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Demise of a torchbearer

Sajeda Chy laid to eternal rest

  • Staff Correspondent
  • 13 September, 2022 12:00 AM
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Demise of a torchbearer

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People from all walks of life on Monday bade farewell to veteran Awami League leader and Deputy Leader of the Jatiya Sangsad Syeda Sajeda Chowdhury who died on Sunday night.

One of the most prominent female politicians and national leaders, Syeda Sajeda Chowdhury was a torchbearer of almost all the Bengali nationalist and democratic movements.

Being inspired by Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, she joined politics. She played a pioneering role in upholding the people’s interests and stood up at the time of any crisis.

Sajeda Chowdhury, a presidium member and former general secretary of Bangladesh Awami League and also a former minister, breathed her last at 11:40pm in the Combined Military Hospital (CMH) in the capital. President Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina expressed deep shock at the death of the Awami League stalwart.

In a condolence message, the President said, “Sajeda Chowdhury played an important role in the movement to establish democracy in Bangladesh. Her contributions to keeping the organisational base of the Awami League strong after the assassination of Bangabandhu on August 15, 1975, will ever be remembered by the nation with respect.”

He said Sajeda Chowdhury’s immense courage and uncompromising leadership showed the nation the path of light during critical junctures. Her death has created a vacuum in the country’s political arena.

The President also prayed for the eternal peace of the departed soul and conveyed deep sympathy to the bereaved family.

In her condolence message, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said she lost a true guardian at the demise of Sajeda Chowdhury. “I have lost one of the most trusted comrades.”

“Her death is an irreparable loss to the nation. We lost a veteran political leader and I myself lost a true guardian at the demise of Sajeda Chowdhury,” the premier added.

She also prayed for the salvation of the departed soul and conveyed profound sympathy to the members of the bereaved family.

Speaker Dr Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury also mourned the death of Sajeda Chowdhury.

Sajeda Chowdhury’s body was taken to Faridpur’s Nagarkanda in the morning where thousands of people paid their last respects to her before her first namaz-e-janaza at MN (Mahendra Narayan) Academy School.

Then her mortal remains was brought back to Dhaka and kept at the Central Shaheed Minar for the people to pay their last respects. Wrapped with national and party flag, she was given a state guard of honour there.

Military secretaries of the President and the Prime Minister placed wreaths on Sajeda Chowdhury’s coffin on behalf of the head of the state and the head of the government.

Speaker Dr Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury paid her last respects by placing a wreath on the coffin. Later, party colleagues, political opponents, professionals and members of different social and cultural organisations paid their tribute to her.

Later, the body of Sajeda Chowdhury was taken to the Awami League’s central office on Bangabandhu Avenue where her party activists paid their last respects to the great politician.

She was laid to eternal rest at Banani Graveyard following her second namaz-e-janaza at Baitul Mukarram National Mosque after Asr prayer.

Sajeda Chowdhury was born to Syed Shah Hmid Ullah and Syeda Asia Khatun on May 8, 1935 in Magura at her maternal uncle’s house. She was one of the first women graduates of her region.

During the Jukafront’s election campaign in 1954, Sajeda Chowdhury met Bangabandhu who inspired her to join politics. She joined Awami League in 1956.

Sajeda Chowdhury actively participated in the Six-point Movement in 1966 and Mass Uprising in 1969. She was elected one of the seven Gano Parishad members in 1970 election.

She was the general secretary of Mohila Awami League, the Awami League’s women front, from 1969 to 1975.

During the 1971 Liberation War, Sajeda Chowdhury established Gobra Nursing Camp in Kolkata and organised people and took part in the war.

After independence in 1973, she was elected a Member of Parliament in the first national election.

She served as the director of Bangladesh Women’s Rehabilitation Board from 1972 to 1975. She was also the national commissioner of Bangladesh Girl Guides at that time.

After the assassination of Bangabandhu and most of his family members in 1975, Sajeda Chowdhury steered the Awami League during the party’s hard times as its acting general secretary and then as the general secretary.

After her stint as the Awami League’s general secretary from 1986 to 1992, she became the member of presidium, the highest policymaking body of the party. She was also the convener of a committee to implement the Chattogram Hill Tracts peace accord that ended 25-year insurgency.

She was elected MP from Faridpur-2 (Nagarkanda and Saltha upazilas, and Krishnapur union of Sadarpur Upazila) constituency several times.

After the Awami League returned to power in 1996, she served as the environment and forest minister.

Sajeda Chowdhury also served as the Deputy Leader of the House from 2009 onwards. She was the chairman of the special parliamentary committee on the 15th amendment to the constitution that repealed the election-time caretaker government system.

Apart from politics, she also engaged herself in social works and contributed to the development of sports, educational, cultural and religious institutions.

She got the UNESCO Fellowship in 1974 for her special contributions to rural development and education. In 2000, she was named Woman of the Year by the American Biographical Institute.

She was awarded the Independence Award in 2010.

Jatiya Sangsad Speaker Dr Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury, Deputy Speaker Shamsul Haque Tuku, Leader of the Opposition Raushan Ershad, Jatiya Party Chairman GM Quader, Awami League General Secretary and Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader, Liberation War Affairs Minister AKM Mojammel Haque, Agriculture Minister Dr Abdur Razzak, Information and Broadcasting Minister Dr Hasan Mahmud, Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Anisul Huq, Education Minister Dr Dipu Moni, Expatriates Welfare and Overseas Employment Minister Imran Ahmad, among others, mourned the death of Syeda Sajeda Chowdhury.

Sajeda Chowdhury’s husband Golam Akbar Chowdhury passed away in 2015. They are survived by three sons and a daughter.