The Test of Time - my life and days
Events Leading Up to the Transfer of Power
- The Socio-Political Setting
One can get a glimpse into the socio-economic conditions of East Bengal during the early part of this century from the life stories of Maulvi Tamizuddin Khan as recorded by him till 1926
The overwhelming impression one gets from this account is that East Bengal at that time was entirely rural, with agriculture as the almost only economic activity of the people. The whole social fabric was rooted in agriculture and the class differentiation was based on the ownership of land. The only city worth the name was Calcutta in West Bengal; some industries had already come up there, for which raw materials like jute were being produced in East Bengal. In a very real sense, East Bengal grew as a hinterland of Calcutta, with prices of cash crops like jute being determined largely by the conduct and manipulations of the jute traders and jute industry based in or around Calcutta. The Divisional, District and Subdivisional towns in East Bengal had very few urban attributes, and had little influence on economic activities except through arising demand for food-cereals, vegetables, fish, meat and poultry. In the villages, the Hindus owned most of the landed property, because they were smart enough to get settlement of land under Permanent Settlement arrangements while the Muslims were still brooding over the loss of their empire.
The Hindus thus got an upper hand in the villages although they were in a minority. The farmers were almost all Muslims who were working on their own lands in come cases, and on lands owned by Hindus in most cases, either under tenancy arrangements, or on sharecrop basis. The Hindus generally had better income, and could, therefore, send their children for ‘English’ education, to which Muslims were still averse. Office employment therefore went to the Hindus – in Calcutta, and in the Divisional, District and Sub-divisional towns. The growing trade and commerce, and the profession like lawyers and doctors were also almost monopolised by the Hindus. These urban classes, however, had their roots in villages where their families¾ joint families in most cases¾ used to live. The urban employees were regular visitors to their village homes, and their urban savings went into purchase of agricultural land, mostly from Muslims, who were forced to sell due to distress, arising from growing families, dwindling sources of income, and no alternative avenues of employment. The result was the emergence of a process of transfer of agricultural land from Muslim cultivators to Hindu non-cultivating middlemen, which further strengthened the position of the latter in the social hierarchy in the village.
As for the Muslims, most of them were poor cultivators; but there were some families which were slightly better-off, and owned landed property by settlement from the higher grades of middlemen created by the Permanent Settlement, who were mostly Hindus. It so happened that most of these better off Muslim families claimed some non-Bengali origin, whereas the majority of the Muslim cultivators were in fact converts, presumably from lower class Hindus who suffered a lot in the hands of their upper class co-religionists. However that may be, all Muslims in the villages were cultivators, a few big and the majority small. The small cultivators had little land of their own, and mostly worked as sharecroppers on land owned by others, Muslims and Hindus. Some small trades and crafts developed in the villages and every village was more or less self-sufficient; but these trades and crafts belonged to the Hindus, e.g. carpenters, barbers, washermen, blacksmiths, fishermen etc. The Muslims were still living in the past, and were totally confused about what to do¾ socially, educationally, and professionally. In this confusion, some kind of a sense of direction was being provided by a few Muslim thinkers of India, but the emphasis still seemed to be on making them better Muslims. Then in 1906 the all-India Muslim League held a conference in Dacca, out of which for the first time evolved a comprehensive objective-plan for the Muslims of India, covering social, political, economic, educational and intellectual aspects. The objectives formulated were brilliant, but their implementation proved to be a highly complicated matter, and depended on the willing cooperation and participation of three important parties: the Muslims who would be the beneficiaries but had no means or resources of their own, the Hindus who could help but were not willing to, and the ruling British Government who were yet to make up their mind as to what to do in the matter of pulling up the Muslims and rehabilitating them in the socio-economic fabric of the country. The movement, however, gained momentum gradually, thus initiating a process of awakening among the Muslims for greater self-confidence, for secular education side by side with religious education, and for making strenuous efforts for getting into Government employment. Extremely limited as they were, these opportunities, however, remained confined only to a few of the Muslim families who had strong will-power and determination, plus the capability in terms of material resources¾ owned or borrowed. Giving children proper education turned out to be the main concern of these families, whose determination goaded them to face all odds in the way.
