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Awami Muslim League becomes Awami League

In April 17, 1953 the Awami Muslim League becomes Awami League, reflecting its evolution into a more secular organization.

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Ekushey February – The International Mother Language Day

Sahid Minar, image courtesy: Wikipedia



The Basic Principles Committee of the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan announces its recommendations that Urdu should be the only state language. It sparks off a wide wave of resentment in East Bengal where the people spoke Bangla.

Politicians and students join their forces for a broader movement under the leadership of Maulana Bhashani of Awami League.

As demonstrations and unrests seem to get out of control, the Government cracks down by imposing a curfew in Dhaka; a number of demonstrators are killed in front of the Dhaka Medical College over a period of one week (February 21-27, 1952).

21 February:

The Language Martyrs Day:

The First Martyrs to die for their native language: Rafiq, Salam, Jabbar, Barkat, and Salauddin. More die in police shootings in the following days. A makeshift memorial is dedicated to these martyrs at the spot of killings: the Shaheed Minar becomes an icon of the Bengalees’ pride in their culture and history, and of their resistance against imposition of all things foreign. The Shaheed Minar also becomes a place where many future movements for the basic rights of the Bangalees are born.

Bangla was recognised as the second official language of Pakistan on 29 February 1956, and article 214(1) of the constitution of Pakistan was reworded to “The state language of Pakistan shall be Urdu and Bengali.”

21 February was proclaimed the International Mother Language Day by UNESCO on 17 November 1999.

Click here for details on the movement.

Source: Uttorshuri, Wikipedia

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Awami Muslim League formed

The “All Pakistan Awami Muslim League” was formed as a breakaway faction of the “All Pakistan Muslim League” in 1949. The word “Muslim” was dropped in 1955. Two parties of the same name were created in Pakistan, one in the then East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) on June 23, 1949 by Maulana Abdul Hameed Khan Bhashani with Sheikh Mujibur Rahman as one of its three initial assistant general secretaries; and the other in the Northwest Frontier Province of the then West Pakistan by Peer Manki Shareef sometime soon after. In February 1950, both were merged, creating the “All Pakistan Awami Muslim League” with Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy as its leader. As the years went by, the Awami League became associated with the oppressed Bangla-speaking majority of the East Pakistan. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was elected party president in 1966, and the AL gained much popularity through the famous 6 point movement.


* Maulana Bhasani: The Founder of Politics of Opposition and Agitation during the Formative Years of Pakistan – M. Waheeduzzaman Manik (November 2003)
* The Leader of the Oppressed – M. Inamul Haque (November, 2002)
* A Tribute to the Ancestor – Enayetullah Khan (November, 2002)
* The Shadow and the Substance – Enayetullah Khan (January, 1970)

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The Language Movement starts

Image: Wikipedia – Rallies at the University of Dhaka area.

Bengalees, who speak Bangla, constitute 54% of the population of Pakistan at its inception. But Urdu is widely favored by the establishment in the Western wing, even if only a tiny minority really speak it. The major native languages in the West are: Punjabi, Baluchi, Sindhi, and Pashtu (Pakhtun).

In 1947, a key resolution at a national education summit in Karachi advocated Urdu as the sole state language, and its exclusive use in the media and in schools. Opposition and protests immediately arose. Students from Dhaka rallied under the leadership of Abul Kashem, the secretary of Tamaddun Majlish, a Bengali Islamic cultural organisation. The meeting stipulated Bengali as an official language of Pakistan and as a medium of education in East Pakistan. However, the Pakistan Public Service Commission removed Bengali from the list of approved subjects, as well as from currency notes and stamps.

Leading Bengali scholars argued why only Urdu should not be the state language. The linguist Muhammad Shahidullah pointed out that Urdu was not the native language of any part of Pakistan, and said, “If we have to choose a second state language, we should consider Urdu.

In 1948 at the first session of the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan (CAP), Dhirendranath Datta moves a resolution for recognizing Bengali as one of the state languages. The leading politicians — including representatives from East Bengal, almost all of whom are non-Bengalees — ignore Datta’s plea. This is viewed by the Bengalees as a sign of unfair dominance by the minority elites of the Western provinces, and a step towards eradication of Bengalee cultural identity, the latter being “tainted” by Hindu influences and therefore not in full compliance with the principles and ideals of Pakistan.

