sheikh-mujibur-rahmanThe genre of biography has been undergoing lots of changes in terms of themes and styles ever since the publication of Boswell’s Life of Dr. Johnson (1791). While Boswell’s work is regarded as the finest literary biography ever written, and still enjoys its status as ‘a classic of language’, many other biographies assume the role of history. As Thomas Carlyle put it in his Heroes and Hero Worship (1840) “the history of the world is but the biography of great men”. Ralph Waldo Emerson was more advanced than Carlyle in this regard. He aimed at closing the gap between biography and history in his Essays: First Series (1841). To quote: “There is properly no history; only biography”. The tendency to overlap between biography and history has come down to us.

Syed Badrul Ahsan’s biography of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, too, is not an exception. It deliberately distances itself from Boswell’s treatment of the genre, and leans more towards Carlyle’s and Emerson’s notion about biography, allowing a considerable overlap between the two subjects. This is for obvious reasons. The subject of Boswell’s biography was Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), popularly known as Dr. Johnson, who was an English poet, essayist, moralist, literary critic, biographer, editor and lexicographer, and ‘arguably the most distinguished man of letters in English history’, while the subject of Ahsan’s biography is a Bangladeshi pre-eminent politician and statesman, arguably the best Bengali ever, and honoured in Bangladesh as the father of the nation. Both subjects are larger than life characters — the former being presented artistically with utmost creativity, originality and literary skill and the latter historically by a gripping but candid narrative.

While there is a growing trend of muckraking biographies all around the subcontinent, Ahsan focuses on the significant things needed to be brought to light to deal with the subject of his study. Even Mahatma Gandhi’s biographers —Joseph Lelyveld or Jad Adams or Nehru’s biographer Stanley Wolpert orIndira Gandhi’s biographers — Pupul Jayakar, Zareer Masani, Inder Malhotra and Katherine Frank tried, on the pretext of writing biography, to wash their subjects’ dirty linen in public. The subjects of their biographies may have had feet of clay, but that hardly overshadows their achievements and hence should not be treated with a view to tickling popular fancy.

Ahsan’s biography of Sheikh Mujib is not at all of the cheap muckraking kind. He has rather come up with a sublime treatment of his subject and left no nasty taste in the mouth. He has chosen as his subject a man who stands no comparison with any other political personalities of his country. Mujib bears comparison with Abraham Lincoln of America, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin of Russia, Winston Churchill of England, De Gaulle of France, Mao-Tse-Tung of China, Ho Chi Minh of Vietnam, Sukarno of Indonesia, Kamal Ataturk of Turkey, Mandela of South Africa, Patrice Lumumba of Congo, Jomo Keneyatta of Kenya, Ben Bella of Algeria, Fidel Castro of Cuba, Mahatma Gandhi of India and Jinnah of Pakistan. Mujib’s life is deeply embedded in the history of the birth of Bangladesh. He was the fearless fighter of the Language Movement of 1952; the pioneer of the democratic movement of 1962; the originator of the Six-Point Movement of 1966; the life-force of the Mass Movement of 1969; the enviable victor of the election of 1970 and, above all, the greatest hero of the Liberation War of 1971. He is undisputedly the architect of independent Bangladesh. The story of such an iconic personality needs to be told and retold dispassionately by the right persons for the younger and future generations at home and abroad. The writer of the foreword of this biography, National Professor A. F. Salahuddin Ahmed, too, feels like that and is convinced that Syed Badrul Ahsan’s work on Sheikh Mujib “will do that job to the satisfaction of all.”

