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Bangabandhu and Sheikh Aziz, as I know them

They worked together to establish democracy

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Syed Tosharaf Ali :

Sheikh Abdul Aziz (Bagerhat), one of the founding members of the Awami League and Cabinet Member of the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Ministry, breathed his last on April 8.

 He was a follower of H. S. Suhrawardy and worked together with Sheikh Mujibur Rahman to establish democracy in Pakistan under the banner of Awami Muslim League. Later on by slashing the word 'Muslim', the party became a non-communal political party like the Indian National Congress. From the beginning, politics in Pakistan failed to function democratically and Mr. H. S. Suhrawardy, who played an important role for the cause of the Muslims in   the undivided India, could not become parliamentary party leader of the Provincial Muslim League.

Though he was the Prime Minister of undivided Bengal, he decided to remain in Kolkata, where he was very popular, but after the death of his father Justice Zahid Suhrawardy, he was disturbed by the Indian government and he decided to migrate to Pakistan. Unfortunately he was not welcomed by the then East Pakistan government. Then he decided to settle in West Pakistan. He was a farsighted leader; he had political vision and realized the necessity of a democratic opposition party in the newly born Pakistan. It was quite difficult to build up a new political party, which would play a responsible role in Pakistan. He did the impossible task within a short time. The situation in East Pakistan was more favorable than in West Pakistan. The state language issue created a congenial atmosphere to cultivate politics here. The amazing aspect is that within five years newly formed Awami League completely uprooted the Muslim League from the soil of East Bengal. After the victory in the East Bengal Provincial Assembly election in the year 1954, Mr. H. S. Suhrawardy became the Prime Minister of Pakistan in the year 1956. He was allowed to rule Pakistan for one year one month only. He tried his level best to conduct an election under the Constitution in 1956, but the vested group of the West Wing did not allow him to continue as prime minister any more. Through a bloodless military coup d'état, General Ayub Khan ascended to the power and the era of Martial Law started in Pakistan.

He governed Pakistan for a decade introducing the "basic democracy" and imposed a Constitution in 1962 where there was no chapter of fundamental rights. General Ayub sent Mr. Suhrawardy to jail and created an atmosphere which was comparable with the peace of grave. But the statement issued by the nine leaders against the undemocratic Constitution of 1962 showed the ray of hope. Mr. Suhrawardy was released from the jail and he advised the opposition leaders to launch a movement for the democratization of the constitution.

After the death of Suhrawardy (5th December 1963) his disciple Sheikh Mujibur Rahman came forward to lead the nation. He was an excellent organizer and orator who reshaped the total course of politics by placing the famous six-point demand to achieve provincial autonomy and to end the injustice done to the East Pakistan since 1947 in all fields. At this, President Ayub Khan and his Foreign Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto became hostile to Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. The Daily Ittefaq and its Editor Tofazzal Hossain Manik Mia came forward to support the six points and within a short period of time, the 6-point demand became very popular in the East Wing of Pakistan. Subsequently all the steps against Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, including filing of the Agartala Conspiracy Case, backfired. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was released and he became a national hero. The student community's relentless movement compelled the Ayub Governmnt to free him from the jail. The then DUCSU VP and Convener of the All-Party- Students Action Committee conferred on him the title of 'Bangabandhu' in a public meeting held at Suhrawardy Uddyan.

Field Marshal Ayub was compelled to handover the power to the General Yahiya Khan. Again the country was put under the Martial Law. But in the context of mass movement, the Martial Law was less aggressive and President Yahya promised to award a free and fair election so that the country enjoys the blessings of democracy. In fact, the 6 points demand changed the course of politics in Pakistan. Historically the National Democratic Movement was started by Mr. Suhrawardy and that movement was transformed into the war for independence of Bangladesh under the leadership of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

I personally came in contact with Bangabandhu when he came to attend a closed door meeting in Khulna. After that meeting Bangabandhu came to Khulna WAPDA rest house, where he met the district leaders and workers of Awami League. Aziz Bhai introduced me with his leader Bangabandhu. I was impressed and inspired by him. Later on I came in close touch with him but the memory of first meeting with him will never be erased as long as I am alive.

As a Student leader I gave strong support to Aziz Bhai all along and learned many lessons from him. He was very intelligent, decent, tactful and courageous. During the Pakistan period, the Awami Leaguers were always victimized by the West Pakistani leaders; they were never allowed to enjoy the blessings of power. After the election victory of 1970, the Yahiya -- Bhutto clique compelled a democratic party like Awami League to revolt against Martial Law. The Yahiya-Bhutto clique chalked out an evil design titled 'Operation search light', as if we were enemy and the East Wing was a colony of the West wing.

Untimely they did not succeed to suppress us with the might of arms. Though we were not prepared to counter the attack of Pakistani army, the people spontaneously created a silent barricade. We were helpless, but the whole world supported our cause of freedom. When Liberation War was started, Aziz Bhai came from Dhaka and somehow managed to cross the border, which was disclosed later on. We didn't know what will be our fate. There was no communication with the central leaders but we tried our level best to organize the resistance as directed by Bangabandhu in his 7th March Speech. Bagerhat was free till the 26th April. We retreated to the countryside. But it became risky to stay further in the rural area for on account of armed Razakers. I along with my friends decided to cross the border. That was another story. In West Bengal it was difficult to trace out Aziz Bhai because he was not on the border belt. One day I went to Theatre Road with Awami League leader Mr Foni Bhusan Majumder and I came across Mr.  Satter Khan, a veteran Awami Leaguer who was very close to Aziz bhai. He took me to the Camak Street, not far away from Theatre Road where Aziz Bhai was staying. He was living with his family members in a narrow space on the ground floor of 2/22 Camak Street.  Aziz Bhai became so happy to see me. He started to narrate his position and prevailing situation of Muktijuddha. We were very much disturbed by the sound of a motor used for lifting water when we were talking. On another occasion, he took me with him and entered into the official room of Capt. M. Mansur Ali, the then finance minister for discussion the overall situation of Mukijoddha, Mr. Mafuzur Rahman was the Secretary of Finance Ministry. Aziz Bhai told me to fill up and sign a form to receive 50 rupees only from him. It was one of indicator of the economic situation of the government in exile.

We requested Aziz Bhai to set up a few training camps on the border belt. He agreed and took initiative to set up two youth Reception and training camps in Bashirhat, West Bengal. He appointed me in the post of a political motivator for the Naihati Camp at a consolidated salary of Rupees 400 per month. In the last week of the November 1971, I have forgotten the date an important Zonal meeting was held at Barashat and all the leaders of the 9th sector were present there. Aziz Bhai was also present in the meeting. After the meeting ended, Aziz Bhai took me and Advocate Abdul Latif MNA with him for lunch in his Camak Street. On the way he told us that, ‘I have struggled whole life, now I am tired, you're young and you will get time to bring radical change in the society.’ In the afternoon we walked together in the adjacent area. In evening I said goodbye to Aziz Bhai and came to Hotel Paradise to meet with Mir Shakhawat Hossain Daru MCA. There I found some other leaders of Bagerhat also. Next morning I came back to Naihati camp.

We were moving towards victory and on the 16th December we won the battle and Aziz Bhai came on 19th December with a private car to pick up me alone from the Naihati Camp. Then I asked him that how others will return home? This is not our headache, you will accompany us, he replied. I didn't accompany him. I was so much attached with the boys, I couldn't ignore their problem. Perhaps, I did a wrong. The food supply was stopped. We don't know what is to be done? Advocate SheikRazzak Ali, who later on became the Speaker of the National Assembly of Bangladesh, living in a rented room in Bashirhat, also offered me to accompany with him in his hired Taxi. But Gazi Khalilur Rahman and I decided to meet with SDO Bashirhat, though he was a Madraji but was very strong supporter of our freedom and fight for democratic values. Hearing us he arranged everything and we came back home safely.