Being solely dependent on agriculture, the majority of the Muslims were poor, and their poverty went on increasing, mainly due to two factors¾ growing size of their families, and dwindling size of their land holdings. Absence of any alternative source of income confirmed their poverty, and they grew fatalistic in a way which was contrary to the teachings of Islam. They were not averse to doing hard work, or making additional efforts; but they could not see how their own efforts would help in improving their lot. They were thus carrying on the work of farming on whatever land they could mobilise in the traditional way handed down from one generation to another. Most of them were mere subsistence farmers, except where a small quantity of jute was grown for some cash income to meet the family’s urgent requirements. There was virtual absence of any idea of producing a crop for a market, or of improving production practices or methods for producing varieties or qualities that the consumers may want. Children were born into families, as also into their occupation of the type of farming to which they were accustomed. In this their dependence on Nature was total, and there was hardly and attempt at supplementing Nature’s gifts to the process of producing crops on land, or the growth of fish in water.
Of the bounties of Nature, the most important and influential in the life of the people was, and continues to be, the annual flood. In a very real sense, water, rain, river and flood have been the lifeline of East Bengal since its very inception. Flood water has worked as natural fertilizer to the soil, but for which farming would have been hardly possible. In addition, it served as the almost exclusive means of transport of men and materials in rural East Bengal, and the whole duration of the flood¾ four months or so¾ was called the flood or rainy season. During this season, Villages in East Bengal still look like little islands, and small country boats become the only means of transport from one village to another, even from one house to another. An entire world of sports, music and poetry has developed, which is rooted in the flood season. Field work is not possible during this season, and some farmers do little business in the trade, performing the preliminary marketing functions of assembling and transport. On the social side, this became the season of family visits to friends and relations, and country boats of different sizes and shapes, and coloured and decorated in different manners depending on the financial capability of the owners, became a regular sight in and around the villages. Many of these boats were available on hire, and some of the big ones crossed the mighty rivers¾ Padma, Jamuna and Meghna¾ at considerable risk.
The country boat was a very important part of the life of the people in villages. As a vehicle for transport, it carried people from village to village, and even from one house to another during the rainy season; these boats were of different sizes, some covered and some uncovered. There were two types of boats which became quite important though small in number; one was the big boat for carrying large volumes and heavy weights of merchandise, such as rice paddy, timber and the special grass for making thatch roofs of houses. These boats were specially built, and were classified according to the weights they could carry.
The second type of boat that developed was called ‘panshi’, which was a mini-household floating on water having bare minimum facilities for board, lodge, rest and recreation for a few days and nights. These boats varied in sizes, engineering feats, and physical facilities available. In East Bengal, the ‘panshi’ boat soon became a symbol of prosperity and affluence, and the respect, esteem and awe it inspired among the people depended on its size, quality, facilities and sophistication. Sometimes people used to live in these for months together; some of these were available on hire, and some were used as floating hotels.
In this world of subsistence farmers and self-sufficient villages, an outward look towards occupations and opportunities available beyond the frontiers of the village was very rare; and although some of the poorest families moved to southern Assam in search of new land to live and work on, other families in the village continued with little urge for any change. Farm people take a very very long time to change, nay, even to begin to change; and this urge to change must come through a long process of education of at least two generations, in the right kind of arts, sciences and technology. Facilities for these created till then were so far out of the reach of the Muslims that thinking of educating the children was considered to be an act requiring great courage, overcoming criticism, some ability to see the future, and some access to the necessary financial resources. Some opportunities were available for mobilizing resources form friends and relations, old, new, or yet to be arranged; but the three other pre-requisites had to grow within the families concerned, which were conspicuous by their absence. The urge to educate children, therefore, remained a function of the family’s own initiative and determination; bold positive efforts had to be made, and painful sacrifice had to be undergone.
The family’s determination to educate children had to be fully reflected in the child himself; in fact it was more his determination and performance at studies which inspired the family to undergo the big sacrifices that had to be made. Male children had the opportunity of going to primary schools, either in the village or in a neighbouring village; these schools were all set up through voluntary efforts, and maintained by private donations, public subscriptions mostly in kind, some fees from students, and some grant from Government. There were also Middle grade schools upto class VI, mostly sponsored by the local zeminder, but maintained by students’ fees and Government grants. Then there were the High Schools, initiated and supported in the same manner. In all these institutions the number of Muslim students was very small to begin with, and a Muslim student had to work under so many odds. Dropouts among Muslim students were many; but those that remained got encouragement from all friends and relations of their families. Those that were good in their studies got encouragement even from the Hindus, teachers and others. A Muslim student at High School was in most cases away from his family, and had to find a family nearer the venue of the school, which would agree to provide lodging and board to him. This was difficult but not impossible; usually this was in exchange for some private tuition for the minor children in the family, or even of some grown-ups going to school or college. This system was quite in vogue in earlier days, and prevails even now in many villages and small towns. Sometimes the tutored included girls, and in some places these girls were later married to their tutors. There were also instances of relatively richer families having their eyes on good educated young men, or brilliant students as prospective sons-in-law, and taking responsibility for bearing their educational expenses in full or in part. In many cases this proved to be a good way of financing higher education for poor but meritorious youngmen.