With this end in view, the biographer seems to have done that job to the best of his ability. He has been a writer and journalist for about three decades now and written considerably on Bangladesh politics, South Asian history, American presidential history, Soviet and Chinese communism and politics in post-colonial Africa. To write about the tumultuous events of the Bangladesh Liberation War (1971) and of the life of Sheikh Mujib was always a deeper passion with him which he, perhaps, inherited from his father. In his own words: “My association with Sheikh Mujibur Rahman… began in early 1968 when I heard my father speaking in whispers with his colleagues about the charge of conspiracy laid at Mujib’s door by the Pakistan government. My father’s conviction was absolute: Mujib, a believer in constitutional politics, was made of better stuff.” But he never killed his passionate subject of writing with kindness or emotion. His intellectual rigour, emanating from his research as a Fellow at the Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Advanced Studies on three major Bengali political figures–Chittaranjan Das, Subhas Chandra Bose and Sheikh MujiburRahman — has found expression in this biographical account.

Ahsan tries quite arguably to establish Mujib as the most inspirational figure in Bangladesh politics by portraying the transformation of his role spread over a period of about three decades, starting from the Bengalis’ struggle for self-dignity and ending in the War of Independence, and even after he was killed. As Ahsan puts it in the preface of his book: “…in the broad perspective of history, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman remains a metaphor for Bangladesh and for its long sustained struggle for freedom. In life he was the Bengalis’ spokesman in the councils of the world. In death, he continues to be a powerful voice, forever ready and willing to speak for those who yearn for freedom and national self-dignity.” Ahsan tells us the story of the “rebel who did not give up and because he did not, Bangladesh was born.” What Stanley Wolpert said about Mohammad Ali Jinnah is more applicable to Mujib. To quote: “Few individuals significantly alter the course of history. Fewer still modify the map of the world. Hardly anyone can be credited with creating a nation-state. Mohammad Ali Jinnah did all three.” Ahsan must have meant to say that Mujib, too, did all three and he did them in a far better and more successful way than Jinnah. A perfect foil for Jinnah, he altered the course of history by aborting Jinnah’s so-called ‘two-nation theory’, modified the map of the world by demarcating 56,000 square miles for a new-born country and created a nation-state called Bangladesh. And how a young follower of the All India Muslim League had gradually been transformed into a veteran political leader, who led his country and people from the front to the way to independence through a revolution and finally was consumed by a counter-revolution, constitutes the factual plot around which Ahsan’s biography revolves.

Ahsan’s book showcases all the historic events associated with the political birth of Bangladesh under Mujib’s able and charismatic leadership. He has substantiated his proposition with facts and figures which speak for themselves. The book is organized into seven parts, beginning with Mujib’s initiation into politics in the late 1930s and ending in his murder, and tags a postscript on to its end which is germane to the core parts. The core parts discuss at necessary length subjects/issues/events/matters like Mujib’s initiation into politics, Awami Muslim League, Pakistan after Jinnah, Language Movement, Mujib as an emerging star, politics in crisis, at the epicenter, martial law and Tagore, taking charge after Suhrawardy,1965 war and East Pakistan, Six-Point programme, rise of Bhutto, Agartala and resurgent Bengal, Bengal’s spokesman, Pakistan’s prime minister in waiting, Road to Bangladesh, Genocide and Mujibnagar, Trial in Mianwali, Triumph in Dhaka, Flight to freedom, Mujib in power, Shaping foreign policy, Emerging cracks, Mujib in Lahore once more, Gaining UN, losing Tajuddin, From pluralism to second revolution and Murder of Caesar.

That Syed Ahsan writes good English is well known to his readers. His biography has been written in a lucid style. The liberal interpretation of facts and niceties of argument have endowed the book with the qualities of a successful biography. The pictures used in the book have added to its merit. It’s sure been worth a read. The good writer has more claim to the book’s success than anybody. From Rebel to Founding Father—Sheikh Mujibur Rahman—is a prized inclusion in the list of Mujib biographies in English.


Rashid Askari dissects a biography of Bangladesh’s founder

From Rebel to Founding Father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Syed Badrul Ahsan Niyogi Books, New Delhi

 Dr. Rashid Askari writes fiction and columns, and teaches English literature at Kushtia Islamic University, Bangladesh. Email: rashidaskari65@yahoo.com




The massacre of 25 March, 1971 in Dhaka and the then other East Pakistani major cities, was a regular military operation by Pakistan Armed Forces, officially named Operation Searchlight. The idea of this operation came to some of senior Generals after massive demonstration of East Pakistanis on 21 February 1971.

