Lion of Bengal
Abul Kasem Fazlul Huq
আবুল কাশেম ফজলুল হক
ابو القاسم فضل الحق
|1st Prime Minister of Bengal|
1 April 1937 – 29 March 1943
|Governor General||The Marquess of Linlithgow|
|Governor||Michael Knatchbull, 5th Baron Brabourne|
John Arthur Herbert
|Preceded by||Post created|
|Succeeded by||Sir Khawaja Nazimuddin|
|3rd Chief Minister of East Bengal|
3 April 1954 – 29 May 1954
|Preceded by||Nurul Amin|
|Succeeded by||Abu Hussain Sarkar|
|5th Interior Minister of Pakistan|
11 August 1955 – 9 March 1956
|Prime Minister||Chaudhry Muhammad Ali|
|Preceded by||Iskander Mirza|
|Succeeded by||Abdus Sattar|
|2nd Governor of East Pakistan|
March 1956 – 13 April 1958
|Preceded by||Amiruddin Ahmad|
|Succeeded by||Sultanuddin Ahmad|
|9th Mayor of Calcutta|
30 April 1935 – 29 April 1936
|Preceded by||Nalini Ranjan Sarkar|
|Succeeded by||Harisankar Paul|
Abul Kasem Fazlul Huq
26 October 1873
Bakerganj, Bengal, British India
|Died||27 April 1962 (aged 88)|
Dacca, East Pakistan, Pakistan
|Resting place||Mausoleum of three leaders|
|Nationality||British Indian (1873–1947)|
|Political party||Bengal Provincial Muslim League, All India Muslim League, Indian National Congress, Krishak Praja Party, Sramik Krishak Samajbadi Dal|
Mussammat Khadija Begum
|Children||A. K. Faezul Huq|
|Relatives||Razia Banu (granddaughter)|
|Alma mater||Calcutta University|
|Occupation||Lawyer • author • politician|
Abul Kasem Fazlul Huq (Bengali: আবুল কাশেম ফজলুল হক, Urdu: ابو القاسم فضل الحق; 26 October 1873 — 27 April 1962), popularly known as Sher-e-Bangla (Lion of Bengal), was a British Indian and Pakistani lawyer, writer who presented the Lahore Resolution that aimed the creation of Pakistan.  He also served as the first and longest Prime Minister of Bengal in British Raj before that he served as the Mayor of Calcutta. After independence, he held various senior offices such as the Interior Minister of Pakistan, Governor of East Pakistan and Chief Minister of East Bengal.
He presented the Lahore Resolution and leading the United Front to win the 1954 East Bengali election. In Pakistan, he is remembered as one of the country's founding statesmen. In Bangladesh, he is revered as one of the most important Bengali statesmen of the 20th century.
Huq was first elected to the Bengal Legislative Council from Dhaka in 1913; and served on the council for 21 years until 1934. Huq was a key figure in the Indian independence movement and the later the Pakistan movement. In 1919, he had the unique distinction of concurrently serving as President of the All India Muslim League and General Secretary of the Indian National Congress. He was also a member of the Congress Party's enquiry committee into the Amritsar massacre. He was a member of the Central Legislative Assembly for 2 years, between 1934 and 1936. For 10 years between 1937 and 1947, he was an elected member of the Bengal Legislative Assembly, where he was Prime Minister and Leader of the House for 6 years. After partition, he was elected to the East Bengal Legislative Assembly, where he was Chief Minister for 2 months; and to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan, where he was Home Minister for one year during the 1950s.
Huq boycotted titles and a knighthood granted by the British government. He was notable for his English oratory during speeches to the Bengali legislature. Huq courted the votes of the Bengali middle classes and rural communities. He pushed for land reform and curbing the influence of zamindars. As Prime Minister, Huq used legal and administrative measures to reduce the debt of millions of farmers subjected to tenancy under the Permanent Settlement. Huq was considered a leftist and social democrat on the political spectrum. His ministries were marked by intense factional infighting. In 1940, Huq had one of his most notable political achievements when he presented the Lahore Resolution which called for the creation of a sovereign state in the Muslim-majority eastern and northwestern parts of British India. During the Second World War, Huq joined the Viceroy of India's defence council and supported Allied war efforts. Under pressure from the Governor of Bengal during the Quit India movement and after the withdrawal of the Hindu Mahasabha from his cabinet, Huq resigned from the post of premier in March 1943. In the Dominion of Pakistan, Huq worked for five years as East Bengal's attorney general and participated in the Bengali Language Movement. He was elected as chief minister, served as a federal minister and was a provincial governor in the 1950s.
