Ke ke jabi aai re...cholo jai bangali mukti sena bangalir maan bachai re

Rashtrobhasha Sangram Parishad

On 1 October 1947, the first Rashtrobhasha Sangram Parishad (State Language Action Committee), an organisation in favour of Bengali as a state language, was formed. The committee aggressively protested the exclusion of Bengali. Chemistry Professor Nurul Huq Bhuiyan of the Tamaddun Majlish founded the committee which attracted a large number of students and teachers from Dhaka University and other educational institutions. Nurul Huq Bhuiyan was also appointed the treasurer of the Parishad which spearheaded the Bengali Language Movement.

  • # Nurul Huq Bhuiyan ()

The Rastrabhasa Sangram Parishad provided an organisational structure for launching and managing the language movement during the later month of 1947 and early months of 1948. It discussed various aspects of the language issue and strongly protested the conspiracy that had been hatched out by the 'Punjabi-Mohajir dominated Pakistani ruling elite' against the Bengali language and culture. The committee aggressively protested the exclusion of Bengali.

However, the exact role of Bangla was clouded.

In the efforts to argue the case for Bengali, the concepts of the state language of Pakistan got entangled. Some demanded that Bengali be made 'the' state language of Pakistan while some others demanded Bengali as 'a' State Language. Some expressed their views only in the context of East Bengal. Apprehending problems and chaos if more then one Lingua Franca was chosen, some wanted Bengali to be official language and the medium of instruction in East Bengal.

Anisuzzaman, Professor Emeritus at Dhaka University

Whilst the ordinary people, most of whom were uneducated, fought the anti-capitalist nature of the Urdu proposition, since they knew no other language than Bangla and weren’t going to let it go without a fight, the middle-class and the ruling class fought against Urdu itself. They feared the dominance of Urdu would mean that their knowledge of English would become redundant therefore their fight was against Urdu and not against capitalism. And since the army, bureaucracy and business were already dominated by the Punjabis and other west Pakistanis, a linguistic advantage would further isolate and undermine the subjugated East Pakistanis.

If Urdu became the state language, the educated society of East Pakistan would become 'illiterate' and 'ineligible' for government positions.

Abul Mansur Ahmed

What became clear was the time to protect the mother tongue and withhold its ancient and rich heritage had come.

Bengali intellectuals provide backing

On 5 November 1947, Purba Pakistan Sahitya Sangsad (East Pakistan Literary Society) - a society set up by Muslim intellectuals prior to Partition for the propagation of Muslim nationalism - arranged a reception for famous Bengali artist Zainul Abedin. It was presided by Prof. Qazi Motahar Hossain and included speakers such as Abul Kalam Shamsuddin, Prof. M. A. Quasem, Prof. M. Mansuruddin, Syed Ali Ahsan, Sardar Fazlul Karim, and Abul Hasnat, amongst others. The meeting passed two resolutions demanding the establishment of an Art College under the leadership of Zainul Abedin and adoption of Bengali as the State Language of East Pakistan.

A week later, on 12 November 1947, Tamaddun Majlis organised a discussion meeting at the Fazlul Huq Muslim Hall auditorium in support of Bengali language. Presided by Habibullah Bahar, the meeting was addressed by Syed Mohammad Afzal, poet Jasimuddin, Dr. Muhammad Enamul Huq, and Abul Hasnat, amongst others.

On 17 November 1947, a memorandum demanding that Bangla be adopted as the state language of East Bengal was signed by a number of Bangali luminaries and submitted to the Chief Minister, Khawaja Nazimuddin. The signatories included Maulana Akram Khan, Prof Abul Kashem, Maulana Abdullahil Baqi, Abul Kalam Shamsuddin, Abdul Karim Sahitya Bisharad, Abbasuddin (Ahmad), Zainul Abedin, Principal Ibrahim Khan, Prof M. Mansuruddin, Abul Mansur Ahmed, poet Jasimuddin, Begum Shamsunnahar Mahmud, Abul Hasnat, Prof. Qazi Motahar Hossain, Dr. S.M. Hossain, Prof. Atul Sen, Anwara Chowdhury, Maulana Mustafizur Rahman, Dr. S.R. Khastgir, Prof. Ganesh Basu, Mohammad Modabber, Shah Azizur Rahman, Syed Waliullah, Shaukat Osman, Abu Rushd, Syed Ali Ahsan, poet Ahsan Habib, Qazi Afsaruddin Ahmed, Abu Jafar Shamsuddin, Jahur Hossain Chowdhury, and many more.

