I recently came across Golam Mostofa and his rather state-centric as opposed to peoples-oriented 20-page pamphlet on The Battle for Pakistan, which examines the entangled questions of state-language and the basis of Pakistan. Mostofa was the secretary of the East Bengal Government’s Language Reform Committee, while being a strong proponent of the two-nation theory and an advocate for Urdu as the national language for Pakistan.
As the ideological imagination, and its linguistic articulation, in early-Pakistan was taking shape, Firoz Khan Noon (Governor of East Pakistan) had his vision of converting Bengalis into Urdu speakers by using religion to play on their sentiments (Jalal 2014, 87). Urdu was deemed the only language that could strengthen national unity over ethnic groups. Noon commissioned various argumentative material to this end, including Mostofa’s pamphlet that presented a case for adopting Urdu in East Pakistan. Below are some extracts from the pamphlet, which was published c. 1952.
The Ideology of Pakistan
An unwarranted bitterness has been created over the question, of whether Urdu or Bengali should be the State-language of Pakistan. This sort of domestic quarrel at this nascent stage of Pakistan is really very sad…Long before the announcement of the Quaid-i-Azam, I said at a public meeting in Dacca that Urdu should be the State-language of Pakistan, though, of course, Bengali should not be discarded. The following extract from the report of the Hindustan Standard will bear me out:
“Poet Gholam Mustafa said that those who wanted to make Bengali as the State-language of Pakistan were looking at a narrow angle of geographical limits; but if they consider Pakistan as a dynamic unifying force in the world, they could not brush aside Urdu. He was inclined to the view that Bengali language was responsible for the decline of the Bengali Muslims as that language reflects the idea of non-Muslims”. (12-11-1947)
Significance of State-Language
The very expression “State-language” pre-supposes the existence of a State. The State-language of a State should therefore be that language by which the interests of the State can be served best. [emphasized in original] …The question of the safety and integrity of the State therefore comes first in determining a State-language. If we quarrel amongst ourselves over this issue and the ‘State’ disappears as a result thereof, what shall we do with the ‘language’ left behind? Language is a means to an end, not an end in itself. When the British conquered this country, they made English the State-language, not for our convenience, but for the interests and ideals of their State. The same principle will apply equally to Pakistan.
The argument of those who say that Bengali should be the State-language of Pakistan because of the numerical superiority of the Bengali Muslims has no leg to stand upon. Had numerical strength been the only determining factor in solving national problems like this, surely, we could not get Pakistan in India, as the Hindus commanded an overwhelming majority over us…Ideals cannot be judged by votes alone.
Pakistan is one State. It is, as it were, a bouquet of five flowers, none of which can be separate from the others. There is no such thing as Eastern Pakistan and Western Pakistan…The different provinces are to the Pakistan State what the limbs are to the body. If the limbs fall out and do not co-operate with one another, the body cannot exist…Pakistan is still beset with various dangers and difficulties…If Bengali and Urdu are both given the status of two State-languages, one for the East, the other for the West, it will only serve the purpose of the enemies. It will give rise to narrow provincialism among us, culminating in the ultimate separation between the two wings.
The demand for Bengali as the State-language of Pakistan therefore signified the triumph of Hindu culture and, as such, is in itself a strong symptom for the intravenous injection of Urdu in the cultural life of the Bengali Muslims. It is really very amazing that the Bengali Muslims are unwilling to accept Urdu for fear of Punjabi domination, but are quite agree-
able to be slaves of Bengali culture which is dominated by the Hindus.
On analysis, it will be found that the ‘Bengali for Bengal’ movement owes its origin to the borrowed idea of nationalism. Bengali Muslims are a separate unit having distinct culture of their own – this territorial patriotism has prompted the agitators to go in for Bengali. But they do not perhaps know that there is no such nationalism in Islam. Islam is preacher of internationalism or extra-territorialism.
We have got Pakistan. But real Pakistan is still far away…It is a thorny path and, as such, we have got to sacrifice much before we reach our goal. We must not be satisfied with our geographical Pakistan. Pakistan is an ideal…Islam is appearing in a new historic role and Pakistan will be the stage board of that great episode. For that ultimate goal, the entire Muslim World should first of all unite under one banner. Egypt, Arabia, Iran, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Indonesia: all the Muslim States of the world are therefore combining together to form a “Sixth Continent”. Will the Muslims of East Pakistan lag behind?
Following biographical details are provided on Wikipedia: Golam Mostofa (1897 – 13 October 1964): “Mostofa started teaching at Barakpore Government School in 1920. He retired as headmaster of Faridpur Zila School in 1949…His book Biswanabi (1942), a biography based on the life of the Prophet Muhammad, provided him with recognition.”
Jalal, Ayesha. The Struggle for Pakistan. Harvard University Press, 2014.
‘Remembering poet Golam Mostofa’: https://www.observerbd.com/2014/10/16/48987.php
Poem Hunter: https://www.poemhunter.com/golam-mostafa/biography/.