Nurul Islam Hasib
The nation begins the countdown for the celebration of the birth centenary of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman today. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will inaugurate the countdown at the Tejgaon Old Airport in Dhaka where Bangabandhu landed in the freshly liberated and sovereign Bangladesh on January 10, 1972 after being released from Pakistan prison.
The observance of the birth centenary from March 17, 2020 to March 17, 2021 is aimed at presenting the life and works of Bangabandhu before the world. Bangladesh Post tried to chronicle Bangabandhu’s life and works with the information taken from the Birth Centenary Celebration National Implementation Committee.
1920 : Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was born in the village of Tungipara Gopalganj district on March 17, 1920. His father Sheikh Lutfar Rahman and his mother Sheikh Sayera Khatun had four daughters and two sons. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was their third child. His parents used to adoringly call him "Khoka"
1927 : At the age of seven in 1927, Sheikh Mujib began his schooling at Gimadanga Primary School. At nine, he was admitted to class three at Gopalgonj Public School. Subsequently, he was admitted to Gopalgonj Missionary School. Before becoming active in student movements and politics, he had an affinity toward sports like any other teenager. He possessed a special love for the game of football. A talented football player, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman spent his adolescent years playing in competitive tournaments, where he received awards for his outstanding performances.
1938 : Sheikh Mujibur Rahman married Sheikh Fazilatunnesa (Renu). Together they had two daughters, Sheikh Hasina and Sheikh Rehana, and three sons, Sheikh Kamal, Sheikh Jamal and Sheikh Russel.
1942 : Sheikh Mujibur Rahman passed Matriculation examination from Gopalganj Mission School. The same year he got himself admitted into the Islamia College (currently Maulana Azad College), Kolkata. From there he completed his graduation in the year 1947.
1943 : In 1943, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was elected councillor of All India Muslim League from Bengal. He continued to serve admirably in this position till the partition of India in 1947.
1946 : Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was elected uncontested as the General Secretary of Islamia College Students Union. During the ‘Calcutta Killing’ (communal riots) on August 16, 1946, he engaged himself in maintaining peace and communal harmony, saving lives of many a member of both Hindu and Muslim communities even at the risk of his own life.
1947 : Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman met Mahatma Gandhi during his peace mission. Sheikh Mujib joined Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy’s move for a United Independent Bengal as a third free state along with India and Pakistan. However, the move was aborted and subsequently became the foundations of the Father of the Nation’s vision for an independent Bangladesh.
1948 : Sheikh Mujibur Rahman took admission in the Department of Law at the University of Dhaka. He founded the East Pakistan Muslim Students’ League, the first opposition student organization in Pakistan on January 4. He rose in spontaneous protest on February 23 when Prime Minister Khawaja Nazimuddin declared at the Constituent Assembly: ‘The people of East Pakistan must accept Urdu as their state language.’ Sheikh Mujib immediately plunged himself in overt activities to build a strong movement against the Muslim League’s memorandum to make Urdu the only state language of Pakistan. On March 2, a meeting held at Fazlul Huq Muslim Hall approved a resolution placed by Sheikh Mujib to form an All-Party State Language Action Committee. He was arrested along with some colleagues on March 11 while they were picketing in front of secretariat building in observance of the `State Language Bangla Day.’ In the face of overpowering student protests, the Muslim League government was forced to release Sheikh Mujib and other student leaders on March 15.
1949 : Sheikh Mujibur Rahman extended his support for a movement of the Class 4 employees of the University of Dhaka aimed at realizing their rights and job security. He was arrested on April 19 from the residence of the University’s vice-chancellor, where he along with some students had assembled for a demonstration. On June 23, the East Pakistan Awami Muslim League (present Awami League) was founded and he was elected as the joint Secretary whilst in prison.
1952 : On January 26, the then Prime Minister of Pakistan Khawaja Nazimuddin declared Urdu as the only state language of Pakistan. While in captivity, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman stayed in constant touch with those waging the movement to realize Bangla as one of the state languages. He issued key directives to make the movement a success even from the confines of his prison. On February 16, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman started a hunger strike unto death that lasted for 11 days and was released on February 27. On February 21, the agitated students came out in strike to establish Bangla as the state language of East Pakistan in defiance of the curfew enforced by the authorities. The same year, he visited China to attend a peace conference, there he delivered a resounding speech in Bangla, taking the mother language movement to a global audience.
1953 : Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was elected General Secretary of the Awami Muslim League and continued to gain prominence as a Bengali leader.
