Legacy III:

What others say about Tajuddin Ahmad ...

Tajuddin Ahmad’s moment of glory came through the rattle of Pakistani gunfire in March 1971. The saddest part of his brief life was arrived at in the few minutes the men who had only months earlier murdered Bangabondhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman took to pump their bullets into his heart and in the hearts of three of his political fellow travellers in the darkness of incarceration. He was a mere 50 when he died. Yet in those five brief decades of his life, Tajuddin Ahmad achieved a feat rare in the history of political men. He rose to the peaks of leadership in the brilliance emitted by Bangabondhu and remained there till almost the very end. In between, he managed to pull off what was certainly the most significant success for the Bengali nation, which was the formation of the very first Bengali government in history and the liberation of Bangladesh.

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Tajuddin came much before his time and we are not yet ready to understand him properly.

Professor Sardar Fazlul Karim's famous words aptly describe the key architect of Bangladesh's liberation war,

Tajuddin Ahmed was a principled man, one inclined to self-effacement and extraordinary humility. Not many were or have been able to command the intellectual heights of political leadership that he so easily was symbolic of. And few have been the individuals in our history who have so effortlessly cast the personal to the winds in the interest of the welfare of a toiling, battered nation. Self-abnegation was part of his character. As prime minister in 1971, he kept thoughts of family aside as he shaped the tortuous map of battlefield strategy. After October 1974 and till his murder in November of the following year, he went into exile of a kind. He internalised his pain, brooded in loneliness over the future of a country he had guided to freedom. And then he paid the price.

Syed Badrul Ahsan, Editor of The Daily Star newspaper (Bangladesh)

Tajuddin Ahmed was a man of history. He understood the nuances of history. He was able to analyse history in all the forensic details that such analyses called for. Of greater importance than all this preoccupation with history on his part was his own role in the making of history. Between 17 April 1971 and 12 January 1972, Tajuddin Ahmed fashioned history. He was, and remains, our history maker. The history he forged in the darkest period of our collective life was ours.

And then the forces of anti-history struck him down.

There was a seer in Tajuddin Ahmed. His was the voice and the resolve which eventually carried us through the War of Liberation in 1971. Had it not been for him - and do not forget that Bangabandhu had been taken prisoner by the Pakistan army - the question of liberty for the 75 million people of Bangladesh would easily have run into a wall. Or gone downhill, to hit rock bottom.

Syed Badrul Ahsan again

His was an era of national assertion for self-development and poverty reduction. Destiny did not allow him to pursue this development policy of pro-poor growth. After many years of his departure from this world, we are once-again talking about "pro-poor growth" and "poverty reduction strategy”. The difference is that this time it is being pushed by outsiders. Once again, we are talking about "nationally owned" development policy. Again, this slogan has not originated from within.

We can indeed learn a lot from the development thinking of Tajuddin if we genuinely want to go for a nationally owned pro-poor development policy in Bangladesh. Tajuddin Ahmad's life and actions can indeed be inspiring for the policy makers who are genuinely committed to establish the Shonar Bangla we all fought for.

Atiur Rahman, Governor of Bangladesh Bank

The lives of men like Tajuddin, who toiled for their fellow man with nary a thought of receiving adulation, deserve reflection. His legacy entails standing up to friend, foe, party or even the entire world when principles are at stake. He saved potentially millions from genocide that could have lasted years, and helped establish a much needed political identity for his people. His legacy is one from which every one of us can derive hope as Tajuddin’s narrative is a testament to the inner strength we all have lying within to make even mountains move.

Taj Iman Ahmad, grandson of Tajuddin Ahmad

Tajuddin Ahmad and the birth of Bangladesh are interwoven in the collective memory of people who are in harmony with truth and justice.

