Language movement fund raised on Flag Day
The language movement gathered pace over the next few days.
On February 11 and 13, 1952, what was called a Flag Day was organised, with students selling flags and posters and so raising funds in favour of the movement. A panic-stricken government, convinced that the movement was aimed at destabilising it, swiftly went into action by taking a number of prominent figures into police custody. Hamidul Haq Chowdhury, owner of the Pakistan Observer newspaper and known for his vocal opposition to Chief Minister Nurul Amin, was arrested. At the same time, Abdus Salam, editor of the Pakistan Observer, was carted off to prison on the excuse that in an editorial criticising the government, he had committed blasphemy through making certain derogatory remarks about Hazrat Osman, the third Caliph of Islam. For good measure, the government decreed a ban on the Pakistan Observer. Despite the fact that the directors of the newspaper as well as its editorial team offered apologies for the editorial in question, the ban on the newspaper remained.
The gathering force of the movement for Bangla as the state language of Pakistan clearly had unnerved the government. In spite of the reality that the students of Dhaka University as well as the general public had done nothing that could be construed as violent in intent or nature, the authorities made it known on February 20 that any assembly of five or more persons and the carrying of objects that might cause bodily harm to people had been banned under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code. The government's action quickly led to rethinking on the part of the All Party State Language Committee of Action. By an overwhelming majority, 20 out of 24 members, it was decided that the general strike planned for the next day, February 21, would be called off. Only four went against the majority decision. A major factor that appeared to have guided the Action Committee into its new move was the view of those present that a violation of the restraining orders could lead to a delay in the holding of provincial elections, something that was expected to be held sooner rather than later. It may be noted that elections to the East Bengal Legislative Assembly had repeatedly been delayed on one pretext or another. The provincial government, fearing a rout at the polls, was not willing to call elections only to lose office. The Action Committee was therefore reluctant to give the government any more chance of keeping the elections at bay.
The move to call off the strike was, however, strongly opposed by the students. Tempers ran high, so much so that eventually the Action Committee decided that the next day, February 21, the option of whether the strike would go ahead or would be called off would be left to the students. The moment of decision was thus at hand.