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Events of the Historic Day:
21st February 1952

 
   

 

In retaliation to this statement made by the Prime Minister, politicians along with the students collaborated on 30th January 1952 at the Library of Dhaka Bar Council, whereby an "All Party State Language Committee" was established.  The chief of East Pakistan Awami Muslim league was made the chairperson of the committee, “bangle must not be written in Arabic alphabet”, marched the streets. After the student meeting chaired by Gaziul Haq on the campus of Dhaka University, a huge rally of students chanting slogans like “We want Bangla as state language” As the coming 21st February was scheduled as the budget session day for East Bengal, this day was chosen to be observed as the State Language Day. The day’s events included a whole day strike for accepting Bengali, conducting meetings and processions. A three week preparation was taken for the protest that took place on 21st.

But on the evening of 20th February, Muslim League Government suddenly imposed section 144, thus prohibiting all meetings, processions and a gathering of five persons at any given time. The government now looked for ways to prevent the observance of State Language Day on 21st Februuary, which fell on the first day of the budget sessions of the Legislative Assembly. That evening, at the premises of the Awami League office, the 'All party State Language Committee' met in a emergency meeting.  Mowlana A. H. K Bhasani was at Tangail that time whilst Sheikh Mujib was jailed. The action committee discussed possible action and solutions but there was a division among the 16 leaders, most of which opposed the decision of violating Section 144. Those who were willing to disobey Article 144, were defeated at an 11-4 vote. This is because the opposition parties at that time were more concerned about the upcoming General Elections and were not completely aware of public fury. This was proved from a leaflet later distributed among the Communist Party Members whereby it was written that even the party leaders were not expecting that the Language movement would take such a violent direction and therefore, the party leaders were not prepared for the situation that arose after the 21st.  However, in that meeting it was further decided that Shamsul Huq, General Secretary of Awami Muslim League would go to Dhaka University to discuss the matter with the student leaders and convince them to restrain from breaking section 144. Most of the leaders on the night of February 20th returned home with the confidence of the decision not to violate section 144. 

 

21st February 1952: Historic Rally of the students of Dhaka University
at Amtola just before violating Section 144 prohibition on public gathering.

  21st February 1952:Historic Rally of the students of Dhaka University at 
Amtola just before violating government prohibition on procession.
 

However, the students and student leaders of Dhaka University, Dhaka Medical College and Engineering College could not agree with that decision. Hundreds of students and workers put toiled immensely towards the preparation of meetings, processions and the final strike of February 21st and therefore were not ready to give up due to the fear of its consequences. Some of the student leaders were notified at night that a meeting will be held on the steps of Fazlul Haq Hall of Dhaka University. Amongst the student leaders that were present at that meeting were;

1. Comrade Md Sultan. 
2. S. A. Bari A.T (Late, Vice Prime Minister, BNP government later)
3. Anowarul Haq Khan (Late, Press Secretary, MuzibNagar {Liberation war}Govt)
4. Monjur Hossain (Late, Doctor at Nawjaon)
5. Habibur Rahman Shelley (Retd. Chief Justice later)
6. Zillur Rahman (Leader of Awami League Minister of Awami League Govt)
7. Gaziul Haq (Renowned Lawyer, Dhaka High Court)
8. Abdul Monin (Leader of Awami League and Food Minister of former A.L govt.)
9. M. R . Akhtar Mukul (Known as CHOROM POTRO of Sadhin Bengal Betar (Liberation war time Bangladesh Radio))
    [Also writer of the original/Bengali version of the above article]
10. Sayed Kamruddin Hossain Shohud (Professor, Dhaka University)
11. Anawar Hossain (Present Identity unknown)
    

They took a firm decision to break section 144 even if it meant at the cost of their lives. It was decided that after the rally at Amtala, Muhammad Habibur Rahman would lead the first batch of procession. As a means to keep this rally confidential initially, Gaziul Huq and MD. Sultan wrote slips on cigarette packets requesting all students of Dhaka University to come to the university between 9.30 to 10.30 a.m. Students from various halls started pouring in  On the noon of February 21st, where students from different institutions of Dhaka city gathered and protested with slogans such as “We want Bangla as National language” .. “We will disobey Section 144.” The leaders were also surprised by the mood of the students and at that moment, one of the student leaders, Abdus Samad Azad (Foreign Minister, Awami League govt.) proposed that instead of going through a huge procession, a rally of "10 persons" should be on the streets in groups. By taking this strategic measure, Article 144 will be disobeyed without creating mass violence. The requests of student leaders were permitted and the gates of the Arts Faculty were opened to this and "10 Persons" procession. Students were immediately arrested wilfully. The first group that came out for wilful arrest was lead by Habibur Rahman Shelley (later Justice). The second group to be arrested was led by Abdus Samad Azad, the third group was led by Anowarul Haq Khan, and the fourth group was led by Zafar Obaidullah Khan (Minister, Ershad govt. and Ambassador).  Finally, a procession of women came out that were also wilfully arrested. The streets were flooded with hundreds of students protesting for their civil rights for the establishment of their mother language.

At the very same moment, the students remembered that the budget session of East Bengal was to start around 3 pm and decided to keep the ministers from reaching that building. For better communication and collaborative action, the students broke the wall between the Arts faculty and the Medical College Hospital so that there would be a larger area in which to protest against the police. Thousands of students gathered at this moment and more armed police were brought to protect and make way for the ministers but the situation only worsened. At this moment, a group of police hiding at one end of the street came out and without any prior notice under the command of Zilla Magistrate Koreyshi and started to open fire. The police and parliamentary forces resorted to wide-spread tear gas shelling, clubbing and finally shooting. Consequently, several students were killed, hundreds were injured and thousands were arrested. A reign of terror was let loose by the government but the language movement did not stop. By noon, the number of arrested students increased so rapidly that Dhaka Central Jail’s capacity was filled fully and the remaining prisoners were taken by bus to a  Jungle (Bhawal Jungle) and left there.

The government press note acknowledged 3 deaths and 2 injuries, although the actual number of causalities was much higher. The police had concealed several dead bodies, which is the reason why there is no grave of any other martyr of that day other than Abul Barkat. Although there were witnesses of the dead bodies, Chief Minister Nurul Amin refused to admit in the sessions of the Legislative Assembly that any occurrence of shooting or killing had taken place.

The news of student killings spread rapidly all over the country and a full strike started at 3 PM. All offices, courts shops, factories, even the radio and railway stations were instantly shut down. People poured out on the streets, and the whole country seethed with anger and outrage. In the evening, a curfew was announced and the military started patrolling. To give this Language Movement more efficient leadership the leadership of "All Party State Language Action Committee" was reformed and a whole day strike, Gayebana Zanaza (Prayer for the deportees) and procession was announced for February 22nd. On this day at Nababpur a High Court Staff and Shafiur Rahman, Law student, Dhaka University were shot dead by the military. In the following days, protests and violence continued with a number of deaths. Black flags were hoisted in Dhaka University and students wore black badges to commemorate the mourning for those who had been killed. After this event and until February 27th, Dhaka’s government administration was ruled according to the decisions announced from Shahidullah Hall; D.U. Curfews were promulgated in Dhaka at night. At the same time, the government started to persecute the leaders and workers of the Language Movement. Thousands of language activists were arrested throughout the province.

   

 
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