JIHADISM, FREEDOM AND CLASS STRUGGLE

Maulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhashani – Brief Life Sketch

It is a historical truth that every year of at least the latter seven decades of the life of the Moulana, is marked with more than one memorable historical political events simultaneously created, devised and pioneered by him. Those events did not only change the course of our national history progressively, but also resulted in the advancement of pro-people politics in this region. Yet a few memorable dates are noted below to cater instant readers.

 

1880: Born at the village of Saya Dhangara, in the then Sirajgonj sub-division under the district of Pabna, Bangladesh.

 

1889: Father Hajee Sarafat Ali died.

 

1894: Mother Majiran Bibi and his three brothers and one sister died of cholera without treatment leaving him literally orphan and a have-not.

 

1897: Went to Assam with holy soul Hazrat Syed Nasiruddin Bagdadi (R.) for the second time to get both worldly and spiritual education from him. The Moulana for the first time met this great-soul in his early boyhood with his father at the age of seven.

 

1907-1909: Took education in Dar-ul-Ulum, Deoband, India, where he came in touch with Sheikh-ul-Hind Moulana Mahmud-ul-Hasan, a courageous scholar and anti-colonial, anti-imperialist political philosopher who introduced terrorist movement named Reshmi Rumal Andolan (Silk-handkerchief movement). The Moulana followed the steps of his teacher-leader Sheikh-ul Hind and got involved in this movement.

 

1909: On return from Deoband Madrasha he started teaching in a primary school in Tangail, and started protesting against oppression of Moharaja of Santosh, Zamindar Mammath Roy, who was the President of All-India Zamindar Samity and an influential member of the Viceroy’s Advisory Council.

 

1910-1913: Involved in extremist-terrorist movements as an indomitable activist.

 

1914-1916: Kept himself engaged in multifarious social welfare activities among the peasant folk.

 

1917: Entered into politics as an activist and worker of Deshbandhu Chitta Ranjan Das (C.R. Das).

 

1921: Joined non-co-operation movement under C.R. Das and faced imprisonment. It may be mentioned that he had to stay behind the bars for a total of 31 years and 10 months during British and Pakistan period and was interned at his Santosh-hut during Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s regime in independent Bangladesh since 30 June, 1974 to late November, 1975.

 

1924: Peasant conference at Bhashan Char in the district of Dhubri, Assam and obtained the title of ‘Bhashani’ conferred by the peasants and workers of that area.

 

1926: Bengal Provincial Government declared him persona non grata and left for Assam.

 

1928: Attended both Khilafat and Congress Conference held in Kolkata.

 

1930: Joined the Muslim League.

 

1931-32: Held epoch-making 3-day grand Bengal-Assam Tenant Conference at Kawakhola in Serajgonj.

 

1932-35: Conducted extensive relief work and organized landless Bengalee immigrants in Assam. It may be mentioned that previously also he conducted massive relief works at the flood-stricken areas of Bengal and Assam several times and he carried this mission even after the emergence of Bangladesh.

 

1937: Formed Assam Chashi-Majur samity (Assam Peasant-Workers Association) and started movement against infamous line system. In the month of April this year he was elected MLA to Assam Provincial Assembly. Attended historical All-India Muslim League Conference held at Lucknow.

 

1939: Performed holy Hajj for the second time and successfully bargained some facilities for Bengalee Hajis with Ibn-Saud, the royal king of Saudi Arabia.

 

1940: Attended historical Lahore Conference of All-India Muslim League held on 23rd March where as a member of the subject-committee he played a pivoting role in preparing the Lahore Resolution which envisaged two separate independent and sovereign states in the North-Western and Eastern zones of India respectively.

 

1944: Unanimously elected President of Assam Provincial Muslim League.

 

1945-46: Waged anti-Bangal-Khedao (oust Bengalee) movement all over Assam.

 

1946: Hunger strike against eviction of migrant landless Bengalees in Assam. In the same year he observed fasting for 61 days to protest against Government atrocities.

 

1947: In January, presided over joint session of Bengal-Assam Provincial Muslim League to take decision to lodge ‘Civil Disobedience Movement’ on 3-4 March. Organized Bengal-Assam Mujahid Conference, Literary conference, Nao-joan conference and National Guard Conference. On 9 March was arrested under Security Act and imprisoned; declared observance of ‘Assam Day’ on 10 March before arrest. On 21 March released from jail. On 6-7 July Sylhet Referendum, where his role was decisive. Again was arrested under Security Act. On the 14 August he was in jail in Assam when independent Pakistan took birth. In November he was pushed into East Bengal by Assam government of Bardalie.

