From Sakhawat Memorial School to Rokeya Hall: A Journey Towards Language as Self-Respect


  • Sarmistha Dutta Gupta, Kolkata, India


The paper traces the trajectory of Sakhawat Memorial School – founded in Calcutta by Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain in 1911 – with reference to questions of identity and language in undivided India. The secularist Rokeya prioritised her ethno-linguistic identity as against her pan-Islamist self in the running of her school at a time when respectable Muslims of Bengal were caught between choosing the “Islamic†Urdu and “Hindu†Bengali as their mother tongue. Did the pioneering efforts of Sakhawat Memorial School in making Bengali Muslim women learn to read and write in their mother tongue have anything to do with the coming together of all Bengalis and women’s contribution in upholding the honour and dignity of their mother tongue during the Language Movement of 1952 in erstwhile East Pakistan? In addressing this question, the paper seeks to recognise Rokeya and the Sakhawat Memorial School as precursors of the secular nationalist movement that saw the birth of a new nation in 1971.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biography

Sarmistha Dutta Gupta, Kolkata, India

Sarmistha Dutta Gupta is a Kolkata-based independent scholar, a literary translator and an activist of the women’s movement. She has written extensively both in English and in Bengali on gendered histories of politics and women’s writing from the subcontinent. Her publications include Identities and Histories, Women’s Writing and Politics in Bengal (2010) and Pather Ingit: Nirbachito Sambad-Samayikpatrey Bangali Meyer Samajbhavna (2007). She is also the founder-secretary of Ebong Alap, a voluntary organisation that explores innovative pedagogies in Bengali.  




How to Cite

Gupta, Kolkata, India, S. D. (2013). From Sakhawat Memorial School to Rokeya Hall: A Journey Towards Language as Self-Respect. Asiatic: IIUM Journal of English Language and Literature, 7(2), 22–38. Retrieved from



Articles on Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain