Abdul Hamid Khan Bhashani

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Mazlum Jananeta
Abdul Hamid Khan Bhashani
আব্দুল হামিদ খান ভাসানী
Maulana Bhasani in Havana, Cuba.jpg
Abdul Hamid Khan Bhashani
Member of Parliament of Pakistan
In office
GovernorIskander Mirza
Member of Parliament of Bangladesh
In office
10 January 1973 – 15 August 1975
PresidentSheikh Mujibur Rahman
Personal details
Born(1880-12-12)12 December 1880
Dhangara, Sirajganj, Bengal Presidency, British Raj
Died17 November 1976(1976-11-17) (aged 95)
Dhaka, Bangladesh
Resting placeSantosh, Tangail, Bangladesh[1]
NationalityBritish Indian (1880–1947)
Pakistani (1947–1971)
Bangladeshi (1971–1976)
Political partyNational Awami Party (since 1957)
Pakistan Awami League (1949–1957)

Abdul Hamid Khan Bhashani (12 December 1880 – 17 November 1976), shortened as Maulana Bhashani, was a Bengali politician. His political tenure spanned the British colonial India, Pakistan and Bangladesh periods.

Maulana Bhashani is popularly known with the honorary title Mozlum Jananeta (Leader of the Oppressed) for his lifelong stance for the poor suffered by establishment.[2] He gained nationwide mass popularity among peasants and helped to build East Pakistan Peasant Association.[3] Owing to his leaning to the left, often dubbed Islamic Socialism,[4][5] he is also called 'The Red Maulana'.[6][7]

An alumnus of Darul Uloom Deoband, and participant of the Khilafat Movement protesting the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire he led the Muslims of Assam in a successful campaign during the 1947 Sylhet Referendum, through which Sylhet chose to become part of the Pakistan national project. He was the founder and President of the Pakistan Awami Muslim League which later became Awami League (AL). Later however, owing to differences with the right-leaning leaders in the AML, such as Shahid Suhrawardy, on the issue of autonomy for East Pakistan, he formed a new progressive party called National Awami Party (NAP). He also differed with Suhrawardhy when he as Prime Minister of Pakistan decided to join the US-led defence pact CENTO and SEATO. He disagreed with Pakistan's growing ties with the United States.[8]

The split among the left-wing camp into pro-Moscow and pro-Peking factions eventually led to the breakup of NAP into two separate parties; the pro-Moscow faction being led by Muzaffar Ahmed. After Pakistan's 1965 war with India, he showed some support for Field Marshal Ayub Khan's regime for its China-leaning foreign policy; but later he provided leadership to a mass uprising against the regime in 1968–69 with support from Fatima Jinnah.[citation needed]

American journalist Dan Coggin, writing for Time, credited Bhashani, "as much as any one man", for instigating the 1969 Mass uprising in East Pakistan that culminated in the collapse of the Ayub Khan regime[9] and the release of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the others accused in the Agartala conspiracy case.[citation needed] According to lay author S. Akhtar Ehtisham, Bhashani's decision to boycott the 1970 Pakistan general elections effectively led to the electoral sweep by his erstwhile opponent Mujibur Rahman. The Awami League, without any viable opposition in East Pakistan, won 160 of the 162 seats in the province and thus gained the majority in the Pakistan national assembly.[10]

Early life[edit]

Abdul Hamid Khan Bhashani was born in Dhangara village in Sirajganj, Bengal Presidency in the year 1880.[citation needed] He was the son of Sharafat Ali Khan. Between 1907 and 1909 he received religious education at the Darul Uloom Deoband. The association of Mahmud Hasan Deobandi and other progressive Islamic thinkers inspired Bhashani against British imperialism. In 1909 he started teaching in a primary school at Kagmaree, Tangail.[citation needed]

Political career[edit]

British period[edit]

