Among the 10 points demand of the Students’ League constituted under the leadership of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman the demand for Bengali as one of the state languages, appointment of Bangalees in the Armed Forces and compulsory general education were prominent. I remember as Pakistan Constituent Assembly was taking decision to make Urdu as state language and English as second language on 23rd February 1948, Congress leader Dhirendra Nath Dutta proposed for inclusion of Bengali with Urdu and English as a language of the Constituent Assembly.
But the proposal was rejected. At this, the general students observed strike in Dhaka on 26 February at the initiative of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and other student leaders reiterating inclusion of Bengali as one of the state languages. The State Language Working Committee was reconstituted on 2nd March 1948 in a meeting of all the progressive students’ leaders and on 11th March a general strike was observed on our legitimate right for Bangali to be one of the state languages. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Shamsul Haque, Oli Ahad, Mohammed Toha, Abul Kashem, Ronesh Das Gupta, Ajit Gupta participated in this strike along with other students. This was the first successful general strike in the history of language movement with the participation of all the Students Association after establishment of Pakistan.
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was arrested among others while giving lead in this general strike. This was the first arrest of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman as a political leader in Pakistan State. On 16th March 1948 a General meeting was held at Armanitola Maidan under the leadership of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in order to make the language movement more accelerated. After the meeting, we launched a procession towards the East Pakistan Provincial Assembly when we were obstructed and tortured by Police Force.
I had taken part in the language movement actively in all programs and activities from the very beginning of 1948 till recognition of Bengali as one of the state languages in 1956. In 1952 I was a student of 2nd Year Honours with Abul Maal Abdul Muhit in the English Department of Dhaka University. In the crucial moment of historical language movement on 21st February while giving lead at the procession I was arrested in front of Arts Building of Dhaka University along with Habibur Rahman Shelley (later Chief justice & Care Taker Government Chief) Shamsul Haq (the then VP of SM Hall & later Minister), A I M Taha & many others and was transferred to Dhaka Central Jail where imprisoned for a long time.
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was arrested before 21 February. It may be mentioned here that national leader Hossain Shahid Suhrawardy was against the language movement of 1952. He had made a statement expressing his opinion to make Urdu as a state language of Pakistan. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman played a prominent role to change the opinion of Suhrawardy and was successful to get his support in favour of Bengali to be one of the state languages of Pakistan.
If Hossain Shahid Suhrawardy were adamant in his support for Urdu and against Bengali, there was possibility of retardation of language movement. At length Suhrawardy made a statement in support of Bengali to be one of the state languages of Pakistan which was published in the then weekly Ittefaq on 29 June, 1952 edited by me as a part-time Sub Editor. In respect of getting support of Suhrawardy, full credit goes to Sheikh Mujibur Rahman as an exponent of language movement.
It is to be mentioned that while a student of Dhaka University I used to work in the weekly Ittefaq along with M A Awal and Mizanur Rahman on part-time basis. M A Wadud of Students’ League was also with us in Ittefaq as an employee. We were intimately connected with the Weekly.
In 1952 a statement of great leader Maulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhashani was published in Ittefaq in which he had commented that if Mujib failed to change the mind of Suhrawardy then not only language movement but also the future of Awami League had to be faced adverse effect. It was possible only on the part of prudent and far sighted leader like Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. This contribution of Bangabandhu would ever be remembered in the history of Bengali Language and the movement there of.
In observance of the first anniversary of the great Ekushey in 1953 Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman played a vital role as a fore-front leader in the procession. As I remember this day in a public meeting in the Armanitola Maidan, he raised the demand for declaring Ekushey February as Shahid Dibosh materializing Bengali as one of the state languages. It is to be counted that the United Front constituted for election in 1954 with Awami League, Krishak Shramik Party and other organizations against the then Muslim League, won the election because of the public consciousness created as a result of Bengali language movement.
In 1954 as a Minister of the United Front Government, Sheikh Saheb played an important role in the contemporary politics and also in the development of Bengali language. Afterwards also he continuously fought for the right of the East Pakistanis, as well as, establishment of Bengali. On 25th September 1974 Bangabandhu played a historical role by delivering speech in Bengali in the United Nations Organization (UNO). This was a very fruitful event for establishment of the importance of Bengali language to the world community.
This venture of Bangabandhu will be recorded in golden letters in the history. In the first constitution of Bangladesh framed in 1972, Bangabandhu included Bengali as a national language. As head of the state and government, he constituted Bengali development committee in 1973. As a President, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman promulgated Government Ordinance on 12th March, 1975 for use of Bengali in the official work.
Language Movement is a glorious event in the life of the Bangalee Nation and establishment of a language-based independent Sovereign State is a rare venture in the world. The very Language Movement is the background and foundation of the war of liberation. The deprived people of this country achieved independence at the cost of great sacrifice and loss of innumerable lives. For this rare achievement, credit goes to the great leader Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman whose contribution will be ever remembered.
As I recollect my intimate participation in the historical Language Movement under the leadership of Bangabandhu, the other contributions of Bangabandhu comes to my memory invariably. I recollect our discussion in the Ittefaq office and meeting with Bangabandhu in the Awami League office at 94/95 Nawabpur Road, when Suhrawardy Saheb, Maulana Bhashani Saheb, Ataur Rahman Khan Saheb, and Bangabandhu used to visit Awami League office. I alongwith M A Awal, M A Wadud and some other students league workers used to meet them very often.
Besides, I recollect my participation in the election campaign of the United Front in 1954 under the leadership of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. We went to Mymensingh to conduct election campaign in support of United Front Candidate Khaleque Nawaj Khan against Muslim League Candidate the then Chief Minister Nurul Amin with our slogan “Cholo Cholo Nandail Cholo”. Khaleque Nawaj Khan won the election against Nurul Amin.
However all of us, irrespective of cast and creed, have to promise to materialize the dream of Bangabandhu to build-up Bangladesh as “Sonar Bangla”.
Shamsul Huda is Language Veteran, Awardee of Ekushey Padak, Recipient of International Mother Language Award & Organiser of the Liberation War