It was the operation of a country’s regular army, regarded as one of the finest of the time, to kill its own people, unarmed and from all walks of the society. Peddlers, rickshaw-pullers, homeless, police and paramilitary personnel in their barracks, resident students in their halls, both male and female, military servicemen of Bengali origin, university teachers in their residential quarters, all were targets, and were taken down with utmost sincerity. Operation Searchlight!

Operation Searchlight is one of the few post-WWII military operations which ultimately had been planned fully against the civilians, just to kill a smart percentage of them and scare the rest, the survivors. And none of the victims was anyone from an enemy nation. The army and the genocide-victims all belonged to the very one country, had very one national identity.

The plan was drawn up in early March 1971 by Maj-Gen Khadim Hussain Raza and Maj-Gen Rao Farman Ali, as a result of a meeting between Pakistani army staff on the 22 February.

images (1)Senior Pakistani officers in East Pakistan who were unwilling to support heavy offensive on civilians, Lt-Gen Shahabzada Yakub Khan and Vice Adm Ahsan, were relieved of their duties and flown back to West Pakistan. As replacement of the both came Lt-Gen Tikka Khan to take over as chief marshal law administrator of East Pakistan (military zone B) and the state’s governor.


images (2)On 17 March, Gen Khadim Hussain Raza was given the go ahead to plan for the crackdown via telephone by Gen Hamid, the then Pakistan Army chief. In the morning of 18 March, Gen Raza and Maj-Gen Rao Farman Ali put the details to paper at the GOC’s office at Dhaka cantonment. The plan was written on a light blue office pad with a lead pencil by Gen Farman containing sixteen paragraphs spread over five pages.

Gen Farman wrote out the operational premises and conditions for success, while Gen Khadim dealt with the distribution of forces and particular tasks of the individual brigades and other units.

Planners took this to consideration that the Bengali officers and other military or paramilitary units will revolt at the onset of operations. To minimize that risk, it was suggested that all Bengali armed units like Police, Riffles (EPR) should be disarmed and the political leadership arrested during their meeting with the President, Gen. Yahya Khan. No operational reserves were earmarked.

Though the draft asked to disarm Police, EPR units, thousands of unarmed Police men and EPR troops were massacred inside Dhaka’s Police lines at Rajarbag and EPR Headquarters at Pilkhana, in Dhaka.

3346521_origThe handwritten plan was read out to Gen Hamid and Lt-Gen Tikka Khan on the 20 March at the flag staff house. Gen Hamid objected to the immediate disarming of regular army Bengali units but approved the disarming of riffles, armed police and other paramilitary formations.

In the initial draft of the massacre plan, Gen Rao Farman suggested that Awami League leaders should be arrested amid the ongoing dialogue with Gen Yahya. But the President refused it for some reason.

After frequent verification and scrutiny, the amended plan was approved and the operational plan was distributed to various area commanders on the 24 and the 25 March daytime, when a group of Pakistani Generals, accompanied by Gen Hamid, Maj-Gen Mittha, the SSG mastermind and mentor, and Col. Saadullah, the principal staff officer, visited the major garrisons via helicopter and personally briefed the various garrison commanders or senior West Pakistani officers on the operation.

Maj-Gen Aboobaker Osman Mittha, as the chief of the elite Special Services Group (SSG), was tasked with the most dramatic chapter of entire plan, the arrest of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

Maj-Gen Qamar Ali Mirza and Brig-Gen. Harrison were later flown to Dhaka from West Pakistan to assist Maj-Gen Mittha, who was also tasked with arranging the logistical details. The responsibility seemed difficult because the Sheikh Mujib’s non-cooperation programme was affecting the spontaneity of the military supplies.

