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The Anti-Heroes of the Language Movement Author(s): Badruddin Umar Reviewed work(s): Source: Economic and Political

The Anti-Heroes of the Language Movement Author(s): Badruddin Umar Reviewed work(s):

Source: Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 33, No. 12 (Mar. 21-27, 1998), pp. 636-637 Published by: Economic and Political Weekly

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It is not surprising thata financialstructure which generates similarassetswouldremain

fragile and

uncertainty. A defeat as well as accommo-

dation, by

of these upheavalssymbolises the triumph of finance over industry (and state power) in general andthedefeatof theweakerstates

to the

collective forces of supranational

finance and rich nations on the other.

vulnerable, epecially under

thenationstatetothe consequences


[This paper was presented in a conference on

whichwas held

in Sariska during February

thankfulto the

22-24, 1998. 1 am

participants andto Amiya Bagchi

in particular for helpful comments.]

'Globality,Identity and Locality'

1 JRHicks,CriticalEssayson MonetaryTheory,


2 JayatiGhosh, 'Coercive Corporation: TheState

Indonesian Capitalism', Social Scientist,



3 Sunanda Sen 'Growth Centres in South-

East Asia

UNCTADDiscussion Papers, No 118, Sep- tember 1996.

the Era of



4 See fora documentationof thesefacts, Donald

P Hanna, 'The Indonesian Experience with

Financial Sector Reform' in Yilmaz Akyuz and Gunther Held, Finance and the Real Economy, ECLAC and UNCTAD, Santiago, September 1993.

5 See for documentations, Sander Thoenes, 'Indonesia: The Offshore Borrowing Trap' Financial Times, January 12, 1998. Sander Thoenes, 'IMF Warns Suhartothat It May

Cancel$43 billion Rescues',FinancialTimes, February 6, 1998. George Graham, 'Indonesia:

Bankers Wearily Gauge Risk',

Times, January9, 1998.






Badruddin Umar




After instituting Bengali as the state language

ruling classes

towards enriching the knowledge available

as Bengali languishes,

any other medium of instruction, continue to be deprived of

opportunities to improve their living standards.

in the constitution, the

of Bangladesh

completely abdicated their responsibility

in their mother tongue. So


who cannot afford access

the lower classes,

THE principal objective of the language

movement of

Bengali was declared as a state language withUrduin thePakistanconstitution

of 1956.To bedeclaredasthestate language

of Pakistanwas notthe only objective of the

language movement. It was necessary to

have Bengali as a state language in orderto


as well as a language of education, science

and culture.Thus, after its being declared

as a state language, it was necessary to go and fight forthe development of the Bengali


becameamatterofnoconcernforthe Bengali bourgeoisie, even underPakistan. Theyjust


ruminating the struggles and achievements of the 1952 language movement, but did littleor nothing to workforthe development

of the Bengali language.

1952 was fulfilled



as a mediumof instruction

But this necessary task soon

satisfaction in recalling and







bourgeoisie became quite well-definedafter

the establishment of Bangladesh as an

independent state.The Bengali ruling class -



satisfactionin the constitutionaldeclaration


party in power, its political allies and



of Bengali as the state language and the language of instructionatalllevels, fromthe minor schools to the universities.But that was the end of it for the ruling classes in


they began



language movement, thoughthey

glorify for political advantage "their"

heroic acts during the 1952 language movement and the "great sacrifices" they

made during that struggle.

Bangladesh. Henceforward,

to act as the anti-heroesof the

Itis one thing to declare Bengali as a state

and as a language of instruction,


it is

possible for Bengali tobe fully usedas such. This is lecause a constitutionaldeclaration

is not a magic wand by which a mere

declarationcanbe implemented inthe specific areasfor which such a declarationis made.

A numberof relatedwork has to be done

in orderto make any declarationeffective. Nothing was actually donein Bangladesh

as a follow

up tion regarding the language. Bengali was introducedas a mediumof instruction up to the university level. Consequently, some very good teacherswho did not know the languageproperly hadto give up their jobs.

of the constitutionaldeclara-

another thing to practically make it

But no arrangement was made for making minimum number of books available in Bengali for the variousfaculties.The crisis became particularly acute when English teaching was withdrawnfrom the school level, and there was no effective way of


by the ordinary students.

Thus no books were made available in

Bengali, andbecauseof alackof knowledge

of English, books availablein

and still are inaccessible to the studentsat

large.Or, inother words, aserious dichotomy was created in the system of instruction


of the standardof education. Inorderto prevent aseriouscrisislike this, it was necessary to work out the phases in



resultedin the continuous lowering

which Bengali wouldbe gradually introduced

at variouslevels: And for thatit was further

necessary not to practically abolish the

teaching of English and undermine the

importance of that language for acquisition of knowledge. Whatwas reallyimportant for promoting educationaladvancementwas to establisha bureauof translation by the government and undertakethe workof translating scientific literature,literary,philosophical and other classics, reference books and all sorts of necessary reading and research materials from foreign languages into Bengali. The bureauof translationthusestablishedcould appointpersonshavingadequateknowledge

French, German,

of various languages -

English, Russian,Italian, Spanish,Chinese, Arabic,Persian, SanskritandtheotherIndian


