Introduction of Bangladesh:

I think most of you have heard about “Bangladesh”, though I am giving a little introduction of the country. Bangladesh is a small country in South Asia of about 130,170 square kilometer according to a World Bank report released in 2011. As per Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, the total land area is 147,570 square kilometers. It is a densely populated country and as per the latest census report of July 2011 published by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, the total population of the country is 142.3 million (unadjusted). After adjustment the population would be about 150 million. “Bengali” is the mother tongue of Bangladesh. You would be surprise to hear that Bangladesh is the only country in the world had to sacrifice blood to make “Bengali” as mother tongue in 1952. Before the liberation war in 1971, Bangladesh was a part of Pakistan known as East Pakistan before 1971.

Background of Language Movement:

Since start of Pakistan in 1947, the constitution was contentious because there were varied differences in political, economical and ideological issues directed to conflicting condition between East and West Pakistan. The most significant issue was the decision of the state language which is one of the basic principles of the constitution. The non-Bengali leaders of West Pakistan declared that “URDU” was to be the National Language of both East and West Pakistan in 1947.

The Bengali leaders and Bangladeshi people (former East Pakistan) did not accept the decision. Meanwhile, it was decided that Bengali would be put an end to from all government records and documents. Bangladeshi people principally the students were against the decision as they argued that the decision did not adhere to democracy since Bengali was the mother tongue of 56% of the total population in entire Pakistan. Eventually they strongly stated to declare Bengali as the mother tongue along with URDU.

In 1951 the problem was even more severe and in January 1952 the former Prime Minister of Pakistan Mr. Khwaja Nazimuddin again declared that “Urdu will be the state language of Pakistan.”

Language Movement Proceeds:

Based on the Prime Minister’s statement, both politicians and students collaborated on 30 January 1952 at the Library of Dhaka Bar Council and an “All Party State Language Committee” was formed. The 21 February 1952 was determined for budget session of East Pakistan and the day was selected to be observed as the State Language Day by the committee. The committee declared a whole day strike for accepting Bengali as mother tongue along with URDU as well as conducting meeting and processions.

Suddenly on 20 February 1952 in the evening the government imposed section 144 thereby prohibited all meetings, processions and mass gathering for the very next day. That evening members of “All party State Language Committee” met at the office for an emergency meeting. The committee decided not to violate Section 144 and it was further decided that Shamsul Huq, one of the members of the committee would go to Dhaka University to consult the matter with the student leaders and induce them to restrain from breaking section 144. However, the students of Dhaka University, Dhaka Medical College and Engineering College did not agree with that decision. They were absolutely ready for meetings and processions rather giving up knowing the deadly result of such violation.

Ready to Sacrifice Lives for Right Establishment:

On 20 February 1952 night some of the students leaders were notified that a meeting would be held at Fazlul Haq Hall of Dhaka University where 11 student leaders were present. In the meeting they decided to violet section 144 even if it meant at the cost of their lives. They planned for a rally and all the students were notified to come at campus premises within 9:30 to 10:30 A.M. Students of other institutions started arriving at Dhaka University campus and protested with slogans such as “We want Bangla as National language”... “We will disobey Section 144.” The leaders were astonished by the mood of the students and former student leader Mr. Abdus Samad took a strategic move proposing a rally of “10 persons” on the street thereby violating section 144 without creating mass violation. The leaders permitted the decision. As soon as the rally of 10 persons proceeded, they were arrested deliberately. A total of five groups of “10 persons” rally came out on the streets one after another including one female group and all of them were arrested deliberately. The streets were swamped with countless students protesting for the establishment of their mother tongue. 

Restricting Ministers from reaching the Parliament:

Students were also aware of that the budget was scheduled to be start on 3:00 P.M. and they decided to restrict the Ministers from reaching the Parliament building. So they broke the wall between Arts Faculty and Medical College Hospital for creating a better communication route as well as they can protest against police.

Breath Taking Moment:

Thousands of students gathered to protest and restrict Ministers from entering the budget session. On the other hand more armed police were brought to protect and make way for Ministers and the situation worsened and went beyond control of the police. At that moment, a group of police hiding one end of the street came out and started firing without taking any such instruction. Both police and parliamentary forces attacked on the weaponless innocent students.

Consequently several students died, hundreds were wounded and thousands were arrested. But the fearless students did not stop the language movement. The total number arrested students increased to the extent that the Dhaka Central Jail’s capacity was filled and the rest of the prisoners were taken to a jungle and left over there. 

The death news of the students spread swiftly all over the country and a full strike started at 3 P.M. and in the evening curfew was announced. The military started rounding and a High Court Staff and a Law student namely Shafiur Rahman of Dhaka University were shot dead by the military. The government lost control over the country’s operation. Dhaka’s government administration was ruled according to the decisions of the political leaders from Shahidullah Hall of Dhaka University.

Declaration from the UNESCO:

Language is the only primary media to express one’s opinion. So Bangladeshi people especially students fought to prove their basic rights on 21 February 1952. A lot of students died namely Rafiq, Barkat, Jabbar, Hamidur Rahman and many others. Therefore Bangladeshi people had to exchange lives to prove Bengali as mother tongue. The UNESCO declared 21 February as the International Mother Language Day. The day is observed as International Mother Language Day every year since 21 February 2000 to promote linguistic and artistic diversity and multilingualism.