U Razak

Abdul Razak

By Yeni

The honor roll of Burmese “martyrs” assassinated alongside Gen Aung San in 1947 includes a Muslim name: Abdul Razak, elected chairman of the Burma Muslim Congress.

Razak was just 50 when he was gunned down with his comrades on the fateful July day that has since become “Martyr’s Day.”

He studied at Rangoon University, took part in the anti-British student demonstrations in 1920 and then demonstratively switched to a Bachelor of Arts course with the alternative Council of National Education established by Burmese nationalists. Though a Muslim, the young Razak became highly proficient in Buddhist studies and the Pali language.

For 20 years—from 1922-42—he worked as superintendent of the Central National High School in Mandalay, and insisted on cultivating national spirit among his students. A staunch nationalist, he once declared that for every civil servant turned out by British colonial places of learning, his school produced “10 revolutionaries.”

Razak encouraged his pupils to form a student union and to participate fully in social activities, particularly sport. He employed a former Indian boxing champion to train his students, some of whom went on to represent Burma at the Olympic Games.

During World War II he was detained, along with other Burmese nationalists, by Japanese police. Gen Aung San organized a rescue plan, but Razak rejected it because it did not include his comrades. “He didn’t want to be free alone,” a retired colonel recalled.

British troops freed him from Mandalay prison, and Razak became a prominent leader of the Anti-Fascist People’s Freedom League of Upper Burma. He also organized the Muslims throughout Burma under the AFPFL flag, in preparation for the approaching struggle for independence.

Razak rejected the idea of a separated Muslim country when Pakistan initiated its separation from India. In May, 1946, he used the press to call upon Muslims not to show any sympathy toward Pakistan and urging them to be a strong and respected community in Burma, without weighing down the national development.

He was appointed minister of education and national planning in Burma’s pre-independence government—the start of a political career brought brutally to an end by assassins’ bullets on July 19, 1948.

“For us, he is a great leader, like Gen Aung San, said the editor of a Rangoon journal. Not, however, for the Rangoon regime—who have effectively removed his name from Burma’s pantheon by suppressing his biography.

U Razak

U Razak  (20 January 189819 July 1947; Arabic: Abdul Razak) was a Burmese politician who was a respected educationalist. He was a minister and was assassinated, along with his cabinet, on 19 July 1947. July 19 is celebrated in Myanmar today as Martyrs’ Day. U Razak was Minister of Education and National Planning, and was chairman of the Burma Muslim Congress.

Abdul Razak was born in Meiktila on 20 January 1898. He studied at the Wesleyan School in Mandalay, and continued his studies at the Rangoon College, earning a B.A. degree in English. Throughout his school years, Razak was involved in athletics.

In 1920, Razak was a leader in organising the first Burmese student boycott to the British colonial education system. In 1921, he became headmaster of Mandalay National High School. Razak’s natural charisma was effective in persuading the Mandalayans. When Japan invaded Burma in World War II, he was imprisoned.

In 1945, Abdul Razak was named chairman of the Mandalay branch of Anti-Fascist People’s Freedom League (AFPFL) and was elected a Member of Parliament to represent Mandalay. He was Minister of Education and National Planning in Aung San‘s Cabinet. It is stated that when U Razak was attended to in the immediate aftermath of the assassination on 19 July 1947, he asked that his colleagues be taken care of before himself. He died on 19 July 1947 together with other cabinet members.

Razak initiated calls for unity between Burmese Muslims and Buddhists. He was a devout Muslim, but maintained ties to Buddhism, educating himself on Pali, the sacred script of Theravada Buddhism, and helped found the Mandalay Degree College (modern Mandalay University. Razak fathered three children.

 

 References

  • Burmese Encyclopedia Vol 11, P 73 printed in 1970

 External links

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