Sandwip is a famous historic island of Bangladesh. There are many social, economic, cultural and political reasons behind its being famous at home and abroad. As learnt from researchers’ note, celebrated Mina Nath, who is claimed to be the first-known litterateur and writer of Bengali language, was born in Sandwip. Mohakabi Abdul Hakim, a highly reputed Bengali National Poet of the 17th century was also born in Sandwip. Comrade Muzaffar Ahmed, one of the founding fathers of the Communist Party of India was also a man of Sandwip. Balal Muhammad, the Architect of Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra, was born in Sandwip and Abul Quasem Sandwipee, a companion of Balal Muhammad who read the inaugural announcement in the evening of 26 March 1971 in Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra, was also a man of Sandwip. These great persons are not all Sandwip has produced; many more great ones are there to be mentioned.
History reveals that once the Emperor of Turkey purchased sea-going vessels from the Dockyard of Sandwip. Each year about 300 ships loaded with salt sailed for Liverpool from the island of Sandwip. At that time Sandwip was famous for ship-building and salt industries. As a result, Sandwip attracted many foreign traders, tourists and researchers from across the world. One world-famous traveller, Caesar Fredric, in his memoirs of Sandwip mentioned Sandwip as the most fertile land in the world.
The Portuguese, Arakanese and many other foreigners came for business to Sandwip. With the passage of time, they involved in war with the local rulers for possession of the island and its resources. Portuguese pirates, named Carvalho and Gonjalves, ruled Sandwip for several years, until the arrival of Delwar Khan, a fugitive but a high-ranking naval officer of the Mughals in 1616. He drove these pirates away from Sandwip and ruled Sandwip independently for about 50 years.
During the period of Mughal Governor Shayesta Khan, at the age of 80 Delwar Khan faced a severe war with the Naval Forces of Mughals. After his defeat, the island fell in the hands of Mughals in 1665. Delwar Khan, known as Dilal Raja, was a very popular king in Sandwip. During his rule, Sandwip was fully independent. In his honour, the main road of Sandwip from south to north has been named after him as Delwar Khan Road. The people of Sandwip still remember him with due respect as Dilal Raja. This is in brief the social, economic, cultural and political past of Sandwip.
The historic island Sandwip still exists with its head high on the bank of the Bay of Bengal, leaving behind its eventful past and facing the heavy waves of the Bay of Bengal and the dangerous erosion of the mighty Meghna. But it remains no more a big island as it was during the rule of Delwar Khan.
The size of Sandwip was 630 sq miles in 1565, 417 sq miles in 1780, 222 sq miles in 1916 and 184 sq miles in 1947 and diminished to 95 miles according information published in 1989. Due to river erosion, most of its prominent parts have already gone into the mighty river Meghna and still erosion continues. According to concerned experts, if this trend of erosion continues, there remains a possibility that the historic island Sandwip may soon vanish from the map of Bangladesh, once for all.
The suffering people of Sandwip have been struggling for protection of Sandwip by constructing of a cross-dam for the last 50 years. The successive governments of Bangladdesh gave the people of Sandwip hope of implementing cross-dam time and again; but the implementation of Sandwip cross-dam still remains only a hope to the people.
Sandwipees also suffer different other problems, which need to be addressed soon. Among those problems, primary ones are to establish effective communication network with mainland, to supply electricity, to build necessary physical infrastructures and to create facilities for trade, commerce, industry, fishery, livestock, tourism and others.
Since independence till today, Sandwipees have got capable persons as their MPs. Late Obaidul Hoque was a professionally successful man. Late AKM Rafiqullah Chowdhury was a renowned politician. Late AKM Shamsul Huda was a successful lawyer. Late Mustafizur Rahman was a renowned banker. Mr. Mostafa Kamal Pasa is a son of a famous businessman, Late Baten Sodagor of Sandwip. He is also a locally renowned personality and politician, who has been elected MP thrice. All these leaders have, no doubt, tried their best to contribute to the developments of Sandwip.
But, Upazila Chairman Master Shahjahan’s activities and contributions to the developments of Sandwip got new recognition. Evaluating his contributions, National Human Rights Society gave him the Award of Ideal Upazila Chairman and TRAB awarded him Honour 2012. He is the only grass-root level leader of Sandwip who got this recognition. This is a great honour not only for him but also for all of Sandwipees.
Shahjahan has identified different prblems of Sandwip. Among all those problems, he has identified the river erosion as the number one problem of Sandwip. Realizing this, he along with the people of Sandwip has taken a bold initiative for drawing the attention of the government for implementation of Sandwip Urirchar Cross-Dam. The government has already responded to his initiative; and it is learnt that the cross-dam is under process of implementation of the government. Shahjahan has also implemented a good number of development projects and programmes in Sandwip. He wants to do many things for the developments of Sandwip in real sense.
In view of this, Master Mohammad Shahjahan has urged all Sandwipees to extend him their supports and to come forward for the development of Sandwip, irrespective of caste and creed, wherever they stay at home or abroad. Editor of The Guardian is also a man of Sandwip. So, for the greater interest of Sandwip, the editor also draws the kind and cordial attention of all Sandwippes to respond to the call of Master Shahjahan, so that he can be able to materialize the initiatives he has taken for the development of Sandwip and to fulfil the aspirations of all of us. Let’s all hope for the best.