Tamaddun Majlish

Tamaddun Majlish a literary and cultural organisation oriented towards Islamic ideology. This Pro-Islamic organisation was floated in Dhaka immediately after the partition of India with a zeal to uphold the Islamic ideology in the country. It was founded on 1 September 1947 by the initiative of abul quasem, then a professor in the Department of Physics of Dhaka University, and was named as Pakistan Tamaddun Majlish. The noted associates of Professor Abul Quasem in floating Tamaddun Majlish were Dewan Mohammad Azraf, Professor ASM Nurul Haque Bhuyan, Shahed Ali, Abdul Gafur, Badruddin Umar, Hasan Iqbal and some senior students of Dhaka University. Professor Abul Quasem was the founder general secretary of Pakistan Tamaddun Majlish. Dewan Mohammad Azraf was elected president of the Majlish in 1949.

The main intent of this Islamic cultural forum was to invigorate Islamic spirit and culture among the citizens of the new nation of Pakistan. The members of this Islamic cultural organisation were influenced to a marked extent by the ideology of the Calcutta Rennaisance Society of the 1940s. They were likely to have followed the leftist philosophy of the pre-partition Bengal Muslim League especially that of Abul Hashim. They were aligned to Islamic revolution or Islamic socialism. But on the issue of state language and on various other issues their conviction was people oriented. The aims and objectives of Tamaddun Majlish enunciated in its Constitution are as follows:' (1) To promote and develop a healthy culture by eliminating superstition, traditionalism and reactionary attitude of the people; (2) To lead the human society towards rational and religion-oriented communism; (3) To help formation of a new society and state through the cultivation of literature and arts based on humanitarian value; (4) To help amelioration in public life by improving the personal character of the people.

Tamaddun Majlish was very active during the initial stage of its existence. Majlish used to organise and conduct discussion meetings, seminar, debating, staging of drama, cultural functions and conferences throughout the year. Publication of books, booklets on various issues and pamphlets was part of the regular programme of the organisation. The weekly Sainik, a Bangla organ of Tamaddun Majlish, was launched on 14 November 1948 (28 Kartik 1355). Initially, Shahed Ali was the chairman of the Board of Editors of the paper, and later Abdul Gafur was made the chairman. The Paper used to be published from 19 Azimpur Road in Dhaka and continued to be published till 1961. By the mid 1950s, Tamaddun Majlish was able to expand its vista throughout East Bengal with its branches at the district and sub-divisional levels and somewhere at thana level. The Majlish had its central office initially at the Rashid Building near the old campus of Dhaka University.

Tamaddun Majlish played a vital role at the first phase of the Bangla Language Movement. Virtually, Tamaddun Majlish had a pioneering role in throwing the first protest against the attempt of making Urdu as the only state language of Pakistan, and in initiating the language movement with demand for making Bangla as one of the state languages of Pakistan. Tamaddun Majlish issued a booklet on 15 September 1947 titled Pakistaner Rashtra Bhasha: Bangla na Urdu (Pakistan's State Language: Bangla or Urdu) edited by Professor Abul Quasem. Among the authors of articles in this historic booklet, Kazi Motahar Hossain, Abul Mansur Ahmed and Professor Abul Quasem, made a strong case in fovour of introducing Bangla as the only language of instruction, language of offices and courts of East Bengal. They also forcefully articulated the demand for Bangla to be one of the state languages of Pakistan. The seminal booklet also contained a succinct proposal in its preface authored by its editor Abul Quasem in favour of Bangla language. Given the landmark nature of the demand for recognition of Bangla, the gist of that proposal was:

Bangla will be (a) the medium of instruction in East Pakistan, (b) court language and (c) official language of East Pakistan; Bangla and Urdu will be the two official languages of the central government of Pakistan; (a) Bangla will be the first language for the purpose of education in East Pakistan which will be learnt by 100% of the people; (b) Urdu will be treated as the second language or inter-wing language in East Pakistan, which will be taught as a second language to those people who will be working in West Pakistan. It will be more than adequate if Urdu is learnt by 5% to 10% of population of East Pakistan. Urdu May be taught in higher classes at the secondary school level in East Pakistan; (c) English will be the third or international language of Pakistan, and will be learnt by those who may serve abroad as the functionaries of Pakistan, and who will be engaged in study of higher sciences.

For convenience in administration, both English and Bangla will be used for a few years as the official languages in East Pakistan. By this time, necessary modifications in Bangla language shall have to be executed.

Aimed at providing an organised resistance against the anti-Bangla policies of the central government of Pakistan and to lodge protest against the irresponsible and slanderous comments about Bangla language and script made by Fazlur Rahman, the central education minister, the Tamaddun Majlish took the lead in the formation of the first Rastrabhasa Sangram Parisad (State Language Committee of Action) on 1 October 1947. While Professor ASM Nurul Haque Bhuyan of Dhaka University was elected to be the convenor of the Rastrabhasa Sangram Parisad, Professor Abul Quasem, the general secretary of Tamaddun Majlish, was the treasurer and played a pivotal role in that rudimentary stage of the language movement. He succeeded in enlisting of the younger generations in general, and the teachers and students of Dhaka University and other educational institutions in particular. Thus the first Rastrabhasha Sangram Parisad provided the needed organisational structure for launching the language movement in later part of 1947 and early months of 1948. The first protest meeting was assembled at the campus of Dhaka University on 6 December 1947 under the auspices of Rastrabhasa Sangram Parisad, presided over by Abul Quasem, to protest the unilateral decision of the National Education Conference, held in Karachi, for adopting Urdu as the only state language of Pakistan. In a joint meeting of the activists of Tamaddun Majlish and other cultural and political activists held on 2 March 1948 at Fazlul Haq Hall of Dhaka University, a new committee styled as Sarbadaliya Sangram Parisad (All Party State Language Committee of Action) was formed with Majlish activist Shamsul Alam as convenor.

Position of Tamaddun Majlish about the Bangla language movement also reflected the aspirations of the common people of East Bengal. Tamaddun Majlish had wide response from the pro-Islamic elites of the country especially the students and teachers, journalists, writers and cultural personalities. Moreover, its pioneering role in the language movement also earned for the organisation tacit support of the liberal elite group of the people even though they were not motivated by the ideology on which the Majlish was floated. The great success of Tamaddun Majlish rests on the successful piloting of the language movement for long five years and making it a national issue by involving all sections of the people irrespective of social conviction and political ideology.

At the climax of the movement, the leaders and activists of Tamaddun Majlish at central and district levels were victims of serious repression, arrest and confinement. The central office of the Majlish including the office of the weekly Sainik was ransacked by the police. The convenor of the Sangram Parisad, Kazi Gholam Mahbub was arrested, and the top leaders of the Majlish like Dewan Muhammad Azraf, Professor Abul Quasem, Abdul Ghafur and others receded to the mofussil area for safety.

The Tamaddun Majlish is still in operation in Dhaka with its long inherited cultural programme. After the death of Principal Abul Quasem in 1991, Abdul Gafur was elected as general secretary of the Majlish. Dewan Mohammad Azraf, almost a life long president, led the organisation till his death in 1999. [Muazzam Hussain Khan]