An educated Muslim youngman, graduating from the University was almost immediately thrown into a number of duties, obligations and responsibilities. He was required to find a job immediately to help his family, and to educate his own younger brothers, and sometimes his brothers-in-law, and sometimes their children. He was supposed at least to find board and lodging for them in his own establishment which was itself new, and in many cases temporary and improvised. This did create problems at times; but on the whole, it worked fairly well, and a place to stay in a town, the venue of a good high school or college, proved to be a great advantage to many budding young students of the extended family.
An educated Muslim had to begin his life under severe stresses and strains; he had little time to prepare for a job, the expectations of his family and near and dear ones were too heavy for him, and he had to face severe competition in his job or profession to which he was a new entrant. There was the absence of a spontaneous welcome from senior colleagues in the profession, which provides such a great inspiration and encouragement to a new entrant. This became more pronounced in the case of lawyers, in which case the ready availability of a senior was something like a sine qua non. All established lawyers have had the advantage of the availability of a senior, either in the family, or in the extended family, or in the community. And yet it is here that the Muslim lawyer had his biggest difficulty; he had per force to work under a senior Hindu lawyer, whose guidance in most cases was grudging rather than willing. Another difficulty cropped up: a Muslim lawyer had to provide leadership in socio-politico-cultural activities of the Muslim community, which were not to the liking, in most cases, of the Hindus. ‘Anjumans were coming into existence in many towns, the Muslim League was taking some hesitant steps in politics, the non-communal Praja movement was coming up, and the Hindu dominated Congress had Already settled down and was trying to emerge as the only political party in India, representing both the Hindus and the Muslims. The Congress, however, failed to inspire enough confidence among the Muslims, with the result that the Muslims started their own organisations which were communal in composition, and therefore, not to the liking of the Hindus. Politics was thus mixed up with the profession for a Muslim lawyer or doctor or even teachers. Those in Government service were, however, prevented from doing active politics, though unofficially they all had their sympathy with the cause, which they tried to help in all possible ways; even Muslim students worded for these bodies without sacrificing their studies. By then, the Government initiated a policy of helping educated Muslims by employing some of them, and encouraging them to organise themselves to safeguard their interests. The Government of India Acts 1909 and 1919 created some opportunities for Muslims to take part in some election activities, and some Muslims were appointed to the Governor General’s Executive Council some lawyers were appointed Government pleaders in districts and subdivisions, some appointed Deputy Magistrates and Munsifs, and some distinguished lawyers even as High Court Judges. All these activities boosted up the morale of the emerging Muslim educated class and there was increasing eagerness in the community for acquiring higher education, and for sharing the benefits it brought. It was a costly affair, and only some families could really take advantage of it.
The upcoming Muslim lawyers were compelled by circumstances to take part in political activities and in whatever election opportunities were thrown open. There were the Local Bodies like the Union Boards, Local Boards and District Boards, and the Provincial and Central Legislatures. Joint electorate was the order of the day, and in some cases there was reservation of seats for Muslims. Although Muslims were in a majority in the electorate, the Hindus were better organisers of election matters, and therefore, a Muslim candidate for election to a local body or provincial or National legislature had to depend on the blessings and support of the more resourceful Hindu community, or at least of its influential members. Maulvi Tamizuddin Khan was rather lucky in getting such help and support by dint of his merit, personal qualities, and reputation of being scrupulously honest. Through his good work as the Secretary of “Anjuman-i-Islamia”, as also of the Faridpur District Congress and Khilafat Committees, Maulvi Saheb had already created a position for himself in public life, and it was not difficult for him to get elected as Vice-chairman of the Municipality in 1915 and Chairman of the District Board later. He joined Muslim League in 1915; in those days the political parties and groupings were not mutually exclusive; but there were growing tensions, and conflicts and contradictions, due to which he left Congress in 1926.
