“Amar Ekushey February”, Bhasha Dibosh
Published: February 21, 2015 5:24 pm
21 February 2015, Nirapad News: The people of Bangladesh have been observing the 21st day of February every year as their glorious and unforgettable ‘Language Martyrs Day’.
In 1952, Bengali students in East Pakistan rose up in protest against the Pakistani government for declaring Urdu as the national language. Majority of the Pakistani citizens (as of 1952), about 54% of the citizens, were Bengali. In the protest several students died for defending the Bengali language for themselves and for the future generations.
The Urdu-Bengali controversy was reignited when Jinnah’s successor, Governor-general Khawaja Nazimuddin, staunchly defended the “Urdu-only” policy in a speech on 27 January 1952. On 31 January, the Shorbodolio Kendrio Rashtrobhasha Kormi Porishod (All-Party Central Language Action Committee) was formed in a meeting at the Bar Library Hall of the University of Dhaka, chaired by Maulana Bhashani. The central government’s proposal of writing the Bengali language in Arabic script was vehemently opposed at the meeting. The action committee called for an all out protest on 21 February, including strikes and rallies. Students of the University of Dhaka and other institutions gathered on the university premises on 4 February and warned the government to withdraw its proposal to write Bengali in Arabic script, and insisted on the recognition of Bengali. As preparation for demonstrations was going on, the government imposed Section 144 in Dhaka, thereby banning any gatherings of more than three people.
21 February 1952
At nine o’clock in the morning, students began gathering on the University of Dhaka premises in defiance of Section 144. The university vice-chancellor and other officials were present as armed police surrounded the campus. By a quarter past eleven, students gathered at the university gate and attempted to break the police line. Police fired tear gas shells towards the gate to warn the students. A section of students ran into the Dhaka Medical College while others rallied towards the university premises cordoned by the police. The vice-chancellor asked police to stop firing and ordered the students to leave the area. However, the police arrested several students for violating section 144 as they attempted to leave. Enraged by the arrests, the students met around the East Bengal Legislative Assembly and blocked the legislators’ way, asking them to present their insistence at the assembly.
When a group of students sought to storm into the building, police opened fire and killed a number of students, including Abdus Salam, Rafiq Uddin Ahmed, Abul Barkat, Abdul Jabbar and Shafiur Rahman. As the news of the killings spread, disorder erupted across the city. Shops, offices and public transport were shut down and a general strike began. At the assembly, six legislators including Manoranjan Dhar, Boshontokumar Das, Shamsuddin Ahmed and Dhirendranath Datta requested that chief minister Nurul Amin visit wounded students in hospital and that the assembly be adjourned as a sign of mourning. This motion was supported by some of the treasury bench members including Maulana Abdur Rashid Tarkabagish, Shorfuddin Ahmed, Shamsuddin Ahmed Khondokar and Mosihuddin Ahmed. However Nurul Amin refused the requests.
Recognition as International Mother Language day
UNESCO’s declaration of 21st February as the International Mother Language Day has brought fresh glory and prestige to Bangladesh which is making significant strides towards peace, progress and prosperity at home and discharging international obligations abroad.
International Mother Language Day has been observed every year since 2000 February to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism. The date represents the day in 1952 when students from different educational institutions such as Dhaka University, Jagannath University, Dhaka Medical College demonstrating for recognition of their language, Bengali, as one of the two national languages of the then Pakistan, were shot and killed by police in Dhaka (near High Court), which is the capital of present-day Bangladesh.
International Mother Language Day was proclaimed by the General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in November 1999 (30C/62). On 16 May 2009 the United Nations General Assembly in its resolution A/RES/61/266 called upon Member States “to promote the preservation and protection of all languages used by peoples of the world”. By the same resolution, the General Assembly proclaimed 2008 as the International Year of Languages, to promote unity in diversity and international understanding, through multilingualism and multiculturalism.