Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Photo Meditation of the Month (March, 2009): DOING IT WITH LOVE


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An elderly village lady preparing vegetables for cooking
Photo (Rangamatia Village, Gazipur District, Bangladesh) © Jerome D'Costa


Doing It With Love

This is an elderly Bangladeshi village lady doing her daily chore with intense care, love and attention. She knows from her long experience that whatever she does with love will end in success. She is cutting leafy and other vegetables and chopping potatoes for a tasty curry she will prepare later.

Her pose and gait tell it clearly that she has put her mind and heart into her work. There is nothing that can disturb her. Every cut and every chop acquire a new meaning. All the vegetables are not to be cut in the same fashion -- the size and shape differ according to the type of vegetable she uses and that's the secret of making the items tasty. Her deftness, her skills and her patience go into the work she does. Although she is slow, she is steady. She knows her work will result in happiness of everyone in the family during the meals.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta once said: "In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love." Yes, doing it with love should be the motto of us all. Only then will that make the doing meaningful, more humane. A real bond then will be created between the doer and the doee.



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Monday, March 30, 2009

Bangladesh War of Independence: West Pakistani Soldiers Kill Catholic Priests

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Photo Courtesy: Father Evans (Holy Cross Church, Luxmibazar, Dhaka),
Father Veronesi (Bishop's House Archives, Khulna), Father Marandi
(Catholic Beginnings in North Bengal by by Luigi Pinos, P.I.M.E.)

Layout and Design: Joachim Romeo D'Costa

The Pakistani ruling elite always considered the Hindus in East Pakistan as enemies and agents of India. During their nine-month long deadly crackdown in 1971, West Pakistani soldiers not only demolished many Hindu temples, but also killed a sizable number of Hindu priests, besides Hindu intellectuals, influential persons and common folks in different parts of the eastern wing of the country.

Comparatively, Christians did not suffer that much death and destruction as suffered by the Hindus. Yet, they were not totally spared. In certain pockets of East Pakistan, death and destruction visited them as well. In many mission church and school compounds, internal refugees --Hindus, Muslims and Christians -- fleeing West Pakistani military crackdown and barbarity had taken shelter. They were fed and clothed. In this process, a good number of local priests and foreign missionaries -- both Catholic and Protestant -- faced threats and harassment from the West Pakistani military personnel.

Three Catholic priests -- two foreign and one East Pakistani -- were brutally killed, too. They were:

  • Father William P. Evans, C.S.C. (1919 - 1971):
Father William P. Evans, C.S.C., killed on November 23, 1971, was an American priest and missionary, belonging to the Congregation of Holy Cross. After coming to East Pakistan, he served at different capacities in various Catholic parish churches and, one time, at the Bandura Little Flower Seminary. Finally, he was the parish priest of Golla Catholic Church in Nawabganj Upazilla of Dhaka District.

Although he was a foreigner, he loved the Bangalis dearly and empathized with them and their aspirations. He aided many internal refugees and gave moral support to the muktijuddhas (fredom fighters) of the locality. West Pakistani army personnel in that area was aware of his support of the freedom fighters.

On November 13, 1971, as usual once a week, he was going by a boat to offer Mass at Bakshanagar Village, a mission station a few kilometres away from Golla. As his boat was passing by the army camp at Nawabganj, the soldiers signaled the boat to make a stoppage at the camp. When the boat reached the shore, soldiers grabbed Father Evans and struck him so hard with the rifle butt that he fell on the ground. His body was bayonated several times and ultimately he was killed with two bullets. Then they threw his corpse into the river that carried it several kilometres downstream.

Ordinary people recovered his body and brought it to Golla Church compound. Thousands of Catholics, Muslims and Hindus of the area came to pay their last respect to this holy man before his burial at the church graveyard.

Father Evans' innate smiling face, love of people, humility, humour, and empathy drew people of all faiths to him. He was called a "holy man." Till now, many people visit his grave.

In the Little Flower Seminary at Bandura in the early 60's, he was our rector. From time to time, he used to give us writing assignments in English and after checking them would give his comments. On my assignment sheets, he would often remark: "Short sentences, but complete thought. Keep up the good work." My later journalism and writing career in life was the result of his inspiration.

Father Evans has been honoured in different ways in Bangladesh. The Tribeni Chhatra Kallyan Sangha (youth organization) in 1972 started to give "Father Evans Scholarship" to poor but excelling students. In 1973, this organization had also started "Father Evans Memorial Football Tournament". Later Shurid Sangha (another youth organization) in old Dhaka started its annual "Shaheed Father Evans Memorial Basketball Competition" among different youth organizations.
Source: Bangladeshey Catholic Mondoli (The Catholic Church in Bangladesh)
by Jerome D'Costa (Dhaka: Pratibeshi Prakashani, 1986), pp.302-303

  • Father Mario Veronesi, S.X. (1912 - 1971):
After West Pakistani military started their crackdown on the East Pakistanis (now Bangladesh) from March 25, 1971 onwards, many people of all faiths began to take refuge in church compounds -- both Catholic and Protestant. In Jessore town, a number of such people took shelter in the church compound where Father Mario Veronesi, an Italian Xaverian priest and missionary, was the parish priest.

On April 4, 1971 it was the Palm Sunday. Father was taking care of the internal refugees who had taken shelter in his church compound. When the soldiers with their rifles and sub-machine guns entered the compound and were proceeding towards the building, Father Veronesi came out to meet them with his raised hands. He had a large red cross badge on his chest because there was also the Fatima Hospital adjacent to the place. The soldiers immediately started to fire at him and the building. He got bullets in his chest and died there. The soldiers then entered the church and shot and killed four of the refugees.

Initially, he was buried in Jessore. Later his body was taken to Shimulia Catholic Church compound and re-buried near the grave of another Italian Xaverian missionary Father Valerian Cobbe, S.X., who was killed on October 14, 1974 by robbers.

After the independence of Bangladesh in December, 1971, a Muslim student, named Ismail Hossain, wrote a letter to Father Valerian Cobbe and paid tribute to Father Mario Veronesi: "At last we have achieved independence and freedom! We rejoice and thank God and ask him to help our nation progress and live in tranquility. The memory of so many victims is the thing that saddens us most and gives us great pain. The best members of our society have died. Father Mario Veronesi is among these martyrs of our independence. We feel very proud of him: he paid the highest price for our independence!"

This 58-year-old Italian was a priest for 28 years, 19 of which he spent in East Pakistan. He worked in various capacity in different parish churches under the Diocese of Khulna. He is best remembered for working for the upliftment of the poor.

