Left-leaning nationalist

Last updated: 10 October 2017 From the section Tajuddin Ahmad

As a young adult Tajuddin Ahmad became more and more engrossed in politics.

Tajuddin's belief in socialism never wavered. But socialism, he made it clear to people impatient for results, was a matter of dedication. It was a plant which needed ceaseless nurturing. Socialism was much more than an idea. It was, he repeated over and over again, underpinned by faith. Hypocrisy had no place in the socialist's concept of the world.

Syed Badrul Ahsan,

Deep impact of 1943 Bengal famine

In 1943 Bengal suffered one of the worst famine in history.

Tajuddin was deeply moved by the natural disaster which had such catastrophic result for his people. After the famine he organised his village people into setting up a storage system called "Dharmagola". The concept revolved around collecting food grain from rich people during harvest season and depositing it in the storage so it could be used by the hungry in time of disaster. This was a novel idea for a village and once again showcased Tajuddin's thinking which was pro-people and concerned with the greater benefit of the wider community.

He would work relentlessly for service to the needy. When Tajuddin Ahmad was an MLA, a boy named Abdul Aziz in his village was wounded from a gunshot. He brought the boy to the hospital and himself donated 10 ounces of blood with the purpose of saving the life of the victim. Later, on hearing that the boy died, he was deeply grieved.


Muslim League member

From 1943 onward Tajuddin was an activist in the All-India Muslim League, popularly known as just Muslim League. The Muslim League was a progressive political party which was established during the early years of the 20th century in the British Indian Empire. It strongly advocated for the establishment of a separate Muslim-majority nation-state, Pakistan.

The All India Muhammadan Educational (AIME) Conference in 1906, held at the Ahsan Manzil palace of the Dhaka Nawab Family, laid the foundation of the Muslim League.

In Bengal Abul Hashim was the General Secretary of the Bengal Provisional Muslim League. He wanted the middle class professionals to come to the leadership of the party by removing the feudals, mainly the Nawabs of Dhaka. With this in mind he promulgated a theory as "Islamic Socialism" to attract the youths. In fact, majority of the Bengali intelligentsia in the pre-Partition period, leaders like A. K. Fazlul Huq, Suhrwardy, Abul Hashim, Abul Mansur Ahmad, and Maulana Akram Khan were all, in varying degree, reformers with deep concern for the education of their downtrodden community. Thus the late 1930s and early 1940s witnessed a shift in mentality of the Bengali Muslim intelligentsia from nationalist positions to separatist positions on the basis of religion.

Abul Hashim emerged as the spokesman of the progressive sections of the Muslim League. Another key spokesman was Khwaja Nazimuddin, the former Education Minister of Bengal. Both men did a lot in the early 1940s to popularise the Muslim League among the Muslim masses in Bengal, and led the League to an overwhelming victory in the 1946 elections.

A Muslim League office was set up in 150 Mughaltoli, Dhaka. Following the example of Communist Party, the office was named "Party House". The officer-in-charge was Kamruddin Ahmad, a law student.

In 1944, aged 19, Tajuddin was elected as a member of the council (i.e. a Councillor) of the Bengal Muslim League and became a key figure among the leaders of Dhaka. Tajuddin's colleagues included the likes of Bahauddin Chowdhury, Mohammad Toaha, Dr. M. A. Karim, Oli Ahad, A.M.G. Mohiuddin, Shamsul Huq (later minister), Abul Hasnat, Abdul Wadud, and Khan Ataur Rahman.

As workers of Muslim League for the creation of Pakistan they participated in movements in different areas and went to work as workers in different elections. Under Tajuddin's leadership they worked for the Sylhet Referendum of 1947 by which Sylhet merged with Pakistan and detached itself from Assam.

We lived together, ate together and worked for Muslim League together.

We would ride on two bicycles and would cross the river at Swarighat. The people around knew us that these two travel to propagate for Muslim League. On our way they would invite us to have meals at their home. We believed that imperialism would be thrown out. We propagated that feudalism should be abolished. It was imperialism which created Hindu-Muslim strife. If imperialism goes away Hindu-Muslim communal strife will also cease, that is what we thought.

Dr. M. A. Karim, friend

It was Oli Ahad who inducted me as a member of the Students League. From then, I started to visit frequently the Muslim League office at 150 Old Mogultooli Road along with Oli Ahad, A.M.G. Mohiuddin, Bahauddin Choudhury, Shamsul Huq (later minister), Abul Hasnat, Abdul Wadud , Khan Ataur Rahman and others.

