there any breakdown of talks or any indication by General or his team that they had a final position which could not be abandoned.

The question of legal cover for the transfer of power is merely another belated fabrication by to cover his genocide. He and his team had agreed that, in line with the precedence of the Indian Independence Act of 1947, power could be transferred by Presidential Proclamation. The notion that there would be no legal cover to the agreement raised subsequently by Mr. Bhutto and endorsed by General (Yahya) was never a bone of contention between Sheikh Mujib and Pakistani authorities. There is not the slightest doubt that had indicated that a meeting of the National Assembly was essential to transfer power, the Awami League would not have broken the talks on such a minor legal technicality. After all as the majority party it had nothing to fear from such a meeting and its acceptance of the decision for a separate sitting was designed to accommodate Mr. Bhutto rather than a fundamental stand from the party.

Evidence that agreement in principle between contending parties had been reached is provided by Mr. Bhutto’s own Press Conference on 25th March. It is not certain what passed in the separate session between General and Mr. Bhuttto but there is evidence that deliberate falsehoods about the course of the talk with the Awami League were fed to the PPP who were told that Sheikh Mujib was determined to have a showdown and was daily escalating his demands. Needless to say not the slightest indication of these misgivings have been raised in the meetings between the Awami League team and General Yahyas advisors where amicability and optimism prevailed to the end.

Whilst hope for a settlement was being raised more ominous signs of the intentions of the army were provided by their sudden decision to unload the munitions ship MV Swat berthed at Chittagong Port. Preparatory to this decision, Brigadier Mazumdar, a Bengali officer commanding the garrison in Chittagong had been suddenly removed from his command and replaced by a West Pakistani. On 24th night he was flown to Dacca under armed escort and has probably been executed. Under the new command notice was given to local authorities of the decision to unload the ship in spite of the fact that the army had abstained from doing so for the last 17 days in the face of non-cooperation from the port workers. The decision to unload was a calculated provocation which immediately brought 100,000 people on the streets of Chittagong and led to massive firing by the Army to break their way out. The issue was raised by the Awami League with General Peerzada as to why this escalation was being permitted whilst talks were still going on. He gave no answer beyond a promise to pass it on to General.

Following the final meeting between General Yahya’s and Awami League’s advisors on 24th March where Mr. M.M. Ahmed passed on his amendments, a call was awaited from General Peerzada for a final session where the draft could be finalized. No such call materialized and instead it was learnt that Mr. M. M. Ahmed, who was central to the negotiations, had suddenly left for Karachi on the 25th morning without and warning to the Awami League team.

By 11P.M. of the 25th all preparations were ready and the troops began to take up their positions in the city. In an act of treachery unparalleled in contemporary history a program of calculated genocide was unleashed on the peaceful and unsuspecting population of Dacca by midnight of 25th March. No ultimatum was given to the Awami League, no curfew order was even issued when the machine guns, artillery and canon on the tanks unleashed their reign of death and destruction. By the time the first Martial Law proclamations issued by Lt. General Tikka Kahn were broadcast the next morning some 50,000 people, most of them without offering any resistance, and many women and children, had been butchered. Dacca had been turned into an inferno with fires raging in most corners of the city. Sleeping inhabitants who have been drawn from their homes by the fires started by the military, were machine gunned as they ran to escape the flames.

Whilst the police, EPR, and armed volunteers put up a heroic resistance, the main victims remained the weak, the innocent and the unsuspecting who were killed at random in their thousands. We are compiling a first hand account of the details of genocide committed by the Pakistani Army on the orders of the President of Pakistan which we will publish shortly. The scale and brutality of the action exceeds anything perpetrated in the civilized world.

The President (Yahya) himself left Dacca on the night of 25th March after having unleashed the Pakistan Army, with an open license to commit genocide on all Bengalis. His own justification for this act of barbarism was not forthcoming till 8 P.M. the next day when the world was given its first explanation for the unleashing of this holocaust. This statement was self-contradictory and laced with positive lies. His branding of a party as traitors and outlaws, with whom he had only 48 hours ago been negotiating for a peaceful transfer of power, bore no relationship to the situation in Bangla Desh or the course of the negotiations. His promise to hand over power to the elected representatives of the people after banning the Awami League which was the sole representative of Bangla Desh and held a majority of seats in the National Assembly was a mockery of the freely recorded voice of 75 million Bengalis. The crudity of the statement was clear evidence that he was no longer interested in taking shelter behind either logic or morality and had reverted to the law of the jungle in his bid to crush the people of Bangla Desh.

