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  • Born: 8 September 1892, Midnapore in West Bengal
  • Died: 5 December 1963, Lebanon
  • Profession:
  • Recognition: Mentor of Sheikh Mujib
  • National contribution:
  • Hasani? Didn't know that! Death officially due to heart problems, though some have alleged he was poisoned or gassed in his bedroom.
  • Work include:

হোসেন শহীদ সোহ্রাওয়ার্দী, Urdu: حسین شہید سہروردی; - )

Son of a judge

Younger son of Justice Sir Zahid Suhrawardy, a prominent judge of the Calcutta High Court and of Khujastha Akhtar Banu, a noted name in Urdu literature and scholar of Persian. Suhrawardy had an elder brother Shahid Suhrawardy. Hassan Shahid Suhrawardy (24 October 1890 – 5 March 1965), an educationist, poet, linguist, writer, art-critic and diplomat, born in the famous Suhrawardy family of Calcutta. Shahid Suhrawardy was unmarried and died on 3 March 1965 in Karachi.

 

After finishing his education at Calcutta Alia Madrasa he attended St. Xaviers' College, wherefrom he received a Bachelor of Science degree with Honours in Sciences. Though he specialised in science subjects, he was versatile in his quest for knowledge, and he had a knack for language, literature, and humanities. To fulfill his mother's earnest request, he also completed an M.A. degree in Arabic Language and Literature from Calcutta University before his departure for England in 1913. He studied Sciences at Oxford University and received a Bachelor degree with Honours in Science. He also studied Law and Jurisprudence at St Catherine's College, Oxford University and received the coveted B.C.L. degree and, at the age of 26, he completed his Bar-at-Law from Gray's Inn in 1918.

On his return from abroad in 1918, he started his law practice at Calcutta High Court.

After his first wife passed away in 1922, two years after their marriage, leaving behind one daughter and son (who died with pneumonia whilst he was a student in London in 1940) Suhrawardy controversially re-married to Vera Alexandrovna Tiscenko Calder, a russian actress of polish descent who, after her conversion to Islam had changed her name to Begum Noor Jehan. The couple divorced in 1951 and had one son.

Political influence

After returning from UK in 1921, Suhrawardy became active in politics by firstly joining the the Swaraj Party, a group within the Indian National Congress, and became an ardent follower of Chittaranjan Das. After Chittaranjan death he distanced himself from the Swaraj Party and became invloved with the All India Muslim League under Khawaja Nazimuddin and which had people such as Sher-e-Bangla A. K. Fazlul Huq.

Like Chittaranjan Das, he also believed that the independence movement of India would not succeed in the absence of Hindu-Muslim unity.

H.S. Suhrawardy was elected in 1924 to be the Deputy Mayor of Calcutta Municipal Corporation, and he held that position till he resigned in 1927. He worked tirelessly during the late spring and early summer months of 1926 to put an end to Hindu-Muslim riots in Calcutta. By the year 1927, he emerged as the most vocal and articulate defender of Muslim rights in the city of Calcutta; he organised numerous associations, labour unions, and trade unions in Calcutta. He was also instrumental in organising the All-India Khilafat Conference and All-Bengal Muslim Conference in 1928.

Direct Action Day (Bandh Day) leads to Kolkata riots and Bihar & Noakhali genocides

On 16 August 1946 Jinnah ordered to the Muslim League to resort to 'direct action for the achievement of Pakistan' after he failed to convince the Indian Congress to support a plan to rid India of 'British slavery and contemplated future caste-Hindu domination'.

As the Chief Minister of Bengal and prominent member of the Muslim League, Huseyn Suhrawardy felt the 'hortal' (or strike) should be most prominent in Kolkata - the only province ruled by the Muslim League and the only Muslim League government in India at that time.

He ordered government offices, commercial houses and shops to remain close on that day. However, things went out of control and riots broke out between the Muslim and Hindu community. People began butchering each other and soon the skies of Kolkata echoed with the death screams of thousands.

Over 10,000 Hindus were massacred on the four days from 16th August to 20th August of 1946.

The riots then spread nationwide, particularly in Bihar and Noakhali. Both Hindus and Muslims fought each other more or less evenly in Kolkata, but the encounter was mostly one sided in Bihar where mostly Muslims were killed and in Noakhali where mostly Hindus were killed. But on the whole Muslim casualties were heavier.

