Language hostilities and our achievement
Finally the Language Movement paved the way for East Pakistan of her right to self-determination as a nation under the leadership of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the Leader of Awami League when he was denied the right to form the government of Pakis
Professor Dr. Anwarul Karim :
History speaks that the attack on Bengali language first came from the Aryans, who conquered and ruled Bangla during the period of the Sena dynasty in Bengal. When Laksman Sena was the king he declared Bengali language of the non Aryans (prakrita) as most unholy and anybody who would be found talking in Bangla, would be thrown into a burning hell named 'raurava' after death. These Aryans considered the Bengali language of the non Aryans as language of outcastes and untouchables. They preached Sanskrit as their State Language. Later, when the Turks and the Mughals conquered the land from the Sena Aryans, they introduced Arabic and Persian as the court languages respectively.Â But they did not oppose Bangla, the Language of the common people. Â
Bengali language and culture became free from being unholy and received patronage from them. Yet there were Muslims who upheld Arabic and did not take interest in Bangla and they were condemned by Bengali Muslim poets like Abdul Hakim who strongly reacted to their attitude in the following words by saying:
He is no better than a bustard.Â Â Â
Whoever lives in Bangla and looks down upon Bangla language,
Bengali people never tolerated any attack on the language they speak as mother tongue by anybody however one might be. The Turks and the Mughals could understand from the reading of the holy Quran that languages which people had learnt to speak from the beginning of civilization was the creation of Allah. The same way was the race, color and clothes. Men learnt how to use them on earth by generations.
Brief background of Language Movement
In view of the situation that India would be divided into two parts as Hindustan (Bharat dominion) and Pakistan on the basis of the two nation theory where religion played a decisive role, the leaders of East Bengal thought about Bangla as one of the State Languages of Pakistan beside Urdu in 1946 much ahead of the creation of Pakistan. But the Urdu speaking Muslim leaders, however, opposed the idea.Â Â
Role played by Dr. Shahidullah
Dr. Muhammad Shahidullah, a renowned Muslim linguistic researcher and a respected Bengali scholar from Dhaka University, rejected the proposition of Chowdhury Khaliquzzaman.Â Â
Bengal Muslim League Leaders like Abul Hashiim, Maulana Akram Khan, Abul Mansur Ahmed, Hamidul Haque Choudhury and many others strongly protested it. Abul Hashim, the then General Secretary of Bengal Provincial Muslim League had then an election manifesto to make Bangla as the StateÂ Language of Pakistan.Abul Mansur Ahmad, Hamidul Haque Choudhury also played a great role in Language Movement at the initial stage.Â Â
Abdul HaqÂ also opposed the proposal of Choudhury Khaliquzzaman and wrote anÂ article on "Bangla Bhasha Bishoyok Prostab", the first article in which Haq argued for Bangla as Pakistan's State Language, andÂ thisÂ appeared in two installmentsÂ in the Calcutta daily ofÂ Ittehad on June 22 and 29, 1947.
Mean while, the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan which was then in session in Karachi from February 23, 1948 proposed that the members would have to speak either in Urdu or in English at the Assembly and it was strongly protested by Dhirendra Nath Dutta, a member from East Pakistan. He moved an amended motion to include Bangla as one of the languages of the Constituent Assembly.
Tamaddun Majlish and Professor Abul Kashem
The first movement on language issue was initiated and mobilized by the Tamaddun Majlish headed by Abul Kashem, the founder of Tamuddun Majlish. He was ably supported by Dewan Mohammad Azraf, Shahed Ali and Abdul Ghafur. Later others, particularly the non-communal and progressive organizations joined this movement which turned into a mass movement comprising Hindu-Muslim and other communities.
Sheikh Mujib and his role in Language Movement. First to be jailed for defending Bangla
Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman directly joined the Language Movement after coming back to East Pakistan from India. On his return he extended his full support to the Tamaddun Majlish. Professor Dr. Mazharul Islam writes: "Sheikh Mujibur Rahman helped and supported this party on many works related to the national language" (Source: Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib, Mazharul Islam: Dhaka, Agami Publication, 1993, Page 104). In 1947, he participated in the signature collection campaign and attended various meetings and processions with the Rashtro Bhasha Shongram Porishod. On 5 December 1947, he led a procession and attended the meeting of the Muslim League Working Committee held at the residence of Nawab Khwaja Nazimuddin, demanding Bangla as one of the State Languages of Pakistan.