I discovered a new thing there. Some wholetime workers stayed in the few rooms on the second floor of the office building to study, research and develop plans to popularize the League and do the field work as well. Notable among them were. Toaha of Noakhali,Tasadduk Ahmad of Sylhet, Tajuddin Ahmed of Kapasia, Dhaka, Shaukat Ali of Kaltabazar of Dhaka city, Shamsuddin Ahmad of Munshiganj and Shamsul Huq of Tangail. The inmates of the house used to fondly call this the Party House which was in fact a branch office of the Bengal Provincial Muslim League from the time Abul Hashim became its General Sectary.

Kamruddin Ahmed, who was the Worker in Charge of the Party House, did not stay there. He lived in a rented house close by, but he was there most of the time to talk to students and give them guidance. It was at his request that I, along with some 25 students of the Dhaka Intermediate College, undertook a visit to Gafargaon, on the eve of the visit there by Laquat Ali Khan to drum up support for the Muslim League, challenged there, by Maulana Shamsul Huda's Emarat Party. There, one day Tajuddin, Toaha and Oli Ahad got a beating from the Maulana's henchmen. This Maulana was not merely a Maulana but a polical maverick like Titu Mir having in his organization, an army of workers with swords, spears and other lethal weapons, and a press of his own. We were given some bicycles there to go round the area for party work. It is there that I learnt how to ride a bi-cycle.

Hemayetuddin Ahmed, former Director General, External Publicity, Government of Bangladesh and a political commentator

The Muslim League was successful in leading partition of India by the British Empire and on 14 August 1947 a new nation was formed: Pakistan.

Active campaigner during Bhasha Andolon (Language Movement)

Pakistan was made up of two wings separated by 1,200 miles of India: East Bengal (later East Pakistan, or ‘Purbo Pakistan’ in Bangla) and West Pakistan (‘Poschim Pakistan’). But within months of the birth of Pakistan there was a significant shift in the political environment in East Bengal.

Disillusionment with Muslim League

Like many Bengali of the period, Tajuddin was loyal to the Pakistani cause pre-Partition. He worked tirelessly and passionately to create Pakistan. However, the Pakistan dream turned out to be a nightmare for the Bengalis. Tajuddin grew disillusioned and frustrated with the Muslim League. He began to dislike the party and predicted the quick demise of the Pakistan project. Little was he to know that his prediction would become the core political vibe of Awami League two decades later.

He used to visit the Musilim League office at Kolta Bazar. He had many senior friends there. During one such visit, he declared that Pakistan could never remain united as per Jinnah's expectations.

M. Wahiduzzaman, a former government official and school friend of Tajuddin

It was during this period that leaders began coming from Calcutta. Among the returning young leaders was a certain Sheikh Mujibur Rahman whose friendship and working relationship with Tajuddin Ahmad would become legendary. In 1948 Maulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhashani, the "Lal Mullah" (Red Mullah), also came from Assam, India.

Founding member of Purbo Pakistan Muslim Chhatra League (East Pakistan Muslim Student League)

The factionalism that existed in the Bengal Provincial Muslim League before Partition had its impact also on its student wing, the All-Bengal Muslim Student League. After partition, this organisation had split into two largely on the question of leadership. One group led by Anwar Hussain and Shah Azizur Rahman supported the (Khwaja) Nazimuddin group of the Muslim League and the other led by Nooruddin and Sheikh Mujibur Rahman supported Suhrawardy-Hashim group. The former thus formed the 'All-East Pakistan Muslim Student League' and the latter formed the 'Purbo Pakistan Muslim Chhatra League’ (East Pakistan Muslim Student League) on 4 January 1948. Naimuddin Ahmad, was elected convenor of the new organisation while Aziz Ahmad (Noakhali), Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (Faridpur), Oli Ahad (Comilla), Abdur Rahman Chowdhury (Barisal), Dabirul Islam (Dinajpur), Abdul Matin (Pabna), Mafizur Rahman (Rangpur), Sheikh Abdul Aziz (Khulna), Nawab Ali (Dhaka), Nurul Kabir (Dhaka city), Abdul Aziz (Kushtia), Syed Nurul Alam (Mymensingh) and Abdul Quddus Chowdhury (Chittagong) were elected members of the organising committee. Tajuddin Ahmad too was a key founding member.

The Purbo Pakistan Muslim Chhatra League later became a non-communal organisation, and after the independence of Bangladesh was renamed to the Chhatro League and became the student branch of the Awami League party.

