Special Supplement

Unparalleled champion of people’s rights

Published : 04 Dec 2019 09:15 PM | Updated : 07 Sep 2020 06:44 PM

He was the champion of democracy and one of the greatest leaders of undivided India. He was an unparalleled leader in all Indian politics, who dedicated his whole life to ensure welfare of the people by upholding democracy above everything. Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy is an illustrious name in the history of democracy in Bangladesh. Today we recall with respect the contribution of Suhrawardy to establishing and flourishing democracy as well as in socio-economic development of the people of this region.

Suhrawardy worked throughout his life for establishing democratic rights of the people and flourishing non-communal politics. He was vociferous in the struggle for socio-economic development of the Muslims in the subcontinent and upholding their political rights. Awami League had flourished further under the efficient leadership of Suhrawardy.

The present generation in Bangladesh possibly have no idea about Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy, who was one of the great intellect charismatic leaders of Bengal and one of the founders of Awami Muslim League, carved out a theory to have Pakistan when none in the regions, including Punjab and Sindh could form Muslim League government, but Suhrawardy formed Muslim League government in Bengal in 1946. Historically, Suhrawardy was not recognised as the founder of Pakistan but his contribution towards achieving Pakistan was unparalleled. It was alleged by some quarters that the Chief Minister of Bengal Suhrawardy had a hand in Hindu-Muslim riot in Calcutta on direct action day declared by Mohammad Ali Jinnah against the decision by the British allowing Indian National Congress to form an interim government. But the then Viceroy Wavell could not establish concrete evidence that Huseyn Shaheed had a hand in the riot after investigation. Cousin of Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy, Begum Shaista Ikramullah, in her biography defended her brother by saying, “carnage was not diabolically planned by my brother. He spent day and night round the clock doing whatever was humanly possible to stop carnage”. It is equally true that Chief Minister Suhrawardy acted on good faith to save his reputation as a law abiding personality. 

Prior to the riot Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy gave full support to the United Bengal concept at Muslim legislators’ conference in Delhi in April of 1946. Sarat Chandra Bose and Kiran Shankar Roy of the congress party in Bengal gave full support while Abul Hashem, General Secretary of Bengal Muslim League supported the idea of United Bengal. Things might have changed today had the proposal of United Bengal initiated by Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy, Sarat Bose and others before division of Bengal by Lord Curzon  took place in 1905. On the other hand, Gandhi, Nehru and Sardar Patel and Khawaja Nazimuddin, former Chief Minister of Bengal and Maulana Akram Khan, President of Bengal Muslim League did not support independent Bengal. It may be noted that Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy also served  under the Chief Minister of A. K. Fazlul Huq as Labour Minister in 1937 and as Civil supplies Minister under Khawaja Nazimuddin who ruled from 1943 to 1946. Suhrawardy also served as Deputy Mayor of Calcutta after the death of Deshbandhu Chittaranjan Das, leader of Swaraj party. Suhrawardy was also involved in the formation of the Swaraj Party. Suhrawardy was blamed for the great Bengal famine in 1943 but facts speak otherwise. Famine took place in view of crop failures and disruptive events accompanying the Second World War and interruption of normal imports of food grains from Burma contributed to the famine in Bengal. Nobel laureate Professor Amartya Sen studied food crisis in Bengal, including Bangladesh for which he was awarded Nobel award on economics.

Following partition of the British India in August 1947 Suhrawardy remained in Calcutta to stop carnage between Muslims and Hindus in collaboration with Mahatma Gandhi. Suhrawardy accepted the proposal of Gandhi to remain with him under the same roof to propagate Hindu-Muslim unity. Suhrawardy, however, did not accept Gandhi’s proposal to go to Noakhali to stop carnage there. Partition of the British India had caused devastating situation of both sides of borders. That Suhrawardy was a popular personality in Calcutta which can be ascertained from the fact that he was elected Deputy Mayor of Calcutta after Sher-e-Bangla A.K.Fazlul Huq. Partition was effective following Hindu-Muslim riots in India in 1946 which convinced the British ruler to divide the country on the basis of religion.

Partition of the British India into India and Pakistan, however, left Pakistan with serious problems after the death of Muhammad Ali Jinnah in 1948, apart from geographic location between East and West Pakistan separated by over one thousand miles of Indian territories. On his arrival in Karachi, membership in Pakistan National Assembly for Suhrawardy was dropped in view of the fact that he remained with Gandhi, a stalwart of Indian National Congress. Suhrawardy’s good and pious intention was wrongly interpreted in Karachi by political coterie following death of Jinnah. That political vendetta in Pakistan politics had begun knowing fully well Suhrawardy’s contribution in making Pakistan was enormous. The situation further deteriorated following assassination of Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan in 1951. When Suhrawardy arrived in Dacca in 1949 he was served with a notice to  leave East Pakistan by Inspector-General of Police Mr. Zakir Hossain. The same year he joined Awami Muslim League which was formed by Maulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhashani.

Governor General Malik Ghulam Muhammad of Pakistan, a civil bureaucrat, who served after the assassination of Liaquat Ali Khan from 1951 until August of 1955, invited Suhrawardy from Geneva to serve as the country’s Law Minister. After his dismissal by Major-General Iskandar Mirza, who assumed Presidentship of Pakistan, appointed Suhrawardy as Prime Minister after Chowdhury Mohammad Ali resigned from the post. The Republican Party of Iskandar Mirza and Awami League formed coalition government which lasted from 12 September of 1956 until 11 October of 1957. During his tenure as Prime Minister Suhrawardy established relations with China and America. On an invitation Suharwady visited both Peking and Washington DC to strengthen relations. Chou En Lai had been to Pakistan on several occasions as well. Suhrawardy was a strong advocate for an association with western powers while Maulana Abdul Hamid Khan was in the opposite direction. That was why Awami League was split apart at Kagmari conference.

When Gen. Ayub Khan took over administration from Maj-General Iskander Mirza through a peaceful coup d’etat in 1958, Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy was debarred from entering politics under controversial elected bodies disqualification order (EBDO). It is really unfortunate to recall that Suhrawardy languished in jail under the leadership of Gen. Ayub Khan. On release from jail, Suhrawardy had been on a visit to East Pakistan in 1960 and visited Kushtia accompanied by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman to meet Advocate Saad Ahmed, who secured highest marks in MA in economics from Aligarh University with gold medal and law from Dacca University. It was Suhrawardy who asked Saad Ahmed to organise Awami League at Kushtia and practice law there. Saad Ahmed resigned professorship from Jagannath College to start practicing law at kushtia. Incidentally, I was introduced to Suhrawardy as Secretary-General of Chhatra League of Kushtia District and the best speaker from Kushtia to participate in Dacca during provincial student week introduced by Gen. Azam Khan, provincial governor. At that time Saad Ahmed was Chairman of Kushtia District Board. On another occasion, I had the opportunity to meet this great statesman of Pakistan at Dacca Press club ground where Central Kachi-Kanchar Mela organised ten day long Anando Mela in 1962. Accompanied by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, former Prime Minister of Pakistan Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy visited our stalls in the Mela but his expensive camera got lost. Photography was a favourite hobby of Suhrawardy.

That Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy was a popular statesman in former East Pakistan was reflected in the participation of thousands of people in his namaz-e-janaza in Dacca who expired in Beirut hospital – far away from sweet-bitter home – on 5th December of 1963.

Source: Internet