Vows to abstain from family life until Bangladesh is independent

Last updated: 10 October 2017 From the section Tajuddin Ahmad

Tajuddin Ahmad and other members of the Mujibnagar Shorkar took a vow to never live a family life "until our country is liberated".

On 26 May 1971 Syeda Zohra Tajuddin and her four children were flown over from Bangladesh to Kolkata at the home of Hossain Ali. It was to be the only time during the nine months war that she'd get to meet her husband.

It was a cargo plane carrying goods. Some officers received me, may be they were informed earlier [about the meeting]. They asked me where I would like to go. I told them to take me to Hossain Ali's house.

Seeing my devastated condition, Hossain Ali told me to freshen up and to take some rest. I told him that could wait. I asked "Where's Tajuddin sahib?". He said Tajuddin was busy in his office. I asked him "Can I talk to him?". He said "Yes".

I was holding the phone. Hearing my voice he [Tajuddin] said "O, have you guys arrived?". Nothing else. Then he added "I'll come at night to see you". Saying that he hung up the phone.

I held the phone on my ear standing almost lost.

Syeda Zohra Tajuddin on her first chat with her husband

After midnight, around 1am or 1.30am on 27 May 1971, Tajuddin was reunited with Zohra two months after fleeing Bangladesh. During this period he had no idea whether his family were still alive or dead. He went inside the house, saw the children and informed Zohra that they were to leave the house the following day as it was "an officer's house". He told Zohra about the vow that he and the cabinet members had taken not to see their family until Bangladesh was freed. He then looked at his watch and left. The meeting lasted only 7 minutes.

Zohra and the children stayed in Hossain Ali's house for 2 days then went a house named 'Kohinoor building' in Park Circus. It was a 7-storied building which housed members of the Mujibnagar Shorkar. Khondaker Moshtaque Ahmed lived in the opposite flat, Syed Nazrul Islam in the adjacent one, Quamruzzaman on 4th floor, and Captain Mansur Ali in 5th. They were all living in that house, with one exception: Tajuddin Ahmad. He never came to the flat.

But sometime, as Syed Nazrul Islam was the Vice President, meetings used to take place in his flat. I clearly remember the day Uncle Nazrul was sleeping. Then his youngest son woke him up and said "Dad, Uncle Tajuddin has come". Hearing that I came running to see. I hadn't seen him since he left 3 months ago.

I was waiting outside hoping that after the meeting was over we would meet. I was waiting near the lift. But he just waved his hand, got on the lift and went away.

Daughter Rimi

Man of principle, hard work and great insight

One key strength of Tajuddin's character was that he could make a correct and practical analysis of a given situation. He valued work immensely. He was able to identify the right man for the right job. To him, honesty, integrity and commitment were very important.

He used to do his own personal works, for example, washing his own clothes.

On many occasions it used to be that I was sitting on a stool or a chair, while he was sitting on a small wooden chowki washing his clothes, at the same time in serious discussions about the affairs of the state. Maybe I'd read to him the contents of a file, and he'd stop me to go over some points more carefully. We discussed, we listened, discussed some more. An hour, an hour-and-a half would easily go by, like this, in discussions, in note-taking, note-reading, while Mr. Tajuddin would have his washed, rinsed, and cleaned. To see the prime minister of a country wash his own clothes with his bare hands, while conducting his official business was a humbling experience for me. A great lesson in humility and in what was the stuff that makes a true leader. Mr. Tajuddin was truly a great man, a wonderful human being.

Nurul Qader

There was a time during the War when his only son Sohel fell sick. His temperature rose as high as 104℉ and would become delirious at times. His condition was pretty serious. When I carried this piece of information to him his reaction was of angry dismissal of the messenger. My fault was that I pleaded with him to go home to see his son. He told me in a tone of reprimand: "I do not want you to utter that word to me again. Right now I have no personal family. All the freedom-seeking people of Bangladesh are my children. My concern now is with them alone. So I hope you will not badger me any more with those silly stuff".

This shows how serious he was about his oath.

Ali Tareq, lawyer and politician who was also the Public Relation Officer of Finance Minister Tajuddin Ahmad (1972-1974)

Tajuddin's political acumen and foresight during turbulent times aside, the quieter moments really give us insight into the essence of the man’s soul. The Theatre Road government headquarters would double as his office and makeshift home. He had sworn not to return to family life until the country was liberated to demonstrate solidarity with the men out on the battlefields. During an odd occasion when Tajuddin could not be found in his office, he was tracked down to the home of his office peon who had come down with a bad fever. Tajuddin was by his bed with a wet towel nursing him back to health. On another occasion Tajuddin would lose an entire night's sleep during a storm. His agitated heart bled that night for the refugees who had no shelter.

Taj Iman Ahmad, grandson of Tajuddin Ahmad