  • Syed Ali Ahsan ()
  • Habibullah Bahar ()
  • Abul Hasnat ()
  • Maulana Abdullahil Baqi ()
  • Abul Kalam Shamsuddin ()
  • Abdul Karim Sahitya Bisharad ()
  • Prof. M. Mansuruddin ()
  • Zainul Abedin ()
  • Begum Shamsunnahar Mahmud ()
  • Qazi Afsaruddin Ahmed ()

Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan in 1947

Educational conference decides to drop Bangla

On 27 November 1947, a government-sponsored Education Conference was held in Karachi, the then capital of Pakistan. It was initiated by Pakistan's Minister of Education Fazlur Rahman, a Bengali, with the object of introducing reforms into the educational system and promotion of Islamic ideology. The conference also decided that Bengali would be dropped from all government stationeries, including money order forms, envelopes and postcards, which would be printed only in Urdu and English. Non-Bengali leaders of West Pakistan declared that Urdu had to be the national language of Pakistan. It was to be the only language used in the media and in schools.

  • # Fazlur Rahman ()

Naturally, opposition and protests immediately arose in East Pakistan where the Bengali-speaking people made up over 60% (44 million) of Pakistan's 69 million population. They viewed this exclusion of Bangla as further attempt to undermine their identity, having already been neglected for official posts such as Pakistan's government, civil services, navy, and military, which were dominated and controlled by Urdu speaking West Pakistanis.

This decision was opposed by the members of Tamaddun Majlish as well as others belonging to East Pakistan as they were attending the conference.

The dynamic process of national integration, generated by the enthusiasm of a separate homeland, was disrupted by the language controversy only after three months of independence.

South Asian Studies

"Maago Ora Bole" by Abu Jafar Obaidullah

Student demonstration

The Sangram Parishad vehemently protested the exclusion of the Bengali language from the newly-issued money, postal stamps, coins, and office forms of the Government of Pakistan. Public outrage spread, and on 5 December 1947 Bengali teachers and students of Dhaka University had their first street demonstration in favour of Bengali, arguing for their linguistic rights as majority part of the nation of Pakistan.

The next day, another protest meeting was held in the campus of DU against the government-sponsored National Education Conference held in Karachi. Their aim was to build resistance against the reactionary and anti-Bengali policies of Muslim League government. It attracted a large number of students, teachers and others from Dhaka University and other educational institutions. Professor Abul Kashem presided over the protest meeting, and a number of students and teachers including Munier Chowdhury, Abdur Rahman, Kallayan Dasgupta, A.K.M. Ahsan, S. Ahmed, and Farid Ahmed, the Vice President of Dhaka University Central Students Union (DUCSU), addressed the meeting.

Farid Ahmed's resolution demanding Bangla should 'take priority in so far as it was a national language of the Pakistani State and at the same time the official language for teaching and the courts in East Pakistan' and condemning the anti-Bengali role of Daily 'Morning News' were unanimously adopted in the meeting.

  • # University of Dhaka (aka DU or Dhaka Bishobidaloi) ()
  • Farid Ahmed ()
  • Munier Chowdhury ()
  • Abdur Rahman ()
  • Kallayan Dasgupta ()

The meeting was followed by a large procession demanding official status of Bengali. The demonstrators met various ministers including Syed Mohammad Afzal, Nurul Amin and Hamidul Huq Chowdhury all of whom gave assurance to support the cause of Bengali.

