Jinnah faced challenge to his diktat
March 24, 1948 could have been the day when Mohammad Ali Jinnah would rise to the occasion and assure Bangalis that their worries about the place of Bangla in Pakistan would be taken into serious and sympathetic consideration. He missed the chance and thereby set the people of East Bengal on a course that was to lead, over the next twenty-four years, to the break-up of Pakistan and the rise of East Bengal as the independent republic of Bangladesh. Addressing a special convocation of Dhaka University at Curzon Hall on the day, an imperious Jinnah made it abundantly and unequivocally clear that 'Urdu and Urdu alone' would be the language of the state of Pakistan. His remarks did not go down well with his audience, some among whom raised cries of 'No, no' right then and there. For the first time in his long political career, the Quaid-e-Azam faced a challenge to his diktat.
The following are excerpts from Jinnah's address at the convocation:
We have broken the shackles of slavery; we are now a free people. Our state is our own state. Our government is our own government, of the people, responsible to the people of the state, working for the good of the state . . .
Our enemies, among whom I regret to say, there are still some Muslims, have set about actively encouraging provincialism in the hope of weakening Pakistan and thereby facilitating the re-absorption of this province into the Indian Dominion. Those who are playing this game are living in a fool's paradise, but this does not prevent them trying . . .
Let me restate my views on the question of a state language for Pakistan. For official use in this province, the people of the province can choose any language they wish . . . There can, however, be one lingua franca, that is, the language for inter-communication between the various provinces of the state, and that language should be Urdu and cannot be any other.. The state language, therefore, must obviously be Urdu, a language that has been nurtured by a hundred million Muslims of this subcontinent, a language understood throughout the length and breadth of Pakistan and, above all, a language which, more than any other provincial language, embodies the best that is in Islamic culture and Muslim tradition and is nearest to the languages used in other Islamic countries…
These facts are fully known to the people who are trying to exploit the language controversy in order to stir up trouble. There was no justification for agitation but it did not suit their purpose to admit this. Their sole object in exploiting this controversy is to create a split among the Muslims of this state, as indeed they have made no secret of their efforts to incite hatred against non-Bengali Mussulmans . . .
Make no mistake about it. There can be only one state language if the component parts of this state are to march forward in unison and that language, in my opinion, can only be Urdu. I have spoken at some length on this subject so as to warn you of the kind of tactics adopted by the enemies of Pakistan and certain opportunist politicians to try to disrupt this state or to discredit this government.