Biography of Tajuddin Ahmad
(Founder Prime Minister of Bangladesh)
(July 23, 1925 - November 3, 1975)
was born on July 23, 1925, in the village Dardoria, in Kapasia Thana,of Gazipur district, which is 82 kilometers by road from the Capital city Dhaka, Bangladesh. The name of the village connotes "The River Gate" or "Flowing River" and may be associated with the river Shitalakhya on whose bank it stands.
Tajuddin’s father was Moulavi Muhammad Yasin Khan and his mother Meherunnesa Khanam. There were ten brothers and sisters--four brothers and six sisters. Being the child of a conservative Muslim family from a middle class, his education began at the village maktab (religious school) founded by his father. Later on he was enrolled in Bhuleswar Primary School, two kilometers from the family house. When he was in class (grade) four he was enrolled in Kapasia Minor English School, a distance of five kilometers from Dardoria. His enrollment at this school was due to the encouragement of his mother. While a student at Kapasia M.E. School Tajuddin drew the attention of three senior revolutionary leaders who had dedicated their lives to liberating their country from the British rule. They were impressed by Tajuddin’s merit and planted the seed of patriotism in young Tajuddin’s heart. They recommended to his teachers that their student be sent on to a better school. Accordingly he was admitted into St. Nicholas Institution in Kalinganj. At this school, as well, he so distinguished himself that the headmaster advised that he be admitted into Muslim Boys’ School in Dhaka, and then he went on to St. Gregory’s High School. During his studies in school Tajuddin Ahmad always stood first in his class. In the ME Scholarship exam he won the first place in Dhaka District. Tajuddin Ahmad was also a Hafez (one who is intensely well-versed in the Holy Quran and knows the Holy Quran by heart). In 1942, when the World War II was going on, he received training in civil defense.
In 1944, at the Matriculation exam, he won the twelfth place in the First Division, in Kolkata Board,the only existing board,in Bengal Province, during that period. In 1948 at the Intermediate (equivalent to HSC) exam he won the fourth place in the First Division,in Dhaka Board.He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1954 in Economics from Dhaka university. 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. A political prisoner,he appeared in law exam while in prison, by obtaining a special permission from the board of education.
Tajuddin was all along associated with the Boy Scout movement.
Since his school dayshad been involved in progressive movements, politics and social work. He had been imprisoned numerous times for his political activities for freedom, democracy and economic justice. In the Provincial Election of 1954 he ran on the ticket of the Jukta (United) Front and defeated the General Secretary of the Muslim League by a wide margin and was elected MLA. As a student of law he attended his classes regularly but took the final examination while in jail and obtained the LL.B. degree. The famine of 1943 and its trail of deaths moved Tajuddin Ahmad deeply. After the famine he organized the people of the village into setting up a storage system called "Dharmagola" which was a novelty at the village level. In harvest season food grain would be collected from the rich and deposited in the storage so that food could be supplied to the hungry in time of disaster. He would work relentlessly for service to the needy. When Tajuddin Ahmad was an MLA, a boy named Abdul Aziz in his village was wounded from a gunshot. He brought the boy to the hospital and himself donated 10 ounces of blood with the purpose of saving the life of the victim. Later, on hearing that the boy died, he was deeply grieved.
From the time of his student days Tajuddin Ahmad was connected with the kind of politics which aimed to emancipate the people of Bengal. From 1943 onward he was an activist of the progressive Muslim League. In 1944 he was elected Councilor of the then Bengal Muslim League. In 1947 India was partitioned into two States, namely India and Pakistan. The State of Pakistan was divided into two wings called East Pakistan and West Pakistan, which were separated by twelve hundred miles. After the partition of India, Tajuddin was actively associated with every movement that was organized in Pakistan to resist communalism and to support economic emancipation and the language movement. When East Pakistan Students League was formed on 4th January 1948 he was one of its founders and devotedly discharged his onerous responsibility in this regard. He was an active member of All-Party State Language Movement which aimed to establish Bengali, the language spoken by the majority in East Pakistan as the State Language of Pakistan. When the Awami League was formed on 23 June, 1949 Tajuddin Ahmad was one of its main organizers. From 1953 to 1957 he was General Secretary of Dhaka District Awami League. In 1955 he was elected Social Welfare and Cultural Secretary of Awami League. He visited the United States as a State guest in 1958. The same year he visited the United Kingdom.
Syeda Zohra Khatun (Lily) and Tajuddin were married on April 26, 1959.
Tajuddin found an ideal life partner in Zohra . Their marriage inspired Tajuddin to continue his struggle for freedom and democracy. In 1962 he was actively involved in the movement for restoration of democracy and was imprisoned. In 1964 Tajuddin Ahmad played a key role in the revival of Awami League. In 1964 after being elected Awami League’s Organizing Secretary he, under the leadership of Bangabandhu (the title Bangabandhu which means the Friend of Bengal was bestowed on Sheikh Mujibur Rahman by the people of Bangladesh), infused a new vigor into the party. In 1966 he attended with Bangabandhu the conference of opposition parties held in Lahore, (then) West Pakistan. At this conference Bangabandhu declared the Six Points, the charter of liberation of the Bangalees in (then) East Pakistan. Tajuddin was one of the key architects of the Six Points. By dint of his organizational skill and devotion he became a close associate of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. In the same year he was elected General Secretary of Awami League. While the movement for Six Points was ongoing he was arrested on May 8, 1966. He was released on February 12, 1969 in the face of mass upsurge. In the 1970 general election he was elected member of Pakistan’s National Assembly. In an attempt to deny the popular mandate and to foil by various stratagems, the Bangalees’ struggle to realize their rights, Pakistan’s military dictator President Yahya Khan suddenly declared postponement of the session of the National Assembly on 3rd March, 1971. The unprecedented Non-Cooperation Movement was launched under the leadership of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. In directing the organizational strategies of this movement and negotiating with the military rulers at the discussion table as a trusted associate of Bangabandhu, 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.
