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The Legend Of Dhirendranath Dutta

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This is the most honest and possibly the finest autobiography I have read in recent memory. Shaheed Dhirendranath Dutta was an elderly man aged 85 when Pakistani soldiers took him and his youngest son from his home in Cumilla during our war of liberation in 1971. 
They were never found. He wrote his autobiography and with three other books when he was confined at home under a house-arrest order during the 1965 Indo-Pak war. 
His granddaughter left the four books in a neighbour’s home during the war but came back to find only the autobiography.
Dhirendranath Dutta was born in Brahmanbaria  in 1886 and was already a senior leader of the Indian National Congress in the 1930s, with a reputation of a super debator.
 He was  a top witness and in some cases an integral part of some of the key events in our history. 
These days we only know for his proposal to make Bangla as a state language in 1948, much before the Language Movement. And then we know how brutally the Pakistani army killed  this elderly leader.
But Dhiren Dutta was an extraordinary human being and a patriot unlike anyine else – – fair to call him a monk and a principal of a monastery. 
He saw the events through the eyes of a Hindu man, but he was above all parochialism. He was a strong voice against casteism all his life.
 He was the deputy leader of Congress when British India was partitioned and could easily find a place in post Partition Nehru Cabinet. His friends left the newly created Muslim majority nation of Pakistan en mssse, but he never entertained the idea.
He saw some of the worst religious riots mostly targetting the Hindus in 1950, but he stayed back, believing minority will eventually got the liberty he was fighting for.
 Reading his book evoked a nostalgia, and memories of Bengal and all its brilliant leaders of the 30s through the 60s. 
And when he wrote about those events and people, there was no complaints. 
He was not bitter against any of his enemies who put him into jail, denied him the opportunity to stay with his beloved father during the last few days of his life.
Such was his popularity among the Muslims that every time he contested polls from his Muslim majority constituency in Brahmanbaria, he won. 
Some 20,000 people including 1,000 women held procession for him in Cumilla in 1930 when he was detained. 
He gratefully spoke about the people he loved and worked with – – hid political guru Abdul Rasul and his friends Robi Nag, Pulin Dey, Moulvi Ashraf Uddin, Moulvi Habibur Rahman and Taru Mia. 
He praises Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy for playing a key role in helping avert a Punjab like carnage and religious-inspired slaughter in Bengal in August 1947. He praised A. K. Fazlul Huq and Ataur Rahman Khan in whose cabinets he served as a health minister.
He wrote about how he launched the medical colleagues in Rajshahi and Chittagong and set up new hospitals in rural towns. 
He wrote about how he walked hundreds of miles to spend time with the famine and flood stricken people.
 He wrote about how he was almost kicked out of the funeral feast of his father in-law after he read out an anti-caste pamphlet on the occasion. 
And he wrote about his love for Gita and all the holy books such as Koran he read during his prison days and wrote about the singular message of unity and one God in all religions.
Reading him is like discovering a Bengal that is lost forever. Reading his autobiography confirms my conviction that people had more rights and had more voice during the late British era and early Pakistani years than what we have today. 
And the leaders of those era were staunchly liberal, unflinchingly honest and better literate that what we have got today. 
Dhiren Dutta was a top lawyer in Cumilla, a several time MP and a two times minister and yet he struggled financially much of his life.
Dhiren Dutta’s love for his homeland is legendary. He was a giant of a leader and a Hindu monk who was born in a wrong country and at a wrong time. His AtmaKotha is a must read for every Bangladeshi.

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