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Saturday, February 2, 2013
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Dhirendranath rises for Bangla

Ekushey is, and has always been, symbolic of the Bangalee national aspiration for self-expression. Just how important Bangla was to be was a theme already being discussed in the run-up to Partition.

There were, of course, those in the non-Bangalee Muslim community in pre-August 1947 India who for their part had begun to root for Urdu as the language of a future Pakistan. And when Pakistan came into being, it was Urdu and English that came in as the languages in which parliamentary business was to be conducted.

It was Dhirendranath Dutta, the quintessential Bangalee, who first demonstrated the sagacity to ask that Bangla be adopted as one more language in the conduct of parliamentary proceedings. He went further, to demand that Bangla be the lingua franca of the state of Pakistan.

His reasoning was based on the reality on the ground. Bangla, he reminded the Pakistan Constituent Assembly on 25 February 1948, was the language of the majority component of Pakistan's population.

While submitting his motion in the assembly, Dutta made it clear that he was not approaching the question from a provincial point of view. And then he moved on:

“Out of six crores and ninety lakhs of people inhabiting this state, four crores and forty lakhs of people speak the Bengali language. So, Sir, what should be the state language of the state? The state language of the state should be the language which is used by the majority of the people of the state, and for that, Sir, I consider that the Bengali language is a lingua franca of our state…. ”

Dutta developed his argument as he went along. Referring to the travails encountered by a Bangalee who did not know Urdu, Dutta told the Chair:

“A poor cultivator, who has got his son, Sir, as a student in the Dacca University and who wants to send money to him, goes to a village post office and he asks for a money order form, finds that the money order form is printed in [the] Urdu language. He cannot send the money order but shall have to rush to a distant town and have this money order form translated for him and then the money order, Sir, that is necessary for his boy can be sent.”

Dhirendranath Dutta's motion was rubbished by Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan, who went on to offer the spurious logic that “Pakistan is a Muslim state and it must have as its lingua franca the language of the Muslim nation.” He continued, “Urdu can be the only language which can keep the people of East Bengal or eastern zone and the people of [the] western zone joined together.”

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Isn't it amazing that the man was courageous enough to raise the language issue with the Pakistan founders? I am sure, being a minority, he was probably got a cold shoulder from those important people, but a legitimate seed was planted at the right moment at the right time of history. Silence was not an option for that brave man! Just imagine our fight for the mother tongue without the man.

: Dev Saha

What remarkable courage he displayed in raising his lonely voice in the hostile environment of Karachi of 1948, while the (Muslim) leaders from East Pakistan opposed his efforts. Bangladesh should be ever grateful for his foresight, his love for Bengali, and above all for his sense of fairness democracy is supposed to guarantee, which in turn promoted him to make the demand. A status of this great man should be erected and integrated within the Central Shaheed Minar complex.

: M. Siddique


  • Saif
    Saturday, February 2, 2013 04:51 AM GMT+06:00 (158 weeks ago)

    Excellent, Badrul. Keep going. The truth must be recorded for posterity.

  • S. Ahmad
    Saturday, February 2, 2013 01:48 AM GMT+06:00 (158 weeks ago)

    Dutta was a member of the minority community. I wonder why nobody from the majority community ever thought about it? Muslims who fought for Pakistan did not consider Bengali as their state language. The reason was that Bengali leadership already considered Urdu as the language of the Muslims not only of India but also of Bengali Muslims. It included even Fazlul Huq who spoke Urdu at home. Then, let us consider another factor. Whose mother tongue was Urdu in Pakistan? It was an Indian language but, as said, Muslims in the sub-continent accepted it, rightly or wrongly, as the language of the Muslims. Was Urdu Jinnah's mother tongue? Then why he went for Urdu? Let us not be silly and emotional and let reasons prevail over sensation. All those that happened in 1952, I strongly believe, was to destabilise Pakistan. I would not be surprised if Dutta had some other reason for raising the question in favour of Bengali as state language of Pakistan. Could not we solve the language question by constitutional means and as civilised people?

    Out of context it may be but I must say that I smell some rotten eggs in celebrating Bengali New Year with so much fanfare these days by Bangladeshi people. It may have some hidden intention of some other people. Again, what we do with Bengali now? We cry for Bengali language in February only, is it not? If we have so much love for Bengali why then we are so fond of rotten Hindi films from India and why we forget all about Bengali after February?





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