“How can I let them snatch the languange you taught me,Mother?”,the last thing Abdus Salam said before marching down the road.That day,hundreds of university students left home and never returned alive.
They sacrificed their lives to to establish their mother tongue.After partition of India in 1947, the question what would be the state language of Pakistan was raised. Scholars and leaders believed that Urdu, only spoken by 47%, should be the state language because it had gained a reputation as the cultural symbol of sub-continental Muslims.
However, eastern Pakistanis regarded Urdu as the language of the elite, not the language of the people in the eastern province – who made up 56% of Pakistan’s population – where Bangla was the mother tongue.Pakistan’s “founding father” Muhammad Ali Jinnah and, later, Khwaja Nazimuddin declared Urdu as the official state language. At the same time a proposal was arisen to write Bangla in Urdu alphabets. At that time protest erupted throughout the eastern wing of Pakistan. Mass discontent and political activities continued for several years and it reached climax on the 21st of February 1952.In the morning, the students at the University of Dhaka and other activists broke the law and organized a protest, but little did these students know that blood would be spilt that day. With the dream of establishing justice ,they defied the law on the University of Dhaka grounds.After a while, armed police surrounded the campus.
At noon, the college students attempted to break the police line. For a warning, police fired tear gas shells at the students. Half the students started running into the Dhaka Medical College, and the other half continued towards the police lines. When the vice-chancellor of the university asked the policemen to disperse so that the students could continue their peaceful protests, his pleas were ignored.The police arrested several students who were trying to sneak away from the crowd.
The students became enraged over this information, and they gathered around the East Bengal Legislative Assembly. Suddenly a group of students started trying to storm the building. The police opened fire instantly, killing Abdus Salam, Rafiq Uddin Ahmed, Abul Barkat, and Abbul Jabbar.The deaths of these young college students flashed across all the news channels. People were shocked, mournful, and specially angry at the killings of such youthful protestors, who were only standing up for their ideals.
Those were the students of the finest University in the state. So, When the news of this massacre spread, the entire Dhaka city went into a state of mourning and shut down. Everything was shut down immediately as a form of protest. The Bangladeshi Party, Awami League, stood up next to them. ‘Remember the boys’ they shouted in their slogans and rallies, and people listened.The next day thousands of men and women from the university, Medical College and Engineering College areas to offer prayers for the victims of the police firing. After prayers, when they go for a procession, the police again attacked the procession and opened fire on the participants. Police also lit fire to a newspaper office that was supporting this movement.
A reporter who had fallen asleep in office was burned alive.By that time,it was enough reasons for the entire state to be blind with rage.Bowing to the pressure, the Chief Minister Nurul Amin moves a motion recommending to the Constituent Assembly that Bengali should be one of the state language of Pakistan. The Bengali Language Movement (known as Basha Andolon) cemented the assertion of Bengali nationalism and turned out to be the historical turning point for the nation’s struggle towards independence. The East Pakistan province finally established its identity as Bangladesh, an independent state, as the outcome of a nine month long bloody war in 1971.
People didn’t forget their sacrifice and so On the morning of 21st February every year, the people of Bangladesh go the Shaheed Minar (Martyrs’ Monument on bare feet and give flowers to show respect to the language martyrs. This movement not only protected mother tongue from humiliation, It also brought people from every religion together. Everyone forgot about religious differences and stood their ground. “For the first time a number of Muslim members voted in favor of the amendments moved by the opposition, which so far had consisted of the Hindu Congress members only. The split in the Muslim League became formalized when some members demanded a separate bloc from the Speaker; the Awami (Muslim) League had attained the status of an opposition parliamentary party.
” (– Hasan Zaheer). All these happened a long time before I was even born.I grew up hearing stories of those brave souls from my grandparents.Unlike other kids I didn’t have superman dolls or spiderman backpacks.I would imagine them as my heroes.They were not heroes with caps.
They were just ordinary humans who never bowed to injustice and loved their language.Their sacriice was recognized by UNESCO declared 21 February International Mother Language Day.The year was 1999,which was also the year I was born.That made this event even more special for me.Since the day I could think,I knew that Bengali is not an ordinary language.
The language that can make people go crazy for it,it can’t be just another language.It was untill I moved to The United States.The land I am from,Bangladesh, is sure a small and new country.It didn’t bother me when no one knew where it is.It bothered me when no one understood what Bengali language is.
Even my history teacher didn’t know about International Mother Language Day, let alone the reason behind it.Maybe because it’s in my blood and I can’t help it.So, I decided to find if Bengali is really an ordinary languange and the studnents made a mistake by sacrificing their lives for it.There are 250 million people speak Bengali as a first language.
That’s more than French and German put together. Including people who learned it as a second language, Bengali has approximately 261 million total speakers.Even though Bengali is a language that doesn’t get much attention in the United States, there are more than 250,000 bengali speakers living here.