Source: www.xaviermissionaries.org/M_Stories/Martyrs/Vern7.htm

  • Father Lucas Marandi (1922 - 1971):

Father Lucas Marandi, belonging to the local Santal ethnic group, was a diocesan priest for 18 years under the Diocese of Dinajpur, East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). In 1971, he was the parish priest of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church at Ruhea in Thakurgaon District. He had a strong patriotic feeling for his country when the West Pakistani army began their bloody crackdown on the East Pakistani on March 25, 1971.

Thousands upon thousands of East Pakistanis in various districts and localities were fleeing the merciless attacks of the West Pakistani soldiers. Many were taking refuge in different border districts of India.

Father Marandi received the news that four Catholic mission centres of the Diocese of Dinajpur were abandoned after the military plunderings. In the Ruhea area itself, most of the members of the minority groups and many Muslims left their abodes and fled to nearby India. His parishoners, through messengers, were appealing him time and again to leave Ruhea and join them in India.

Finally, Father Marandi decided to move. He got the church bullock cart loaded with the parish archives and his personal belongings. He told the cart driver to move towards the border that was marked by the shallow Nagor River, six miles ( kilometres) away. He then reached the riverbank on his motor cycle.

When the cart reached the designated spot, the cart and he himself on the motor cycle crossed the river together. On reaching the Indian side of the river bank, he turned toward the Ruhea Church and kept on looking intently for quite some time. His companions could realize that something ominous was going on in his mind. When someone told him to make a move towards India, Father Marandi turned toward him and said gravely: "No, it has all been a mistake! Let's go back to Ruhea!" He then crossed the river and started to return to his church.

Father Lucas Marandi was all alone in the Ruhea church compound except a few Catholics living nearby. After three days, on April 21, 1971, a West Pakistani army jeep pulled up at the priest's residence. Father greeted them and offered them tea and biscuits. They then left for the north. He felt quite relieved of his tension, but temporarily. After three hours the jeep returned.

Father Marandi came out again, but the soldiers pushed him inside his residence and started to torture him for the next 15 minutes or so. They bayoneted his face beyond recognition. Blood splattered all over the walls. When they left the compound, mortally wounded Father was dying.

A few Catholics who lived nearby rushed in to see what had happened. Seeing his grave condition, they decided to take him to India by the very bullock cart that Father had used earlier. Before reaching the destination, Father Lucas Marandi expired. His corpse was taken to the Catholic Church at Islampur on the Indian side of the border where he is still buried.

Sooner they left the church compound then a bunch of local looters appeared and ransacked the church and priest's residence and carried away everything available.

Source: Catholic Beginnings in North Bengal by Father Luigi Pinos, P.I.M.E.
(Saidpur: Catholic Church, 1984), pp.26-27)


These three priests are the testimonies of the crimes against humanity perpetrated by the ferocious and brutal West Pakistani soldiers.


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The Poem of the Month (March, 2009): YOU'RE NOT A MERE FLAG


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Flag Courtesy: www.appliedlanguage.com

You're Not a Mere Flag

You're not a mere flag
Simply fluttering in the air,
You're a powerful and a meaningful symbol.

A symbol of bloodshed in the Bangladesh War of Independence,
A symbol of offering one's own life for the country,
A symbol of defiance against unjust policies and actions,
A symbol of uniting the country for a common goal,
A symbol of hope and progress for the future.

Let the bipartisan bickerings and differences
Give way to the unity of purpose,
Let not petty selfishness
Mar the greater good of all.
Let not the wickedness of a few,
Bring injustice and suffering on the masses.

Let's remember that
After a long dark night you appeared as a beacon of light,
To the oppressed, to the suffering, to the diminished.
Yet, through our unity in diversity, sacrifice, and hard work
Want to keep you riding high and above with pride and dignity.

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Sunday, March 29, 2009

Bangladesh War of Independence: A Tribute to My Father

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Dr. Peter D'Costa, B.H.
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Photo Courtesy: Studio 'H' (Nawabpur, Dhaka)

My father, Dr. Peter D'Costa, B.H. (Bachelor of Homeopathy), also known as 'P. D'Costa Sir' to the students of St. Gregory's High School in Dhaka, was born at Rangamatia Village of the then Dhaka District (now Gazipur District) on January 5, 1904.

After passing Class (Grade) 3 from Kaliganj Pilot School, Dt. Dhaka, he was semt to study at St. Anthony's High School in Calcutta. After the Entrance Examinations, he taught at the same school and studied Homeopathy at night at the Dunham College of Homeopathy, Calcutta. After four years, he received his B.H. degree and was awarded the 'Ratimanjari Dassi Memorial Medal' for scholastic achievement.

After one year of independence of Pakistan, he returned to his village and practised homeopathy medicines. As the financial condition of the newly-independent country was not strong, he could not do well financially in his practice. In 1951, he left for Dhaka and joined St. Gregory's High School (English Medium) as a teacher in the primary section. In 1968, he retired from teaching after suffering a stroke.

He was spending his retired life in the village when on November 26, 1971, the West Pakistani armed forces attacked the village and killed 14 persons including him and burnt down about 90% of the houses.

When we received the news that the military started wading thigh-deep water in the beel (marsh) to come to attack the village, men sent their womenfolk and children away to another village on the other side of the small canal. We did the same with my mother Agnes D'Costa, a teacher of Rangamatia Catholic Primary School, and my adopted sister.

In the weekend I had come from work with the Pratibeshi weekly in Dhaka and could not return due to military and mukti bahini (freedom forces) confrontations in different places, including Kaliganj). So on this Friday, November 26, with fright, my father and I were watching the fires at the far end of the village in the west as well as hearing wheezing bullet sounds over the trees. I tried to coax my father, who could walk with some difficulty with the help of a cane, to go with me as far away as possible, but he refused and said: "If they see me old and sick and still kill me, let them do so. I would rather die at home than in the fields and jungles."

When the bullet sounds became louder, I asked my father to go away with me and again he refused. Then I said that "I have to leave because if they find a young person, they would capture or kill him instantly." He told me to leave immediately. I touched his hand for the last time and left home and ran towards the other village in the north. As I neared the canal, one bullet wheezed past a few inches by me and struck one of the bamboo trees and divided it in the middle. It scared the hell out of me and I shouted: "Jesus, save me!" and jumped over a cane bush and fell into the canal. I waded knee-deep water and climbed over the side of the canal and reached the other side.

Behind the houses in the field I find about three hundred villagers -- men, women and children -- huddled on the ground. My future wife and members of her family were also there. A few minutes later, we see two muktijuddas (freedom fighters) running past us away to the east. I shouted and asked them whether they had fired at the soldiers. When they said "yes", my common sense told me that the soldiers would definitely come to the other side of the canal and search for the freedom fighters.

