It is hard to get the better of the notorious man with the file behind Mujib. This Tajuddin, I tell you, will be your main problem, warned Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, the ruthless Pakistani politician, while talking to his colleagues once.
When the Pakistani military's genocide triggered the Bangladesh Liberation War in March 1971, Bhutto was proven right.
As Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman remained incarcerated in West Pakistan, Tajuddin Ahmed led the government-in-exile to organise the freedom fighters and united the nation to rid this nation of the occupying army.
Born on July 23, 1925 in Kapasia, Gazipur (Erstwhile British India), Tajuddin Ahmed became interested in political activism early in his life.
As the British Empire in India unraveled, anti-colonial sentiments and communal tensions influenced the young Tajuddin to join Muslim League which advocated for the creation of
Pakistan, a separate homeland for the Indian Muslims.
He became disillusioned with the Muslim League after the creation of Pakistan when the West Pakistani establishment began to exploit the people of East Pakistan while at the same time actively trying to suppress Bangali's language and culture.
Tajuddin became a founding member of East Pakistan Student League. The young leader later joined the Awami Muslim League which was advocating for the fair treatment of Bangalis by the government.
He actively supported and organised protests against the decision to impose Urdu as the sole state language on ethnic Bangali people who made up 56% of the Pakistani population.
In the following two decades Tajuddin Ahmed rose to become an elected legislator and prominent politician who sought democratic reforms in Pakistan and opposed military rule.
He helped Bangabandhu formulate the famous 'six points' which was a roadmap for the creation of a Pakistani federation based on equality and fair treatment of all.
For all these reasons, he was imprisoned time and again by the Pakistani establishment along with his friends and comrades.
Eventually, when the central authority's denial to hand over power to the people's representatives and genocidal military operation on the dark night of 25th March, 1971 triggered the
Bangladesh freedom struggle, Tajuddin played a decisive role that would go on to immortalise him forever.
The Pakistani military arrested Bangabandhu on the fateful night of March 25, hoping to crush the Bangalis' democratic aspirations, but he had already issued a declaration of independence.
Tajuddin made his way into neighbouring India where he established the provisional government of an independent and sovereign Bangladesh made up of the elected representatives of the 1970 election declaring Bangabandhu as the President.
As prime minister of the provisional government, Tajuddin Ahmed organised the freedom fighters and assigned sector commanders to the 4 sectors (later 11) that were created by geographically dividing the territory to fight a guerrilla war against the occupying force.
On 11th April, the prime minister addressed the people of Bangladesh with a resolute voice from the Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra on behalf of Bangabandhu and his government, calling for resistance against the military junta.
He hailed the brave martyrs for their sacrifices and reiterated Bangladesh's right to be a sovereign state within the family of nations. The leader asked for unconditional military help from all freedom loving nations.
In his speech, Tajuddin Ahmed called the freedom struggle a people's war; he reminded everyone that a free Bangladesh would be the cumulative result of the sacrifices, aspirations, bravery, and patriotism of all Bangladeshis.
Radios around the country and the world brought the gripping speech to millions as the prime minister declared "Joy Bangla, Joy Swadhin Bangladesh."
The prime minister's powerful words had electrifying effects on everyone. The news of Bangali resistance against the Pakistanis by EPR, Police, and Army personnel instilled new hope in many people while terrifying the Pakistanis by demonstrating that the Bangalis would no longer be suppressed.
With the help of India, the prime minister sought recognition from foreign governments and presented Bangladesh's case before the world.
His tireless efforts bore fruit when finally the allied forces made up of Muktibahini (the freedom fighters) and the Indian armed forces won decisively against the Pakistani army on 16th December, freeing 75 million Bangladeshis.
The prudent leader also sought to keep Bangladesh independent of any foreign control during the liberation war which played a crucial part in our nation's history.
India as well as the two superpowers in the middle of a cold war (the US and the USSR) at the time were made to realise that Bangladesh would be a sovereign and equal partner in its relation with them, not a satellite puppet state.
When a new government was sworn in a few days later, Tajuddin Ahmed served as Finance Minister under Bangabandhu and introduced socialist policies to address the needs of the people who had suffered so much during the liberation war.
He presented the first budget of independent Bangladesh emphasising on the reconstruction and the rehabilitation of the refugees.
His goals included self-sufficiency in food production and equitable distribution of wealth, which led him to introduce the country's first five-year plan.
Eventually, Tajuddin Ahmed left the government over differences of opinion on policy issues, but he remained loyal to Bangabandhu and his core ideals. He continued to be an advocate for a socialist, free, and sovereign Bangladesh.
Tajuddin Ahmed was imprisoned when a group of misguided and rogue army officers staged a coup in 1975, killing Bangabandhu and his family.
KhondakarMostaq, the provisional government's foreign minister who was fired by PM Tajuddin in the final days of the war for Mostaq's liaison with Pakistanis, ended up becoming President through deception and treason.
On August 3, 1975, Mostaq committed a heinous crime by sending a death squad to assassinate four prominent national leaders, including Tajuddin Ahmed.
Tajuddin Ahmed, the man who inspired millions of Bangladeshis to fight against a genocidal army in the dark days of 1971, was brutally murdered inside a prison cell with the active assistance of the government of independent Bangladesh.
Though Mostaq was overthrown immediately by a counter coup, the irreparable damage done to the nation would continue to haunt Bangladeshis for the rest of their lives.
Tajuddin Ahmed, also known as 'BangaTaj' (The Crown of Bengal), had always been a man of conviction.
His farsightedness, courage, and sheer willpower unified our nation in its darkest hour.
As we commemorate the great man on his 96th birthday, we should also strive to achieve the goals he envisioned for our country and work for a fairer and more prosperous Bangladesh.
Disclaimer:The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of The Business Standard.