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HOME  REMEMBERING ENAYETULLAH KHAN

Remembering Mintu bhai

by Nehal Adil

ENAYETULLAH Khan, who was known to us as Mintu bhai, had a stormy career that is inseparable from our history. I first met him in the Savar Boarding restaurant in front of Nawab Bari (Ahsan Manzil) in Wise Ghat. No, Buriganga was not that dirty then. I had just got my temporary shelter in Wise House which was a kind of guesthouse for Nawab Bari. The year was 1958 before Ayub Khan’s martial law. There were yellow mustard seed fields from the airport to the city via Tejgaon. Horse carts were the main mode of communication. From Tangail one had to travel to Mymensingh and from there by rail to Dhaka. The steamer service to Elashin had stopped because of siltation.
 I had to stay there for a little while. I needed to go to the Savar Boarding restaurant for my breakfast because nothing good was available around except bundia-paratha. A group of young people a few years older than me used to have heated discussions there. Having bad experience with Pakistani rulers even with my fluent English and Urdu, I was a determined supporter of Bengali self-determination. With my early reading of Lenin and Mao, I thought the best way was an armed revolution. The Awami League had split. The left-oriented National Awami Party had emerged. It had its office in 8/3 Laquat Avenue (Johnson Road). Some of these young men would visit that office. I collected some left literature in Bangla and English from Janamat Publication in Jinnah Avenue (Bangabandhu Avenue). I could hardly notice that Mintu bhai was among those young men. Azizul Bari Chowdhury was from my home district Mymensingh and great student leaders. He was Mintu bhai’s friend.
Then came Ayub’s martial law. Everything went upside down. I changed my location. Two years later, I passed my school, joined Dacca College and came across a new group of leftist friends. In the mid-sixties of the last century, I think, Alamgir Kabir took me to the weekly Holiday. A gentleman, who I thought was the editor, laughed out loud and asked in English, ‘Are you still for Bengali self-determination?’ I wondered who he was. I could hardly localise him to the Savar Boarding restaurant nearly a decade ago. He had such a sharp memory.
After that I agreed to write for the weekly Holiday, sometimes two to three pieces for fifteen takas each. It was a very hard time for the paper. But it had turned into South Asia’s leading political journal. When I visited West Pakistan, even India, Iran and Afghanistan, I would find people talking about it. Once, when I was in Kabul, Indira Gandhi, her foreign minister Dinesh Singh and adviser DP Dhar were in that city. In Kabul, I was a contributor to the Kabul Times. There was a reception in Hotel Kabul. They all knew Holiday. They were interested in better relations with both Pakistan and China and wanted political solution to Pakistan’s problem. When, after the liberation of Bangladesh, DP Dhar visited Bangladesh, the first person he met was Mintu bhai. They ate at the Savar Boarding restaurant.
But there was a grim reality. I returned to Kabul via Delhi. The monarchy had been thrown out. There was a Bangladesh embassy in Kabul staffed by Bengali members of the erstwhile Pakistan embassy. My great comrades Najib and Ghafur were there, so was their sister Rabeya Ishaq who had introduced me to them. But the world situation was in a fix. Could socialism be imposed from above? I did not know the answer. I started moving West via Belgrade. I was a guest of the Yugoslav Federal Committee of Information. When I met Tito he told me to be a worker first, then a communist. He advised me not to go back to Bangladesh and avoid Pakistani diplomats of the embassy. The Yugoslav foreign ministry like Cuban foreign ministry followed Holiday closely.
Then I moved to Germany and France. Holiday was banned and I was told Mintu bhai was in jail. Why did it happen to Mintu bhai who was an ardent supporter of Bangladesh’s liberation war and one of its architects? He was a secular democrat.
Then the tragic things happened in Bangladesh. I heard about the coup and killing of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in Paris. I was shocked. I knew military dictatorship was no solution. I moved to Stockholm, Sweden. There Aziz Chowdhury, a common friend of Syed Ashraful Islam and Sadeque Hossain Khoka, told me Mintu Bhai was in Stockholm and looking for me. I contacted him and he asked me to come back.
Under dramatic circumstances, I came back to the country and I did not feel that secure and went back to Sweden. I heard Mintu bhai became Ziaur Rahman’s minister and Ershad’s ambassador but he never compromised on his ideology and left those jobs.
Whenever I came to Dhaka I would meet Mintu bhai and write for his papers.

 
 

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