 

1948: Elected MLA to the East Bengal Legislative Assembly from South Tangail Constituency. On March 17, spoke against symptoms of exploitation by West Pakistan and referred to the necessity of implementation of Lahore Resolution in words and phrase. Formation of East Bengal Islam Mission. Resigned as MLA.

 

1949: In March went to Dhubri, Assam and was put behind the bars on 17 March. Got released from jail in the third week of May in the face of wide agitation by the peasants and workers in Assam and Sylhet who were about to cross the border to move to the jail. On 23 June, formed Awami Muslim League with himself as President, Shamsul Hoq as General Secretary and Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (in absentia as he was in jail) & Khandakar Mostaque Ahmed as joint secretaries. On 24 June, first public meeting of Awami Muslim League at Armanitola Maidan of Dhaka. On 13 October was arrested by the then government of Pakistan under Special Power Act.

 

1950: Hunger Strike at Dhaka Central Jail and was released on 10 December. On December 24, lodged no-confidence motion against Liaqot Ali Khan, Prime Minister of Pakistan at a mammoth public meeting held at Armanitola Maidan.

 

1951: Gone to Hamidabad (erstwhile Ghagmari), Assam and stayed for several weeks.

 

1952: On January 30, formation of All-party State-Language Action Committee. February 4 presided over the crucial meeting of State-Language Action Committee. During this period he organized and attended series of public meetings in rural areas as much as possible in order to inspire and activate mass people in favour of Bangla Language Movement. On February 22 conducted Gayebi Janaja of the martyrs of Bengali language movement at Dhaka Medical College Hospital ground. April 10, was arrested on charges of leading Bangla Language Movement.

 

1953: Fallen ill in the jail, hunger strike from April 18 and was released on April 21. November 14-15, first council session of Awami Muslim League. December 4, formed United Front along with Sher-e-Bangla A.K. Fazlul Hoq, H.S Sohrawardy and Moulana Athar Ali.

 

1954: March 8-12 land-slide victory of the United Front in the first general election of East Bengal Legislative Assembly. May it be mentioned that it was the first general election held in Pakistan. On May 25, left Dhaka to attend World Peace Conference (WPC) in Berlin as the President of East Pakistan Branch of World Peace Council, on the invitation of Julio Coorie. Elected President of Adamjee Jute Mills Majdoor Union. Elected President of East Pakistan Railway Employees League. Attended WPC held in Stockholm. The then Pakistani President Iskandar Mirza declared that the Moulana would be shot dead if he returns to Dhaka. Self-exile in Europe for about eleven months.

 

1955: Returned to Dhaka on April 25. On October 21-23, Second Council Session of Awami Muslim League held. In this session he succeeded in getting the word ‘Muslim’ dropped from the name of the Party and the Awami Muslim League then became Awami League. It may be mentioned here that the Moulana moved the proposal to drop the word ‘Muslim’ in the First Council Session of the party held in November 1953 in order to get the party open to all the citizens of Pakistan irrespective of religion, caste, creed, gender and ethnicity. But H.S. Suhrawardy, President of the West Pakistan based All Pakistan Jinnah Awami League opposed the idea on tactical grounds that on the eve of the general elections to East Bengal Provincial Assembly such a step would be detrimental to draw Muslim votes and hence the Moulana was solely authorized to popularize the idea of secularizing the party and he did the job successfully during 1954 election campaigns. His simple argument in this regard was that in the Holy Quran; Allah is termed as Rabbul Alamin (The Lord of the Universe), not as only Rabbul Muslemin (The Lord of the Muslims). The traditional non-communal mass of this land appreciated the idea and argument and extended whole hearted support to the Moulana. It is one of the rich characteristics of the Moulana that he earned total confidence of the mass people that his no step or program can be detrimental to the society as a whole or in any way and it was possible only for him because of the fact that he was well conversant with the political spirit of Islam based on the principles of equality and egalitarianism. He well knew that on these radical humanist principles Islam grew as a lasting dynamic socio-political-economic movement of the poor and oppressed against the exploiters, tyrants and vested interests.

 

1956: January 15, warned to the effect that East Bengal would step forward to become independent of Pakistan on the basis of Lahore Resolution, if exploitation and injustice continue. On February 21, laid the foundation stone of Central Shaheed Minar (Dhaka) along with mother of martyr Abul Barkat and Chief Minister Abu Hossain Sarkar. February 29, under his ceaseless pressure and demand; Bangla was incorporated in the constitution of Pakistan as one of the two state languages of Pakistan. February 7-23, on hunger strike in protest of famine.

