January 12, 2020
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Justice Kemaluddin Hossain

A refugee from Calcutta's legal street, he was sensitised to the minority predicament.

Justice Kemaluddin Hossain

AFTER a brilliant academic stint at St Xavier's College in 1945, I aspired to be a judge of the Calcutta High Court. But the 1946 riots made me scared, and for the first time, insecure. It had never occurred to me that I was a Muslim, on the wrong side of the border. This was partly due to the fact that I grew up with Hindu friends. And also because my father, Rafiquddin Hossain, Lal Babu to his friends, was an associate of Deshbandhu Chittaranjan Das and Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose.

Strangely, things began to improve after the '46 riots and we were excited about Independence. On the night of August 15, 1947, the wall of suspicion crumbled, giving way to an unprecedented feeling of Hindu-Mussalmaan bhai-bhaiism. I enrolled in Calcutta University's Law college and took the Bachelor of Law degree. I passed the Chamber's examination from the Calcutta High Court, topping the list, and was awarded the Sir Rashbehary Ghosh Memorial medal. But all of a sudden, everyone started refering to me as that Muslim boy, who would now become an advocate. Another riot in 1950 turned everything topsy-tun35 and like other Muslims, it shattered my dream. I realised that there was no future for me in India and looked to East Pakistan. The initial months were traumatic. Things began to look up as my career took off. I asked the rest of my family to join me in 1953. The same year when I was 30 years old, I married Sultana Begum whose family had migrated from Jalpaiguri, West Bengal.

Since then, there has been no looking back. From a judge of the Dacca High Court, to chief justice of Bangladesh, it was a dream come true. Now, I work with The Bangladesh Society for the Enforcement of Human Rights to help minority communities. Unless minority communities in both countries feel secure to lead a normal life, the communal issue can never be settled.

At 74, I still write books, read history and literature, especially Tagore. Allah has been kind and we're happy. Thoughts on the future? I feel like going to Calcutta, the city of my birth, to relive the sweet memories.

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