In the height of civic unrest, Governor-General of Pakistan Muhammad Ali Jinnah arrived in Dhaka on 19 March 1948. On 21 March, at a civic reception at Racecourse Ground, he claimed that the language issue was designed by a “fifth column” to divide Pakistani Muslims. Jinnah further declared that “Urdu, and only Urdu” embodied the spirit of Muslim nations and would remain as the state language. He called those “Enemies of Pakistan” who disagreed with his views. This sparks off immediate student protest.


* Martyr Dhirendranath Datta: My tribute to the forgotten Harbinger of the Bengali language movement (including Dhiren Datta’s historic speech in the Assembly on Februray 25, 1948) - M. Waheeduzzaman Manik

* The Impact of Jinnah’s Anti-Bangalee Design On The Political Scene Of Bangladesh In The Early Years Of Pakistan: An Assessment – M. Waheeduzzaman Manik

Source: Uttorshuri, Wikipedia

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1930-47: Two Nations Theory

The political tumult in India during the late 1920s and the 1930s produced the first articulations of a separate state as an expression of Muslim consciousness. Sir Muhammad Iqbal (1873-1938), an Islamic revivalist poet and philosopher, discussed contemporary problems in his presidential address to the Muslim League conference at Allahabad in 1930. He saw India as Asia in miniature, in which a unitary form of government was inconceivable and community rather than territory was the basis for identification. To Iqbal, communalism in its highest sense was the key to the formation of a harmonious whole in India. Therefore, he demanded the creation of a confederated India that would include a Muslim state consisting of Punjab, the North-West Frontier Province, Sind, and Baluchistan. In subsequent speeches and writings, Iqbal reiterated the claims of Muslims to be considered a nation “based on unity of language, race, history, religion, and identity of economic interests.”

Iqbal gave no name to his projected state; that was done by Chaudhari Rahmat Ali and a group of students at Cambridge University who issued a pamphlet in 1933 entitled “Now or Never.” They opposed the idea of federation, denied that India was a single country, and demanded partition into regions, the northwest receiving national status as “Pakistan.” They made up the name Pakistan by taking the P from Punjab, A from Afghania (Rahmat’s name for the North-West Frontier Province), K from Kashmir, S from Sind, and Tan from Baluchistan. (When written in Urdu, the word Pakistan has no letter i between the k and the s.) The name means “the land of the Paks, the spiritually pure and clean.” There was a proliferation of articles on the theme of Pakistan expressing the subjective conviction of nationhood, but there was no coordination of political effort to achieve it. There was no reference to Bengal.

In 1934 Mohammad Ali Jinnah (1876-1948) took over the leadership of the Muslim League, which was without a sense of mission and unable to replace the Khilafat Movement, which had combined religion, nationalism, and political adventure. Jinnah set about restoring a sense of purpose to Muslims. He emphasized the “Two Nations” theory based on the conflicting ideas and conceptions of Hinduism and Islam.

By the late 1930s, Jinnah was convinced of the need for a unifying issue among Muslims, and the proposed state of Pakistan was the obvious answer. In its convention on March 23, 1940, in Lahore, the Muslim League resolved that the areas of Muslim majority in the northwest and the northeast of India should be grouped in “constituent states to be autonomous and sovereign” and that no independence plan without this provision would be acceptable to the Muslims. Federation was rejected and, though confederation on common interests with the rest of India was envisaged, partition was predicated as the final goal. The Pakistan issue brought a positive goal to the Muslims and simplified the task of political agitation. It was no longer necessary to remain “yoked” to Hindus, and the amended wording of the Lahore Resolution issued in 1940 called for a “unified Pakistan.” It would, however, be challenged by eastern Bengalis in later years.

After 1940 reconciliation between Congress and the Muslim League became increasingly difficult. Muslim enthusiasm for Pakistan grew in direct proportion to Hindu condemnation of it; the concept took on a life of its own and became a reality in 1947.

During World War II, the Muslim League and Congress adopted different attitudes toward the British government. When in 1939 the British declared India at war without first consulting Indian politicians, Muslim League politicians followed a course of limited cooperation with the British. Officials who were members of Congress, however, resigned from their offices. When in August 1942 Gandhi launched the revolutionary “Quit India” movement against the British Raj, Jinnah condemned it. The British government retaliated by arresting about 60,000 individuals and outlawing Congress. Meanwhile, the Muslim League stepped up its political activity. Communal passions rose, as did the incidence of communal violence. Talks between Jinnah and Gandhi in 1944 proved as futile as did the negotiations between Gandhi and the viceroy, Lord Archibald Wavell.

