A new nation was born


By Shamsul Arefeen Khan

Its a first few paragraphs of the upcoming narrative named~My Hero of the Millennium~.There in the treatise , with my friends, kith and kin ,kids and grand kids, cousins and grand cousins,nieces and grand nieces; and with Tom Dick and Harry; and with  all and sundry foes, I am going to share my childhood memory in a  personal note . Initially some tranquil moments of mourn and grief with language martyr Barkat’s grieved parents at the solitude of Azimpur Graveyard . It was in commemoration of the Language martyrs slain on 21-22 February 1952. In the background ,my childhood  image is shown here in a rare picture of Martyrs Day observance on 21 February 1953. I took to the burial ground , where martyrs of the historic Bengali language movement were laid to eternal rest. I leaped with my little friends , in a bare footed silent mourning procession. We wore black badges. We paraded black flags. We carried rings of floral wreath made by some professional gardener. We collected assorted  flowers  from  nursery by solicitation and from neighborhood`s private front yard and back yard  gardens, by pilferage .Early we set out at dawn from our alma mater, West End High school, Dhaka, Bangladesh. It still stands, not very far from the burial ground.

On 21 February police brutally  killed , 1.Abul Barkat son of Shamsuddin Ahmed and Hasina Begum originally of Bhorotpur,Murshidabad, West Bengal;2.Rafiquddin , son of Abdul Laif of Manikganj, Dhaka; 3.Abdul Jabbar , son of Abdul Qader of Gaforgaon, Mymensing . All those three martyrs were presumably students,but details of their engagements , I never found .4. A Government employee Abdus Salam,son of Fazil Mia of Lokkhonpur, Feni received severe multiple injuries as police fired several shots on him . He had critically survived under a desperate Medical care and then on the 45 the day he succumbed to his unhealed wounds.

In the afternoon of that fateful day,(21 February 1952)frenzied students and the infuriated members of the indignant public moved with urgent haste and rushed in unruly anger towards the East Bengal Legislative Assembly to lodge protest and place demand appropriate punitive  measures against the culprits who commanded the  police atrocity and precluded a  democratic agitation. SP Elice ordered and Muslim League Chief Minister Nurul Amin endorsed, it was categorically alleged. Angry people demanded their ouster and  immediate trial. Leaders urged upon the embroiled mob to stay innocuous and shun violence .

The House was in session at its old building located  at the site now called the Jagannath Hall .The mob was halted by police at a safe distance .But their roars and howling transcended the barbaric  barricade and swelled  in an earnest appeal for justice to the slumbering conscience of the people’s representatives. Some law makers quickly   responded to the   wake  up call. The Daily Azad Editor Abul Kalam Shamsuddin  instantly resigned. Including   Moulana Abdur Rashid Tarkabagish some other  law makers  threatened resignation.Progressives and liberals including Hindu Congress   members ,  who were polarized against the treasury bench, rose in anger . They roared  vehement  protest. They strongly  condemned Governments despotic action for suppressing a democratic movement. But the Chief Minister declined   the adjournment motion. The house plunged  into   pandemonium  and ended  in fiasco.

  Earlier in the fore noon   I moved to the DMCH  emergency  word  having been traumatized  by  the scary  tear gas infliction . I sequeled   others  who fled the invaded   meeting  place  around  Modhu`s Canteen and the students` Union office .Everybody ran for safety.   Barbaric  Police action slammed on the radical  gathering  immediately after the historic sermon for law  disobedience  was pronounced . There occurred  a frenzied haste for flee.. The deserted  DUCSU and  Medical College  Hospital  area was cordoned by the armed Police Battalion .

The Sun was direct on the head , shining and scorching vigorously, but blotted out by low storm clouds, the heat was not burning. Northern wind was still blowing gently bidding adieu to the outgoing winter . Nevertheless, it made me drenched  in unusual perspiration. Hospital yard  fell  into a scary silence. I was panting . I felt  shivered.  I  heard  mur mur in my heart. I was bewildered. Staying  stunned and baffled on the road facing large balcony,  I stared blankly on the solitary main road .   Pretty soon , as I peered on the front street, I  gazed that , aged over thirty,  an innocent tardy guy , ostensibly a squalid, dejected daily labor, crumbled on the black tarred  road.He fell victim  fatally ,of a brutal unprovoked police shooting . It was a spree, like bird hunting . The helpless stranger tumbled nose down. A thin   blood stream   roled   quietly .The huge hospital clock sruck  1 pm .It preceeded  the  horrendous atrocity  that befell  Barkat . A barrage of bullets  had brutally blown  martyr salam`s  scull.Victims brain sprayed thick blood over the mother soil. Staying at the upward stair way  inside the emergency block , I watched  senior students conducted severely injured and profusely  bleeding  Barkat  and lifeless  Salam  to the hospital  emergency room. 