Secrecy and Deception

Secrecy was kept at extreme strictness. Only a few junior commissioned officers (JCOs), definitely West Pakistanis, had knowledge about the plan beforehand though fully on a need to know basis.

Some Bengali officers had become suspicious of the ‘all West Pakistani’ officer briefings. Later it showed that some of Bengali officers initiated revolts as a confused advance from their suspicions.

It appeared after the deadly war that followed, that many Bengali officers tactically disobeyed the decoy orders by their West Pakistani superiors and survived apparent assassination plots.

‘Zero Hour’

The Operation started on the night of 25 March, 1971, technically from zero hours of 26 March. Dhaka and other garrisons were to be alerted via phone about their zero hour to start their operations.

Gen Farman Ali commanded the forces in Dhaka, while the rest of the province was commanded by Gen Khadim himself. Lt-Gen Tikka Khan and his staff were present in the 31st field command centre to supervise and support the command staff of the 14th division inside Dhaka Cantonment.

To the time of leaving Dhaka for Karachi, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto accompanied Gen Tikka Khan inside the cantonment. It is said that Bhutto’s request to inspect a bloodied provincial capital on a military vehicle was turned down by Gen Tikka Khan at that night.

The Declaration of Independence

The 7th March speech of Bangabandhu was the definitive commencement of Liberation war.

“Ebarer sangram amader shadhinoter sangram”-----The historic address at the Race Course ground, March 7, 1971.

“Ebarer sangram amader shadhinoter sangram”—–The historic address at the Race Course ground, March 7, 1971.

The independence of Bangladesh was declared by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman through a message on 26 March 1971 just before he was arrested at about 1:30 a.m. This declaration of independence marks the beginning of the Liberation War.
“This may be my last message, from today Bangladesh is independent. I call upon the people of Bangladesh wherever you might be and with whatever you have, to resist the army of occupation to the last. Your fight must go on until the last soldier of the Pakistan occupation army is expelled from the soil of Bangladesh and final victory is achieved.”
Bangabandhu spread the declaration and was reached to many. The wife of M.R. Siddiqi was given an urgent message over telephone from Bangabandhu received through the wireless operators of Chittagong. [ Sheikh Mujib: Triumph and Tragedy by S. A. Karim]


Soon after the Pakistani army crackdown on the night of March 25, 1971,the first declaration of independence was made over the radio by M. A. Hannan. According to the English language newspapers from around the flashed around the world on news wires on the evening of March 26, 1971 and the world came to know about the independence of Bangladesh from Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s original message received in Calcutta on the morning of March 26 and from broadcasts from Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendro on the evening of March 26.

The following world press also reported on 26th March:

The Statesman and The Times of India from India; Buenos Aires Herald from Argentina; The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald from Australia; The Guardian from Burma; The Globe and Mail from Canada; Hong Kong Standard from Hong Kong; The Jakarta Times from Indonesia; Asahi Evening News from Japan; The Rising Nepal from Nepal; The Manila Times from the Philippines; The Straits Times from Singapore; The Pretoria News from South Africa; The Bangkok Post from Thailand; The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, The Times of London from the United Kingdom; and, Baltimore Sun, The Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, Christian Science Monitor, Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, San Francisco Chronicle and The Washington Post from the United States.

Bangabandhu dictated the declaration through telegram, A telegram containing the text of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s declaration reached some students in Chittagong. The message was translated to Bangla by Dr. Manjula Anwar. The students failed to secure permission from higher authorities to broadcast the message from the nearby Agrabad Station of Radio Pakistan.

The Kalurghat Radio Station’s transmission capability was limited, but the message was picked up by a Japanese ship in Bay of Bengal. It was then re-transmitted by Radio Australia and later by the British Broadcasting Corporation.

Announcement of the declaration of independence:

Awami League leader M.A. Hannan aired the declared the independence on behalf of Bangabandhu : (Signed by Bangabandhu):
Abul Kashem Sandeep translated the message to broadcast.

