Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Hindu Samhati pays homage to 19 May martyrs

We have got to initiate this text by accepting a depressing reality; crude truth at the same instant as well. Hindu Bengalis are scattered across the globe and the majority of them, if not more, look to West Bengal, dominated by Bengali Hindus, at times to draw inspiration. But in most cases they become dejected; West Bengal is morally reprehensible to lead them. Same mindset was portrayed during the Bengali language movement in the Barak valley of Assam in 1961. West Bengal has been maintaining a bizarre silence of this even if interest in paying tributes to cause and martyrs of 21 st February (International Mother Language Day) is increasing.

To be precise, the culmination of the Bengali language movement in the Barak valley of Assam has a few origins. The first partition of then Surma Valley (at the behest of British Empire) segregated people of this region from Bengal (mainstay of their ethnicity) and compelled them to merge with the State of Assam, at variance to them in every context. The partition of Indian subcontinent in 1947 proved to be more fatal; 4 among 5 subdivisions of Sylhet district went to Pakistan and Barak Valley was having Cachar, Karimganj and Hailakandi districts only. Influx of refugees from East Pakistan made dominating Assamese community more skeptical, leading to infamous Bongal Kheda Movement in 1960. The violence and arson that followed polarized the entire state. Barak Valley was simmering in anger for rising, cruel economic distress and forced cultural alienation.

Salt was added to the gaping wound when Assam Legislative Assembly introduced a bill (Official Language Act) in 1960 for making Assamese the sole official language of Assam except English. It is to be noted, then Chief Minister of Assam Bimala Prasad Chaliha played the predominant role in this regard. This entailed outright denial of the demand to render due respect to Bengali, second key language in Assam and major language in Barak Valley. Bengali Hindus were not in a mood to accept the insult and commenced a democratic language movement in opposition. Mounting strength of the movement created uproar both in state and central (New Delhi) administrations and the campaign attained its height in Silchar in 1961.

The movement was both peaceful and democratic and touched the soul of every person in Barrak Valley; women participation was indeed praiseworthy. On 19th May, struggling Cachar Zila Gana Sangram Parishad gave a call for bandh (general strike throughout the valley). This pointed out radical change in the movement’s approach. The movement that started form some mere protests turned into a full-blown revolutionary movement by then. Satyagrahis (non-violent activists and volunteers) were in the streets from morning to make the strike a success. Administration made efforts to stamp down the revolutionary zeal but failed.

A different scene was witnessed in Tarapur Railway Station where making use of fiery protests administration assigned security forces and they fired without prior warning. 11 agitators died within next few minutes and hundreds of others were injured thanks to assault of bayonets along with inhuman lathi charges. The martyrs include Kanailal Niyogi, Chandicharan Sutradhar, Hitesh Biswas, Satyendra Deb, Kumud Das, Sunil Dey Sarkar, Tarani Deb Nath, Sachindra Paul, Birendra Sutradhar, Sukomal Purakayastha and Kamala Bhattacharjya.

On account of intense pressure, following the massacre and rebellious situation, Government of Assam drew back Official Language Act. Bengali was given official status in the three districts of Barak Valley.

Now the question remains – whether there is any difference between movements of 19 th May and 21 st February. There can’t be but people must acknowledge both in similar manner.

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