Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Villains of the Bangla (Bengali) Language Movement -- 4

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  • Fazlur Rahman (1919 - 1988):Align Center
After the independence of Pakistan on August 14, 1947, Fazlur Rahman -- his surname also written as 'Rehman' -- becomes the Minister of Interior, Information and Education in the Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan's cabinet. Fazlur Rahman was a Bangali hide (leather) merchant and lawyer from Calcutta. He had no family roots in East Pakistan.

In November, 1947, Pakistan's Education Minister Fazlur Rahman convened in Karachi the Pakistan Educational Conference, with representatives from East and West Pakistan. The maximum number of participants were from West Pakistan. In this conference, the Minister made derogatory and slanderous comments on Bangla (Bengali) language and script (alphabet). Finally, in its unilateral recommendations, the conference proposed that Urdu be made the only state language of Pakistan. It was also recommended that Bangla be excluded from the newly-independent Pakistan's stamps, coins and bank notes.

The University of Dhaka students took a serious offence at the Bangali Minister's remarks and initiative of making Urdu as the only state language. At the December 6, 1947 meeting in the university campus, the students denounced the Minister and his anti-Bangla initiatives and demanded that Bangla be made one of the state languages along with Urdu.

Life-Sketch of Fazlur Rahman

Very little can be known about the personal life of Fazlur Rahman. The information that I could gather so far is as follows:

Fazlur Rahman was a Bangali lawyer and a leather merchant from Calcutta with no known family roots in East Bengal. Yet from a constituency in Dhaka, he was elected to the united Bengal Legislative Assembly both in 1937 and 1946 elections. Until 1946, he was the Chief Whip of the Muslim League Legislative Party. He became the Revenue Minister of Bengal in the cabinet of the Chief Minister Hossain Shaheed Suhrawardy, following the important elections of 1946, in which the Muslim voters of Bengal gave their verdict in favour of the creation of Pakistan. He remained a Minister until August 14, 1947, the day of the independence of Pakistan.

When the British government made the decision to divide Bengal after the partition of India, Fazlur Rahman was given the responsibility of coordinating the establishment of the provincial capital of East Bengal (East Pakistan) in Dhaka. He oversaw the setting up of the East Bengal Government Secretariat, requisitioning homes for government officials and the construction of temporary residences for various categories of government servants.

Like Suhrawardy, Fazlur Rahman was against the partition of Bengal, but wanted an independent Bengal. He was the first person to sign the statement in support of the Draft Agreement of Undivided Bengal Scheme. Maulana Raghib Ahsan in a pamphlet mentioned that out of 27 members of the Working Committee of the Bengal League, 21 supported the Undivided Bengal Scheme.

In the Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan's cabinet (August 14, 1947 - October 16, 1951) in newly-independent Pakistan, he was the Minister of Interior, Information and Education. From October, 1951 to April 17, 1953, he was the Commerce, Education and Economic Affairs Minister in the Prime Minister Khwaja Nazimuddin's cabinet.

Minister Fazlur Rahman dressed up very ordinarily, so ordinarily that his simple dress would belie his high position in the government. There is an anecdote that once he went to attend an Independence Day parade and took a seat in the VIP section. Some attendant then rushed in and tolld him to move elsewhere because that section was reserved for the VIPs!

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