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Nawab Ali Chowdhury: The forerunner of education

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Muhammad Abdus Salam :
Nawab Nawab Ali Chowdhury (1863-1929) was a zamindar, social worker, politician. He was born in 1863 at the house of his maternal grand father, Khan Bahadur Muhammad Ali Khan Chowdhmy, a zamindar of Natore. His father Janab Ali Chowdhmy was a zamindar of Dhanbari in the district of Tangail.
Ali had his education at the Rajshahi Collegiate School and St Xaviers College, Calcutta. With proficiency in English, Urdu, Arabic and Persian Languages, he started his career as an Honourmy Magistrate of Mymensingh. But soon he gave up the job and entered public life as a Municipal Commissioner of Mymensingh town and a member of the District Board of Mymensingh.
Nawab Ali Chowdhury was a member of the Eastern Bengal and Assam Legislative Council from 1906 to 1911, of the Bengal Legislative Council from 1912 to 1916 and of the Imperial Legislative Council of India from 1916 to 1920. In 1921 he was returned as an elected member of the Bengal legislative Council and was a member of the first Ministry in the reformed Council during 1921-1923. He was again returned as the elected member to the second reformed Council in 1923 and was appointed a Minister in March 1925, but he held the position only for a short period. In the same year he was appointed a Member of the Governor’s Executive Council the office he held to his last day. At that time he was also the Vice-President of the Bengal Legislative Council. As an Executive Councillor (1925-1929) Nawab Ali Chowdhury had been entrusted with several departments such as department of Immigration, Delimitation, Hajj Administration, Forestry, Agriculture, Industry, Excise and Registration.
During his long public life he had been connected with a large number of social, political, educational, religious and cultural associations and public bodies namely, Vice-President of the All-India Muslim League; President of the Central National Muhammadan Association; Trustee of the Aligarh MAO College; Honorary Secretary of the Provincial Muslim League of Eastern Bengal and Assam and later of Bengal; President of the Bengal Provincial Muslim League; Member of the Calcutta University Senate; Member of the Dhaka University Committee; Member of the Governing Body of the Presidency College, etc.
Nawab Ali Chowdhmy had made a valuable contribution to the establishment of the University of Dhaka (1921). The Dhaka University came into being under a central government Act and it was Nawab Ali who piloted the Dhaka University Bill in the Imperial Legislative Assembly. After the establishment of the University he played important role in framing its rules and regulations and in sustaining the University when it faced financial and other difficulties during its formative period.
Ali was a noted philanthropist. In 1906, he had donated an amount of Tk 35,000 for the establishment of a Muhammadan Hall for the residential purpose of the Muslim students of the Dhaka College. By his efforts several Hostels were established for the students for the different colleges of Dhaka, Kolkata and Mymensingh towns. In 1922, he had given a fund of Tk 16,000 for awarding scholarships to the students of Islamic Studies and other departments of the University of Dhaka.
Nawab Ali Chowdhmy represented the Muslims of Eastern Bengal in the Simla Deputation in 1906. He played an important role in holding the All-India Muhammadan Educational Conference and in the foundation of All-India Muslim League in 1906 at Dhaka. He worked hard for the extension of the Muslim representation in the Provincial and Central legislative Councils (1906-1929).
He resigned from the post of the President of the Bengal Presidency Muslim League in 1917 in protest against the adoption of the Lucknow Pact, 1916 because he believed that the accord had jeopardised the interest of Bengal Muslims to safeguard the interest of the Muslims of other provinces. Under the Lucknow Pact the Muslims, though majority, were made a minority as regards communal distribution of seats in the legislature.
He took leading part in almost all the great social, political, educational, religious and cultural movements of Bengal in particular and India in general.
He gave the people good suggestions though he did not directly take part in the Non-Cooperation and Khilafat Movements.
Nawab Ali Chowdhury was a patron of BangIa Language and literature and journalism. His notable literary works are Vernacular Education in Bengal (1900), Eid-ul-Azha (1900) and Maulud Sharif (1903). He contributed articles to different English and Bengali newspapers and periodicals. He was the Editor and Proprietor of the weekly Mihir-o-Sudhakar (1895). He helped financially two other newspapers The Islam Procharok (1891) and The Procharok (1899). Besides he gave monetary assistance to several poor writers for the publication of their books.
Nawab Ali Chowdhmy had been conferred upon with the titles of Khan Bahadur in 1906, Nawab in 1911, CIE in 1918 and Nawab-Bahadur in 1924 by the British government. He had instituted a Wakfnama and got it registered by the government on 8 April 1929, just 9 days before his death, for the maintenance of the members of his family and for the charity in the name of Allah.
Nawab Nawab Ali Chowdhury died on April 17 in 1929 at his residence. The Eden Castle at Darjeeling, at the age of sixty-six. His dead body was taken to his village home at Dhanbari and interned there. n

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