“Today Bangladesh is a sovereign and independent country. On Thursday night West Pakistani armed forces suddenly attacked the police barracks at Razarbagh and the EPR headquarters at Pilkhana in Dhaka. Many innocent and unarmed have been killed in Dhaka city and other places of Bangladesh. Violent clashes between EPR and Police on the one hand and the armed forces of Pindi on the other, are going on. The Bengalis are fighting the enemy with great courage for an independent Bangladesh. May God aid us in our fight for freedom. Joy Bangla.”

Pakistani sources:

Siddiq Salik had written that he heard about Mujibor Rahman’s message on the radio while Operation Searchlight was going on. [ “Witness to Surrender” ]

The Statesman published from New Delhi on March 27, 1971 and explained the two messages received on March 26:

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman made two broadcasts on Friday following the Pakistani troops move to crush his movement, says UNI.
Announcement of the declaration of independence by Major Zia on behalf of Bangabandhu

There are Major Zia declared the independence on behalf of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

# Maj. Gen. Hakeem A. Qureshi in his book The 1971 Indo-Pak War: A Soldier’s Narrative, gives the date of Zia’s speech as 27 March 1971.
# MASSACRE by Robert Payne, Publisher : The McMillan Company New York.
# J. S. Gupta The History of the Liberation Movement in Bangladesh
# India, Pakistan, and the United States: Breaking with the Past By Shirin R. Tahir-Kheli ISBN 0-87609-199-0, 1997, Council on Foreign Relations. pp 37

Major Zia’s declaration of independence on behalf of Bangabandhu was made controversial over an Very few people heard this declaration and Major Zia’s famous “Ami Major Zia Bolchhi”.
“Our struggle is for our freedom. Our struggle is for our independence.” The speech is regarded as the de facto declaration of independence although a formal declaration came on March 26, 1971

Our history has undergone huge twist at the hands of vested quarters. Some people claim that Zia declared himself as provisional commander in chief. In fact Zia made two speeches. When this unauthorized speech created confusion among the people, the Awami League leaders asked Zia to read out a text prepared by A. K. Khan.

Zia followed the suggestion, and made a second speech, where he mentioned that he was speaking on behalf of our great national leader Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.


The government of theSoverignStateon behalf of our great national leader, the supreme commander ofBangladeshSheikh Mujibur Rahman, do hereby proclaim the independence ofBangladesh. And that the government headed by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman has already been formed. It is further proclaimed that Sheikh Mujibur Rahman is the sole leader of the elected representatives of seventy five million people ofBangladesh, and the government headed by him is the only legitimate government of the people of the independent soverign state ofBangladesh….

It was impractical to think of the declaration of independence without mentioning name of Bangabandhu. His name carries more value than any political party. The sky is the limit to measure the popularity of Sheikh Mujib and the landslide victory of 70’s election was its reflection only.

Zia read out the declaration on behalf of Bangbanandhu. Formation of Mujib Nagar Government carries the historic significance.

Bangabandhu’s Declaration of Independence.
(Reserved in Liberation War Museum, Segun Bagicha, Dhaka)
Telex Copy of Bangabandhu’s Declaration of Independence

The atonement still goes on Bangabandhu with parents

When Bangabandhu was gunned down in the early hours on 15 August 1975, the Bengali nation to which he gave independence began a process of atonement for having committed patricide that continues even now. What can be crueler than killing the nation’s father that gave identity to a people who remained colonized for twenty-five years after the British had pulled out of the subcontinent in 1947?

Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was a rare personality who is not born in every generation. It was because of his uncompromising and visionary political struggle for which Bengalis gained a homeland of their own, and it was also because of his unflinching courage to boldly face the persecution of the Pakistani leadership, Bengalis are today getting opportunities in all fronts to prosper and flourish. Why then was he so brutally killed, with all members of his family, only a few years after independence?

