Oral history interview with AF Salahuddin Ahmed

Ahmed, AF Salahuddin

Iqbal, Iftekhar


Salahuddin Ahmad, interviewee (male)
Iftekhar Iqbal, interviewer (male)
  • Interviewed in Dhaka, Bangladesh by Iftekhar Iqbal
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Hello, this is Iftequar Iqbal, today is 22nd of July, I am sitting with Professor Sahlauddin Ahmad precisely with Sahlauddin Ahmad at his residence in Banani in northern Dhaka city. I am beginning by asking Professor Sahaluddin Ahmad you were born in Faridpur in 1924 if I am right and then you went on for your studies in Calcutta. Could you please tell us briefly a little bit, little bit about your childhood and what took you to Calcutta for studies?
Actually I went straight way to Calcutta, my father was a Government Officer he was in some Institute and he was transferred from place to place and until my matriculation I studied in several schools
What are the schools that you went to?
First school the first school that I went to was Bankura, West Bengal…
Bankura Zila School and actually I didn’t go to I told you today to any kindergarten or preschool institutions, I studied at home.
Since I was the eldest child in the family and I was so in those days in Calcutta was practice of keeping you know house tutors
In English, please, if you do not mind
that was the system of talveil
that was you don’t hear such things
you know these were days of plenty people believed in the, my father was not a senior officer but he had a small income but then life was good and
Ok Yes, standard living, living standard was good
and then we lived in district towns we had a big house and few people and so what my father used to do is used to keep students senior Students college students coming from good family but could not stay in hostel so he wanted to help them
So he used to bear this gentlemen in Bankura, I remember Qazi Haspatullah
he was a student of BA Class in Bankura College but he knew English and Bengali very well and as you know his name is Quazi and he claimed as he used to say that he was related to the great rebel poet Kazi Nazrul Islam who came from Burma, quite possible you know and he used to stay in our house and I had my early education in English and Bengali and so I should say that he was a person a liberal and so I liked some of his ideas and my father and mother very particularly for example my father not my mother she didn’t attend any formal school but she was very educated in the sense that strong conscience, strong personality, and strong character and a sense of justice and fair and she was deeply religious. She was, even my father her attitude was very religious, my father never prayed 5 times, he prayed only 2 times. He was some kind of a happy go lucky person not taken for material things that he allowed had friends mostly Hindus Bankura was full of Hindus, friends of my mother were also Hindus.
But my father used to go to office in those days were 10 to 5 so he would get up rather late then after would have his bath and breakfast and before leaving he would do his janamaaz and say his prayers but then it was not the time to pray and you know it was much after sun has risen
and then he would have his breakfast and then in the evening also not particularly
Yes… please carry on
in the evening also he would do the same before, he would come from office and he would sit for them but then that was it and he never bother for going to Jumma prayers or others so I have seen all through this and he had friends and Hindus, Muslims and he was and he also talked to the Christian Priest and enjoyed talking to him so he was kind of very Sufi type of person very, very liberal and my mother she was a remarkable lady she knew she Urdu very well Bengali and Urdu and she used to observe prayers regularly and you believe I was then hardly 8 – 9 years old and she taught me, she told me the stories of Qur’an, the old stories, the classical stories, all that all that and since I was the first child and my sister was born after 5 years so I was very lucky and she I don’t know we had another mother my uncle my father’s cousin so he was also 2 – 3 years senior to my post he and I we learnt how to pray, prayer from my mother and I finished Qur’an this lady is ….
From the village of my mother at that time was starting as student of class 4 but one interesting thing that I will tell you that I always remember is very significant, while I was learning Namaaz I did not understand I was you know I had to Tagore’s meaning that I could not understand. I was a student of class 4th and in Bankura Zila School this song was in class 3 but when I was going to follow took me to for admissions to the Headmaster’s he is getting in class 4th because he is well advanced and I was a very cautious child that is why I am saying this that there was a book called “Sahitya Charan” in Bengali you know in the core section the first part is prose and the second part is poetry. The poems, the first poem was by Tagore it was a prayer and then later on I learned that it was a Brahmo kotha
Ohh, Brahmo….
Brahmo Kotha, “Bol dao, amare bol dao gane dao sokol Hridoe othai tomari kohite sorol supothe gronthe sob opokar khoite sokol golpo domite khorgo golite” as I said that my housemate was very was also a poet and so he had encouraged me to read literature and all that and this particular prayer deeply affected me because at that time I was learning Namaaz from my mother and exactly at that point I read this poem and I you see it struck to me that was a much better prayer than rabinah aataynah fidunyah hasantaou... I told myself that why don’t you finish your prayer instead of Rabinah aataynah it’s a Tagore’s prayer and I strongly believed that might as well start doing it,
I remember in my early 9 or 10 years “tai” is a you know mone mone bolchi you see after sometime I thought I must tell my mother about it because my mother and I had a very friendly relationship with her and her aunt and all that so I told my mother, mother I am doing this instead you know I am reciting this poem. She looked at me yes and she said what is the harm? You know she pressed my hand and said my child I will not say anything I taught you what I liked and I must say that so this was very significant so I continued and after you know you should say that 2 - 3 - 4 years I had I didn’t have any strong religious faith, I became a rationalist, you can say that, without reading any book on rationalism or you know to be good to read his prayer do read and be good, I had that kind of attitude and no one bothered about it. I never gave up praying and many complained to my mother that this boy was not praying and my mother would laugh at me and they say that Hindu or not Hindu I can pray but for you not for God
Ha ha ha…
not to please God, but you never pleased me so you know that was the attitude and my father never even bothered about this so this is attitude anyway and so then
So you went to Ripon College about this time..
no, no not that. From Bankura, I went to Bishnupur, from Bishnupur then my father took 3 months leave and decided to visit our home district so we went to Faridpur, and there we lived. Now in Faridpur I had a different experience this was because in west Bengal- Bankura and Bishupur- we had no problem at all no one bothered about our religious moves or practices and all that but when we went to Faridpur and I was admitted in, when I was in class 8th in Zila school, Government Zila School.
