Who was Mujibur Rahman?
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, also known as Bangabandhu or friend of Bengal, is a leading political figure in Bangladesh that helped the nation attain freedom from Pakistan in 1971. Mujib was born in 1920 to the Bengali-native Muslim family of Sheikh Luftur Rahman.
Life and Political Career
Mujib was politically active from a young age. In 1940, he joined the All India Muslim Students Federation. He later joined the Bengal Muslim League and worked persistently for the creation of a separate Muslim state. After partition, he returned to East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) and founded the East Pakistan Muslim Students’ League. He played a leading role in protesting against West Pakistan’s decision of keeping Urdu the official State language.
Mujib left Muslim League to form a new party, Awami Muslim League. In 1954, he was elected to the East Bengal Legislative Assembly. In 1958, Mujib organized resistance against Ayub Khan’s martial law and was imprisoned for 3 years. His resistance against the West Pakistani leaders continued and he was jailed several times before he was captured by West Pakistan and taken to Lahore in 1971.
Bangladesh Freedom Movement
Mujib’s resistance had sown a seed of civil disobedience against the actions of West Pakistan. On 7 March 1971, Mujib in a landmark speech at Dhaka’s Ramna Race Course asked citizens to start a civil disobedience movement for the independence of Bangladesh. He was arrested and taken to Lahore after Ayub Khan declared martial law in the state. In retaliation to mass protests, Pakistan began Operation Searchlight, also called the 1971 Bangladesh genocide.
In 1971, with the help of the Indian Armed Forces, Bangladesh defeated Pakistan’s Armed Forces and Bangladesh was declared independent. Mujib became the first Prime Minister of independent Bangladesh.
In 1975, a small troop of young Bangladeshi Army officers invaded Mujib’s presidential residence with tanks and assassinated Mujib and his family. Awami League had planned the coup. His daughters, Sheikh Hasina – the current Prime Minister of Bangladesh, and Sheikh Rehana were alive as they were on a visit to West Germany.