In July 1945 the Labour Party came to power in Britain with a vast majority. Its choices in India were limited by the decline of British power and the spread of Indian unrest, even to the armed services. Some form of independence was the only alternative to forcible retention of control over an unwilling dependency. The viceroy held discussions with Indian leaders in Simla in 1945 in an attempt to decide what form an interim government might take, but no agreement emerged.

New elections to provincial and central legislatures were ordered, and a three-man British cabinet mission arrived to discuss plans for India’s self-government. Although the mission did not directly accept plans for self-government, concessions were made by severely limiting the power of the central government. An interim government composed of the parties returned by the election was to start functioning immediately, as was the newly elected Constituent Assembly.

Congress and the Muslim League emerged from the 1946 election as the two dominant parties. The Muslim League’s success in the election could be gauged from its sweep of 90 percent of all Muslim seats in British India–compared with a mere 4.5 percent in 1937 elections. The Muslim League, like Congress, initially accepted the British cabinet mission plan, despite grave reservations. Subsequent disputes between the leaders of the two parties, however, led to mistrust and bitterness. Jinnah demanded parity for the Muslim League in the interim government and temporarily boycotted it when the demand was not met. Nehru indiscreetly made statements that cast doubts on the sincerity of Congress in accepting the cabinet mission plan. Each party disputed the right of the other to appoint Muslim ministers.

When the viceroy proceeded to form an interim government without the Muslim League, Jinnah called for demonstrations, or “direct action,” on August 16, 1946. Communal rioting on an unprecedented scale broke out, especially in Bengal and Bihar; the massacre of Muslims in Calcutta brought Gandhi to the scene. His efforts calmed fears in Bengal, but the rioting spread to other provinces and continued into the following year. Jinnah took the Muslim League into the government in an attempt to prevent additional communal violence, but disagreement among the ministers rendered the interim government ineffective. Over all loomed the shadow of civil war.

In February 1947, Lord Louis Mountbatten was appointed viceroy and was given instructions to arrange for the transfer of power. After a quick assessment of the Indian scene, Mountbatten said that “India was a ship on fire in mid-ocean with ammunition in her hold.” Mountbatten was convinced that Congress would be willing to accept partition as the price for stopping bloodshed and that Jinnah was willing to accept a smaller Pakistan. Mountbatten obtained sanction from London for the drastic action he proposed and then persuaded Indian leaders to acquiesce in a general way to his plan.

On July 14, 1947, the British House of Commons passed the India Independence Act, by which two independent dominions were created on the subcontinent and the princely states were left to accede to either. Throughout the summer of 1947, as communal violence mounted and drought and floods racked the land, preparations for partition proceeded in Delhi. The preparations were inadequate. A restructuring of the military into two forces took place, as law and order broke down in different parts of the country. Jinnah and Nehru tried unsuccessfully to quell the passions that neither fully understood. Jinnah flew from Delhi to Karachi on August 7 and took office seven days later as the first governor general of the new Dominion of Pakistan.

Courtesy: Bangla Gallery

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The Partition of India

The Partition of India led to the creation on 14 August 1947 and 15 August 1947, respectively, of the sovereign states, Dominion of Pakistan (later Islamic Republic of Pakistan) and Union of India (later Republic of India), upon the granting of independence to British India by the United Kingdom. ‘Partition’ here refers not only to the division of the Bengal province of British India into the Pakistani state of East Bengal (later East Pakistan, now Bangladesh) and the Indian state of West Bengal, as well as the similar partition of the Punjab region of British India into the Punjab province of West Pakistan and the Indian state of Punjab, but also to the division of the British Indian Army, the Indian Civil Service and other administrative services, the railways, and the central treasury, and other assets.

East Bengal celebrates its freedom from British colonial rule as it becomes a province of Pakistan. West Bengal remains with India, which celebrates its own independence the following day.

A mass exodus ensues, especially in Punjab, where Hindus and Muslims feel forced into territories awarded to India and Pakistan, respectively. Communal violence erupts among people uprooted and displaced by a political decision over which they had no control.

Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the leader of the Muslim League, becomes the Governor General of Pakistan, now a member of the British Commonwealth.

More on Partition of India

* Partition of India and Bengal and Some Myths:

  • Muslims wanted Pakistan as a separate state for Muslims and they voted for it
  • Congress did everything possible to avert partition
  • The Bengal partition was not opposed
  • However each was untrue. Read this for details.

    Source: Uttorshuri, Wikipedia

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