Emotion is associated with Shaheed Minar so much so that it has a very special place in the hearts of every individual who speaks in Bangla. Therefore, as a symbol of deep respects to the Language Movement martyrs, Bangalees construct the iconic monument wherever they reside. The latest one will be inaugurated in California of the USA today.
What about the first Shaheed Minar of the country? According to several Language Movement researchers, the first Shaheed Minar was built in front of the gate of Rajshahi College Muslim Hostel on the night of February 21, 1952 only to be demolished by police and Muslim League activists the following day. However, the momentous attempt is yet to get any recognition from the state.
The Daily Sun has talked to Abul Hossain, a Language Movement hero who was involved in the construction of the country’s firs Shaheed Minar in the northern district.
He said back then the biggest educational institutions of East Bengal were Dhaka University and Rajshahi College. The first incident of bloodshed and first mass rally demanding Bangla as a state language took place in Rajshahi in 1948 and 1952 respectively. Therefore, by the time, the Language Movement was already at its peak in Rajshahi.
Ataur Rahman and Birendranath Sarker led the movement in the initial years. Later, it took a more organised shape under the leadership of SMA Gaffar, Ghulam Arieff Tipoo, Mohsin Pramanik and Habibur Rahman Habib.
When the news of firing on the agitated students in Dhaka travelled to Rajshahi in the evening of February 21, local students gathered in front of the new hostel of Rajshahi College and started enchanting various slogans.
During that time, Abul Hossain was an intermediate student of Rajshahi College. He joined the movement as a companion of Ghulam Arieff Tipoo, who is now the chief prosecutor of International Crimes Tribunal.
Abul Hossain said they, the students of different educational institutions of Rajshahi, began constructing the Shaheed Minar at 9:30pm and finished it by three and half an hours.
“Bricks and wood had been there for the construction of the new hostel building. We used those along with muddy soil. Upon completion of the work, we wrote on the clay ‘Martyr’s Monument’,” he said.
According to him, police and Muslim League activists demolished the structure the following day as students were out of campus to observe hartal.
“Later, we came to know that it was the first Shaheed Minar of the country,” the Language Movement veteran said, adding that they built a Shaheed Minar in Bhubon Mohan Park the following year but could not construct one in Rajshahi College due to continuous patrol of police.
Language Movement hero and researcher Ahmed Rafiq also noted that this was the first attempt of constructing the country’s first Shaheed Minar. He said it was not in traditional Shaheed Minar’s shape but it was the first structure to keep language martyrs’ memories alive.
“Some of my friends hesitate to recognise this effort as it was a very small monument made of mud and some bricks. But its size couldn’t make it insignificant,” he said.
Ahmed Rafiq said they built the Shaheed Minar in Dhaka on the night of February 23. Their Shaheed Minar was 10.5 feet in height and six feet in width but Rajshahi’s one was the first of its kind in the country.
“When I researched thoroughly later, I found that another martyr’s monument was constructed in Narail in the early hours of February 22, 1952. We need to recognise all these first attempts to present true history to our new generation,” the eminent scholar said.