- Politics in the years 1926-1947
These experiences were good preparations for Maulvi Khan for later life and activities in the realm of politics, and in 1926 he was elected to the Bengal Legislative Council from Faridpur-Rajbari constituency by an overwhelming majority, defeating a very influential Congress candidate Lal Miah, the local zeminder. The Council witnessed some hectic activities regarding the election of the Speaker: the contestants were Sir Abdur Rahim and Mr. A.K. Ghaznavi; Maulvi Saheb supported Sir Abdur Rahim in this contest. This Council was short-lived, though eventful, due to no confidence against Minister Nawab Mosharraf Hossain of Jalpaiguri, which however was defeated. A deadlock developed in the Legislature due to conflict between elected and nominated Members, and the Assembly was dissolved in 1928/1929. Fresh elections were held in 1930, and Maulvi Khan this time contested and won from Madaripur-Gopalganj constituency, having surrendered his own to a friend Khan Bahadur Atiuzzaman Choudhury, who was Chairman, Faridpur District Board. This arrangement must have been disadvantageous to Maulvi Khan, but he was persuaded into accepting it because everybody, and he himself, was confident that he could get elected from any constituency, in Faridpur, and even outside, as was proved lather in 1945.
As a Member of the Legislative Council, Maulvi Tamizuddin Khan took active interest and a prominent part in the work before the Assembly and proceedings of the House. He organised and became Secretary of the Praja Party in the House, and was elected Member of the Franchise Commission and the Education Advisory Committee. He had opportunities to work with men like Sir Abdur Rahim, Khan Bahadur Abdul Momen, Khwaja Nazimuddin and Nawab K.G.M. Faruqui, who were Members/Ministers of the Council. He was thus able to make his contributions to the emerging educational policies specially for the Muslims, the growing demand for adult franchise with reservation of seats for Communities and separate electorates, which were recognised in the Govt. of India Act 1935. He took a prominent part in the formulation of the Bengal Tenancy Amendment Act, and fought vigorously for the Tenant’s right to transfer land, and against the Landlords’ right of preemption. Not that all these salutary reforms were introduced then and there, but the causes were well taken and strongly advocated by the Praja Party in the assembly, and created a great enthusiasm among the people outside, specially the tenants who constituted the biggest majority of the population. The anti-people activities of Ghaza-Chakra Ministry (a coalition Ministry including Sir A. K. Ghaznavi and Mr. B. Chakraborti) were thoroughly exposed, and foundations were well laid for a great Praja movement manifested lather on. Through his work as Member of the Council, Maulvi Tamizuddin Khan came in close contact with Sir Azizul Huq, Nawab Ali Choudhury, Mr. A.K. Fazlul Huq, Mr. P.C. Roy and other leaders. His role as a young progressive Muslim leader must have been important because he was offered the title of Khan Bahadur, which he, however, declined to accept. He emerged as a good progressive political leader of the Muslims. These were the days of the Communal Award (1933) and the Govt. of India Act 1935, which interalia provided for a federal form of government at the centre, and full autonomy in the Provinces and abolition of dyarchy of the Act of 1919. The Provincial part of the Act of 1935 was accepted, and elections under the new system held in 1937. Hectic political activities began among the Muslims, and in addition to the Muslim League party, which till then existed more in name than in substance, a Krishak Praja Party was started by Mr. A.K. Fazlul Huq, and a United Muslim Party by the Nawab Bahadur of Dacca and his associates mostly from the Khwaja family and its offshoots. The Congress was the most important party of the Hindus and some dissenting Muslims. There was the possibility of the Muslim vote being divided so that the Congress-supported candidates would have better chance and prospects. This apprehension brought the Muslim leaders closer, and efforts were afoot to bring them together under one party and flag. Attempts were made to merge the United Muslim Party (UMP) with the Muslim League, which however did not succeed as such; but agreement was reached to the effect that they would fight the election jointly, which meant that they would avoid putting up candidates in the same constituency, and both parties would work for the single candidate. The question of jointly selecting a candidate by ML and UMP was yet unresolved, but the arrangement of avoiding an in-fight and supporting each other’s candidates worked reasonably well. In Faridpur itself, a meeting was held to explore possibilities of unity, in which Maulvi Tamizuddin Khan took prominent part; a Committee was also appointed composed of Mr. M. A. Jinnah, Mr. A. K. Fazlul Huq and Nawab Bahadur of Dacca, which though failed in its main purpose, succeeded in bringing about an understanding that the two groups would cooperate in avoiding cut-throat competition and helping each other’s candidates.