Malayalam, etc. They alsocouldcommission Bengali scholarsfrom Bangladesh andIndia living either in Bangladesh or in India,or

abroad, for translatingparticular books.The


publications of such translationsand at the

sametimecould encourage and give subsidy to privatepublishers for the publications of translatedworks. Itdoes not require muchwisdomtorealise that it was the most importantstep in the language movementin thenew independent

stateof Bangladesh. But nothing was done

in that direction and the education system was left thusunattended.Whatis surprising is that beginning from Qudrat-i-Khuda EducationCommissionto thelastonewhich recently submittedits recommendationsto the presentgovernment have maintainedan inexplicable silence in this matterin spite of the repeated demandfortheestablishment of a bureauof translation.Thereis no other way of describing a class of people like this other than calling them anti-heroesof the language movement. The deep-rooted causesof this conspiracy of silence regarding the development of Bengali andof theentireeducationalsystem havetobe sought inthecharacterof theclass


Urdu, Tamil,






Economic and Political Weekly

March 21, 1998

which came to rule Bangladesh since the overthrowof Pakistanfrom our soil. This is a class of people who came to

possess an incredible amount of

and wealth primarily through primitive

plunder,robbery,corruption andterrorism. It is no surprise thatthe cultureof this new




class would be in harmony with the

of acquiring this wealth. Wealth can


andactualworkof the successive

this country had

intellectuals shed

be acquiredovernightby

mentioned, but acquisition of cultureis an entirely differentmatter. It is not possible to go into all the details


policy governments since the end of 1971, but it will notbe incorrectto say thatthe men and

women who came to rule


andcultureof thecommon people.They and

their camp-following

profuse tears during the monthof February for the martyrs of the language movement of 1952 and cry hoarse for using Bengali in all spheres of ouractivities,butin matters

of policy andactualwork theygrosslyneglect the general educational system, the system ofinstructioninthe Bengali mediumschools,



and universities, whichconcernthe

masses of students, the children of

those who are exploited and victimised by

the ruling classes in a thousand ways. But this does not mean that the ruling

classes of people neglect the educationof theirownchildren.Farfromit. Theyprovide much better education for their children

through the model schools, cadet


where teaching of English language is done seriously andthelevel of instructionis much higher. Those who want to and can afford to provide still better education for their childrensend them abroad, mostly to the "fairy land"called the US. It is true that the children of the ruling classes, in any society divided into classes, get bettereducationthanthe others as they

eatbetter food, wearmore expensiveclothes, liveinbetterhousesandreceivebettermedical treatment during illness. Butthe situationin

Bangladesh is really deplorable


mother tongue of its people muchmorethan

it used to be underPakistan. Everyyearreportsappear inthe newspapers about expulsions of thousandsof students during school and college examinations.In ordertodivertattentionfromthereal causes, studentsof the new generation are blamed and abusedas thieves, and moral sermons are delivered by persons responsible for conducting the education system and the affairsof the country. Some cry hoarsefor more strict policing of the examination centres. Butthefactis, thestudentscannotbe held responsible for the phenomenon of mass


expensive English medium schools,

when one

thinkthat Bangladeshneglects the

thievery in the examination centres. The truthis that the studentsare not properly prepared at their respective institutionsfor answering the questions which are dished out to them at the examination halls. One or two such cases could be treatedas

but when it happens that most

students lend themselves to thievery pro-

vided they get

forcibly create such opportunities, it is

clearly a social phenomenon for which no

particular individual can truly be held responsible This pointmay beunderstoodmore clearly when we consider the fact that cases of

thievery atthemodelschools, cadet colleges andother expensiveEnglish mediumschools

are quite negligible or do not exist at all.

more stupid and mischievous

than to think and say that the children of people who are rich or earn their money through unfair methods, are morally better and more honest than the children of the poorer classes of people who generally earn their living by the sweat of theirhrow.The continuous lowering of the standard of education and the virtual collapse of the educational system canbe directly connected with variousforms of terrorismresortedto



the opportunities or can


by some students in the Bengali medium

institutions, particularly

Again, no such

kind of educational institutions. Thus, the present educational system is

terrorismexists in the other

the universities.

veryclearly divided broadly intotwo systems on the basis of mediumof instruction- one


the generally lower income groups and


otherfor the higher income groups. The

latter,by virtueof theirbettereducation,get

far better opportunities

educationalcareer.The situationwould not have been as bad as it is today, if they remained in the country and lived their economic and culturallife : the midst of our people. Butwhat actuallyhappens is that a large numberof studentswhoreceivebetter educationeitherdo notreturnto

or leave the country forbetter opportunities

abroad. Thus, after receiving their

educationatthe expense of the country,they contributeto the economy of othercountries and fertilise other soils. This is the "heroic"achievementof the anti-heroesof the language movement,the ruling classes of Bangladesh, in the sphere of educationandthisistheirsolidcontribution to the development of the mother tongue of the Bengalees during the post-1971 period!

in their post-



General Elections, 1996

Special Series

'Karnataka- Decline and Fall of the Congress Machine',

Harold Gould,

September 13, 1997


Divisive Struggles Influence Outcome',

Paul R Brass,

September20, 1997

'The Defeat of EduardoFaleiro: South Goa ParliamentaryElections',

ArthurG Rubinoff,

September27, 1997

'The Saffron Wave: The Eleventh General Elections in Maharashtra',

Sikata Banerjee, 'Local Issues Dominate in AndhraPradeshand Tamil Nadu', ArthurG Rubinoff, 'BJP's Emergence as Third Force in Orissa', RamashrayRoy, 'Regional Parties Dominate in Punjab and Haryana',

Paul Wallace, 'Major Role of Caste and Social Factions in Bihar', Binoy S Prasad, 'BJP Politics: Looking Beyond the Impasse', Pramod K Kantha,

'Political Sadhus and Limits to Religious Mobilisation in North India',

October 4,

October 25,

November 8,




November 15, 1997

November 22,

November 29,



Virginia Van Dyke,

December 6, 1997

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