From 1952 to 1971

Our glorious journey

Junaidul Haque


Ekushey February united the whole Bengali nation like never before. We fought with rock-solid unity for the honour of our mother tongue. And in doing so we sowed the seeds of our independence. We laid the foundation of our magnificent edifice of freedom. Our language movement shook the apparently powerful but truly fragile base of Pakistan's colonial rule. We understood that the Pakistanis and their leaders wanted to turn us into second class citizens of Pakistan. We understood that they were masters, not friends. They wanted to turn us into unthinking fanatics. But we decided to remain as secular, as liberal, as Bangla-loving as in our thousand-year-old past. So, we revolted. Our masses revolted.

The language movement of 1952 (to be more precise, it began in 1948 and culminated in 1952) was led by our sensitive, sacrificing and brave students. It was supported by every section of our people the teachers, the farmers, the workers, the doctors, the engineers, the officers and the housewives. Ora Amar Mukher Kotha Kaira Nitey Chay, we roared like the tigers of the Sundarbans. Our supreme sacrifice brought us success in 1952. But our progressive forces didn't stop there. They understood that it was not possible for us to live with the Pakistanis. Pakistan couldn't survive with a weak religious bond and a strong economic disparity prevailing between its western and eastern wings. Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, with the help of the progressive forces, began his long and tough fight for independence. He and his politician-friends, aided by our brave freedom fighters and democratic, pro-people allies, finally succeeded on December 16, 1971 and we became free forever.

In the national elections of 1954, twenty-seven-year-old student leader Khaleq Newaz Khan, a candidate of Jukto Front from Nandail, Mymensingh, made the ruling Muslim League stalwart, Nurul Amin, the then chief Minister of East Pakistan and the main villain of the Language Movement, lose his security deposit. This result is very significant. It reveals that our people clearly identified their heroes and their villains. They discarded the villains for good. Our language movement had taught us a lot. We learned to be united and we learned to fight our enemies. Ekushey February is our greatest glory, our finest achievement. Other than December 16, 1971 no other date announces the victory of our people in such clear terms.

After Mohammad Ali Jinnah's enmity towards our language came Ayub Khan's autocratic, anti-people rule. Bangabandhu led the democratic forces against his hated
military regime. He built up the mass movement of 1969. Yahya Khan's military government was forced to stage a free and fair election, which was swept by the Awami League. However, the follies and the obstinacies of Yahya Khan and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto led to the tragic crack-down of March 25, 1971. The genocide forced the Bangladeshis to an all-out war for freedom. We finally became an independent nation in December, 1971.

We may remember that the occupation forces of Pakistan crushed our Shahid Minar in the middle of 1971. They knew where to strike, where to hurt us. They knew from where we drew our inspiration. So, they wanted us to forget our language martyrs. Had they been successful in subjugating us, we would just sink into oblivion. Our freedom would come many years later. Thank God the opposite happened and we emerged a victorious nation.

So, our Ekushey February of 1972 was our happiest and most significant. We were a free nation at last! Bangla was our state language and all of us spoke the same language. Our great leader had returned from his jail in Pakistan. For the first time in our history both the government and the people loved Bangla and wanted its development. The inimical, anti-people, anti-Bangla government of Pakistan was now dead for us. No one could harm Bangla in any way.

Ekushey February was firstly and primarily a movement for establishing the rights of our mother tongue. Secondly and more importantly it was a movement of establishing political autonomy, a movement for achieving economic rights. The movement reached great heights only because of our people's unity and iron determination to fight for their rights. That is how we marched towards our road to freedom. Our people's whole-hearted participation and support brought us success. Our final victory of December 16 1971 thus proudly stood on the great foundation named Ekushey February.

Junaidul Haque, a noted writer of fiction, is a senior airline official.