Where in Bankura?
Not Bankura, in Faridpur
Faridpur, by the time my father took me and we went to the, the house was dilapidated to we stayed there for 3 months and after 3 months my father was transferred and I was studying there for some time and so my aunt and those who were staying with us then and I was admitted to Faridpur Zila School. Now that was the year 1935 and there I found that the environment was completely different. The Headmaster at the Government High School the Headmaster was a Hindu gentleman he was trained as a but this was a Government School but there I could see some communal trend. We talk about British Policy of Divide and Rule and all that but there is no documentary evidence for that but you see from practice it has what happened only later reflection of course.
My experience was very peculiar, there was one class teacher Mr. Rashid, I don’t remember his name a Muslim class teacher he would insist us that we must wear cap in class and we used to wear half shorts half pant pore jetam but he insisted in my class every Muslim student must wear cap and this surprised me and what he used to do was borrow cap from other Muslims in his class and secondly one day we had lot of Hindu students but one day we learnt that we have to go to Station, Railway Station. For what? to receive Nawab Bahadur from Dhaka he was visiting Faridpur to organize Muslim League and all that and some people came and during school hours so we some of us were taken to the Railway Station and Headmaster and obviously we had permission then the Headmaster allowed us and I had first glimpse of this Nawab so called Nawab, very fair, and he could not speak in Bengali so “ aami bolteche” that you know I was very amused “ je aapnader bhalo korbe aami”
and look at this man Muslim and so this later on I realized that this was a subtle policy to create division to go to some Muslim Officers and encouraged Muslims to have so already this trend was there anyway but one thing I must say that my ideas did not change as I said that I was just there for one year or so and then my father was again transferred. He was posted at that time to a mufashal town near “Toadanga” you know from there he was transferred to “Barrackpur” in Calcutta but he used to stay there, we used to stay in “Dum Dum Junction”, very close to Calcutta and he used to travel by Train every morning and we had a big house there. There I attended a school in Kumar Ashutosh’s Instituton
Can you tell that name again please?
Kumar Ashutosh Institution
Kumar Ashutosh Institution
Kumar Ashutosh Institution, the interesting thing is there ohh.. I forget to tell you from Bankura, I had gone to Bishnupur, in Bishnupur I was the only Muslim student so what a we had a class 6 or 7 we had to to take second language there was no Arabic or Persian so I started learning Sanskrit for one year. When I went to Faridpur Arabic was there at a much advanced level so I couldn’t take it then we were again transferred to Calcutta near there I was the only Muslim boy so I could not so I had either
Sanskrit or Arabic, then my father was again transferred to Calcutta from that time on from Calcutta my education changed, you know
so you came to Calcutta to stay in 1930’s
1936 – 37
36 – 37 and then you entered Ripon College around that time?
No after I passed my
Kumar Ashutosh Institution
So what I am saying is that when I was admitted we were living in Calcutta in a place called Entila market and there was a school nearby, very old school private school called Taratala High School so here I was admitted to the school and I passed my matriculation. There in particular we had to take second language so I had given either Sanskrit or Arabic but I knew Urdu but from my childhood I had learned Urdu and other places my mother knew Urdu from Delhi and other places
so we so at that time we were allowed Urdu to be used as the second language for those students whose vernacular is Bengali and Urdu for those students who vernacular was Hindi or Bengali for so we had some Hindu students whose vernacular is Hindi so there was one student some Singh I didn’t remember who took vernacular was Urdu as second language and Singh language and I was the second student whose vernacular was Bengali but second language was Urdu and so we took when we entered the class and the maulvisaab realized that there were 2 students who were given a baranda so we realized after some time that we were quite well versed in Urdu so there was nothing to teach us, we learned Urdu so well that we didn’t
It was a family language
so what we used to do I used to learn Hindi in that class, maulvisaab used to sit and say “pore jao nijera” and I started learning that’s how I learnt Hindi and I used to teach him Bengali so this is how we used to spend our time anyway and then I, Ripon College was not very far, so…
Now as I said why Ripon, why not others because after passing with 1st Division I could have gone to Presidency College. You see my father was very I mean didn’t bother about world affairs he was very ill at that time and I,
from my early childhood days I have taken decisions on my own, some friends said let’s go and it was already late for admission to this College but then I found this very good institute in this busy area, but they had some of the great teachers there in Bengali we had Promoto nath Bishir
“Promoto Nath Bishir” yeah…
In English we had Buddhadeva Bose
Bishnu Dey yes. in History we had Hiren Mukherjee. they were great stalwarts they were well known
Did you have any exchanges with one of these Big names
No really we were just students and we just used to admire
and small
and I must say that my leaning towards Socialism started from that time
From Ripon College
in the sense that I started reading books on it
But as I said that my socialist leanings started
Did you read anything that you remember?