Member of Shorbodolio Kendrio Rashtrobhasha Kormi Porishod (All-Party Central State Language Action Committee) and present Jinnah with memorandum demanding Bangla as a State Language

Tajuddin Ahmad participated in and led various activities of the Chhatra League including the first general strike of the new Rashtrobhasha Sangram Parishad (State Language Action Committee) on 11 March 1948.

Ten days later Muhammad Ali Jinnah arrived in Dhaka and recommended Urdu as a state language of Pakistan, causing an uproar around the eastern province.

On the evening of 24 March 1948, moments after speaking at the Dhaka University convocation, Jinnah agreed to meet a 5-member deputation on behalf of the Shorbodolio Rashtrabhasha Sangram Parishad (All-Party State Language Action Committee) which included Tajuddin Ahmad. During the meeting Mohammad Toaha submitted a memorandum to Jinnah on behalf of the students demanding Bengali as one of the state languages of Pakistan. But their efforts were fruitless. Jinnah refused to see the students' point of view over the language question and reiterated his refusal to grant Bengali a status equivalent to that of Urdu. He tried to persuade the student representatives of the necessity of having one national language, but the students were not convinced.

Tajuddin Ahmad was also a member of 'Shorbodolio Kendrio Rashtrobhasha Kormi Porishod' (All-Party Central State Language Action Committee) which aimed to establish Bangla as the State Language of Pakistan in addition to Urdu. He attended a gathering which was presided by Kamruddin Ahmed and attended by a host of passionate, talented and powerful youth committee including Prof. Abul Kashem of Tamuddun Majlish, Mohammad Toaha of Democratic Youth League, and Shahidullah Kaiser of Students Federation (and later a martyred intellectual during 1971 Liberation War).

After the partition of India, Tajuddin was actively associated with every movement that was organized in Pakistan to resist communalism and to support economic emancipation and the language movement.

...Being a full time political and social worker he could not devote enough time to education. Even so he excelled in academics.

Sharmin Ahmad

Authorities attempt to undermine Bengali culture

The Bengalis, who formed the majority population and arguably had the greater hand in the creation of Pakistan, noticed that political and military power, economic and social growth was vested into West Pakistan by the authorities. Attempts to safeguard Bengali culture resulted in the 1952 Bhasha Andolon (Language Movement) after the West Pakistan-based authorities decided to make Urdu the state language of Pakistan.

Dhaka was a hub for Bengali intellectuals and had a powerful student bodies. The liberal and progressive student revolted against the oppressive regime of their West Pakistan-based authorities. As a prominent student leader Tajuddin Ahmad actively campaigned against the authorities efforts to undermine Bengals rich culture and recorded the events in his diary.

By 23 June 1949 the Awami Muslim League (later the 'Muslim' was dropped) was founded under the guidance of Maulana Bhashani and Tajuddin Ahmad and Sheikh Mujib became two prominent student members. Now the Bengalis began to have another prominent party to voice their concerns.

The voice for the opposing authorities came in the form of Khawaja Nazimuddin, who has now the Chief Minister of East Bengal. Though a fellow Bengali himself and essentially a moderate political leader, Nazimuddin was a descendant of the Dhaka Nawab family and thus personally benefited from how things currently operated. He chose to be an unquestioning camp follower of Jinnah and generally maintained a low profile. The followers of Suhrawardy-Hashem group - which included Tajuddin Ahmad - had to face the government's wrath, especially after Nazimuddin came in to power since they fought against the feudal system to which he belonged.

Ekushey February - battle to safeguard Bangla and Bangla culture

On 31 January 1952 a secret meeting was held following the formation of an All-Party State Language Committee the previous day where the members expressed the opinion that the language agitation was no longer merely a students' movement and it was necessary to mobilise full public support.

On Ekushey (21) February 1952 the whole of East Bengal was in a state of defiance through complete general strike. The police and army were brought in to restrict the movements of the students from various universities who had gathered in the campus of Dhaka University. Confrontation between the protesters and police then followed which had deadly consequences. A handful of protestors – including general passer-bys – were killed and many more were severely injured.

For his role as the president of the organising committee of the Language Movement, Abul Hashim was arrested and jailed for a period of 16 months. In 1964 he formed the Khilafat-e-Rabbani Party in opposition to Ayub Khan and was its president until 1966. He later became the first Director of the Islamic Academy in independent Bangladesh.

Ekushey February had a deep national impact. From this moment onward the Bengalis in Pakistan realised that their cultural development was impeded within the existing Pakistani structure. Pakistan was perhaps not the country that they had fought to create. Their rightful home would come nearly two decades later in 1971.