50th death anniversary on February 25

Abdur Rob alias Boga Mia was a Freedom Fighter, Liberation War organiser, socio-political activist and former president of Pabna Zila Awami League during the pre-Liberation War period. He is regarded as one of the most influential figures in Pabna during the Liberation War of Bangladesh in 1971, owing to his leadership and organising capability. He united the various political and civil forces that supported Bangladesh's independence in 1971.

Boga Mia was born on November 10 in1916 in the district of Rangpur, where his father was a school inspector (during the time of British rule). Sabkatuddin Ahmed, his father worked as an educationalist and was posted in Pabna, Rangpur, Cumilla, Dhaka and Kolkata during his career. He retired as a Divisional School Inspector (during the British period) and settled in Kolkata. He died in 1948 and was buried in Gobra Cemetery in Kolkata.

Like his father educationalist Sabkatuddin Ahmed, Boga Mia also studied in Kolkata, and once worked for India's Tata Group. Due to his father's influential background, he got opportunities to live a comfortable life in Kolkata and mingled with great personalities in the city. During the early years in his political life, he was a young leader and he met Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy in 1933. Suhrawardy liked him and this was possible because he had organising power and capability to become a great leader.

Boga Mia came to Pabna from Kolkata after the partition of Bengal in 1948. The house in Kolkata was sold and Boga Mia used majority of the proceeds for the political activities of Pabna and the rest of the money he used for business. He owned the local dealership of Caltex (Caltex is a petroleum brand of Chevron Corporation operating in 29 countries in the Asia-Pacific region), and ESSO.

In 1953, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Ataur Rahman Khan (Chief Minister of East Pakistan) visited Pabna. At the proposal of Boga Mia, Captain M Mansur Ali - who was three years junior to Boga Mia - had been selected president of the Pabna Zilla Awami League. Boga Mia was selected the general secretary of the committee. Boga Mia, out of his own earnestness and respect for Mansur Ali, had laid the front open for him. That day, Bangabandhu and others wanted to make him president, but Boga Mia was firmly determined about his resolution. So, nobody could fluctuate him from the grit.

All in all, Boga Mia's immense contributions, dedications, morality and decency made him an exemplary person in our national politics. It needs without saying that his donation of a huge portion of ancestral assets in Kolkata for Pabna Awami League, only adds to his record of benevolence.

Another example of his dedication became evident during the 1954 election, when Juktofront announced him candidate of Sujanagar-Bera Upazila. However, a senior politician Mawlana Roisuddin had requested Boga Mia to leave the seat for him. Roisuddin pleaded that as an aged man his last wish was to become a member of parliament. Afterwards, Boga Mia brought him to Dacca (now Dhaka) and made him a candidate of Juktofront, by leaving his own seat. Boga Mia personally contacted Huseyn Shaheen Suhrawardy to erase his name from the list of nominated candidates. It is noted that Boga Mia did this with a smiling face.

Due to this noble feat, young Awami League activist and advocate Amjad Hossain revered Boga Mia as a man with a "huge heart." In his Liberation War memoir "Bisrita Prai", Amjad also referred to Boga Mia as a figure who made his own place with decent character.As a simple, generous, humble and mild-spoken person, Boga Mia became very close to Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. After developing the friendship, he remoulded himself into a dedicated organiser from an activist of Awami League. He remained a general secretary of the district committee of Pabna for a long time. He also involved himself with the Bhutta Andolon (maize movement) - one of the major movements in Pabna against the Pakistan Government before the Liberation War. His immense contributions to the movement made him one of the leading heroes in the district. The movement was also the first incident of a gunfight between mass people, and the Pakistani police and their supporters in the district before the Liberation War.

The Bhutta Movement was not an organised protest but the people had spontaneously joined it. Behind the movement, there is a sad story. The Pakistan government supplied maize for the people of the district in response to a food crisis across the East Pakistan (Now Bangladesh).

As a Freedom Fighter, Liberation War organiser and politician of Awami League, Boga Mia's immense contributions to Liberation War will be remembered by the people of Pabna. After getting directions from Bangabandhu on March 7, the Awami League leaders went to all the 18 thanas of Pabna in order to motivate people to participate actively in the resistance movement. The leaders told them that it would be a long war, and that they would have to take up arms in the nationwide fight against the Pakistani oppressors.

Boga Mia was the first to hoist the flag of independent Bangladesh in Pabna district in 1971. He was an MP (Member of Parliament) and a very close associate of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. It has been learnt that Bangabandhu visited Pabna 17 to 20 times during his lifetime. Most of the times, he received the hospitality of Boga Mia's family. Bangabandhu rested, took foods and met leaders of different sections at the house. It has been mentioned that when Boga Mia died on February 25 in 1973 in a tragic car accident during an election campaign, Bangabandhu went to Pabna to condole the grieving family. Bangabandhu felt saddened and overwhelmed with shock. The next day when Bangabandhu addressed a public meeting, he started his speech with the words - I have lost my friend. The Abdur Rob Boga Mia road from Pabna to Pakshi bears testimony to his contributions for general mass.

Boga Mia's wife Jahanara Rob was also a politician. He was a Member of Parliament from Pabna and Bogura from 1973 to 1975 (until Bangabandhu and his family killed). She was involved in various social and political activities. After the Liberation of Bangladesh, she became the Chairman of the Nari Punorbashon Shangstha, Pabna.

When Ziaur Rahman came to power, the government confiscated the house in Gulshan which Bangabandhu gave Jahanara Rob after her husband had died. After a few days, the government of Ziaur Rahman offered her a position in BNP and promised to give her back the house. But Jahanara bluntly refused it. During that time, some of her party colleagues joined BNP and assumed ministerships.

Boga Mia was a real sports buff. From his childhood he was a devoted sportsman in his locale. It is known that once he played football for Kolkata Mohammedan. During his lifetime, he took many development initiatives for sports in Pabna. He was an earnest tennis player in the 1960s and 1970s. He used to collect branded tennis rackets and balls and enjoyed distributing them among his friends. During that time, it was rarely found that a diehard politician would spend enough time practising tennis. He was the president of the District Sports Association of East Pakistan. After the Liberation War, he was a member of the executive committee of the National Sports Association. He was also a member of Awami League Central Committee.

The best quality of Boga Mia is his honesty and love for the people without any worldly interest, and completely free from any urge to show off power, corruption and unlawful activities. As a faithful and effective politician, he was relied upon by senior leaders. In his lifetime, Boga Mia fought to strengthen truth, displayed sincerity and openness. He truly practiced what he preached among the people. He took decisions and accepted responsibilities for his actions and his words. He made promises and kept those promises. Loving people with all his heart, might, mind and soul he strived to help whomever he found in need, leaving a glaring mark of responsible politician.

The writer is an art critic and cultural curator.

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