No as I said from my Bankura days when I was reading Tagore
that poem, many other poems also greatly inspired for example there’s another poem “ Dee Dee Hai Jomin” now this poem greatly inspired me for many reasons. Firstly the idea of patriotism you see mane Banglar… you know everyone is affected differently not everyone particularly this poem affected me for example long before I knew of socialism this poem inspired me, this exploitation of poor by rich people “ ache na je rajar
dui bighe jomin chilo
eei jogote hai sei beche ache
jaar ache bhori bhori
hosto kori dhonghso
kadale donghso, ji
eei je eei idea ta
that’s very socialist idea
this idea that this exploitation was also bad
this idea of exploitation, yes, very much expressed
I had empathy for the poor people and love for the country
And I must say that and the my house tutor relation was with Nazural Islam
Right, Ok
So all these formative period of my life helped me better and then this and then another thing that time was significant and this was a time of communal freedom was arising
And it affected my family also you see some family members very communal but my father was not you see one day my father’s uncle retired he was, he was a senior officer I think in the postal department but he was very much involved in this and in those days my parents didn’t allow this and he was connected with this National Mohammaden Association you see by the Muslin League
Na, Aamir ali
Aamir Ali sorry
he was, Aamir Ali was not a political leader
More literary, more literate
And restrictive sort of as a he was secular although he was modern but he was secular to what extent this communal feeling affected him leader “dada boltam aamra”, I was a very young boy of class 4 so he called me and said beta and he used to speak Urdu bol beta bol “ maha Charitra Gandhi desh bandars14.38 I used to bol beta bol what was I saying, I looked at him and I didn’t like what he was talking , I just ran away from there not very I went to my father and told him he’s saying this he has asked me to my father said no no never say that they are very good people so this was that one member of the family is talking very filthy language and my father said no no no because we used to in those days read 2 newspapers,
one was Statesman and from that time onwards learn English as we used to read these papers up so as I said that in Ripon College was banned but communists were very active at that time and my classmate published communist manifesto
ji accha,
In newspaper field
Communist manifesto was in English or in Bangla?
nei nei in Bangla, aami toh Bangla…
that kind of thing and then workers so they are United
United, the Union Mazdoor eek hou
nothing true but the change I mean I started this without knowing anybody so then in 1938 must be in 1938 and on literature
R P Dutt
ahh ahh R P Dutta
he was in the Council party and anyway so I was without say on my own as I was reading these literature more liberal rationalist so I never communal world appealed to me. In 1938 I was at that time it was my hobby to attend public my parents didn’t bother about it much one day I learnt that there was a person called M N Roy an eminent leader...There was a famous Institute in Calcutta
you are talking about M N Roy
right, so I was then very interested
You met him where?
I didn’t meet him I saw him
You saw him
In Calcutta, in 1938
In Presidency College
No, I went to Presidency, this presidency college much later
I was then a student of Ripon College, just 1st year student
Ok, so you first saw him in ‘38, when you were Ripon student
Now, at that time I must tell you something about the political situation you see, Muslim League had just been formed and then but there was a revival in the Muslim League. Justice Nair returned from England in 1932-33 and organized Muslim league, he solely organized Muslim League and Muslin secular feeling was
running high
But then among the Muslims also the Muslim nationalist feeling is also very high besides Mulana Azad there were I think many other Muslims there who were conscious. I remember and I used to attend these meetings. I remember one Dr. Sayed Hussian who was closely related to Faizul Haq, he was a Hindu in America for many years Sayed Hussain and he was closely connected with the Nehru family and there was a story that he was anyway but he was a journalist and he went away to America to States, and in 1938 I think or 37, he had come to Calcutta and addressed a meeting and I attended the meeting truly this one he was not a complete leader but he was a strong Congressman and he spoke on Albert Hall if you know which later on became India Coffee House
yeah, ok
This meeting was in Albert hall and as I say and here I saw very handsome Jawaharlal Nehru you know he was in America for a very long time and he was very handsome he spoke on Congress and Gandhi
Congress and Gandhi
He had written the book and I had purchased the book, had published it “Gandhi the Saint and the Statesmen”, have you seen the Gandhir upore dekhecho and then sometime later so I was already so to say that drawn to Secular Nationalism and Socialism then again Sarojini Naidu, yes
Sarojini Naidu, right..
That was 19… when I was a student that was 1937 yes he addressed a meeting to Albert Hall and at that time there was a controversy going on that Congress wants to be the National language of India and some people wanted Hindi and there was a strong opposition in South India no Hindi. The language controversy in India had started much before the Pakistan language in 1937 – 38 which was serious and I remember Sarojini Naidu delivering a speech in Albert hall to say and I noted it down and I still remember “ Language of a Nation is the Art of a Nation, the language of the People is the soul of the People, no power on Earth, no Government can withstand National Language”
The question of language there should be no national controversy and you know after that I had deep interest so she had that sense that Jawaharlal Nehru did not have and it created anyway so I am saying telling I was attending all these kinds meetings mostly Congress meetings sort of and another meeting was yes 1938 when the Ministry was formed and then in the Town hall Subhas Bose led this meeting was in Town hall he was the secretary of the Muslim of Aslamuddin Choudhary and there was a demand for Andaman and I was there in the meeting so I could give you an idea that in my early youth I was not involved in active politics but I was drawn and I was politically very conscious and my political awareness was
Ji, please carry on
drawn, then as I said in I met him, I saw MN Roy
When did you meet M N Roy? See M N Roy?
“Koronio” there was a article by Rabindranath and there were articles all over Central Avenue, that in 1938 now see what happened there were two sections.
