Vol. 5 Num 849 Sat. October 14, 2006  

Dr Zohra Begum Kazi

The women who endeavoured to break through the foggy atmosphere of the then Muslim society, we must agree, are now regarded as pioneers of female education and gallant soldiers of salvation of the women. Professor Zohra Begum Kazi is one of them.

Towards the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries in the conservative Muslim society women had to live within the four walls of their houses behind the curtain and education for them was, so to speak, almost impossible and quite out of imagination. By pushing on all obstructions and shattering all barriers came the two bright sisters, Professor Zohra Begum Kazi and Dr Shirin Kazi, who were able to bring light to the society.

Professor Zohra Begum Kazi hails from an aristocratic Muslim family of Gopalpur under Kalkini upazila in the district of Madaripur. She was born on 15th October 1912. Her father, Dr Kazi Abdus Sattar, was a renowned physician who rendered his invaluable service throughout his life as Surgeon of India. He had a very good relation with Mr MK Gandhi, the father of the nation of India. Dr Sattar also came in close touch with other great leaders of India and himself too became a popular leader of the National Congress. The two daughters also inherited his quality. The opportunity and encouragement from their spirited father them ahead to the fruition of their high ambition. Their elder brother, Kazi Ashraf Mahmud was a good poet in Hindi language and a professor of Dhaka University. The younger sister was a renowned physician as well as a poetess.

Professor Zohra Begum Kazi passed the Matriculation Examination from Muslim Girls' Collegiate High School, Aligarh in 1928. She passed the ISc Examination in 1930. She got her MBBS degree from lady Hardinge Medical College for women in Delhi in 1935 and was awarded viceroy's medal as she occupied the first place in her MBBS examination. In 1955 she obtained DRCOG degree from London. She also earned her FCPS degree from Pakistan, MRCOG and FRCOG degrees from London.

During her first service life, Professor Zohra Begum Kazi had been Asst Surgeon in several hospitals under the Government of India. She sometimes also served in Gandhiji's Sevagram.

After partition the two sisters with their brother had to respond to the call of the country when the Hindu lady physicians left for India and there were no lady physicians. So Professor Zohra became the first and Dr Shirin Kazi, the second Muslim lady physicians of Bangladesh.

Dr Zohra Begum Kazi had been Professor and Head of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, DMCH up to 1969. She adorned the posts of Honorary Consultant of Aarogya Niketon Clinic and Hospital, Dhaka, Honorary Professor of Bangladesh Medical College, Consultant to the CMH, Dhaka with the rank of Honorary Lt Col. She was Honorary Consultant of the Holy Family Hospital, Dhaka, as well as of other major hospitals. She was decorated with Tamgha-e-Pakistan in 1967 as a recognition for her sincere and active service.

The two sisters came down with a flood of light which began to overflow the Bengali Muslim society causing a sort of evolution. When they were admitted to Medical College, even their nearest relatives rebuked them and commented that these daughters of Dr Sattar would be Christians. In reply the high minded father said, "May daughters will be pure Muslims."

After partition those relatives invited them to come to their own land as they felt the necessity of lady physicians. So after 1947 came these two sisters to their beloved land with the message of salvation for the women folks of this land in the sectors of education and treatment.

Professor Zohra's classmate was Dr Sushila Nayar who was once the Central Minister for Health in India. Her other mates were Dr Shila Halder and Dr Usha Halder. Dr Zohra topped the list in the result sheet of the MBBS examination. Dr Zohra won the scholarships throughout her bright educational career starting from primary school. In those days this academic career was very rare, surprising and beyond imagination for a woman and this is Dr. Zohra who could show that.

Prof Zohra Begum Kazi always likes simple dress. She is free and frank in her behaviour. Her generous heart is full of true love for her friends and relatives. At the demise of her bosom mate Dr. Sushila Nayar, she had been overwhelmed with grief. In an overwhelmingly choked voice she said, "Sushila has left me alone."

Dr Zohra Begum Kazi married the famous zaminder and a famous social worker of Hatidia, Mr Rajiuddin Bhuiyan, MLC and MP. She has no issue but she is the mother of thousands of sons and daughters of Bangladesh and also India. Prof Zohra had good relations with Sher-e-Bangla, Moulana Bhasani and Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Once she had been the house physician of Bangabandhu's family.

This great lady is now 95-years old. She should be accorded with national honour for her great service of humanity.

Niranjan Chakravarty is an educationist.