The assassination of Bangabandhu is similar to the fall of a tragic hero. Indeed he was a protagonist in the political stage of the subcontinent unparallel to any other politicians of his own and the previous generation. Tragic heroes cannot be ordinary men, they have to be Kings or Princes, and therefore no tragedy has been written after the 16th Century. This genre of literature flourished only during the 5th century BC in ancient Greece and the 16th Century AD in England and France. With the advent of democracy, tragedy retreated to the background because ordinary men could not be endowed with the unqualified greatness of tragic heroes.

Bangabandhu’s life is characterized by many of the traits of a tragic hero: his extraordinary personality, his greatness of heart and his awesome popularity were all like the strengths of a tragic hero. But did Bangabandhu have a tragic flaw that like Hamlet or King Lear ultimately transformed him to the victim of his own mistake? Banganbandhu is not a character of a Shakespearean play; he was a rare human being, a politician with an extraordinary caliber. However like Prince Hamlet, procrastination partly led him to his tragic fall. Yes, he delayed like the prince of Denmark; his first reluctance was to form a government of national unity immediately after his release from Pakistani prison. Later when he declared the establishment of the Bangladesh Krishak Sramik Awami League (BAKSAL), it was much too late, for the conspirators already had enough time to regroup and strike at an opportune moment to eliminate the towering man who had always outmaneuvered them in the past.

Bangabandhuhu’s second delay was his inability to summarily try and punish those who had killed, raped, burnt and looted in the soil of Bengal alongside the blood-drinking Pakistani military. Like King Lear, he did not realize that evil men could never change; those without compassion could never love humanity. The magnanimous Bangabandhu allowed the killers too much time to reorganize and strike back at him. Like Shakespeare’s King Lear, Bangabandhu also hurried. Lear the old King hastily banished and disinherited Cordelia his daughter who loved him the most. Bangabandhu in all his glory, only in his early 50s, decided to prematurely visit Pakistan at the behest of some Arab leaders. His sudden decision to attend the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) meeting in Lahore gave the conspirators a renewed opportunity of plotting to kill a man who had to be earlier spared because of international pressure. The crafty Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto had managed to secure the release of the 195 listed war criminals of the Pakistani military as an outcome of the Shimla agreement signed by Pakistan and India in 1973. Why then was the hurry and the necessity of returning to a country whose military, fully supported by Zulfiqar Bhutto, wanted the entire territory of Bangladesh to be smeared in blood only a couple of years ago in 1971? What could have Bangabandhu asked from Pakistan? His trip to the humbled Pakistan of 1971 can at best be described as the journey of a proud victor to the land of the vanquished. Little did he realize that behind the glitter and the razzmatazz surrounding his arrival at the Lahore airport, and his participation in the OIC meeting, a plot was underway to avenge the defeat in the hands of the Bengalis in 1971.

Lawrence Lifschultz, one of the most dispassionate chroniclers of the history of our glorious war of liberation, mentions in his book Bangladesh: the Unfinished Revolution the link of the infamous Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan in the murder of Bangabandhu. The ISI mustered support of a few disgruntled soldiers of the Bangladesh Army and successfully carried out its sinister mission on that fateful morning of 15 August 1971. When Bangabandhu’s body, riddled with bullets, lay lifeless at his home in Dhanmandi abettors to the conspiracy in the Pakistani army Headquarters, as Lifschultz states, were among the first to rejoice the news of this macabre happening.

The tragedy had turned full circle with the elimination of Bangabandhu, but the Bengali nation continues to atone for its collective guilt of giving birth to those who like cunning wolves stealthily moved from behind and felled a titan.

Author : Golam Sarwar Chowdghury is Professor of English at university of Liberal Arts Bangladesh (ULAB).

Bangabandhu Exclusive Video Footage

Bangabandhu15082012Bangabandhu Exclusive Video Footage Collected from the Different Media Sources like Youtube, vimeo, banglatube, i-bangla, and other similar sources and individuals. All the credit goes to the related bodies and those who uploaded the medias for other to explore. Share & ENJOY………..