In 1917, Bhashani was inducted into active politics and joined the Nationalist party led by Desbandhu Chittaranjan Das as an activist. Inspired by Mohammed Ali, he joined the Indian National Congress in 1919. In 1920 he was arrested and imprisoned. After being released, he participated in the Khilafat movement. In 1921 he participated in Das' Non-Cooperation Movement against British imperialism. He suffered imprisonment for some days at that time along with his large numbers of followers. He joined the Muslim League in 1930. He was elected a MLA in Assam Legislative Assembly from Dhubri (South) constituency in 1937 and served till 1946.[11] In April 1944 he was elected the president of Muslim League at its Barpeta session where after he devoted himself to Pakistan movement.[12]

Early Pakistan days[edit]

After the establishment of India and Pakistan in 1947, following the exit of the British, Bhashani planned his anti-establishment course of action. On 23 June 1949, he founded East Pakistan Awami Muslim League.[citation needed] Bhasani was elected its president with Shamsul Huq as its General Secretary. On 24 July 1949 he organized the first meeting of Awami Muslim League at Armanitola, Dhaka, in which Yar Mohammad Khan contributed and finally established the party inside Dhaka city.[citation needed]

Maulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhashani after the foundation stone laying program for Shahid Minar (Martyrs' monument).

On 31 January 1952 he formed the "All Party Language movement Committee" at the Dhaka Bar Library. He campaigned for the recognition of Bangla as a national language in Pakistan.[13] The National Democratic Front was established under his leadership on 4 December 1953. He renamed Awami Muslim League as the Awami League by removing "Muslim" from its official name in the council session of Awami League held on 21–23 October 1953.[citation needed]

The Muslim League Government both in the centre and the province of East Pakistan lost considerable popularity after the Language Movement of 1952. It was seen as not being capable or interested in protecting the interest of East Pakistan. In 1954, election was going to be held in the province and a new political party emerged to challenge the Muslim League. It was called United Front and comprised the party of Bhashani and the Krishak Sramik Party of A. K. Fazlul Huq, former Prime Minister of Bengal. The Awami League, under Shahid Suhrawardy also joined the alliance. The United Front won the provincial election in East Pakistan by defeating the Muslim league.[14]

In the elections of 1954, Jukta Front successfully defeated Muslim League and its leader Prime minister Nurul Amin lost his parliament seat to a young student leader Mr. Khaleque Nawaz Khan and Jukta Front formed the provincial government of East Pakistan. However, the government was arbitrarily dismissed.[citation needed]

In May 1954 he went to Stockholm. He was barred from returning to East Pakistan by the government of Iskander Mirza and branded a communist.[15] In 1956 Bhashani went on a hunger strike in demand of food for the famine affected people from 7 to 23 May.

During the Kagmaree Conference of Awami League held on 7–8 February 1957, Bhashani left the West Pakistani authority which acted negatively against East Pakistan.[16] On 24–25 July 1957, Bhashani convened the conference of All Pakistan Democratic Activists. On 25 July he formed the East Pakistan National Awami Party (NAP). Bhashani was elected the President with Mahmudul Huq Osmani, the General Secretary. 1965 Pakistani presidential election

According to Ehtisham, Bhashani played a crucial role in the opposition decision to nominate Fatima Jinnah, instead of Azam Khan. Fatima Jinnah was initially scornful of an opposition attempt to nominate her, however on Bhashanis personal intervention, she agreed to be their joint candidate.[17]

Despite this pledged support for Fatima Jinnah, Bhashani is controversially alleged to have become inactive during the opposition Presidential campaign ostensibly because of Ayub Khan's pro-China leanings; Sherbaz Khan Mazari later alleged that Bashani was bribed by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.[18]

He organized the Cooperative for the Cultivators of East Pakistan on 2–3 January 1968. He was elected the founder chairman. On 15 June 1968 Bhashani founded the Cooperative for the Provincial Fish Tradesmen at Dhaka Bar library. On 12 October of the same year, he was arrested by President General Ayub Khan's government from the Mirzapur hospital, Tangail.[citation needed]

In 1967 Bhashani protested against the governmental ban against Rabindranath Tagore.[citation needed] In 1969 Bhashani launched a movement for the withdrawal of the Agartala Conspiracy Case and the release of Sheikh Mujib.[citation needed] American journalist Dan Coggin, writing for Time, credited Bhashani, "as much as any one man", for instigating the 1969 Mass uprising in East Pakistan that culminated in the collapse of the Ayub Khan regime.[9] In 1970 Bhasani called for the Independence of East Pakistan as per the 1940 Lahore Resolution.[19] When the Bangladesh Liberation War started on 26 March 1971, Bhasani was confined in India. He was returned by the Indian Army to Bangladesh just after the war ended.[citation needed]

