On 25 January 1975, in the aftermath of a rapidly declining law and order situation, a disastrous flood and the famine of the previous year which killed over 1.5 million people, Sheikh Mujib declared a state of emergency and himself fourth president of Bangladesh through a constitutional amendment. Muhammad Mansur Ali, the Home Minister – and not Tajuddin Ahmad who was Mansur Ali’s senior during Muktijuddho and Sheikh Mujib's right-hand man for last two decade – took over as the new Prime Minister. Sheikh Mujib also dissolved all political organisations and banned all but few selected newspapers.
Few months later, on 7 June 1975, Sheikh Mujib introduced the one-party system in Bangladesh for the first time by refashioning his own party. Bangladesh Krishak Sramik Awami League (Bangladesh Farmers and Workers Awami League), more popularly known by its acronym BAKSAL, was declared as the ‘Second Revolution’ and became the new – and only – ‘National Party’ of Bangladesh. All decisions for BAKSAL were made by a 15-member Executive or Central Committee with Sheikh Mujib as the Chairman.
Ironically, Tajuddin was deprived both a place in the cabinet that was reconstituted in January and the Executive Committee of BAKSAL.
On 15 August 1975 Sheikh Mujib and most of his family were murdered in their home in Dhaka by few young rebel officers. That same morning Tajuddin was house arrested. He was taken to Dhaka Central Jail a week later. Joining him in captivity were his three other colleague who headed the Mujibnagar Shorkar during the 1971 Swadhinata Juddho (Independence War): Syed Nazrul Islam, Captain M. Mansur Ali, and A.H.M. Kamruzzaman.
On 3 November 1975, just over two months after their capture, all four men were brutally assassinated in jail in violation of all prison rules and the law of the land.
Tajuddin was merely 50 years old. He left behind young widow Zohra to look after their three daughters and son by herself.
Some disgruntled army officers were involved in both the gruesome killings. We are ashamed as a nation that we failed to protect our national leaders who made so many sacrifices for the independence of Bangladesh. The soil of Bangladesh, once soaked with the sacred blood of three million martyrs, thus continued to soak more blood, this time of the leaders who freed this soil from the clutches of Pakistani occupation. It is unfortunate that thirty-four years passed since the killings but the perpetrators are yet to be punished and the real motives of the killings are still unknown.
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 colour 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 Bengali peoples’ Liberation through his noble works and glorious deeds.
The killing of the Jathir Jonok and four national leaders marks another dark chapter in the long and eventful history of Bangladesh. The nation owes so much for the independence of Bangladesh to all five men. However, while Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s contribution is celebrated religiously throughout the country – especially when daughter Sheikh Hasina gets into power – the other four national leaders sadly receive very little limelight throughout the year.
Four decades later, nobody has been held responsible for the ‘Char Netas’ killing.
Had Tajuddin Ahmed been alive, he would be 88 today. He was not destined to live to a ripe old age. Any chances he might have had of taking charge of the country after the assassination of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and any possibility of his eventually transforming himself into an elder statesman were ruined the night he and three of his political associates were murdered in jail.
Tajuddin was 50 when he was murdered. He was as young as Syed Nazrul Islam and AHM Quamruzzaman and not much younger than M. Mansoor Ali. Bangabandhu was a mere 55 when the soldiers mowed him down.
Tajuddin Ahmed was five years younger. And yet in that brief space of time, he had become an indelible part of Bangladesh’s history.
Syed Badrul Ahsan, Editor of The Daily Star (Bangladesh)(2013)
© Londoni Worldwide Limited