On January 27, 1952, Khwaja Nazimuddin, addressing an open session of the Council of the Muslim League, declared that only Urdu would be the state language of Pakistan. Waves of protests started and the [Communist] party realized that a mass movement could be led around the resurrection of the language question.
The All-Party State Language Action Committee declared a general strike for February 21, 1952. But on the afternoon of February 20, Section 144 was imposed in the city of Dhaka. The same afternoon, the Action Committee met at the Awami League office in Nawabpur. The violation of Section 144 became the focal point of the discussion.
Toaha, Oli Ahad, Dewan Mahbub Ali and Samad were first told through Taqiullah to press for violation of Article 144. But they were told to accept the majority decision if they failed to persuade others. After some initial discussions with others, it was understood that the Awami League and other non-party members on the Action Committee were unwilling to violate Article 144.
At an emergency meeting, the [Communist] party decided that it would not allow any splits in the All-Party Action Committee. No extreme action would be encouraged as such incidents would be easily exploited by the government. The party then gave clear instructions to Toaha, Oli Ahad, Samad and Dewan Mahbub Ali, who were members of the multiparty committee, not to pressure the committee for violating article 144. They were also asked to Explain to the committee that the general election could be postponed due to any emergency. At that time, there was talk of holding general elections and its postponement was seen as a great setback in the democratic life of East Bengal.
Shamsul Haque, Toaha and Oli Ahad went to see the students in the morning (February 21) to explain the decision of the multi-party committee to them and calm them down. However, it was ultimately decided that the students would violate Section 144 by splitting into 10 groups of 10 each.
The multi-party committee ceased to exist following the violation of Article 144. After that, students belonging to the [Communist] party controlled the movement.
Shahidullah Kaiser was a member of the central committee of the Communist Party of East Pakistan during the language movement.
Source: This is an abridged version of Shahidullah Kaiser’s interview published in Bhasha Andolon Prasanga: Katipay Dalil (Ed. Badruddin Umar, Bangla Academy, 1995)
Translated by Shamsuddoza Sajen