...He was a natural leader, endowed with the rare humane qualities of humility, compassion, commitment, integrity and a bird’s eye vision to take Bangladesh to its new height. The nine glorious months of our liberation war is a testimony to his able leadership of gigantic scope and breadth. His untimely death, at the hands of the assassins, was not only a national loss but it also cast a shadow of hopelessness on the national psyche. Tajuddin was a rare breed of a leader in the ocean of moral bankruptcy whose ideals can still guide our nation to peace and prosperity. On Mahatma Gandhi’s death (30 January 1948), 22-year old student-activist Tajuddin wrote in his journal, "The man whom we mourn today was one who travelled his long way through darkness to light. Sometimes he had to hover in the darkness for light. He searched for light and lo! he himself was a light. A light can’t be destroyed. What of that! The Pole star though unimaginably distant from us is always and the only guide for the people of ages in the dark arctic region". Little did young Tajuddin know as he wrote that particular entry, that one day, he would be destined to guide Bangladesh during the nine months of liberation war and lead it to victory.

Just as he said, "A Light can’t be destroyed", noble deeds and ideals are that inextinguishable light to guide us forever. Tajuddin, like all great world leaders, masters and seers, was such an immortal light.

Sharmin Ahmad 'Reepi'

Although many an epithet is attached to his name describing him essentially as a lonesome, private, and introverted person, but in reality Tajuddin Ahmad was a man who was a worshipper of work and work only. He loved his work religiously. A trait rare indeed in this day and age.

If one made an intense study of his own handwritten diaries or followed his life closely, the face one would see emerging from the depths of time would be that of a man devoted wholly to his country and fellow man. Committed, dedicated, focused, and of unwavering conviction to the cause of the welfare of this land and its people throughout his life - that was Tajuddin Ahmad, the unsung hero of our history.

He was not the conventional, flamboyant political leader as can be found in plenty around us, it were rather his accomplishments that were more illustrious than his persona. It was not the limelight he sought for himself, as a true believer of his cause, he had dedicated his entire life at making better the lives of the lot of hapless people of this country. An epitome of integrity and self-sacrifice, Tajuddin had kept to the path of truth to the very final moment of his life, without deviating in the slightest from his ideals.

Inordinately gifted, of impeccable honesty and razor sharp intellect, this undaunted leader with his unequalled tenacity, wisdom, and temerity combined, had imparted a unique leadership to his people in their great war of liberation that had seen the birth of an independent nation after nine long months of bloodbath. Tajuddin had in effect sacrificed his very life upholding the sanctity and spirit of our liberation and freedom, right down to his final breath.

Today this unpretentious, selfless leader barely exists in our mind and memory, there isn't even a trifle mention of his enormous feat and contribution in our war of independence in 1971. The glory of advent of a free nation entails some integral factors, one of these factors, or probably the chief one, being the recognition of the person or persons responsible for the leadership in a war of liberation. For it is on the firm ground of that recognition from which stands tall the real history of a people - the true and inherent history of a nation's step by step transition to democracy hinges on the very foundations of the recognition of their founding fathers. Woeful it is, but true nevertheless, today standing on the changed plane of realities, this unassuming, ascetic, and principled leader is being brushed off with icy indifference while we choose to sit back and gleefully watch the proceedings with diabolical complacence.

I remember with great honour and pride one of the greatest sons of the soil, a noble freedom fighter Tajuddin Ahmad, the founding Prime Minister of the first legitimate and valid Government of the People's Republic of Bangladesh. All other successive governments of Bangladesh till today have been the legacy of that government formed on the 10th of April 1971 and sworn in on the 17th of April 1971 in Mujibnagar, Meherpur, that brilliantly led our armed struggle for independence spanning nine months, bringing about the final victory on 16th of December 1971.

Great feats do not long for a reward, nor await a return, but then we as a nation shall only be free from the ironhold of our conscience the day we will find it in our hearts to break free from the shackles of collective amnesia to unabashedly recognise and validate the work of this man for his country. That will have been the most singularly elevating event happening to our psyche.

It is such freedom-seeking and timeless leaders who have been celebrated and revered from nation to nation, from age to age across the globe for their heroic roles in history making. Tajuddin Ahmad, undoubtedly, was one such leader.

Perhaps in the final analysis, time and history, by dint of their unerring judgement, will someday bestow upon this man the honour he deserved in his own right.

It is today the 79th birth anniversary of Tajuddin Ahmad. What better moment can there be than this to pay tribute to his undying soul. Salute to the sacred memories of the unsung hero.

Mahjabin Ahmad, youngest daughter of Tajuddin Ahmad (2004)