Bengali patriot and politician. He participated in the campaign against the partition of Bengal, chaired the Bengal Provincial Congress in 1917 and the Indian National Congress in 1918. He joined Mahatma Gandhi's noncooperation movement in 1920 and helped form the Swarajiya Party in 1922. Opposed to Hindu communalism, he was popular with both Muslim and Hindu communities in Bengal. He was elected mayor of Calcutta City Corporation in 1924.
Imprisoned 1921–22, he emerged to help form the Swarajiya Party to contest district and provincial council elections (then boycotted by the Indian National Congress). As mayor of Calcutta City (now Kolkata), he came to an agreement with Gandhi that allowed both Swarajists and Gandhians to campaign from the Congress platform.
Called to the Bar in 1894, he soon acquired a reputation for skilfully representing nationalists, such as Aurobindo Ghose (1908), accused of terrorism by the British colonial government in India.
Although he himself rejected violence, many of his followers were either involved in terrorism or openly advocated the use of violence in opposition to colonial rule. A strong supporter of the trade-union movement, he campaigned on behalf of railway workers and labourers on the Assam tea plantations. He and his followers were thus a powerful force for radicalism within the Indian nationalist movement, a radicalism that grew in the years following his death.
His achievements in forging unity between Hindus and Muslims in Bengal survived his death by only a few years: factionalism and violence led ultimately to the partition of the province on independence in 1947.
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