Maulvi Tamizuddin Khan contested the election from Faridpur and won by a comfortable majority against the formidable Congress candidate Mr. Humayun Kabir, Maulvi Saheb contesting as a Muslim League candidate. Others who got elected were Mohan Miah, Mr. Ahmad Ali Mridha, Khondker Shamsuddin Ahmed, Mr. Sekander Ali, Mr. Ghyasuddin Choudhury, among others, from different constituencies of Faridpur. The success of the candidates in this election was more due to the personal popularity than to party affiliation and activities, which were limited anyway. Certificates obtained by candidates from personalities like Pir Sahebs of Furfura, Sarsina etc. and Maulana Bhasani carried great weight with the voters. The Krishak Praja Party of Mr. A.K. Fazlul Huq fought the elections on its own ticket, and did not join hands with the combined effort of ML and UMP, with the result that in all the Muslim constituencies there were at least two candidates; in fact there were more. The biggest such fight was in Patuakhali, Barisal, between Mr. A.K. Fazlul Huq and Sir K. Nazimuddin, in which the latter lost heavily. In Bengal as a whole, the Muslim seats were almost equally divided between the Muslim League, the United Muslim Party and the Krishak Praja Party (KPP), the balance being held by the Congress and the Europeans. The Muslim leaders were worried over this, and parleys were being regularly held to evolve common grounds among Muslim MLA’s and MLCs so that a Hindu Congress-dominated Govt. could be avoided. As a result of these parleys in which Mr. H. S. Suhrawardy played a key role, he himself resigned from one of his seats in Calcutta and got K. Nazimuddin elected as MLA. A Coalition was formed between KPP and ML/UMP, and soon ML/UMP merged into the Muslim League Parliamentary Party. In 1937 a Coalition Govt. was formed by Mr. A.K. Fazlul Huq as Chief Minister and Education Minister, K. Nazimuddin as Home Minister, Mr. Nalini Ranjan Sarker as Finance Minister, Syed Nausher Ali as Health Minister, and Nawab Bahadur of Dacca, Maharaja of Burdwan as important Ministers. Pressure was mounting on Mr. A.K. Fazlul Huq and Muslim members of the Coalition Party to join Muslim League, which he did in early 1938. Bengal thus became a great bastion of power for the Muslim League, contrary to all other Muslim majority provinces of India. There appears to have been an understanding that Maulvi Tamizuddin Khan would be elected Speaker of the Assembly, which however did not materialise; Sir Azizul Huq was elected Speaker instead. As it happened, This Cabinet was dominated by big landlords and business magnates, a fact pointedly inconsistent with progressive thinking in Bengal represented by the Praja Party and the majority in the Muslim League Party. Real Leftist parties were yet to make their mark; nonetheless, the mischief of vested interests dominating the Cabinet was so big that tensions and misunderstandings cropped up within the cabinet with Syed Nausher Ali playing the leading role in the dissenting group. An Assembly Praja Party was formed by Maulvi Tamizuddin Khan and several others, which elicited support from a large number of members coming form rural areas. And a no-confidence against the Government was being seriously talked about. Differences with Syed Nausher Ali became so serious that he was asked to resign which he refused to do, and the entire Cabinet had to resign. A new Cabinet was formed including all Ministers except Syed Nausher Ali, and two new Ministers were taken in: Maulvi Tamizuddin Khan and Mr. Shamsuddin Ahmed, both from Faridpur. Both of them were in the new Assembly Praja Party; which was an indication that political cognizance had to be taken of the slowly emerging progressive elements within the legislature and outside. Mr. Fazlul Huq himself might not have disliked it in his heart of hearts, because afterall the Praja Party was his own creation, and at no time in his life did he really dissociate himself from it.
As Minister, Maulvi Tamizuddin Khan was placed in charge of the Medical and Public Health Department; during this time the first Muslim eye-surgeon was appointed in the Calcutta Medical College Hospital Dr. T. Ahmed, over which there was a great row created by the Hindus, and Governor’s intervention was sought; Maulvi Tamizuddin Khan took a stand, explained the position to the Governor who agreed, and the appointment was not disturbed. In 1939 Mr. Shamsuddin Ahmed resigned presumably on personal grounds, and Maulvi Tamizuddin Khan got the portfolio of Agriculture; soon afterwards there was a reallocation of portfolios, and Maulvi Tamizuddin Khan became Minister for Agriculture and Industries.