Huq became secretary of the Bengal Provincial Muslim League in 1913. In 1929, he founded the All Bengal Tenants Association, which evolved into a political platform, including as a part of the post-partition United Front. Huq held important political offices in the subcontinent, including President of the All India Muslim League (1916-1921), General Secretary of the Indian National Congress (1916-1918), Education Minister of Bengal (1924), Mayor of Calcutta (1935), Prime Minister of Bengal (1937-1943), Advocate General of East Bengal (1947-1952), Chief Minister of East Bengal (1954), Home Minister of Pakistan (1955-1956) and Governor of East Pakistan (1956-1958). Huq was fluent in Bengali, English, Urdu, Arabic, and Persian. Huq died in Dacca, East Pakistan on 27 April 1962. He is buried in the Mausoleum of Three Leaders. Huq is widely revered and admired in Bangladesh for his role as a leading voice of Bengali Muslims in British India; Sher-e-Bangla Nagar, where the National Parliament is located, is named in honor of Huq. His son A. K. Faezul Huq was a Bangladeshi politician.
Huq was born on 26 October 1873, in his maternal home, the Mia Bari of Saturia in Jhalokati, then under the Backergunge District of the Bengal Presidency. He belonged to a middle-class Bengali Muslim family of Qadis hailing from Bilbilash in Bauphal. His ancestors had settled in Bilbilash in the eighteenth century, having arrived from Bhagalpur in Bihar. His father, Qazi Muhammad Wajid, was a well-regarded lawyer of the Barisal Bar and his grandfather, Qazi Akram Ali, also worked in the Barisal Court and was a Mukhtar as well as a scholar of the Arabic and Persian languages. His mother, Begum Sayedunnesa, was a descendant of Shaykh Ahmad Sajenda, a disciple of Khan Jahan Ali.
Initially home schooled, Huq later attended the Barisal District School, where he passed the FA Examination in 1890. Huq was so brilliant that upon turning the page of a book he could memorise the whole page which astonished his father. Huq moved to Calcutta for his higher education. He sat for his bachelor's degree exam in 1894, in which he achieved a triple honours in chemistry, mathematics and physics from the Presidency College (now Presidency University). He then obtained a master's degree in mathematics from the University of Calcutta in 1896. He obtained his Bachelor in Law from the University Law College in Calcutta in 1897.
From 1908 to 1912, Huq was the Assistant Registrar of Co-operatives. He resigned from public service and opted for public life and law. Being advised by Sir Ashutosh Mukherjee, he joined the bar council of the Calcutta High Court and started legal practice. He practised in the Calcutta High Court for 40 years.
After the First Partition of Bengal, Huq attended the All India Muhammadan Educational Conference hosted by Sir Khwaja Salimullah in Dacca, the capital of Eastern Bengal and Assam. The conference led to the formation of the All India Muslim League. The annulment of the partition led to the formation of the Bengal Provincial Muslim League, in which Huq became secretary. With the patronage of Sir Salimullah and Syed Nawab Ali Chowdhury, he was elected to the Bengal Legislative Council from the Dacca Division in 1913.
In 1916, Huq was elected president of the All India Muslim League. Huq was one of those who was instrumental behind formulating the Lucknow Pact of 1916 between the Indian National Congress and the Muslim League. In 1917 Huq was a Joint Secretary of the Indian National Congress and from 1918 to 1919 he served as the organisation's General Secretary. He was the only person to concurrently hold the presidency of the League and the General Secretary's position in the Congress. In 1918, Huq presided over the Delhi Session of the All India Muslim League.
In 1919, Huq was chosen as a member of the Punjab Enquiry Committee along with Motilal Nehru, Chittaranjan Das and other prominent leaders which was set up by the Indian National Congress to investigate the Amritsar massacre. Huq was the president of the Midnapore Session of the Bengal Provincial Conference in 1920.
During the Khilafat movement, Huq led the pro-British faction within the Bengal Provincial Muslim League, while his rival Maniruzzaman Islamabadi led the pro-Ottoman faction. Huq also differed with the Congress leadership during its non-cooperation movement. Huq favoured working within the constitutional framework rather than boycotting legislatures and colleges. He later resigned from the Congress.
In 1923, Huq served as education minister of Bengal for six months under the dyarchy system.
The dyarchy was replaced by provincial autonomy in 1935, with the first general elections held in 1937. Huq transformed the All Bengal Tenants Association into the Krishak Praja Party. During the election campaign period, Huq emerged as a major populist figure in Bengal. His party won 35 seats in the Bengal Legislative Assembly during the 1937 Indian provincial elections. It was the third largest party after the Bengal Congress and Bengal Provincial Muslim League. Huq formed a coalition with the Bengal Provincial Muslim League and independent legislators. He was elected as the Leader of the House and the first Prime Minister of Bengal.
Huq's cabinet included Nalini Ranjan Sarkar (finance), Bijoy Prasad Singh Roy (revenue), Maharaja Srish Chandra Nandy (communications and public works), Prasanna Deb Raikut (forest and excise), Mukunda Behari Mallick (cooperative credit and rural indebtedness), Sir Khwaja Nazimuddin (home), Nawab Khwaja Habibullah (agriculture and industry), Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy (commerce and labour), Nawab Musharraf Hussain (judicial and legislative), and Syed Nausher Ali (public health and local self-government).
Under Huq, the Bengal government used administrative and legal measures to relieve the debt of millions of tenant farmers under the zamindari system of the Permanent Settlement. Huq hailed from a middle class zamindar family. Many of his colleagues were also from the zamindar class. But Huq represented a new generation of Bengali middle-class political consciousness which won support among both Bengali Muslims and Bengali Hindus. The Krishak Praja Party promoted land reform. Huq's tenure saw the enactment of the Bengal Agricultural Debtors' Act (1938), the Money Lenders' Act (1938) and the Bengal Tenancy (Amendment) Act (1938). Debt Settlement Boards were created in all districts. The Land Revenue Commission, appointed by the Government of Bengal on 5 November 1938 with Sir Francis Floud as chairman, submitted its final report on 21 March 1940. This was a valuable document relating to the land system of the country. The Tenancy Act of 1885 was amended by suspending rent provisions for ten years. Huq abolished informal taxes imposed traditionally by the zamindars on tenants. The tenants obtained the right to transfer their tenancy without paying any transfer-fee to zamindars. The law reduced the interest rate for arrears of rent from 12.50% to 6.25%. The tenants also obtained the right to get possession of the nadi sekasti (land lost through river erosion which then reappeared) by payment of four years' rent within twenty years of the erosion. These measures resulted in debt relief for millions of Bengali peasants. But Huq failed to fully implement his Rice and Lentils program which he campaigned for during the 1937 election.
A seminal moment in Huq's political career was the adoption of the Lahore Resolution. The resolution was passed by the All India Muslim League at its annual session in Lahore on 23 March 1940. When Huq arrived at the Lahore meeting, Muhammad Ali Jinnah remarked "When the tiger (Huq) arrives, the lamb (Jinnah) must give away". Huq formally proposed the resolution at the annual session. The resolution called for Muslim-majority provinces in British India to be grouped into "Independent States in which the constituent units shall be autonomous and sovereign". The initial wording of the resolution suggested that the Muslim League wanted multiple states instead of a single state. Huq later accused Jinnah of not working hard enough to ensure an undivided Bengal with Calcutta included. There have been varying interpretations of the Lahore Resolution ever since. One interpretation is that the plural spelling of 'states' indicated that Huq wanted a separate Muslim-majority state covering Bengal and parts of Assam as early as the 1940s.