Pakistan is now dead and buried under a mountain of corpses. The hundreds and thousands of people murdered by the (Pak) army in Bangla Desh will act as an impenetrable barrier between West Pakistan and the people of Bangla Desh. By resorting to pre-planned genocide must have known that he was himself digging Pakistans grave. The subsequent massacres perpetrated on his orders by his licensed killers on the people were not designed to preserve the unity of a nation. They were acts of racial hatred and sadism devoid of even the elements of humanity. professional Soldiers, on orders, violated their code of military honor and were seen as beasts of prey who indulged in an orgy of murder, rape, loot, arson and destruction unequaled in the annals of civilization. These acts indicate that the concept of two countries is already deeply rooted in the minds of his associates who would not otherwise dare commit such atrocities on their own countrymen.

Yahya’s genocide is thus without political purpose. It serves only as the last act in the tragic history of Pakistan which has chosen to write with the blood of the people of Bangla Desh. The objective is genocide and scorched-earth before his troops are either driven out or perish. In this time he hopes to liquidate our political leadership, intelligence and administration, to destroy our industries and public amenities and as a final act he intends to raze our cities to the ground. Already his occupation army has made substantial progress towards this objective. Bangla Desh will be set back 50 years as West Pakistans parting gift to a people they have exploited for 23 years for their own benefit.

This is a point of major significance to those great powers who choose to ignore this largest single act of genocide since the days of Belsen and Auschwitz. If they think they are preserving the unity of Pakistan they can forget it because the president (Yahya) himself has no illusions about the future of Pakistan. They must realize that Pakistan is dead and murdered by – and that independent Bangla Desh is a reality sustained by the indestructible will and courage of 75 million Bengalis who are daily nurturing the roots of this new nationhood with their blood. No power on earth can unmake this new nation and sooner or later both big and small powers will have to accept it into the world fraternity.

It is therefore, in the interest of politics as much as humanity for the big powers to put their full pressure on to cage his killers and bring them back to West Pakistan. We will be eternally grateful to the people of USSR and India and the freedom loving people of all countries for their full support they have already given us in this struggle. We would welcome similar support from the Peoples Republic of China, USA, France, Great Britain and all Afro Asian countries who have freed themselves from colonial rule and from all freedom loving countries. Each in their own way should exercise considerable leverage on West Pakistan; and were they to exercise this influence, could not sustain his war of aggression against Bangla Desh for a single day longer.

Bangla Desh will be the eighth most populous country in the world. Its only goal will be to rebuild the nation from the ashes and carnage left behind by Yahya’s occupation army. It will be a stupendous task because of destruction of economy by Yahya’s army in our already underdeveloped and overpopulated region. But we now have a cause and a people who have been hardened in the resistance, who have shed their blood for their nation and won their freedom in an epic struggle which pitted unarmed people against a modern army. Such a nation cannot fail in its task of securing the foundations of its nationhood.

In our struggle for survival we seek the friendship of all people, the big powers and the small. We do not aspire to join any bloc or pact but will seek assistance from those who give it in a spirit of goodwill free from any desire to control our destinies. We have struggled far too long for our self determination to permit ourselves to become anyone’s satellite.

We now appeal to the nations of the world for recognition and assistance both material and moral in our struggle for nationhood. Every day this is delayed a thousand lives are lost and more of Bangla Deshs vital assets are destroyed. In the name of Humanity act now and earn our undying friendship.

This we now present to the world as the CASE of the people of Bangla Desh. Bangla Desh has earned her right to recognition at great cost, as the people of Bangla Desh made sacrifices of unequal magnitude and fought hard in order to establish the rightful place for Bangla Desh in the community of Nations.

Mujib and Taj: The liberators of Bangladesh
Mujib and Taj: The liberators of Bangladesh

“Lilie, said Tajuddin I never made a wrong decision in my whole life. But the deadliest mistake of my life was not leaving home in the fatal night of 15 August.” – Tajuddin to his wife

“……. I had to bury a huge pain in the hearts of my heart. Mujib bhai who was embedded in my mind forever, Mujib bhai who over the years became part of my being, that Mujib bhai never asked me, even for a day, Tajuddin what did you do in 71 when I was away. Never asked Tajuddin, you tell me, I’d like to hear about 71…..” – My Childhood in 1971 and my dad Tajuddin Ahmad: Shimeen Hussain Rimi

Books on Tajuddin Ahmad
1. Muldhara 71: Muyeedul Hasan. UPL
2. Tajuddin Ahmad’s Diary (Vol I & II), Pratibhas, Dhaka, 1999
3. Tajuddin Ahmad: Endless Stream of Light: Simeedn Hossaiin Rimi, Pratibhas, Dhaka 2006
4. Shakkhi Chilo Shirostran – Suhan Rizwan, Dhaka 2015

Major General J. F. R. Jacob

 Jacob (far right) presents his books to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Three Chiefs (Army-Air Force-Navy) are also present. Image via Wikimedia Commons. CC BY-SA 3.0
Jacob (far right) presents his books to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Three Chiefs (Army-Air Force-Navy) are also present. Image via Wikimedia Commons. CC BY-SA 3.0

Jacob Farj Rafael “J. F. R.” Jacob (1923 – 13 January 2016) as a Major General with Indian army, served as the Chief of Staff of the Indian Army’s Eastern Command during the war. During his 36-year career in the army, he also fought in World War II and the Indo-Pakistan War of 1965. He later served as the Governor of the Indian states of Goa and Punjab.