The position of Tamuddun Majlish regarding the Bengali Language Movement also reflected the aspirations of the common people of East Bengal.

Wikipedia - Tamaddun Majlish

The demonstrators were already denouncing what they termed the 'betrayal of Bengal and the people of East Bengal'. After this meeting they marched through the streets of the eastern capital. At the same time, at Sylhet, in the northeast of the country, the partisans of Urdu were apprising the Prime Minister of the province, Khawaja Nazimuddin, of their point of view, but they were very much in the minority and theirs was an isolated action.

Christoph Jaffrelot, editor of "A History Of Pakistan And Its Origins" (2002)

During those days, an admixture of Bengali and Urdu had been in popular use in Old Dhaka. Many people in old Dhaka did not favour the idea of making Bengali a state language. In order to create public opinion in favour of Bengali in old Dhaka, Prof M A Quasem formed an organisation named 'Dhaka Majlis' with Syed Mohammad Taifur and Abdul Mannan as President and Convenor respectively.

On 12 December 1947, a group of Urdu-supporting people of old Dhaka attacked Bengali-supporters of the Engineering and Medical College area chanting pro-Urdu slogans. When they reached the Palashi Barrack area, they were resisted by Bengali- supporters. Some 20-30 people received injuries as a result of the encounter. Students along with some other people of the area brought out a procession against the incident, met some ministers and forced them to give written undertaking that they would support the cause of Bengali language. The press note that was issued by the government on 12 December incident gave a concocted account and blamed three Calcutta dailies, the Ananda Bazar, the Ittehad and the Swadhinata, for the incident and banned their entry into East Bengal for 15 days with effect from 15 December 1947.

The New Nation (Bangladesh)

Few weeks prior to the student demonstration, on 15 November 1947, the Secretary of the Central Public Service Commission of Pakistan, Mr Goodwin, issued a circular concerning the examination of the superior civil service (which is used to recruit the civil servants and bureaucrats for the Government of Pakistan). In it he listed 31 subjects which can be studied, including 9 languages. These languages included Urdu, Hindi, English, German, French, even 'dead languages' like Sanskrit and Latin, etc. But Bangla, the languages spoken by the majority people of Pakistan, was not included. Outraged, Prof. Abul Kashem issued a press statement against this illogical move. This statement was published in the Daily Ittehad on 31 December 1947 along with a strongly worded editorial entitled 'Abishashya' (unbelievable) against Goodwin's audacity. When this issue of Daily Ittehad reached Dhaka, it created new enthusiasm among the language activists.

As 1947 gave way to 1948, the language issue intensified.

Chhatro (Student) League

The factionalism that existed in the Bengal Provincial Muslim League before Partition had its impact also on its student wing, the All-Bengal Muslim Student League. After partition, this organisation had split into two largely on the question of leadership. One group led by Anwar Hussain and Shah Azizur Rahman supported the (Khwaja) Nazimuddin group of the Muslim League and the other led by Nooruddin and Sheikh Mujibur Rahman supported Suhrawardy-Hashim group. The former thus formed the 'All-East Pakistan Muslim Student League' and the latter formed the 'East Pakistan Muslim Student League' on 4 January 1948. Naimuddin Ahmad, was elected convenor of the new organisation while Aziz Ahmad (Noakhali), Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (Faridpur), Oli Ahad (Comilla), Abdur Rahman Chowdhury (Barisal), Dabirul Islam (Dinajpur), Abdul Matin (Pabna), Mafizur Rahman (Rangpur), Sheikh Abdul Aziz (Khulna), Nawab Ali (Dhaka), Nurul Kabir (Dhaka city), Abdul Aziz (Kushtia), Syed Nurul Alam (Mymensingh) and Abdul Quddus Chowdhury (Chittagong) were elected members of the organising committee.

The East Pakistan Muslim Student League later became a non-communal organisation, and after the independence of Bangladesh was renamed to the (Awami League) Chhatro League.