Huq held the education portfolio in his cabinet. He introduced the Primary Education Bill in the Bengal Legislative Assembly, which was passed into law and made primary education free and compulsory. But there was a storm of protests from the opposition members and the press when Fazlul Huq introduced the Secondary Education Bill in the assembly as it incorporated 'principles of communal division in the field of education' at the secondary stage. Huq was a supporter of affirmative action for Bengali Muslims. Huq was associated with the foundation of many educational institutions in Bengal, including Calcutta's Islamia College and Lady Brabourne College, Wajid Memorial Girls' High School and Chakhar College.
In 1941, Huq joined the Viceroy's Defence Council, which was formed to oversee the war effort of British India during World War II. Huq was joined by Sir Sikandar Hayat Khan, the Prime Minister of the Punjab. The growing influence of provincial Muslim League leaders like Huq and Khan was resented by Jinnah. The Muslim League leadership, led by Jinnah and his allies, demanded that both the Bengal and Punjab PMs withdraw from the Defence Council. Khan eventually complied but Huq refused. The breakdown in relations between Huq and Jinnah led to Huq's ouster from the Muslim League. Jinnah's allies in Bengal thereafter worked to bring down Huq's government. Jinnah felt the Defence Council was tilted towards the Congress.
On 2 December 1941, Huq resigned and Governor's rule was imposed.
The second Huq coalition government was formed on 12 December 1941. The coalition was supported by most members in the Bengal Legislative Assembly, except for the Muslim League. Supporters included the secular faction of the Krishak Praja Party led by Shamsuddin Ahmed, the Forward Bloc founded by Subhash Chandra Bose, pro-Bose members of the Bengal Congress and the Hindu Mahasabha led by Syama Prasad Mukherjee.
The cabinet included Nawab Bahadur Khwaja Habibullah, Khan Bahadur Abdul Karim, Khan Bahadur Hashem Ali Khan, Shamsuddin Ahmed, Syama Prasad Mukherjee, Santosh Kumar Bose and Upendranath Barman.
Despite Huq enjoying the confidence of most of the assembly, he had tense relations with the Governor of Bengal, John Herbert. The governor favoured the provincial Muslim League leaders and patrons, including Sir Khawaja Nazimuddin, the Leader of the Opposition; and the "Calcutta Trio" in the assembly (Mirza Ahmad Ispahani, Khwaja Nooruddin and A. R. Siddiqui). The focal point of the League's campaign against Huq was that he was growing closer to Syama Prasad Mukherjee of the Hindu Mahasabha, who was alleged to be working against the political and religious interests of the Muslims. The League appealed to the governor to dismiss the Huq ministry.
The fear of a Japanese invasion during the Burma Campaign and the implementation by the military of a 'denial policy' implemented in 1942 caused considerable hardship to the delta region. A devastating cyclone and tidal waves whipped the coastal region on 26 October but relief efforts were hindered due to bureaucratic interference. On 3 August, a number of prisoners were shot in Dhaka jail but no inquiry could be held due to bureaucratic intervention. Another severe strain on the administration was caused when the Congress launched the Quit India movement on 9 August, which was followed by British political repression. The entire province reverberated with protest. The situation was further complicated when Mukherjee resigned, bitterly complaining about the interference of the governor in the work of the ministry. Huq also called for the resurrection of the Bengal Army.
On 15 March 1943, the Prime Minister disclosed on the floor of the Assembly that on several occasions, under the guise of discretionary authority, the governor disregarded the advice tendered by the ministry and listed those occasions. The governor did not take those allegations kindly, and, largely due to his initiative, no-confidence motions were voted in the assembly on 24 March and 27 March. On both occasions the motions were defeated, although by narrow margins. To enforce his writ, the governor asked Huq to sign a prepared letter of resignation on 28 March 1943 and assigned himself the responsibility of administering the province under the provision of Section 92 of the constitution. A month later a League dominated ministry was commissioned with Nazimuddin as the Prime Minister. Huq bitterly criticised John Herbert for forcing his resignation and imposing Governor's rule, calling it "an outrage on the Constitution". Huq also criticised the colonial bureaucracy's role against his government, stating that "the steel frame of the Imperial Service" made a mockery of the authority of the elected government of Bengal. Huq accused John Herbert of being an ignorant administrator, stating "After all, even busy Governors absent themselves from town on private business". Huq paraphrased the ancient Greek philosopher Plutarch, stating "The mills of God grind slowly but they grind exceeding small; and sooner perhaps than Sir John Herbert or the supporters of the Ministers may think, Nemesis will overtake those who [Nazimuddin] had rushed to office not to serve the people but to enjoy the sweets of power emoluments".