This 'Direct Action Day' - and in particular the intensity of the Kolkata riot - would be the catalyst for the indepence of India from British Raj a year later in 14 August 1947.

Made an outcast after independence of Pakistan

H.S. Suhrawardy's role in the Kolkata riots seriously eroded his credibility among the leaders and masses of the Hindu community and affected his proposal for 'Sovereign United Bengal' or 'Greater Independent Bengal', the establishment of a state in Eastern India comprising the whole of Bengal, Assam and Bihar - a third dominion alongside India and Pakistan.

In 1947, the balance of power in Bengal shifted from the Muslim League to the Indian National Congress, and Suhrawardy stepped down from the Chief Ministership. Unlike other Muslim League stalwarts of India, he did not leave his hometown immediately for the newly established Pakistan. Anticipating revenge of Hindus against Muslims in Kolkata after the transfer of power, Suhrawardy sought help from Gandhi. Gandhi was persuaded to stay and pacify tempers in Kolkata, but he agreed to do so on the condition that Suhrawardy share the same roof with him so that they could appeal to Muslims and Hindus alike to live in peace. "Adversity makes strange bed-fellows," Gandhi remarked in his prayer meeting.

Once Pakistan was a reality on August 14, 1947, the new Chief Minister of East Bengal Khwaja Nazimuddin set out to outcast the most prominent of the  Bengal Provincial Muslim League - notably H.S. Suhrawardy and Abul Hashim. Khwaja Nazimuddin lost no time in characterising Suhrawardy as an "Indian agent" and an "enemy of Pakistan", and he was literally banished from the political scene of Pakistan by the Jinnah loyalists, both at the center in Karachi and in the province of East Bengal.

Ironically the three men - Khwaja Nazimuddin, Huseyn Suhrawardy, and A.K. Fazlul Huq - would be buried next to each other in Suhrawardy Udyan (named after Suhrawardy) in Dhaka.

Joins Maulana Bhashani's Awami League

Suhrawardy joined East Pakistan Awami Muslim League that Maulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhashani formed and finally took over the leadership from the Maulana. Later renamed Awami League was the first opposition party in Pakistan in those days launched against the Muslim League.

In the 1950s, Suhrawardy worked to strengthen the political parties in East Pakistan to balance the politics of West Pakistan. He, along with other leading Bengali leaders A.K. Fazlul Huq and Maulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhashani, formed a political alliance in the name of Jukta (United) Front which won a landslide victory in 1954 general election of East Pakistan. They routed the Muslim League from East Bengal.

5th Prime Minister of Pakistan

In 1956, Suhrawardy was made the fifth Wazir-e- Azam ("Grand Minister"  or Prime Minister) by President of Pakistan Iskander Mirza after the resignation of Chaudhry Muhammad Ali. He was the second Bengali to become Prime Minister after Khwaja Nazimuddin (Prime Minister from 1951-1953).

He made a significant contribution to the framing of the 1956 constitution of Pakistan. incorporating provisions for civil liberties. In the foreign policy arena, he is considered to be one of the pioneers of Pakistan's pro-United States stand. He was also the first Pakistani Prime Minister to visit China and establish an official diplomatic friendship between Pakistan and China - a friendship that Henry Kissinger would later use to make his now-famous secret trip to China in July 1971.

Commences Pakistan 1st nuclear power program

During 1950s, Pakistan was suffering from severe energy crises.

It was Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy's Prime Ministerial term when Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) was established by a Parliamentary Act of 1956. He also appointed Dr. Nazir Ahmad, a noted physicist and scientist, to be its first Chairman. Under Dr. Nazir Ahmad's direction, Pakistan started its civilian nuclear program. Prime Minister Suhrawardy also allotted PAEC to sat up its new pilot-nuclear labs. He played an important role in establishing of Nuclear research institutes in West Pakistan. He also allowed PAEC to established the first nuclear power plant in Karachi.

However, after his removal from office, the Nuclear Power Plant Project was undermined by a political turmoil in the country. The Pakistani Civilian Nuclear Program was also frozen by Ayub Khan's military regime for more than a decade.

Disqualified from politics under the military regime of Ayub Khan

In order to divert attention from the controversy over the "One Unit" plan as it was called (attempt to consolidate the four provinces of West Pakistan into one province, so as to balance the fact that East Pakistan existed as only one province. The plan was opposed in West Pakistan, and the cause was taken up by the Muslim League and religious parties. Suhrawardy supported the plan, but the vast opposition to it stalled its progress.), Suhrawardy tried to ease economic differences between East and West Pakistan. However, despite his intentions, these initiatives only led to more political frictions, and was worsened when Suhrawardy tried to give more financial allocations to East Pakistan than West Pakistan from aids and grants. Such moves led to a threat of dismissal looming over Suhrawardy's head, and he resigned in 1957.

