, by DR. SYED AHMED
Veteran minority leader and sitting Congress Lok Sabha MP from Assam, Abul Fazal Golam Osmani passed away on March 31. He was suffering from lung cancer. Due to his ill-health he had opted out of contesting the Lok Sabha polls. His body was flown from Delhi to his native town Burbile where thousands assembled to pay last tributes to Osmani.
During the last phase of his career Osmani had fallen out with the Chief Minister, Tarun Gogoi over several issues including the squashing of the controversial IMDT Act by the Supreme Court. He labelled Gogoi as the enemy of the Muslims of Assam as the Congress Government failed to rehabilitate thousands of victims of anti-Muslim riots in Barpeta and Kokrajhar. Osmani even raised demand for removal of Gogoi but ultimately found himself dethroned from the post of state chief of Congress Minority Department which was later usurped by former State Minister Misbahul Islam Laskar.
Osmani had also crossed swords with the AICC to express his displeasure, when he refused to vote for Pratibha Patil during the Presidential election, despite intense pressure. However, disregarding his ill-health, he came and voted in favour of the UPA Government during the Confidence Motion last year.
Osmani plunged into politics in the 1970s. Initially associated with the Janata Party, he later shifted to the United Minorities Front (UMF), and then to the Congress. He merged the erstwhile United Minority Front (UMF) with the Congress ahead of the 1998 Parliament elections.
Osmani was first elected to the 12th Lok Sabha in 1998 from Barpeta constituency. He was re-elected from the same constituency to the 13th Lok Sabha in 1999 and 2004. He was twice elected to Assam Assembly in 1978 and 1982. He was the Cabinet Minister (Public Works Department, Irrigation and Power, Veterinary, Animal Husbandry and Fishery) in between 1978-1981. He also served in several important legislative committees of the Assam Assembly, including the Public Account Committee. In the Parliament, he was member of several Parliamentary Standing and Consultative Committees including Home, Commerce, Estimates, Human Resources Development and Rural Development, among others.
Osmani, a native of Silchar, in Cachar district, Assam, was born to Late Golam Wazid Barbhuiya and Late Hayatun Nessa, in 1933. He was educated at Dhaka University and had briefly practised Law at Lincoln’s Inn, London. He started to practise law in a Silchar court in the early 1960s. In 1976 he was Secretary, Silchar Bar Association.
Osmani also engaged in various socio-cultural activities. He was a voracious reader and prolific writer. He was known for his knowledge of Bengal renaissance, which had earned him reputation in Assam and Bengal. He wrote on themes ranging from literature, political developments, social changes, to the rights of the linguistic and religious minorities. However, he wrote only in local journals. He edited a journal named Barak, published from Silchar, for many years. The journal was then stuffed with many path-breaking articles and analyses of political themes and literary movements during the 1960s and 1970s. He was also associated with an NGO magazine, Compass, published from Calcutta (now Kolkata). He was also Secretary of an organisation named Tagore Society for Cultural Integration, based in Silchar; and a member of Satadal Sahayak Samiti, Assam.
Osmani’s organisational skills came to light when the regional forces in Assam launched a movement on the detection and deportation of the foreigners in Assam in the mid-70s.
External Affairs Minister, Pranab Mukherjee condoled the death of Osmani, describing him as a leading and distinguished personality in politics, who in the course of his 30-year political career had made valuable contribution to the development of Assam in various capacities including that of Cabinet Minister in the State and Committees of Parliament. In his demise, the people, particularly of Assam and Bengal, lost a dedicated leader and political worker, Mukherjee added.
Abul Khaleque, spokesman of Assam Pradesh Congress Committee, in his condolence, expressed that Osmani was a brave leader, who worked hard for the sake of the minorities as well as for the trodden people. His death is a great loss to the political and social life of Assam, he added. AUDF advisor and influential Islamic cleric Maulana Tayyubur Rahman, in his statement, called Osmani a champion of minority causes in the State, and said that his death left an irreparable void for the minorities. Osmani was a vociferous critic of AUDF chief Maulana Badaruddin Ajmal, whom he declared as a mere businessman.
Describing Osmani as a “messiah of the minorities” an obituary in a national paper writes, “Cutting across political affiliations, Osmani, along with his colleagues, spearheaded the Citizen’s Rights Preservation Committee to fight against the alleged harassment and persecution of the minorities in the state. He emerged in a new avatar as the messiah of both linguistic and religious minorities in Assam during the days of agitation when the focus was on the detection of foreigners in the state. His mission was to pressure the composite character of Assam and carry it forward through the interaction with the other linguistic and ethnic groups living in the state.”
Osmani was 76 and left behind his wife, Jahanara Choudhury, a daughter and two sons. His funeral prayer was performed at Itkhola Idgah.