Skip to Content

Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2620

Shaheed Dhirendranath Dutta-”The Bangali Nationalist Leader of bygone days - Part-IV

Rabindranath Trivedi for Asian Tribune


Dhaka, 29 February, ( At this great juncture of history we recall our leaders of bygone days. What they thought and where we are now? Our former leaders and generations in East Bengal began their lives in the peculiar political environment of communal hatred, distrust and disgrace. The historic Language Movement was conceived in the Constitutional Assembly in February 1948. It was the Hindu leadership (1947-54) as the leader of the opposition members in Constituent Assembly of Pakistan (CAP) and in the East Bengal Legislative Assembly that led the nation toward the definitive direction. There were no other party to oppose besides Congress and Communist Does the nation pay respect to those departed souls? Is there any space in the history of Bangladesh?

The ‘Hindu’ and ’India’ factor what puzzled us over the century; we are to puzzle out why ‘religion’ has been brought to the Bangladesh politics. But it costs little to India by calling ‘Hindu’ and China a ‘Communist’. They (India and China) are not steep in giants. They are super active, and growing very fast as saying Prof. Muhammad Yunus. But India, in 2000s, is marching forward with a global equation of political power and economic power and that the whole world is gathering around India to get her attention.

But, why? Because the quality of democracy obtaining here is abysmally low. The reasons are not far to seek. Corruption has eroded the vitals of democratic institutions all over the country. A large segment of Parliamentarians, who make laws and frame the guiding principles of governance, and the bureaucrats who implement the same, barring a few, indulge in corruption. That is why democracy in Bangladesh took different shape and size under ‘bootish’ regimes and became demo-crazy of power. Despite 15 years of formal democracy, the army remains unaccountable to the public, who cannot freely criticize it due to constitutional forbidding. Even the liberal Awami League party uses religion in all its activities and does not clearly advocate reinstitution secularism in the constitution. Political leaders of all spectrums oppose civil society activism in the name of traditional religious values.

Shaheed Dhirendra Nath Dutta (1886-71) was born in Brahmanbaria under greater Comilla district on 2 November 1886, obtained his B.A., BL degree from Ripon College (now Surendranath College) in 1908 and 1910 respectively. Being inspired by Surendranath Benerjee and Barrister Abdur Rashid, Dhiren Dutta joined the movement for the annulment of partition of Bengal in 1905. He joined the Comilla Bar with his closest college friend Advocate Rakhal Chandra Ray in 1919. Both of them were student of Principal Ramendra Sundar Trivedi in Ripon College.

In 1919, he participated in the Mymensingh Provincial Congress Conference. He gave up his legal profession for the call of Deshbandhu Chitta Ranjan Das and participated in the non-co-operation movement of Mahatma Gandhi in 1920 Mr. Dutta was elected a member of the Bengal Legislative Council in 1937 and made deputy leader of the Congress opposition in the House. He was associated with the amendments of Bengal Tenancy Act, passing the Bengal Agriculture Debtors’ Act and Bengal Money Lauders’ Act. He participated in the ‘Quit India’ Movement of Indian National Congress in 1942.

For his political career, he was arrested several times and suffered simple and rigorous imprisonment at different Jails in Bengal. Shri Dhirendra Nath Dutta was elected a member of the Bengal Legislative Council in 1946 on Congress ticket.

He was the person who moved no confidence motion in the Bengal Legislative Assembly against the Bengal government under Suhrawardy’s Cabinet following the great Calcutta killings in September 1946. Jyoti Basu, the CPI (M) leader and former Chief Minister of West Bengal recalled that ‘motion of no confidence’ in his memoir Where he mentioned :” On 19 September1946, when the House was in session, I had an opportunity to speak on the no-confidence motion sought by Dhirendra nath Dhutta, a member of the Congress. I held the British rulers directly responsible for bringing about this communal riot. It was unfortunate, I felt, that our politicians had fallen headlong into the trap set by those who wielded their clout from Whitehall in London, from New Delhi and from the Governor’s House in Calcutta. In so many words, I said that I felt disgusted and disheartened to see the manner in which they had hatched a conspiracy and perpetrated this heinous deed with the cooperation and collusion of the police and the fawning bureaucracy. I was firmly convinced that the so-called “impartial” indifference of the police and the Governor of Bengal was all premeditated.”(Jyoti Basu, With the People, p.-46-49)

Being the first Hindu Leader to move the amendment in favour of Bengali Language (Bangla Bhasa) he at once became universally respected courageous Hindu political leader of his time. At the same time he earned for himself the top position in the Central clique’s list of enemies of Pakistan. He, too, suffered nearly three decades of imprisonment in the British and Pakistani jails. He was tortured to martyrdom along with his younger son, Dilip kumar Dutta, at Mainamati Cantonment in the hands of Pakistan Army on 27 March 1971.

