Bangla Language Movement

21 February 1952

Tina S
Tina S
Feb 20, 2010
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The nation to immortalize 21st February has termed this day as ‘Omor Ekushay’ (immortal 21st) and commemorates its historical significance by observing it with due solemnity paying tribute and homage to the sons of soil for their heroic sacrifice to uphold the dignity of mother tongue.

Politically conscious and culturally advanced Bangalees of East Bangla were instrumental in the creation of the British pampered Islamic state Pakistan. Although the Lahore Proposal (proposed by a Bangalee, Sher-e-Bangla AK Fazlul Huq) originally proposed a confederation of Muslim majority states for Pakistan, the proposal was never unearthed since the partition (1947).

Since the birth of Pakistan, the rulers of Pakistan motioned to colonize the Bangalees (and the Baluch, the Pathans, the Pustus) culturally, economically, ideologically (dominant ideology has always been Islam), linguistically and politically.

In 1948, the year after the partition Jinnah, the self-proclaimed champion of Islam (which constitutes only the addition of an Islamic hat on his black suit, not the abandonment of his favorite drink, scotch and favorite breakfast, bacon) and the founder of so-called Islamic state Pakistan, declared that “Urdu and Urdu only, will be the state language of Pakistan”.

The people (especially the university students) of Bangladesh protested against Jinnah’s presumptuous statement. Among the politicians only Dhirendra Nath Datta stood against Jinnah’s statement in the parliament and proposed Bangla (the language of the majority) as the state language of Pakistan. But like the Lahore proposal Datta’s state language bill was shoved under the carpet.

January 1952:

The Basic Principles Committee of the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan announces its recommendations that Urdu should be the only state language. It sparks off a wide wave of resentment in East Bengal where the people spoke Bangla.

Politicians and students join their forces for a broader movement under the leadership of Maulana Bhashani of Awami League.

As demonstrations and unrests seem to get out of control, the Government cracks down by imposing a curfew in Dhaka; a number of demonstrators are killed in front of the Dhaka Medical College over a period of one week (February 21-27, 1952).

21 February:
The Language Martyrs Day:

A general strike is observed.
Noon - A meeting is held in the campus of Dhaka University. Students decide to defy the official ban imposed by Nurul Amin's administration and processions are taken out to stage a demonstration in front of the Provincial Assembly. Police starts lobbing tear gas shells to the students. Students retaliate by batting bricks. The ensuing riot spreads to the nearby campuses of the Medical and Engineering colleges.

4 p.m. The police opens fire in front of the Medical College hostel. Five persons - Mohammad Salauddin, Abdul Jabbar, Abul Barkat, Rafiquddin Ahmed and Abdus Salam - are killed, the first three are students of Dhaka University.

"The news of the killing spread like wildfire throughout the city and people rushed in thousands towards the Medical College premises." -- Talukder Maniruzzaman

Inside the assembly, six opposition members press for the adjournment of the House and demand an inquiry into the incidents. But Chief Minister Nurul Amin urges the House to proceed with the planned agenda for the day. At this point all the opposition members of the Assembly walk out in protest.

The bodies of the dead and the injured were taken to the Dhaka medical hospital. Doctors and nurses rushed into the emergency department to save their lives. One of the bodies was unidentifiable because the head was blown away. Later it was identified as martyr Barkat’s dead body. Mourning became the East Bangla.

Later that evening the dead bodies were taken to the morgue.

As the police snatched few unidentified dead bodies from the teargas afflicted public earlier that afternoon, the students, fearing that the police might try to do it again, guarded the morgue gate. But in the dead of the night, a group of armed commando troops, escorted by the police, stormed the morgue gate and forcibly took the dead bodies at the gun point. But a few die-hard students followed the military jeeps on foot and watched them dumping the dead bodies in the nearby Ajimpur cemetery. As soon as the army left the cemetery, the students came out of their hidings and marked the spots where the martyrs were dumped. The following morning thousands of people went to the cemetery and paid their tributes to the martyrs of Bangla language movement.

A makeshift memorial
is dedicated to these martyrs at the spot of killings: the Shaheed Minar becomes an icon of the Bengalees’ pride in their culture and history, and of their resistance against imposition of all things foreign. The Shaheed Minar also becomes a place where many future movements for the basic rights of the Bangalees are born.

Bangla was recognised as the second official language of Pakistan on 29 February 1956, and article 214(1) of the constitution of Pakistan was reworded to “The state language of Pakistan shall be Urdu and Bengali.”

Ekushey February played an important role in making Bengalis aware of their cultural and national heritage and ultimately led to the creation of Bangladesh in 1971. Since 2000, 21 February is also being observed as International Mother Language Day in tribute to those who sacrificed their lives for their mother tongue. Despite all the mean politics about the language movement and its legacy, Ekushay February will forever inspire the Bangalees to defend and love their sweet mother tongue- Bangla.


Author's note: Ref:
Keywords: Bangla Language Movement,21 February,University,Dhaka,1952,Awami League,Maulana Bhashani,International Language Day,Martyrs Day,East Bangla,Barket,Dhaka Medical,Bangla,Pakistan,Ekushey,1971.

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