The formation of East Pakistan Muslim Students League was an important event in the history of the Language Movement as it constantly supported the cause of Bengali Language.

The New Nation (Bangladesh)

  • Sheikh Mujibur Rahman ()
  • Nooruddin ()
  • Anwar Hussain ()
  • Shah Azizur Rahman ()
  • Naimuddin Ahmad ()

On 1 February 1948, a delegation of the Rashtrabasha Sangram Parishad met Fazlur Rahman and protested against the omission of Bengali in the Public Service Examinations and currency notes. Three weeks later, on 23 February 1948, Pakistan's constituent assembly convened in Karachi, having met in the inaugural session on 11 August 1947.

Rastrobasha Bangla chai - Dhirendranath Datta in Pakistan National Assembly

Dhirendranth Datta stands up for Bangla in Constituent Assembly of Pakistan

The second session of the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan (CAP) was held at Karachi on 25 February 1948 and was attended by Liaquat Ali Khan, first Prime Minister of Pakistan, and Khawaja Nazimuddin, Chief Minister of East Bengal. It was proposed that the members would have to speak either in Urdu or English in the Assembly. Dhirendranath Datta, a member from East Pakistan Congress Party in Comilla, tabled an amendment motion to include Bengali as one of the languages of the Constituent Assembly along with Urdu and English.

He rose to address the President of the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, and said in no quivering voice:

Sir, in moving this - the motion that stands in my name - I can assure the House that I do so not in a spirit of narrow Provincialism, but, Sir, in the spirit that this motion receives the fullest consideration at the hands of members. I know, Sir, that Bengali is a provincial language, but, so far our state is concerned, it is the language of the majority of the people of the state...and it stands on a different footing therefore. Out of six crores and ninety lakhs [69 million] of people of people inhabiting this State, 4 crores and 40 lakhs [44 million] of people speak the Bengali language. So, Sir, what should be the State language of the State [of Pakistan]?

The State language of the State should be the language which is used by the majority of the people of the State, and for that, Sir, I consider that Bengali language is a lingua franca of our State. It may be contended with a certain amount of force that even in our sister dominion [India] the provincial language have not got the status of a lingua franca because in her sister dominion of India the proceedings of the Constituent Assembly is conducted in Hindustani, Hindi or Urdu or English. It is not conducted in the Bengali language but so far as the Bengali is concerned out of 30 cores [300 million] of people inhabiting that sister dominion [of India only] two and a half crores [25 million] speak the Bengali language. Hindustani, Hindi or Urdu has been given an honoured place in the sister dominion because the majority of the people of the Indian Dominion speak that language. So we are to consider that in our State it is found that the majority of the people of the State do speak the Bengali language then Bengali should have an honoured place even in the Central Government [of Pakistan].

...The language of the State should be such which can be understood by the common man of the State. The common man of the State numbering 4 crores and 40 lakhs find that the proceedings of the Assembly which is their mother of parliaments is being conducted in a language [Urdu], Sir which is unknown to them. Then, Sir, English has got an honoured place, Sir, in Rule 29. I know, Sir, English has got an honoured placed because of the International Character [of English]. But, Sir, if English can have an honoured place in Rule 29 that the proceedings of the Assembly should be conducted in Urdu or English why [then] Bengali, which spoken by the 4crores [and] 40 lakhs of people should not have an honoured place, Sir, in Rule 29 of the procedure Rules.

So, Sir, I know I am voicing the sentiments of the vast millions of our State and therefore Bengali should not be treated as a Provincial Language. It should be treated as the language of the State. And, therefore, Sir, I suggest that after the word 'English', the word 'Bengali' be inserted in Rule 29. I do not wish to detain the House but I wish that the Members present here should give a consideration to the sentiments of the vast millions of our State, Sir, and should accept the amendment [to Rule 29] that has been moved by me.

