Home  -  Back Issues  -  The Team  -  Contact Us
     Volume 4 Issue 21 | November 12, 2004 |

   Cover Story
   News Notes
   A Roman Column
   Straight Talk
   Photo Feature
   Time Out
   Slice of Life
   Book Review
   Dhaka Diary
   New Flicks
   Write to Mita

   SWM Home


Book Review

A rich documentation of our Language Movement

Harun ur Rashid

History is usually made at a huge price. But even to preserve history requires immense effort at both government and non-government levels. At times, efforts by individuals may excel all others in terms of richness, sincerity and, above all, passion. CM Tarek Reza's Ekush is one such example of personal endeavour in preserving the history of our Language Movement.

Subtitled A Photographic History of the Language Movement (1947-1956), the book does not only delve deep into the background of the historic event but also focuses on its aftermath which ultimately paved the way of the country's Independence War.

Pleasingly covered and illustrated by Kanak Aditya and Sabyasachi Hazra, the 154-page album brought out by the Standard Chartered Bank, Bangladesh contains a lot of priceless photographs revealing different historic moments at different phases of the Language Movement. Various documents like the first written poems and songs on February 21, posters and leaflets in protest of the killing of the language martyrs, clippings from newspapers of the time like The Azad, The Ittefaq, weekly Sainik and others have also contributed to the richness of the documentation.

Besides messages from the President Dr Iajuddin Ahmed and Standard Chartered Bank's Bangladesh CEO David Fletcher, the book contains messages from two eminent Language Movement activists Abdul Matin and Gaziul Haq. Along with the words of these two, a 'Brief History of Language Movement' written by another revered Language Movement activist Professor Rafiqul Islam elaborates on the major incidents of the movement.

Rafiqul Islam has also contributed a large number of photographs and documents used in the book. The other contributors include Amanul Haq, Jamil Chowdhury, Monwar Ahmed, Bangabandhu Foundation and others.

The history section begins with the picture of a booklet brought out in September 1947 by Tamaddun Majlish. Dr Kazi Motahar Hossain, Abul Mansur Ahmad and others have contributed articles on the debate over the issue of the state language of Pakistan in that booklet. A photograph shows a procession of students and people on its march towards the secretariat on March 11, 1948. The protest was against the decision of Pakistan's Constituent Assembly on February 23 that members could speak only in Urdu and English. A general strike was called on March 11.

There is also the picture of the Governor General Mohammad Ali Jinnah at the Racecourse meeting on March 21, 1948, where he declared, 'Urdu, only Urdu shall be the state language of Pakistan.'

The book contains scores of photographs of rallies and processions taking place throughout February 1952 protesting the accentuated decision that Urdu would be the only state language of Pakistan.

Three photographs capture the martyrdom of Rafiquddin Ahmed with his skull blown off by a bullet. The next day, the whole Dhaka City bubbled with protesting people from all walks of life. Thousands of people gathered at different places in Dhaka on March 5, which was then declared the Shaheed Day, to pay tribute to the Language Martyrs--Rafique, Salam, Barkat, Jabbar and Shafiur.

A number of photographs constitute the history of the Shaheed Minar, the monument now so dear to us, where generations have been paying their tributes to the Language Martyrs. The first Shaheed Minar was built by students of Dhaka Medical College on February 24. The monument was abolished by police on February 26. A picture shows students of Eden College building a Shaheed Minar amidst protest by Urdu teacher of Dhaka College Ahsan Ahmed Ashq, Principal Shamsuzzaman Chowdhury and Eden College Principal Fazilatunnesa Zoha. Another 1953 photo shows teachers and students of the Urdu department of Dhaka University paying respect to the martyrs at Azimpur graveyard. A few photographs capture the moments when the foundation stone of the present Shaheed Minar was inaugurated by Maulana Bhashani, martyr Barkat's mother Hasina Begum and Chief Minister of East Pakistan Abu Hossain Sarkar.

Many photographs present eminent political and cultural personalities of the time involved in the Language Movement. Another picture shows Sheikh Mujibur Rahman taking wounded activist Shawkat Ali to hospital. Another picture shows Maulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhashani and Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman paying tribute on February 21, 1954.

Pictures show the Language Movement activities outside Dhaka too: in Rajshahi, Jamalpur, Barisal, Chittagong and others. Prabhat Feri (Dawn March) of 1953 at different places of the country in memory of the Language Martyrs features many photographs.

The book contains manuscripts of the first poems and songs on February 21, 1952. These include Kandte Ashini by poet Mahbubul Alam Chowdhury, Smritistanbho by poet Alauddin Al Azad, Ekusher Gaan by Abdul Gaffar Chowdhury, Bhulbona by Gaziul Haq and Ora amar mukher bhasha by Abdul Latif.

Posters include two instant works of artist Murtaza Bashir, two posters published in the weekly Sainik. A few leaflets and posters published at that time show the government propaganda against Bangla and the Language Movement. The book also contains four cartoons by famous 'Dopeyaja'.

21 February 1956: Shaheed Barkat's sister, sister-in-law and mother standing in front of the foundation stone of the central Shaheed Minar

The book presents pictures and information on the five Language Martyrs--Abdul Jabbar, Rafiquddin Ahmed, Abul Barkat, Abdus Salam and Shafiur Rahman. And finally there is a list of names and photographs of the Language Movement activists from all over the country.

CM Tarek Reza has taken part in several research works on our Liberation War. He has made two documentary films--Bijoyketan and Sangram Theke Shadhinata. His contribution also includes the foundation of the Bijoyketan Museum at Dhaka Cantonment and working for the Liberation War Museum at Segun Bagicha. He has a research centre named Research Centre of History.

The book Ekush is no doubt one of the most important inclusions in the research based works on the political history of our country, especially since there are few works on the Language Movement of 1952. The book has been published by the Standard Chartered Bank, Bangladesh 'in limited editions of 1000 numbered copies' for its customers 'as a corporate gift'. Those who have a chance to look at the book, perhaps by borrowing from others, will eagerly wait for a public edition. Standard Chartered Bank deserves our appreciation for making such a timely publication on one of the most significant chapters of our history.


Copyright (R) thedailystar.net 2004