Dhaka City, in the late thirties was a burgeon township of 120-150,000 people mostly living in and around what is now known as the ‘Old Town’ along the river Buriganga. A major city, in the Muslim populated East Bengal, Dhaka was growing in importance due mainly to the trading business based on the riverine communication. The gentry comprised of businessmen, educationists, professionals and the officials, both local and foreign, who mixed well socially.
In this background the Rotary International movement, founded in the US city of Chicago in 1905 by Paul P Haris, a lawyer, and three of his friends as co-founder, found Dhaka an ideal home for the first Rotary Club in this part of the world. At a meeting on the 22nd December 1937 at the Imperial Bank of India building near Victoria Park (now Bahadur Shah) park the Rotary Club of Dhaka was founded. The meeting was attended by 17 members from diversified professions.
The meeting came about by the efforts Rtn Sir Fredrick James who was the Honorary General Commissioner and Rtn Herbert Bryant, Secretary of the Middle Asia office set up in 1930 to boost Rotary movement in East Asia and organize Rotary Clubs in India, Burma (now Mayanmar), Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), Afghanistan and the South East Asia. In the early days Rtn Herbert Bryant organized clubs and Rtn Sir James granted charters on behalf of the Rotary International.
In their effort to introduce Rotary ideals, Sir James and Herbert Bryant visited Dhaka and came across such dedicated men as H R Wilkinson, S J E Virgo, Professor Ramesh Chandra Majumder and Altaf Hossain to organise the first Rotary club in this region sponsored by the Rotary Club of Calcutta. The Club was admitted as the 16,114th Club on the 26th February 1937, which is observed as the charter date. The Charter was presented to the Club on the 22nd March 1938. The following members were the founding members:
H R Wilkinson – Provincial Govt. Administration
R C Mojumder – Education – University
S J E Virgo – Finance – Banking
P C Ghoshe – Law – Practice
S A Salim – Education – Primary
S K Das – Wood Industry
W J Berry – Provincial Govt Engineerig
Altaf Hossain – Provincial Govt Education
J W A Pheasant – Electric Industry
Dr N Gupta – Medicine
Dr P C Chakravarty – Medicine Radiology
H J Mackertich – Jute Industry
Dr Mahmood Hassan – Fine Arts
Dr J C Ghoshe – Pure Science
The admission fee of the Club as Rs 25.00 and the annual dues Rs 24.00. The Club met twice a month in rotation at a member’s home. The first Board of Directors comprised of the following Rotarians:
H R Wilkinson – President Prof
R C Mojumder – Vice President
S K Chatterjee – Secretary
A K Das – Treasurer
S J E Virgo – Director
P C Ghoshe – Director
S A Salim – 2nd Secretary
The Club was raised under the RI District 89 with Rtn Phiroze Sethna was the District Governor and Rtn Herbert Bryant was the Governor’s Special Representative. The Club grew steadily in the first ten years but it suffered a setback with the partition of India in 1947 when most of the members left Dhaka. The membership of the Club was reduced to only seven.
In the 1950s and 60s, the Club made great progress when the membership rose to 57 in 1971 just before liberation. During these difficult and challenging period dedications of some Club members, including M H Khan, S M Hussain, Hafizur Rahman, Dr Hedayatullah, A H Faridi, B C Sharbadhakary, M A Jabbar, A Motaleb, Rahim Khan, Imran Faruque, Alamgir Rahman, Colonel T D Ahmed, Fentress Gardener (of US Consulate), S E Kabir, K S Alam, Justice Abu Sayeed Choudhury, Azizul Huq and Iftekharul Alam was outstanding that helped in the growth of the Club and the Rotary movement in this region. The Club through sponsorship organized a number of Rotary Clubs, namely – RC Chittagong in 1952, RC Narayanganj in 1954, RC Khulna in 1958, RC Mymensingh in 1958, RC Dhaka North in 1968 and RC Comilla in 1969. During this time Rtn S M Hussain in 1955-56 became the first District Governor from the Rotary Club of Dhaka of RI District 325. This was a rare achievement for the Club as the District 325 then covered East Pakistan, West Bengal, Bihar, Assam, Nepal and Bhutan. Later Rtn A Rahim Khan in 1962-63 became the District Governor of RI District 325 and Rtn A F M Abdul Huq Faridi in 1970-71 became the District Governor of RI District 307 which covered East and West Pakistan.
Throughout this time Rotary Anns, notably Ann M H Khan, Ann Husneara Huq, Ann Khorshedi Alam and Ann Dossani worked closely with the Club members and their Anns and helped in promoting fellowship through their active participation in various Club programs and activities which helped Club to achieve sustainable growth during the same period.
During the liberation war in 1971, the Club had another setback and suffered with the entire Bengali nation. The Club President Rtn Dr M Innas Ali was wounded on the night of 25 March 1971 when the Pakistani forces stormed the Dhaka University campus. Again Past District Governor A Rahim Khan died in a firing incidence on 17 December 1971. Although his bullet ridden car was found near the BRTC bus depot at Mohmmadpur his dead body was never found. All the Rotarians mourned his death with deep shock and sorrow.
In an effort to revisive the Club, a joint meeting was held with the Rotary Club of Dhaka North under the leadership of Rtn Sanaullah Sheikh (the first President of RCD after the lieration) and Rtn Moniruzzaman Khan of RC Dhaka North. The meeting was held on 23 February 1972 at Purbani Hotel with Justice Abu Sayeed Choudhury, the Presiednt of Bangladesh as the Chief Guest. The Club membership reduced to twenty-nine.
Since 1972, the Rotary Club of Dhaka has significant progress in all avenues of services and spear headed the growth of Bangladesh, organizing over 50 new Rotary Clubs through sponsorship and patronization. In 1984, a separate District 3280 was formed for Bangladesh to cope with the growing number of members. Today, Bangladesh has two districts, District 3281 and 3281 with over 5000 Rotarians in 350 Clubs and large number of Rotaract and Interact Clubs contributing significantly to the Rotary movement in this region which all has been rooted in the 79 years of history and tradition of the Club, makes it MOTHER of Rotary Clubs in Bangladesh.