Dhirendranath Datta fighting in the House (Assembly) for Bangla to be given state status

  • Liaquat Ali Khan ()
  • Khawaja Nazimuddin ()
  • Dhirendranath Datta ()

Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan against Bangla

In response to such public support for an official role for Bangla, Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan, a Mohajir who was elected to CAP by the East Bengal Legislative Assembly, and Khawaja Nazimuddin, a fellow Bengali, scathingly attacked Dhirendranath Datta's amendement on the House floor. The Prime Minister linked Urdu to the central role of religion in the division of India and Pakistan, and therefore to Pakistani nationalism and national identity. As far as Liaquat Ali Khan and the leaders of the Muslim League in the 'centre' Karachi were concerned, Urdu was the language of all the Muslims in India, and it had been for those millions that Pakistan had been created at the cost of years of struggle and suffering. As such, he issued a blunt refusal on the pretext of protecting Pakistan unity.

Mr. President, Sir, I listened to the Speech of the Honourable Mover [Datta] of the amendment with very care and attention. I wish the Honourable member had not moved his amendment and tried to create misunderstanding between the different parts of Pakistan. My Honourable friend has waxed eloquence and stated that Bengali should really be the lingua franca of Pakistna. In other words, he does not want Bengali only to be used as a medium of expression in the House, but he has raised indeed a very important question.

He should realise that Pakistan has been created because of the demand of a 100 million Muslims in this subcontinent and the language of a hundred million Muslims is Urdu and, therefore, it is wrong fo rhim now to try and create the situation that as the majority of the people of Pakistan belongs to one part of Pakistan, therefore, the language which is spoken there should became the State language of Pakistan. Pakistan is a Muslim State and it must have its lingua franca, the language of the Muslim nation [i.e. Urdu].

Liaquat Ali Khan’s stresses one nation, one state and one language policy

The Prime Minister criticised Dhirendranath Datta's amendment claiming them to "create a rift between the people of Pakistan" and "take away" the unifying feature of the one language policy. Dhirendranath Datta vehemently denied this.

Other prominent members who also opposed Dhirendranath's motion were Ghaznafar Ali Khan ( Central Minister for Refugees, Relief and Rehabilitation), Alhaj Mohammed Hashim Gazder (a CAP member from Sind), and Tamizuddin Khan (a distinguished member from East Bengal and the Deputy President of the CAP).

Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan's argument was emotional and fallacious in that the hundred million Muslims of the undivided India were never a mono-lingual or Urdu-speaking community. Indian Muslims are historically multilingual and the Bengali-speaking Muslims have always outnumbered the Muslims of other language groups of united India.

Hiranmay Karlekar, Writer

At this time, Bengalis made up 44 million of the total Pakistan population of 69 million. On the basis of numbers alone their language deserved at least equal status with Urdu, mother tongue of no more than 3.5% of the population, according to one 1951 statistic. As for English, its retention as an official language should have been time-limited.

Christoph Jaffrelot, editor of "A History Of Pakistan And Its Origins" (2002)

Hindu Bengalis defend against Khwaja Nazimuddin’s plea for Urdu

After speeches of several members, Khawaja Nazimuddin came on the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan floor and claimed that "most of the inhabitants of East Pakistan" think that Urdu should be adopted as the only state language of Pakistan.

Sir, I feel it my duty to let the House know what the opinion of the overwhelming majority of the people of Eastern Pakistan over this question of Bengali language is. I think, there will be no contradiction, if I say that as far as inter-communication between the provinces and the centre is concerned, they [people of East Bengal] feel that Urdu is the only language that can be adopted [as the State language of Pakistan]. But there is a strong feeling that the medium of instruction should be Bengali in educational institutions and as far as the administration of the province is concerned.

