Sheikh Mujibur Rahman | President of Bangladesh

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (17 March 1920-15 August 1975) was a Bengali nationalist, politician and statesman. He was the paramount leader during the freedom fight of Bangladesh and is regarded as the founding father of the nation. He headed the Awami League and was the first President of Bangladesh during the Bangladesh Liberation War, and later became Prime Minister in independent Bangladesh. He is popularly referred to as Sheikh Mujib (shortened as Mujib or Mujibur, with the honorary title of Bangabandhu (“Friend of Bengal”). His eldest daughter, Sheikh Hasina, is the present leader of the Awami League and the current Prime Minister of Bangladesh.

Since his student life, Mujib was involved in politics and rose within ranks of the Awami League. An advocate of socialism, he became popular for his opposition to the ethnic and institutional discrimination against Bengalis, who comprised the majority of the-then Pakistan’s population. He demanded increased provincial autonomy, and strongly opposed the military rule of Field Marshal Ayub Khan.

At the heightening of sectional tensions, Mujib outlined a 6-point autonomy plan. He was arrested in 1968 for allegedly conspiring with the Indian government but was acquitted. Despite leading his party to a major victory in the 1970 elections, Mujib was not invited to form the government.

With his charismatic and forceful oratory, Mujib inspired millions across the-then East Pakistan to engage in the struggle for self-determination and independence.

On 26 March 1971, he was arrested by the East Pakistan Army in the early hours of Operation Searchlight. During his nine-month detention, guerilla war erupted between the Pakistan Army and Bengali nationalists. An all-out war between the Pakistan Army and Bangladesh-India Allied Forces led to the liberation of Bangladesh and its foundation as an independent nation in 1971.

After his release, Mujib assumed office as a provisional President, and later Prime Minister. Even as a Constitution was adopted that proclaimed a secular democracy, Mujib struggled to address the challenges of intense poverty and unemployment in the country, coupled with rampant corruption. In the aftermath of the 1974 famine and amidst rising political agitation, he banned other political parties and most of the newspapers, except for four that were owned by the State. He established a one-party state. Seven months later, Mujib was assassinated by a group of junior army officers on 15 August 1975, along with most of the members of his family. After the coup, a military government was established. But Mujibur Rahman is still in the hearts of millions of people of Bangladesh.