“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). Hundreds and thousands of people took the streets to protests unanimously and the seeds of Bangladeshi nationalism was sown during that mobement.”
Before a convention of opposition parties held in Lahore, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman puts forward his demand for a federal governing system with full autonomy for the two wings of Pakistan:
1. A Federation of Pakistan based on the Lahore Resolution, with a parliamentary form of government based on the supremacy of a directly elected legislature and representation on the basis of population.
2. The federal government to be responsible only for defense and foreign affairs.
3. A federal reserve system designed to prevent the flight of capital from one region to the other.
4. Taxation to be the responsibility of each federating unit, with necessary provisions for funding the federal goverment.
5. Each unit to retain its own foreign exchange earnings as well as the power to negotiate foreign trade and aid.
6. Each unit to maintain its own paramilitary forces.
“The historic Six-Point Demand or Six-Point Movement has been widely credited as the ‘charter of freedom’ in the history of the Bangalees’ struggle for freedom and independence from Pakistan’s colonial domination. Indeed, the Awami League-led six-point movement in 1966 was the turning point in our quest for greater autonomy and self-determination. It is fair to suggest that the six-point movement is a milestone in the history of our struggle for freedom and independence.” — Prof M Waheeduzzaman in his analysis of The Six Points Movement
The Lahore Resolution was inspired by Jinnah and formally moved by A K Fazlul Huq at a General Session of the All India Muslim League on March 23, 1940:
“…no constitutional plan would be … acceptable to the Muslims unless … geographically contiguous units are demarcated into regions … with such territorial readjustments as may be necessary. [And] the areas where the Muslims are numerically in a majority, as in the North-Western and Eastern zones of India, should be grouped to constitute independent states in which the constituent units shall be autonomous and sovereign.”
22 February rally after janaja at Dhaka Medical College on the University Dhaka road, Dhaka. Image via Wikipedia.
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.