Dhirendranath Datta

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Dhirendranath Datta
Dhirendranath datta.jpg
Datta on Pakistan National Assembly floor making the first formal demand for Bengali to be made one of the state languages of Pakistan.[1]
Native name ধীরেন্দ্রনাথ দত্ত
Born (1886-11-02)2 November 1886
Ramrail, Tipperah, Bengal Presidency, British India
Disappeared 29 March 1971(1971-03-29) (aged 84)
Moynamoti, Bangladesh
Nationality Bangladeshi

Dhirendranath Datta (Bengali pronunciation: [Dhirendronath Dôtto]; 2 November 1886 – disappeared 29 March 1971)[2] was a Bengali lawyer by profession who was also active in the politics of undivided Bengal in pre-partition India, and later in East Pakistan (1947–1971).[3]

Early life[edit]

Datta was born on 2 November 1886 in Ramrail, in Brahmanbaria District,[4] Bengal Province (in today's Bangladesh). His father Jagabandhu Datta was a lawyer and introduced Dhirendranath to the legal profession from an early age. Dhirendranath was educated at Nabinagar High School, Comilla Zilla School and Ripon College in Calcutta.

Early career[edit]

Datta began his career as a school teacher, eventually becoming assistant headmaster of the Bangora High school in Comilla. He was very active in the local community and was a leader of the relief effort following devastating floods in 1915. He formed the Mukti Sangha, a welfare organization, after becoming inspired by Mahatma Gandhi. Datta's relief work continued up to the Bengal Famine of 1943. He joined the Comilla District Bar in 1911 and continued to practice until he was advised to give up his profession in favor of politics by his political comrade Chittaranjan Das.

Political activism[edit]

Along with many politically active Bengalis of his time, Datta took a firm stand following the Bengal Partition of 1905. He chose to oppose partition, working closely with other anti-partition activists such as Surendranath Banerjee and Rabindranath Tagore. Datta joined the Indian National Congress from Mymensingh District and was first elected to the Bengal Legislative Council in 1937. He was arrested by the British rulers of India for his participation in the Quit India movement of 1942.

Datta firmly opposed the creation of Pakistan and partition of India on religious lines; but when it became clear that partition of Bengal was inevitable and that his home district of Comilla would be in the new Muslim majority state, he opted to remain in East Bengal (unlike many other Hindu leaders), and as a result, was invited to be part of the constitutional committee to draft the legislative framework of the new country before the actual independence of Pakistan.

The Pakistan era[edit]

Datta continued to represent his constituency as a Hindu member of the renamed Pakistan National Congress (seats were allocated by a quota according to religion). On 23 February 1948 in the Pakistan Constituent Assembly in Karachi, he made a speech calling for Bengali to be made one of the official languages of Pakistan,[5] in what was to become the action he will be most remembered for by his compatriots.

He continued to be a thorn in the side of the Pakistan establishment; in 1954, he moved an adjournment motion against the declaration of Governor's Rule in East Pakistan, and was seen as the de facto face of protest and democracy.

He served as the Minister of Health and Social Welfare (East Pakistan) in Ataur Rahman Khan's cabinet (1956–58).

He was placed under house arrest during the 1965 India-Pakistan War and declared a security threat, primarily because of his Hindu faith and because of his alleged links to the emerging underground Bengali Nationalist movement, supposed members of which included Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. After this, he refrained from active politics but kept on supporting the rising nationalist movement from behind.

Assassination by the Pakistan Army[edit]

The Pakistan establishment never forgot Datta's continued defiance of state discrimination and authoritarianism. At the onset of the Bangladesh Liberation War, three days after the arrest of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Datta was arrested at his Comilla house on 29 March 1971, and taken with his son, Dilip Kumar Datta, to Moynamoti Cantonment and tortured to death.[4] For this reason, he is often referred to as "Shaheed" (martyr) as a sign of respect.[3]

Personal life[edit]

Datta had a son Dilip Kumar Datta.[2] His granddaughter, Aroma Datta, lives in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and is Executive Director of PRIP Trust, an NGO focused on humanitarian work.[citation needed]

References[edit]

  1. ^ M. Waheeduzzaman Manik (21 February 2007). "Dhirendranath Datta: Glimpses of a life". The Daily Star. 
  2. ^ a b Ahsan, Syed Badrul (November 2, 2016). "Dhirendranath Dutta…our dream maker" (Opinion). bdnews24.com. Retrieved November 2, 2016. 
  3. ^ a b Salam, Muhammad Abdus. "Datta, Dhirendranath". Banglapedia. Retrieved 26 July 2015. 
  4. ^ a b শ্রদ্ধাঞ্জলি:এই দেশ এই মাটি যাঁর অস্তিত্ব [A Tribute to this Country]. Prothom Alo (in Bengali). 3 November 2007. 
  5. ^ "Language Movement". Banglapedia - The National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh. Asiatic Society of Bangladesh. Retrieved 26 July 2015. 

Further reading[edit]