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Abul Barkat Memorial Museum: Out of many, one people

  • Published at 07:46 pm February 20th, 2019
mosiac mural of Abul Barkat
A mosiac mural of Abul Barkat at the memorial Mehedi Hasan/Dhaka Tribune

In February 1952, when the language movement was heating up, the West Pakistan government clamped down with Section 144 of the criminal procedure code, which pertains to unlawful assembly and was declared in Dhaka city in order to contain the student movement demanding Bangla as the national language

Salam, Barkat, Rafiq, Jabbar, and Shafique are names synonymous with February 21. The names of these brave young men are etched in the struggle for Bangladesh’s independence.  

In February 1952, when the language movement was heating up, the West Pakistan government clamped down with Section 144 of the criminal procedure code, which pertains to unlawful assembly and was declared in Dhaka city in order to contain the student movement demanding Bangla as the national language.

On February 21, 1952, when the procession from Dhaka University began, disregarding the curfew set by the government, Pakistani policemen opened fire on students and agitators in front of Dhaka Medical College.

Abul Barkat had just graduated in political science a year before he decided to join that fateful procession. When the police fired on the gathering, Barkat was seriously injured. He was immediately carried to the emergency ward of the Dhaka Medical College Hospital where he died at about 8PM. He was laid to rest in Azimpur graveyard. 

His mother, Hasina Begum, inaugurated the Shaheed Minar in 1963.

In recognition of his sacrifice, Abul Barkat was awarded the Ekushey Padak (posthumously) in 2000 and a museum was opened in Dhaka University on March 25, 2012, in his honour. 

The Abul Barkat Memorial Museum is dedicated to all the language martyrs and the ground floor of the two-storey memorial complex is an open space showcasing photographs and documents ranging from 1947 to 1952: a complete, contextual history of the Language Movement. 

Right at the entrance is a photograph of language martyr Abul Barkat, framed on a mosaic wall with a short biography of the man. 

Photographs, painstakingly collected over the years, adorn much of the wall space. They tell the story of the Language Movement in a way that transports the viewer back to the days of the martyrs as they fought heart and soul for the right to speak in their mother tongue. 

The museum’s Administrative Officer, Gulam Mustafa, said: “We provide tours for school students who come in groups for field trips, but otherwise we have docents to help with any questions visitors may have.”  

The memorial complex, located at the Polashi intersection, is free and open to all. 

Today the museum authority will organize an art and painting completion in the morning.  Winners of the competition will be awarded and family members of language martyr Abul Barakat will also be present at the ceremony.  

There will be a discussion on the language movement in the afternoon.

“There will also be 30 interviews of language movement rebels and documentaries will be screened on this special occasion,” he added. 

A series of pictures depict the March 11, 1948, student procession, carrying placards, marching toward the secretariat as a barricade of armed policemen forms to meet them. Other photos show male and female students holding a rally in front of Dhaka Medical College and Hospital on February 4, 1952, a meeting held at the historic Amtala site beside the Department of Social Sciences at Dhaka University as students prepare to break the unlawful assembly and curfew directives of Section 144 on February 21, 1952.; There is a copy of The Azad’s special February 22, 1952, edition. 

To the right of the entrance are photographs of Abul Barkat and his family. 

Photocopies of his university certificate and personal letters, a 1961 photograph of Barkat’s mother, Hasina Begum, inaugurating the Shaheed Minar, three tea cups used by Barkat, and an Ekushey Padak make up the display of Barkat’s personal items. 

A digital information booth set beside the stairs is the final stop before visitors head to the top floor, balcony-like library, with 450 books on the Language Movement and the Liberation War. A reading space invites visitors to read the available books and publications. 

Reading, visitors can look down into the main hall space and take in visual evidence of the aftermath: heartrending pictures of the nation in mourning as well as the uplifting declaration by Unesco on November 17, 1999, marking February 21 as International Mother Language Day. 

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