The University of Dhaka and the birth of Bangladesh


in the Dhaka University: the convocation speeches, In a volume compiled in 1988 with an introduction by Serajul Islam Choudhury, we read that DU was introduced by the British as “great imperial compensation” for the Muslims of East Bengal (Choudhury, 26). They wanted the current rulers of India to make up for the loss they suffered from the reunification of Bengal in 1911. In his inaugural address as Chancellor of DU in 1923, Lord Lytton had not only emphasized this point but also expressed the hope that it would soon become “the main center of Muslim scholarship” in India and “pay special attention to higher Islamic studies” (26 ). However, Lytton had ended his speech by urging the graduates to see the institution “as an alma mater in whose service the Mohammedans and the Hindus can find a common bond of unity” (Choudhury, 29). The university’s later history shows that some of its future students viewed it as a place of cultivating Islamic values ​​and consolidating the Islamic heritage of the part of Bengal it was in, while others claim it as a place where a democratic one and the secular notion of being Bengal could be spread.

Almost with the birth of the Islamic state of Pakistan, DU played a decisive role in the formation of the national identity of Bangladesh. It became the center of the movement that would lead from the ashes of East Pakistan to the founding of the country in 1971. The key problem here was language and the catalyst was the insistence of the Pakistani central government that Urdu should be the lingua franca of the country, despite the fact that only three percent of Pakistanis actually use it on a daily basis. On December 5 and 6, 1947, teachers and students of the university demonstrated on the campus and on the streets of Dhaka against the government’s decision and for Bengali for two consecutive days. However, the Pakistani government ignored the protests and continued its decision to make Urdu the country’s only official language. In response to this decision, DU students mobilized on February 26, 1948 to form an All Party Language Committee of Action. Not discouraged, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the governor-general of Pakistan, who was referred to by the official media as the “father of the country”, repeated that when he visited Dhaka on the 21st, he was Urdu and no other language “(Islam, 224) the same point in his address to the DU special convocation on 22.nd On March 8th, Bengali students protested, who were present at the convocation. On March 11, 1950, Dhaka University’s Language Action Committee was formed. In essence, the movement, led by university students and soon spreading across East Pakistan, eventually led to the collapse of Pakistan, a state based entirely on Islamist nationalism.

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As a direct result of the language movement, the government that had been blamed for violating the Bengali consciousness was voted out of office in East Pakistan in 1954. Instead, a short-lived but popular coalition government viewed as pro-Bengali took over administration of the province. Students had played an important role in the election and the tradition of student activism for Bangladeshi nationalism became very noticeable in national politics from that point on.

In retrospect, we can see that the Pakistani era was an ongoing clash between successive Pakistani regimes that exercised state power to restrict Bengali’s rights and enforce an Islamist state at the expense of the Bengali language and culture and Bengali nationalism. In the confrontation, DU teachers and students played the decisive role. It was mainly because of them that the Pakistani state apparatus failed to suppress Bengali and prevent them from expressing their views. The campus was at the center of activities promoting secularism awareness and promoting democracy as a goal to be achieved in national life.

So it was to be expected that when the Pakistani state made a last-ditch effort on March 26, 1971 to suppress the Bengali, who screamed for full autonomy and democracy, it would do so by targeting DU and trying, faculty members and Dhaka University students ruthlessly mowing down. When the Pakistani government decided to postpone the meeting of the National Assembly at which the Awami League had obtained an absolute majority and was able to claim the self-government of East Pakistan and dominate Pakistani politics for the first time in the history of that country, the campus broke out again loud protests. On the 7ththe On March 23rd, when the head of the Awami League, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, gave his historic speech demanding full autonomy and threatening to start an armed movement that would drive the Pakistanis out of East Pakistan forever, DU student leaders stood up to him aside as he spoke in Ramna Park. which borders on the university.

What happened on March 26th was nothing less than a calculated attempt to blow DU to pieces, murder student leaders and select faculty members, and evict all students from campus for having played a leading role in the movement against the Pakistani state. The Pakistani army was downright grueling in trying to neutralize dissenting opinions. Inevitably, YOU bore the brunt of their initial anger. Everyone found at the university that night was mowed down and shot indiscriminately at student dormitories, student dormitories and the DU Teacher’s Club. Shaheed Minar was razed and Bangla Academy was subjected to artillery fire. The non-teaching staff of the university and the staff of the cafeteria were not spared either. Madhu’s canteen – the favorite place of student politicians in the 1960s – was attacked and Madhu – the benevolent owner of the cafeteria – was murdered. The huge one bot Baum, who provided the shade, gave speeches under the student leaders and from whom they made the declaration of independence on one of the turbulent days of March, was blown up from the ground. It was clear that the army had decided that DU was the ultimate symbol of the unacceptable form of national identity formation in Bangladesh. As Professor Serajul Islam Chowdhury notes in Ekattor O Dhaka Visva-Bidyalaya, the university ambience encouraged people not only to dream of freedom and equality, but to create conditions in which the dream seemed close to reality. In addition, the university has consistently been a place of resistance in its efforts to impose a theocratic or monolingual state on Bengal, as has happened on campus since Jinnah’s 1948 declaration of Urdu being the only state language and the protest movements of the 1950s on campus and 1960s, culminating in the month-long protests of March 1971. The six-point program for financial and political autonomy proposed by the Awami League was designed by DU professors.

In the nine-month war of liberation following the action by the Pakistani army against DU and the rest of Bangladesh, the university once again became a microcosm of the country, as almost all faculties and students fled from it. Academic activity stalled and it became a campus with no students who left it along with most of their teachers because they were unwilling to bow to the Pakistani blueprint to create a quiet institution run by Quislingen , and were not inclined to pass on or acquire education in line with proto-Islamist and / or totalitarian concepts of nationalism. Many students died in the liberation struggle or were suspected of liberation over the course of the next nine months. As the birth of Bangladesh seemed imminent by the end of the year, Pakistani Amy and her local staff carried out a systematic search of faculty members on and off campus to murder those who were still around, and mostly did it for them Responsible for separating the country, they had not been able to prevent the breakup.

When Bangladesh finally achieved independence on December 16, it was fitting that the Pakistani army surrendered in the outdoor area next to Ramna Park University. The many teachers and students murdered since March 26th, as well as the resistance they offered, were later commemorated with buildings erected all over the campus, including the sculpture “Aporajeyo Bangla” or “Invincible Bengal” in front of Kala Bhabhan or the building of the Faculty of Arts, the Martyrs’ Tablet opposite the central mall and the sculptures of freedom fighters that were placed in front of the teacher-student center. December 14th became the day on which the martyr of the DU war of liberation was to be solemnly commemorated, and December 16 became the day on which the faculty and staff of DU, together with the rest of the country, marked the day of the Celebrated victory.

Fakrul Alam is UGC Professor at the Department of English at the University of Dhaka.


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