Principal Abul Kashem, the person who first demanded the recognition of Bangla as the state language, played an instrumental role in taking the historic language movement forward towards realising the dreams of millions of Bangla speaking people.
A professor in the Physics Department of Dhaka University, Abul Kashem was also an eminent author and educationalist.
On 1 September 1947, only 18 days after the partition, he founded the Tamaddun Majlish, a literary and cultural organisation that sowed the seed of the Language Movement.
A declaration titled "Pakistan's state language: Bangla or Urdu", which was published under the editorship of Abul Kashem was the first to demand Bangla to be made the state language.
Abul Kashemrealised during the early days of partition that a confrontation with Pakistan's central government over the issue of state language was inevitable.
OliAhad, in his book "JatiyoRajniti: 1945-75" wrote, "Abul Kashem and NurulHaqueBhuiyan, professors of the Physics and Chemistry departments of the Dhaka University, formed the Pakistan Tamaddun Majlish on 1 September 1947 in an attempt to transform the simmering dissent among masses into an organised discipline. The newly formed Tamaddun Majlish laid the foundation of the language movement."
In the book Ami JokhonSangbadikChilam, SanaullahNuri wrote, "On 15 September 1948, Tamaddun Majlish published the piece titled "Pakistan's state language: Bangla or Urdu". In the afternoon of the same day, a seminar, under the leadership of Prof Abul Kashem, was organised at the initiative of Tamaddun Majlish at Nupur Villa, a dormitory of the Government Intermediate College. The main objective of the seminar was to determine the plan of action for the language movement. Dr Muhammad Shahidullah presided over the seminar that was attended by KaziMotahar Hossain, Principal Ibrahim Khan, Poet Jasim Uddin, Professor KaziAkram Hossain, Professor ShamsulHaque and Shahed Ali among others."
Professor Abul Kashem also spread the movement in his native city of Chattogram. The pamphlet, edited by him, was distributed among intellectuals to garner their support.
His pamphlet was very influential in Chattogram as well as in Dhaka. MahbubulAlam Chowdhury, another pioneer of the language movement, joined the movement through Professor Abul Kashem.
Recalling that memory, MahbubulAlam Chowdhury wrote in his book "JatioMukhosree", "Principal Abul Kashem, an accomplished son of Chattogram, was a friend of my younger maternal uncle LA Chowdhury. I have known him since my childhood. When the language movement started, he gave me a letter to organise a language movement in Chattogram. Based on this letter, we met in a room of the college hostel with Farmanullah Khan, MahfuzulHaque and Tareq Islam of Tamaddun Majlish, Chattogram."
Prof Abul Kashem presided over the first protest meeting organised by the RashtrabhashaSangramParishad on the campus of Dhaka University on 6 December 1948. He had an active role in the nationwide strike demanding Bangla as the state language on 11 March 1948. As a result of this strike, the Action Committee was compelled to sign an agreement with the then provincial government on 15 March 1947, promising to make Bangla one of the state languages of Pakistan.
In September 1947, Professor Abul Kashem took the initiative to form public opinion in favour of Bangla as the state language and to propagate the aims and objectives of the Majlish.
Under his leadership, the campaign was carried out in the halls of Dhaka University and in the big educational institutions of Dhaka and the formation of Majlish branches outside the capital began in earnest.
Later, the leaders of Tamaddun Majlish, including Abul Kashem, realised that Pakistan was no longer governed by the state ideology that was spoken of at the time of its establishment. In 1952, Abul Kashem formed a new political party called Khilafat-e-Rabbani Party. In 1954, he was elected a member of the East Bengal Legislative Assembly from the Patia-Boalkhali constituency of Chattogram as a candidate of the Jukto Front. On 30 September 1956, he proposed in the Legislative Assembly to introduce Bangla as the medium of teaching at all levels of education.
Abul Kashem was the founder of the Bengali weekly Sainik. The magazine was first published in Dhaka on 14 November 1948 under his editorship. As the mouthpiece of the Tamaddun Majlish, the paper was active in propagating the ideals and goals of the language movement. The magazine was in operation till 1961.
In 1962 Professor Abul Kashem established Bangla College intending to institutionalise the core spirit of the language movement. During his long tenure as the principal of the college, he did not receive any remuneration from the college for the most part. It was during this time that he became known as Principal Abul Kashem.
Professor Abul Kashem has authored 40 books and was involved with more than 50 social and cultural organisations including the Bangla Academy and the Islamic Foundation.
In recognition of his contributions, Professor Abul Kashem received many national and social awards including the EkusheyPadak in 1987, the JatioSombordhonaShornopadak in 1989 and the Independence Day Award (posthumous) in 1993.
Abul Kashem was born to loving parents SahehaKhatun and Matiur Rahman on 28 June 1920 at the Sebandi village of the Patiyaupazila. He passed away on 11 March 1991 in the capital.
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