Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Ekushey February and Some Thoughts on the Suppression of Bangla (Bengali) Language in East Pakistan


The Ahsan Manzil (also called Nawab Bari -- Nawab's palace)
at Sadarghat, Dhaka, as seen (in the middle) from a boat
on the flooded Buriganga River

Photo (Dhaka: July, 1995) © Jerome D'Costa

The Nawbabs or Nawabs, originally hailing from Kashmir of North India as Khwajas, were rich merchants who later acquired zamindaris (feudal estates) from the British on auctions and became influential in Dhaka. They were given the title of Nawbab or Nawab, similar to that of the British peerage, by the British who were pleased by their full support during the deadly days of the Shipahi Bidhroho (rebellion of the Indian soldiers). The Britishers named this rebellion "Sepoy Mutiny" that happened all-over India.

The Nawbabs were Farsi (Persian) and Urdu speaking elites who did not mingle with the ordinary Bangali (Bengali) population. During the Pakistan period (1947-1971) in East Pakistan, they gave support to the ruling elites of the West Pakistan who were also facile in Farsi and Urdu languages.

Khwaja Nazimuddin (1894-1964) was an influential politician of the Pakistan Muslim League party. He was the Chief Minister of East Pakistan when the question of having only the Urdu as the state language of Pakistan was raised in the Pakistan Constituent Assembly in Karachi. Khwaja Nazimuddin was very vocal in his opposition to the counter-proposal of East Pakistani member of the parliament Dhirendranath Datta to have also Bangla (Bengali) along with Urdu as the two state languages of Pakistan.

The West Pakistani ruling elite and their supporters in East Pakistan wanted to stifle the thinking of the East Pakistanis by suppressing Bangla (Bengali) -- their mother language. This new imperialism of the West Pakistanis gave rise to the language movement among the Bangalis of East Pakistan. The Bangla (Bengali) language movement against their efforts resulted in the indignation that ultimately in 1971 led to the independence of Bangladesh.

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