Space For Rent

Space For Rent
Sunday, February 1, 2015, Magh 19, 1421, Robi-Us-Sani 10, 1436 Hijr

Out of the box
Since February came?
Dr Rashid Askari
Published : Sunday, 1 February, 2015,  Time : 12:00 AM,  View Count : 121

February and March are the two months of the Gregorian year, which have great importance in the annals of Bangladesh independence history. The seeds of our independence were planted in the month of February, spread by the wind of mass rebellion for about a couple of decades, and finally grew in the month of March. February came in our history; hence, March could not be far behind. In other words, the history of the independence of Bangladesh is the history of a political journey from the February in 1952 to the March in 1971. If February is the root, March is the fruit; if February is the cause, March is the effect; if February is the introduction, March is the conclusion; if February is the dream; March is the dream come true! The people of Bangladesh have special regard to this pair of months. They love them as the months of solemn celebrations.
Bangladesh is one of the few states in the globe, which are founded on the basis of nationalism and are known as nation states. It is the quintessence of the nation state and the core of its nationalism is deeply rooted in its language--the Bangla language. Bangladesh may very well be said to have been born of Bangla language. When the existence of the language was threatened with extinction in its own country by the alien rulers, people waged war for self-rule. The birth of a nation became inevitable when the language aspired to a state of its own. Therefore, the history of the emergence of Bangladesh is the history of the pretty long and rugged way of struggle from autonomy to independence. And the seeds of that autonomy were sown in the mind of the Bengali folks primarily on question of language. They felt, for the first time, the urgency of home rule when their mother tongue fell a victim of an unprovoked attack by the Pakistan rulers, right after the partition of India (1947). The so-called 'Two-nation theory' had already started taking its toll. The people of East Bengal could realize that they would need to make amends for the historical blunder of the Indian subcontinent committed by megalomaniac Nehru, opportunist Jinnah, helpless Gandhi, and crafty British rulers. This crude awakening led them first to the road to autonomy and then to independence.
It was one of the costliest mistakes in human history to divide a country merely on the grounds of religious affiliation where people of various castes, creeds, and religions had been united under an anti-British umbrella. Post-division India could have been one of the biggest countries in the world with a wide variety of people. There would have been greater unity in diversity in socio-economic and political life. The cultivation of this kind of holistic approach to religion would have played a highly effective role in the moribund subcontinent where religious extremism rules the roost and mutual respect has been held hostage by religious fundamentalism and militancy. But the vested quarters had separated one from the other by a preposterous political caesarean which consequently has perpetuated ethnic disharmony and political unrest in the subcontinent.
As a matter of fact, the 'Two-nation theory' had proved abortive almost immediately after implementation. The true character of the self-styled guardians of Islam was unmasked. The West Pakistan rulers always assumed a Big Brotherly attitude of mind towards and a holier-than-thou feeling about the East Pakistanis. They unleashed the big stick upon them. Despite the sameness of religious identity, no other affinities could develop between the West and the East Pakistanis. In addition, the neo-champions of Islam thought a language like Bengali, which was originated from and developed through non-Islamic sources and influences, was not worthy of being the official language of a newly emerged 'holy place', Pakistan (Pak--holy and Stan--place).They also thought that on having been a part of the 'holy place', the then Indian province 'East Bengal' needed to be renamed and considerably sanctified. They renamed it as 'East Pakistan' and tried to make Urdu its official language.
Although Urdu is an Indian language, and a standardized form of Hindi, it is written in Arabic script, and used by the Indian and Pakistani Muslims. So, they consider it holier than Bengali which was originated from a vulgar dialect of India, and fostered by the Buddhist and Hindu monks over the centuries. This was at the back of the mind of those Pakistani self-proclaimed custodians of Islam. So, they planned to make Urdu the official language of Pakistan, and did not give a damn about Bengali, although Bengali was used by the majority of the people of Pakistan.
However, all their efforts came badly unstuck. Bengali language is the lifeblood of the Bengali people. They prefer death to dishonour of their mother tongue. They are happy with their own sweet language. They have won the Nobel Prize for their literature in that language. This is their proud possession. They do not bother about whether or not their language is sacred. When Jinnah, the Governor General of Pakistan made the declaration at Dhaka University Curzon Hall that Urdu and only Urdu would be the official language of Pakistan, the agitated audience threw a straight 'no' at him. Even then, the rulers did not see sense and abandon the unworkable policy.
The people of East Bengal came to realize that their language and literature, society and culture, politics and economy - all of their life and legacy, are not in safe hands. They discovered that the Pakistani rulers under the guise of religious fraternity are in truth snakes in the grass. It was no go asking them for rights to language. So, they put up the line of active resistance .The Government tried to subdue it with iron hands. This fanned the flame of fight. There came 21st February (1952). Innocent blood was spilt in the resistance. But there is no holding the Bengali. They had learnt to die for their mother tongue. The public defiance gained momentum. Martial law was let loose to put a curb on the popular movement. But all repressive Government measures came badly unstuck.
People came up with historic 'Six-points' (1966), which amounted to full autonomy for East Bengal. The autonomy movement became so intense that the ruling Government was compelled to hold a general election (1970).The Bengali won a landslide victory. However, the rulers were not willing to give up so easily. They shot their last bolt. Operation Searchlight (March 25, 1971) was launched. The Bengalis were at the point of no return. They already had their back to the wall. So, they decided to fight it out. And they fought to a finish, and seized their most prized possession, their Independence, in exchange for a sea of blood.
If our national liberty (1971) compares with the fruit of a tree, the trunk of the tree is the 24-year struggle for autonomy, and the root is the language movement (1952).The history of Bangladesh is the history of the whole tree, from the root to the fruit. If we want to enjoy the fruit of our liberty, we have to take care of the whole tree, and the ground it is planted in. As Rig Veda puts it: "One should respect his motherland, his country, and his mother-tongue-because these are givers of happiness". We can never be happy in the true sense of the term without loving this national trinity-Bangladesh, Bengali culture, and Bengali language.

Dr Rashid Askari writes fiction and columns, and teaches English literature at Kushtia Islamic University, Bangladesh.
Email: [email protected]

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