Yusuf Ali Chowdhury
|Yusuf Ali Chowdhury|
Faridpur, Bengal, British India
|Died||26 November 1971
|Other names||Mohan Mia|
|Organization||Muslim League, Krishak Praja Party, Pakistan Democratic Party|
Bengali Language Movement
Yusuf Ali Chowdhury (1905–1971), commonly referred to as Mohan Mia, was a prominent Bengali Muslim politician in South Asia. He played an active role in the Pakistan Movement as a leading figure of the Muslim League in Bengal. He was a member of the Bengal Legislative Assembly in the 1930s and 1940s and also became a minister in the provincial government of East Bengal led by Sher-e-Bangla A.K. Fazlul Huq in 1950s. Later on he went onto to become a Member of the National Assembly of Pakistan (MNA). As candidates suggested by him had won almost all the seats in the sweeping election of 1954 which propelled Bengali nationalists into the central government, Pakistan's press proclaimed Mohan Mia "The King Maker of East Pakistan".
He became a champion of Bengali rights during the early days of Pakistan. In 1954, under the orders of Governor Iskander Mirza, the Pakistani government arrested the two most outspoken leaders of East Bengal at the time - Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Yusuf Ali Chowdhury. The arrests led to an outcry across the province and triggered mass protests. In the following days thousands were arrested including university professors, provincial assembly members, and students. The government's tough stand aggravated the already bitter resentment of Bengalis following the Language Movement of 1952.
Mohan Mia however he became highly controversial during the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971 because of his staunch opposition to the notion of the breakup of Pakistan. Although he spent most of his political career battling against the West Pakistani elite, Mohan Mia, in sharp contrast to most of his family, stopped short of calling for an independent state for Bengalis. He joined the infamous Central Peace Committee along with other pro-Pakistani Bengali politicians. He died in Karachi in November, 1971, just a few days before the end of the war.
Yusuf Ali Chowdhury Mohan Mia was born in 1905 at the Moyez Manzil in Faridpur (in present day Bangladesh) to an aristocratic Bengali zamindar family. His father, Zamindar Chowdhury Moyezuddin Biwshash, was a patron of the Indian National Congress and one of Bengal's most powerful landlords. His elder brother, Chowdhury Abdallah Zaheeruddin (Lal Mia) was a leading Bengali Muslim figure in the Indian National Congress and was famous for his close association with Subhas Chandra Bose and Rabindranath Tagore. Abdallah Zaheeruddin later went onto serve in the cabinet of President Ayub Khan of Pakistan as Central Minister for Health and Social Welfare of the Government of Pakistan.
Mohan Mia's younger brother Enayet Hossain Chowdhury Tara Mia had also became a Member of the National Assembly of Pakistan in the 1960s. After the creation of Bangladesh, Mohon Mia's sons and relatives began engaging in the political arena. His eldest son Chowdhury Kamal Ibne Yusuf was a minister in several Bangladeshi governments and is currently a vice president of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).
When Mohan Mia was at Ishan School, he was one of 25 or 30 Muslim students out of a total of a thousand. Undeterred, he fought and succeeded in establishing their right to hold annual Milad in the school in the same way as the Hindu students observed Saraswati puja. He showed good leadership ability all through school life and held captaincy in all sports teams and school activities.
He always supported his elder brother Lal Mia in all his political activities from an early age and developed an interest in politics. Finally in 1937, on the encouragement of his elder brother and other politicians, he stepped into mainstream politics by contesting in the Legislative Assembly Elections. He gave away his own safe and secure constituency within his zamindari in favour of Maulvi Tamizuddin Khan (the speaker of Pakistan’s first Constituent Assembly), regarded by him as his political guru. He chose for himself the Shibchar-Sadarpur-Bhanga constituency to challenge powerful Zamindar Choudhury Shamsuddin Ahmed, known as Badshah Mia of matborchor, who also was related to their family. Mohon Mia won the seat. A.K. Fazlul Huq formed the government in Bengal in coalition with the Muslim League. In the years that followed, Mohon Mia became legendary in the field of politics.
But in 1941 Fazlul Huq severed his ties with the Muslim League and formed a new government in association with the Congress. Mohan Mia stayed on in the League and played a significant role in the party. Fazlul Huq was angry but Mohan Mia did not budge from his stand. Mohon Mia was involved in the meetings where the demand for a new and separate country for Muslims, known as the Pakistan Declaration, had been raised and had in fact been one of the most vocal leaders calling for Independence.
After independence of the country, he found the central government to be exploitative and not as cooperative towards the East Pakistan Province as he had hoped. Thus, he joined the Ooposition by becoming an active leader of the Krishok Proja Party and thereby of the Jukta Front coalition. In the decisive election of 1954, Mohon Mia had played a vital role in suggesting and selecting candidates for the Jukta Front across whole of East Pakistan. It so happened that in the election, the candidates of Jukto Front landed a landslide victory winning in almost all the seats but a few. Mohon Mia was largely credited for this success as most of the victors were relatively new to politics as compared to their competitors. So, the fact that they were shortlisted so cleverly, and the accuracy of the winning probability assessment gained Mohon Mia the nickname of the "King Maker of East Pakistan". During this time he also worked closely with Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman as well and the two became rather good friends. Mohon Mia had also become a Provincial Minister in the coalition Provincial Government at that time. However that unity in the coalition quickly eroded away due to inter party conflicts and that ended up causing embitterment in his relations with Bangabndhu as well. But Mohon Mia continued to remain in the opposition, though not with the mainstream opposition which was gradually being led by the Awami League.
With his close association with A.K. Fazlul Huq and Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy, Mohan Mia could have become a central cabinet minister of Pakistan but did not, due to remaining in the opposition most of the time. He was elected as a Member of the National Assembly in the 1960s.
He also believed strongly in the cause of democracy and was active in the anti-Ayub Khan movement in the late 1960s, from a platform different from that of Awami League. At a later point he had also joined the Pakistan Democratic Party (PDP) of Nurul Amin. He had also campaigned for Fatima Jinnah, sister of Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, in her bid to defeat Ayub Khan at the presidential elections. However during the 1970 elections, Mohan Mia withdrew his candidacy to allow Obaidur Rahman of the Awami League to easily sail to victory. In many ways, he tacitly continued to support his old friends and comrades of the Awami League, and supported their call for autonomy.
Upon assuming the governorship of East Bengal, Iskander Mirza, in 1954, had threatened to use substantial force to quell the rising political sentiment against oppression of Bengalis. With the blessings of the Governor-General of Pakistan he arrested the government's fiercest critics in the province- Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Yusuf Ali Chowdhury Mohan Mia. The arrests were followed by the detention of 319 East Bengali politicians and intellectuals. Later amind growing public anger and protests the government arrested nearly 1500 people from all walks of life. The arrests of 1954 were seen as one of the initial repressions of Bengali rights in the early days of the new country along with the 1952 Language Movement. Mohon Mia's detention helped him gain significant popularity in that time period. He did in fact become one of the most fire-brand and well reputed political figures of then East Pakistan, and specially in the social circles of Dhaka.
He had also launched a newspaper called The Millat in which he abraided the Pakistan regime mercilessly, which eventually resulted in the closure of the paper.
Mohan Mia is criticised heavily for failing to support the demand for the independence of East Pakistan. Justifying his stance on the basis of ideological convictions of a unified Muslim nation in the South Asia and his contribution to the Pakistan movement, Mohan Mia stopped short of calling for an independent homeland for the Bengalis of East Pakistan.
Mohon Mia joined the infamous Central Peace Committee during the Bangladesh Liberation War. The committee consisted of the most prominent pro-Pakistani Bengali leaders including Golam Azam and other razakars. Mohon Mia is also rumoured to have maintained close relations with Major General Rao Farman Ali, the Pakistani general widely believed as the chief engineer of the 1971 Bangladesh atrocities.
Yusuf Ali Chowdhury Mohan Mia died on 26 November 1971 in Karachi, Pakistan. Mohan Mia had traveled to Karachi in early November 1971 to carry an important letter for the Government of the West, requesting ceasefire and making a final attempt for peace. He had been in deep frustration and depression over the apparent indifference shown by the West Pakistani government towards the East. Mohon Mia's body was flown back to Dhaka and then taken to Faridpur where he is buried along with his brothers on the grounds of the magnificent Moyez Monzil.
Many historians share the view that despite being highly reputed of liberal views and personal honesty and integrity, Mohan Mia's opposition to the breakup of Pakistan cost his popularity amongst the masses dearly. Bangladesh's leading English language newspaper, The Daily Star, in an article in memory of Mohan Mia commented the following.
If any politician of this country is to be remembered for uncommon qualities of head and heart and for nearly half a century of dedicated and selfless public service, the name of Yusuf Ali Chowdhury comes to the fore. He knew from his own commitment to the cause of the Bengali language and the issue of political, economic and social justice for the Bengali people that liberation was imminent and it would need all the wisdom and efforts of the people and the political leaders to reconstruct the shattered land and take it on to the path of progress and prosperity. The post-liberation Bangladesh surely needed the services of an extraordinarily wise, selfless and incorruptible politician like Mohan Mia.
Due to his opposition to the breakup of Pakistan, Mohon Mia is not viewed favourably by many in Bangladesh for his association with razakars. His image and reputation has largely been suppressed and except in his home district of Faridpur, the new generation of Bangladeshis are largely unaware of him.
With regard to his contribution to the Pakistan movement, Mohon Mia is seen as an instrumental figure in the Muslim League, especially in Bengal. In the subsequent independent Pakistan, Mohon Mia along with A. K. Fazlul Huq pursued vigorous land distribution policies for the peasants of East Bengal and he is seen as one of the architects of the East Pakistan Estates Acquisitions Act that abolished the feudal system of zamindari, despite himself coming from a powerful landlord family. He is also credited for standing up for Bengali rights against Pakistan's establishment in the 1950s, for which he was jailed.
His sons and other relatives have continued to engage prominently in Bangladesh's political scene but they are seen to be deeply divided as members of different political platforms. Mohon Mia's eldest son Chowdhury Kamal Ibne Yusuf was Bangladesh's Minister of Food and Disaster Management in the cabinet of Begum Khaleda Zia during the 2001-2006 tenure of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party.
- Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy
- A. K. Fazlul Huq
- Chowdhury Abdallah Zaheeruddin (Lal Mia)
- Faridpur District