"Tajuddin Ahmad: Neta o Pita" (Tajuddin Ahmad: A leader and a father) book by eldest daughter Sharmin Ahmad 'Reepi'

Last updated: 10 October 2017 From the section Tajuddin Ahmad

In 2014 Tajuddin Ahmad's eldest daughter, Sharmin Ahmad 'Reepi', wrote a book called "Tajuddin Ahmad: Neta o Pita" (Tajuddin Ahmad: A leader and a father) in dedication to her father. The 460-pages long book, written in Bengali, was published by Oitijjhya in Bangladesh.

The book mainly covers the period from 1971 - 1975, from Tajuddin Ahmad's rise to political leadership during Bangladesh's Liberation War to his savage killing in Dhaka Central Jail. More than half of the book's content is first-hand witness/account of Sharmin herself. For example, the struggle of her uncles and aunties after her dad's murder.

Sharmin said the opportunity to write this book may never have happened had her dad's name "not been wiped out from politics of Bangladesh's history". Through the book she wanted to reveal a person, a dad, and "unfolding of history".

How is it possible that the man at the heart of [1971] Liberation War, that his name is not even heard once?

I am deeply disappointed when I read the newspapers today that those who are commemorating 'Mujibnagar Dibosh' [Mujibnagar Day], they never express even once that it was Tajuddin Ahmad who was the mind and creator behind this Mujibnagar. Without him, the vision of independent Bangladesh would have been a very difficult task.

Sharmin on what motivated her to write the book

Sharmin Ahmad: A forward-thinking educational leader

Sharmin is the founder and president of One Light Institute in USA which promotes peace and enlightenment through education and experiential learning. She has been living in America since 1984. Sharmin is married to Egyptian Dr. Amr Khairy Abdalla, a Senior Fellow on Conflict Resolution and Senior Advisor on Policy Analysis and Research at the Institute for Peace and Security Studies (IPSS) of Addis Ababa University. Amr was also the Vice President at Salam Institute for Peace and Justice in Washington D.C. from 2013 - 2014.

She is a highly educated human rights activist and writer who specialises in the empowerment of marginalised communities, women and children. She has given speeches in various universities and conferences around the world regarding these topics. Her tireless contribution led to her being awarded the Woman of Distinction Award by Soroptimist International of the Americas Club, Washington DC, in recognition of her "outstanding contributions in the field of international goodwill and understanding".

Sharmin has written and contributed to many books. Her first book "The Rainbow in a Heart" (2003), a bilingual (English-Bangla) fictional book about a child's search of her perfect mother who will be her teacher and guide, before she is even born, has been approved for The Montgomery County Public Schools of Maryland, ranked among the nation's top public schools, for its English Language Arts curriculum.

My then five-and-half-year-old daughter asked me 'how have you become my mom?' The answer I gave her blossomed into a story which cherishes love as an ideal, peace as a goal and rebels against all forms of violence.

Sharmin Ahmad explains how the idea of 'The Rainbow in a Heart' came about

"The Rainbow in a Heart", translated as 'hridoyey rongdonhu' in Bangla, is dedicated to her mother Syeda Zohra Tajuddin 'Lily'. The book was turned into a dance drama in 2011 following encouragement by Rosemary Mitu Gonsalves, a student of classical dance legend Gowhar Jamil and Rowshan. At her request, Sharmin composed the screenplay and two songs for the performance. The dance drama was presented to Bangladeshi audience for the first time at Jatiya Shilpakala Academy in Dhaka on 6 & 7 January 2012. Among the audience was Zohra Tajuddin and Barrister Amirul Islam.

I am feeling good [after seeing the drama]. I think this event is the first of its kind in Bangladesh.

[Hridoyey Rongdonhu] Portrays with clarity the unity of people all over the world and expresses the call for uniting the hearts and minds of awakened people.

I am very happy.

May the message spread everywhere and many people at home and abroad embrace it.

Thanks to all.

Zohra Tajuddin hoping her daughter's message of peace and love reaches everyone across the world

The greatest reward was my mother's presence and her watching the show. After this, I have nothing else to say.

Sharmin ecstatic at mum's presence at first showing in Bangladesh

Regarding the history of Bangladesh, Sharmin has contributed a chapter titled "The Rising Phoenix and Weaving Peace" on Bangladesh war of liberation 1971 and the ordeals of women who were violated in the book "A Force such as the World has Never Known: Women Creating Change" (2013).