Jewish general led Indian army in 1971 war

By SHELDON KIRSHNER

In the annals of modern warfare, the 1971 war between India and Pakistan is regarded as a template of brilliance. Within 13 days, the Indian army routed Pakistan in one of the swiftest campaigns of the 20th century.

Occasionally compared to Israel’s victory in the 1967 Six Day War, and studied at military academies as a textbook example of efficient planning, the Indo-Pakistan war gave rise to a new state, Bangladesh, and established India as a regional superpower.

The major general who masterminded and spearheaded India’s offensive, and who accepted Pakistan’s surrender, was Jack Frederick Ralph Jacob, the scion of an old Jewish family from Calcutta. A spry bachelor of 81 who retired in 1978 as the commander of India’s eastern army, he considers that war the highlight of a long and distinguished career as a soldier. Having written a book about it, Surrender at Dacca, published in 2001 by Manohar, he claims that the war was “surely the greatest military feat in our history.”

Although historians are acquainted with his resumé, Jacob is not exactly a household name outside India. As I prepared for my trip to India late last year, I ran across his name in my research. Intrigued by the possibility of interviewing a Jewish warrior from an exotic country whose Jewish community is rooted in antiquity, I asked to meet him.

When I arrived in New Delhi on my last day in India, following relatively brief flights from Cochin and Mumbai, B.B. Mukherjee, a helpful contact from the ministry of tourism, was at the terminal to greet me with the news that Jacob had consented to an interview. I was pleased, but the timing was hardly fortuitous. I was tired, coming down with a cold and a hoarse voice, and my flight back to Toronto was just hours away. Nevertheless, I told Mukherjee I would be ready to talk to Jacob at his home in New Delhi at around five o’clock.

After a shower and change of clothes, I met Mukherjee in my hotel lobby, and off we drove to Jacob’s flat in a non-descript gray apartment building in the centre of this sprawling city and capital of India. When we arrived, one of his Nepalese houseboys opened the door and ushered us into a dimly lit room filled with French furniture and crowded with original Mogul art on the walls.

Jacob, a surprisingly small man with a café au lait complexion and a formal manner, was smartly decked out in a blue blazer, creased pants, shirt and tie. He motioned me to sit down next to him on a narrow couch.

I began by asking him about his role in the war – the 33rd anniversary of which was marked shortly before my trip to India – and his decision to become a soldier. Jacob, whose Baghdadi family settled in Calcutta more than 200 years ago and whose father – Elias Emanuel – was a businessman, was quite effusive, enunciating his words in a posh upper-class Indian accent.

A brigadier-general by 1963 and a major-general by 1967, he was appointed chief of the Eastern Command in 1969 by Gen. Sam Maneckshaw, the Parsi chief of staff. Jacob’s immediate superior was Lt. Gen. J.S. Aurora, a Sikh.

Jacob joined the British army in the summer of 1941 while at university and when India was still a British colony. He did so, he said, “to fight the Nazis.” After graduating from officers training school in 1942, he was posted to northern Iraq in anticipation of a possible German thrust to seize the Kirkuk oil fields. He trained with Glubb Pasha’s Arab Legion, which would be the backbone of Jordan’s army. In the wake of Japan’s defeat, he was assigned to Sumatra. Returning to an independent India after taking a gunnery course in Britain, Jacob commanded a mountain battery and served in an armoured division. Then, in short order, he took artillery and missile courses in the United States and was a general staff officer at Western Command headquarters.

“I didn’t plan to be a career officer,” he said. “I liked the army and stayed on. I did everything I was supposed to do.”

During the mid-1960s, when India fought a war with Pakistan, he was the commandant of the School of Artillery. Subsequently, he was in charge of an infantry division in Rajasthan, where he wrote a much-praised manual on desert warfare. Promoted to chief of staff of the Eastern Command, based in Calcutta, Jacob was soon grappling with insurgencies in Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram.