Maulvi Tamizuddin Khan was blessed with two more daughters, Kulsum (1929), and Razia (1935). He suffered a great personal tragedy in 1939; during a visit to Darjeeling, Begum Khan had a fall from rickshaw, had a prolonged suffering, and ultimately died in December 1939 leaving three daughters; she lies buried in Tilzala graveyard in Calcutta. Maulvi Khan married Atiqua Khanam of Noakhali later. Mrs. Tamizuddin Khan is still alive.
These were days of great political developments in India; the second World War was on, Japan was occupying one Asian country after another, the Bengali leader Subhas Bose was in Japan actively helping her in her advances towards India; the Congress Governments in the Provinces resigned and declared an action-programme of ‘Quit India’ for the British rulers, the Muslim League aggressively working for a separate homeland for Muslims, Pakistan, and the British Government both at home and in India, was in utmost confusion as to policy and action. Mr. A.K. Fazlul Huq put his heart and soul in the work of the Muslim League, and people lovingly gave him the title of ‘Sher-e-Bangla’; in fact he roared like a lion in public meetings not only in Bengal but all over India. The Sind Premier M.A. Khuro joined the Muslim League and pressure was everyday mounting on the Unionist Cabinet of Punjab and the Congress Cabinet of North West Frontier Province (NWFP) to join the movement for Pakistan, which in effect meant joining the Muslim League. It was not easy for these Governments to do so, with the result that sharp differences started growing between the policies of these Governments and the outlook and thinking of the people in these Provinces. It was becoming increasingly clear that the Muslims of India were really committing themselves to the demand for Pakistan, and it was difficult for any Muslim leader to remain outside the fold. At every annual session of the ML, attendance was unbelievably large, and demand for a separate homeland for the Muslims was asserted categorically, strongly and aggressively. The Bengal contingent played a leading role in all these meetings, and Maulvi Tamizuddin Khan Played his part well in organising and enthusing the delegations from Bengal, and holding series of public meetings all over the Province in support of Pakistan. The most crucial meeting of the ML was held in 1940 in Lahore, in which the famous Pakistan resolution was moved by Sher-e-Bangla and adopted unanimously with great enthusiasm, and with a dedication and commitment unparalleled in the history of political movements, Maulvi Tamizuddin Khan attended this session as a leader of the Bengal delegation.
Two measures were adopted during this tenure of Maulvi Tamizuddin Minister for Agriculture and Industry: the Jute Regulation Scheme in consultation with the Government of Assam, and the Rural Reconstruction Scheme. These were pioneering measures in the areas concerned, and were followed in subsequent years by more elaborate and sophisticated schemes of control on the production and marketing of jute, and rural development of a comprehensive nature and increasingly becoming a prime mover of socio economic development. Government intervention in both of these matters has gone so far by now that the reverse trend has already started, namely a policy of decontrol, denationalisation and disinvestment. The private sector has now a big share in jute manufactures and in the marketing of jute and jute products, both internal and external. In rural development, attempts are being made to ensure and secure people’s participation to the maximum possible extent.
Several beneficial measures were adopted or introduced by the Coalition Government of Mr. Fazlul Huq: the Sakhawat Memorial Girls High School and the Lady Brabourne College in Calcutta for Muslim girls, the Islamia College for Muslim Boys, the Bengal Agricultural Debtors’ act to relieve the borrowing peasants from the oppression of the money-lenders/land grabbers, the setting up of a Land Revenue Commission for land reform, the introduction of the Secondary Education Bill, the establishment of the Fazlul Huq Muslim Hall in the University of Dacca and a large number of schools and colleges in rural areas which went to the benefit of the Muslims.
The Coalition Government of Mr. Fazlul Huq continued to work and take certain beneficial measures inspite of tensions within the Parliamentary Party. The most important event which created this tension was the appointment of Mr. Fazlul Huq (as Chief Minister of Bengal) to the Viceroy’s Defense Council set up on the breakout of the Second World War. The Muslim League under the leadership of Mr. Jinnah had decided against cooperating with the Government in its war efforts until its demands were met, and Mr. Jinnah asked all Muslim League Chief Ministers to resign from the Defense Council; the Chief Ministers of Punjab and Sind resigned, but Mr. Fazlul Huq refused to do so, and pointed out his responsibility as a Chief Minister as distinct from that as a Muslim Leaguer; one should probably keep in mind that he became a Chief Minister first and then a Muslim Leaguer. Be that as it may. Mr. Fazlul Huq continued to serve on the Defense Council, and Mr. Jinnah persisted in demanding his resignation. An acrimonious debate and exchange of letters took place between them, the whole situation took an ugly and personal turn, and Mr. Jinnah expelled Mr. Fazlul Huq from the Muslim League towards the end of 1940. This created a cleavage within the parliamentary party in Bengal, and many Muslim MLA’s deserted the party. In the meantime, Sir Azizul Huq, the Assembly Speaker, joined the interim Central Government with Jawahar Lal Nehru and Liaquat Ali Khan, and Syed Nausher Ali was elected Speaker. The crisis in the Parliamentary Party deepened, the second coalition Government of Mr. Fazlul Huq fell, the coalition was broken, and Mr. Fazlul Huq formed a new Coalition with Mr. Shyama Prasad Mookerjee and his supporters, and formed a new Government called Shyama-Huq Ministry, and the Muslim League was thrown into Opposition, a rather unique experience for them.