Writing journey & mum Zohra's contribution

Sharmin began writing the book on 2 January 2006 from her home in Silver Spring, Maryland, Washington D.C., USA. She wrote little by little, referencing many other books that has been written by Bengali writers in Bangladesh. Sharmin contacted many people who participated in interviews, shared documents, and their stories. Some of these have not been published before, for example the interview of Haji Golam Morshed, the former personal assistant of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

However, large content came from her mother Syeda Zohra Tajuddin. Zohra would reveal lot of small facts regarding 1971 Liberation War via letters from Bangladesh, through phone conversation and face-to-face interaction with Sharmin when they visited each other in Bangladesh and USA. Sadly, Zohra would pass away shortly before the book was published.

The first person to welcome my writing was my mother. She was my foundation, bedrock of inspiration. I can feel her presence in my heart. At the same time, I am aware that she is in the spirit of all of us, including my brother and sisters.

Even when she was in hospital, she asked me when the book will be finished. She knew that the words that she couldn't speak, the words that have been left unsaid, perhaps she could hold their guidance, light, torch in her hand in order to take few more steps forward.

Sharmin on her 'bedrock of inspiration', her mother

The book was near completion around 2011/12.

Book launch ceremony

"Tajuddin Ahmad: Neta o Pita" was launched at the Asiatic Society of Bangladesh located in the Ramna area of the capital Dhaka. The highly anticipated event was attended by distinguished guests, notaries, and family members and friends of Tajuddin Ahmad. Among the speakers were Barrister Amirul Islam, Dr. Kamal Hossain, Dr. Anisuzzaman, Professor Abul Kashem Fazlul Haque, Muyeedul Hasan, Dr. M. A. Karim, and Haji Golam Morshed, who had all participated in Sharmin's research.

Sharmin's uncle, and Tajuddin's youngest brother, Afsaruddin Ahmad, an advocate and former MP, also spoke. As did her younger sister Mahjabeen and husband Amr Khairy Abdalla.

Afsaruddin reminisced about his loving elder brother and hoped the truth regarding his contribution and killing would manifest "one day". He finished by giving his "heartfelt thanks" to his bhatiji (niece, brother's daughter) Reepi for writing the book and to those who attended the ceremony.

In a rare public appearance, Mahjabeen recited a poem which she had written around 10 years ago warning the people to be wary of the "hyenas even though they participate in the war" and encouraged people to have hope that the "golden period will return once again".

Sharmin's husband Amr praised the efforts of his wife in writing this "important" and "special" book. He also praised her passion for Bangladesh and sincerity in taking so much care in ensuring she had "all the correct information". Amr spoke about how he learnt so much from wife in process - patience, diligence, passion driving all this - even though he has seen her go through this process before with other projects.

I have witnessed the birth and the hard work that has gone into this book, from the time it was just a concept with my wife and how she worked diligently for more than 6 years to bring this book into existence. Almost 8 years.

The nights, the days she spent working on this. From distance, calling people for endless hours for interviewing. I know very well where all this passion and commitment to produce such a book comes from. I think no one will know my wife more than I have in the last 16 years or so. And I have seen her complete love for her father, and her mother. May God bless her [mother's] soul. Two of them [i.e. both mum's and dad's soul].

Dr. Amr Khairy Abdalla, husband of Sharmin Ahmad and a Senior Fellow on Conflict Resolution

All the distinguished speakers reminisced about Tajuddin Ahmad and gave their blessings to Sharmin for her gallant effort.

Muyeedul Hasan, a writer and researcher famous for his books on 1971 Liberation War, is a close old friend of Tajuddin Ahmad. The pair met in 1961 when Sharmin was around 1 years old. The following year, in 1962, Muyeedul Hasan was imprisoned along with Tajuddin Ahmad, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Manik Miah and Abul Mansur Ahmed by the then Government of Pakistan. Muyeedul was working as a writer of the weekly Ittefaq newspaper. He was jailed for writing a piece that was considered anti-government. In a glowing tribute, Muyeedul compared Sharmin's book to the world famous Anne Frank's Diaries.

Tajuddin bhai is big emotional part of our lives.

