Wednesday, March 20, 2019 | ePaper

Ekushey and Abul Kasem

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M Mizanur Rahman :
fter the emergence of Pakistan as the state in 1947 there was a colossus reason of making the state language of a nation state.
The state was divided into two parts. One part was East Pakistan and other part was West Pakistan. The majority people of Pakistan were Bengali-speaking. As a matter of fact Bengali should be the State Language of Pakistan. But it was then repudiated by the Urdu-speaking rulers at the helm of affairs. But the soft-speaking Bengali People in East Pakistan came up with a common cultural adherence to solve the language problem for the both wings of Pakistan, acceded to both Bangali and Urdu as the State Languages of Pakistan. This was also given to a debate in the then Parliament for final decision. The proposal for the State language was given beside English and Urdu. Bengali also required to be inserted as a reasonable demand before the members of the Pakistan National Assembly. It was raised by Dhirendranath Dutt, the member of the National Assembly from the Congress Party.
Partly the text of the same is given hereunder as follows:
...what should be the State Language of the State? The State Language of the state should be language which is used by the majority of the people of the state, ... I consider that Bengali Language is a lingua franca of our state ... if English can have an honoured place in Rule 29-that the proceedings of the Assembly should be conducted in Urdu or English, why Bengali, which is spoken by four crores forty lakhs people should not have an honoured place ... and therefore Bengali should not be treated as a provincial. It should be treated as the language of the State and therefore... I suggested that after the word ‘English’ the words ‘or Bengali’ be inserted in Rule 29.
It was, however, vehemently opposed by the government. An extract from the speech of the Prime Minister of Pakistan Liaquat Ali Khan can be cited in this context here as follows :
“ ... Pakistan has been created because of the demand of a hundred million Muslims in this sub-continent and the language of a hundred million Muslims is Urdu and ... Pakistan is a Muslim State and it must have as its lingua franca the language of the Muslim nation ... Urdu can be the only language which can keep the people of East Bengal or Eastern zone and the people of Western zone joined together. It is necessary for a nation to have one language and that language can only be Urdu and no other language.” This sort of unreasonable position of the then Prime Minister of Pakistan fomented undesirable trouble in the Eastern wing of Pakistan where agitation cropped up in a resolute Bengali people’s die-hard movement for Bengali that must be the State Language of Pakistan.
Prof Abul Kasem meanwhile started pioneering campaign for the establishment of Bangla as the State Language of Pakistan with courage and fortitude just after the partition of the sub-continent in 1947. His efforts to this end are evident from the interview by the Bengali monthly Dhaka Digest March 1978. The extensive interview was taken by journalist Abdul Muqit Chowdhury. From the interview of the Dhaka Digest (now defunct) Prof. Abul Kasem made it clear how the movement for Bengali as  the State Language took its course of action. Some of the questions of DD and the answers of Principal Abul Kasem were :
DD: When do you think the movement for Bengali as the State Language began? How did it work from the beginning?
AK: On September 1947 my edited book titled Pakistaner Rastrobhasa Bangla Na Urdu (Whether State Language of Pakistan would be Bengali or Urdu was published. It was widely circulated throughout the then East Pakistan in which articles of Abul Monsur Ahmad, the then editor of the Daily Ittefaqe, Dr Kazi Motahar Husain and of mine contained. This was the first book of its kind to move for the establishment of Bengali as the State Languages of Pakistan. Our opinion was then clear that both Bengali and Urdu can be the State Language of Pakistan. The book has its realistic ideals. We sent copies of books to different places. We collected subscriptions to run the movement. Some government officers gave subscriptions. DIG of Police Abul Hasnat, AKM. Ahsan, and some other government high officials supported us in efforts to boost the movement. We worked with risks in unfavourable circumstances.
DD: Had you been disappointed by the speech of Mohammad Ali Jinnah? What’s your comment about the speech?
AK : We had no expectation from him and as such the question of disappointment does not arise at all. To this effect we had been working since independence. Later we met Jinnah accompanying the leaders of the Songram Porishod, but he remained unmoved in his pledge. He was adamant about his decision.
DD: Would you talk about your organizational activities?
AK : In 1947, we established an ideal cultural association named Pakistan Tamuaddun Majlish. Firstly I started working in my own residence at 19, Azimpur. I was then a Professor of the Dhaka University. I took help of Syed Nazrul Islam and Shamsul Alam, students of Sallimullah Muslim Hall.
