Dhaka University Years (1950-54)
visit during the 1951 summer vacation to Barisal was memorable.
Ishtiaq, Mustafa Kamal, Obaidullah, Kamal Ahmad, Rezaul
Karim and I got our scholarship money and bought first class
tickets in the Rocket steamer (at half-price student's discount).
It so happened that two of our women classmates were also
going to see their parents in the same steamer. We invited
them to join us for lunch (we had occupied the entire first
class area) and they graciously agreed. Considering that
it was half a century ago and the social taboos of the time,
it was indeed courageous on their part. We put up an impromptu
talent show and one of our guests sang songs. Rezaul, a
science student, wanted to do a magic gig. He filled a glass
with water, covered it with some blotting paper and turned
it upside down. The magic did not work on that occasion
and all the water fell out much to everyone's amusement.
was a beautiful town in those days, particularly the riverside
with red clay roads and large trees. We stayed as guests
of our friend Hafizur Rahman, who invited and accompanied
us from Dhaka to the spacious house of his father (Khan
Bahadur Abdul Latif Choudhury). District Magistrate of Barisal
made a vehicle available to us for touring. We went to nearby
villages to get a first hand look of rural life and economy.
We went to visit the B.M.College and the house of a famous
person, Aswini Kumar Dutta.
1952 Language movement was an unforgettable event. On February
21, in a meeting in Amtala I spoke on behalf of the Sanskriti
Samsad urging students to demonstrate and march to the Assembly
building. Earlier that day, from the Samsad we had distributed
pamphlets to the same effect. Breaking the police cordon
at the University gate, we went out in groups of ten (five
men and five women in our group, including our classmate
Shamsunnahar, who always wore a black burkha). We defied
the government orders against the assembly of more than
five persons in public places and faced tear gas and lathi
charge in front of the Medical College building. My friend
Abul Barkat, with whom I had walked to the University that
morning from Purana Paltan, was later shot by the police.
I was able to talk to him when he was carried to the emergency
room of the hospital. He was then bleeding profusely. Barkat
was operated upon, but died that evening.
the University days, some of us took part in a few debates
and dramas in the Dhaka station of Radio Pakistan. One of
the debates was on Jute Trade, chaired by our teacher Dr.M.N.Huda.
Another was on World Peace, chaired by B.A.Siddiky, then
a senior lawyer in the Dhaka High Court. In the latter,
S.M. Ali, a senior university student took a leading part.
Many years later in 1993, when visiting Dhaka I called him
to say how much I appreciated the high standards of journalism
of the Daily Star, which he had started. He recalled our
studentday associations and a few occasions we had met in
London in the mid-fifties. He invited me to lunch but again
I missed it due to a prior commitment. It is a matter of
great regret for me that he died before my next visit to
came to know the Radio's permanent staff, we became involved
in their grievances against the central authorities in Karachi.
When they went on some sort of go-slow action for a few
days, we strongly supported them. Z.A.Bokhari, the Director
General of Radio Pakistan, came to Dhaka. He and his brother
were in the All India Radio (AIR) in Delhi. In the famous
book Dristipat, the author "Jajabar" had humorously
mentioned that the AIR was called the Indian BBC, standing
for Bokhari Brothers' Corporation. Bokhari called a meeting
in the lawn of the Station, which I attended on behalf of
the Sanskriti Samsad. He was a smooth talker and a charmer,
promised a few improvements in the terms and conditions
of the staff artists and assured that they would soon be
given the same facilities as given to the radio staff in
1954, I visited Ila Mitra, a communist leader, in the Dhaka
medical college. She had been working with the Saontal peasants
in Nachole area of Rajshahi. In January1950 during the Tebhaga
movement, the peasants demanded two-third share of their
produce from the landowners. There was a confrontation with
the police. A few policemen were killed and their weapons
were seized. Ila Mitra was imprisoned, tortured and raped
by the police. While serving a court sentence of ten years,
she became very sick. In early 1954, following public protests
and press reports, the Jukto-front government transferred
her to the Dhaka medical college hospital for treatment.
She was still under police surveillance. For a couple of
days we sent 'chana' and chicken soup from our house for
Ila Mitra. In the hospital, I found her totally emaciated,
and weak, and able to speak only in whispers. Even today,
I retain in my memory a vivid image of her, which is only
of a white sheet of cloth on the hospital bed- she became
so small and thin. In mid-1954, given parole by the government,
she went to Calcutta for better treatment. There she recovered,
and became a communist member of the West Bengal legislative
assembly. Dr. Shamsul Alam, professor of surgery at the
Dhaka medical college, who had operated on Barkat on February
21, 1952 was also Ila Mitra's doctor. He treated her with
great care and accompanied her to Calcutta.
after the "Jukto Front" election victory in 1954
(voted for the front candidate -my first vote), I went to
visit my birthplace Calcutta with a few friends. Among the
places we visited were the residence of Subhash Bose, the
studios of the famous New Theatres in Alipore, the Calcutta
Museum and the Fine Arts institute and the movie halls and
restaurants in Chowringhee area. While visiting the New
Market, we accidentally met Kanan Devi who was also shopping
there and talked to her for a little while. We requested
her permission to visit her own 'Srimati Studios' but she
could not agree as there was a court case pending. However,
we visited the famous New Theatres, and saw the sets of
the movie 'Mahaprasthaner Pathey' and discussed the movie
with its photographer Ajay Mukherjee. He explained how he
had shot most of the scenes including the mountain climbing
scenes of the film in the studios in Calcutta.
I became a member of the election committee (popularly known
as the 'parliamentary committee') for the leftist Students'
Front (Student's Union and Student's League). I took part
in the election campaign, not only for the S.M.Hall, but
also for the University Central Student's Union, which had
remained in a limbo for some years. We won the S.M.Hall
elections overwhelmingly, though the Student's League had
walked out of the Front at the last moment. The Central
Union was revived that year after a lapse of many years
and S.A. Bari A.T. from our camp was elected as the Vice-President.
I recollect celebrating the installation ceremony in a festive
manner, with a 'Basanta Utsab' to coincide with it.
M.A. examination, due in June 1954, was delayed. Meanwhile,
I got myself admitted to the Lincoln's Inn, London, and
had to leave for England in September 1954. The Viva Voce
for the M.A. was taken in advance of my departure. I took
the written examination at the London University for which
Hadi Talukder, the renowned Registrar of the Dhaka University
had made smooth arrangements. I remember Prof. Musharraf
Hossain (then a Ph. D student at the London School of Economics),
coming to London's Victoria terminal to receive me, arranging
for my stay in London and regularly enquiring about my welfare.
The bond between the teachers and the students those days
was very strong. That relationship continues between us
author is a former civil servant and a retired member of
the World Bank Staff.
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