A Thumbnail Sketch of Historic Language Movement

One’s mother language is the initial language learned at home from early childhood. Almighty Allah has bestowed a mother tongue upon every individual. Mother tongue is a divine gift. It is an easy means to communicate our ideas, thoughts, feelings, emotions etc. with others. But our mother tongue, Bengali has a dismal past when the dominion of Pakistan laid an embargo on the use of this language officially. The Bengali loving people had to earn the privilege of speaking their mother tongue through shedding blood. This struggle for mother language is known as Language Movement or Bhasha Andolon. Pakistan and India were under British hegemony. With the genesis of the Two Nations Theory, these two states liberated from British colonial rule on 14th August, 1947. Pakistan and India, two new states emerged on the world map. Muslim majority areas fell under Pakistan and the Hindu majority areas under India. Post-British colonial rule, the present nations of Pakistan and Bangladesh had remained a single nation with about 2000 KM(kilometers) long distance between them. Unfortunately, this bond did not last long when the linguistic and cultural controversy rose between of these two far-flung wings. The majority people of eastern wing of Pakistan were Bengali speaking. Even though the majority of people in the eastern part spoke Bengali, the dominion was under the control of the western wing. In 1948, the then authoritarian ruler of western wing proclaimed that Urdu alone would be the state language of Pakistan and it would be used exclusively in schools and in the media. This declaration caused unrest and protests among the Bengali-speaking population of East Pakistan. The matter worsened and culminated in a huge protest on 21st February 1952. As the protests had intensified, the ruling authority enforced section 144 banning any sort of gathering. Defying the section 144 general masses and University students converged in the historic Amtala, close to Dhaka Medical College Hospital for demonstration. When the protestors attempted to enter the East Bengal Legislative Assembly building, the police opened fire on the demonstration to disperse the mob. Unfortunately four students embraced martyrdom in police firing. In the face of strong protestation, the East Bengal Legislative Assembly was bound to approve Bangla as one of the state languages of Pakistan. Since 1952, the 21st February has been observed every year to commemorate the martyrs of the Language Movement.

The sacrifice of the students on 21st February 1952 is such an epoch making event which will remain indelible by the global recognition of the day. On November 17, 1999, UNESCO declared February 21 as International Mother Language Day. The day was first observed on February 21, 2000. Since then International Mother Language Day is celebrated every year on 21st February and this day is known as Shaheed Dibash. Their supreme sacrifice of the heroes to save their mother language is an embodiment of our stimulation for sustaining dignity and prestige as a nation. Bangladesh is only state in the world which is named after its language. Bangla is the fifth most widely spoken language of about 280 million by international standards. Actually, the day holds a great significance for the whole nation as well as the whole world.

Md. Bazlul Karim,


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