Bhasani with his National Awami party had organised an International Kisan conference from 23–25 March 1970 in Toba Tek Singh District. In the conference he asked the Government of Pakistan to hold a referendum, asking the population if they wanted Islamic Socialism. He warned that there might be guerrilla warfare if the military government failed to do so.[5]

War of Independence 1971[edit]

Moulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhashani was the Chairman of Sorbodoliyo Songram Parisad in 1971. He has seen the dream of Bangladesh. Bhashani asked China to aid Bangladesh in the liberation war. His request was not answered by China.[20]

Career in independent Bangladesh[edit]

Bhashani wanted to play the role of a responsible opposition. The progressive forces quickly gathered around him and strengthened his NAP with Kazi Zafar Ahmed as its General Secretary. But soon factional differences among the progressive forces emerged and weakened Bhashani.

The most significant political magnificence of Bhasani after the independence is that, at the desire of Bangabandhu's participation in the OIC's Islamic Conference held in Pakistan in 1974, he gathered Maulana Bashani's public support in a meeting in Paltan ground. Earlier to this, the former minister Sohrab Hossain of public works was in coordination, after that Mujib engaged his trusted person Barrister Syed Kamrul Islam Mohommod Salehuddin an opposition Member of Parliament independently elected from Faridpur then joined in NAP Bhasani into this matter to contact Bhasani. Barrister Salehuddin took his friend journalist Fazle Lohani and chairman of National People's Party Sheikh Shawkat Hossain Nilu towards Santosh Tangail, that has been referred in the book: 'Pakistan to Bangladesh: Politics of 43 years' by Nilu too.(Edited)[21]

He was highly critical of the oppressive style of the Awami League and BAKSAL government.[22] He also warned Sheikh Mujibur Rahman against his move towards a one party state and declaring himself as lifelong president. Bhashani was deeply shocked at the killing of Mujib, for whom he had a lot of fatherly affection, and his family members. The person who conveyed the news of Mujib's demise described how Bhashani cried and then went to his prayer room to offer prayer.

In May 1976 he led a massive Long March demanding demolition of the Farakka Barrage constructed by India to divert flow of Ganges waters inside its territory, triggering the drying up of river Padma and desertification of Bangladesh.[23] It was the first popular movement against India demanding a rightful distribution of the Ganges's water.[24] Since then Historic Farakka Long March Day is observed on 16 March every year in Bangladesh.[25]

At the time, the government of Bangladesh unofficially supported Bhashani's Farakka Long March. Navy-chief Rear Admiral M. H. Khan in charge of providing logistics. Hundreds of thousands of people from all walks of life from all over the country gathered in Rajshahi town to participate in the Long March.

On the morning of 16 March 1976, he addressed a gathering of people at the Madrash Maidan, Rajshahi, from where the Long March commenced. Hundreds of thousands of people walked more than 100 kilometers on foot for days. The March continued up to Kansat, a place near the India-Bangladesh border, close to the Farakka barrage.

Political philosophy[edit]

In the early 1950s he felt that an integrated Pakistan was no longer maintainable with hegemony of West Pakistan. At the Kagmari Conference, he bade farewell to West Pakistan by saying Assalamu Alaikum which soon became a reference quote.[16] He declined to participate in the national election of 1970 saying that it will only help perpetuate rule by West Pakistan. Since 1969 his favourite slogans were Swadhin Bangla Zindabad and Azad Bangla Zindabad. His dream of an independent Purba Bangla (East Bengal) came true when Bangladesh was established as an independent nation-state in 1971. He advocated for the separation of the State and religion. He was a pious Muslim who was in favor of socialism. He spoke out against Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami and its politics.[26]

Bhashani proposed revolutionary ideas regarding political Islam. Due to his Sufi training under Nasiruddin Baghdadi, he developed the concept of Rububuiyat.