Fight with Ayub Khan

The appearance of Ayub Khan as the president and chief martial law administrator on October 27, 1958 was undoubtedly a nail in the coffin of the semblance of a moribund democracy in Pakistan.

As a result of his having control of the Pakistan Army,

Ayub moved to have a constitution created, and this was completed in 1961. A fairly secular person by nature, Ayub Khan's constitution reflected his personal views of politicians and the use of religion in politics.

In 1962, he pushed through a new constitution that while it did give due respect to Islam, it did not declare Islam the state religion of the country. It also provided for election of the President by 80,000 (later raised to 120,000) Basic Democrats—men who could theoretically make their own choice but who were essentially under his control. He justified this as analogous to the Electoral College in the United States and cited Thomas Jefferson as his inspiration. The government "guided" the press though his take over of key opposition papers and, while Ayub permitted a National Assembly, it had only limited powers.

The newly installed dictator of Pakistan knew well that H.S. Suhrawardy was a stumbling block in the design and implementation of his tailor-made Constitution. Therefore, Ayub Khan, the self-declared dictator of Pakistan, quietly approached him to cooperate with the Constitution making process of the military regime. Although the constitution making and democracy building were his chief concerns during his political career in Pakistan, he bluntly refused to lend any stamp of legitimacy to the illegitimate dictatorial regime of Ayub Khan. As a dedicated champion of genuine parliamentary democracy in Pakistan, he refused to endorse Ayub Khan's illegal seizure of state power.

H.S. Suhrawardy was one of the top political leaders in Pakistan who were banned from politics through the imposition of the infamous Elective Bodies Disqualification Order (EBDO) on August 7,1959. He was also falsely accused of the violation of the EBDO in July 1960, and he was disqualified to be engaged in country's political process. To heighten Suhrawardy's shame Ayub Khan had him arrested on flimsy charge on January 30, 1962 and put in a solitary confinement in the Central jail of Karachi without any trial on charges of "anti-state activities" under the 1952 Security of Pakistan Act.

Instead of bowing down to Ayub Khan's smearing and torturing tactics, he decided to challenge the legality of the patently false and baseless allegations.

Once the first phase of Ayub Khan's consolidation of state power through the implementation of 'Basic Democracy' was complete, H.S. Suhrawardy was released from jail on August 19,1962.

After his release from jail, he had launched an anti-Ayub movement in both wings of Pakistan for the restoration of democracy. To him, Ayub Khan's Basic Democracy was nothing but a mockery in the name of democracy. Instead of becoming a collaborator of a military dictator, he decided to be the most authentic dissenting voice against the regime.

In Pakistan the Khayaban-e-Suhrawardy in Islamabad is named after Suhrawardy as tribute to him.

National memorial at Suhrawardy Udyan

Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy died in Lebanon in 1963. His death was officially due to complications from heart problems, though some have alleged he was poisoned or gassed in his bedroom. After a befitting funeral attended by a huge crowd, he was buried at Ramna Race Course in Dhaka - later to be renamed Suhrawardy Udyan সোহরাওয়ার্দী উদ্যান as tribute to Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy.

Suhrawardy Udyan  would become further etched in history as it was here that Sheikh Mujibur Rahman made his historic "This time the struggle is for our freedom" speech that inspired Bengalis to prepare for the freedom struggle. The original Flag of Bangladesh was also hoisted here for the second time since it was first unfurled at the University of Dhaka and the first time it was flown at such a large public gathering in Bangladesh. It was also the site of the centuries old Ramna Kali Mandir, a Hindu temple and Dhaka landmark that was razed to the ground by the Pakistan Army on March 27th, 1971 in a massacre that led to the death of over 100 people.

Incidentally it became the setting for the surrender of Pakistan Army under Lt. Gen. A. A. K. Niazi on December 16, 1971 after their defeat in the Bangladesh Liberation War to the allied forces of Mitro Bahini led by Jagjit Singh Aurora. The instrument of surrender was signed at this place and the date is celebrated by Bangladeshis as Victory Day. The place is currently maintained as historic park with an eternal flame setup in 1996 to symbolise freedom.

 

 

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