The Symphony of Our Times
District conferences at Chittagong
Another student's movement with a difference was the one for the postponement of the BA (Honours) examinations in 1962. It deserves special treatment in careful details because of its lack of political content. It will, therefore, find its place in the accounts of the ebb and flow of our academic pursuits.
Meanwhile, it may be appropriate to recount some more memorable events of students' political and organisational activities. The defeat of the Chhatra Shakti in the 1962 SM Hall elections was a rude jolt for us. There were long sessions of soul searching. We devoted a lot of time to the analysis of the background and causes of the loss in the elections. The strengthening of the Bengali autonomist and left socialist ideologies was evidently behind the resurgence of the Chhatra League and the Chhatra Union respectively.
As the Awami League gathered strength so did the Students' League. Similarly, the increasing strength and popularity of the National Awami Party (NAP) enhanced the strength of the Chhatra Union (EPSU). Nevertheless, there was dedicated and deft organisational work by leaders and workers of these students' parties in making them stronger and more popular than before.
As a result of searching self-criticism and long hours of analytical deliberations, party colleagues and friends decided to give attention to organisational matters. Ataur Rahman Khan Kaiser, Miah Mohammad Nuruzzaman, Rezaul Haque Sarker, Mohiuddin Mahmud Hafiz, Shahed Ali, Abdul Muyeed Chowdhury, Anwarul Karim Chowdhury Joy and others drew up plans to hold district conferences to revamp Chhatra Shakti's organisation at the grass root.
Since we, the seniors, me, Kaiser, Nuruzzaman, Sarker and Mohiuddin, were scheduled to take our MA examinations that year, the district conferences were planned for late autumn and winter of 1963. The period was the one between August and December. The districts chosen were Chittagong, Sylhet (Moulvibazar) and Rangpur.
Chittagong, then a very large district composed of Chittagong and Cox's Bazar was on the top of our list because the party had its strongest base there. The founder of the Chhatra Sakhti Farman Ullah Khan himself hailed from that district. Two very dedicated leaders Mohammad Hussain and Nurullah lived and worked in the port city. I remember, requesting childhood friend Abdul Mubin, a medical student at that time, to get admitted into Chittagong Medical College so that he could contribute to the reorganisation of Chhatra Shakti in Chittagong.
He was good and kind and did our bidding. Later in 1971, he came from London to join the liberation war as a physician and, with Dr Zafarullah Chowdhury and Dr Kazi Quamruzzaman, set up the first field hospital for Bangladesh Freedom Fighters in Melaghar, Tripura. After liberation, he went back to London to pursue a successful career as a reputed orthopaedic surgeon.
Our journey to Chittagong was memorable. As mentioned earlier, the Chhatra Shakti was without a political guardian. No political party patronised it. For it there was no support from rich financiers with political tilts. We were confident that the Chittagong conference would be organised by the district branch itself without financial or managerial help from the central leadership. Nevertheless, we had to pay for our journey to and from Chittagong with our own meagre resources. We had just enough to afford to travel by train in the 'third class' only.
The train to Chittagong reached the platform late in the evening. There was an impressive surprise: a massive torch-light procession by numerous supporters of our organisation. This was the grand reception for us. The processionists shouted full-throated slogans but were visibly disappointed and distressed to see their 'fabled' leaders coming down from a 'third class' compartment! The image of the great Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi who lived a modest life and insisted on travelling 'third class' did not at that moment appeared to make us feel proud in our poverty. Our quarters for the night were not also comfortable.
Our mission, however, was noble and gave us enthusiasm to carry on with modest resources. Next morning, we had generous breakfast and tea at the Chandanpura residence of Kaiser's father, well-known political leader Mr Yar Ali Khan. The whole day was spent in lively sessions focusing on aims, objectives, programmes and strategies for further strengthening the Chhatra Shakti in the Chittagong district. Prominent regional leaders such as Nurullah and Mohammad Hossain spiritedly contributed to the practical discussions. Our deliberations also included the weak points of our rival parties: the Chhatra League and the Chhatra Union.
We were tired and spent by the evening and were not enthused to return to our humble camp. A pleasant surprise came suddenly. Well-to-do entrepreneur Nurul Gani Chowdhury of the Hati Company took all of us to his spacious and comfortable home. He was a wonderful host and we had a splendid dinner and a good night's sleep. Miah Nuruzzaman, Mohiuddin, Muyeed Chowdhury, and Rezaul Haque Sarker joined me, the president of the indigent party, in profusely thanking Mr Gani Chowdhury. Our departure from Chittagong was accompanied by great encouragement and hope for the future of the Chhatra Shakti and idealistic politics in the country.
Dr Mizanur Rahman Shelley, founder Chairman of Centre for Development Research (CDRB), and former technocrat Cabinet Minister of Bangladesh, died on August 12 last. He contributed his writeups to the Daily Observer which are being published regularly as "The Symphony of Our Times".