Muslim society was also divided the liberals and the conservatives, the liberals more or less were Nationalists, secular nationalists and many leftist, you know if you study communism in India you will find that the early communists were Muslims Muzaffar Ali and all that started from our times and M N Roy you know of his spiritual career he was in 1930 he had returned to India and he was a famous anesthetic in Bombay and you know he was one of the founders of the Congress and he was charged by the British in several cases and given a sentence for 14 years which was reduced to 7 years and he was released after 7 years in 1937 was his release date. While in jail M N Roy was a point in Socialism, he was a very free thinker so he came to the conclusion that to fight the Imperialists, the Nationalist forces should be united I believe in Secular nationalism and he said that all must unite under the banner Congress is the platform not a party, it’s the national platform so all those,
all socialists and secular minded people although the leadership was in the hands of reactionary elements, conservative, they must join this platform and go to the people where the masses are and go to the people because the revolution must be where the masses are and bring their confidence and establish a foothold there and established “Alternative Leadership”, this College national platform but the leaders are conservative and reactionary and so we must join this platform and I remember this because I was in Calcutta then so that was the idea and M N Roy precisely said to propagate this idea in that meeting he said that. The meeting was presided by Samsonar Mahmood
Samsonar Mahmood presided over the meeting huh?
it was organized, now you see at that time I am talking about Muslims for one reason because of his non communal socialist attitude and secondly his intellectual approach he had written a book one small book on “Historical Road of Islam”
Yeah, that’s very famous book
Very famous book, small book but there he had categorically said certain things which were not very popular among Hindu castes but popular among Muslims he had the communal feeling and he said that Hindus are to be blamed because of their caste system and all this and that because and this is going on almost for 1000 years and they have lived together side by side with Hindus
and that kind of thing and he said that I was a Brahmin but I did not became a Brahmo though I was a Brahmin. He said that I completely fear but then they must fight the British they must be united and Congress is a National platform and I appeal that the Muslims join and I will need them, that kind of thing and it deeply affected me. Anyway…
That incident, the meeting was significant in the context of the precedence that presided over the meeting Muslim and women and at that time Samsonar Mahmood
as I said that M N Roy’s book made him very popular among Muslim intellectuals, liberal minded Muslims intellectuals
ya ya
and Samsonar Mahmood’s and her brother was Habidullah Baar and this brother and sister used to bring out a journal called “Bulbul”
ok yeah, Nazrul Pouli used to write there?
yeah all these poets there were 2 very popular journals one was “Sauda” by Naseruddin it was a literary magazine and purely literary it was about emancipation and “Bulbul” was advanced more liberal and there was another important Mohammad’s so there were three in late thirties there were three Bengali Journals you see represented the three views, Mohamad was conservative, very much conservative, Mohammad Akram
Mohammad Akram pal
and then BulBul, Abdul’s “Saugad” was liberal but not political but Bulbul was talking more Socialism
more radical
more radical so and Samsonar Mahmood so that she joined later so that reception was given by the Muslims you know this league of Muslims. It was mainly the Muslims somehow so my first contact of say my first
no not encounter but my first but then my idea was not yet formed but I was reading communist literature and might be turning towards the Communists but then I was open minded I was then as I had written that article you know I was at the Presidency College there I met Zouro Sen Chowdhury, I met Ranajit Guha
You met Ranajit Guha at that time
so there ideas
Jogdri Choudhry was also the contemporary and they were doing left learning politics.
Zouro Sen Chowdhury was also he followed M N Roy’s literature that you must not feel isolated, you must be there where the masses are so Muslim Leagues another platform, and Muslims we should not allow this platform to be kept
that’s the idea coming from M N Roy
yes, they’re all saying the same
using the existing platform
using the existing platform so Zouro Sen Chowdhury and many others, few others joined this Muslim league this idea many later did and then I joined this movement at that time and meanwhile the war had started
ya ya
and the war completely changed the political scenario,
M N Roy until 1939 was a strong Champion in the Congress when he joined but in 1939 when the war started Second World War Congress took a very strange decision you know this election was a massive victory for the Congress even in the NWFP where Muslim majority got but the Congress was formed. Mostly you know that history it was Muslims could not form the Allah Baksh strongly supported the Congress Punjab Union, only in Bengal unfortunately for the short sightedness of the Bengal Congress leadership, Congress could not be formed Faizul Akbar was the most popular leader but was before the proja party, he was a non communal leader a secularist either he wanted remain a Muslim and all that. He wanted to form a coalition Ministry with the Congress. Now the Muslim League party was their third party but the Bengal Communist leadership was not 2 sections, 2 classes. One was urbans, intellectuals, middle class professional’s lawyers, doctors, barristers, the other was zamindars.
The Zamindar class were the predominant in the city in Calcutta and they did not want Faizul Akbar to negotiate, those have been declared that criticism in the system, that they felt you see that was the agenda so the Bengal Congress turned it down. This was an opportunity of Muslim League to seize the opportunity. Faizul Akbar was a typical politician, did not have any very strong political commitment, he was a good man a good political leader and but did not have any ideological commitment he wanted to be in power as a politician, politicians always want power, powerful for the sake of power so he wanted to be supported by his enemies whoever is supporting he will support so Muslim League is always was getting very bitter with the Congress because congress had turned his offer down.
By the time this was happening you were, you have already entered Presidency College?
yes, yes I was in Presidency College was happening before we met
ya ya
so I was witness to these things
ya and you met Ranajit Guha in Presidency College and he was your classmate?
yes in 1940, he was my peer
in the same class?