...Reepi, you have one problem - which is genetical. That is your dad. To take oneself out of a situation and view it objectively. [Question oneself] Is this correct? Is this incorrect? Should we do this? Should we not do this? You have little bit of that quality.

Turning and speaking to Sharmin, Muyeedul Hasan pays her glowing tribute

I've not read the book so I cannot comment on that. But looking at the heading of the book, 'Neta o Pita', being able to carry out two roles of both leader and father is such hard work. But Tajuddin did it. And only he could balance such a difficult task.

Dr. M. A. Karim, close friend and associate of Tajuddin Ahmad

Sharmin's speech

The book launch ceremony ended with Sharmin Ahmad speaking. Sharmin lamented that her dad is hardly remembered now, becoming a "footnote" in history even after his great contribution to the country.

She also expressed, that though she's "not in politics", she fails to understand why Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was printed on all currency notes such as Tk 1,000, Tk 500, Tk 20, and Tk 1. Bangabandhu is greater than this, she argued. By limiting him to this we are participating in "cultism", trying to introduce a "dictatorial institution". That's not what Bangabandhu wanted. He was a man of the people. He fought for socialism where power is shared, distributed. Those who think deeply, will acknowledge that if people and thoughts are free, they need to be recognised and celebrated. We are disrespecting Bangabandhu if we restrict this, she concluded.

Sharmin also appealed to the young generation to conduct their own research in history of Bangladesh and approach it with an open mind, free from stereotype and barriers. We have been doing such deep level of thinking for over 17,000 years now, she said.

Near her house in Silver Spring, around 40 minutes away, is the Smithsonian Institute, the largest museum and research complex in the world. It has 19 museums, 9 research centres, and affiliations around the world. It's free entry. In the Smithsonian Institute there's a natural history section in the corner of the museum where it displays neanderthal objects. When one of them died, the other neanderthals would perform a ritual seeking blessing of a Higher Being. This proves that our capacity to do deep thinking was a very old skill.

Sharmin finished her speech by thanking all her family and supporters.

I'd like to thanks all those connected with this book. My family, brother, sisters, husband, children, my loved ones, everyone who gave me support, confidence, while writing the book.

I spent many nights, many occasions, thinking why am I writing this? Sometime I'd get deeply upset. Why am I writing this? What is the reason for writing this? Who will read this? What will happen? Then, once again, I continued writing.

Those dark nights, when at times I got perhaps very emotional writing certain chapters (of the book). It was then these friends, these supporters, these well-wishers, who I am fortunate enough to hold me together. I'd like to give heartfelt gratitude to each and every one.

Sharmin Ahmad on her emotional rollercoaster journey to writing the book

Praise from critics

A opening has been made by Sharmin Ahmad in understanding the man and the leader that Tajuddin Ahmad was. The problem of contemporary history of Bangladesh is that exaggerations, untruths and narrow sectarian outlook have vitiated the collection of basic facts in this regard. As one who has witnessed 1971 from close quarters, I did not find even half a sentence in this book "Tajuddin Ahmad: Neta O Pita" which does not conform to truth. It is full of emotions of a daughter for a father. It is only natural, particularly because of the heinous manner in which the murderers took away his life and the lives of three other leaders in the Dhaka Central Jail. It would have been very odd if Sharmin showed no emotions under such tragic circumstances. But it has not in any way clouded her judgment of the man he is writing about. That is because Sharmin, as we gather from her biographical sketch, is an accomplished and trained researcher. It is indeed a must reading for those who want to understand an important epoch of our contemporary history. She has indeed dared to break out of the conventional account of what happened after 25th March, 1971 up to the formation of the Mujibnagar government and thereafter with solid facts.

The book thus once again firmly establishes that truth cannot be hidden for long. It would come out sooner than later. Those who knew and saw Mr. Tajuddin Ahmad in action in Mujibnagar will bear this and there are still a few left of that generation of men and women. As Professor A. K. M. Fazlul Huq hinted in his appreciation of Tajuddin Ahmad, he distinguished himself from the leader whose image he was protecting with his heart and soul. It was the darkest hour in our history which brought the best in Tajuddin Ahmad. But in the last analysis, it was his education, political acumen, experience, organized mind and family background which went into shaping this superb leader in our deepest crisis. Sharmin has indeed ably brought out those aspects in her book.