The unknown  victim should have been hospitalized dead or alive, for humanity`s sake . But to my utter surprise , a running armed Police lorry had seized the blood dipped lifeless human corpse .The heartless and soul less cops  dragged a  human body  like a  street dog. In a high speed those uncanny   hordes fled the place of occurrence. Never this cruel killing was referred to an official report .Never was the victim   named  or added to the list of martyrs. It however was obliquely mentioned in some private accounts that a few strangers were killed at different places unnoticed and the tyrant   law enforcers grabbed them untraceable.

On the very next mournful day,22  February ‘52 , police opened random  fire on a procession of the Supreme Court employees and commoners . At Nawabpur main street they  were  parading black flags  and  roaring in protest against the police atrocity.A law student cum supreme Court staff ,Shafiur Rahman and  another  stranger Ohiullah fell fatally victim of the indiscriminate shooting . In quick  succession , unidentified Abdul Awal  was  run over horrifically by a police lorry. He was dead right then .  Last but not the least, an impoverished , 12 year old, anonymous helpless street boy was horrendously torn and killed by the barrage of bullets at Bangshal road near Nawabpur as another  protest rally paraded black flags over there.Police force became fiends.  And they retaliated fiercely against sporadic brick chips  and stone hurling by the angry  mob.Ruthless  Cops had   grabbed most of the bodies and reportedly  buried them in mass graves without any  ritual at the small hours under curfew .

The mourning march turned into a resentment rally of the groaning   indignant masses.They became unruly . Impatiently they demanded Bengali state language. Crazily howled for killer Chief Minister Nurul Amin`s ouster from power and his immediate trial for the cold blood homicide.~Hang Nurul Amin-Hang the killer~ they cried  in fury .The masses roared bitter abhorrence and desperate contempt raising their arms and fist in utter disapproval of the carnage.Significantly enough, thousands of local residents and natives of old Dhaka came out in violent protest and condemnation  against  the dastardly killings.

Natives of old Dhaka until then, were grossly reluctant to  endorse Bengali State Language demand.They stayed away from the movement. Loyalists mostly thought the movement was unfancied.Many had even  taunted and caricatured , Responding to the official condemnation and malicious propaganda some  guys scolded, ridiculed  and abused participants and protogonistas  as stooges and slaves of Hindus. Some even called activists Indian agents because the constitutional amendment was moved and seconded  by non Muslim law makers.   Aboriginal  inhabitants of urban Dhaka  were proud of the former Chief Minister Sir Nazimuddin  and his predecessor,   Muslim  league  founder Nawab Khawaja Sir Salimullah, whom they bore as glory. As a mark of solidarity with Nazimuddin they had denounced the demand for Bengali State language.  They stood  rather unabashedly  in support of Urdu. Moreover aborigine natives were yet to be disillusioned about the charismatic Jinnah . They  stayed  still glued with  his obsequious influence. They hung around his concept of the so called separate homeland for Indian Muslims.That infatuating   impetuous   concept  formed  the basis of  the infamous  two nation theory, which was the bed rock of Pakistan’s creation.These natives spoke, like Calcatians, a cocktail of Urdu and Bengali  colloquials at home and  at  their social interaction.Moreover,they believed that their ancestors were the rulers of the sub-continent and they were their blood connection. All those myths, however, had fallen on the hard rock of cruelty on 21-22 February after the  police firing  flung martyrdom on the brave sons of the soil. Loyalists turned rebels. They rose massively indignant in a great anger. Members of the minority community hitherto been  silent shy and scared , also shook off reluctance and  came out openly to express solidarity with the movemrnt.The Government was sensitive about the minority participation in  the state language movement from the beginning .In a bid to isolate non muslims from the language movement the Government  renewed  communal persecution. Members of the minority community  were rampaged by instigated  fresh  violence in 1950.Thousands were evicted from hearth and forced to flee home.Ten thousand left workers migrated to West Bengal to skip extinction.

The language movement thus slipped out from the fold of he student community and assumed largely a character of peoples’ struggle for emancipation from cultural slavery which eventually  formed the basis of struggle for  economic and political liberation .The working class majority was polarized  with the tumultuous  movement. Industrial labors , peasants and the toiling masses  had exposed their solidarity.The most significant and distinguished feature of the peoples  unity was its non communal character and secular orientation. An onslaught on the mother tongue healed the fracture inflicted by  communal fratricide, over ages ,since the white horse mounted invader Bakhtiar Khiljii  occupied Bengal and Bihar.