The Eastern Command was a sensitive one. The partition of the Indian sub-continent in 1947 had led to the emergence of India and Pakistan, which was made up of two distinct and geographically disconnected areas. Although East Pakistan was more populous than West Pakistan, political power rested with the western elite, causing resentment, unrest and calls for autonomy in the other half.

By 1971, East Pakistan was in revolt, and Pakistan’s ruler, Yahya Khan, cracked down. As the violence escalated, with a massive loss of life and an exodus of millions of Hindu refugees into Indian territory, Indo-Pakistani tensions rose.

When India’s prime minister, Indira Gandhi, extended assistance to Bengali rebels who sought to break away from Pakistan and form their own country, Pakistan responded first by attacking rebel camps in India and then, on Dec. 3, by bombing nine northern Indian airfields. In a dramatic broadcast to the nation, Gandhi declared war on Pakistan.

Having watched these developments with mounting concern, Jacob realized that conflict was imminent. “We knew we would have to intervene, but we hardly had any infrastructure and had to build it up,” he recalled.

In consultation with his superiors, he refined his plan to engage Pakistan in a “war of movement” in difficult terrain with few bridges and roads, crisscrossed by rivers and broken up by swamps, mangroves and paddy fields. Jacob’s strategy was clear. Dacca – the heart of East Pakistan – would be captured and Pakistani forces bypassed. Pakistan’s communication centres would be secured and its command and control capabilities destroyed, while its forces would be drawn to the border. Some Indian commanders raised objections to the unorthodox plan, but it was finally approved.

“I planned for a three-week campaign, but it went faster than I expected,” said Jacob, who instinctively understood that speed was essential and that a protracted war would not be in India’s interests: The United Nations would apply pressure on India to halt its offensive, and the Soviet Union – India’s ally – might not be able to fend off calls for a ceasefire.

As fighting raged, Jacob flew to Dacca and wrested unconditional surrender terms from his opposite number, Gen. Amir Niazi, who would later accuse Jacob of having blackmailed him into submission.

“It was a total victory over a formidable, well-trained army,” he observed. “Had Pakistan fought on, it would have been difficult for us.” Indian casualties were 1,421 killed and 4,058 wounded. “We expected higher casualties,” he admitted. The Pakistani figures were much higher, in India’s estimation: 6,761 killed and 8,000 wounded.

Jacob, who calls Surrender at Dacca the most authoritative and objective account of the war to date, ascribed his victory to a few factors – imaginative planning, flexibility of approach, the capacity to react to shifting and perhaps unforeseen events and, of course, luck. But for Jacob, a keen student of warfare, historical context was always of crucial importance. As he put it, “I’ve learned from every campaign since Alexander the Great and Napoleon.”

Looking back, he described his 37-year career in the army as “the happiest and most enjoyable period of my life.” Never once did he feel the sting of anti-Semitism in the Indian army. “But I had some problems with the British,” he said, declining to elaborate. “I don’t like to talk about it.”

Interestingly enough, Jacob – whose Hebrew name is Yaacov Rafael and who serves as president of New Delhi’s one and only synagogue – was not the only high-ranking Jewish officer in the armed forces. “There was another Jewish general, a chap named Samson, and he was in research and development and ordnance. And there was also a Jewish vice-admiral.”

Upon leaving the army, Jacob went into business. But in 1998, he was called out of retirement to be governor of Goa, a former Portuguese colony popular with Israeli tourists. He remained there until 1999, when he assumed the governorship of Punjab, a job he held until 2003.

A three-time visitor to Israel who was once invited there by Yitzhak Rabin when he was the prime minister, Jacob was also on friendly terms with Mordechai Gur, a former Israeli chief of staff. Jacob played an indirect role in India’s decision to establish diplomatic relations with Israel in 1992, but he refused to talk about his role in that diplomatic rapprochement.

Referring to himself as “a very private person,” he was likewise reluctant to speak about his family, apart from saying that his brothers and sisters are deceased.

Today, in his twilight years, Jacob is a writer and lecturer on military and political affairs. But he wryly described his current status as “unemployed.”

Bangladesh War of Independence: West Pakistani Soldiers Kill Catholic Priests

Photo Courtesy: Father Evans (Holy Cross Church, Luxmibazar, Dhaka),
Father Veronesi (Bishop’s House Archives, Khulna), Father Marandi
(Catholic Beginnings in North Bengal by by Luigi Pinos, P.I.M.E.)
Layout and Design: Joachim Romeo D’Costa

The Pakistani ruling elite always considered the Hindus in East Pakistan as enemies and agents of India. During their nine-month long deadly crackdown in 1971, West Pakistani soldiers not only demolished many Hindu temples, but also killed a sizable number of Hindu priests, besides Hindu intellectuals, influential persons and common folks in different parts of the eastern wing of the country.