yes, in the same class,
yes and in the same class
1940 exactly 1940
1940 in Presidency
and then again in 1941 Pakistan dissolution
ya, ya
you see 40 to 42 all that
did you discuss among yourselves about 1940 Lahore Resolution or
yes, yes
what about your reactions
now let me tell you another episode very interesting, I have mentioned this in my article, best thing will be
ya ya, definitely
there is an incident, you know I am never a very active radical no first let me tell the international situation right with the Congress you know M N Roy maintained,
no the Congress said we cannot cooperate with the British until the British gives us the undertaking that after the war after the 19, the transfer power, this was a very strange absurd request freedom was never given in a platter so but M N Roy maintained that no why we should not cooperate and get all the advantages you see India is going to be decolonized so he could foresee and he maintained and this was not a Communists said that this was a Imperialist war but M N Roy maintained no, that this was not imperialist war this was anti fascist war. Fascism is a greatest threat than imperialism and you know it causes contradictions and he said India cannot remain free in an enslaved world you know there will always be fascism and so it must and he predicted that there’s something backed with the Soviet Union and Germany
as it was I can foresee but when the war started in 1947 the communists said that no then Soviet said you see he predicted that Germany would attack the Soviet Union, he predicted no no this is not the people’s war but the National situation. The national situation. M N Roy maintained that Congress should not resign and then consolidate its position Congress resigned and this resulted in Muslim and Muslims greatly supported which was quite natural you know Faizul Haq he was the person who was the first person was a Muslim a Pakistani. Now the other interesting episode is, I am talking in a very desultory
ya please go ahead
some of the incident that shaped my life now Zouro Sen and I and there were a person Sukhto Banerjee from Kalighat
Sukhto Banerjee
Sukhto Narain Banerjee, from Kalighat he was a Brahmin but he was a liberated person one day 2 incidents one day, we used to meet every day in Park Street. Sukhto used to come from kalighat and we used to meet in a place called Rajni Mukherjee Hall and the labor leader, his next door neighbor Mr. Mitra every day. Now one day Sukhto had suggested that since we are emancipated individuals we must have a kind of you know have any belief in established religion so just imagine we were hardly 18 or 19 year old.
I was in 3rd year honors class and the year was exactly the year 1941 he said that I had just joined Presidency College so Sukto said no, no sorry Zouro said that we must have a ceremony function where we formally declare that we have renounced our faith in established religion we have liberated Hindus you know we have become humans and conversion to humanism must be
all right
and so we and Zouro was better off economically that is his father was a senior Magistrate District so he said that lets go to a hotel and so that was we went to Zouro’s and he invited Sukhto and I and went to Great Eastern Hotel and it’s still there opposite Connaught Place
Great eastern Hotel, what did you do there?
there we went for lunch, so we ordered lunch so we went there and we ordered the forbidden meat and drink
Ok, forbidden for both Muslim and Hindu
So, Zouro and I ordered Pork chop
Ok, pork was available there?
and Sukto had a
pork was available there
yes, Great eastern Hotel was a International Hotel and it was war time mostly it was available there and also very cheap so Zouro and I ordered pork chop and Sukto Banerjee beef steak
so Brahmin
Brahmin yes, interesting
yes he was a Brahmin and the three of us we did not know what to drink so Zouro said Gin, gin and tonic and so the three of us I had not written that because
yes, yes…
so we three had, we did not like that food but anyway it was essential that we
it’s called revolt
revolt right that we renounced our faith to be humanists, so it was kind of a ritual
and secondly another incident again the same people, Zouro and I came out of the Presidency College after a class then suddenly we saw Sukto Banerjee in the other direction. He started shouting and he was accompanied by 300 young men gentlemen in beard and cap and Sherwani he was also party man from Faridpur he had just married so he was wearing a Sherwani. In those days I used to wear Dhoti
most of my friends wore dhoti, only Zouro used to wear Pyjama and Shirt, pant trouser, so no one knew who was Hindu or Muslim so anyway Zouro shouted at but our friend, comrade Hamim Bhai has come and said lets go to Dwarik Sen and have tea so he invited us, so we went there is a place called “Dwarik’s Singara” it’s very famous the reason being this shop Dwarik is well known for sweets, tea also but there you see they had small tables, square, in “barandha” and all of us wer sat there and there came a glass of water, then Sukhto was a labor leader used to shout. I jumped at Singara and then we were talking for about 10-15 minutes suddenly I realized that no Singara is not coming what is the matter “ Sukhto ki asche na keno? Ki byappar?” Sukhto also said “ eei ki asche na keno?” then we saw that the boy with the beard a 14 – 15 year old boy he was talking to the Manager at the counter and looking at us and then “ki happened kya ki holo?” “ kache ese bolche je Sir, Babu aapnader toh dite kono oshubidhe nei kintu ektu oshubidha ache Hakim saheb.”
hakim sahib
“hakim sahib, apni to dari ache
dari wala
yes, dari ache
Beard ache
yes beard to be next “e ekta Ghor chilo taar upore lekha ache ooito dekhen Sir, first time we saw that “lal kali te lekha kebal matro Hindu der jonno”
Yeah, only for Hindus
Hindus only, they were getting this
What was that place again?
the place where you went?
Harrison Road
Harrison College Street Corner
that area was a total Hindu area but Muslims go. Anyway park Circus was a Muslim area and we learnt that when the shop was started in 1916 or so it was only for Hindus
Only for Hindus
You know what happened. Such gravity, Sukhto
ya, ya you were not aware that something like that would happen
no no we never went that side, we would just go eat and come back and no one bothered and we were using Dhoti and shirt
ya, ya. You had been coming there for…
and then Sukhto Banerjee was the host, he has ordered
yes, he was surprised
yes, he was so surprised and angry and he was so angry, he was shivering with anger he never knew that this was the situation
yes, this was the scene
and he said that he was so angry and he said that he was a labor leader he started shouting and delivered a speech almost abusing them “aami asle boshtaam na je musolman eka Pakistan jai” this was 1941 remember. Amra ekhono bujhtaam na keno Pakistan?
