Remembering a dedicated language activist
Abdul Matin's 4th death anniversary observed
The Language Movement was a political movement in former East Bengal, advocating the recognition of the Bengali language as an official language of the then-Dominion of Pakistan in order to allow its use in government affairs, the continuation of its use as a medium of education, its use in media, currency and stamps, and to maintain its writing in the Bengali script.
When the Dominion of Pakistan was formed by the partition of India in 1947, it was composed of various ethnic and linguistic groups, with the geographically non-contiguous East Bengal province having a mainly Bengali population. In 1948, the Government of the Dominion of Pakistan ordained Urdu as the sole national language, sparking extensive protests among the Bengali-speaking majority of East Bengal. Facing rising sectarian tensions and mass discontent with the new law, the government outlawed public meetings and rallies. The students of the University of Dhaka and other political activists defied the law and organised a protest on 21 February 1952. The movement reached its climax when police killed student demonstrators on that day. The deaths provoked widespread civil unrest. After years of conflict, the central government relented and granted official status to the Bengali language in 1956. In 1999, UNESCO declared 21 February as International Mother Language Day, in tribute to the Language Movement and the ethno-linguistic rights of people around the world.
Abdul Matin was a language activist of the Bengali Language Movement that took place in the erstwhile East Pakistan to make Bengali one of the state language of Pakistan. He was one of the student leaders and organizers of the movement. His contribution to the movement has been hailed by the other activists and students as he was popularly known as Bhasha Matin.
Matin was admitted to Darjeeling School in 1932. After passing the matriculation in 1943 he came back to East Bengal. Later that year he was admitted to Rajshahi College. According to him he had no political consensus before getting into the college. He was graduated in 1947.
Matin was active during the language movement. When the government decided not to include Bengali as one of the official languages, students protested on March 11, 1948, where Matin joined for picketing. On 24 March 1948, after Mohammad Ali Jinnah made his speech at Suhrawardy Udyan, he came to the University of Dhaka for convocation. Matin was also present at the ceremony to receive his degree. When Jinnah repeated his position about language policy, however, Matin stood up at the chair and shouted, No. It can not be. Other students also supported him during that time. In mid-September 1951, in a meeting at the central building of Dhaka University, Matin said that they have no complaints about Urdu, but he wanted Bangla's status with Urdu. Matin was present at the meeting on 30 January 1952, and became a member of the Shorbodolio Rashtrabhasha Kormoporishod. Earlier, on 11 March 1951, a rally was held at Dhaka University, organised by the then East Pakistan Chatra. Khaleque Nawaz Khan, veteran student leader and the president of the then Chatra League, presided over that meeting. In that meeting, Matin was selected as convener of the Dhaka University Language Action Committee.
Matin joined with the 4th class clerks at one of their procession. There he was arrested and spend two months in prison. Coming back from jail, the Vice Chancellor of the university asked him for a bond. After his refusal, however, he was sacked for three years, which, according to him, was the turning point of his political career. He played an active role to form Chhatra Union in April 1952 and became the second president of its East Pakistan unit. Matin was appointed secretary of Communist Party's Pabna district unit in 1954. Three years later, he joined Maulana Bhasani's NAP.
He formed East Pakistan Communist Party in 1958 and followed the ideology of Charu Majumdar, a communist revolutionary of India. After liberation, he fought against Jatiya Rakkhi Bahini and was arrested in 1972.
Matin was awarded Ekushey Padak in 2001. In 2008, University of Dhaka conferred honorary Doctor of Law degree on him for his contribution to the language movement. Matin died on October 8 in 2014. October 8 marked the 4th death anniversary of Abdul Matin.
The writer is a freelance contributor.