Sheikh Mujibur Rahman:Father of Nation in Bangladesh
General Studies 1:
- Modern History – Independence Movement
General Studies 2:
- India and its neighbourhood- relations
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman: Father of Nation in Bangladesh
- He served as the first President of Bangladesh and later as the Prime Minister of Bangladesh from 17 April 1971 until his assassination on 15 August 1975.
- He is popularly dubbed with the title of “Bangabandhu” (Bôngobondhu “Friend of Bengal”) by the people of Bangladesh.
- He became a leading figure in and eventually the leader of the Awami League, founded in 1949 as an East Pakistan-based political party in Pakistan; Played an important role in the six-point movement and the Anti-Ayub movement.
- His daughter Sheikh Hasina is the current leader of the Awami League and also the Prime Minister of Bangladesh.
Independence of Bangladesh
Mujib is credited as an important figure in efforts to gain political autonomy for East Pakistan and later as the central figure behind the Bangladesh Liberation Movement and the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971. Thus, he is regarded “Jatir Janak” or “Jatir Pita” (Jatir Jônok or Jatir Pita, both meaning “Father of the Nation”) of Bangladesh.
He became popular for his opposition to the ethnic and institutional discrimination of Bengalis in Pakistan, who comprised the majority of the state’s population. At the heightening of sectional tensions, he outlined a 6-point autonomy plan and was jailed by the regime of Field Marshal Ayub Khan for treason.
Mujib led the Awami League to win the first democratic election of Pakistan in 1970. Despite gaining a majority, the League was not invited by the ruling military junta to form a government. As civil disobedience erupted across East Pakistan, Mujib indirectly announced independence of Bangladesh during a landmark speech on 7 March 1971.
On 26 March 1971, the Pakistan Army responded to the mass protests with Operation Searchlight, in which Prime Minister-elect Mujib was arrested and flown to solitary confinement in West Pakistan, while Bengali civilians, students, intellectuals, politicians and military defectors were murdered as part of the 1971 Bangladesh genocide.
During Mujib’s absence, many Bengalis joined the Mukti Bahini, the guerrilla resistance movement consisting of the Bangladeshi military, paramilitary and civilians during the War of Liberation and, helped by the Indian Armed Forces, defeated the Pakistan Armed Forces during the Bangladesh Liberation War.
Mujib’s 6-point autonomy plan
In 1966, Mujib proclaimed a 6-point plan titled Our Charter of Survival at a national conference of opposition political parties at Lahore, in which he demanded self-government and considerable political, economic and defence autonomy for East Pakistan in a Pakistani federation with a weak central government.
According to his plan:
- The constitution should provide for a Federation of Pakistan in its true sense on the Lahore Resolution and the parliamentary form of government with supremacy of a legislature directly elected on the basis of the universal adult franchise.
- The federal government should deal with only two subjects: defense and foreign affairs, and all other residuary subjects shall be vested in the federating states.
- Two separate, but freely convertible currencies for two wings should be introduced; or if this is not feasible, there should be one currency for the whole country, but effective constitutional provisions should be introduced to stop the flight of capital from East to West Pakistan. Furthermore, a separate banking reserve should be established and separate fiscal and monetary policy be adopted for East Pakistan.
- The power of taxation and revenue collection shall be vested in the federating units and the federal center will have no such power. The Federation will be entitled to a share in the state taxes to meet its expenditures.
- There should be two separate accounts for the foreign exchange earnings of the two wings; the foreign exchange requirements of the federal government should be met by the two wings equally or in a ratio to be fixed; indigenous products should move free of duty between the two wings, and the constitution should empower the units to establish trade links with foreign countries.
- East Pakistan should have a separate militia or paramilitary forces.
Sheikh Mujib became the Prime Minister of Bangladesh under a parliamentary system adopted by the new country.
He charged the provisional parliament to write a new constitution proclaiming the four fundamental principles of “nationalism, secularism, democracy, and socialism,” which reflect his political views collectively known as Mujibism.
The Awami League won a huge mandate in the country’s first general election in 1973. However, Mujib faced challenges of rampant unemployment, poverty and corruption, as well as the Bangladesh famine of 1974. The government was criticized for denying constitutional recognition to indigenous minorities and human rights violations by its security forces, notably the National Defence Force para militia.
In January 1975, the government of a beleaguered Mujib amended the Constitution to grant him absolutist presidency for five years. In February, Mujib made Bangladesh a one-party state. Six months later, he and most of his family were assassinated by renegade army officers during a coup.
Legacy and Shared Heritage
The shared heritage of the two nations comes from intellectuals like Rabindranath Tagore, Kazi Nazrul Islam, Ustad Alauddin Khan, Lalon Shah, Jibanananda Das and Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, he said.
Legacy and inspiration of Bangabandhu has made our heritage more comprehensive. India has always been attached to his ideals and values. Deep rooted relations between India and Bangladesh have been laid on the foundation of this shared heritage.
- Bangladesh has decided to celebrate the ‘Mujib Year’ from March 17, 2020 to March 17, 2021 to mark the centenary year of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the first President of Bangladesh.
- Operation Searchlight: A planned military operation carried out by the Pakistan Army to curb the Bengali nationalist movement in the erstwhile East Pakistan in March 1971