I told my future father-in-law, Joachim Costa, a teacher of St. Joseph's High School in Dhaka, that the army would definitely come and, if they find us, would finish us all. He told me to take my engaged finance, her mother and others and walk further up towards the east. As we started to move, others also followed us. We first went to the villages of Deolia and Baktarpur and then finally, just before evening, reached Kapashia village, about three miles north-east. It was a Muslim village where we never set foot in our life. They received us with such care and empathy that we immediately felt at home. They immediately began to offer us water and muri (puffed rice) followed by emptying of some of their rooms for our stay! We will never forget this sacrificing hospitality.

Those who did not move from near the canal, that we left earlier, were ultimately killed by the army.

As a tribute to my father, I had written a poem in Bangla and it was published in the weekly Pratibeshi of February 21, 1972. Below I render the English translation of the poem:


I Remember You


Dad, I pleaded with you,
Let's go with us,
Flee somewhere away
From the hands of these
Blood-thirsty barbarous robbers,
Otherwise, they will tear us apart.

You said, No, you go, wherever you can,
Save your life,
I am old, I am sick,
If they come and kill me,
I'll be proud of it,
I've died for the country,
Even if I didn't take up any arms.
Yet, I am a Bangali,
A supporter of Bangladesh,
If I have to die, I will die,
In my golden home,
Where I've taken care of every plant and tree,
Every bug, evey insect of my home recognizes me,
I've a deep intimacy
With the golden earth.

Yet, Dad, I pulled you
By the hand and told you that
They're almost here,
But you refused and asked me to leave.

As the frightful rat-a-tat sounds of bullets
Were closing in,
You told me, Leave and go,
Save your own life,
If you die,
Who will then serve the country?

I couldn't stay, I was frightened and heavy-hearted,
I had to go far, v-e-r-y far,
Leaving you alone,
In face of hellish atrocities.

The blood-thirsty beasts came and saw you
Squatting in a trench-like mud-hole,
They didn't hesitate a second,
They threw the deadly bullets at you,
Piercing your belly
And coming out the other side with the bowels.

Dad, whenever I visualize the scene,
My mind and body become cold,
I could never imagine that
Such a death could snatch you away from us.

Dad, you became a martyr
Like thousands and thousands of other Bangalis.
The grateful Bangalis
Of the independent country,
Will remember you for the time to come,
For, the birth of Bangladesh
Became possible due to
The death of people like you.

From the depth of your heart
You longed for this country's independence
That became a reality
Due to your sacrifice.
You are great, you are immortal
In the heart of every Bangali.
Bless us, Dad,
That we may preserve the independence
That you've brought for us
By sacrificing your life.


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Saturday, March 28, 2009

Bangladesh War of Independence: The Enemy Desecrates Churches

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To read the enlarged version of the report,
please double-click the above image

I had written the above report in early 1972 narrating the attack of the West Pakistani soldiers in late November of 1971 on our Rangamatia Village in the then Dhaka District (now Gazipur District). Fourteen persons, including my father Dr. Peter D'Costa, B.H., were killed on that day and about 90% of the houses of the village were set on fire and burnt down by the enemy.

Later they also returned and entered the Rangamatia Catholic church compound and desecrated and looted the Sacred Heart Church and pillaged the adjoining parish priest's house and the nuns' convent after breaking their locks.

During the deadly crackdown of March 25, 1971 night, the West Pakistani forces also fired indiscriminately in old Dhaka hitting St. Thomas Anglican Church's belfry with a canon shell. The shell and bullet marks on the front wall were visible for sometime after that infamous day.

West Pakistani soldiers also had forcibly occupied a Protestant church at Akhaura in Brahmanbaria District and turned it into a war prison where captured Bangalis were tortured. Indian photojournalist Robin Sengupta, who covered the war between India and East Pakistan in December, 1971, gave a photo of that church in his April 2000 book (page 57) in Bengali Chitra-Shangbadiker Cameraye Muktijuddha (The Liberation War Through the Lens of a Photojournalist).

The Original Report on Attack on Rangamatia Village

Since the double-clicking of the above image does not give good enough enlarged version of the report for easy reading, I am reproducing below in red colour the report that had appeared in The Nation, the first English daily from the free soil of Bangladesh, dated February 4, 1972 (I took the liberty to add some commas, add meanings or explanations in the first bracket for easy understanding of present-day readers, and break a few longer paragraphs into shorter ones):

They Even Desecrated the Church
By Jerome D'Costa

It was black Friday, November 26, 1971. On that fateful day, the blood-thirsty army men of General Yahya had let loose a reign of terror in the village of Rangamatia, three miles north-west of Kaliganj in the district of Dacca [now written as 'Dhaka'].

The killers of the Bengalees [Bangalis] reached Doripara, which was between Arikhola and Pubail railway stations, where earlier the railway line was destroyed by the Mukti Bahini [freedom fighters] in cooperation with the villagers, and began to barrage the village of Rangamatia with rifle and submachine gun shots in order to make further advance.


When the army men began to wade the beel [marsh] through knee-deep water, a few Mukti Bahini boys, who were guarding the village, fired at them and wounded three invaders. As the fighting young men were outnumbered by the invaders, they could not defend the village as was expected earlier. The hordes of Yahya entered the village with all the fury and set fire to the whole Christian village and machine-gunned fourteen villagers of all ages.

Rev. Father Houser, C.S.C., an American priest residing in the Mission, along with the Sisters from the convent had to take refuge in a paddy field in order to save themselves from the gruesome barbarity of the Pak forces.

Later the aggressors pitched a camp near the damaged railway bridge [half-a-mile away]. When the priest used to go to visit his people in the far-flung villages, where they had fled earlier, the army men would come to the church compound and loot the valuables. They broke open the priest's house and took away everything worthwhile and made a mess of the church records and files. For safety's sake earlier, many Christians had kept their valuables in the priest's house. All of them had been stolen.

They forcibly opened the church door and broke the tabernacle on the altar, which is considered most holy by the Christians, and took away all the holy articles used in the religious ceremonies. One large statue of Christ, which was kept above the altar, was thrown down from there and broken into pieces. They also looted the nuns' convent.


This way, the homiciders gave vent to their anger which was caused by the heroic Mukti Bahini, when a few days ago, they had killed 30 Pakistani soldiers and gained control of and flew Bangladesh flag on Kaliganj. The army tried in various ways to recapture this vital place but failed. They even used a tank to crush our valiant young men but could not succeed. As a last resort, they airraided Kaliganj, heinously attacked Rangamatia and regained control of the area after much effort.

The brave and ever hopeful people, who lost their houses and some members of their families, did not despair at all. Their will power had hardened like steel and they were ready to make any sacrifice for the independence of Bangladesh which came into reality a few days later [on December 16, 1971].

