Language Movement & Bangabandhu: Backdrops of Bengali Nationalism

They sacrificed their lives on February 21 in 1952 for the first time in the history to establish right to language. Section 144, tear gas and random bullet fires—nothing could resist Bangalis unyielding aspiration for mother tongue. Salam, Barkat, Rafique, Jabbar, Shafiur and many more, with the hints for weeding the seed of independence, spearheaded their blood on the streets both consciously and unconsciously dreaming for speaking, gossiping and passing spontaneous lifestyles in mother language, which was getting obstructed by the aggression of Pakistani military. This language movement is regarded as the first feeling for nationalism and democratic movement.

The politics of language and culture began soon after August 14 in 1947 when Pakistan was born. Many observed instantly that the land and nationalism were partied within night. Therefore the students and young generation of the then East Pakistan here held several meetings in Dhaka and those staying in Calcutta sat at Serajudoula Hotel there. They decided to sit with the then students’ leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Tajuddin Ahmed in Dhaka following the meeting. And it was the first ever initiative to save own language and culture.

All agreed to hold a conference through the initiative to decide the next courses of political actions and policies in the existing circumstances. Student leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman along with others fixed the date on August 24 for holding the political activists’ conference. Ganatantrik Juba Dal was established as an outcome of the full-fledge conference between September 6 and 7, that indicated the first qualitative change in movement in the east Bengal.

Meanwhile, the student organizations did not fall in backside. Following the contradictory stand of a portion of the then influential student organization Nikhil East Pakistan Muslim League, progressive organizations in Dhaka under the leadership of Sheik Mujibur Rahman initiated to form a new non-communal student body. A meeting was held on August 31 at Dhaka University’s Fazlul Haque Hall with students from all educational institutions in Dhaka. In an attempt to foil the meeting, the then chief minister Nurul Amin sent hired miscreants by the trucks of the ministry. This made the Sheikh Mujibur Rahman-led progressive forces of students adamant to go for cultural movement and being organized.

In the meantime, the Pakistani conspiracy to extinct the existence of Bangla went up. Within the three months of Pakistani emergence as state, the government decided to make Urdu as the state language in an education conference at Karachi though it was not a major language for any race of Pakistan. Punjabi was used by 18% people, while 7% each used Urdu and Pashto, 5% Shidwi and 54% used Bangla. However, news casting in different dailies on December 6 on the decision made the students of Dhaka University, Dhaka College and others furious. The progressive portion of Nikhil East Pakistan Muslim Chhatra League who were motivated by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman joined with the movement and began rallies and demonstration in front of the residents and secretariat of provincial minister Nurul Amin and prime minister Khaja Nazimuddin.

The young generation, imbued with the non-communalism and patriotism began open agitation in bid of language issues and stand of Nikhil East Pakistan Muslim Chhatra League to resist aggression on language and culture. The Chhatra League was reformed on January 4, 1948 at Fazlul Haque auditorium with the hand of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman who was about to retire from student politics with the assurance of new courses of action. Chhatra League initially began playing the first opposition role in the newly made Pakistan state in question of culture and language. The Bangali nation was also agitating on the same ground.

The demand of Bangla became a national issue soon, especially when one of the East Pakistan representatives Dhirendranath Dutta placed the demand for making Bangla as language of the Ganaparishad beside Urdu at the first session of the Ganaparishad on February 23 in 1948. The then Pakistan prime minister Liakat Ali Khan termed the proposal as conspiracy and East Pakistan chief minister declared only Urdu would be the state language. Following the incident, cultural and political activists of the East Pakistan held a meeting at Fazlul Haque Hall of Dhaka University. They formed ‘Rashtra Bhasha Sangram Parishad’ and called for strike on March 11. Finding no way, on March 15, Khaja Nazimuddin assured the agitating youths to recognize Bangla as the state language. But, on March 24, Mohammad Ali Jinnah at a convocation ceremony of Dhaka University announced that Urdu would be the only state language of Pakistan. Students protested and roared against Jinnah. Drawing immediate reaction of the students he got frightened.

Interestingly, the nation who accustomed to sing ‘Pak Sar Jamin Saad Baad’ from Persian language despite no presence of any Persian race, there had no way to be afraid of the uproar of the young people for language . The rest is known to all—from movement for language, then movement for liberty and finally blood-achieved independence. The man who materialized the demand for emerging an independent state Bangladesh from the evolution of nationalism and its inauguration was an adept and excelled student leader to historic world leader—Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, also father of the nation to revive the Bangali nation with the light of freedom against all odds.

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