On the night of 25 March, 1971 the Pakistani forces went on aand arrested Bangabandhu and took him to West Pakistan the next day. Liberation war of the Bangalees began. The East Pakistan declared Independence from Pakistan and emerged as Bangladesh on March 26, 1971. In the absence of Bangabandhu the responsibility of leadership devolved on Tahuddin Ahmad. On April 10, 1971 the government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh was formed and Tajuddin became its Prime Minister by universal consent. This government took a formal oath of office in the presence of hundreds of local and foreign journalists and residents of the area on April 17, 1971. The Proclamation of Independence was read and the Oath took place in the Mango Orchard of Bayddanathtala in Kushtia, Bangladesh. Tajuddin renamed this place " " which means the ‘City of Mujib’ after Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. He declared Mujibnagar as the official Capital of Bangladesh. Despite crippling obstacles he organized both the political and the military front within a short time. His abilities, sacrifice, devotion and patriotism inspired all. The successful leadership during the liberation war marked the finest period of Tajuddin Ahmad’s life. During the liberation war the office of the exile Mujibnagar Government was established at No. 8 Theatre Road in Kolkata, India. In two rooms at one corner of No.8 Theatre Road Tajuddin set up his office and his residence. All through the liberation war Tajuddin Ahmad worked day and night in that temporary office of theatre road. He passed night after night in discomfort, ate whatever food was supplied by the mess, even did his own washing. 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. It is not possible to express in words the hard work that he did during the nine months of the war. During those months there was no rest for him. It was because of his capable leadership that the nation could win its independence within a record time of 266 days.
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. It was his unbreakable spirit that helped the nation to wriggle out of the deep crisis into which it was thrown. With his idealism and firmness of resolve and unique qualities of leadership he was able to spurn all inducements and strove single-mindedly towards his goal. He was not willing to settle for anything less than full independence. No one could deflect him in the slightest degree from his firm resolve. Because of his clear pragmatic thinking and courage he could reach the cherished goal in due time. Tajuddin Ahmad possessed the rare ability to make the right decision with intelligence in a moment of crisis.
He was able to create enthusiasm in the 75 million people of Bangladesh across parties and ideologies for freedom. During the liberation war the force of his inspiring leadership and overpowering oratory made the 75 million people of Bangladesh, irrespective of party and persuasion, into determined freedom fighters--an achievement that might not have been possible with any other leader. He knew no nepotism and treated every one, including his opponents and those who caused him harm, with fairness and justice.
After the victory in the liberation war and till Bangabandhu’s return on 10 January 1972, Tajuddin directed the affairs of the state. He handed over the Prime Minister’s position to the Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, on January 12,1972. After the transfer of power, he held the portfolios of Finance and Planning.He took great pains to build up a self-reliant and flourishing economy. He left a high mark as the Finance Minister of a newly independent nation. As a member of the constituion framing committee,Tajuddin was one of the key architects in framing the constitution of the newly liberated country. His pragmatic approach to problem solving and stand for truth and justice won him many friends. It also won him enemies who relentlessly conspired to put obstacles in his path.
He resigned as the Minister of Finance on 26 October 1974. On August 15, 1975 Bangabandhu with his family-members were assassinated by the usurpers. Tajuddin was house arrested on the morning of that day. He was taken to the central jail on August 22. On November 3, 1975,while in custody, Tajuddin Ahmad and his three colleagues and national leaders, Syed Nazrul Islam, M Mansur Ali and Kamruzzaman were brutally assassinated in violation of all prison rules and the law of the land. Besides wife Syeda Zohra Tajuddin, eldest daughter Sharmin Ahmad (Reepi), second daughter Simeen Hussain (Rimi), youngest daughter Mahjabeen Ahmad (Mimi) and the only son Tanjim Ahmad (Sohel), Tajuddin has left countless admirers. The Founder Prime Minister and the protagonist of the Bangladesh liberation war, Tajuddin Ahmad, who had dedicated his heart and soul to serving humanity and building Bangladesh into a happy, prosperous and independent nation, left this world as a martyr. He lived his life with highest integrity, and offered his life for the people’s welfare. He never sought publicity nor media attention for himself. This selfless statesman who was endowed with brilliance, humility, courage and respect for people, irrespective of caste, creed or color was mercilessly killed by the enemies of the country’s liberation. 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.
Translation from Bangla by Muhammad Nurul Quadir (Freedom Fighter and Lawyer)
Revised by Sharmin Ahmad. April 14, 2008.
Tajuddin Ahmad: Itihasher Pata Theke. Edited by Simeen Hussain Rimi.Dhaka: Pratibhas,2000.
Independence of Bangladesh in 266 Days:History and Documentary Evidence.Muhammad Nurul Quadir.Dhaka.Mukto Publishers,2004.
When Sheikh Mujibur Rahman assumed the title of president and banned other political parties in 1975, Ahmad opposed the forming of one party system known as Baksal. When Bangabandhu was assassinated on August 15, 1975, Ahmad was kept under house arrest on the very same day. Later, on August 22, he was arrested with other political leaders by the regime of the new president Khondaker Mustaq Ahmed and imprisoned at the Dhaka Central Jail.
On November 3, in what became infamously known as the "Jail killings," Ahmad along with Syed Nazrul Islam, A. H. M. Qamaruzzaman and Muhammad Mansur Ali were killed on the direct instruction of Khondakar Mushtaq Ahmed. And, thus, a great son of the soil was smote down, and we say in the words of Shakespeare: "Woe to the hand that shed this costly blood."