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Friday, March 27, 2009

Bangladesh War of Independence: The Killing Field of East Pakistan

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Beginning from March 25, 1971, the then East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) was the premeditated killing field of the West Pakistani ruling elite and their marauding soldiers.

Their anger, their revenge, their discriminatory behaviour, and their sadistic atrocities were realized in the nine-month long genocide in East Pakistan. The photos below speak for themselves.

Like thousands of others in Dhaka, these rickshaw-pullers
were
also mercilessly killed on the night of March 25, 1971

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Setting fires on structures and burning them to the ground
was also another form of brutality of the West Pakistani soldiers

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Another killing field on a bank of a river
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As people fled away from their villages, there was none to
bury the slaughtered victims of the West Pakistani army

_Wading knee-deep water, villagers are leaving their abodes
and taking shelter in a safe place far away from the army presence

To avoid army atrocities, the old, weak and infirm
are being carried away to safer areas

These villagers left their households and became
internal refugees in a safer place
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More people who were forced to leave their own homes

Photo Courtesy: The Press Information Department,
Government of Bangladesh (1972)


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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Today is the 39th Independence Day of Bangladesh

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March 26: The Independence Day of Bangladesh
The red signifies sacrifice and death that made the independence
possible in 1971. The rays signify freedom and green colour
symbolizes hope for independent Bangladesh. Jatiyo Smriti
Shoudha
(National War Memorial) represents the death
of millions and victory over the enemy. The Bangla
writing, Independence Day, is on top right.

Graphics design (Toronto: March, 2009) © Joachim Romeo D'Costa

Today is the 39th independence day of Bangladesh. This independence was earned through a long struggle and a plenty of bloodshed that started with the Bangla Language Movement in late 1940's.

First, there was the request for Bangla for inclusion as one of the state languages of Pakistan when they faced Urdu as the only state language. Then came the demand for preservation of the Bangla language's status -- but it was faced with repressive measures. Ultimately, on February 21 and 22, 1952, blood had to be shed to gain an equal status of Bangla with Urdu as the state languages of Pakistan. In the first Constitution of Pakistan in 1956, Bangla was officially included with Urdu as the two state languages of the country.

From the beginning of the independence of Pakistan on August 14, 1947, the Pakistani ruling elite, comprising mostly the Urdu-speaking North Indians who migrated to West Pakistan, began to treat East Bengal (East Pakistan) as a colony and supplier of raw materials. Consequently, the East Pakistanis demanded autonomy, which was stipulated in the 1940 Lahore Resolution of the All-India Muslim League. But after independence, the ruling elite merged all the provinces of Pakistan and made it a one unit country in spite of demands for autonomy for East Pakistan.

The six-point programme of the Awami League party, headed by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, spearheaded the autonomy of East Pakistan and gained overwhelmingly the seats in the national parliament in the election of 1970. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, the leader of the Pakistan People's Party, and military of coterie of Pakistan conspired and did not allow Sheikh Mujib to take over the leadership of Pakistan as the Prime Minister. Instead, the military machine cracked down on the justifiably agitated East Pakistanis on March 25, 1971, from when started the nine-month long War of Independence. In the early morning of March 26, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman declared independence of Bangladesh.

In this war, three million East Pakistanis were killed, 300,000 girls and women were raped, and a billion-dollar worth of properties were destroyed. Over 10 million East Pakistanis took shelter in India as refugees, besides millions of internal refugees. In the war, India-trained East Pakistani muktijuddhas (freedom fighters) were engaged in guerrilla warfare throughout East Pakistan. In early December, 1971, when Pakistan suddenly bombed several West Indian airfields, India declared war with Pakistan and moved troops in East Pakistan. On December 16, 1971, Pakistan surrendered in Dhaka and thus, the new state of Bangladesh officially came into being.


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Sunday, March 22, 2009

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

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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)
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Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Pakistani Ruling Elite vs. the Bangla (Bengali) Language -- 1

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In spite of the incessant entreaties, demands and pro-Bangla rallies and demonstrations of the Bangalis (Bengalees), why did the Pakistani rulers totally ignore Bangla in the making of the state languages of Pakistan? First of all, it was racism (ethnic differences) -- pure and simple, and, secondly, there were other factors, such as social status differences, regionalism, religious and linguistic differences, and servile loyalty of the of the East Bengal (East Pakistan) Muslim Leaguers to the ruling elite.

Ethnic Differences

The Pakistani ruling elite comprised Urdu-Farsi-speaking North Indian Muslims, mostly descended from Muslim Turks, Mughals and Afghans who ruled parts of India in past centuries. These roti (hand-made wheat flat-bread) and meat eating people considered themselves ethnically superior to the mostly dark-skinned rice-and-fish-eating Bangalis. As a result, they could not consider themselves equal to the Bangali Muslims. After independence in 1947, many north Indian Muslims migrated to West Pakistan and mostly they are the ones who were the potiticians, civil servants, educate class and business people.

The Bangalis, on the other hand, are a heterogenous and considerably diverse group of people. They descended partially from the fair-skinned Aryans, mostly dark-skinned Austric, Dravidian and Proto-Australoids, and partially yellow-skinned Tibeto-Burman peoples. For this reason, Bangalis' skin colour ranges from black to very fair. Most of the Bangali Muslims were converts from Hinduism after the Muslims began their conquering inroads in Bengal in the 13th century.

Social Status Differences

The All-India Muslim League comprised mainly the upper class of the Muslim communities -- the zaminders, nawabs and nawabzadas (big landlords) --who were used to ruling common people, but not feeling equal with them. They had no affinity with or empathy for the common folks. Then there were other members of the Muslim League who were highly educated, such as barristers, lawyers, and educationists, and there were also moneyed merchants and businessmen. Starting from 1944, only during the leadership of Abul Hashim, a West Bengal lawyer, the Muslim League began to recruit members from ordinary Muslim population.

Most of the Bangalis were ordinary citizens -- mostly illiterate, financially hard-pressed, and of peasant stock. The number of highly-educated persons among them was minimal. The All-India Muslim League leadership, who were also the ruling elite in Pakistan, just could not take the East Pakistani Muslims as equals.

Regional Differences

The British first came to Bengal in 1690 as traders and in 1757 they became the rulers of Bengal by deafeating Nawab Sirajudoulla at the Battle of Polashi (Plassey). Under them, Calcutta gradually developed as a strong administrative, business, industrial, educational, and cultural centre. All important decisions and activities revolved round Calcutta and its surrounding areas.