Huq's party won significantly fewer seats during the 1946 Indian provincial elections in which the Muslim League led by Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy triumphed.
After the partition of British India, Huq settled in Dhaka and became the attorney general of the Government of East Bengal. He served in this position between 1947 and 1952. Huq was active in the civil society and social life of Dhaka. On 31 December 1948, while delivering a presidential address at a literary conference, Huq proposed a language academy for the Bengali language. He supported the Bengali Language Movement in 1952. Huq was injured during police action against demonstrators demanding that Bengali be made a state language of Pakistan. Huq emerged as one of the principal opposition leaders against the Pakistan Muslim League. East Bengal became the epicentre of Pakistan's political opposition. The Bengalis of East Bengal were the demographic majority of the Dominion of Pakistan. Huq was one of the founding statesmen of Pakistan due to his role in presenting the Lahore Resolution in 1940.
The East Bengali legislative election, 1954 was the first major democratic election in Pakistan's history. Huq was the leader of the opposition United Front alliance, which included his Krishak Sramik Party, the Awami League, the Ganatantri Dal and the Nizam-e-Islam Party. Huq toured the districts of East Bengal extensively during the election campaign. He was joined by Awami League leader Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy and Suhrawardy's protege Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Maulana Bhashani also supported Huq. Suhrawardy and Huq jointly campaigned in several districts, including Faridpur.
The United Front won a landslide victory during the 1954 election. The Muslim League was routed and reduced to only a few seats in the East Bengal Legislative Assembly. Huq himself defeated his arch rival Sir Khawaja Nazimuddin in the constituency of Patuakhali in Barisal.
Huq served as Chief Minister for two months. During his short lived government, he took measures to establish the Bangla Academy. King Saud of Saudi Arabia sent a plane to Dhaka to bring Huq for a meeting with the monarch in Karachi. Governor General's rule was imposed which ended Huq's leadership of the provincial government. Pakistan's political parties continued to squabble, particularly over power sharing between the provinces. In August 1955, a coalition between the Krishak Sramik Party in East Pakistan and the Muslim League in West Pakistan allowed Chaudhry Mohammad Ali to become Prime Minister and A. K. Fazlul Huq to become Home Minister. The first constitution of Pakistan was enacted under this coalition in March 1956. The coalition was later dismissed by President Iskander Mirza, who in turn allowed a coalition of the Awami League and Republican Party to form government. Huq's former ally Suhrawardy became Prime Minister. As a result, the Krishak Sramik Party and the Muslim League formed the main opposition. Huq and Surhawardy were once again on opposite ends. Huq was appointed Governor of East Pakistan in 1956. He served in the position for two years until the 1958 Pakistani coup d'état. The coup ended the dominance of Huq, Suhrawardy and Nazimuddin in Bengali politics.
A.K. Fazlul Huq wrote a book Bengal Today which was translated into Bengali. He was one of three owner-cum-directors of the well regarded evening daily Nabajug which came often under British-Indian government's proscription because of its anti-imperialist premise. The paper is no longer published.
Someday sooner or later, they will be humbled to dust even; as tyrants and oppressors of humanity have met their doom in the chequered history of mankind.
Huq's criticism of the British Raj
A Budget, whose figures in cold print, creep through the marrow of our bones till we stand aghast at the national calamity with which we are faced.
