SILCHAR, Dec 11: The decision of the Union Home Ministry against renaming Silchar Railway Station as Bhasa Shwahid Station has evoked strong reaction in Barak Valley. Sammilit Sanskritik Mancha (SSM), a conglomerate of various socio-cultural and literary bodies of this valley, has been agitating for changing the nomenclature of the Silchar Railway Station in recognition of the sacrifice of 11 martyrs, who laid down their lives for the cause of the Bengali language on May 19, 1961, which was ultimately recognized as the medium of instruction for this valley.
In order to commemorate the memory of these martyrs, the Mancha stated its demand for renaming the Silchar Railway Station since 2005. Many public meetings, rallies as well as mass convention were organized from time to time on the issue, besides addressing a series of memoranda to Delhi and Dispur till date. After receiving a favourable report from the official team sent by the then Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav to this valley, hope flickered for a positive move. Even after Mamata Benerjee took charge of the Railway Ministry, a delegation of the Mancha briefed her on the matter and sought her intervention and she assured the delegation of her all possible help.
Meanwhile, the Centre sent seven reminders to the State Government for its no objection certificate but Dispur took time to clear the file and the Union Home Ministry came out with the decision, conveying its objection on the ground that the martyrs died for a regional and not a national cause and this “does not fall within their guidelines” to rename the railway station.
Eminent journalist Paritosh Paul Choudhury, who was on the forefront of the language movement of 1961 as the secretary of Gana Sangram Parishad, decried the decision of the Union Home Ministry and said that at the Durgapur All India Congress convention held in September 1961, Congress stalwarts JL Nehru, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Morarji Desai and others expressed deep sorrow and observed a minute’s silence as a tribute to the martyrs. It was a sort of national homage paid to the martyrs and to describe the language movement as regional “is most despicable and an insult to the sentiments and feelings of 35 lakh people of this valley.”
Paul Choudhury also said: “The Home Ministry has no correct information of the language movement and its background.” He added that the language movement was in no way different from that of east Pakistan, now Bangladesh, in 1952 but the sacrifices of Rafique, Salam and Barkat got recognition at the international level and February 21 of that year was observed as “martyrs day.” Also, Bengali replaced Urdu as the national language of that country.
Litterateur and former professor of Bengali at Assam University Dr Subir Kar described the decision of the Home Ministry as most unfortunate and was also skeptical about the role of Dispur and wondered why the Centre did not examine the relevant legislation or guidelines before saying “no” after a long time to the proposition. Dr Kar favoured the renewed and intensified agitation involving all classes and masses.
On the other hand, writer, poet and journalist Atin Das reacted on the decision by saying “the decision was not unexpected as even after 48 years, the status of the martyrs has not yet been decided.” He was doubtful about the materialization of the demand raised by the Mancha. He also blamed the Bengali leadership for their failure to focus the language movement and the martyrdom on the national level. Those who laid down their lives fought for the democratic and constitutional rights of the minorities and it was in no way a regional movement.
Bhasha Sahid Station Demand Committee convenor Dr Rajiv Kar regretted the stand of the Union Home Ministry and the statement of P Chidambaram in Parliament and said: “it is really puzzling that his ministry should take four long years to reject the renaming of Silchar Railway Station. He also did not find any logic behind the helplessness expressed by Mamata Banerjee in this regard after the decision of the Home Ministry.” He said how could she rename metro stations in Kolkata after Uttam Kumar or Bidhan Chandra Roy who were no national heroes?
“Our movement will continue till the demand is fulfilled,” he pointed out. In order to chalk out future course of action, a citizens’ meet would be held at Gandhi Bhawan on Sunday. The people of Barak Valley would take a final decision, he added. THE SENTINEL