Tajuddin Ahmad: Genesis
Interwoven within the fabric of the starry constellations above our blessed motherland, and imbedded within the very soil upon which we tread are Tajuddin Ahmad's pulsating heart, his resonating soul and his unshakeable legacy. Truly, Bangladesh itself stands as a testament to Tajuddin's unwavering determination and emblematic leadership during the nine-month War of Liberation in 1971.
Those turbulent times would give rise to this 45 year-old national hero who would pioneer, drawing from the recesses of the collective Bengali spirit, the genesis of the first ever Bengali nation in history as well as its first fully autonomous government. As today, July 23rd, marks Tajuddin's 86th birthday, we celebrate both the man and the liberator.
On the March 25, 1971, the maniacal Pakistani regime had launched an all-out military crackdown. Having been on the run for days on foot, boat, car and horse Tajuddin Ahmad and Barrister Amirul Islam found themselves in no-man's land bordering India. Young Amirul Islam, in full cognisance of the pivotal roles in history he and Tajuddin Ahmad were playing, was surprised to catch the characteristically cool-headed Tajuddin brooding, almost as if he were sad.
Upon inquiry, Tajuddin somberly replied that he had been reminiscing about a bet that he made a long time ago with Hindu classmates of his. He had bet that Pakistan was sure to survive as a nation whereas his classmates had disagreed. Alas, standing there at the crossroads of fate, hanging in limbo in no man's land, Tajuddin realised that he had lost the bet. There was no turning back.
Tajuddin had good cause to be in a state of melancholy. Up to less than a week ago the agreed upon plan had been that Tajuddin, the General Secretary of Awami League, would, in the case of a military crackdown, follow Awami League President Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman into hiding, from where they would lead an underground campaign against the Pakistani Regime.
Tajuddin stood aghast in Bangabandhu's residence, hours before the crackdown, when his beloved leader told him that he would not be participating in the struggle and that Tajuddin should relax at home and get some sleep. Bangabandhu, being the emotionally charged leader he was, perhaps felt that if he surrendered it would help mitigate the Pakistani regime's brutality towards his people. The masses would revolt and demand the release of their beloved leader as they had done during the Agartala case.
With no instruction given to him or the upper echelon of Awami League leaders, Tajuddin returned home visibly flustered. After pacing up and down the corridor in disbelief at the nation's predicament, he began to collect his thoughts; this was no Agartala. The Pakistani regime's decades of mounting social, cultural, and racial oppression coupled with economic extortion reminiscent of British colonial rule had risen to a fever pitch.
The regime's refusal to hand over power to a democratically elected Awami League was the final straw. The breakdown in relations had reached the point of no return. An independent Bangladesh was the only solution the people would be satisfied with. Having made up his mind Tajuddin grabbed his rifle and embarked upon his singularly heroic quest. He would muster every ounce of his seasoned political skills to navigate through the treacherous terrain ahead.
Tajuddin, since his boyhood, had the uncanny ability to remedy social problems. His social skills were borne of an inner humaneness, and a genuine desire to positively impact the world around him. Following the devastating famine of 1943, an emotionally impacted Tajuddin devised and implemented for the village a system called the "Dharmagola." During the harvest, food would be collected from the rich and stored for the hungry in case of future disasters.
During a cholera outbreak in the village, victims of the disease were left isolated without help. Healthy villagers were terrified at the thought of going anywhere near them. Young Tajuddin requested his paternal grandmother to cook for them so he could deliver the food to them himself and provide them with care. He was so in tune with the needs of those around him since his youth, it is no surprise that he so handily defeated the then Muslim League General Secretary in the 1954 election.
In 1971 the geopolitical landscape was such that the miracle of surmounting the odds against the liberation of Bangladesh would be akin to Moses parting the sea. India's Muslim leaders, and their pro-Congress Party voters, who at the outset leaned against independence, would have to be persuaded by Tajuddin to lend their support. Saudi Arabia and other Muslim majority countries would be set against the split. India also had to be persuaded to accommodate 10 million refugees and be sure not to jeopardise its relationship with the USSR.
The Nixon-Kissinger led United States needed to stay on good terms with the Pakistani regime by supporting it with arms and munitions to get close to China, which itself would back Pakistan in the case of conflict. On the home front Tajuddin would have to form a government and unite the country under the banner of the absent president. He would have to navigate through sabotage and treachery from party leaders and upstart young Turks while commanding the Mukti Bahini in his self-abnegating role as the new nation's first ever prime minister.
Let us, on this auspicious day, pay tribute to Tajuddin Ahmad, the man, the leader, and liberator. Let us in sincerity reflect upon our history and marvel at our nation, which stands as a monument to Tajuddin's extraordinary leadership and courage.