Comparatively, Christians did not suffer that much death and destruction as suffered by the Hindus. Yet, they were not totally spared. In certain pockets of East Pakistan, death and destruction visited them as well. In many mission church and school compounds, internal refugees –Hindus, Muslims and Christians — fleeing West Pakistani military crackdown and barbarity had taken shelter. They were fed and clothed. In this process, a good number of local priests and foreign missionaries — both Catholic and Protestant — faced threats and harassment from the West Pakistani military personnel.

Three Catholic priests — two foreign and one East Pakistani — were brutally killed, too. They were:

  • Father William P. Evans, C.S.C. (1919 – 1971):

Father William P. Evans, C.S.C., killed on November 23, 1971, was an American priest and missionary, belonging to the Congregation of Holy Cross. After coming to East Pakistan, he served at different capacities in various Catholic parish churches and, one time, at the Bandura Little Flower Seminary. Finally, he was the parish priest of Golla Catholic Church in Nawabganj Upazilla of Dhaka District.

Although he was a foreigner, he loved the Bangalis dearly and empathized with them and their aspirations. He aided many internal refugees and gave moral support to the muktijuddhas (fredom fighters) of the locality. West Pakistani army personnel in that area was aware of his support of the freedom fighters.

On November 13, 1971, as usual once a week, he was going by a boat to offer Mass at Bakshanagar Village, a mission station a few kilometres away from Golla. As his boat was passing by the army camp at Nawabganj, the soldiers signaled the boat to make a stoppage at the camp. When the boat reached the shore, soldiers grabbed Father Evans and struck him so hard with the rifle butt that he fell on the ground. His body was bayonated several times and ultimately he was killed with two bullets. Then they threw his corpse into the river that carried it several kilometres downstream.

Ordinary people recovered his body and brought it to Golla Church compound. Thousands of Catholics, Muslims and Hindus of the area came to pay their last respect to this holy man before his burial at the church graveyard.

Father Evans’ innate smiling face, love of people, humility, humour, and empathy drew people of all faiths to him. He was called a “holy man.” Till now, many people visit his grave.

In the Little Flower Seminary at Bandura in the early 60’s, he was our rector. From time to time, he used to give us writing assignments in English and after checking them would give his comments. On my assignment sheets, he would often remark: “Short sentences, but complete thought. Keep up the good work.” My later journalism and writing career in life was the result of his inspiration.

Father Evans has been honoured in different ways in Bangladesh. The Tribeni Chhatra Kallyan Sangha (youth organization) in 1972 started to give “Father Evans Scholarship” to poor but excelling students. In 1973, this organization had also started “Father Evans Memorial Football Tournament”. Later Shurid Sangha (another youth organization) in old Dhaka started its annual “Shaheed Father Evans Memorial Basketball Competition” among different youth organizations.

Source: Bangladeshey Catholic Mondoli (The Catholic Church in Bangladesh)
by Jerome D’Costa (Dhaka: Pratibeshi Prakashani, 1986), pp.302-303

  • Father Mario Veronesi, S.X. (1912 – 1971):

After West Pakistani military started their crackdown on the East Pakistanis (now Bangladesh) from March 25, 1971 onwards, many people of all faiths began to take refuge in church compounds — both Catholic and Protestant. In Jessore town, a number of such people took shelter in the church compound where Father Mario Veronesi, an Italian Xaverian priest and missionary, was the parish priest.

On April 4, 1971 it was the Palm Sunday. Father was taking care of the internal refugees who had taken shelter in his church compound. When the soldiers with their rifles and sub-machine guns entered the compound and were proceeding towards the building, Father Veronesi came out to meet them with his raised hands. He had a large red cross badge on his chest because there was also the Fatima Hospital adjacent to the place. The soldiers immediately started to fire at him and the building. He got bullets in his chest and died there. The soldiers then entered the church and shot and killed four of the refugees.

Initially, he was buried in Jessore. Later his body was taken to Shimulia Catholic Church compound and re-buried near the grave of another Italian Xaverian missionary Father Valerian Cobbe, S.X., who was killed on October 14, 1974 by robbers.

After the independence of Bangladesh in December, 1971, a Muslim student, named Ismail Hossain, wrote a letter to Father Valerian Cobbe and paid tribute to Father Mario Veronesi: “At last we have achieved independence and freedom! We rejoice and thank God and ask him to help our nation progress and live in tranquility. The memory of so many victims is the thing that saddens us most and gives us great pain. The best members of our society have died. Father Mario Veronesi is among these martyrs of our independence. We feel very proud of him: he paid the highest price for our independence!”