As a result, the East Bengal (later East Pakistan) got neglected. It remained an underdeveloped hinterland of Calcutta supplying raw materials (jute, indigo, cotton, leather and the like) and food items. Moreover, East Bengal, being a riverine and marshy delta, was regularly visited by endemic diseases like cholera, malaria, tuberculosis, and diarrhea. So East Bengal was not an attractive place for people in other parts of India. The historical neglect continued in the independent Pakistan, too.

(Continued)

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Friday, March 20, 2009

The Spring is in the Air

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After the bitter winter, the Spring comes with a vengeance.
Flower bulbs are pushing their way through the recently
thawed ground announcing the good news of the Spring.


Photos (Toronto: March 18, 2009) © Jerome D'Costa


Officially today is the first day of the Spring season in Canada. After months of snow, sleet and sub-zero temperature, the Spring comes with the good news, new life, and renewed love. This season will last for the next three months.

In Winter, most of the trees and plants, by shedding their leaves, had gone nude. In Spring, they put on a new set of clothes and envelope their surroundings with the greens. Animals wake up from their wintry slumber, birds return from their sunny and warmer vacation. Flowers bloom and bees line up for gathering nectar. The fauna, due to their biological urge, take part in the creation of new life.

For the Christians, the Easter comes in the Spring ushering in the "resurrection" or new life. This type of life is the one Jesus Christ came to offer to this world.

Happy Spring to you all! Bookmark and Share

The Villains of the Bangla (Bengali) Language Movement -- 5

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  • Nurul Amin (1893 - 1974):
Nurul Amin, a Bangali from East Bengal -- later East Pakistan -- was an important figure in Bengal politics as a member of the Muslim League.

In 1946 election, Hussain Shaheed Suhrawardy came to power as the Chief Minister of the undivided Bengal and Nurul Amin, from the same party, was elected as the Speaker of the Bengal Assembly, based in Calcutta.

After the independence of Pakistan on August 14, 1947, Nurul Amin was not in the new government of East Bengal (East Pakistan), but was a member of the Pakistan Constituent Assembly (1947-1954).

Nurul Amin was elected the Chief Minister of East Bengal when Chief Minister Khwaja Nazimuddin was appointed the second Governor-General after the death of Mohammed Ali Jinnah. During his Chief Ministership until 1952, his as well as the central government's anti-Bangla policy gradually polarized the Bangla language movement and ultimately led to shootings by his policemen and language martyrdoms.
Align Right
Khwaja Nazimuddin, Prime Minister of Pakistan, on a visit to Dhaka o January 26, 1952, at a public meeting at the Paltan Maidan reiterated late Mohammad Ali Jinnah's policy and statement that Urdu would be the state language of Pakistan. As the Chief Minister, Nurul Amin was present with him at the gathering.

Life-Sketch of Nurul Amin

Nurul Amin was a lawyer, politician, a Chief Minister of East Bengal (East Pakistan) and lastly a Prime Minister of Pakistan. He was born at Shabazpur Village in Brahmanbaria District in 1893. His father's home was at Bahadurpur Village of Mymensingh District. He studied at Mymensingh Zilla School and Mymensingh Ananda Mohan College, from where he passed B.A. in 1919. In 1924, he joined the Mymensingh Judge Court Bar after receiving his Bachelor of Law degree from Calcutta University.

As a member of the Muslim League, he entered politics in 1929. In 1946, he was elected a member of the undivided Bengal Legislative Assembly and was elected its Speaker. From 1947 to 1954, he was a member of the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan. He was elected the Chief Minister of East Bengal in September, 1948, when Khwaja Nazimuddin was appointed the Governor-General of Pakistan after Mohammad Ali Jinnah's death. He opposed the Bangla language movement. Under his Chief Ministership, the police fired at the language demonstrators on February 21 and 22, 1952 and killed several persons, including students. He was defeated by the United Front candidate in the provincial assembly elections in 1954. As an oppositin leader, he played a strong role against General Ayub Khan's regime.

Nurul Amin was a staunch supporter of a strong and united Pakistan. He, therefore, opposed the Six-Point Programme of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the chief of the Awami League. Later he was against the War of Independence of Bangladesh and fully cooperated with the West Pakistani military machine. From December 7, 1971 to December 20, 1971, he was the Prime Minister of Pakistan, where he continued living till his death by officially accepting the citizenship of that country. From December, 1972 to August, 1973, he was the Vice President of Pakistan. He died in Rawalpindi on October 2, 1974.

The Bangladeshis consider him a traitor and a collaborator with the enemy (West Pakistan).

(The End)
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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!

(Continued)


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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Villains of the Bangla (Bengali) Language Movement -- 3

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  • Khwaja Nazimuddin ( 1894 - 1964)
Immediately after the independence of Pakistan on August 14, 1947, Muslim League member and Farsi-Urdu-speaking son of Dhaka City Khwaja Nazimuddin becomes the first Chief Minister of East Pakistan and continues in this position until 1949.

On February 23, 1948, the first session of the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan in Karachi was presided over by Farsi-and-Urdu-speaking Governor-General Mohammad Ali Jinnah. It was proposed in the Assembly that its members either speak in Urdu or English. On February 25, Dhirendranath Datta -- one East Pakistan Congress Party member and a Bangali lawyer from Brahmanbaria area, who was also an opposition member in the Assembly, moved an amendment motion demanding Bangla along with Urdu and English as one of the languages of the Assembly. His reasoning was that, out of the total population of Pakistan at the time, 56% were East Pakistanis whose mother language was Bangla.

Farsi-and-Urdu-speaking Pakistan Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan and Chief Minister Khwaja Nazimuddin very vocally opposed the motion of Dhirendranath Datta. Some other Bangali East Pakistani members along with West Pakistanis helped defeat this motion. Students, intellectuals and politicians in Dhaka were enraged at the news of this defeat of the pro-Bangla motion. Newspapers like Azad, a Bangla daily from Dhaka, also criticized the politicians who rejected the motion.

As Governor-General Mohammad Ali Jinnah was scheduled to visit East Pakistan for the first time from March 19, 1948 onwards. Chief Minister Khwaja Nazimuddin was embarassed at the continuous rallies and demonstrations (in support of Bangla language and demanding release of the demonstrators arrested earlier) that were being held in East Pakistan, especially in Dhaka, and was desperate in making the Governor-General's visit a peaceful one. He sent out a letter to Professor Abul Kashem of the Tamaddun Majlish (a cultural association) and invited him for discussion.

On March 15, 1948, Professor Abul Kashem along with a group of the Language Movement representatives went to meet Khwaja Nazimuddin and presented a memorandum of agreement for his signing. After much discussion, the Chief Minister signed eight points of the memorandum of agreement, but he avoided his direct responsibility of making Bangla the state language of Pakistan.

