Sunday, March 1, 2009

Ekushey February: A Timeline -- 7

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1952 (February 24):

The police and army are fully authorized to bring the volatile Dhaka situation back to normal in 48 hours. Most of the student and political leaders involved with the language movement are arrested within that period.

1952 (February 25):
The provincial government closes down the University of Dhaka for an unspecified period. Due to these government pressure tactics, the language movement becomes weakened in Dhaka city, but it gains momentum in other district cities and towns of East Pakistan. Students and people there mourn the dead, raise up temporary shaheed minars and keep the language movement alive for quite some time.

1952 (February 26):
The armed police demolish the first Shaheed Minar that was built by Dhaka Medical College Students on the spot of the first shooting in Dhaka on February 21.

1953 (June):
The University of Dhaka Court (later renamed Senate) strongly recommended to the then Muslim League government that a National Research Institute be established for the development and culture of Bengali language. (Two years later it was established and named the Bangla Academy).

1953 (December):
Main opposition parties (East Pakistan Awami Muslim League, Krishak-Praja Party, Nizam-e-Islam Party, and Ganatrantrik Dal) formed a united front against the ruling Muslim League party. In keeping with the 21st February, Shaheed Day, the pro-Bangla United Front came up with the manifesto containing 21 points. Most of the intellectuals of the province gave their support to the 21 points.

The provincial election was supposed to be in February, 1954, but Nurul Amin, the Chief Minister, postponed it to March. This gave an added time and impetus to the United Front to canvass and influence people to their causes.

In case of their victory and formation of the provincial government, the United Front pledged the following:

  • Bengali (Bangla) will be made one of the state languages of Pakistan.
  • Arrangements will be made to impart education through the mother tongue only.
  • The United Front will change the residence (Burwan House) of the Chief Minister (incumbent Nurul Amin who had authorized the police shootings of February 21, 1952) and convert it into a centre for research for Bengali langauge and literature.
  • In memory of those killed on February 21, a befitting martyrs' column will be erected on the spot of the killing and the families of the dead would receive compensation.
  • The February 21 would be declared the Shaheed Dibosh (Martyrs' Day) and it would be a public holiday.
1954 (March 10):
In the first-ever general election in East Pakistan, the United Front (called Jukta Front in Bangla), defeating the incumbent Muslim League party, won 223 seats out of a total of 237 and formed the provincial government with Sher-e-Bangla Fazlul Haque as its Chief Minister. The new cabinet was sworn in on April 2. They kept their promise of declaring February 21 as the Shaheed Dibosh and also a public holiday.

1954 (April 20-23):
A four-day East Pakistan literary conference was held at the Burdwan House (former Chief Minister's House -- now the Bangla Academy building) with 108 literateurs and artists. They condemned the West Pakistani rulers and Muslim League government for their conspiracy against Bangla language and culture. An exhibition of photographs and paintings on the language movement was also held there.

1954 (May 29):
The Central Government of Pakistan arbitrarily and unjustly dismissed the United Front Ministry and East Pakistan was placed under the Central Govt. rule. Repressive measures were introduced. The observance of Ekushey February and declaration of public holiday were cancelled. Ban was placed on processions and demonstrations in the month of February.

1955 (February 21):
There was no Shaheed Minar, and nobody was allowed to visit Azimpur graveyard for paying homage to the martyrs. In protest, students remained barefooted from February 19 to 21. On February 21, 215 students including 19 girls were arrested. The following day, 10 more students, including three girls, were taken into custody. In other cities and towns there were also lathicharge (beating with wooden or cane sticks), tear-gassing and arrests.

One important tradition developed from this February is that of going barefooted on each February 21 processions for paying homage to the language martyrs.

1955 (December 3):
Bangla Academy, a national research institute, comes into being for research and development of Bengali (Bangla) language. Gradually it became a powerful publishing house, with several thousand books to its credit. It also gets books of world literature in Bangla translations, in addition to getting Bangla literary works translated into English. It publishes several journals on creative literature, research, science, juvenile literature and folklore. Since 1972, it has been facilitating the month-long national Boi Mela (book fair) on its premises in each February in honour of the language martyrs.

(Continued)
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