Khawaja Nazimuddin, Chief Minister of East Bengal, claiming Bengalis support Urdu

He also referred Liaquat Ali Khan’s statement that "there is no question of ousting Bengali from the province". It was natural on his part as he belonged to an Urdu-speaking feudal family of the Nawabs of Dhaka and was unlettered in Bengali. Liaquat Ali Khan and other anti-Bengali members were challenged on the CAP floor by Hindu members who fully supported Dhirendranath Datta’s historic amendment and vehemently defended the rightful place of Bengali. These supporters included Prem Hari Barma, Bhupendra Kumar Datta and Sris Chandra Chattopadhyaya. In fact, it was only the Hindu members of the CAP who lent their support to Dhirendranath Datta on that day on 25 February 1948 whilst the Muslim members, including Bengali Muslims, abstained from any support.

It is indeed ironic that the leaders of the most maligned minority community of our nation had to volunteer to speak for defending the mother tongue of the majority population of Pakistan.

Dr. M. Waheeduzzaman Manik, Analyst

Kendrio chatro shongram porishod

First rally by students change Nazimuddin mind and he signs 8-point agreement

The students from various instituition across Dhaka reacted sharply and a protest strike was observed on 26 February 1948. They paraded through different streets of the city in a procession and gathered in a protest meeting at the Dhaka University campus. The meeting, which was presided over by Prof Abul Kashem, was addressed among others by Naimuddin Ahmad and Mohammad Toaha.

The student's agitation were supported by the Dhaka-based media, especially the Daily Azad, which came down heavily on Khawaja Nazimuddin over his controversial comments in the constituent assembly even labelling it as a 'blunder'.

The rejection of Dhirendranath Dutta's motion in the assembly sent the province into protest mode. It was becoming increasingly obvious that agitation was going to be the next step in the Bangali's rejection of all attempts to foist Urdu on the country as the language of the state.

I know, Sir, I voice the sentiments of the vast millions of our State [of Pakistan]. In the meantime I want to let the House know the feelings of the vastest millions of our State. Even, Sir, in the Eastern Pakistan where the people numbering four crores and forty lakhs [44 million] speak the Bengali language the common man even if he goes to a Post Office and wants to have a money order form finds that the money order is printed in Urdu language and is not printed in Bengali language or it is printed in English. A poor cultivator, who has got his son, Sir, as a student in the Dacca University and who wants to send money to him, goes to a village Post Office and he asks for a money order form, is printed in Urdu language. He can not send the money order but shall have to rush to a distant town and have this money order form translated for him and then the money order, Sir, that is necessary for his boy can be sent. The poor cultivator, Sir, sells a certain plot of land or a poor cultivator purchases a plot of land and goes to the Stamp vendor and pays him money but cannot say whether he has received the value of the money is Stamps. The value of the Stamp, Sir, is written not in Bengali but is written Urdu and English. But he can't say, Sir, whether he has got the real value of the Stamp. These are the difficulties experienced by the common man of the State.

Dhirendranth Datta shares the layman's grievances during his famous speech on 25 February 1948

Second Rashtrobhasha Sangram Parishad

Faced with opposition from the authorities, a fresh new action committee of students was formed on 27 February 1948, the day after student's protest.

A meeting was held at the Tamaddun Majlis office at the Rashid Building which was chaired by Prof Abul Kashem. Here, the Rashtrabasha Sangram Parishad, originally formed by Nurul Huq Bhuiyan, was reconstituted with representatives from Tamaddun Majlis and East Pakistan Muslim Students League. Shamsul Alam, a resident student of Salimullah Muslim Hall and a common member of both Tamaddun Majlis and East Pakistan Muslim Students League, was made the convenor. Few days later, on 2 March 1948, at a meeting held at the Fazlul Huq Muslim Hall, the Sangram Parishad was further expanded by allowing representatives from various other organisations. The only organisation which was not included was the Muslim League.

First uprising

Under the guidance of the new Rashtrobhasha Sangram Parishad a general strike was observed against the rejection of Bengali on 11 March 1948. Its members organised pickets in front of government offices, post offices and courts.