On March 19, 1948, Mohammad Ali Jinnah came to Dhaka. On March 21, he was given a civic reception in a huge gathering at the Race Course Maidan (presently Suhrawardy Uddyan), where he said: "Let me make it very clear to you that the state language of Pakistan is going to be Urdu and no other language...so far as the state language is concerned, Pakistan's shall be Urdu" (Jinnah 1948:89, in Language and Civilization Change in South Asia by Clarence Maloney). On March 24, he reiterated his position regarding the state language of Pakistan at the University of Dhaka convocation ceremony: "There can only be one state language. If the component parts of this state are to march forward in unison, that language in my opinion, can only be Urdu" (Jinnah 1948:95, in Language and Civilizaton Change in South Asia by Clarence Maloney). Blindly loyal Khwaja Nazimuddin was present in both the occasions, but he did not do anything to influence or change the position of Mohammad Ali Jinnah.

Khwaja Nazimuddin, the Chief Minister, reneged on his promises and signed agreement he made with the Committee of Action on March 15, 1948 and moved the following resolutions in the East Bengal [East Pakistan] Legislative Assembly on April 8, 1948:

  • Bengali shall be adopted as the official language for replacing English in the province of East Bengal; and it will be implemented as soon as the practical difficulties are resolved; and The medium of instruction in educational institutions in East Bengal shall, as far as possible, be Bengali, or the mother tongue of the majority of scholars in the institutions (East Bengal Legislative Assembly Proceedings 1948:165), (quoted in Language and Civilization Change in South Asia by Clarence Maloney, p.145).
Khwaja Nazimuddin did not make any attempt to make Bangla one of the state languages of Pakistan.

On January 26, 1952, Khwaja Nazimuddin, then the Prime Minister of Pakistan, on a visit to Dhaka, repeated the earlier position of late Governor-General Mohammad Ali Jinnah on the state language issue. At a public gathering at Paltan Maidan, he announced that Urdu would be the state language of Pakistan. This anti-Bangla speech, coupled with the Basic Principles Committee's 1950 interim report suggesting Urdu to be the state language, started a wave of outrage and agitation anew in East Pakistan. The University of Dhaka students began to take the leading role in this. The government of Chief Minister Nurul Amin became more stringent and took aurtocratic measures that ultimately brought about the February 21, 1952 shooting and resultant death of the pro-Bangla demonstrators. Dhaka-born, but Urdu-Farsi-speaking, Khwaja Nazimuddin is an important factor in the making of Bangla language martyrs. Being born in Dhaka, he must have been able to speak in Bangla, but he never tried to help make it one of the state languages of Pakistan.

Life-Sketch of Khwaja Nazimuddin

Born in Dhaka in 1894, Khwaja Nazimuddin was a member of the well-known Nawab family, whose Nawab Bari (mansion), called Ahsan Manjil, still stands on the bank of the Buriganga River. His ancestors were Khojas or Khwajas -- Ismaeli (Agakhani) Muslims. They had come to Dhaka from Kashmir early in the 18th century to trade in leather and pelt. During the Sepoy Mutiny of 1757, the Khwajas gave an all-out support and cooperation to the British against the Indian sepoys (soldiers). As a reward, the British colonial government bestowed upon them a vast amount of landed properties, called zamindaries, and granted them the hereditary title of nawab (a man of wealth and prominence).

Khwaja Nazimuddin received his early education from a house tutor, then at Aligarh College at Allahabad. Next he studied at Dunstable Grammar School in London. After completion of his Masters degree from the Trinity Hall of the Cambridge University, he received his Bar-at-Law (Barrister) degree from the Middle Temple, London.

From 1922 to 1929, he was the chairman of the Dhaka City Municipality and he introduced compulsory primary education in the municipal area. In 1934, he was nominated to the united Bengal Executive Council and became the Interior Minister. From 1943 to 1945, he was the Chief Minister of Bengal.

Afte the independence of Pakistan on August 14, 1947, he became the Chief Minister of East Bengal (East Pakistan), and upon the death of the first Governor-General Mohammad Ali Jinnah in September, 1948, he succeeded him as the second Governor-General, but he executive powers rested with the Prime Minister, Liaquat Ali Khan. When Liaquat Ali Khan was assassinated in 1951, he resigned his position as the Governor-General and became the Prime Minister of Pakistan. Ghulam Muhammad, a former Punjabi career civil servant and later the central Commerce Minister, becomes the third Governor-General.

In 1953, a group of Sunni Muslims began to agitate for removing the Ahmedia Muslims -- also known as Qadiani Muslims -- (a community of Muslims founded by Miza Ghulam Ahmed of Qadian, East Punjab, in 1889, having certain different religious beliefs and practices from other Muslims) from important positions and declaring them non-Muslims. When Khwaja Nazimuddin refused to take any action against the Ahmedias, riots broke out in the Punjab against the government as well as the Ahmedias.

Nazimuddin then responded to the situation by removing the Governor of Punjab and placing Feroz Khan Noon there. Governor-General Ghulam Muhammad asked Nazimuddin to resign, but he refused to step down. In retaliation, the Governor-General dismissed the Prime Minister by using his special powers and installed Mohammad Ali of Bogra, a Bangali, as the third Prime Minister. This Punjabi Governor-General's actions started a troubling and unjust trend in Pakistan politics that continued for years to come.

Khwaja Nazimuddin died in 1964 at the age of 70. He is buried with A. K. Fazlul Huq and Shaheed Hossain Suhrawardy in the mausoleum at the Suhrawardy Uddyan in Dhaka.

The British government had appointed him a Companion of the Order of the Indian Empire (CIE) and in 1934, King George V knighted him a Knight Commander of the Order of the Indian Empire (KCIE). He gave up these titles in 1946 on political grounds.

(Continued)
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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Villains of the Bangla (Bengali) Language Movement -- 2

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  • Liaquat Ali Khan (1896 - 1951):
After the independence of Pakistan on August 14, 1947, Liaquat Ali Khan (he was given the title 'Quaid-e-Millat' -- Leader of the Nation) becomes the Prime Minister under the Governor-General Mohammad Ali Jinnah.

In Liaquat Ali Khan's cabinet was the Education Minister Fazlur Rahman, a Bangali from Calcutta. In November, 1947, Mr. Rahman convenes the Pakistan Educational Conference in Karachi where the maximum number of participants were from West Pakistan. In this conference, the minister made derogatory remarks on Bangla language and script. In a unilaternal resolution, the conference proposed Urdu to be accepted as the only state language of Pakistan. This conference also designated Urdu as a compulsory subject in Pakistani schools.

