Asad, Shaheed

Shaheed Asad

Asad, Shaheed (1942-1969) student leader of 1969- mass upsurge, Asaduzzaman was a final year MA student of the Department of History, University of Dhaka. He was killed on 20 January 1969 when police opened fire on a procession brought out for the realisation of eleven-point demand of the Students Action Committee. His death changed the nature of the student-mass movement and it turned into a mass-upsurge against the Ayub regime and its repressive measures. Asad was president of the Dhaka Hall unit of East Pakistan Students Union (Menon group).

In order to realize the eleven-point demand and to protest against the repressive measures upon the student-masses by the Police and EPR (East Pakistan Rifles) and against the violation of the sanctity of the University, the Central Student Action Committee, from a meeting held at Dhaka University Batala (Under a Banyan Tree) on 17 January, gave a call for a complete strike in all the educational institutions of East Pakistan on 20 January, 1969. To face the situation, the government imposed Section 144, prohibiting the assembly of more than four persons.

Disregarding the imposition of 144, students of different colleges assembled at the university campus and after a brief meeting nearly ten thousand students brought out a procession at about twelve o'clock by violating Section 144. When the procession reached near the then Post Graduate Medical College (near Chand Khan's bridge), the police charged upon the procession. After clashes for nearly an hour, some student leaders including Asad tried to lead the procession towards the centre of the town by the side of the Dhaka Hall. In this situation, one police officer killed Asad by firing from his pistol from a very short distance.

Thousands of students rushed to the Medical College. A vast mourning procession was brought out. As the procession under the leadership of the girl students, was proceeding forward, common people joined it. The spontaneously brought out two mile long procession ended at the shaheed minar after going round different roads of the city.

At Asad's death the Central Action Committee announced three days of mourning throughout East Pakistan. Besides, the Committee undertook programmes of hartal and protest processions during the next four days. On the last day (24 January) at the time of observance of Hartal, firing took place again. The situation went out of control of governor monem khan. The repressive measures could not restrain the people and ultimately the regime of President ayub khan came to an end. In fact, the death of Asad turned the mass-movement of 1969 into a mass-upsurge.

In many places, people on their own accord brought down the nameplates of Ayub Khan and replaced them with the name of Asad engraved on them. Thus the Ayub gate turned to be the Asad gate and Ayub Avenue got the new name of Asad Avenue. Since then the name of Asad became a symbol for struggle against repression.

Asad was not only a student organiser, but was also an earnest peasant organiser. He formed a powerful peasant organisation in Shibpur-Hatirdia-Manohardi and the neighbouring areas of Narsingdi district. A man of fierce fighting spirit, Asad considered people's democracy to be the only path for emancipation of the people. He was also of the opinion that in order to uplift the fortune of the helpless and oppressed people it was necessary to educate the vast masses. For this, he demanded that primary education should be free and compulsory. He established a night school with the help of the members of the Students Union at Shibpur to educate the poor and the labourers of the area.

Asad's political activities were not limited only to organisation of students and peasants or programmes for mass-education. He was aware of the necessity of a party with developed political ideas. In his diary written in 1968, a brief mention is found about the formation of a study circle for carrying on the politics of the Sarbahara (have-nots) class. He was one of the leading organisers of the Coordination Committee of the Communist Revolutionaries of East Bengal, who had been working with the intention of forming a sovereign state and an exploitation-free land since 1968. [Mesbah Kamal and Arifatul Kibria]

Bibliography Mesbah Kamal, Asad and the People's Upsurge of 1969 (vernacular), Dhaka 1986; Lenin Azad, People's Upsurge of 1969: State Society and Politics (vernacular), Dhaka 1997.