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World Mother Language Day and Punjabi

United Nations World Mother Language Day is observed on Feb 21, the day Dhaka University students suffered bullet injuries while demonstrating for the recognition of Bangla, their mother language.
The Day was proclaimed after the continuous efforts of Bangladesh intelligentsia which freed itself from the linguistic and political slavery of west Pakistanis. The term ‘slavery’ was used by great linguist Dr Shaheedullah, of Dhaka University, before the emergence of Pakistan. The former Aligarh Muslim University vice-chancellor said if Urdu or Hindi and not Bengali was used in law courts of future state of Pakistan and universities that would be tantamount to political slavery.
The controversy triggered clashes between the two wings of the country – East Pakistan and West Pakistan – over the language issues. Then Karachi was the capital and Bengali language did not make to currency notes, stamps, coins and officials forms asserting that only Urdu would be the state language of Pakistan. The issue for the first time brought teachers and students of Dhaka University on streets in 1948. Many Pakistan Constituent Assembly members from Indian provinces of UP, Delhi and Bombay such as Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan and Maulana Shabbir Ahmad Usmani were elected or nominated seats of Bengalis turning the Bengali members into a minority.
The Bengalis were expecting a better treatment from those non-Bengalis elected on their seats. But the result was opposite to that.
The Punjab stands as a prime accused in the language issue and on UN Mother Language Day, both Punjab and Urdu language will not be remembered in polite words.
Punjabis in the bureaucracy and academia are to some extent responsible for opposing Bengali. The prime minister Liaquat Khan proclaimed Urdu as the Muslim language, spoken by all the Muslims of the subcontinent, when Bengali MCA Dharinder Nath Dutta suggested in the proceedings of the assembly that Bengali should be treated like English and Urdu. The Liaquat government did not accept the Bengalis demand till his tragic death in October, 1951.
In the firing of Feb 21, 1952, which created Shaheed Minar, the most inspiring national monument, Punjabi police officer Masood Mahmood, usually stand the prime accused of firing the first bullet.
The question, however, is how the firing was arranged by the Dhaka superintendent of police, Muhammad Idrees, accompanied by District Magistrate SH Qureshi who later became the Lahore High Court judge. The Dhaka High Court conducted an inquiry into the firing in which Hamoodur Rehman, later on chief judge of Pakistan, presented the pubic, students and teachers as a lawyer. The report has been published in a book, It is My Mother’s Face. According to the report, Dhaka ASP Masood Mahmood was the first to reach the troubled spot with police by 8am and the firing was ordered by district magistrate after 3pm.
SSP Muhammad Idrees (probably a Bengali) says before the judge: “There were three head-constables, 30 constables of the armed branch, two head-constables and 14 constables of the unarmed branch, and one head-constable, and 14 constables of the gas squad, one inspector and two sergeants.
“The crowd was advancing with showering of brickbats and I had to come with armed forces to put them in position. When the situation came to such a pass that we were being almost encircled and overpowered, I consulted the DM and DIG (AZ Obaidullah, most probably a Bengali) who had all along been present there. We decided to open fire.”
Now it must be clear how far Punjabi police was involved in the Bengali affair. After the death of Liaquat Ali Khan, Khwaja Nazimuddin (Bengal) succeeded him. The Constitutional Assembly session was held on April 10, 1952, in which government member from East Pakistan Nur Ahmad moved the language resolution: that this assembly is of the opinion that Bengali language along with Urdu language shall be made the State language of Pakistan”.
The president or the speaker asked Nur Ahmad whether he wanted to speak but government member Nurul Amin interrupted him. At this, Sardar Shaukat Hayat from Punjab said: “An official is stopping him (Nur Ahmad) from speaking…” A moment later, Pirzada Abdus Sattar (Sindh) jumped in to postpone the debate on the resolution, another indication of government unwillingness to include Bengali on the list of the state languages. But Bengali members were all for the debate. From West Pakistan, Sardar Shaukat Hayat (Punjab) spoke in favour of Bengali. On the other hand, 41 members, including Dr Ishtiaq Husain Qureshi and Dr Mahmud Husain (both from East Pakistan) voted against Bengali while MH Gazdar and Ahmad EH Jaffar from Karachi also opposed the move. Shaukat Hayat in his speech said: “I belong to a province where we have nurtured and brought up Urdu in the last 30 or 40 years or more and Punjabi is proud of nurturing that language which was not its own…I am today with the fullest responsibility standing here to support the issue of Bengali and I say let us have Bengali as one of the State languages because it is the language of the 4 crore and 19 lakh people living in East Pakistan. If we from West Pakistan are going to oppose the urge of the people of East Pakistan we will be responsible for starting trouble in East Pakistan, which may damage the fabric of my country and my nation……”
That was the voice of a Punjabi raised in the highest democratic forum of the then Pakistan. But the rulers (still the Muslim League) could not learn the lesson from 21st February, 1952 tragedy and their successors, the present rulers have adopted a suicidal linguistic policy at least in the case of Punjabi.





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