On February 23, 1948, the first session of the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan was presided by Governor-General Mohammad Ali Jinnah. Members of the Assembly were told to speak either in Urdu or English. Dhirendranath Datta, an opposition member belonging to the East Pakistan Congress Party, moved an amendment motion to include Bangla along with Urdu and English as the languages of the Assembly. Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan, East Pakistan Chief Minister Khwaja Nizamuddin and some others openly opposed the motion.

The "language of a hundred million Muslims is Urdu"

In response to Dhirendranath Datta's amendment motion, Liaquat Ali Khan said: "Pakistan is a Muslim state, and it must have its lingua franca, a language of the Muslim nation. The mover [Dhirendranath Datta] should realize that Pakistan has been created because of the demand of a hundred million Muslims in this sub-continent, and the language of a hundred million Muslims is Urdu. It is necessary for a nation to have one language and that language can only be Urdu and no other language." (Fighting Words: Language Policy and Ethnic Relations in Asia by Michael E. Brown and Sumit Ganguly, Editors; p.58)

If we carefully note Liaquat Ali Khan's words, we see that he was wrong in his statement. Either he deliberately told a lie or totallly avoided the truth. When he mentioned one hundred million Muslims in the Indian subcontinent, he did not include the Bangali Muslims whose mother tongue was Bangla (Bengali). It clearly shows that he did not consider Bangali Muslims as real Muslims!

Under Liaquat Ali Khan's Prime Ministership, the report of the first Basic Principles Committee (that was given charge of drafting recommendations for Pakistan's first constitution) recommended Urdu as the only state language of Pakistan.

Islamization Programs for East Pakistan and Bangla Language

In 1950, Liaquat Ali Khan's Education Minister Fazlur Rahman started Islamization programs for East Pakistan and Bangla language. Mr. Rahman set up 20 "adult education centres" in East Pakistan to teach Bangla using Arabic alphabet. He also established a 'language committee' to Islamize Bangla language by using more Arabic, Farsi and Urdu words and lessening the use of Sanskrit-based words. The intention was to minimize the Hindu influence among the Bangali Muslims! This plan of the government to manipulate the Bangla language brought about such opposition in East Pakistan that the plan was never implemented.

In September, 1950, Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan submits an interim report (a kind of draft constitution) to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan. Bangalis found two points there very objectionable: first, Bangalis being a majority in number would not get a majority representation in the Assembly, and second, Urdu to be the only state language of Pakistan. East Pakistanis were so enraged that after two months he withdrew the interim report.

Life-Sketch of Liaquat Ali Khan

Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan was born on October 1, 1896 at Karnal (in Haryana State of present-day India) in 1895. His father was Rustam Ali Khan, the Nawab (zamindar) of Karnal. In 1918, after his studies at the Mohammedan Anglo Oriental College of Aligarh in Allahabad, he went to Exeter College of the Oxford University in England and graduated in 1921.Then he was called in the bar in the Inner Temple in London in 1922.

On his return to India as a barrister in 1923, he joined the All India Muslim League and entered politics. He was involved with Mohammad Ali Jinnah in securing the separate homeland of Pakistan for the Muslims.

On August 14, 1947, he became the first Prime Minister and Defense Minister of the Dominion of Pakistan. He was also the Vice Chairman of the Basic Principles Committee of the Constituent Assembly in March, 1949 and submitted its first report in 1950.

After the death of Governor-General Mohammad Ali Jinnah on September 11, 1948, the problem of religious minorities flared up in 1950. There was apprehension at the time that Pakistan and India would get engaged in the second war (the first war was in Kashmir resulting in a ceasefire on January 1, 1949). At this time Liaquat Ali Khan and Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru signed the Liaquat-Nehru Pact in 1950 in an effort to improve relations, reduce tensions between these two countries and to protect their religious minorities.

On October 16, 1951, while addressing a public meeting at Rawalpindi a Pashtun Afghan shot him to death.

(Continued)


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Monday, March 16, 2009

The Villains of the Bangla (Bengali) Language Movement -- 1

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Layout: Joachim Romeo D'Costa

Here we are speaking of the villains -- the antagonists who caused problems rather than solving them -- regarding the Bangla language movement in the then East Pakistan (presently Bangladesh) in the early days of the newly-independent Pakistan. If they were of understanding personalities, if they had a little love and feeling of equality, events would not deteriorate and cause martyrdom of some Bangalis (Bengalees) for defending the status of the Bangla, their mother language. Instead, they were adamant and wanted to impose Urdu, the language of the minority, on the Bangalis, the majority (about 56%) population of the then Pakistan.

One Who Goes to Lonka, Becomes the Rabon

Mind you, these very leaders fought with the British to claim the rights of the Muslims of the Indian Subcontinent. When they came to power in the the Muslim homeland of Pakistan, instead of serving the people, they trampled upon the East Pakistanis' aspirations and rights and imposed on them their own whimsical wishes in the name of Islamic brotherhood and unity. In Bangla, we have a saying, "One who goes to Lonka (enemy territory), becomes the Rabon" (adversary; abuser of power). That's what happened in this case.

Now let's see who these people are.

  • Mohammad Ali Jinnah (1876 - 1948):

After the independence of Pakistan in August, 1947, Mohammad Ali Jinnah (called Quaid-e-Azam -- 'the Great Leader' in Pakistan) became the Governor-General of the Dominion of Pakistan, comprising East and West Pakistan. From the very inception of Pakistan, the leaders -- mostly Urdu, Farsi and Punjabi speaking -- had decided to have the Urdu as the only state language of the country.

Demand for Bangla as the State Language and Its Rebuff


The Bangalis were acutely conscious of the status of their mother language even before the independence of Pakistan. In July, 1947, educationist-writer-philologist Dr. Muhammad Shahidullah first proposed with solid reasoning that Bangla and, not Urdu, should be the state language of the upcoming independent Pakistan.

On September 15, 1947, the Islamic Tamaddun Majlish, shortly called Tamaddun Majlish, a cultural organization in Dhaka, in a pamphlet titled Pakistaner Rastra Bhasa: Bangla Na Urdu? (Pakistan's State Language: Bangla or Urdu?), demanded that Bangla and Urdu be made the state languages of the Central Government of Pakistan and Bangla as the official language of East Pakistan.

In November, 1947, Pakistan's Education Minister Fazlur Rahman -- a Bangali from Calcutta with no roots in East Pakistan -- convenes the Pakistan Educational Conference in Karachi with a large number of West Pakistani representatives in contrast to a few from East Pakistan. In this conference, Minister Fazlur Rahman not only made disparaging remarks on Bangla language and its alphabet but also got the unilateral resolution passed recommending Urdu to be made the only state language of Pakistan! This conference also in its decision introduced Urdu as the compulsory subject in Pakistani schools.

