Bangabandhu and Sheikh Aziz, as I know them
They worked together to establish democracy
Sheikh Abdul Aziz (Bagerhat), one of the founding members of the Awami Leagueand Cabinet Member of the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Ministry, breathedhis last on April 8.
He was a follower of H. S. Suhrawardy andworked together with Sheikh Mujibur Rahman to establish democracy in Pakistanunder the banner of Awami Muslim League. Later on by slashing the word'Muslim', the party became a non-communal political party like the IndianNational Congress. From the beginning, politics in Pakistan failed to functiondemocratically and Mr. H. S. Suhrawardy, who played an important role for the causeof the Muslims in the undivided India, could not becomeparliamentary party leader of the Provincial Muslim League.
Though he was the Prime Minister ofundivided 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 bythe Indian government and he decided to migrate to Pakistan. Unfortunately hewas not welcomed by the then East Pakistan government. Then he decided tosettle in West Pakistan. He was a farsighted leader; he had political visionand realized the necessity of a democratic opposition party in the newly bornPakistan. It was quite difficult to build up a new political party, which wouldplay a responsible role in Pakistan. He did the impossible task within a shorttime. The situation in East Pakistan was more favorable than in West Pakistan.The state language issue created a congenial atmosphere to cultivate politicshere. The amazing aspect is that within five years newly formed Awami Leaguecompletely uprooted the Muslim League from the soil of East Bengal. After thevictory 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 wasallowed to rule Pakistan for one year one month only. He tried his level bestto conduct an election under the Constitution in 1956, but the vested group ofthe West Wing did not allow him to continue as prime minister any more. Througha bloodless military coup d'Ã©tat, General Ayub Khan ascended to the power andthe era of Martial Law started in Pakistan.
He governed Pakistan for a decadeintroducing the "basic democracy" and imposed a Constitution in 1962where there was no chapter of fundamental rights. General Ayub sent Mr.Suhrawardy to jail and created an atmosphere which was comparable with thepeace of grave. But the statement issued by the nine leaders against theundemocratic Constitution of 1962 showed the ray of hope. Mr. Suhrawardy wasreleased from the jail and he advised the opposition leaders to launch amovement for the democratization of the constitution.
After the death of Suhrawardy (5thDecember 1963) his disciple Sheikh Mujibur Rahman came forward to lead thenation. He was an excellent organizer and orator who reshaped the total courseof politics by placing the famous six-point demand to achieve provincialautonomy and to end the injustice done to the East Pakistan since 1947 in allfields. At this, President Ayub Khan and his Foreign Minister Zulfiqar AliBhutto became hostile to Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. The Daily Ittefaq and itsEditor Tofazzal Hossain Manik Mia came forward to support the six points andwithin a short period of time, the 6-point demand became very popular in theEast Wing of Pakistan. Subsequently all the steps against Sheikh MujiburRahman, including filing of the Agartala Conspiracy Case, backfired. SheikhMujibur Rahman was released and he became a national hero. The studentcommunity's relentless movement compelled the Ayub Governmnt to free him fromthe jail. The then DUCSU VP and Convener of the All-Party- Students ActionCommittee conferred on him the title of 'Bangabandhu' in a public meeting heldat Suhrawardy Uddyan.
Field Marshal Ayub was compelled tohandover the power to the General Yahiya Khan. Again the country was put underthe Martial Law. But in the context of mass movement, the Martial Law was lessaggressive and President Yahya promised to award a free and fair election sothat the country enjoys the blessings of democracy. In fact, the 6 pointsdemand changed the course of politics in Pakistan. Historically the NationalDemocratic Movement was started by Mr. Suhrawardy and that movement wastransformed into the war for independence of Bangladesh under the leadership ofBangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
I personally came in contact withBangabandhu when he came to attend a closed door meeting in Khulna. After thatmeeting Bangabandhu came to Khulna WAPDA rest house, where he met the districtleaders and workers of Awami League. Aziz Bhai introduced me with his leaderBangabandhu. I was impressed and inspired by him. Later on I came in closetouch with him but the memory of first meeting with him will never be erased aslong as I am alive.
As a Student leader I gave strongsupport to Aziz Bhai all along and learned many lessons from him. He was veryintelligent, decent, tactful and courageous. During the Pakistan period, theAwami Leaguers were always victimized by the West Pakistani leaders; they werenever allowed to enjoy the blessings of power. After the election victory of1970, the Yahiya -- Bhutto clique compelled a democratic party like AwamiLeague to revolt against Martial Law. The Yahiya-Bhutto clique chalked out anevil design titled 'Operation search light', as if we were enemy and the EastWing was a colony of the West wing.
