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HomeEditorFebruary 21st: Big Change

February 21st: Big Change

Although the state language movement started from the beginning of Pakistan, it became turbulent in 1952 when the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Nazimuddin, came to Dhaka and announced in a public meeting at Paltan Maidan that Urdu would be the only state language of Pakistan. In protest, the Dhaka University Student Action Council launched a strong movement. The all-party State Language Action Council was formed with Maulana Bhasani as its president, in which Awami Muslim League and Muslim Chhatra League were dominant.

Section 144 was imposed in Dhaka city for a month on 20 February to suppress the movement. The next day, on 21 and 22 February, police opened fire and killed several people when they took out a procession in defiance of the law.

Image caption,

Maulana Bhasani was the president of the All Party Language Action Council. In this picture, Maulana Bhasani and Sheikh Mujibur Rahman are seen participating barefoot in memory of language martyrs in 1953.

Pakistan’s politics suffered a major setback in this incident.

Serajul Islam Chowdhury said, “Pakistani nationalism was based on the two-nation theory. His main element was religion. But the state language movement established linguistic nationalism in politics. That is, Bengali nationalism. Its main element is secularism. As a result, the Bengali middle class started coming out of Pakistani nationalism. That was a big change. ”

Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy and AK Fazlul Huq had no role in the Language Movement. Then Maulana Bhasani and Sheikh Mujib came in front of the young activists.

Formation of United Front: Stop Muslim League

The five-year term of the East Pakistan Legislative Assembly ended in 1952. From then on, it was confirmed that general elections would be held in East Bengal soon.

The United Front was formed in 1953 ahead of this election. Maulana Bhasani, president of East Pakistan Awami Muslim League, and AK Fazlul Huq, chief of the Krishak Sramik Party, played a major role in the formation of this alliance.

Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy, president of the Pakistan Muslim League, became the president of the United Front.

Fazlul Huq was not in politics after the birth of Pakistan. He served as the Advocate General (Attorney General) of the Government of East Pakistan. He left his job ahead of the election and joined the Awami Muslim League for some time. But he could not stay due to factionalism. During this time, he revived his old party Krishak-Praja Party and formed the Krishak-Sramik Party.

Image source, MUJIB100.GOV.BD
Image caption,

Young Sheikh Mujibur Rahman with Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy.

Although Suhrawardy lived in Karachi, he came to East Pakistan ahead of the elections and started addressing the meetings of the United Front. He was popular among the Bengalis. He was the Leader of the Opposition in the Pakistan Constituent Assembly. Politicians in West Pakistan campaigned against him as an “agent of India”.

Sirajul Islam Chowdhury said, “It was mainly an electoral alliance. The main objective was to stop the Muslim League. But people’s frustration, anger, state language movement were added to it. This included opposition to Pakistani nationalism. ”

Monopoly Victory: Reverse Surge in Muslim Voters

The United Front started a massive campaign ahead of the election. The election manifesto was a 21-point manifesto that outlined a clear outline of regional autonomy. It also demanded Bangla to be the state language, declaring February 21 as Shaheed Day and a public holiday.

Sirajul Islam Chowdhury thinks that Maulana Bhasani played an important role in this campaign. “He organized the working people. They formed Krishak Samity, Fishermen’s Association, Tatai Samiti, Auto Rickshaw Association. Organize the workers. ”

“Sheikh Mujib’s organizational ability also played a big role. His role in the 1954 election was significant. He was great as an employee,” he said. Chaudhry.

During this time Sheikh Mujib became a popular political figure. In his Unfinished Memoirs, he wrote: “I remember a very poor old woman standing in the street for a few hours, heard that I was going this way, and when she saw me, she took my hand and said, ‘Father, you must sit in this hut of mine.’ ‘I took his hand and went to his house. Many people with me, let me sit on a rug on the ground, bring a bowl of milk, a betel leaf and four annas of money, we hold it in front of us and say, ‘Eat father, how many more money do you take, I have nothing.’ “I had tears in my eyes. ”

Elections were held in March 1954. The United Front won a landslide victory with the boat symbol. The candidates of this alliance of 237 Muslim seats won 228 seats. The ruling Muslim League won only nine seats.

Sheikh Mujib wrote, “In the history of the world, the news of such defeat of a ruling party has never been heard. Bengalis have knowledge of politics and are politically conscious. This time they proved it. ”

Image source, MUJIB100.GOV.BD

Image caption,

After the victory of the United Front in the 1954 elections, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was taking oath as a member of the cabinet. He was administered the oath by Chief Minister AK Fazlul Huq.

Awami Muslim League.” AK Fazlul Huq, Suhrawardy and Maulana Bhasani campaigned with a common program, resulting in a mass tide in favor of the United Front. ”

Political analysts believe that famine and floods were another reason behind the victory of the United Front. But there was no action of the central government in this regard which opened the eyes of the people to the discrimination against East Bengal.

Serajul Islam Chowdhury said, “The Muslim League won the election in 1946 with a monopoly. All the Muslim votes were in favour of Pakistan. In that election, people voted like a stream, and in the 1954 election, people voted like a stream. But this time the tide went in the opposite direction. Pakistan has given them nothing. They were also afraid that Urdu would become the state language. ”

New government in East Pakistan: Hocht at birth

AK Fazlul Huq became the Chief Minister. Sheikh Mujib also joined as a minister of this government. But that government lasted only a few days from April 3 to May 30.

Political historian Mohiuddin Ahmed said, “Fazlul Huq went to Karachi after becoming the chief minister. On the way back, all flights would come via India. On his way back, he stayed in Kolkata for a few days. There he addressed a public meeting. “In East Bengal and West Bengal, we have the same culture, same history, same heritage. We cannot be separated. He was then accused of indulging in separatist activities and the East Bengal cabinet was dissolved and central rule was imposed. ”

Fazlul Huq was then placed under house arrest. Sheikh Mujib was arrested and sent back to jail. The United Front is broken.

Image caption,

After the victory of the United Front, AK Fazlul Huq became the Chief Minister of East Bengal.

Maulana Bhasani was in Europe to attend a peace conference. He was banned from returning to the country. After staying abroad for a few months, he stayed in Kolkata for a few days and returned to Dhaka.

In October 1955, the word ‘Muslim’ was dropped from the name of the party in the council of East Pakistan Awami Muslim League. Maulana Bhasani made this proposal to make the party non-communal and the councilors supported it.

Maulana Bhasani was elected president and Sheikh Mujib general secretary of Awami League. As the party was centered on the general secretary, the control of the Awami League went into the hands of Sheikh Mujib.

In 1956, when a new constitution was promulgated in Pakistan, the official name of East Bengal was East Pakistan.

When Prime Minister Chaudhry Mohammad Ali resigned that year, the Awami League formed the government. Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy was appointed Prime Minister. Along with Urdu, Bengali was also recognized as the state language.