Later Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in close cooperation with Shamsul Haque, Muhammad Nurul Haque, Gaziul Haque, Abdul Matin and Kazi Golam Mahbub organized a mass movement against Pakistan. They held meetings at Dhaka University on December 6, 1947 and brought out procession demanding Bangla as State Language of Pakistan. The first Rastrobhasa Songram Porisod (State Language Action Committee) was also then formed.
Jinnah, the Governor General and his declaration of Urdu as State Language
Â However, when Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the Governor General of Pakistan came to East Pakistan on March 19, 1947, he declared publicly at Ramna Race Course ground that Urdu would be the only State Language of Pakistan. Instantly people, mostly students of Dhaka University, strongly protested before him rejecting his declaration.Â Muhammad Ali Jinnah did not take any more initiative to make Urdu as the State Language when he faced the challenge of Bengali people in East Pakistan. During his stay in Dhaka he did not press home his claim for Urdu. Â
Two Nation Theory collapsed and rise of Bengali nationalism
In December 1947, Student leaders together with Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and political leaders opposed to the Muslim League formulated a 21 Points Manifesto which for the first time propagated the Language Movement. This historical document came out as a small booklet called: 'Rashtrobhasha Ekush Dofa Ishtehar-Oitihashik Dolil' (State Language-21 Points Manifesto- Historical Document). This booklet is recognized as an evidence of historical document of the Language Movement. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had an undeniable contribution in the drafting of this manifesto and was one of the key signatories. In this regard, Professor of History at Dhaka University, Dr. Syed Anwar Hossain says: 'The publication of the booklet within 3-4 months of the creation of Pakistan represented a call for the residents of East Pakistan to wake up from the illusion of the concept of Pakistan. The people in whose name the booklet came out were all dedicated activists for the movement of Pakistan. It is to be noted that one of these people was Faridpur's (currently Gopalganj) Sheikh Mujibur Rahman; who subsequently led Bangladesh to its creation as Bangabandhu."Â See 'Rashtrobhasha Ekush Dofa Ishtehar-Oitihashik Dolil', Shaikhul Bari, Reprinted January 2002).
Formation of Muslim Student League
Â The East Pakistan Muslim Students League was formed on 4 January 1948. The organization had remarkable contribution to the history of the Language Movement under the leadership of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. On 4 January 1948, the Organization made a 10-Point demands which included, among other things, the demand to make Bangla a State Language of Pakistan, recruitment of Bangali officers in the military and mandatory military education for all.
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman along with Abul Kashem of Tamaddun MajlishÂ and other student leadersÂ played a leading role to organize the Language Movement as a universal campaign for establishing Bangla as a State Language (Source: Language Movement and Sheikh Mujib, Pages 19-20). The Shongram Parishad was reformed at the joint meeting of Tamaddun Majlish and Muslim Students League which was held at Fazlul Huq Muslim Hall on 2 March 1948. This meeting was attended by leaders and activists of various organizations, of whom Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Shamsul Huq, Oli Ahad, Muhammad Toaha, Abul Kashem, Ronesh Das Gupta, Ajit Guha were notable. The meeting decided to build up a concerted movement against position on Bangla language of National Assembly and Muslim League by forming the All Party Council for Struggle on State Language. Sheikh Mujib played an active, bold and farsighted role in the formation of the Council.
