Bangabandhu played a very vital role in the language movement. His struggle for the Bengali language started in 1948, as a young leader Bangabandhu physically took part in various protests demanding Bangla as the state language of Pakistan. During the language movement, from 1948 to 1952 Bangabandhu played one of the key roles as a young activist.
Bangladesh is the only country in the world whose people have had to shed blood for the right to speak their language. We are the brave nation that has defeated a well-trained, well-equipped Pakistan army. The Pakistani ruling class continued to exploit the people of East Bengal culturally, politically and economically. Urdu, the language of only 8% of Pakistanis was declared the state language of Pakistan whereas Bengali, the language of more than 56% of the population was neglected. The people of East Bengal strongly protested against this decision.
Bangabandhu was the first Bangalee who made history by delivering the first Bangla speech, for the first time in its history, at the 29th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on September 25, 1974. The speech of Bangabandhu is a historic one, especially for two reasons.
Firstly, it was delivered in Bengali and secondly, it ushered in fresh ideas and policies to build a brave new world free of economic inequalities, social injustice, military aggression and threats of nuclear war. In his remarkable speech, he said, “Only those countries who have earned freedom after long years of struggles and sacrifices have strong will and strength of mind, Remember President, my Bengalis can endure sufferings but will not die. In the challenge to survive, the will of my people is my greatest strength.”
In his speech, he said, “We will not move towards a world filled with hunger, poverty, unemployment, fear of starvation, fear of being destroyed by nuclear war, we will look to a world where humanity is capable of great success in the era of astounding advances in science and technology. This future will be free from the threat of nuclear war. By the equitable distribution of all the resources and technical knowledge of the world, the door to such welfare will be opened where every person will have the minimum guarantee of a happy and respectable life.”
The language movement of 1952 is an unforgettable chapter in the history of 24 years of movement and struggle of Bengalis for independence. Such examples of establishing the national status of a mother tongue through bloodbath struggle are rare in the world. Not only in the history of Bangladesh, but the recognition of 21st February as ‘International Mother Language Day by UNESCO and the observance of the day with due dignity in 193 member countries of the United Nations since 2000 also made the language movement a glorious chapter in world history.
In this age of modern technology, the Bengali language should also be the language of modern technology. Otherwise, Bangladesh will fall behind in the era of the progress of world civilization. The Bengali language has to move forward. Only the 21st of February can give that impetus to the Bengali language to move forward.
To preserve the language, linguists, as well as the state and technologists, must be active. The country must move forward using technology in its mother tongue. Our positive side is that the technology-minded government is in power. Some government initiatives based on expert knowledge should be taken to make Bengali language education and practice and language sustainable using technology.
We have to work to increase the use of the Bengali language in the digital world. The use of software and tools under the Bengali language Enrichment Project of the Department of Information and Communication Technology will create opportunities for the globalization of the Bengali language in the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Reading and translating into Bengali will be easier and better on digital devices.
Countries that are at the forefront of IT innovation and application are all using their mother tongue in technology. China can be a great example for us. The Chinese characters are very complex, but they don’t stop there. Thanks to technology, the number of Internet users in China has long surpassed 500 million. However, despite the practice of the Bengali language in technology in our country, there is a lack of good content in Bengali at the moment.
Therefore, keeping in mind the country’s more than 16 crore mobile phones, more than 13 crore internet users and more than 5 crore social media users, good content and mobile applications will be created in the mother tongue. And doing so will not only ensure an increase in economic activities and people-to-people contacts, acquisition of knowledge and access to information and services but also help to perpetuate the mother tongue among Bengalis.
We celebrate the 21st of February with a passion for the Bengali language. But our year-round activities do not reflect that emotion. I could have made this day special by introducing the Bengali language to all levels of state and society. According to Article 3 of the first part of the constitution, Bengali will be the state language of the republic.
According to him, the ‘Bengali language Introduction Act, 1986’ has been introduced. According to Section 3 (1) of this Act, ‘after the introduction of this Act, documents and correspondence, quizzes and other legal functions in all areas of Bangladesh, including government offices, courts, semi-government, autonomous bodies, except communication with foreign countries.
Of course, it has to be written in Bengali. “Since the enactment of this law, all the laws of the National Assembly have been enacted in Bengali. According to this law, there are instructions to write in Bengali all over Bangladesh. But in reality, it is not happening. The Bengali language is almost neglected in offices, courts, education, business and commerce.
Bengali is a rich, melodious and simple language. One can be proud of the abundance of words in the Bengali language to express the emotions and thoughts of the mind. Such incidents of self-sacrifice for a mother tongue are rare in the history of the world. With so much self-sacrifice and struggle, the language that has been given the right to speak nationally, we greatly despise.
The social media trolls or some entertaining videos on YouTube contain a mixture of perverted words as well as obscene, dirty and vulgar words and insults. Sad but true, many are interested in these ugly trolls or videos. In some cases, its popularity is enviable. The use of obscene words along with impure distorted Bengali spelling in writing status on social media, especially Facebook, is going on in a horrible form.
Many are consciously using obscene and vulgar words to entertain their friends. The situation is such that the expression of their feelings is not complete without obscene words!The use of the Bengali language through digital should be increased. Everything that needs to be done for him has to be done. We have to work consciously for the overall national development.
We have to launch a propaganda movement to introduce Bengali to all levels of the judiciary. Those who are inside the judiciary can play a leading role in this. Everyone can play the role of collaborator. The use of Bengali in higher education and research should be kept increasing. It is necessary to create a new consciousness in favor of Bangladesh and the Bengali language among the students and teachers in schools, colleges, and universities.
At the time of Bangabandhu, the population of the country was seven and a half crores. At present about 16 crores. At that time the literacy rate was 20 percent. At present, it stands at 63 percent. The biggest achievement is women’s education. At the higher secondary level, it is now more than 50 percent.
The country has entered the digital age. It is important to take initiative to ensure the application of Bangla words in the naming of products, services, buildings, institutions, or anything else at the public-private and individual levels. It is seen that many people do not speak pure Bengali or use many foreign words in one-minute words, which negatively affects people.
The Ministry of Education needs to consider teaching English as well as Bengali in schools with equal importance. At the same time, they have to be introduced to the unconventional Bengali words from the children’s class. The stories that are in the textbook for them can be done through the presence of such words. Not only that; They need to be made more accessible to the Bengali language, tradition and history so that they do not become indifferent to the Bengali language in their personal and professional lives.
Along with the theoretical examination in the Bengali language, the practical examination should be arranged in every class in the school. With this, the attendance of students in schools on national days including Ekushey February and participation in competitions and discussions on language and our history in the days may be made compulsory.
Hiren Pandit is a researcher & columnist