It was 1948. Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury was at the forefront of any opposition movement. Tamaddun Majlish, one of the founding organisations of the Language Movement, was more active as an organisation with the language movement in Chattogram. Despite the ideological differences, he did not hesitate to cooperate with Tamaddun Majlish in the greater interest of the country.
On 14 August 1948, activists of the organisation issued a proclamation aimed at the Pakistani ruling group and consequently police arrested Mohammad Ezaharul Haque and Farman Ullah Khan, some activists in Chattogram College of the organisation. As soon as Zahur Ahmed came to know about the news he rescued them from the police station.
Recalling the incident, language activist Ezaharul Haque wrote, "14 August 1948 was the first Independence Day of Pakistan. [We] decided that there should be a speech on Independence Day based on the review of Tamaddun Majlish on the problems of the country. The three of us wrote the proclamation together. Police arrested Farman and me while I was delivering it at a Polo Ground meeting on 14 August. We had a lot of trouble all day. Many people got the news [of our arrest] but no one came to see us at Kotwali police station. In the evening, Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury came to the police station and freed us on bail."
The Chattogram District All-Party State Language Council was formed on 4 February 1952. Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury was elected a member of this committee. From then on, his Andarkilla office of labour organisation came to be used as the office of the council. Awami Muslim League, Tamaddun Majlish and the leftist party leaders and activists used to run the language movement from this office.
An all-out strike was observed in Chattogram on 21 February on the call of the council to make Bengali one of the state languages.
The news of firing on students in Dhaka came to Chattogram in the afternoon and the rebelliousness spread throughout the city like fire. Procession after procession continued to reach the old Wajiullah Institute premises. One of those processions was led by Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury.
In the evening, a meeting of the council was held at the Andarkilla office. The convener of the committee Mahbub-ul-Alam Chowdhury was ill and Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury presided over the meeting. MA Aziz, Anwar Hossain and Salamat Ali Khan also spoke on the occasion. The meeting decided to hold a strike on 22 and 23 February and a public meeting at LaldighiMaidan on 24 February.
Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury, AK Khan, MA Aziz, Sheikh Mozaffar Ahmed Chowdhury, Harunur Rashid and Azizur Rahman addressed a public meeting on 24 February at LaldikhiMaidan under the chairmanship of Muslim League leader Rafiuddin Siddiqui.
In 1952, Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury was serving as the Assistant Secretary of the Pakistan Trade Union Federation. He had a monopoly on Chattogram port, shop workers and dock workers. Under his leadership, the workers of Chattogram played an important role in the language movement. In the same year, he was elected the Commissioner of Chattogram Municipality. The workers played a key role in his victory.
At a public meeting on 1 March, he demanded the immediate resignation of the government.
"We have no dispute with Urdu. We just want Bengali to be the state language of Pakistan along with Urdu. Around 55% of Pakistan's population is Bengali-speaking, so no one will be able to suppress our just demands," he said.
At the same time, he demanded a proper investigation into the incident of firing on students in Dhaka on 21 February and the punishment of the perpetrators.
He was also involved in the initiative to set up the first martyr's memorial in Chattogram. In this context, Prof Mohammad Ali Chowdhury wrote, "Literary figure Abul Fazal, Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury, MA Aziz and a few others were among the pioneer initiators." (Regional History of Language Movement)
In the 1954 election, Zahur Ahmed defeated Sheikh Rafiuddin Siddiqui, the candidate of the Muslim League and one of the richest men. The famous English daily Statesman of Kolkata commented in their editorial on this incident, "This defeat of Rafiuddin Siddiqui to Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury is equivalent to the defeat of an elephant to a fly."
Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury was born in 1916 in the village of Uttar Kattali in Chattogram to Abdul Aziz Chowdhury and Zarina Begum. His first son Saifuddin Khaled Chowdhury was martyred in the War of Liberation and his second son Mahatab Uddin Chowdhury is currently acting president of the metropolitan Awami League.
In 1937, he became involved in the dock labour movement at Khizirpur in Kolkata. Associated with the politics of the Muslim League in 1940. Chattogram Dock Workers Union was established in 1943. This year he first met Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. In 1945, under the leadership of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, section-144 was violated. In 1947 Sylhet took part in the referendum.
After the partition of the country, he came to Chattogram from Calcutta and started a movement with horse carts, bullock cart drivers and shop workers. He joined the Awami League from its birth in 1949 and gave a strong foundation to the party in Chattogram. He played a leading role in establishing an independent Bangladesh through the War of Liberation. After the war, as a member of Sheikh Mujib's cabinet, he devoted himself to rebuilding the country.
Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury, a lifelong fighter, died on 1 July 1974.