The announcement triggered off the general agitation in East Pakistan. In response, the Bangabandhu called for an all-out Non-Cooperation Movement in East Pakistan. The whole province supported him. During the course of Non-Cooperation (2-25 March 1971), the entire civil administration in East Pakistan came under his control and moved according to his directives. He became, in fact, the de facto head of government for the province. In the words of Evening Standard (a London Daily):
"Sheikh Mujibur Rahman now appears to be the boss of East Pakistan, with the complete support of the population. Rahman's home in Dhanmondi, already known as Number 10 Downing Street in imitation of the British Prime Minister's residence, has been besieged by bureaucrats, politicians, bankers, industrialists and people from all walks of life". (12 March 1971).
During this time, on 7 March 1971 Mujib made a historic address at a mammoth gathering of a million of people at the Race Course which marked a turning point in the history of the Bangali nation. In his address Mujib made specific charges against the martial law authorities which failed to transfer power to the elected representatives. At the end of his speech, he declared:
"Build forts in each homestead. You must resist the Pakistani enemy with whatever you have in hand. ... Remember, we have given a lot of blood, a lot more blood we shall give if need be, but we shall liberate the people of this country, Insha Allah [i.e, if God wishes]. ... The struggle this time is the struggle for our emancipation; the struggle this time is the struggle for independence."
Meanwhile, President Yahya Khan and other leaders from West Pakistan came to Dhaka on 15 March to start a dialogue with the Bangabandhu and his party. The dialogue began on the following day and continued intermittently down to 25 March morning. During the period, non-cooperation and hartals continued unremittingly in East Pakistan. Students and leaders of various political parties had been declaring independence from March 2 and the spree continued. Against this backdrop, at mid-night of 25 March 1971, the Pakistan army launched its brutal crackdown in different areas of Dhaka city including the University of Dhaka killing students, teachers and innocent people in the name of operation searchlight. Thus a nine-month long genocidal killing was unleashed by the Pakistan occupation army. Sheikh Mujib was arrested on the night of 25 March and was kept confined at Dhaka Cantonment until he was taken to West Pakistan for facing trial for 'sedition' and inciting insurrection. Before his arrest Bangabandhu sent a wireless message to Chittagong over the ex-EPR transmitter for transmission declaring the Independence of Bangladesh. To quote his declaration:
"This may be my last message, from today Bangladesh is independent. I call upon the people of Bangladesh wherever you might be and 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."
Although during the War of Liberation initiating in the wake of the 25 March army crackdown Bangabandhu had been a prisoner in the hands of Pakistan, he was made, in absentia, the President of the provisional government, called the Mujibnagar Government, formed on 10 April 1971 by the people's representatives to head the Liberation War. He was also made the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces. Throughout the period of the War of Liberation, Sheikh Mujib's charisma worked as the source of inspiration for freedom fighters and for national unity and strength.
The trial of Bangabandhu by the Pakistani junta giving death sentence to him moved the world leaders to save his life.
After the Liberation of Bangladesh on 16 December 1971 from Pakistani occupation, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was released from Pakistan jail and via London he made a triumphant homecoming, arriving in Dhaka on 10 January 1972 in the midst of joy and jubilations throughout the country. Hundreds of thousands of people of all walks of life received him at the Tejgaon old Airport according him a heroic welcome. With his homecoming, all uncertainties loomed large around the leadership of the new republic, for that matter, the future of Bangladesh were removed, as Daily The Guardian (published from London) in an editorial on 10 January 1972 wrote : "Once Sheikh Mujibur Rahman steps out at Dacca Airport the new republic becomes a solid fact."
Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman headed the first government of the post-Liberation Bangladesh for a short period of three years and a half. Starting from scratch his government had to deal with countless problems of a war ravaged country. Under the leadership of Bangabandhu, the state-building and nation-building took off the ground covering all important fields. Restoring law and order, recovering illegal arms, rehabilitating the mukhtijoddhas, rebuilding the communication system, saving lives of the people hostile to the War of Liberation from the public wrath, and, most importantly, feeding the hungry millions and many others were the formidable challenges before his government.
In spite of all these problems, Sheikh Mujib never faltered to enact a Constitution, which he did within ten months. Return of Indian allied forces was ensured within three months of Liberation. Within a period of fifteen months general elections were held (7 March 1973). As many as 140 countries recognized Bangladesh. Bangabandhu set forth the guiding principle of Bangladesh's foreign policy: 'Friendship to all and malice to none'. Indeed, the Mujib government laid down the edifice of fundamental state institutions covering all important fields. However, despite all these achievements, the opposition mainly from the ultra lefts, who considered the War of Liberation as 'an unfinished revolution' taking recourse to arms, created a most difficult situation in the country. Law and order situation was deteriorating very rapidly, which was frustrating for all. At the top of all, a famine (1974) ravaged the country taking its tolls by the thousands. Bewildered Sheikh Mujib first attempted to confront the situation by creating a special security force called Rakshi Bahini. Depending on his charisma, his next move was introduction of a single-party (BAKSAL) system. Taking advantage of such a fluid and unstable situation, a group of disgruntled army adventurers assassinated him on 15 August 1975 along with all his family members present.
Bibliography: Shahryar Iqbal (ed.), Sheikh Mujib in Parliament (1955-58), Dhaka 1997; Muhammad HR Talukder (ed.), Memoirs of Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy, Dhaka 1987; Zillur Rahman Khan, The Third World Charisma: Sheikh Mujib and the Struggle for Freedom, Dhaka 1994; A. Majeed Khan (ed.), Twenty Great Bengalis, Dhaka 2008; SA Karim, Sheikh Mujib: Triump And Tragedy, Dhaka 2005; Archer K Blood, The Cruel Birth of Bangladesh: Memories of an American Diplomat, Dhaka 2002; Harun-or-Rashid, Statehood Ideal of Bengalis and the Emergence of Independent Bangladesh (Bangla), Dhaka 2003; Monayem Sarkar (ed.), Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman: A Political Biography (Bangla), 2 volumes, Dhaka 2008.