About 50 demonstrators were injured in a police lathis(baton)-charged and a large number of students were arrested. Political leaders such as Shamsul Huq, Shawkat Ali, Kazi Golam Mahboob, Oli Ahad, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Abdul Wahed and others were also arrested during the rallies. Rally leader Mohammad Toaha was hospitalised after attempting to snatch a rifle from a police officer. Student leaders, including Abdul Matin and Abdul Malek Ukil also took part in the procession.

Despite police action the protests and demonstrations continued full force with great fury.

Under pressure from the students, agitation in favour of Bengali gained support in most towns, and was severely repressed in every case.

Christoph Jaffrelot, editor of "A History Of Pakistan And Its Origins" (2002)

  • Mohammad Toaha ()
  • Shamsul Huq ()
  • Shawkat Ali ()
  • Oli Ahad ()
  • Abdul Malek Ukil ()

Nazimuddin agrees to 8-Point to calm agitation

In the afternoon of 11 March 1948, a meeting was held to protest police brutality and arrests. A group of students marching towards the chief minister of East Bengal Khawaja Nazimuddin's house was stopped in front of the Dhaka High Court. The rally changed its direction and moved in the direction of the Secretariat building. Police attacked the procession injuring several students and leaders including 'Sher-e-Bangla' A. K. Fazlul Huq. The next day, A. K. Fazlul Huq issued a statement condemning the police action on the students.

The situation grew worse in coming days and strikes were observed from 12 - 15 March 1948 to emphasise the grievances of the people of East Bengal.

Students, it may be noted, were at the vanguard of Bengali cultural nationalism and subsequently played a major part in the guerrilla army. The cultural threat was most severe for students. Government employment was the dream of many, even if it would be fulfilled for only a few. An Urdu-only policy would gravely disadvantage Bengali applicants in competition with West Pakistan, where the educated persons by definition had mastered Urdu. This anticipated deprivation affected relatively few people, but had a formidable mobilizing impact on those who were aroused. When joined to the relative absence of the constraints of family obligation, employment security, and generalised risk-aversion preferences which tend to accompany age, students become an explosively volatile set of cultural activists.

Students are also well equipped to elaborate and propagate an ideology of cultural protest, in the Bengali case around the richness of the language, "among the half-dozen most expressive and beautiful languages in the world", and the brilliance of its literature, with the poest Rabindranath Tagore the object of particular cult of veneration.

Crawford Young, author of "The Politics of Cultural Pluralism" (1979)

  • # A. K. Fazlul Huq (aka Sher-e-Bangla) ()

The very first session of the East Bengal Legislative Assembly after the creation of Pakistan was scheduled for 15 March 1948 in Dhaka. On the eve of the session, a large number of students gathered in front of Burdwan House (today's Bangla Academy), the official residence of Chief Minister Nazimuddin, to register their protest against the police action three days earlier (on 11 March 1948). This situation forced the Chief Minister Nazimuddin to change his viewpoint about calling this issue as Hindu-inspired act and on the morning of 15 March 1948, before the Legislative Assembly session got underway, he agreed to meet a delegation from the Rashtrabasha Sangram Parishad. This delegation included Prof Abul Kashem, Mohammad Toaha, Kamruddin Ahmed, Syed Nazrul Islam, Naimuddin Ahmed and Abdur Rahman Chowdhury. Khawaja Nazimuddin signed a eight-point agreement including release of all imprisoned demonstrators as a way of defusing tension in the province. He also promised that the provincial assembly, due to meet in three/four weeks time, would adopt a resolution for making Bengali as the official language and medium of instruction at all stages of education. He further agreed that the regional assembly would recommend to the Pakistan National Assembly to grant Bangla equal status with Urdu, including using it for recruitment examinations in central government.

Two most important clauses of the agreement were:

  1. In the April (1948) session of the East Bengal legislative assembly a special resolution will be moved to propose to the constituent assembly of Pakistan to make Bengali one of the state languages of Pakistan and to give Bengali the same status with Urdu in the competative examinations of the central services of Pakistan.
  2. In the month of April another resolution will be moved in the East Bengal legislative assembly to make Bengali the official language of the province of East Bengal in place of English. Besides that, Bengali will be the medium of instruction.