 The gap was bridged.Initially  law maker  Dhirendranath Dutta sought  a legislative recognition of  mother tounge  Bangla as the State Languuage of Pakistan.He proposed it   to be  coupled with Urdu. Purporting to uphold the mother tongue of 44 million Bengali speaking people living in East Bengal comprising about 54 percent of the total  population of the Dominion, he moved an  amendment to an official bill. Minority member Srish Chandra Chaterji, Bhupendra kumar Dutta and Hemhori Barma  supported the move .Prime Minister Liaqat Ali Khan Slammed NO.He stubbornly defended  Government`s obsessive stand  saying,~ Hundred million Muslims   in the sub continent speak Urdu. Urdu  can be the only language which can keep the people of East Bengal of the Eastern Zone and the people of western zone together.It is necessary  for the nation to  have one language. On February 24 , 1948 the treasury bench introduced a bill, in the Constituent  Assembly,  to amend Indian 1935 Act  about the official  language. During the advent of British colonial rule English  was thrust as the Royal language  and then it was made  Official Language of India. It removed Farsi, which was the official language  of the Moghuls  until 1757 British invasion of Bengal . Subsequently when  the  entire sub continent fell to the British subservience, English became State language of British India. The new rulers of the Pakistan Dominion basically wanted to install Urdu as the parallel state language alongside the colonial language to serve their neocolonial   interest.  It would obliterate Bengali language from all  national affairs. Although Bengali  language was accommodated as subsidiary language in the state affairs ,in 1835, it was not recognized as medium of higher education, or the state language.Until 1937-38 English was compulsory even  for School Final examination. It left no secondary option for the mother tongue of the natives. Language was the instrument of subjugation in both Moghul rule and the British period.

 Eminent Indian   Poet Sir Mohammad Iqbal  had conceived in his philosophy , a pure Islamic Nation . He  abbreviated   P-A-K-I-S-T-A-N’, as nomenclature of a separate homeland for the Indian Muslims. The new state which he had conceived of would comprise Muslim majority  contiguous regions. In his concept there was no place of Bengal. It encompassed Panjab, Afganistan, Kashmir,Indus basin of Sind and Beluchistan. His composition  would make a viable state in all respect , economically ,politically and also from cultural point of view. Islam as a common religion would serve as  an adhesive factor. Differences of language would be bridged by Urdu which had espoused Arabic letters in the alphabet.  As a  whole  a homogeneity  would be brought and a consolidation  fixed.  Sir Mohammad Iqbal was Mr.  Jinnah`s friend  philosopher and guide. His thoughts and ideas matched the British concept and the perspective plannings  of clamping  a  neocolonial subjugation on  the Indian sub continent in the post independence period.. New rulers in the Pakistan dominion wanted to amend 1935 Indian Act in such a way that it would  prepare  Urdu to replace English in administration in couse of time. Gradually Urdu language would  become  the  only medium of education too. It was means to an end .The approach was not benign.                                                  

The fire was lit as the amendment of  Dhirendranath was denied. The Government called it a Hindu  intrigue out  to disintegrate the national fusion .A vigorous propaganda in Goeble`s fashion was launched. But Muslim sages of Bengali language and literature including  legendary academician Dr. Mohammad Shahidullah spelled out the sour truth. He insisted  eloquently that, ~“We are Bangalee first, then a  Muslim and  a Hindu’”.We  are categorized as Bangalee by our language  first and then we are sorted as Muslims by our beard  and as   Hindu by ‘ hair tail on our head .We are  branded  ’as Muslim and Hindu by our separate attire.‘These all are customary fashions which could be shed.But Bangla language is our blood which could only be spilled for a cause, but could never be abandoned or discarded  under any circumstances. We cann`t trade our mother tongue.~Such  a strong resistance echoed and orchestrated  by the intelligentials, cultural activists  and educationists had largely  diffused  Government propaganda impact in the members of the public.

