Kasem, Abul

Kasem, Abul (1872-1936) a renowned politician, was born on 2 February 1872 of Kashiara (Kasemnagar) village in Burdwan district. His father Moulvi Abdul Majeed was an officer in the Excise Department. His grand father Khan Bahadur Golam Asgar held the office of Principal Sadr Amin in the Judicial Department of the East India Company's government.

Abul Kasem passed his BA examination from the Presidency College in 1894. Instead of taking to any office, he chose to serve the country. In 1895 he joined the Indian National Congress. In 1896 he attended the 12th annual session of the Indian National Congress held in Calcutta as a representative from North Calcutta.

From 1897 to 1902, Abul Kasem officially worked as private secretary to the prime minister of Bhopal, Nawab Abdul Jabbar, who was his uncle. He was elected a member of the central working committee and the constitution committee of the Indian National Congress in 1904. In 1905, he was elected a member of the standing committee of the Congress. He regularly attended all sessions of the Indian National Congress from 1905 to 1916. He opposed the partition of Bengal in 1905 and was a very influential nationalist leader in the movement against the partition of Bengal (1905-1911).

Against the backdrop of the formation of the Muslim League (1906), a parallel organisation called National Mohammedan Association was formed in Calcutta under the presidency of Syed Mohammad Bahadur of Madras (Chennai). Mohammad Ali Jinnah became its Vice President and Barrister Abdul Rasul its Secretary. Abul Kasem became a member of the central committee from Bengal. The same year another organisation of the nationalist Muslims of Bengal called Bengal Mohammedan Association was formed and he became its first Secretary and Barrister Abdul Rasul President. Abul Kasem established the Burdwan Mohammedan Association.

In his early years, Abul Kasem worked in Sir Surendranath Banerjee's paper The Bengali as an assistant editor. In 1906 he and Barrister Abdul Rasul, jointly brought out The Mussalman and he became its first editor. He was also associated with other short lived papers like the Muslim Chronicle and the Muslim Outlook. He collaborated with A. K. Fazlul Huq in establishing the Bengali weekly Naba-Jug. Apart from that Kasem founded and edited other newspapers like the Progress, Muslim Standard and a Bengali weekly called the Moslem-Bani.

Abul Kasem was elected to the Bengal Legislative Council in 1913 from the Burdwan-Bankura constituency. He played a leading role in the movement against the Jalianwalabag Massacre (1919) and the following repressive Rowlatt Act (1919). In protest, he resigned from the bengal legislative council in February 1920.

Abul Kasem actively participated and played an important role in the Khilafat Movement (1920) as a member of the Khilafat Committee. He was a member of the Khilafat delegation which was sent to Europe under the leadership of Maulana Mohammad Ali in 1920. After the end of the Khilafat Movement, he left the Congress and was elected a member of the first Indian Legislative Assembly (1921-23) under the Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms Act (1919). He did not seek re-election, but became a nominated member of the Bengal Legislative Council (1924-26) again. He was reelected the Council member again in 1927 and hold the post until his death.

In Burdwan, Birbhum and Bankura districts there used to be floods almost every year under the influence of the river Damoder, Ajoy and Kunoor. Kasem took active part in organising flood relief work in the area. He promoted efforts for construction of roads and establishment of free health care centres and educational institutions. Burdwan Town School was established on his own initiative.

Abul Kasem was a member of the Indian Railway Board for many years. He was also a member of the Dhaka University Senate for a number of terms. His son abul hashim inherited his public spirit and contributed very materially to the development of the Muslim League in Bengal while its General Secretary from October 1943 to February 1947. Abul Kasem died on 10 October, 1936. [Badruddin Umar]