POST TIME: 21 February, 2018 00:00 00 AM
The Language Movement and the spirit of democracy
The state of declining democracy and various socio-economic, corruption and governance indexes reported by international agencies corroborates our experiences
Muhammad Quamrul Islam

The Language Movement and the spirit of democracy

It was in the course of history the students in Dhaka capital of erstwhile East Pakistan brought out procession on February 21, 1952 demanding Bengali as a State Language, which was spoken by the majority of all Pakistanis. It was not duly felt by the ruling elite of Pakistan, including subservient role of Bengali leaders in the provincial government. Police opened fire and killed Salam, Rafique, Jabber, Barkat.

The news of the killings spread like wild fire throughout the country and as it reached students of all campuses- Schools, Colleges and University- came out of the classes spontaneously and paraded the streets raising full throated slogans for immortality of mother language martyrs and demanding Bengali as a state language.  This democratic spirit pervaded thru 1950s, 1960s led to victory in 1971. We vividly recall how it embraced our childlike mind, youthful college student’s union activities and Dhaka University as 1961 batch. After coming out of the University that spirit prevailed and we contributed in every ways that facilitated the movement.  

In a nutshell perfect academic environment and democratic pursuits continued unabated till early 1971. Unfortunately, that serene atmosphere was lost after 9-month long bloody war which led to the emergence of sovereign Bangladesh, when it was expected it will be restored and flourish further in the campus throughout the country. The exile- government in India and relief camp dwellers on return to sovereign capital Dhaka failed to come up to ideology and promises made to the people but succumbed to pelf and power, grab posts and positions opened up by sovereign status, properties left by non –Bengali Muslims.

We were told some ambitious camp dwellers and Mujibnagar employees were on the look out to cash on foreign sympathy. There was division so much so that Indian Major General BN Sarker was appointed on October 24, 1971 to bring Mujib Bahini under the control of exile Government. Mujib Bahini, run by Sirajul Alam Khan, Sheikh Moni, Tofael Ahmed and Abdur Razzak tried to retain control of a large number of Chhatra League militants outside the sphere of the exile government’s influence.

Our contemporary veteran journalist cum politician Nirmal Sen told Jatiya Samajjtantrik Dal (JSD) was cooked at the camp at the behest of Indian connections, who on return established it in Dhaka on October 31, 1972.  It was the first split of Awami League after the independence. It led to deterioration of law and order and some other communist parties having foreign links fuelled the flame in the name of socialism/communism but actually personal aggrandisements. Other recipients’ of reliefs from foreign sources set up new phenomenon called NGOs. As a result there was deterioration of law and order and famine crept in 1974.

It spelt disaster, led to campus violence, killing and unrest; students became fronts of political parties, University teachers’ partisan politics, which were unknown before 1971 and continuing till now notwithstanding autocratic or democratic government. Various efforts of citizens and guardians to stop the vicious trend went in vain that are eating up the vitals of the nation, despite the economic growth by demographic dividends, Wage Earners remittances inflows, low cost garment workers, farmers initiatives and impact of globalisation made the technologies available to us, to which our national government have little or no contribution. The state of declining democracy and various socio-economic, corruption and governance indexes, of late environment, reported by international agencies amply prove it which corroborates our experiences.

 The High Court has ordered the Dhaka University authority to hold Dhaka University Central Students Union (DUCSU) election which is in abeyance for decades within six months reported in national dailies on January18, 2018. One month has passed by and February 21 is knocking at the door, but there is no sign of academic and administrative activities to comply with the order, for which the general students and guardians are eagerly waiting. For lack of annual election the students are deprived of their rights and the nation is not getting quality leaderships in different sectors which are evident. Will this order be bypassed this time also on one plea or the other or hollow promises by the Vice Chancellor and his partisan teachers?  We strongly urge its compliance.

How come Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) could not declare a schedule to hold election to the post of Mayor Dhaka North City Corporation and others, which would be maintainable in the Court? There are enough legal experts available in Election Commission at the cost of public exchequer to assist CEC.

Is it inefficiency or intrigue to defer election for which voters were waiting to exercise their right of franchise? This is more so as there was prevailing apprehension the ruling parties feared to face the election. Whatever might be, High Court passed stay order for three months and issued rule reported in national dailies on January 18, 2018. CEC does not seem to be very much concerned!

 All these indicate that the 14 party ruling alliances want to hold national election keeping away main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) in the electoral race, which will be not inclusive on cooked up grounds. It would be repetition of one party election with fake opposition parties in the field! Now that Begum Khaleda Zia Chairperson of BNP is in jail, senior Vice Chairman Tariq Rahman holding the charge is away from the country; anxiety has deepened what would happen next. But concerned citizens say India this time would value the voice of our people and not interfere in view of Trinamool Congress in the state of West Bengal and BJP in the Centre are at logger heads and international community keeping watch on changing situation and geopolitical dimensions.

The writer is an economist and

social activist.

E-mail: mqislambd@hotmail.com