Untimely they did not succeed tosuppress us with the might of arms. Though we were not prepared to counter theattack of Pakistani army, the people spontaneously created a silent barricade.We were helpless, but the whole world supported our cause of freedom. WhenLiberation War was started, Aziz Bhai came from Dhaka and somehow managed tocross the border, which was disclosed later on. We didn't know what will be ourfate. There was no communication with the central leaders but we tried ourlevel best to organize the resistance as directed by Bangabandhu in his 7thMarch Speech. Bagerhat was free till the 26th April. We retreated to thecountryside. But it became risky to stay further in the rural area for onaccount 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 Bhaibecause he was not on the border belt. One day I went to Theatre Road withAwami League leader Mr Foni Bhusan Majumder and I came across Mr. SatterKhan, a veteran Awami Leaguer who was very close to Aziz bhai. He took me tothe 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 of2/22 Camak Street. Aziz Bhai became so happy to see me. He started tonarrate his position and prevailing situation of Muktijuddha. We were very muchdisturbed 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 ofCapt. M. Mansur Ali, the then finance minister for discussion the overallsituation 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 afew training camps on the border belt. He agreed and took initiative to set uptwo youth Reception and training camps in Bashirhat, West Bengal. He appointedme in the post of a political motivator for the Naihati Camp at a consolidatedsalary of Rupees 400 per month. In the last week of the November 1971, I haveforgotten the date an important Zonal meeting was held at Barashat and all theleaders of the 9th sector were present there. Aziz Bhai was also present in themeeting. After the meeting ended, Aziz Bhai took me and Advocate Abdul LatifMNA with him for lunch in his Camak Street. On the way he told us that, â€˜I havestruggled whole life, now I am tired, you're young and you will get time tobring radical change in the society.â€™ In the afternoon we walked together inthe adjacent area. In evening I said goodbye to Aziz Bhai and came to HotelParadise to meet with Mir Shakhawat Hossain Daru MCA. There I found some otherleaders of Bagerhat also. Next morning I came back to Naihati camp.
We were moving towards victory andon the 16th December we won the battle and Aziz Bhai came on 19th December witha private car to pick up me alone from the Naihati Camp. Then I asked him thathow 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'tignore their problem. Perhaps, I did a wrong. The food supply was stopped. Wedon't know what is to be done? Advocate SheikRazzak Ali, who later on becamethe Speaker of the National Assembly of Bangladesh, living in a rented room inBashirhat, also offered me to accompany with him in his hired Taxi. But GaziKhalilur Rahman and I decided to meet with SDO Bashirhat, though he was aMadraji but was very strong supporter of our freedom and fight for democraticvalues. Hearing us he arranged everything and we came back home safely.
Aziz Bhai was included in theCabinet of Tajuddin Ahmed as Agriculture Minister, and later on he served thenation as Communication Minister, and Information Minister. He was given a goodposition also in Bangladesh Krisok Sramik Awami League (BKSAL). He was in jailafter the tragic killing of Bangabandhu and his family members and closecomrades. I have a lot of memories centering Bangabandhu and Aziz Bhai whichwill never be erased. I will never forget the memory of the public meeting ofBagerhat Stadium held on 9th April 1970. I will never forget the memory of theelection campaign in favour of Bangabandhu held on 16th November 1970 atHelipad Maidan of Mongla Bandar. Both the meetings were conducted by me andBangabandhu was the Chief Guest and Aziz Bhai was the special guest. InBagerhat I arranged a meeting with the intellectuals. Prof Sad Zaglul, Prof DrLutfar Rahman, Poet and Prof Abu Baker Siddique, among others, askedBangabandhu many questions relating to land reform citing examples from Chinaand Russia. Bangabandhu asked them have you gone to China or Russia? I havegone, I have seen. We cannot copy them. We have to solve problem with the helpof our experience. Your bookish knowledge will help us a little. Aziz Bhai doesnot like them. He told me, they will leave you in time of crisis. Aziz Bhai wasproved right.
There was a grouping in Bagerhat Awami League.Advocate Sheikh Abdur Rahman was leading a group and another group was led byMr Wazior Rahman, who was killed by Pak Army. In the year 1969 Advocate SheikhAbdur Rahman with the help of court stopped the conference of Bagerhat Awamileague. Sheikh Aziz came from Khulna and called the leaders and workersbelonging to the two groups in his residence. He had strong hold on the workersand leaders. As the President of Bagerhat Students League I was also present inthat meeting. We all were eager to hear him. Aziz Bhai took the floor andshortly narrated the background of his involvement in Awami League and hispersonal sufferings in political life. He had tried his level best to pick uppromising leaders in Awami League but most of them have betrayed me. But theworkers never betrayed with me, remained in Awami League. I am appealing to younot to quarrel but to work united. I have seen Dilder, Momin and Moonsur. Noneof them succeeded to destroy me, destroy Awami League. So my young brotherRahman did not try to burn my house, I have given much time and labour to buildthis house. Please go and vacate the injunction and let us together arrange theconference. All were moved by his speech and completed the conference.
On the 16th November 1970, theHelipad Maidan was packed up by a mammoth gathering and tension was increasingdue to late of Bangabandhu's arrival. The president of Mongla Thana AwamiLeague Mr. Shahjahan requested me to say something to the audience. Itook the microphone and requested the audience not to be worried and started tonarrate the political history of the Bengal. Naturally the role ofSher-e-Bangla, H.S Suhrawardy, Chitta Ranjon Das, Netaji Subash Chandra Boseand their success and failure came in my discussion. In that context I placedand analysed the role of Bangabandhu and the 6-point demand. I was sure thatAwami League would win in the election but was not sure about the fate of thesix points. There was a question in my mind which I put before the audience tojudge. I clearly told the audience that near future you will get the answer ofthe question. In the meantime Bangabandhu reached the venue with other leadersand I announced the name of Bangabandhu and requested him to address thegathering. 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 theworkers. The days of exploitation will be ended'. But the audience did not feelany urge to return to their home. Bangabandhu noticed that and asked me whatthey like to hear from me? As I opened my mouth Bangabandhu again went to loudspeaker stand and declared, if I fail to realize the six points demand throughdemocratic means, I shall call you to fight again, will you remain with me? Theaudience raised their hands and the meeting ended.
(SyedTosharaf Ali, Deputy Managing Editor, The New Nation)