Bhashani was known to have a Chinese connection and was the leader of pro-Chinese politicians of East Pakistan. During the 1965 war between Pakistan and India, Bhashani disappeared for several days. It is said[by whom?] that he flew from Panchbibi, Bogra to China, at the behest of president Field Marshal Ayub Khan, to secure support of China for Pakistan.[citation needed]


The Daily Ittefaq has been the most popular Bengali newspaper of Bangladesh since the early 1970s. However its precursor is Weekly Ittefaq. After the British left South Asia in 1947, Muslim League emerged as the government political party. Soon opposition movement started and a political party named Awami Muslim League was founded with Bhashani as one of the central figures. Against this backdrop Bhashani and Yar Mohammad Khan started publishing the Weekly Ittefaq in 1949. The popular weekly publication was a critique of the Muslim League government.[27] The journalist Tofazzal Hossain Manik Miah worked as its editor. Manik Miah took over the paper as its editor and publisher on 14 August 1951.[28]

On 25 February 1972, Bhashani started publishing a weekly Haq Katha and it soon gained wide circulation. It was outspoken about the irregularities and misrule of Awami League government established after independence of Bangladesh. It was a pro-Chinese and socialist weekly. The weekly was banned by Sheikh Mujib. It was edited by Irfanul Bari, Bhashani's subordinate.[29]

Mazar (mausoleum) of Bhashani and his wife.


He died on 17 November 1976 in Dhaka, Bangladesh, aged 96, and was buried at Santosh, Tangail.[30]


Bhashani is regarded as the proponent of anti-imperialist, non-communal and left-leaning politics by his admirers in present-day Bangladesh and beyond.[31][32] After the sudden death of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, He expressed no sorrow or regret over the death of his former student.[33] In 2013 the Awami League Government of Bangladesh reduced his presence in school curricula.[34] In 2004, Bhashani was ranked number 8 in BBC's poll of the Greatest Bengali of all time.[35]


