Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Ekushey February: A Timeline -- 10

1959 (January 29 - 30):

Writers from both the wings meet in a convention in Karachi where they form the Pakistan Writers' Guild. Out of 250 delegates there only 30 were from East Pakistan. Even before the convention debate had started in the country whether both Urdu and Bangla could be written in Roman alphabets. There was a resistance against this in Karachi and similar opposition also started in East Pakistan.

1959 (February 21):

As under Martial Law orders more than five persons could not gather in one place, there were no Ekushey February processions or public meetings. The University of Dhaka, of course, declared the day a public holiday for its workers and students. The Central Students' Union of the university organized discussion meetings at the university campus where Bangla language and culture were dealt with and a strong opposition was expressed against using Roman alphabet for writing Bangla.

1961 (February 21):

There were spontaneous procesions in the city. For the first time, there was the largest number of women's participation in the Ekushey February processions and gatherings. Flags and banners with various slogans were also carried in the processions. At the foot of the under-construction Shaheed Minar there was a public gathering and a letter, addressed to students, written by martyr Abul Barkat's parents was read aloud. There were also demands for declaring February 21 as the Shaheed Dibosh (Martyrs' Day) as well as a public holiday and using Bangla as the medium of instruction at all levels. In other discussion meetings, organized by student and cultural organizations, condemnation was expressed against use of Roman alphabet for writing Bangla.

1962 (February 21):

More than 5,000 people joined the Probhat Feri (dawn processions) to the incomplete martyrs' memorial. At the public meeting at the foot of the memorial, demands were made to make February 21 a national holiday. There was also a demand for building the memorial in its proper place and according to the original plan of 1958. Requests were made to the traders and businessmen to put up signboards of shops, establishments and factories in Bangla. In a discussion meeting of Bangla Academy, Dr. Muhammad Shahidullah demanded that primary education be declared compulsory.

1962 (March 23):

The Martial Law Administrator (General Ayub Khan) promulgates a new Constitution that provided for indirectly elected National and Provincial Assemblies with limited legislative powers and an indirectly elected President with extensive executive powers.

1962 (June 8):

The new Constitution of Pakistan came into effect with the withdrawal of the martial law after 44 months. The language provisions of the constitution were as follows:

  • The national languages of Pakistan are Bengali and Urdu, but this article shall not be construed as preventing the use of any other langauge and in particular, the English langauge, may be used for official and other purposes until arrangements for its replacement are made.
  • In the year one thousand nine hundred and seventy two, the President shall constitute a commission to report on the question of the replacement of the English language for official purposes.
1962 (June 25):

An anti-Ayub Khan movement started when nine leaders of the Awami League, the Krishak Sramik Party and the Muslim League rejected the new constitution of Ayub Khan and issued a statement demanding the framing of a new Constitution based on parliamentary democracy and universal adult franchise.

1962 (October 25):

Monaem Khan is appointed the Governor of East Pakistan. He diligently toed the repressive policies of the Central Government. From 1962 to 1968, he ruled East Pakistan with a ruthless hand on behalf of Ayub Khan.


According to the suggestion of the National Education Commission of 1959, a Central Board for the Development of Bengali, also called Bangla Unnayon Board, was set up this year. The aims and objectives of this Board were: "to develop Bengali langauge and literature; to remove the existing difficulties in Bengali, particularly in the field on Natural and Social Sciences as well as in technologies in order that it becomes the medium of instruction at the higher educational level; and to coordinate the work of other organizations engaged in promoting literary and scientific effort in Bengali." One important achievement of this Board was the development of a modern keyboard for the Bengali typewriter, called Munier Optima, and the manufacture of the machine with foreign collaboration.

1963 (April):

The Bangla Academy in Dhaka appointed a committee to reform Bengali grammar and writing system, using more Arabic-Farsi words rather than existing Sanskrit-based words. The committee gave its report and recommendations after a few years. If implemented, the recommendations of this committee would drastically change the nature of the language that would not only have severed ties with the past traditions of the Bengali literature, but also with that of the Bengali literature of West Bengal.

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