Sanjib Dutza, eldest son of Dhien Dutta, a journalist and poet, brother-in-law of film maker Hritrick Ghatak, wrote a book entitle ”Eyeless in the Urn ’in 1975,giving his personal involment and the excruciating mental agony of a son.The poetic substance in this is not stated very comprehensible at the first reading. Notes on’ Eyeless in the Urn’ would give a brief saga of Dhirendranath Dutta. Sanjib Dutza wrote: “ The theme as well as the little of the poem is based on torture and eventual murder of a public man. My subject, the murder of my father Dhirendranath Dutta by the Pakistan army, has reason, therefore, to give away openly...I submit rather to the dead, blinded and destroyed, by no man perhaps, but by a blind force, vicarious on both sides on either end of the otherness, going out of himself on the part of the dead in a lifelong search of freedom without ,even unto death, the body freed and far-flung, left perchance by an open ditch, uninvited and never to be found...a life passed in prison through the best years equated no less with a time he found himself ...but not for the burial yet, the body never so death not to careless a poem begging for no merit except a place between the lines for the burial of the dead.”( Holiday 17 October1975)

“The perpetrators of crimes lacked the sense of history and miscalculated the moral power of the heroic people. And those who sacrificed, suffered and underwent tribulations were finally crowned with historic success – the timeless victories which will be the beacon of hopes for those who are still suffering the world over says Tagore.’ I recalled Tagore’s final testament,’Shabhyatar Shanket’ (crisis of civilization), in which he said: ’And I shall not commit the grievous sin of losing faith in man. I would rather look forward to the opening of a new chapter in history after the cataclysm is over and the atmosphere rendered clean with the spirit of service and sacrifice....A day will come when unvanquished Man will retrace his path of conquest, despite all barriers, to win back lost human heritage.”

Like her father Sanjib Datza ,daughter Aroma Dutta, executive Director PRIP-a NGO, a lone fighter upholding the torch of her grandpa in the midst of great uncertainties , appealing to the democracy loving people of Bangladesh to give a proper place of Dhirendranath Dutta in the annals of Bangladesh history. Her pangs of agony has been projected in an interview published in the daily Janakantha on 21 Feb.08

Under the changed circumstances, keeping the existence of Hindus in Bangladesh, as they are disadvantaged in access to job in the government or the military and in political offices, they should be given special status and protection constitutionally. Only the lip service in periodical sermons will not save the minority community from their total ruination and humiliation. We recall the hallowed memory and courage of Bangali Nationalist leader shaheed Dhirendranath Dutta with reverance. We claim that there is no need of Secularism if democracy is established worth fully in the country. Bangladesh needs a free media to strengthen democracy, ensure human rights, good governance and cultural diversity and build a multi-religious multi-ethnic and tolerant society. It needs goodwill of all the political parties since the Hindu leadership had abandoned the separate electorate system and their advocacy for the joint electoral system was a milestone in our national history. If there were no joint electorate system in 1970, Bangladesh would not have her genesis as a Republic in 1971.

It should be noted: “If Islam is considered as an essential component of Bangladeshi nationalism, the role of the minority community in the political life of Bangladesh needs to be delineated. Bangladesh contains more than 14.5 (fourteen and half) million Hindus and 1.5 (one point five) million Buddhists and Christians. The total Hindu population in Bangladesh exceeds the population of Muslim majority countries like Yemen Republic, Jordan, Tajikistan, Syrian Arab Republic, Tunisia, Oman etc.

Politicians in Bangladesh must, therefore, come to grips with this inescapable reality." (Dr Akbar Ali Khan, pp151-52). Abdul Gaffer Chowdhury, a renowned columnist, rightly said that "Bangladeshi" means the Muslim citizens of the land and others like the Hindu, the Buddhists the Christians and those of tribal origins are align citizens, they would be absorbed in the majority community by conversion or would be compelled to leave Bangladesh. In the post-August 1975 period, the victory of fundamentalist forces is very alarming for the minorities, particularly when these forces are getting patronization of so called "Bangladeshi" mentors. We believe that ultimately these divisive forces turned out to be an aberration. Through democratic process, the Muslims in Bangladesh repeatedly disowned the fundamentalist demand for a theocratic State. The Hindus and Muslims in Bangladesh were inspired not only by the memory of a common past but also by a dream for the future (Ajoy Roy 1987).

Here, in Bangladesh, we could not break away from the past and are remained steeped in the legacy of the pre-liberation-past military regimes and maintaining the legacy of erstwhile Pakistani politics. In this respect, no sustainable distinction can be maintained between the communalism of the majority and the minority. Where the distinction really lies is in that the majority communalism can mask itself as a 'nationalist force' and can leverage state power.

The minority communalism lacks this capacity. It grows under perceived threats to community identity. This is one of the reasons why liberal forces find it hard to push the agenda of democratization within the communities. But what has happened to us? “The dream that liberation of Bangladesh generated in many hearts was rudely disrupted by extra-constitutional interference in the governance of the country. The country had come to the brink of civil war due to the machinations by the alliance government (2001-2006) in Bangladesh, whose unbridled commission of kleptocracy had generated skepticism among the people about the concepts of both Lockean liberalism and that of Immanuel Kant's perpetual peace.’ writes Kazi Anwarul Masud (The Daily Star,10 Feb.08)

An observer of democratic country must be worried to learn the "democracy Bangladeshi style " It has to be a phenomenological approach to democracy. "Democracy, Bangladeshi style is a unique and may be a subject matter of a Ph.D. thesis in political science so far as its novelty is concerned, but have we achieved its true essence, namely, the dignity of the common people which calls for a fair election, rule of law, economic justice and an administration that runs on ability rather than political beliefs?" Unlike, the reckless corruption at all levels in the government and society may as well spark an explosion at the slightest instance and it will engulf the whole country in its flame. What James J Novak 's book questioned in an article "Will Bangladesh Survive?" the situation in Bangladesh remains precarious, however and the danger of failure are still very real.


Rabindranath Trivedi is a retired addle secretary and former press secretary to the President of Bangladesh, an author and columnist.

- Asian Tribune -

Also Read

1. Shaheed Dhirendranath Dutta-The Bangali Nationalist Leader of bygone days -Part 1

2. Shaheed Dhirendranath Dutta- The Bangali Nationalist Leader of bygone days - Part-II

3. Shaheed Dhirendranath Dutta -The Bangali Nationalist Leader of bygone days - Part-III

Share this