The Muslim League Parliamentary party in opposition conducted itself well; its leaders were Khwaja Nazimuddin, Mr. H.S. Suhrawardy, Mr. Abdur Rahman Siddiqui, Maulvi Tamizuddin Khan, Mr. Nurul Amin, Mr. Fazlur Rahman and Mr. Mohammad Ali of Bogra. The majority of the Muslim MLA’s and MLC’s belonged to this party, and the Muslims of Bengal were increasingly coming round to support this party, despite the personal popularity of Mr. Fazlul Huq; even he had to face black flag demonstrations from the public led by students. Tension went on mounting within the Parliament and also outside in the country; Maulvi Tamizuddin Khan worked hard for the consolidation of the Muslim League in and out of the Assembly. At this time, a seemingly careless remark by Mr. Shyama P. Mookerjee added fuel to the already existing fire of opposition; participating in a debate, Mr. Mookerjee said he would never be guided by the Leader of the Opposition or the Leader of the ‘Goondas’; this created a big row within the house, which was transmitted almost immediately to the public outside, and the entire Muslim population took serious exception to this act of misconduct on the part of the Coalition partner of Mr. Fazlul Huq. Hindu-Muslim tension was worsening, the law and order situation was deteriorating, the Government’s war efforts were being hampered, scorched earth and boat destruction policies were being carried out and the situation was at its worst in the district of Midnapur where opposition by the Hindus led by Congress took a violent turn. The district magistrate Mr. N.M. Khan took strong action and a few persons were killed. Mr. Mokerjee wanted action against him on which the Cabinet was divided; Governor turned down any proposal for action against Mr. Khan, and differences deepened between the Governor and the Cabinet. Heated discussions took place within the House and outside, and the differences no longer remained secret. The Governor asked Mr. Fazlul Huq to tender resignation of the Cabinet which refused to do. The Governor then dismissed Mr. Fazlul Huq and his Cabinet, and appointed a new Cabinet with K. Nazimuddin as Chief Minister which included Mr. Suhrawardy, Maulvi Tamizuddin Khan, Syed Muazzamuddin Hosain and several non-congresses Hindus. This was also a Coalition of Muslim League, Independent Hindus and Europeans who promised support. The new Government started form 1942, in which K. Nazimuddin was Home Minister, Mr. Suhrawardy the Minister for Civil Supplies, and Maulvi Tamizuddin Khan Minister for Education. This was the height of the second World War, and Japan was advancing everyday towards India; therefore, the new Government had to work under very heavy constraints, and the Province faced its severest famine ever in 1943, which caused a toll of deaths from starvation. The Ministry had a rather precarious existence, depending on the vote of the European group of MLA’s and yet not supporting the war efforts whole-heartedly. As the Education Minister, Maulvi Tamizuddin Khan re-introduced the Secondary Education Bill, to which the Hindu members, even of the Cabinet, were deadly opposed. Mr. Fazlul Huq’s Progressive Assembly Party (now shrunken in size), the Congress members en bloc, and Independent Hindus in Opposition put up a severe battle indeed on the floor of the Assembly, more pointedly on the food situation, and serious charges of maladministration and corruption were brought against the Government and their appointed agents for handling food. The Government had to face criticism on many fronts and from many quarters; during this time, in early 1945 the Government lost in a vote on a cut-motion of minor importance, one of those in which the result of voting is treated as immaterial by mutual agreement so much so that even the Whips of the Government party were absent from the House. But Speaker Syed Nausher Ali’s view was different; he thought that this was material vote, and gave his decision that the Government could no longer remain in power. The increasing unpopularity of the Government on the food problem, the withdrawal of support by the Hindu members of the Government party, and the non-committal attitude of the European members¾ all of these must have contributed to the complexity of the situation; the Ministry of K. Naimuddin fell, and Ministers were declared to be functus officio for a few days, after which the Assembly was dissolved, and preparations set afoot for fresh elections.