On February 23, 1948, Governor General Mohammad Ali Jinnah presided over the first session of the Muslim League-dominated Constituent Assembly of Pakistan in Karachi. It was proposed there that members either speak in Urdu or English only. Dhirendranath Datta, East Pakistan Congress Party member and an opposition member of the house, moved an amendment motion to include Bangla along with Urdu and English as the languages of the Assembly. Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan and East Pakistan Chief Minister Khwaja Nazimuddin openly opposed the motion.

All these rebuffs against Bangla stirred an agitation in East Pakistan, especially among the Dhaka University students and intellectuals. These anti-Bangla statements and actions of the political leaders caused rallies and demonstrations in Dhaka.

"Urdu, and only Urdu" To Be the State Language of Pakistan

Governor-General Mohammad Ali Jinnah arrives in Dhaka on March 19, 1948, in the height of language-based unrest. On March 21, 1948, at a civic reception at the Race Course Maidan (present Suhrawardy Uddyan), he announces: "Let me make it very clear to you that the state language of Pakistan is going to be Urdu and no other langauge. Anyone who tries to mislead you is really the enemy of Pakistan. Without one state language, no nation can remain tied up solidly together and function. Look at the history of other countries. Therefore, so far as the state language is concerned, Pakistan's shall be Urdu." (Jinnah 1948:89, Language and Civilization Change in South Asia by Clarency Mahoney)

He also mentioned that a 'fifth column' (indirectly meaning the Indian intelligence and certain East Pakistani Hindus, including Dhirendranath Datta, the member of the Constituent Assembly who had moved a amended motion earlier in favour of Bangla) designed the language issue. He further declared that "Urdu, and only Urdu" embodied the spirit of Muslim nations and would be the state language. There were protestation against his remarks.

On March 24, 1948, at the convocation ceremony of the University of Dhaka at the Curzon Hall, Jinnah reiterates his earlier position and declares again that the language of East Pakistan province can be Bangla, but the state language of Pakistan will be Urdu. He states: "There can be only one state language. If the component parts of this state are to march forward in unison, that language in my opinion, can only be Urdu." (Jinnah 1948:95, Language and Civilization Change in South Asia by Clarency Mahoney). A few students, including Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, present at the ceremony, make a spontaneous verbal protest and they get arrested.

Jinnah later called a meeting with the State Language Committe of Action that totally disagreed with him resulting in the fiasco. He also overruled the contract that was signed by Chief Minister Khwaja Nazimuddin with the students previously. Before leaving Dhaka on March 28, 1948, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, in a radio speech, reasserted his "Urdu-only" policy.

Mohammad Ali Jinnah's anti-Bangla position greatly polarized the Bangalees in their demand for making Bangla as one of the state languages of Pakistan along with Urdu. He was also instrumental in strengthening the Bangla language movement in East Pakistan. "Jinnah embraced the northern Indian Muslims' demand for the designation of Urdu as the national language of Pakistan, although he was more at home in English and his mother tongue was Gujrati. The Urdu-Hindi controversy contributed to the deteriorating relations among Hindu and Muslims of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Urdu was brought to the west wing by a large number of refugees [from India] in 1947; Urdu came to the east wing by a large number of Biharis." (Bangladesh by Craig Baxter, p.63)

Life-Sketch of Mohammad Ali Jinnah

The person, whom we know as Mohammad Ali Jinnah, had the real name of Mahomedali Jinnahbhai. He was born in Karachi, presently in Pakistan, on December 25, 1876. His father was Jinnahbhai Poonja, an Ismaeli Khoja or Khwaja (Agakhani muslim) of Kathiawar, presently in India. Like other Khojas, his father was also a prosperous businessman.

His early education was at Sindh Madrasatul-Islam and later at the Christian Missionary Society High School, where his parents thought his restless and unserious mind could be focused. As his father did joint business with some British, he got a chance to go to England. Before leaving for London in 1892, his parents got him married at the age of 16, but his wife later died when he was still in England.

He earned his law degree from the Lincoln's Inn and becomes a barrister 1896. While being there, he got his named changed to Mahomed Ali Jinnah in April, 1895. While studying law, he developed an interest in politics and would often go to the House of Commons and listen attentively to the powerful speeches made there by the British politicians.

On his return, he practised law in Bombay, where he was very successful. He joined politics as a member of the Indian National Congress that was working for autonomy from the British rule. Due to differences of opinion, he left the Hindu-dominated Indian Congress and joined the Muslim League in 1913. The Muslim League was formed earlier to represent the interests of the Indian Muslims in a predominantly Hindu India, and by 1916, he was elected its president.

After the provincial elections in 1937, the Congress refused to form coalition administrations with the Muslim League in mixed areas. Relations between the Hindus and Muslims began to deteriorate.

In 1940, a Muslim League session in Lahore, famously called the Lahore Resolution, the first official demand was made for the partition of India and the creation of a Muslim state of Pakistan with autonous provinces.

He was insistent on safeguarding the rights of the Muslims . Through negotiations with the British government he got Pakistan as the Muslim homeland on August 14, 1947 with the partition of India.

He then becomes the first Governor-General of the Dominion of Pakistan, with Liaquat Ali Khan as the Prime Minister. He died of tuberculosis on September 11, 1948.

(Continued)

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Saturday, March 14, 2009

A Silent But International Language Nobody Talks About

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A sample of the silent but international language.
The unpublishable words have been digitally erased in the photo.
Photo (Toronto: March 1, 2009) © Jerome D'Costa

I had opportunities for visiting about two dozen countries in five continents in my life. During these visits, besides English and local languages, I came across a silent but universal language that is both written and graphic in nature. It's a kind of smutty language -- a cross between the gutter language and unpublishable graphics, which cannot be used in the public. It's found on some walls, tree barks, and washrooms of institutions, offices, train or bus stations, sea-going ferries and even, on rare occasions, planes!

When Languages Facing Extinction, It's Thriving

Some languages are vanishing from the world, but this particular language is increasingly visible. It pervades all countries and cultures. It is universal in the sense that it is there everywhere and is understood by all, at least by the graphics, accompanying the written texts!

Why This Language?

The purveyors of this language apparently seem to be desperate ones! In their solitary moments they have an urge to express themselves -- their intimate thoughts and emotions that come from the depth of their hearts. They want that their expressions are seen by others and get a kick out of it, so to say! They play a hide-and-seek with the viewers.

This language is interactive, too. Some viewers also seem to feel compelled to leave their comments and their own creative handiwork beside the original expressions.

Whether we like it or not, it's there. When we are thinking of our languages on the occasion of the International Mother Language Day, just for the sake of the record, we may mention of this silent but international language! Bookmark and Share