Student leader Tofail Ahmed gives him honorary title of 'Bangabandhu' (Friend of Bengal)

He returned to East Pakistan as a public hero, and the very next day (23 February 1969) a million-strong crowd gathered in Ramna Racecourse (now renamed Suhrawardy Udyan), Dhaka, and roared its approval when Tofail Ahmed, then a leading student leader, proposed honouring Sheikh Mujib as "Bangabandhu" (Friend of Bengal), pronounced "Bongobondhu".

In him they saw a true leader who suffered jail terms for about twelve years during the 23 years of Pakistani rule. Twelve years in jail and ten years under close surveillance, Pakistan, to Sheikh Mujib, indeed proved to be more a prison than a free homeland.

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  • # Tofael Ahmed ()

The next day, Sheikh Mujib flew off to Rawalpindi, Pakistan, to join an all-parties conference convened by Ayub Khan. Once again, Sheikh Mujib demanded the acceptance of his six points and the demands of other political parties and walked out following its rejection.

On December 5 of that year, at a public meeting to observe the death anniversary of Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy, Sheikh Mujib declared that henceforth East Pakistan would be known as "Bangladesh" (Land of the Bengals).

There was a time when all efforts were made to erase the word "Bangla" from this land and its map. The existence of the word "Bangla" was found nowhere except in the term Bay of Bengal. I on behalf of Pakistan announce today that this land will be called "Bangladesh" instead of East Pakistan.

Sheikh Mujib declares East Pakistan as "Bangla Desh"

The next two years saw Sheikh Mujib at his best: inspiring his people through fiery speeches in countless meetings, seemingly inexhaustible energy, and an indomitable will. He was re-elected President of the Awami League on 6 January 1970 and at a meeting of the Working committee on 1 April 1970 decided to take part in the general elections scheduled for later that year.

It was light unto the future. A nation was coming of age. A leader had arrived.

The Daily Star (Bangladesh)

On 17 October 1970 Sheikh Mujib selected the boat as his party’s election symbol and launched his campaign through an election rally at Dhaka’s Dholai Khal.

On 28 October 1970, he addressed the nation over radio and television and called upon the people to elect his party’s candidates to implement the 6-point demand. When a mighty cyclone storm hit the coastal belt of Bangladesh, killing at least one million people, Sheikh Mujib suspended his election campaign and rushed to the aid of the helpless people in the affected areas. He strongly condemned the Pakistani rulers indifference to the cyclone victims and protested against it – whilst the West Pakistani politicians on their part attacked the Awami League for using the crisis for political gain. Sheikh Mujib continued to call on the international community to help the people affected by the cyclone.

Dhaka Kendrio Karaghar (Dhaka Central Jail)

A life behind bars

Table : Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's jail sentence
Date His age Days in jail Alleged offence Government under
11 March 1948 27 Protested against Urdu as state language along with other student leaders including Golam Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah
17 March 1948 28 Support for Dhaka University's employee rights Muhammad Ali Jinnah
End of 1948 28 Prisoned along with Maulana Bhashani for demanding head of the provincial government Nurul Amin to resign
1950 30 Protested against food crisis
1952 32 Hunger strikes from jail during Bhasha Andolon Khwaja Nazimuddin
June 1954 34 7 months Jailed after Jukta Front win election
11 October 1958 38 14 months Held as political prisoner
18 December 1963 43 Supported Fatima Jinnah against military dictator General Ayub Khan Ayub Khan
1966 46 Arrested numerous times for advocating 6-Dafa (Six Point movement) Ayub Khan
1968 48 Agartala Shorjontro Mamla (Agartala Conspiracy Case) Ayub Khan
26 March 1971 51 9.5 months Arrested at the start of Muktijuddho and jailed in West Pakistan Yahya Khan

Source:

Prison is my other home.

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman

Indeed, his resistance often was of epic proportions - months of solitary confinement, years of separation from his beloved and long-suffering parents, siblings, wife and children, years of - at times solitary - imprisonment on trumped up charges. But the more charges were concocted to discredit him the more he grew in the esteem of Bengalis. From being Mujib or Mujibur he became Mujib Bhai and then Sheikh Shaheb and finally and decisively he was declared to be Bangabandhu.

Fakrul Alam, Professor of English at the University of Dhaka who translated Sheikh Mujib's autobiography "Unfinished Memoirs"