 

1957: February 7-8, Awami League Council Session held at Kagmari, Santosh, Tangail, where the Moulana bade “Assalamualaikum” to West Pakistan. Sharp difference occurred between the Moulana and Prime Minister H.S. Suhrawardy and his followers on question of Provincial autonomy for East Bengal and foreign policy that slided into imperialist’s ditch which was a clear deviation from basic tenants of Awami League under the Moulana’s leadership. February 8-10, historical Kagmari Cultural Conference where the Moulana made the clarion declaration that “Road to Kagmari is Road to Freedom, Road to Kagmari is Road to Emancipation”. In this conference, political motives of the pro-imperialist faction of Awami-League was exposed and thereby they made themselves vulnerable to the criticism of power-mongering by the left progressive quarters. Having disgusted with the vandalism and rowdism of power-mongers of this faction the Moulana decided to cede the party which was formed by him against innumerable odds. May it be mentioned that the Moulana had to run from village to village and address series of public meetings to put Awami-League on firm public-footing. Ultimately the immoral usurpers of the Awami League reaped the harvest of historical toil, labor and sacrifice of the Moulana alone. On July 24-25, he convened “All Pakistan Democratic Workers Conference” in Dhaka. He founded a new political party named “Pakistan National Awami Party (NAP)” which took a clear-cut anti-imperialist stand and in the context of the then world political atmosphere it was widely regarded as the largest popular left political organization having easy access to the mass.

 

1958: After founding left progressive popular political organization NAP, the Moulana decided to take politics to the doorsteps of the peasants and different professionals and as such convened a Peasant Conference at Phulchari ghat, Rangpur on 2-3 January where he founded East Pakistan Peasant Association (EPKS, Purba Pakistan Krishak Samity) in the face of opposition from senior communist leaders of that time. The Moulana and Hatem Ali Khan were President and Secretary of the EPKS respectively. 15 June: Founded Provincial Fishermen Association, he being the President. August 12-21, visited Egypt at the invitation of Gamal Abdul Naser and an exclusive talk was held between the two on the middle-east situation. August 21-22, visited Syria at the invitation of Damascus Government. September 16, returned to Karachi via London. In the meantime anti-imperialist and anti-colonial and pro-peasant-labor politics spread throughout the whole of Pakistan and mass people was found enthusiastic to embrace this pattern of politics which was alarming for the imperialists and their cohorts. General public was found to amass behind the NAP in both the wings of Pakistan. In the month of September, the then Awami-Republican Coalition Government announced the First General Election throughout the whole of Pakistan be held in February 1959 in which left political forces were supposed to draw comparatively more popular support. In the backdrop of rapid expansion of anti-imperialist left politics in the then Pakistan, martial law was imposed by President Iskandar Mirza (ex-military man) and Chief Martial Law administrator General Ayub Khan under covert support of imperialist lords. Only after 20 days General Ayub Khan took over the Presidency of Pakistan removing Iskandar Mirza. October 12, The Moulana was arrested under Security of Pakistan Act 1952, from Mirzapur Kumudini Hospital, Tangail where he was under treatment and brought to Dhaka central jail. The charges brought against him were that the political activities of the Moulana were prejudicial to the security of Pakistan and its external affairs and that he was inciting different productive classes of the country. These charges indicate the Moulana’s vigorous struggle for establishing socialism and social justice.

Subsequently, Abul Mansur Ahmed, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman with eight other ministers, MPs and Govt. officials were arrested on charges of corruption. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and others were released after 14 months in December 1959. It may be noted here that H.S. Sohrawardy was arrested on 31 January, 1961 and was kept in Karachi jail and was released on 19-8-1962. But the Moulana had been still behind the bars.

 

1962: Oct 26, The Moulana was under arrest till Nov 1962. He went on hunger strike demanding relief for the flood-stricken people and on some other popular causes. He was released on November 3 after imprisonment of long 48 months and 20 days.

The arrest of the leaders by the junta destroyed the systematic and methodical politics in both East and West wings of Pakistan.

 

1963: As one of the front line leaders of National Democratic Front (NDF) he took part in movement for restoring democracy. Made wide political tours in different parts of East and West Pakistan focusing his anti-imperialist and anti-colonial stand as well as establishment of a society based on socialistic principles which is inevitable for the emancipation of the toiling mass.

 

(To be continued)

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