This 58-year-old Italian was a priest for 28 years, 19 of which he spent in East Pakistan. He worked in various capacity in different parish churches under the Diocese of Khulna. He is best remembered for working for the upliftment of the poor.

Source: www.xaviermissionaries.org/M_Stories/Martyrs/Vern7.htm

  • Father Lucas Marandi (1922 – 1971):

Father Lucas Marandi, belonging to the local Santal ethnic group, was a diocesan priest for 18 years under the Diocese of Dinajpur, East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). In 1971, he was the parish priest of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church at Ruhea in Thakurgaon District. He had a strong patriotic feeling for his country when the West Pakistani army began their bloody crackdown on the East Pakistani on March 25, 1971.

Thousands upon thousands of East Pakistanis in various districts and localities were fleeing the merciless attacks of the West Pakistani soldiers. Many were taking refuge in different border districts of India.

Father Marandi received the news that four Catholic mission centres of the Diocese of Dinajpur were abandoned after the military plunderings. In the Ruhea area itself, most of the members of the minority groups and many Muslims left their abodes and fled to nearby India. His parishoners, through messengers, were appealing him time and again to leave Ruhea and join them in India.

Finally, Father Marandi decided to move. He got the church bullock cart loaded with the parish archives and his personal belongings. He told the cart driver to move towards the border that was marked by the shallow Nagor River, six miles ( kilometres) away. He then reached the riverbank on his motor cycle.

When the cart reached the designated spot, the cart and he himself on the motor cycle crossed the river together. On reaching the Indian side of the river bank, he turned toward the Ruhea Church and kept on looking intently for quite some time. His companions could realize that something ominous was going on in his mind. When someone told him to make a move towards India, Father Marandi turned toward him and said gravely: “No, it has all been a mistake! Let’s go back to Ruhea!” He then crossed the river and started to return to his church.

Father Lucas Marandi was all alone in the Ruhea church compound except a few Catholics living nearby. After three days, on April 21, 1971, a West Pakistani army jeep pulled up at the priest’s residence. Father greeted them and offered them tea and biscuits. They then left for the north. He felt quite relieved of his tension, but temporarily. After three hours the jeep returned.

Father Marandi came out again, but the soldiers pushed him inside his residence and started to torture him for the next 15 minutes or so. They bayoneted his face beyond recognition. Blood splattered all over the walls. When they left the compound, mortally wounded Father was dying.

A few Catholics who lived nearby rushed in to see what had happened. Seeing his grave condition, they decided to take him to India by the very bullock cart that Father had used earlier. Before reaching the destination, Father Lucas Marandi expired. His corpse was taken to the Catholic Church at Islampur on the Indian side of the border where he is still buried.

Sooner they left the church compound then a bunch of local looters appeared and ransacked the church and priest’s residence and carried away everything available.

Source: Catholic Beginnings in North Bengal by Father Luigi Pinos, P.I.M.E.
(Saidpur: Catholic Church, 1984), pp.26-27)

These three priests are the testimonies of the crimes against humanity perpetrated by the ferocious and brutal West Pakistani soldiers.

Used with permission from Jerome D’Costa:

http://bangladeshcanadaandbeyond.blogspot.com/2009/03/bangladesh-war-of-independence-west.html

Agratala Conspiracy case withdrawn, Mass uprising of 1969 begins, Yahya Khan in Power

January – February 1969

Violence breaks out between people demonstrating against Ayub Khan’s martial law regime and the police.

The Agartala Conspiracy Case is withdrawn, and Sheikh Mujib is released, at the insistence of some of the West Pakistani leaders meeting with Ayub Khan in a round table discussion for restoring peace.

Ayub Khan hands over power to General Yahya Khan; martial law is imposed for the second time. Yahya Khan promises to return power to people’s representatives (March 25-26, 1969).

The deaths of student leader Asad and a high-school student Matiur Rahman give rise to the Mass Uprising of 1969 (gana-abhyuththaan)

Sergeant Zahurul Haq, one of the 35 accused in the Agartala Conspiracy Case, is shot dead while in military custody at the Dhaka Cantonment (February 15).

Bangladesh Boy Scout Association volunteered to carry the mail from the Bangladesh Mukti Fouz (Liberation Army) field post offices

During the war of independence of East Pakistan from Pakistan in April 1971, young boys of the Bangladesh Boy Scout Association volunteered to carry the mail from the Bangladesh Mukti Fouz (Liberation Army) field post offices. The field offices were Basantapur, Kaliganj, and Paikgacha in the Khulna District on the Khhanati River.

A special cachet was given on each mail as “MAIL CARRYING UNIT, BANGLADESH BOY SCOUTS” with spaces for “From”, “To”, and date and time. The letters addressed to India were carried by the Boy Scouts and handed over to the nearest Indian Post Office at Hangalganj on the bank of the Ichhamati River. This mail service continued until the end of hostilities.