...Sharmin has, within the limitations imposed by time and resources, accomplished an excellent job, interviewing a number of impeccable personalities closely associated with the Liberation War and Tajuddin Ahmad, such as Barrister Amirul Islam, Muyeedul Hasan and Haji Murshed, etc. This has indeed enhanced the quality of the publication.

Kamal Siddiqui, retired civil servant and academic

Sharmin Ahmad in her book "Neta O Pita" uniquely crafted an exquisite Nakshi Katha Tapestry of fatherhood, life, death, legacy, leadership, vision, passion, empathy, honesty, integrity and convictions of the democratic principles of the founding Prime Minister of Bangladesh late Tajuddin Ahmad. It tells the story of an unforgettable journey of liberation movement: cultivating the land, planting the seed and harvesting the birth of Bangladesh. It depicts the struggle, betrayal, confusion, disappointments, friction between power and politics and the mystery of failed leadership of Bangladesh freedom movement. It articulates how the greed, mistrust, power struggle, politics and deviation from the democratic principles drove the new born nation to the brinks of collapse. Tajuddin Ahmad's leadership, inspiration, perseverance and dedication for democracy were most instrumental for the liberation of Bangladesh.

Unfortunately, he never got the proper recognition neither from the party nor from the people. He is the most unsung hero of Bangladesh. This book is a must read Masterpiece. It will provoke the new generation to discover the unspoken and unwritten truth and real history of Bangladesh liberation movement. This book will empower and inspire the younger generation of Bangladesh to differentiate between facts and fictions, correct the course of history and give the proper recognition to our founding Prime Minister Mr. Tajuddin Ahmad.

Dr. Mahbub Uddin, Professor at Trinity University (USA)

Opposition to passages of the book

In her book, Sharmin tried to bring, and reiterate, factual content as much as possible. However, not everyone liked what she did. A few cabinet members, especially from her dad's Awami League party, claimed that some passages of the book were "written as part of a conspiracy". A particular bone of contention for these critics was Sharmin's account of Declaration of Independence during 25/26 March 1971. Such was the vilifaction of Sharmin Ahmad that many leading national newspapers refused to even review her book and highlight it.

However, Sharmin was forewarned about such opposition. During the book launch ceremony, many of the speakers spoke about the obstacles that lay ahead of her. Many people were not going to like the truth being openly revealed, they said.

She [Sharmin] has utilised various methods, taken various witness account, researched various official documents to aid her work.

In it [i.e. the book], there are few things which will cause debate. It's for this reason she has attempted to write about a country. Tried to disect history. Not all of us may like that.

But she is trying to get the truth and publication out to the general public. I'd like to thank her for that effort.

Professor Emeritus Dr. A. T. M. Anisuzzaman on the possible reasons why many may not approve of Sharmin's book

But Muyeedul Hasan felt Sharmin possessed the quality, like her dad, to reunite all different sections. While Professor Emeritus Dr. A. T. M. Anisuzzaman thanked her for making efforts to bring the truth to the general public.

For her part, Sharmin Ahmad acknowledged that if there were any minor mistakes, she'll correct them on next edition.

No nation experiences as much blood as Bangladesh does. Similarly, no nation sees as much distortion of its history of birth as Bangladesh does.

Sharmin Ahmad (Reepi)

Speaking of the responsibility that ought to have been the state's vis-à-vis Tajuddin Ahmad, a functionary of the present ruling dispensation saw, the other day on television, little that was obscene about his denigration of Sharmin Ahmad and her significant recent work on the country's first prime minister, 'Tajuddin Ahmad: Neta O Pita'. He was dismissive of the work and plainly thought that the writer, Tajuddin's eldest daughter, hardly knew what she was writing about in the book. This powerful individual did not quite realize that by trying to undermine the writer, he was fundamentally demeaning Tajuddin Ahmad. There are others like him, in the Awami League as well as in the government, who have not taken kindly to the book. That is understandable. A political biography is always subject to interpretive processes and so it is with Sharmin's work on her father. But what is surely scandalous is the unalloyed vilification Sharmin Ahmad has had to endure because of her book. And note that 'Neta O Pita' has hardly drawn any reviews in leading national newspapers. A conspiracy of silence?

Syed Badrul Ahsan