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Bangabandhu in Kolkata: A young leader who fought famine and riots

  • Published at 11:06 pm March 18th, 2021
Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman
Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman addressing the Constituent Assembly on April 10, 1972 mujib100.gov.bd

This is the third instalment of a 10-part series on the life and work of our founding father, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman

Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahaman made his entry into national politics in the 1940s, just before the partition of India in 1947, which divided the subcontinent into two independent nations, India and Pakistan.

After passing the Matriculation exam from Gopalganj Missionary School, the young Bangabandhu shifted to Kolkata and was admitted to Calcutta Islamia College as an intermediate student in the humanities During this time, he had lodgings in room 24 at Baker Hostel.

As a college student, the young Bangabandhu actively participated in the movement for the creation of Pakistan, a separate state for Muslims. 

“I believed that we would have to create Pakistan and that without it Muslims had no future in our part of the world. The one newspaper that I read was the Azad and I felt that all I read in it was true. I went to Calcutta soon after my examinations. I began attending meetings there too. I also went to Madaripur and set up a Muslim Students' League there,” Bangabandhu wrote in his “Unfinished Memoirs”.


Also Read - A young leader in the making


Soon after beginning studies at Islamia College, Bangabandhu’s popularity among the students rose high and he was elected general secretary of Islamia College Students' Union in 1946.

He wrote in his memoirs: “Around this time, I became very popular among the students of Islamia College. I managed to nominate a candidate who was even able to defeat the official students’ league candidate. This college was the heart of the student movement for the freedom of our country.”

During his stay in Kolkata, young Bangabandhu joined the Muslim League to work for the rights of Bengali Muslims. 

This was the time when Bangabandhu used to meet his mentor Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy at the latter’s house often to quench his thirst for politics.

In 1943, Bangabandhu became a member of provincial Muslim League council. After that, Mujib took part in the conference of the All Bengal Muslim Students' League held at Kushtia, where he played a significant role. He was also elected secretary of Faridpur District Association in 1944.

During the Second World War in 1943, a terrible famine broke out in the region where between and two million people died.

Young Bangabnandhu stepped up during this national crisis and fully involved himself in volunteer work to feed people all over Bengal, including Kolkata and some parts of East Bengal, as Bangladesh was known at the time.


Also Read - A leader is born


Bangabandhu wrote in his memoirs: “It was the time that Mr Suhrawardy organized gruel kitchens. I too decided to stop studying and joined in the effort to help the distressed. We opened a few gruel kitchens. We could try to give the poor at least one meal a day.”

After dealing with the famine, Bangabandhu got involved in tackling Hindu-Muslim riots before the partition of India in 1947.

The riots started after the declaration of Muhammad Ali jinah’s “Direct Action Day” on August 16, 1946.

This day is also known for the 1946 Calcutta Killings, which led to large-scale violence between Muslims and Hindus in the city of Calcutta [now Kolkata] in the Bengal province of British India.

Bangabandhu worked tirelessly to save people from the devastation of the riots in Kolkata and in other parts of Bengal.

He wrote: “Countless people had been hurt; we had to send them to Calcutta Medical College and Campbell and Islamic Hospital. We were receiving telephone calls by the minute from people pleading with us to rescue them and telling us that they were trapped and that their children would be murdered before the night had passed. A few of us sat by the telephone, taking down the phone numbers and addresses of the callers. The League office had become a refugee camp. The Islamia College gate was kept open to admit people fleeing from attacks.”

During his Kolkata days, Bangabandhu travelled to Delhi, Jessore, Pabna, Kushtia and some other big cities and made connections with local leaders, thus widening his political circle.

Bangabandhu obtained his Bachelor of Arts degree from Islamia College under Calcutta University in 1947. 

Thus his journey as a citizen of Pakistan commenced along with his struggle for the rights of the people. It would turn him into the greatest leader who would inspire the Bangalis to achieve a country of their own.

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