Aziz Bhai was included in the Cabinet of Tajuddin Ahmed as Agriculture Minister, and later on he served the nation as Communication Minister, and Information Minister. He was given a good position also in Bangladesh Krisok Sramik Awami League (BKSAL). He was in jail after the tragic killing of Bangabandhu and his family members and close comrades. I have a lot of memories centering Bangabandhu and Aziz Bhai which will never be erased. I will never forget the memory of the public meeting of Bagerhat Stadium held on 9th April 1970. I will never forget the memory of the election campaign in favour of Bangabandhu held on 16th November 1970 at Helipad Maidan of Mongla Bandar. Both the meetings were conducted by me and Bangabandhu was the Chief Guest and Aziz Bhai was the special guest.  In Bagerhat I arranged a meeting with the intellectuals. Prof Sad Zaglul, Prof Dr Lutfar Rahman, Poet and Prof Abu Baker Siddique, among others, asked Bangabandhu many questions relating to land reform citing examples from China and Russia. Bangabandhu asked them have you gone to China or Russia? I have gone, I have seen. We cannot copy them. We have to solve problem with the help of our experience. Your bookish knowledge will help us a little. Aziz Bhai does not like them. He told me, they will leave you in time of crisis. Aziz Bhai was proved right.

 There was a grouping in Bagerhat Awami League. Advocate Sheikh Abdur Rahman was leading a group and another group was led by Mr Wazior Rahman, who was killed by Pak Army. In the year 1969 Advocate Sheikh Abdur Rahman with the help of court stopped the conference of Bagerhat Awami league. Sheikh Aziz came from Khulna and called the leaders and workers belonging to the two groups in his residence. He had strong hold on the workers and leaders. As the President of Bagerhat Students League I was also present in that meeting. We all were eager to hear him. Aziz Bhai took the floor and shortly narrated the background of his involvement in Awami League and his personal sufferings in political life. He had tried his level best to pick up promising leaders in Awami League but most of them have betrayed me. But the workers never betrayed with me, remained in Awami League. I am appealing to you not to quarrel but to work united. I have seen Dilder, Momin and Moonsur. None of them succeeded to destroy me, destroy Awami League. So my young brother Rahman did not try to burn my house, I have given much time and labour to build this house. Please go and vacate the injunction and let us together arrange the conference. All were moved by his speech and completed the conference.

On the 16th November 1970, the Helipad Maidan was packed up by a mammoth gathering and tension was increasing due to late of Bangabandhu's arrival. The president of Mongla Thana Awami League Mr. Shahjahan requested me to say something to the audience.  I took the microphone and requested the audience not to be worried and started to narrate the political history of the Bengal. Naturally the role of Sher-e-Bangla, H.S Suhrawardy, Chitta Ranjon Das, Netaji Subash Chandra Bose and their success and failure came in my discussion. In that context I placed and analysed the role of Bangabandhu and the 6-point demand. I was sure that Awami League would win in the election but was not sure about the fate of the six points. There was a question in my mind which I put before the audience to judge. I clearly told the audience that near future you will get the answer of the question. In the meantime Bangabandhu reached the venue with other leaders and I announced the name of Bangabandhu and requested him to address the gathering. It was the month of Ramadan and the audience was fasting. So, Bangabandhu made his speech short. He assured the workers of Mongla Bandor, telling that 'let me achieve political power then I will do my best for the workers. The days of exploitation will be ended'. But the audience did not feel any urge to return to their home. Bangabandhu noticed that and asked me what they like to hear from me? As I opened my mouth Bangabandhu again went to loud speaker stand and declared, if I fail to realize the six points demand through democratic means, I shall call you to fight again, will you remain with me? The audience raised their hands and the meeting ended.

(Syed Tosharaf Ali, Deputy Managing Editor, The New Nation)


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