The Muslim MLA’s were divided into two groups, one supporting K. Nazimuddin and the other Mr. Suhrawardy. Meanwhile the election of the Secretary of Bengal Muslim League came up, and Mr. Abul Hashem from the Suhrawardy group. Maulvi Tamizuddin Khan did not identify with either group, but tried his best for an understanding between them and made passionate appeals for unity. This, however, was not to be; and in a straight fight Mr. Abul Hashem won and became Secretary of the Muslim League. A Parliamentary Board was formed for the elections on which Mr. Suhrawardy had a majority, which was reflected in the nomination of candidates for the Provincial and Central Legislatures.
Khawaja Nazimuddin did not offer himself as a candidate either for the province or for the Centre; Maulvi Tamizuddin Khan was nominated as a candidate for the Centre. By then the movement for Pakistan had been consolidated, and Muslims were determined to a man to vote for the Muslim League candidates. The elections held in 1945 were on the Pakistan issue, and all candidates elected from Bengal to the Provincial and Central Legislatures belonged to the Muslim League, except Mr. A.K. Fazlul Huq who won because of his personal popularity. Mr. Suhrawardy formed a Government in Bengal including some non-Congress Caste Hindu and Scheduled Castes. This Ministry had very little time for work, because 1946 was knocking at the door with all its important events and happenings.
Maulvi Tamizuddin Khan was elected to the Central Assembly from Dacca-Mymensingh constituency against Sir A.H. Ghaznavi, leaving his own constituency including Faridpur for the benefit of Lal Miah. He won by a comfortable majority, but Ghaznavi instituted an election case in which even Mr. Fazlul Huq appeared as a witness; the case was dismissed, and Maulvi Tamizuddin Khan started functioning as a Member of the Central Assembly of India.
An interim Government was set up at the Centre with Nehru as Prime Minister and Liaqat as Finance Minister; Mr. Jogendra Nath Mondal from Bengal was appointed a Minister on ML nomination. The ML Parliamentary Party in the Assembly was well organised; there was a talk of Maulvi Khan being elected Deputy Speaker, which did not materialise. However, his contributions to the proceedings in the House were important and taken note of. He was also elected as a member of the Constituent Assembly of India.
In the meantime, several important developments took place on the political front; the British Government promised to transfer power to the Indians on a plan to be agreed on between the Hindus and Muslims, which, however, was not yet in sight; two Cabinet Missions visited India to negotiate and settle matters with Indian leaders, one with Lord Pethic Lawrence as leader and the other with Sir Stafford Cripps. The proposals of both these Missions conceded the principle of Pakistan, but did not go far enough to be acceptable to Muslims; the Congress which still believed in a united India would not agree to any arrangement which might leave with Provinces or Groups thereof the right to secede, if they so wished, at some future date. At one stage a settlement was almost reached and then broke down; the fact of the matter was that whereas the Muslim League knew its mind clearly and had an undisputed leader, the Congress exhibited a sense and state of uncertainty about it really wanted and considered feasible in the light of fast developing circumstances. The inner conflicts of views among the top leaders of the Congress must have been responsible for a part of this uncertainty; there are instances of a plan being accepted by Congress then accepted by ML and then again rejected by Congress. Be that as it may, the Muslims were getting increasingly disillusioned and impatient, and the ML decided to observe a Direct action Day for the achievement of Pakistan. This Day was observed in Calcutta on August 16, 1946; the Hindus were bent on opposing this, and the result was the Great Calcutta killing of Muslims under abominable circumstances. Chief Minister Suhrawardy did his very best to control the situation at great personal risk to himself, and the situation in Calcutta was contained within a week. But this had its repercussion particularly in Noakhali where the victims were Hindus; Gandhi and Suhrawardy jointly camped in Noakhali and normalcy was soon restored.
These two events of communal riots in Calcutta and Noakhali confirmed the belief of both Hindus and Muslims that they could not and would not live together in any form of united India, and Pakistan as a separate homeland for the Muslims was inevitable. The British Government also must have been convinced of this. The result was the Indian Independence act of June 3, 1947.
The Test of Time – my life and days
MAULVI TAMIZUDDIN KHAN