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Khatun, Daulatunnessa


Khatun, Daulatunnessa (1918-1997) writer, orator, social worker, and an ardent follower of Gandhi. Daulatunnessa Khatun was born in 1918 in the village of Sonatala of Bogra district. At the age of eight she was married to Hafizur Rahman, a doctor. Though social norms and values at that time did not allow women to be educated, her parents allowed her to study at Dhaka Eden High School until she was twelve. Her eagerness for formal education led her to continue her education in her husband's house.

In 1930, a girl of twelve, Daulatunnessa joined the meetings and processions of Gandhi's civil disobedience movement (salt satyagraha), which were meant to violate the Salt laws, passed by the British Government. During the movement of 1932 Daulatunnessa, in association with other activists, formed 'Gaibandha Mahila Samiti' (Gaibandha Women's Association). As the General Secretary of the Association she organised many meetings, participated in picketing and processions and even challenged Section 144, a regulation that forbade the political congregation of more than four people. During this phase she emerged as a leader who through her speeches and activities tried to inspire women to participate in the movement against British Rule, one of the few Muslim women who were able to do so.

Because of her role in the movement her husband was compelled to leave Gaibandha and their house was under siege. Afterwards she was arrested along with Pratibha Sarkar and Mahamaya and was sent to jail. After her release Daulatunnessa concentrated on her studies and passed BA examination. During this period she also concentrated on her literary work and continued to work for the Women's Association. During the famine, 1943, she established an orphanage. After the partition of India she began to live in Dhaka. In 1954 she was elected to the East Bengal Legislative Assembly through direct voting of the women of Bogra, Dinajpur, Rangpur constituency. She visited China in 1956 as the member of an official delegation from the then Pakistan.

Daulatunnessa Khatun is remembered as a dedicated disciple of Gandhi. A veteran social worker, she took active interest in establishing and running schools in her locality. Her last years were spent in Gaibandha, in quiet study and writing. [Sonia Amin]