why they want Pakistan we didn’t understand
ekhon aami bujhte prchi, aamio Pakistan chai
ha ha I also want Pakistan
and then another thump and another class broke and then he shouted and he said that “Bastard tomader jonnoi amader aajke eei obostah hoyche eita Jodi tumi na saro ha kindly check
and then near my shop ooi dokane kola bagan bole ekta boshti chilo
kola bagan
beshi dure noi very famous bolche “amar kola baganer sob musolmaan bondhu der deke sob tora mrkho” I remember this was in 1941 when the second world war was on, eei kotha Sukhto Banerjee boleche je tomra sob murkho
That was very bold
keno ki aami toh life longi okhane as a Hindu so of course the crowd
that was sir bolchi je aami ki korbo babu aami toh kormo chari tokhono aamra dokane dariye achi jacchi aami ja ja hoche tai giye bolbo toh hai bolo tar por then he shouted then deliberately kal ke tumi eshe dekhbe je soreche kina…
ha ha
he was a leader you know we were you know how these leaders are born
situation changed obviously aamar bondhu kalke eshe dekhbo je je gulo customer chilo so then I said charo bole kono laabh nei let us go to another restaurant and then Sukhto said no lets go and so went to another restaurant called Dilkhus and there was no restriction there and we had fish chop and Zouro entertained us with mustard and tea…
there is no revolutionary food, pork only, fish chop is quite neutral.
not interesting na next morning I was leaving Park Circus and passing tram theke nemai samne dariye I thought that they were waiting for me must have been “aschorjo karon jei nemechi tokhon chute eseche bolche babu bole deben apnar bondhu ke ota uthe geche, ekhon aar kono oshubidhe nei
The owner of the shop?
no, no that is Manager, owner toh bbadite thake, there was a chain
toh bolche we have decided ota aar hobe na toh kobe asbhen aar kono oshubidhe nei, sir ke bolben. So this is how Sukhto Banerjee brought about a revolution social revolution change cannot come from outside.
Sukhto Banerjee could do it because he was Hindu Brahmin and he revolted against this custom Brahmon bole manloh Muslim hole manto na hindu bole reform must come from another side, reform cannot be imposed from outside. It must come from within. Hindu Muslim can live toh eei jonno Sukhto Banerjee brought about a revolution
That’s why we got it here
amar life e Sukhto is always my hero chele tah bollo ki bolte bhule gechi first he said introduce himself tomra sono amar naam Sukhto Banerjee aami kali ghater Brahmin that is how he started that I am a ganguly I am a Brahmin from Kalighat a conservative center
aaami bolchi tomader eei bhabe bolchi aami bolchi tomader notice korchi tomader jonno Pakistan hoye chilo toh toal kotha hochhe je eei gulo je total impact toh taar porer story toh eki ache just
How did Sushobhan Sarkar fit in your ideas about that time?
Sushobhan, he was a, we knew that Sushobhan Sarkar supported Congress party of India and opposed to but Sushobhans great issue was that aami likhechi toh
Yeah that’s right
He was a great teacher who was not-partisan, he had his views and allowed us but anyway and he was an intellectual, honestly, greatness liberalism but something unique.
You… when did you came out from Presidency College?
Na, aami je kotha bolchi, I became so much involved in politics that I was asked to work in the labor front
that is why I don’t know… kintu Zouro khubi close chilo amar kaaj chilo labor front sutohraang aami aami sob toh jibone I was Sukhto Banerjee amake nilo it was like a Majdoor Union its owned by Congress leader bholu gechi tar pore mone prche na that famous barrister
Did you meet Sheikh Mahjoor Rahman?
no no
no much later I worked absolutely as the labor leader related I was the Vice president of the India Mazdoor union
Mazdoor Union
taar pore aami aro pore aamke union chilo
Calcutta port
Calcutta port e sekhane chilo ki duto union chilo ekta chilo controlled by the Communist party, aar ek ta union chilo …..even though
Manjim Bose and Professor Humayun they are also actively involved
they were involved they were liberally, “ toh aami toh ekdin dekhechi esheche, humayun Ghosh o esechen kintu aamra onno dike kaaj kortam tokhon aami toh aamra toh identity disclose kori ni je kaaj korchi kaaj kore aami, aami kheltam kaaj kore aami pass chute tuti hoyeche taar thike aami
So you were doing this still when you were a student
in Presidency
na, eeita tea mi just passed
ohh, after you just passed
eeita te
which year was that?
eeita 1945 e
accha aami jeta bolte chaichi bolchi je aami bhalo 1st Division peyechilam Matriculation e I was taar por I was so much involved in Politics
bhlo result korechilam badite pora suno kortam khub toh eita ekohono mone hoye je aami and I know him teacher bolche chinta korben je eei chele eto bhalo kintu pora suno te bhalo result kori ni oh ekdike ekhon mone hocche je game korechi suto raang aami different person
then 40, the red, red Calcutta killing took place about that time
ooi somoi aami boli I gave up politics and I joined the Indian Red Cross Society
accha ooi somoi holo I amii 45 e aami I was elected as a General Secretary in Postal telegraph workers union, Bengal Post and Telegraph Workers Union
Post and Telegraph Workers Union
Ohh Bengal Post and Telegraph Workers Union, you joined as a leader?