This Boy Scout Cover has a Pakistan stamp overprinted “BANGLADESH 20P” postmarked “Field Post Office Benapole Bangladesh Mukti Fouz.” The red cachet shows the mail was carried by a Bangladesh Boy Scout with Indian transit and delivery strikes.

– Keith Larson

Mujibnagar Day: A milestone in our liberation war

Mujibnagar, April 17, 1971: C-in-C Col. Osmany, Acting President Syed Nazrul Islam, and Prime Minister Tajuddin Ahmed at the swearing in ceremony of the first Bangladesh government.

The Daily Star: Point-Counterpoint
Vol. 5 Num 316 – Sun. April 17, 2005

By Zahid Hossain

Today is April 17 — Mujibnagar Day. On this day in 1971, the Mujibnagar government was formed by the elected leaders of Bangladesh as the rightful constitutional, logical, and realistic step forward towards the full realization of our dream of an independent country of our own.

The observance of Mujibnagar Day in a befitting manner now warrants a special significance, specially in the backdrop of a sinister and ominous move by a certain quarter to distort our history of the war of independence. On this day the country and the people of Bangladesh should always gratefully cherish the memories of the freedom fighters and those political leaders who led them with deep affection and profound regard as well as with their firm determination and conviction.

The formation of the Mujibnagar government and its pronouncement to the world at large on April 17, 1971 is really a red-letter event in our national history, specially after the thumping victory of the Awami League in the elections of 1970 under the leadership of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

The 167 MNAs and 293 MPs who composed the Constituent Assembly fulfilling their constitutional obligation to the electors, gave a true shape and constitutional perspective on this day, making the dream of an independent Bangladesh a reality. From this point of view, Mujibnagar day (April 17) is a landmark in our struggle for independence as well as in our national history.

The Mujibnagar government was formed at the Baidyanathtala mango grove of Meherpur, a former Subdivision of Kustia district following the April 10 proclamation of independence order of Bangladesh. The oath taking was witnessed by hundreds of foreign journalists who had assembled there to hail the birth of a new nation.

The president of the new nation was Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman; Syed Nazrul Islam became the acting president in the absence of Bangabandhu; Tajuddin Ahmed, the Prime Minister; M. Mansur Ali, the Finance Minister; M. Quamruz Zaman, the Home, Relief and Rehabilitation Minister; and Khandakar Mustaque Ahmed, Foreign Affairs and Law Minister. General M. A. G. Osmani who was then a retired colonel and MNA elected from Awami League was made the C-in-C of the Bangladesh armed forces.

Herculean task
It was a Herculean task. Organizing civil administration and the freedom fighters, securing arms for the latter and training them, mobilizing international support for the liberation war through intense diplomatic action, ensuring speedy communication and effective coordination of various activities at hundred different levels, above all, keeping the morale of the freedom fighters high throughout the dark, difficult, and strenuous days of the war, called for extraordinary wisdom, dedication, patience, foresight, courage, and tenacity on the part of the Mujibnagar government and all those connected with it.

The formation of the Mujibnagar government had great significance for the fact that the great men who gave leadership to this great event in the absence of our supreme leader and continued the armed struggle for the following eight months, having allowed no breach in the unity of their people, which was one of the cornerstones of our total liberation war, fought valiantly involving everyone, and above all kept our leader alive in the minds of every freedom fighters as if he was fighting side by side with them.

The creation of April 17 in fact, gave the total war effort a fuller meaning. It cemented the unity of the people, brought the world closer to the existence of freedom fighters, made the war efforts bloom in its full focus, and realized the presence of Bangladesh in the comity of nations. It was in effect a formal introduction to the rest of the world of the nature of the political leadership that was set to guide the nation into a concerted and organized war of national independence.

That Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was the paramount leader of the country, both in its struggle for constitutional legitimacy and military triumph, was given political and moral sanction by everything that happened on April 17, 1971 in a spot of territory that was to be forever transformed in the annals of politics.

Bangabandhu never preached revolution
Bangabandhu had never preached revolution and political terrorism had never been part of his platform. Therefore, when the assault of the Pakistani military machine came, it remained for him to inform his associates that a long and hard struggle on the battlefield had become necessary. The declaration of independence he made moments before his arrest by the Pakistani military forces forced upon his associates the need for armed struggle. And that was proof that while he awaited uncertain and terrible incarceration, he had briefed his associates on what needed to be done. The dispersal of the leadership out of Dhaka as the army went into action was a sign that there was to be no turning back from the course Bengalis had set for themselves. And thus the formation of Mujibnagar government was undoubtedly a rightful constitutional as well as logical and realistic step by the trusted and capable associates of the great leader.