Huq's speech on the Bengal famine of 1943 during a budget session of the Bengal Legislative Assembly
I want you to consent to the formation of a Bengali Army of a hundred thousand young Bengalis consisting of Hindu and Muslim youths on a fifty-fifty basis. There is an insistent demand for such a step being taken at once, and the people of Bengal will not be satisfied with any excuses. It is a national demand which must be immediately conceded.
Writing to Governor John Herbert regarding demands for forming a Bengal Army during World War II
Administrative measures must be suited to the genius and traditions of the people and not fashioned according to the whims and caprices of hardened bureaucrats, to many of whom autocratic ideas are bound up with the very breath of their lives.
In a letter to the Governor of Bengal
They were lions in their own days and we have the descendants of the lions of Indian journalism in our midst today. But the difference between the two classes of lions is very significant. Those were lions whose roars used to reverberate from Bengal across the seven seas to the homes of the British nation, but in the case of the present lions they are as docile as lions in a circus show. The roar of the lions of old used to make thrones tremble, but most of the present lions only know how to crouch beneath the throne and wag their tails in approbation of government policy.
Commenting on critical journalists on the floor of the Bengal Legislative Assembly
Mr Speaker, I can jolly well face the music, but I cannot face a monkey. Mr. Speaker, I never mentioned any honourable member of this House. But if any honourable member thinks that the cap fits him, I withdraw my remark.
A controversial remark against an opponent in the Bengal Legislative Assembly
I am the living history of Bengal and East Pakistan of the last sixty years. I am the last survivor of that band of unselfish and courageous Muslims who fought fearlessly against terrific odds…
On his role in the politics of Bengal (particularly Bangladesh)
Exceptionally brilliant, equipped with sharp memory, deep knowledge and ability to understand peoples' feelings and characters with sharp wit and speech that provokes Bengali people's emotion.
When the tiger arrives, the lamb must give away.
He who in 1943 had wanted to see Nazimuddin and Suhrawardy bite the dust now shares the same stretch of earth with them. All three are buried, side by side, in the grounds of the Dhaka High Court. For a while, the two of them were called Prime Minister of Pakistan. Fazlul Huq was not. But only he was spoken of as the Royal Bengal Tiger.
Huq married three times. His first wife was Khurshid Talat Begum, the granddaughter of Nawab Abdul Latif, with whom he had two daughters. Khurshid left him and obtained a maintenance allowance in court. His second wife was Musammat Jannatunissa Begum, daughter of Ibn Ahmad of Hooghly, but she died without having any children. In 1943, he married Khadija Begum of Meerut, located in the United Provinces. They had one son together, A. K. Faezul Huq, who played an active role in Bangladeshi politics.
Huq founded several educational and technical institutions for Bengali Muslims, including Islamia College in Calcutta, Baker Hostel and Carmichael hostel residence halls for Muslim students of the University of Calcutta, Lady Brabourne College, Adina Fazlul Huq College in Rajshahi, Eliot hostel, Tyler Hostel, Medical College hostel, Engineering College hostel, Muslim Institute Building, Dhaka Eden Girls' College Building, Fazlul Huq College at Chakhar, Fazlul Huq Muslim Hall (Dhaka University), Fazlul Huq Hall (Bangladesh Agricultural University, then East Pakistan Agricultural University), Sher-e-Bangla Hall (Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology) Sher-e-Bangla Agricultural University (SAU) Dhaka-1207, Bulbul Music Academy and Central Women's College. Huq made a significant contribution in founding the leading university of Bangladesh: Dhaka University. During his premiership Bangla Academy was founded and Bengali New Year's Day (Pohela Boishakh) was declared a public holiday.
Throughout Bangladesh, educational institutions (e.g., Barisal Sher-e-Bangla Medical College), roads, neighbourhoods (Sher-e-Bangla Nagor), and stadiums (Sher-e-Bangla Mirpur Stadium) have been named after him. This reflects the respect of the Bangladeshi people for Huq. One of the main roads in Islamabad, Pakistan A.K. Fazal-ul-Huq Road is named after him.
Both Huq and Khan were censored in July 1941 when they agreed to join—without Jinnah's approval—the Viceroy's National Defence Council, which in terms of its membership structure did not recognise the Muslim claim of parity.