11 March of 1948 was a memorable day for the history of the Language Movement. On this date, a spontaneous strike was observed throughout the country for demanding Bangla as the State Language. This was the first successful strike in the history of the Language Movement as well as after the formation of Pakistan. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was arrested and repressed by police after leading this strike. Language Veteran Oli Ahad in his book 'National Politics 1945-1975' wrote : 'In order to take part in the strike, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman came to Dhaka from Gopalganj on 10 March. During the strike programme of 11 March, Sheikh Mujib was so involved and excited that this strike redefined the course of his life". ('Sheikh Mujibur Rahman : Life and Politics', edited by Monayem Sarkar and published by Bangla Academy) In fact, Sheikh Mujib was the first to be arrested by the Muslim League government of Pakistan. In order to make the strike on 11 March successful, a statement was released to the press on 9 March, 1948. This was signed by Professor Abul Kashem (Secretary of Tamaddun Majlish), Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (Member of East Pakistan Muslim League Council), Naimuddin Ahmed (Convener of East Pakistan Muslim Students League) and Abdur Rahman Chowdhury (Leader of Pakistan delegation in Southeast Asia Youth Conference). The significance of this statement was immense in the context of national politics and history of the Language Movement. The arrest of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on 11 March was a turning point in his life. Speaking on the importance of 11 March in the history of the Language Movement and his own arrest, Bangabandhu said: 'The Language Movement did not start on 21 February 1952; it mainly started on 11 March, 1948" (Source: Daily Azad, 16 February, 1971). He added "Our movement started with the formation of the All Party Council for State Language by the Students League on 11 March 1948. On that day, I was arrested at around 9 in the morning. My fellow activists were also arrested. From there, the movement went ahead in phases". On 15 March 1948, the Chief Minister of East Pakistan Khwaja Nazimuddin signed an 8-Points Agreement with the Council for the Struggle of State Language. Before the agreement was signed, it was shown to the arrested activists of the Language Movement, who also gave their approval to the deal. Only after such endorsement the agreement was signed. Among those incarcerated, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman also viewed the document and gave his approval. This historic agreement resulted in the first official recognition of Bangla as a language of education. The terms of the agreement also resulted in the arrested language activists being freed, including Sheikh Mujib. The deal also signified the defeat of the powerful government to the demands of the people of East Pakistan. However, the government started dilly dallying with the issue of liberating the incarcerated leaders from March 15. This made Sheikh Mujibur Rahman furious and he issued a strong condemnation of it.
On March 16, 1948, a general students' demonstration was held under the Banyan Tree in Dhaka University to consolidate the Language Movement. Following the demonstration, a procession was taken out towards the East Pakistan Legislative Assembly. This meeting was led by the recently freed leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. It was learnt that some excesses were committed by the Police during the demonstration and procession. Bangabandhu said: "There were demonstrations against the MLAs. Abuses were hurled against them. One MLA from Bagerhat named Dr. Moazzem was confined by students in Muslim Hall. I went there to arrange his releaseâ€¦â€¦' (Source: Bhasha Andolon Proshongo, Certain Documents, Part 2,Â BadruddinÂ Omar: Dhaka, Bangla Academy, 1985, Page 325).
On March 17, 1948, a general students' demonstration was held in Dhaka University called by East Pakistan Muslim Students League led by Naimuddin Ahmed. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman participated in that meeting (See National Politics, 1945-1975, Oli Ahad). The decision was taken to observe nationwide strike in educational institutions on the 17th. The strike of that day received never seen before support. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman came to be known as a youth leader with a resolute stance and unfettering courage from that time onward to the general student body. Due to the relentless efforts of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Tajuddin Ahmed, Mohammad Toaha, Naimuddin Ahmed, Shawkat Ali, Abdul Matin, Shamsul Huq and others the Language Movement spread across East Pakistan as a mass movement. Entire Bangladesh was reverberating with the vibrations of meetings, processions and slogans. There were posters on the walls of streets after streets saying 'We want Bangla as State Language'.Â To realize the demand, the Shongram Committee worked without rest. Among those student leaders who worked inextricably with the Committee, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was most notable. His role was particularly effective when leading processions or demonstrations. (Source: Language Movement and Bangabandhu, Page 3). In 1949, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was arrested twice for his activities in the movement.
