ZAHUR Ahmed Chowdhury, a dedicated politician, one of the founding members of Bangladesh Awami League, and a leading organiser of Liberation War of Bangladesh died on July 1, 1974. He was a pioneer labour leader, language movement hero, and elected people's representative in different positions from 1953 to 1973. A member in the first cabinet of Tajuddin Ahmed in independent Bangladesh and also of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's, Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury was so engulfed in politics from his early life that he knew no other life.
He was a rare example of dedication, sincerity, honesty, diligence and all out sacrifice of personal happiness, peace and prosperity for politics and people's cause. He could not look after his family properly for he had to spend most of his time in organising the party. He looked after the educational expenses of the needy student activists of his party and provided money for purchasing books, and giving tuition fees.
People loved him so much that they not only voted him to win each time he contested for any post but also ran his election expenditure from their own coffers. In 1954, Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury, as a candidate of United Front under the leadership of Sher-e-Bangla A.K. Fazlul Huq, Maulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhasani and Hussein Shaheed Suhrawardy, defeated Muslim League candidate Rafiuddin Siddiqui, one of richest and most respected persons of the time.
This result was seen with so much importance in the politics of Bengal at that time that the prestigious English newspaper published from Kolkata, The Statesman, wrote an editorial on it commenting that “this is tantamount to defeat of an elephant to a fly.”
Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury fought in the Liberation War of Bangladesh as a regional commander. During the War he was chairman of the zonal war council and zonal administrative council of south-east zone of Bangladesh.
He was among the first top political persons to start the civil administration in independent Bangladesh before Tajuddin Ahmed and his cabinet colleagues returned to Dhaka on December 22, 1971.
He jumped into the task of reconstructing and rehabilitating war-ravaged Bangladesh with full vigour and dedication as labour and social welfare minister. His dream was to uplift the condition of the downtrodden and underprivileged section of society. Due to hard labour he died prematurely. He was buried with full state and military honour.
Born in 1915 in Kattoli of Chittagong city Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury involved himself in the dock workers' movement in Khidirpur of Kolkata in 1937; formed Chitttagong Dock Workers' Union in 1943; broke Sec 144 under the leadership of Sheikh Mujib in 1945; participated in Sylhet plebiscite in 1947; organised Dhaka University 4th class employees' movement; was involved in All Pakistan Awami Muslim League formation in 1949; participated in language movement in 1952, 6-point movement in 1966, anti-Ayub mass upsurge in 1969, and general election in the then Pakistan in 1970. During anti-Ayub movement he was arrested and sent to Sylhet jail where he was severely persecuted.
Today, the 39th death anniversary of a bonafide people's leader is being commemorated by his admirers, followers and well wishers in Chittagong and elsewhere in the country in befitting manner.
The writer is Bureau Chief, Chittagong Office, The Daily Star.