The establishment of the Mujibnagar government was an absolute necessity for another reason. Had it not been put in place, it is reasonably certain that diffuse guerilla movements would have spawned all over the country without any form of central control. The danger inherent in such politics lies in an absence of legitimacy. And in Bangladesh’s politics at that point in time, the absence of the Mujibnagar government would only have given the freedom struggle a clearly secessionist hue, to the immense delight of the Pakistanis and to the consternation of a Bengali population directly in the military’s line of fire. Seen in such light, the presence of Acting President Syed Nazrul Islam and Prime Minister Tajuddin Ahmed with their colleagues deep in Meherpur in April 1971 was a clear, unequivocal statement of intent: that the elected representatives of the people of Bangladesh had taken it upon themselves to give shape and substance to an independent statehood for them.

It was thus that the global community was left with hardly a choice. The initiation of the war of national liberation, given the fact that it was being waged by a leadership privy to the electorally acknowledged support of the nation, could not be dismissed as an insurrection or a secessionist enterprise. Moreover, the military’s misadventure (swooping upon Bengali political aspirations through an exercise of brazenness) assisted the cause not a little.

Flight to India
The killing of unarmed civilians, the razing of villages and townships, and the atrocities against women only strengthened the cause of the provisional government. In the months between March and December 1971, the flight of ten million to India convinced the global community of the necessity and the righteousness of the Bengali cause, and helped the Mujibnagar government to inform the world that there was no alternative to an independent Bangladesh.

The provisional government undertook the onerous responsibility of moulding international opinion in Bangladesh’s favour: the effort was assisted a great deal by the momentum of declaration of allegiance to the national struggle by Bengali diplomats stationed in Pakistani missions abroad. Placing the entire diplomatic efforts in the hands of a well-respected personality like Justice Abu Sayeed Chowdhury was yet another factor for the success of the efforts of Mujibnagar government in mobilizing world opinion in our favour.

The speeches and statements made by the Acting President, late Syed Nazrul Islam, Prime Minister late Tajuddin Ahmed and other leaders of the exiled Mujibnagar government at the formal oath taking ceremony and other subsequent occasions were widely appreciated world over as those reflected really democratic and progressive principles of the new government. The guiding principles and the state policies announced time to time by the exiled government were all fully democratic based on universal human rights principles and other widely accepted international norms and protocols.

Finally, the formation of the Mujibnagar government was the real birth of a new nation — a nation imbued with the spirit of democratic values, nationalism, secularism, and socialism, obtained from the call of a man whose stature as a statesman had surpassed any of his time and most of his predecessors, who united the Bengali speaking people of a piece of land to one man and raised a nation of indomitable courage and splendour, so powerful and splendid in its commitment that it went head on to face a fiercely equipped army of Pakistan, bare-handed bred with the courage of conviction and valour and strength of insurmountable will of head, heart and unity to be independent and ready to shed the last drop of blood of every individual born on this soil then called East Pakistan.

Dr. Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury BB who as the Sub-Divisional officer (SDO) of the then Meherpur Sub-Division, under Kustia district played the most critical role in organizing the Mujibnagar Ceremony has termed it as a “Milestone of our national history” saying that it gave “life and legitimacy” to the national liberation movement both internally and internationally.

Talking to me recently Dr. Chowdhury expressed his extreme annoyance at the recent trend of distorting the history of the our liberation war aiming to divide and confuse the new generation: “I am sure the new generation will go back to the sources of history and find out the real history and the truth shall prevail,” he expressed his firm conviction.

Almost similar sentiment has been expressed by Mr. Mahbubuddin Ahmed, BB who led the guard of honour given to the members of the Mujibnagar Cabinet on that auspicious day. Mr. Mahbub who was Sub-Division Police office of Jhenaidah (SDPO) at that time talking to me recently was very critical of the recent move by a section of our so-called intellectuals to distort the history of our liberation war.

However, the nation should gratefully remember the heroic courage, conviction, and determination of the politicians, the freedom fighters, and the people in general who sacrificed their everything for the cause of an independent country of our own. Equally firm determination, selfless sacrifice, and deep sense of patriotism are now also needed for the protection and proper implementation of the spirit of our liberation war against the designs of a section of our people who are engaged in doing everything possible to reestablish the so-called nationalism based on religion. Reaffirmation of strong conviction and united endeavour, as in 1971, are possibly the real need of the hour.
Zahid Hossain served with the Mujibnagar Government as Chief of Psychological Warfare, Ministry of Defense. The above article appeared in the Daily Star on Mujibnagar Dibash (Apr 17), 2005.