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was in jail during the explosive phase of the Language Movement in 1952. Although he was not physically present during the activities of that time, he used to meet with the activists in jail and give directions. (Source: 21st February, National to International, Dr. Mohammad Hannan, Page 53). In this regard, Language Veteran Gaziul Huq wrote in his memoirs: 'After being arrested in the October of 1948, Mr. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was incarcerated at various prisons up to the February of 1952. Hence, naturally, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman could not physically participate in the Language Movement of 1952. But from jail, he maintained communications with the activists and leaders of the movement and advised on various issues". (Gaziul Huq, 'Amar Dekha, Amar Lekha', Page 40). The key leaders of the movement, including Abdus Samad Azad, Zillur Rahman, Kamruzzaman, Abdul Matin and others have all unequivocally stated that Bangabandhu used to send his directions through small pieces of paper from jail and subsequently from hospital. Language Veteran and renowned journalist Abdul Gaffar Chowdhury wrote in his article 'EKush Niye Kichu Sriti, Kichu Kotha' that Sheikh Mujib sent letters to multiple leaders of Students' League before being taken to Faridpur Jail on February 16, 1952. (Source : Bhalobashi Matribhasha, Page 62)
Later, Awami Muslim League leaders including Sheikh Mujibur Rahman together with Tamaddun Majlish and other social and cultural organizations organized movement throughout the country and the movement rose to the climax on 21st February, 1952.
Police opened fire and killed a number of processionists
It was a very big procession that came from different parts of the city including Tejgaon, Narayanganj and old Dhaka and assembled at the Medical College near the East Pakistan Assembly House to demonstrate rejection of Urdu as State Language of Pakistan. At that time the Assembly session was going on.Â The police opened fire against the processionists and a number of students were killed. Some of them were identified as Salam, Barkat, Jabbar and Rafique. Many more were killed. Â
Country-wide protests were held
On April 27, 1952, the council of district and sub-district level representatives of the 'Shorbo-dolio Songram Porisod' was held. Country-wide protests were held. People condemned the Muslim League government. Nurul Amin was then the Chief Minister. Bangabandhu played a key role in observing the first anniversary of Ekushe in 1953. He was at the front of every demonstration and procession on that day. In the public rally at Armanitola field, he requested that 21st February be observed as the 'Martyrs Day' and demanded that Bangla immediately be recognized as the State Language.
Formation of the Jukto (United) Front and defeat of Muslim League government
The United Front or Jukto Front was formed to fight back the election in 1954 against the Muslim League government, comprising the Awami Muslim League, the Krishak Praja Party, the Ganatantri Dal (Democratic Party) and Nizam-e-Islam. The coalition was led by three major Bengali populist leaders- A K Fazlul Huq, Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy and Maulana Bhashani. The election resulted in a crushing defeat for the Muslim League. A K Fazlul Huq of the Krishak Praja Party became Chief Minister of East Pakistan.
Justification of Language Movement
Â Bangla was made one of the State Languages of Pakistan in 1956. The movement safeguarded East Pakistan of her rights to self-determination as a part of Pakistan and also of exploitation of East Pakistan by West Pakistan from political, social, economic and cultural dimension. East Pakistan was full of natural resources and if Urdu was made State Language then it would have helped facilitate an easy way for exploitation by West Pakistan through various means including providing jobs to the Urdu speaking people and controlling the administration by creating a vested group of civil servants as it happened during the British rule. The Hindus got the upper hand over the Muslims for learning English language getting jobs and other facilities from the British government. There had been influx of Urdu speaking people from Bihar to East Pakistan immediately after the division of India through two nation theory. This also unsettled a section of Bengali Hindus who were forced to migrate from East Pakistan to India.
From Language Movement to War of Liberation and Independence of Bangladesh.
Finally the Language Movement paved the way for East Pakistan of her right to self-determination as a nation under the leadership of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the Leader of Awami League when he was denied the right to form the government of Pakistan being victorious obtaining votes of the absolute majority. The Six Point demand of Bangabandhu was also turned down by the Central government headed by General Yahya Khan. On the 25th March,Â Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was taken to custody and there had been a massacre of people of East Pakistan by the Pakistani army killing people-men, women and children. A nine-month long War of Liberation made the country free from Pakistani rule and Bangladesh became the single nation in the world, made free as a country beginning through her fight for mother tongue.Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
(Professor Dr. Anwarul Karim, presently is the Executive Director, Bangabandhu Research Center, Northern University Bangladesh. He is also the founder Chairman, Institute of Folklore and Community Development, Bangladesh, formerly Visiting Scholar, Divinity School, Harvard University, USA and founder Director, Lalon Academy, Kushtia. E-mail: dranwar, firstname.lastname@example.org)