  1. ^ Haq, Enamul (2012). "Bhasani, Maulana Abdul Hamid Khan". In Islam, Sirajul; Jamal, Ahmed A. (eds.). Banglapedia: National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh (Second ed.). Asiatic Society of Bangladesh.
  2. ^ "Bhashani's anniversary of death today". The Daily Star. Retrieved 17 November 2016.
  3. ^ Uphoff, Norman Thomas; Ilchman, Warren Frederick (1972). The Political Economy of Development: Theoretical and Empirical Contributions. University of California Press. pp. 168. ISBN 978-05200-2062-7.
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  5. ^ a b Iqtidar, Humeira (2011). Secularizing Islamists?: Jama'at-e-Islami and Jama'at-ud-Da'wa in Urban Pakistan. University of Chicago Press. p. 81. ISBN 9780226384702.
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  7. ^ Khan, Zeeshan. "Take me to my leader". Dhaka Tribune. Retrieved 12 January 2016.
  8. ^ Rahman, Syedur (2010). Historical Dictionary of Bangladesh. Scarecrow Press. p. 51. ISBN 978-0-8108-7453-4.
  9. ^ a b Coggin, Dan (18 April 1969). "Prophet of Violence". Time. p. 41. Archived from the original on 30 September 2007.
  10. ^ Ehtisham, S. Akhtar (2008). A Medical Doctor Examines Life on Three Continents: A Pakistani View. Algora Publishing. p. 105. ISBN 978-0-87586-635-2.
  11. ^ List of Members of Assam Legislative Assembly Since 1937 Government of India.
  12. ^ "Biography of Bhashani". Muktadhara. Archived from the original on 19 April 2014.
  13. ^ Tirmizi, Farooq (21 February 2011). "The sad history of International Mother Tongue Day". The Express Tribune. Retrieved 24 January 2016.
  14. ^ Haque, Syed Badrul (26 October 2014). "Remembering Sher-e-Bangla". The Daily Star. Retrieved 11 January 2016.
  15. ^ Hossain, Mokerrom (2010). From Protest to Freedom: A Book for the New Generation: the Birth of Bangladesh. Shahitya Prakash. p. 127. ISBN 978-0-615-48695-6.
  16. ^ a b Ahmed, Salahuddin (2004). Bangladesh: Past and Present. APH Publishing. ISBN 9788176484695.
  17. ^ Ehtisham, S. Akhtar (2008). A Medical Doctor Examines Life on Three Continents: A Pakistani View. Algora Publishing. p. 66. ISBN 978-0-87586-634-5. Bhashani proposed the name of Miss Fatima Jinnah ... But she despised the opposition leaders ... and summarily dismissed them, telling them that if they had not perversely and ineptly dragged the country to the current deplorable state, they would not be begging her at her age to contest an election ... Bhashani ... was perhaps the only person in the ranks of the opposition for whom she had some respect. He went to see Miss Jinnah alone ... He played on the elderly lady's heart strings, telling her ... your brother made Pakistan, it is up to you to save it ... Miss Jinnah agreed to don the mantle of the savior.
  18. ^ Mazari, Sherbaz Khan (1999). A Journey to Disillusionment. Karachi: Oxford University Press. p. 150. ISBN 978-0-19-579076-4. Bashani was the first to back out on Miss Jinnah. His excuse at that time was that as China (his party's overseas mentor) had friendly relations with Ayub Khan's regime, he was not in a position to oppose Ayub Khan. Later, however it became an open secret that Bhutto ... bribed Bashani with Rs 500,000 to ensure withdrawal of his support from the COP. Some years later I confronted Bashani with this accusation. The Maulana did not bother to deny it.
  19. ^ Jalal, Ayesha (2014). The Struggle for Pakistan: A Muslim Homeland and Global Politics. Harvard University Press. p. 158. ISBN 9780674744998.
  20. ^ Ahsan, Syed Badrul (26 March 2015). "March 26, 1971 … and after". bdnews24.com (Opinion). Retrieved 24 January 2016.
  21. ^ 'Barrister Salehuddin sent Sir Thomas to defend Bangabandhu' —By Muhammad Ali Bukhari Dhaka:Our Time,06/01/2016. Web:OurtimeBD.com -06.01.2016
  22. ^ Nair, P. Sukumaran (2008). Indo-Bangladesh Relations. APH Publishing. p. 54. ISBN 9788131304082.
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  24. ^ "Farakka Day Today". The New Nation. Dhaka. 16 May 2010. Archived from the original on 20 February 2016 – via HighBeam Research. The Long March was the first popular movement against India demanding a rightful distribution of the water of Ganges.
  25. ^ "30th Anniversary of Farakka Long March". The Daily Star. Dhaka. 15 May 2006.
  26. ^ McDermott, Rachel Fell (2014). Sources of Indian Tradition: Modern India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. Columbia University Press. p. 883. ISBN 978-0-231-51092-9.
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  28. ^ Jahangir, Muhammad (15 June 2015). "Manik Miah: A Legendary Journalist". The Daily Star (Op-ed). Retrieved 23 January 2016.
  29. ^ Jones, Derek (2001). Censorship: A World Encyclopedia. Routledge. ISBN 9781136798634. Retrieved 23 January 2016.
  30. ^ "Bhashani's 39th death anniversary observed". Dhaka Tribune.
  31. ^ "Essays and Reports on Bangladesh". Peter Custers on Bhashani.
  32. ^ "Who Said What After August 15". The Daily Star. 17 August 2014. Retrieved 20 June 2020.
  33. ^ "Remembering the Red Moulana". The Daily Star. 17 November 2013. Retrieved 20 June 2020.
  34. ^ Alamgir, Mohiuddin (14 January 2013). "Bhashani dropped from Bangla textbooks". New Age. Dhaka. Archived from the original on 11 December 2015. Retrieved 10 December 2015.
  35. ^ "Listeners name 'greatest Bengali'". BBC. 14 April 2004. Retrieved 16 April 2018.
    Habib, Haroon (17 April 2004). "International : Mujib, Tagore, Bose among 'greatest Bengalis of all time'". The Hindu.
    "Bangabandhu judged greatest Bangali of all time". The Daily Star. 16 April 2004.

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