After the signed agreement Prof Abul Kashem informed the other students who were rallying in front of the East Bengal Legislative Assembly. But the students were not happy and expressed their dissatisfaction with the terms. They demanded to know about the agreement from Nazimuddin himself. There were a large number of students and other demonstrators outside the Assembly building. Opposition party members in the Assembly compelled Nazimuddin to speak about the agreement. Nazimuddin placed the report of his talks with the Action Committee at the Assembly. After further questions by the members of the Assembly Nazimuddin read out the terms of the agreement. Meanwhile, the demonstration outside Assembly continued unabated and the police were unable to control the situation.

Nazimuddin thought it prudent to request General Ayub Khan, the General Officer Commanding to immediately come for the protection of the Government. The Assembly was in a riotous mood. Even after the representatives of demonstrators meeting Nazimuddin the agitation had not died down. Ayub Khan met Nazimuddin in his chamber and advised him to leave at once for his residence after postponing the Assembly. After this Ayub Khan ordered the Chief Minister's car to be brought behind the Assembly building and Ayub personally escorted Nazimuddin through the old kitchen of Jagannath Hall to the car. After sending the PM Ayub came to the front of the Assembly building and told the students "the bird has flown" and the announcement was greeted with a roar of laughter and the atmosphere became less tense.

The Daily Star (Bangladesh)

One possible reason why the Chief Minister may have agreed swiftly to the 8-Point agreement was the impending arrival of Governor General Mohammad Ali Jinnah to the province four days later. Jinnah was expected to arrive in Dhaka on 19 March 1948 and Nazimuddin could not afford for this high profile visit to be sidelined by students' agitation. Anxious about preventing any unpleasant incidents during Jinnah's visit, and as a way of placating the students, ensuring there was no demonstration by the students of the Dhaka University or by the people of the city during his presence, Nazimuddin made his hasty acceptance of the conditions set by the action committee. Besides, he had hoped that on the language issue Jinnah would definitely speak in favour of Urdu, thus weakening the language movement.

Khawaja Nazimuddin probably had no intention of honouring his second promise [of recommending Bangla to Pakistan National Assembly]. Indeed, the question of the national language was never raised by the regional assembly with the authorities in Karachi during his administration. His primary objective was to calm the situation before Quaid-i-Azam Jinnah's arrival in Dhaka.

Christoph Jaffrelot, editor of "A History Of Pakistan And Its Origins" (2002)

The day after the East Bengal Legislative Assembly session, on 16 March 1948, all those arrested on 11 March were released. However, as events were to show subsequently, Nazimuddin reneged on his promise to have a resolution on Bangla be adopted by the provincial legislature.

"Bhasha Andolon a Muslim fight, no 'fifth element' involved"

Since the demand for Bengali was articulated in Constituent Assembly of Pakistan and East Bengal Legislative Assembly by Hindu members, the ruling Muslim League party tried to create the impression in the public mind that the language movement had been inspired by the hostile Hindu leaders of India. Even Dawn alleged that th language movement was due to the machinations of fifth columnists, in other words the Hindus. This was not true and Hindu leaders had little connection with it.

The movement was nurtured by the Muslims and it was carried on by the Muslim alone unaided by anyone from outside.

Dhirendranath Dutta declared during the session of CAP on 10 April 1952

Also Dr. Muhammad Shahidullah's vocal support for adopting Bengali as one of the state languages of Pakistan was crucial at that critical time when rulers were making false assumptions about the supporters of Bengali language.

Dr. Muhammad Shahidullah's overt and bold support for Bengali made it clear to the public as well as to the government that this demand was not instigated by the so-called 'fifth columnists' or imaginary 'enemies of Pakistan'.

Mussarat Jabeen, Amir Ali Chandio & Zarina Qasim , Analysts