1954 : The first general elections in East Bengal were held on March 10. The United Front won 223 seats out of 237. The Awami League was victorious in 143 seats. Sheikh Mujib won the election for the Gopalganj constituency and took oath on May 15 as Minister for Agriculture and Forest in the new provincial government. The central government arbitrarily dismissed the United Front cabinet using the Indian Independence Act of '47 on May 29, and as Mujib landed back in Dhaka from Karachi on May 30, he was immediately arrested. He was released on December 23.
1955 : Under the leadership of the Party General Secretary Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the Awami Muslim League was renamed as the Awami League by dropping the word ‘Muslim’ to open the doors of the party to all, regardless of religion. This decision was made at the council session of the party during October 21-23, 1955. He was once again elected as the General Secretary of the party on September 6.
1956 : Sheikh Mujibur Rahman joined the provincial Awami League government headed by Khan Ataur Rahman as a minister. He remained in this position for 9 months only. Voluntarily resigning on May 30, 1957 from the Cabinet in order to continue as the General Secretary of the party to build the organization on a firm footing as a platform of the Bengalis.
1957 : Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was re-elected as the General Secretary of the Party at its council meeting held during June 13-14, 1957. From June 24 to July 13, he visited China on an official tour.
1958 : Pakistan’s President, Major General Iskander Mirza, and the chief of Pakistan’s army, General Ayub Khan, imposed martial law on October 7 and banned all political activities. Mujib was arrested on October 11. Thereafter, he was continuously harassed in false cases. He was released from prison after fourteen months but was arrested immediately at the jail gate.
1961 : Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was released from jail after the high court declared his detention unlawful. He set up an underground organization called `Swadhin Bangla Biplobi Parishad’ (Revolutionary Council for Independent Bengal) comprising leading student leaders in order to work for the independence of Bangladesh.
1962 : Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was again arrested by the Ayub government on February 6, 1962. He was freed on June 18 following the withdrawal of the four-year-long martial law on June 2. He travelled to Lahore on September 24 and with Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy and other opposition parties formed the National Democratic Front (NDF).
1964 : On January 25, a special meeting of the party leaders including Presidents and Secretaries of the district committees was held at Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s Dhanmondi 32 residence. In this meeting, the decision was taken to reactivate the Awami League party separately from the National Democratic Front (NDF). At its council meeting during March 6-8, proposals containing the right of the general people of the country to vote and elect their own parliamentary government were accepted. In the same meeting, Maulana Abdur Rashid Tarkabagish and Sheikh Mujibur Rahman were elected President and General Secretary respectively. As a communal riot broke out in East Pakistan, a strong Riot Resistance Committee was formed under the initiative of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. He made a clarion call to the people to stand up and resist the communal forces. After the riots, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman took the initiative to prepare for a united movement against the then Pakistan’s military dictator General Ayub Khan. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was arrested 14 days before the presidential election.
1965 : The Pakistani government charged Sheikh Mujibur Rahman with sedition and for making ‘so called’ objectionable statements. He was sentenced to one-year imprisonment and was released by an order of the high court.
1966 : On February 5, 1966, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman presented his historic six-point programme known as the `charter of freedom of the Bengali nation’. It drew the roadmap for the independence of Bangladesh under the garb of greater autonomy. The programme hit hard at the roots of Pakistani colonial rule over the Bengalis. On March 1, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was elected the President of Awami League. He travelled far and wide in order to gain support for the programme and was arrested 8 times, with the final arrest on May 8, 1966. He was imprisoned for nearly 3 years during this time.
1968 : On January 3, the Ayub government filed a case, known as the ‘Agartala Conspiracy Case’ against a number of Bengalis (Politicians, members of the Army, Navy and Air Force, Civil Servants etc) on the charge of treason. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was shown arrested on January 18, while already in jail. He was made number 1 accused and the official name of the case was ‘The State vs Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Others’. Along with him, 34 others were implicated in the case, bringing the charge of forced secession of East Bengal with the assistance of India. Mass movement spread across the country demanding the release of all the accused including Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. On June 19, the trial of the accused began at Dhaka Cantonment under intense security and scrutiny.