No, I was elected as a Secretary
ok, Secretary
toh holo ki kore, aami just MA pass korechi tokhon, tokhono Red Calcutta hoye ni
Ok, ya
toh amai korlo keno je Rojoni Mukherjee je chilo tokhon leader, unader ke ammi bolloam je Pakistan 1946 riot how ate Pakistan, taar age kintu pakistaner position oto strong chilo na, Hindu ra dhorei niyechilo je amader hobe, amader oto ferocious killing hobe eta bujhte pari ni toh. Toh taar age toh Pakistan mane toh there was but in Bengal and Assam second state hobe ebong seta majority state
hobe ebong seta Pakistaner moton toh hobe na chinta kore nit oh okanei chilo holo ki tokon chilo Hindu ra ooi mati the ooi dike toh chilo na jokhon Kolkatai riot holo tokhon aamio boltam je ragiye dilo bujhle eei Jodi hoye tahole kintu taar age kintu kolkatai chilo na tph tokoh holo ki oder strategy je West Bengal eei Post and Telegrapher beshir bhagi white collared worker engineers eta ekta birat factory chilo Kolkatar Alipure Post and Telegraph factory, white collared workers beshi bagi I Hindu 99% tokon kintu Moosolmano chilo kintu bondhu oorao kintu Rojanda kintu bollen je oder modhe Government ekta decision niyeche je japan e shift korbe, whole factory tule Japane chole jabe toh Rojonda tokhon bollen je dekho salahuddin ke Jodi Secretary bonao Jodi Muslim secretary, young man toh o giye negotiate korbe, members der ke je Pakistan cholche Pakistan thike sob bujhte parcho toh
ha ha it was a good idea, very sharp thinking
bujhle toh
you know this will be a new step, the idea will carry on
toh aamke hoye gelo by fluke
ya ya
I would say a young man of 20, 21 year old by fluke hoye gelo
So interesting
a young man MA pass kore chakri na kore toh ayega taar pore I went to Delhi. Delhi te aamar songe korlo ki Lahiri bole eekjon engineer ke dilo je taar kache Hindu membersra Jodi convince hoye, bangali Hindu
now there is a twist to it bujhte parcho toh oh giye Lahiri Choudhary central member der ke bolbe je eta toh Bangladesh er thike Kolkatai chole gele aamder khoti hobe amader kolkatai badi aamra kothai jabo aar amar kache Abul Ahmad Siddiqui AK Gangulyda ICS hoyeche community members e
eder bola jai je Pakistane, eei bhabe pouche aamra and it worked taar pore toh se toh holo na pore 46 e riot hobaar age tokhon aamar baba chilo SDO Khulna the social culture jeta aami bolchillam je Red Cross Society
te tumi kaaj korecho so tumi interested thik ache toh. Ami bollam je bhalo tokhon oder office chilo government houser pase aami okhane beshir bhagi chilo eminent Red Cross Society badir samne American Coesus ache toh aami gelam amar babar chnta orau chaiche je moosolmaner chele do not get judgemental tokhono riot hoye ni tai I was immediately selected, I was enjoying the riot o aami dekhlam setao onek long story kintu oto kichu bola jabe na
na, bolun na
ekta incident ache, toh aami sunon ota bolar chaite Choufhury likechilen ote aami, riot er ghotona ache
Thik ache, probably then we can carry on little bit on, one thing that I see from your book that M N Roy came back and went to Pakistan for visiting Dhaka in 48
Gave a lecture
ha ha
1 or 2 lectures, I probably you presented on in one of those, could you please tell us a little bit
yes I will say, you know partition had taken place and I refused to say that I wasn’t a blind follower of M N Roy and I disagree with him on certain times some times for example books from that’s when Pakistan I was strong enough to say that we learn from Sushobhan Sarkar ekta jinish the popularity and progress of this country, you can be popular by use of but that is not revolution tahole content of Pakistan majority of people bolche je let them have it ok then Muslim mind dhora jai na toh that’s the Muslim mind, Muslim mindset is tribal mindset bujhle jotoi highly intelligent hok tao mindset e tribal ness aar sei tribalness thike berote hobewe toh we and they, we and they toh jai hok ota amar mone thakbe aami je kotha bolchi tai look at 1948
tokhon ekta aamra chole aaslam ekhane keno chole aslam? prothomoto hochhe I came to my country tokhono biye hoye ni but we meant to have decided to marry that 49 e birrudho hoye gelo partition hobe tar modhhe I decided that since we came back amader badi jawa uchit jai aar kothai jabo. Secondly MN Roy used to je definition must be there in our society. Ekhane jerok amader partition hoye jachhe let us transform into a Democratic State now
we can do something anyways that was too, tarpore ooi je bollam je kotha hochilo je giving lecture. MN Roy came to Dhaka at the British I mean Azgar shah Ali very interested, very interested
Azgar Ali Shah
Azgar Ali Shah, ICS in Punjabi ICS
and how ekhon toh je country, Shah was a disciple of sovereign Souroddin who was a Chief Minister. Souroddin you know he was a politican je khomotar jonno kintu he also had a liberal mind se he had started his political career as a Secular Nationalist a disciple of CR Das
C R Das, right
only and taar argument chilo je aami sei jonno likhechi je Saouraddin Khan bolchen je tomader ke amader bole organize korte hobe their cannot be friendship within our peoples ooi labour e tiule then 2 people will meet.
ooi bhabe taara Muslims kintu taar consequence je ki hobe je seta bujhte pari ni. He realized after 1946 riot, you see rioter pore tokhon transformation hoye geche. Azgar ali Shah ese amake bollo je tokhon toh aami bollam tokhon ke Kwaja nazrul chilo just after partition toh Azgar ali Shah oh tokhon ekta new Zeal for Pakistan ekta new state hobe has build up in their vision kerom ekta josh chilo jeta Pakistan hoyeche jeta it has transformed into a modern state toh eei concept ta chilo. Toh aami thaktam 30 dendrite Street e thaktaam
He came from Calcutta
ya he came from Calcutta tokhon gorihate ekta place chilo tokhono aami bekar aami toh hakri khujchi kintu taar pore aami. Aami aar jotinath khub active tokhon aara rest house jeta ekhon apnar telegram office na ota ache naki ekhono?