Later the office was shifted to a dilapidated house Surat Zamal mess near Rashid building. We took Aziz Ahmad and Naimuddin for assistance. For submitting memorandum to the government in favour of Bengali language to be State Language we started campaign to take signatures of the people. We got signatures of some government officials, liteterateures and students.
DD : What was the next programme of the movement?
AK : Prof Dr Nurul Hoque Bhuiyan of the Dhaka University joined Pakistan Tamaddun Majlish. In the meantime a memorandum was also submitted to the government in favour of Urdu. We established a Songram Committee in which Dr Bhuiyan was elected as the Convenor. Since meetings and seminars were held in different places of the city. Likewise a seminar was arranged by Majlish at the Fazlu Haque Hall in which Habibullah Bahar, Afzal Hosain, Dr Kazi Motahar Hosain, Poet Jasim Uddin and I delivered lectures which brought some impact on the audience.
As soon as we came to know that in money order form and postal stamps Urdu words will be inscribed, I, with some members of the Songram Committee went to the concerned Minister Fazlur, Rahman protesting the matter; but he did not pay heed to us and we arranged a protest meeting under the banner of Majlish against such action of the government. The meeting was held at Amtola of the Dhaka University on behalf of the Songram Porishad. Even the General Secretary of the SM Hall of the Dhaka University was attacked while he went to the printing press for collecting hand-bills. He was saved by a generous man anyway being severely wounded and hospitalized. On 11th March 1948, a procession was taken out and it marched towards Secretariat building. However this was opposed and attacked by the government aided thugs. The strike was partially held on 11th March 1948. I was then the Joint Secretary of the East Pakistan Labour Federation. We called strike on 11th March 1948 which was made successful by the Railway employees League and Central employees Union. I led a procession towards Secretariat building. Here a clash took place in which two Ministers Hamid Saheb and another were manhandled due to gross misunderstanding. To calm down the crowd law and order forces dispersed them. The prompt reaction of the government fell on us. We faced notice, arrest warrants, and ban on our weekly Sainik etc.
And then Khwaja Nazimuddin reached an agreement with us which pleased majority people.
DD: Will you speak more about ‘52, Language Movement?
AK : C.M. Nazimuddin’s volte face breach. Of contract about renewed declaration that “Urdu shall be the only State Language of Pakistan” in 1952 made people of East Pakistan boisterously furious and agitated. This advanced the movement at greater speed. The Songram Committee was formed in a room of the Medical College hostel. The representatives of the Tamaddun Majlish, East Pakistan Student League, Youth League, Islamic Brotherhood etc. formed All Party Songram Committee. The Weekly Sainik Potrica Bhasha Sonkhya of 1952 was sold in thousand copies.
It was decided that 21st February would be observed as the ‘Protest Day’ and the entire Dhaka city was clamp-down with Rule 144. In spite of that Rule 144 it was violated and procession started. But it was intercepted by tear gas and police-firing in which some invaluable lives were lost. My house was besieged by the police. Both Abdul Ghafur and I went underground. Firstly we took shelter in the house of Dr Nurul Islam at Lalbag and afterwards we had to go to the village Mohammadpur of Mymensing.
DD: Has the history of 52 movements distorted and defaced at present?
AK:  Yes. The root of Language Movement is somewhat distorted by some vested quarters. There are political opportunists who non-cooperated the movement, but now they look to be the champion of it. They undo the cause of the people and take the opportunity in time like the chance-comer! They are apt to distort the fact of history and axe the interest of the general people at opportune moment.
Prof Abul Kasem was born in a respectable Muslim family of Pata, Upazila Sebondi, Chittagong on 28th June 1920. His father Moulvi Motiur Rahman was an enlightened personality of the village who had great regard for education and culture in Muslim Society.
Professor Abul Kasem was an erudite personality having vast knowledge both in literary and scientific discipline. He had left before us his written voluminous works to his credit, which might satisfy the writers and researchers of all ages. The following are the books: Pakistaner Ratrobhasa BangIa Na Urdu (1947), Ek matro Path (1949), Mukti Kon Pothe (1952), Ghosona (1952), Adhunik Chintadhara 0 Koranik Orthoniti (1964), Islam ki dite pare (1952), Sreni Songram (1953), Songothon (1964), Islam Science and Modem Thoughts (1975). Beside these, he has left behind a lot of manuscripts yet to be researched and published to enlighten the people.
 Professor Abul Kasem had a great organizational caliber that his Tamaddun Majlish still beacons the light of knowledge and culture lighting up the social arena. His name and fame will remain immortal in his works both organisational and written. n

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