The Spirit of Language Movement and Independence

Hiren Pandit: The United Nations Educational, Scientific Cultural and Organization (UNESCO) has declared February 21 February as ‘International Mother Language Day’. This recognition is an honor for us. To preserve the dignity of such recognition, we need to pay attention again to the preservation of the languages spoken by the small ethnic groups of our country. They should ensure that their children receive education in their mother tongue and at the same time join the mainstream of development. As the language movement has made us proud, it has also made us responsible for certain tasks, which cannot be avoided. If we cannot advance in education, and culture and develop human resources then we cannot glorify our language and country. We can’t move the country forward. In this case, steps should be taken to eliminate discrimination to ensure equality of opportunity. Which is very important.
Along with working for economic liberation in this country created as a result of the language movement, political and cultural development must be ensured. During the Pakistan era, we rejected the cultural divide and nurtured the democratic spirit, which should not be avoided. We should move forward on the path of unity, not division. Progress should be practiced. In the changing global scenario, it is difficult for each country to move forward among these backward elements separately. There is no option to move forward in this stream. Non-communal spirit and democratic culture, opportunism and compromise cannot be tolerated on the Bengali question.
The nation had to set out twice, mainly to establish the Bengali language, the mother tongue of the Bengali nation, as one of the state languages of Pakistan. The first time was in 1948 and the second time was in 1952. After the birth of Pakistan, the ruler started a heinous conspiracy to reduce the mother tongue of Bengalis to third-class status. Bengali is not the language of Muslims-it is an anti-Islamic language. This was made clear at the 1946 session of the Pakistan National Assembly in Karachi. Pakistan is a new state, so Shaheed Dhirendra Nath Dutta, along with many others from East Bengal, participated in the session convened to set some new laws, and some new directions. He raised the first demand in Parliament that Bengali, the mother tongue of the majority of Pakistanis, should be recognized as one of the state languages of Pakistan.
With this demand, Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan became furious. Khwaja Nazimuddin and others said that Bengali could never be the state language of Pakistan. Because Bengali is the language of India, the language of Hindus, the anti-Islamic language. Those who make this claim are enemies of Pakistan, brokers of India. Dhirendra Nath Dutta was not a man to give up. He left the session and returned to East Bengal as soon as possible. When the news of that session of the Pakistan National Assembly was published on local and foreign radio, the leftist youths of Dhaka University gave a huge reception to Dhirendra Nath Dutta. From that very moment, it can be said that the process of retreat of communalism. A new trend of student unity began to develop – it was decided that there should be a movement to demand recognition of Bengali as one of the state languages of Pakistan; The day of the movement was fixed as March 11, 1947. Rashtrabhasha Sangram Parishad is an organization formed to conduct the language movement continuously.
The language movement was inaugurated on March 11 by holding processions and demonstrations in violation of section 144. Mass arrests were made. Some were released shortly after; some were detained for years. March 11, 1948, was celebrated as Flag Day. During this period, at the Curzon Hall of Dhaka University, a student leader protested with Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s statement ‘Urdu and Urdu Allow Shall be the State Language of Pakistan’. 1952 came after many more such incidents. Dhaka University Rashtrabhasha Sangram Parishad has already been formed under the leadership of Abdul Matin. The All-Party State Language Struggle Council was formed. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was imprisoned during the language movement in 1948 and 1952.
The meeting of the All-Party State Language Struggle Council discussed what would happen if section 144 was issued on February 21. Some of the representatives of the two parties said that it would not be right to break section 144 if there is an election ahead of the meeting. There was a strong reaction to this statement. After extensive discussions, it was decided that section 144 would be broken or not in the student meeting convened on 21st February at the university premises. It was decided to accept the support of ordinary students.
On 21 February 1952, a few brave Bengali youths laid down their lives to protect the dignity of their mother tongue. With that tragic event taking place on the streets of Dhaka, the seed of our nationhood was sown, which eventually sprouted and gave us the strength and fortitude to press for autonomy and eventually freedom from exploitation of the Pakistani regime.
They tried to deny our right to speak, think and write in our mother tongue when they most unjustly declared that Urdu would be the only official language of the state of Pakistan. This declaration from the ruling quarters was a blatant denial of the right of the Bengalis who formed the majority of the population of Pakistan.
When the brave sons of this land most unselfishly embraced martyrdom to counter the designs of the Pakistani rulers, this step was written into history as the courageous act of a people who fought to uphold the dignity of their national pride. For the Bengalis, as the years passed by, the yearning to free themselves from the shackles of exploitation gained momentum as the world witnessed the political movements of the sixties ushering in the six-point charter of the Awami League, the 11-point demands of the students, the mass movement of 1969, and ultimately the Liberation War of 1971 that gave birth to Bangladesh.
Bangladesh is the only country in the world that had to spill its blood for the right to speak its language. We are the only brave ones to have faced a trained, well-equipped army and defeated them. By 1969 Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib ur Rahman raised the issue of full regional autonomy for East Pakistan. The election of 1970 saw the Awami League led by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib ur Rahman winning a majority of seats in the National Assembly to form a government. But that was never to happen.
The Pakistani military regime blatantly rejected the result and openly threatened the legitimate elected people’s representatives of dire consequences.
On the night of March 25, 1971, the Pakistan Army executed Operation Searchlight and the world saw brutality the likes of which has rarely been seen. We lost 3 million lives and 2 million women were violated. But the resilient people of the soon-to-be Bangladesh did not give up and they won. They won their freedom. They won their rights, and they won their mother tongue.
It has been 70 years from 1952 to 2022. We have crossed all major hurdles Bangladesh could have faced and we still stand tall and so we shall as long as we remember our history and culture. As long as we remember our past, present and future nothing will and no one can deter Bangladesh.
The language movement gave birth to a sense of nationalism in the minds of Bengalis and opened new horizons. It has created a new chapter that has occupied an impeccable place in the history of the prolonged liberation struggle of the Bengalis. The language movement was a struggle for culture and self-preservation.
The importance of the language movement is immense in awakening the sense of rights and independence of Bengalis. The language movement has, directly and indirectly, influenced all political, social and cultural activities since 1952. The influence was so far-reaching that a relationship was established between the common and political people. Trust was established with each other, which accelerated the nation’s liberation struggle.
It was through the language movement that the first rebellious attitude against the rule and exploitation of Pakistan was manifested in the Bengali heart. It can be said that the language movement was the beginning of the realization of all kinds of rights of Bengalis. This movement instilled morale and strong self-confidence in the minds of people which evoked a sense of nationalism. The education movement of 1962, the six-point movement of 66, the mass uprising of the seventy-nine, the election of the seventy, and the liberation struggle of the seventy-one in every field provided the morale and strength of the language movement.
Bangladesh has now established a unique position on the world map. The name of Bangladesh is being used loudly in world politics. In the new world, we are all the time facing new challenges. We must all come forward together to meet the challenges of this twenty-first century. We have to remain awake in the spirit of nationalism. Bengalis have never lost in the past, nor will they lose in the future. With the cooperation of all, regardless of party affiliation, our Bangladesh will stand tall among the nations of the world.
Hiren Pandit is a researcher and columnist

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