Telegram office
ooikhane ache na mode
onno kichu hoye geche…
ooikhane ekta chilo dotola building Gongar Resthouse that was the only respectable Hotel, dotola building chilo na je catering bhalo chilo mota muti Britanniar ekta office chilo cinema khola jayega toh ekhane ese uthle thik holo eei 3 din thakbe 3 te lecture debe
First lecture
Bar Life (Burma people)
Bar life people. Thik holo je first lecture will be presented by I B Zubeg
Muslim President chilen, pore Rajsahi Vice Chancellor
ha, ha, Juberi Halls
Tobe Rajsahi Vice chancellor chilen, toh uni koekdin pore aaslen, toh uni he wanted to be Budhodeb typer chilen. I used to like him Islamic college e Principal chilen toh, tai tar chatro toh Hindu Muslim je chilo take DPI korlo kintu DPI Vice principal of Presidency College amader somai
DPI means…
Director of Public Instructions. Toh DPI was I used to administer the toh Doctor Budhodeb dekhlo je ki holo he was a special officer taar pore, okhane boste bollo, Dr. Zuberi he was a clever man, Zuberi korlo ki tokhon aamar daitto chilo je ekta ki oder gadi chilo Austin ota niye aami gechi aami bollam ammar daitto holo MN Roy
Sibnarayan Roy.
oder tin jon ke niye jabo aami
Sibnarayan Roy. MN Roy was accompanied by Shibnarayan Roy.
and his wife Ellen Roy.
Ellen ok…
Eder teen jon ke niye jaabo gaadita aamar disposal e aaache. Ta aami jokhun pouchechi, tokhun Jyotirmoy… Jyotirmoy toh meeting niye besto okhane… car library.. court house r kache. Slip pathiyeche…erokom muskil hochhe. Dr. Zuberi r pete r osukh ekhon ki kora jabe who will preside? Asole Jodi taar tai toh bhodorlok toh, Se backout koreche bujhle, tokhon ki hoyeche amader okahe tokhok je ki byapar? Tokhon bolche bodo mushkil hoye gelo je uni aar preside korben na. Ami bollam eta hoye na ki? Tahole ke preside korbe na aapni preside… korben aami toh parbo na bolche je aapni ek dokhom dillam aami emnibhabe hoye naki toh aami toh bhoye kaapchi ki korbo? Thik ache, kono kotha na he spoke with finality tokhon aami bollam chol jacchi tokhono thik kori ni je ki korbo aami office te jacji yokhon tokhono kono strategy kori ni aami je aami ja bolar aagei bole felbo chesta korbo dias e.
Tinta seat Jyotirmoy,aami aar Shibnarayan aamra giye front e boslam toh aami tokhon uthe dariye bollam je ekta Great news akta manuser moddhe if you come in touch with him tah amro seram holo ami tokhon ami thik korlam je keno jawar somai amake lojja dilen he is an extraordinary person, eta ekta extraordinary situation chilo je tah ami ekta extraordinary kaaj korte esechi generally the President speaks at the end of meeting but since MN Roy is not an ordinary person ooi situation e aami o ektu extraoridany kaaj korbo je aami ja bolar agei bolchi kenona after MN Roy speaks I will have nothing to say
eta thik na bujhle, kaal porsu bollam je bola hoyeche je he has been described as a philosopher by his revolutionaries and a toh eei bhabe bollam tokhon renaissance literature boi portaam tokhon bujhle olpo kotha toh MN Roy said pore naki amake bole chilo taar pore jai hok eei holo first meeting taar pore holo second meeting
Did MN Roy have to say something, anything new or anything important
na, na
In the context of Pakistan
Definitely, I mean je amader ekta new team hoyeche middle of the country amder ooi sobo chinta korte hobe ki responsibility, I mean he said nothing mane constructfully mane dekco je take invite koreche sob beaurocrats ra top beaurocrats se sob bolte jabo keno aami diplomatically I spoke very well mane
no formation or so….
tar pore second day teh a third day te giyechillam
Salim Ullah haq
sta na bolte giye now I remember jeta bollam je Muslim bolchi historically bollam je amader roots tar kotha se tokhon bolche amder History r kotha je you should be truthful, honest and good not because no one has asked you to but you should be truthful, honest and good because I find pleasure in mix mone ache eei kotha bole chilo je history kotha je amader inspire kora uchit je to be good not because someone has asked us to be good but for Morality, rationality are inherent in every religion
toh jeta bolchillam je sedin je I was very tired groomer somai, na groom na tokhon ekto sit kaal chilo, it was January mase toh tokhon Dhaka gelam. Azgar Ali invited us, 6 of us MN Roy, Jyotirmoy ke bollam or bondhu ke niye aai toh first amra toh aami chillam Jyotirmoy, Abdul Rahman, Sayed Ajay, Ali Mohammad je maara geche amader chilo je top people eei Mahmood Hasan vice chancellor ke cheno?
Mahmood Hasan
Mahmood Hasan
who was Chairman Public Commission.
achha taar pore all the top Fazale Karib ICS, Secretary Azgar Ali Shah to chiloi, Afsar home secretary, toh kichu obviously sahos korechilam, tokhon bobishot hochhe Afsar ooi lokta idiot toh who said toh oo bhablo je taar ekta
tar pore naki bolche je, Mr Roy that sounds good but you should not preach or capture power by piracy toh oh toh onno line chole gelo tumi esecho dui kaan diye MN Roy aami dekhlam different what you say capture power, capture power you are in power MN Roy eto aste kotha bolto sposto bhabe sposto ektu word you speak very clearly and vey gombir… you are in power therefore you are afraid of Muslim power why do you think that everyone is as mean as you are. You always think in terms of power taar pore abar repeat korche you are in power therefore you are afraid ekdom stunt tar pore tara tari chute giye ki bolche age ki bolcho ta ja boleche boleche sobai you didn’t say that so that was a he called me many toh chakri chole jabe toh ekhono amar kane baje You are in power therefore you are afraid you see why do you think that everyone is as mean as you are you always think in terms of toh eei jonno ami taar pore er din toh chole gellam tar pore but anyway…..