.  In  this narrative ,I have  already   mentioned  about my involvent in the phenomenons  of February 21, 1953.I was then  hardly 13 year old . I wore  half sleeve shirt and shorts . About a  month  back I was promoted to the seventh class in the high school. It was another memorable  occasion . .We observed the Martyrs Day , in commemoration. We paid  tributes  and homage, prayed for the salvation of the departed souls’ I, along with my Young Turks` took the large  mourning procession to Dhaka Medical College yard .  Martyrs Memorial Monument`s (Shaheed Minar) foundation rock was being  dug in  there. The procession swelled into a vast rally with Martyr Barkat`s parents at the head of it . Reaching   the venue of maryrs memorial  congregation , we merged with the  countless masses who converged  there  to express   their solidarity . The monument, of national pride and immense grief , would be erected exactly on the spot where our valiant language worriers were relented by the barrage of bullets .It would be the ‘Light House for  the future caravan of  our liberation  struggle.

The great leader of the toiling masses, Awami Muslim League’ President Moulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhashani and the heart throb icon of the Youth Sheikh Mujibur Rahman ,then the Joint General Secretary of AML, put hands together in laying the foundation. They a ddressed  the mourning congregation by fire tongue speeches to imbibe people with the significance and  spirit of martyrs` life lending sacrifices to our cause of cultural emancipation. Both leaders insisted   ib was just   released  , that the cultural subjugation and political domination were itertwined. Sheikh Muj  a bit earlier, from the jail custody . The event was followed by a big procession. My tiny Battalion moved to the head , at a brief distance. We  escorted the procession  with  black flags .  We raised full throat slogans. Moulana Bhashani blew holy muttering  on my head . Sheikh Mujib in great affection slapped on my chic   and he patted on my back shoulder as I inadvertantly reversed the slogan to ,~Bangla Bhasha Rashtro Chai.~Let there be a Bengali State~  “It’s too early, he whispered. It was weird . It was too early for me to  know  and understand  the meaning and significance of a Nation State sort of thing. That was , however, the greatest memory of the day, I shall never forget.

The procession culminated in a human sea at the Armanitola meeting ground situated at the heart of the historic Dhaka city .It swelled to  an overwhelming  mass upsurge.Thousands of people thronged. The congregation ground   was over flooded. Entire vicinity turned into a human ocean. It embroiled in turbulence and in fury. Angry masses roared and howled .A havoc of anarchy could be wrought if they broke in violence for vengeance.

But the fury was contained. Leader of the oppressed masses Moulana Bhashani clinched their confidence and hypnotized them .He   firmly vowed for a struggle unto death for realization of the peoples’ demands which loomed large beyond cultural emancipation to economic freedom, intertwined with political liberty. He threatened the establishment of a severe consequence if martyrs dream was not fulfilled. He assured in thunderous voice that the sacrifices of the martyrs would not go in vain. The rebel  Moulana   challenged the the ruling Party to shop confidence of the people in a fresh election before it was too late. An early  fixed  polls would restore peace in the country, he asserted.

The rising tiger Sheikh Mujibur Rahman urged people to  stay innocuous and get prepared for a greater movement if the polls were not dated earlier.”~We must make it a ballot revolution.  Through   ballots we must render befitting reply against bullets.. We must infringe bondage of slavery flung by the autocratic rulers in a colonial  design. We must clinch political and constitutional liberty. We must keep  our heads high.Cultural enslavement leads to political subjugation, we must remember. We must keep going in an innoquous manner  and keep going steadily until we  anchor on the shore of perpetual liberty and freedom.~ Blood spilling by martyrs  must not go in vain he emotionally  stressed  and vibrantly called for greater sacrifices for accomplishing the unfulfilled dream of the language martyrs. ‘We have revoked   the   wall of communal hatred and bifurcation, he claimed.

My Hero shaped the first secular revolution  of th region  which eventually yielded  a secular Bangladesh Republic through the triumphal liberation war. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman inaugurated  the Begali language movement in 1948.It transcended the boundary of a mere movement  and descended in the epic which ~poet of politics~  wrote on March seven 1971 at the Race course ground now converted to Suhrawardy Uddyan. He called for the revolutionary struggle for Independence and economic emancipation. At his wake up call the slumbering nation woke up and spilled blood for Independence. Three million Hindus and Muslims , Buddhist and Christians laid down their lives. Nearly half a million women were defiled by the hordes of the occupation army.It was one of the greatest Secular upheaval of the world. Once about a million years back Muslim invaders flung religious barriers and perpetrated fratricidal blood

letting. The colonial rulers divided  India into several religious creed to perpetuate  despotic  exploitation . Mujib , my Hero  healed the fracture .My Hero bridged the gap . He made the hibernating Vesuvius vibrate and explode. A new Nation was born.

Author :Bhasha Shainik –Freedom fighter & columnist.Fremont California.10 February,2018


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