1969 : The Agartala Conspiracy Case resulted in a nationwide student movement and mass upsurge demanding the withdrawal of the case and the release of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. With continued pressure from the public, the Ayub Khan government on February 22 was forced to withdraw the Agartala Conspiracy Case and release Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and others. Afterwards, Sheikh Mujib was awarded with the title 'Bangabandhu' at a reception of a million student and the masses in a rally organized by Central Student Action Committee at the Race Course (now Suhrawardy Udyan) on February 23. At a discussion meeting held on December 5 to observe the death anniversary of Shaheed Suhrawardy, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman declared that henceforth East Pakistan would be called Bangladesh.
1970 : Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the Awami League President, urged his countrymen to elect Awami League in light of the 6-point demand. He chose 'boat' as the symbol to represent Awami League and the nation's hope. When a million people died in a catastrophic cyclone in the coastal areas, on November 12, Sheikh areas, on November 12, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman suspended the election campaign and rushed to the affected areas. Awami League achieved absolute majority in the general elections on December 7, winning 167 (including 7 women reserved seats) out of the 169 seats of the National Assembly in East Pakistan and 298 seats (including 10 women reserved seats) of the 310 seats of the Provincial Assembly of East Pakistan.
1971 : Following general Yahya Khan’s postponement of the National Assembly session on March 1, 1971, only two days before the session was due to take place, every section of the Bengalis instantaneously came out onto the streets in massive demonstrations. The Bengalis aspirations for freedom reached an indomitable height. From March 1 onward Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was virtually running East Pakistan as its de-facto head of government. On March 7, in his historic speech before the millions at the Racecourse Maidan (Suhrawardy Udyan), Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman called his fellow countrymen to take all out preparations for the war of liberation and independence of Bangladesh. In this grave situation Pakistan’s president General Yahya khan came to Dhaka and held a series of meetings with Sheikh Mujibur Rahman between March 16 and March 24, none of which brought about any resolution. On the midnight of March 25, the Pakistan army launched its heinous campaign of genocide against the unarmed Bengalis. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman proclaimed the Independence of Bangladesh in the early hours of March 26. Right after the proclamation, he was arrested and taken to a Pakistani prison. On April 10, 1971, the first government of the people’s republic of Bangladesh was formed, and Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was elected the President by the constituent assembly. During August & September of 1971, the Pakistan Junta held a secret trial and sentenced Bangabandhu to death.
1972 : The Government of Pakistan was forced to release Sheikh Mujibur Rahman under immense international pressure on January 8. On that very day, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman traveled to London on his way to Dhaka. There, at a crowded press conference in his hotel in London, he spoke to the world press and on January 9, met the British Prime Minister, Edward Heath. Prior to returning to Dhaka, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman stopped over at Delhi, where the Indian President V. V. Giri and Prime Minister Indira Gandhi welcomed him with grace. When the Father of the Nation reached Dhaka on January 10, millions of grateful citizens of the newest country in the world welcomed him with open arms. He went straight from the airport to the Race Course Maidan now renamed Suhrawardy Udyan, where he addressed the free people of his nation for the first time. On January 12, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman took charge as the Prime Minister of Bangladesh and embarked on the reconstruction of a war-ravaged country. Within a period of three and half years, Bangabandhu laid the foundations of the new Republic by putting into effect several measures, including rehabilitation of 10 million Bengali refugees, withdrawal of all allied forces within 3 months of victory, formation of the constituent assembly & a constitution for the new state within 10 months, recognition of Bangladesh by more than a hundred states, Bangladesh’s membership of important international bodies including Commonwealth of Nations, the United Nations, NAM, OIC, enactment of International (Crimes) Tribunal Laws, etc.
1973 : Led by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the Awami League secured 293 seats out of the 300 Parliament seats in the first general elections held on March 7 in an independent Bangladesh and subsequently formed a new Government on the basis of the newly framed constitution. The World Peace Council awarded “Julio Curie” Peace Prize to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman for his contribution to world peace on May 23.
1974 : Bangladesh received official world recognition by becoming the 136th member of the United Nations on September 17. On September 25, at the 29th General Assembly of the United Nations, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman addressed the world in Bangla, the first ever Bangla speech delivered at the UN.
1975 : Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the architect of Bangladesh, was assassinated by a handful of army renegades as part of a larger national and international political conspiracy hatched by anti-liberation forces in the pre-dawn hours of August 15. They murdered in cold blood every member of his family except his daughters Sheikh Hasina and Sheikh Rehana, who by fortune alone were abroad at that time. Bangladesh observes August 15 as the National Mourning Day and remembers the noblest and the greatest Bengali who ever lived, through his spirit, ideology, courage and love for the people of his nation.