Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Pakistani Ruling Elite vs. the Bangla (Bengali) Language -- 2

Religious Differences

The Pakistani ruling elite practised conservative version of Islam, strictly following the Quran and Quranic teachings. They are the ones who made Pakistan an Islamic Republic of Pakistan. They are the ones who took initiative to "islamize" Bangla language and proposed to have Bangla written in Arabic script (alphabet) through the efforts of the central Education Minister Fazlur Rahman. What does that mean? That means, they clearly did not consider the Bangali Muslims the true followers of Islam and the Quran. Why?

Majority of the East Bengal (East Pakistan) Muslims were simple peasants. They were poor and illiterate. "These country folk practised a popular Islam largely concerned with the worship of saints and the veneration of Sufi teachers. Throughout the nineteenth century they had been the targets of [Islamic] reformists, who convinced them -- with some success -- to abandon many practices foreign to the Islam of the Koran, and to maintain their distance from their neighbours, the Hindus. Numerous meetings [anjuman] were organized to pass on the instructions of Muslim representatives in the villages. Pious assemblies [waz mehfils] in these villages attracted a large number of participants to listen to and pray with a celebrated preacher...." (A History of Pakistan and Its Origins by Christophe Jaffrelot, Editor, p.40). This type of Islam is also called 'Syncretic Islam', where certain non-Islamic influences and customs get included. One reason for this is that a greater number of the Bangali Muslims were converts from Hinduism and animism. In the 9th century, Arab traders and aulias (holy men) brought Islam to Bangladesh first through Chittagong and Sylhet and then, in the 13th century, Islam also came with the Turkish Muslim conquerors who gradually began their inroads in Bengal from the west.

Linguistic Differences

Most of the Pakistani ruling elite at the time were mostly Urdu speakers from the North India. They were part of the muhajirs (refugees) who left India after the independence of Pakistan on August 14, 1947. These Urdu-speaking people comprised only about 4% of the population of Pakistan, whereas Bangla-speaking people of East Pakistan at the time comprised about 56% of the population of the whole country.

The 1981 census results show that the situation of the languages spoken in Pakistan was as follows: Punjabi - 48.17% of the population, Pashto - 13.14%, Sindhi - 11.77%, Seraiki (a kind of Punjabi) - 9.83%, Urdu - 7.6% (mother tongue of only 6% of population), Baluchi - 3.02%, Hindko - 2.42%, Brahui - 1.21%, and others (mostly non-written 50 languages and dialects) - 2.81% (Source: A History of Pakistan and Its Origins by Christophe Jaffrelot, Editor, p.252). What do we see from this? Even after 34 years of the independence of Pakistan, only 7.6% of its population spoke Urdu! So you can imagine what the situation of Urdu was in Pakistan in 1947-1952 -- only a handful of people used this language at the time and yet that language was being forcefully imposed as the only state language in whole of Pakistan!

Bangla (Bengali) language, on the other hand, is derived from Sanskrit, the language of the Vedas (Hindu holy scriptures) and the Hindus. Bangla also contains a maximum number of words that came directly from Sanskrit. For this very reason the ruling elite considered Bangali Muslims pro-Hindu and Hinduism-influenced -- in other words, not real Muslims, who have more affinity with India, the enemy of Pakistan! As part of the Islamization process in the mid-1960s, East Pakistan Governor Monaem Khan, the servile follower of Pakistan Martial-Law Administrator and later President Ayub Khan, banned Rabindra sangeet (songs written and tuned by Nobel Literature Prize winning Bangali Hindu poet Rabindranath Tagore) from the state-controlled radio and television stations. He also banned importation of books, magazines and newspapers -- both Bangla and English -- from India, particularly from Calcutta of West Bengal.

"The ruling authority of Pakistan felt that the Bengali language would ultimately impair the national cohesion of Pakistan. Bengali language is very different from the languages used in West Pakistan and it is identical with the language of West Bengal in India. Thus it was feared that the encouragement of Bengali might ultimately lead to the East wing of Pakistan to develop greater links with West Bengal than with Pakistan. The upholders of the Islamic ideology further argued that Bengali was primarily a language of the Hindus, and the Bengali literature was full of Hindu ideas and ideals. Hence they condemned Bengali as un-Islamic."
(Renaissance and Freedom Movement in Bangladesh by Bhattarcharjee, 1973)

Servile Loyalty and Sycophancy of the East Pakistan Muslim Leaguers

The Muslim League members from East Pakistan nakedly demonstrated a servile loyalty to and cooperation with the Pakistani ruling elite. In the name of Islamic brotherhood and unity of the country, they actively participated in unjust policies and actions of the government.
Prominent among them were the Chief Minister of East Bengal and later Governor-General and Prime Minister of Pakistan Khwaja Nazimuddin, central Education Minister Fazlur Rahman, East Bengal Chief Minister Nurul Amin, elected Muslim League members of both the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan and East Bengal Legislative Assembly.
If the Pakistani ruling elite had recognized Bangla as one of the state languages of Pakistan and given autonomy to the Bangalis to a greater extent, East Pakistan would most likely remain with Pakistan today. The minority ruling elite's a domineering attitude, selfishness, greed, discriminatory behaviour, and undemocratic and unjust policies and actions undid the Pakistan that was envisioned by the Indian subcontinent Muslims before the independence in 1947.
The Bangla language, that the ruling elite wanted to suppress and "Islamize," is recognized and celebrated today all over the world on each February 21 through the International Mother Language Day. At the same time, they are also paying a tribute to the Bangla language martyrs.

(The End)

[To go to the beginning of this write-up, please click here]

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