Darivit: Why A Small North Dinajpur Village Is Focus Of Bengali Language Day On 20 September

Darivit: Why A Small North Dinajpur Village Is Focus Of Bengali Language Day On 20 September West Bengal.
Snapshot
  • Two students were shot by West Bengal Police on 20 September during a peaceful protest in a Darivit school, demanding the appointment of Bengali teachers in the place of Urdu teachers.

    Someone does not become a Bengali just because his/her mother tongue is Bangla; he has to accept the legacy of 5,000 years of Indian culture as well.

Rajesh Sarkar and Tapas Barman, former students of Darivit High School in Uttar Dinajpur district of West Bengal, were shot dead inside the school compound by the police of the government of West Bengal on 20 September 2018. They sacrificed their lives for their language — Bangla.

The background: The students of Darivit High School had demanded Bengali and science teachers. Though there is no Urdu-speaking student in the school, the state government's school department sent Urdu and Sanskrit teachers in place of Bengali and science teachers due to pressure from local Muslim leaders.

The name of the Sanskrit teacher was probably added to make the appointment of unwanted Urdu teachers a bit more tolerable. The students protested. The Darivit villagers protested. There was no noteworthy violence against police, but still the police shot and killed two alumni, Rajesh Sarkar and Tapas Barman.

In West Bengal, people generally relate the movement in favour of usage of Bengali language with the language movement of East Pakistan in 1952 when Bengali-speaking Muslims opposed making Urdu the state language of Pakistan. On 21 February 1952, four persons died in police firing in Dhaka during that movement. This is widely celebrated as Language Day in Bangladesh and it has been also popularised in West Bengal.

In 1954, along with Urdu, Bengali was recognised as the state language of Pakistan. However, very few Bengalis in India, even in West Bengal, know about 11 Bengali Hindus who sacrificed their lives for the Bengali language at Silchar in Assam in 1961, the centenary year of Rabindranath Tagore.

One of the language warriors killed by police was a woman — Kamala Bhattacharya. Of these 11 people who made the sacrifice, nine were refugees from East Pakistan, kicked out from their ancestral home by Bengali-speaking Muslims.

Many replicas of Dhaka's 21 February language martyr memorials can now be found in Kolkata and other towns but there are no roads or monuments in the name of these brave warriors of Bengali language from Silchar.

We are never told about the Bengali language movement in Manbhum (then in Bihar) and their leaders like Atulya Chandra Ghosh, Labanya Prava Ghosh, Bhajahari Mahato, Hemchandra Mahato, Bhabini Mahato and others. Their struggle for Bengali language and identity compelled the government of India to include Manbhum district in West Bengal.

All these struggles for the Bengali language took place outside West Bengal. But rapid Islamisation during last few decades in West Bengal has started hitting the core of Bengali language in this state as well. Appeasement of Islamic fundamentalists by leftist secular intellectuals and the Trinamool Congress is gradually transforming West Bengal into West Bangladesh. The Darivit massacre is an important milestone in this Islamic aggression.

The credit for creating such a situation must go to the Left Front government and its subordinate professors, teachers and intellectuals. Former communist chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya officially affixed the seal of Islamic control on Bengali culture. Taslima Nasrin, an anti-Islamic fundamentalist writer, was forced to flee Kolkata overnight and thus made Kolkata the bastion of Islamic fundamentalism on a par with Dhaka. From then on, the art and literature of West Bengal ‘respectfully’ followed the Shariat fatwa.

Many varieties of revolutionaries live in this city, but no one has the least courage to invite Nasrin to return to this city. Even the TV serial written by Nasrin was stopped by Islamic fundamentalists, and secularists did not protest. The Trinamool picked up this Islamic fundamentalist baton from the Left Front when it came to power in 2011. It started with monthly salaries for imams, and then proceeded with restricting the days and timings of Durga Puja and immersion, prohibiting the worship of Saraswati in schools and so on.

Bomb making by Islamists has become a cottage industry in many places like Khagragarh. The Arabisation of Bengali language has been going on in Bangladesh for a long time; it has started in West Bengal in the last one decade. Thus, ma has become amma, ramdhanu (rainbow) becomes rongdhanu (the word Ram is untouchable), akash (sky) becomes asman, etc.

Let’s return to Darivit. Where is Darivit? Darivit belongs to Islampur sub-division of Uttar Dinajpur district of West Bengal. Uttar Dinajpur district was formed in 1992 with the northern part of the former West Dinajpur district. Bangladesh covers its entire eastern border.

In 1971, the Hindu population of this district (the area after 1992) was 63.28 per cent and Muslim 35.69 per cent. Within a decade of Jyoti Basu's communist rule, the influx of Muslims into the district reduced the Hindu population to 54.2 per cent in 1991 and the Muslim population to 45.35 per cent.

With the blessings of the Trinamool Congress, North Dinajpur became a Muslim majority district in 2011. The rural Hindu population in Islampur sub-division is only 28 per cent (2011 census). The Bangladesh border is just 2 kilometres away from Darivit school. In spite of such adverse conditions, the students of the school and villagers stood up against the aggression of the Urdu language.

What happened at Darivit School that the police had to fire? Students were protesting against the unjust recruitment of an Urdu teacher. Some villagers too joined. No one had a weapon, no bombs exploded. The police did not claim that. Some stones may have been thrown. No police were reported to be seriously injured or harmed. Yet why did the police shoot?

In Kaliachak, Dhulagarh or Bhangar — where bombs exploded, the police were beaten, and police vehicles were burnt by Muslim mob — there was no shooting. Then why did the police fire in Darivit? The accusation is that the police know that in the Trinamool era, if Hindus are killed in West Bengal, no one has to give any excuse. So, they fired on innocent Hindu students just to show their power. Such killing of students in school premises has been unheard of in West Bengal.

Rajesh, Tapas and the villagers of Darivit ignited the spark of a language movement in this difficult situation at the cost of their lives. West Bengal has now got its own language movement. In the extremely hostile conditions in North Dinajpur and going against Islamic fundamentalists, Bengali Hindu students and villagers stood up against the Urdu aggression. Rajesh and Tapas gave their lives for teaching Bengali and science.

Darivit has given us an opportunity to present the real identity of Bengali language and of Bengalis. Someone does not become a Bengali just because his/her mother tongue is Bengali; he has to accept the legacy of 5,000 years of Indian culture as well.

That is why we need to understand today that Bengali speaking does not mean just Bengali. The Darivit incident may have the potential to trigger a state-wide movement to close madrasas and restrict Arabic education in those institutions. Darivit's protest has given gave birth to West Bengal's own language movement.

20 September is being observed as West Bengal Mother Language Day by different cultural groups and by the Bharatiya Janata Party, West Bengal.

Mohit Ray writes on social and environmental issues and authored a number of books on these subjects. He is a state committee member of BJP, West Bengal.
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