The Language Movement
The 21st February
The Shaheed Day
Introduction: each and every man has an inherited language of his own to express his ideas, feelings, and emotions. This is called his mother language.
Mother and mother language: the words ‘mother’ and ‘mother tongue’ are quite indispensable to each other. There actually exists an integrated relationship between the two words which can better be compared to the between the two words which can better be compared to the two flowers bloomed in the same petal on the same branch of a tree. We are the Bengalese. Bengali is our mother tongue or mother language. To speak in Mother’s tongue is a birthright of a man. No one has any right snatch away this right. The attack on or any conspiracy against the mother tongue of a people is no less than an act of brutality. It can be likened to spoil the very sanctity of a mother. No people can let such heinous act go unchallenged.
Background: we had been under the colonial domination of the British for long 190 years after the setting down of the sun on the independence of bangle in the battle of Plessey in 1957. Then it came into being an independent country name Pakistan with two wings called East Pakistan and West Pakistan. But since the dawn of Pakistan, the rulers of West Pakistan began to treat the Bengalese with the cruel attitudes of a set-mother. They were so cruel and heinous that they did not feel any hesitation to make Attack on the cultural sanctity of the bangles. The first attack they made was on the mother language of the Bengalese. The declared,
“Urdu and only Urdu shall be the state language of Pakistan.”
This declaration thundered the Bengalese. It came to them as a bolt from the blue. There goes a saying, ‘conscience rises to the occasion’ the students of Dhaka University and the common people rose up and started a vigorous movement against them. They raised sky-rending slogan.
“We demand Bengali as our state language”.
But the Pakistani rulers paid little heed to the demand. Finding no other alternative, they called for a strike on February 21 to support the cause of Bengali. The government imposed 144 in Dhaka. But the strikers defied and brought out a procession. All of a sudden, the police opened fire on the procession. As a consequence, many people including some students named salam, Rafiq, Barkat, Jabber and many others died. Many were injured and hundreds were arrested. Ultimately, they were compelled to accept Bengali as one of the state languages of Pakistan.
UNESCO’s recognition: it is a matter a great joy and prides that now this day has got international recognition as ‘the international mother language day.’ This declaration was made by the UNESCO on November 17, 1999. This declaration has made a national event into an international event. Now, these 188 countries of the world observe the 21st February as the international mother language day. Thus the sacrifices of all the martyrs for the championing cause of their mother tongue have now received a glorious recognition by the people of the world. Our poet Shamsur Rahman expressed his fallings saying,
“It is a matter of great pride for us all that the country, whose people sacrificed their lives for the cause of motherland, its language has now got international recognition.”
‘This day will help to raise awareness among the nations of the world about the enduring value of their language.’
How observed: every year we observe the day with great honour and solemnity. We wear black badges to mourn the day. The national flag is hosted by half-mast to mark the day. People from all walks of life bring out a procession called ‘probhat Ferri’. They walk bare-footed and sing the mournful songs of the 21st February,
“amar bhaier rokte rangano ekushe February, ami ki bhulite pari?”
We place flowers and floral wreaths at the pulpit of the Shahid Minar to pay homage to the martyrs. Our newspapers bring out special features. TV and radio air special programmes highlighting the significance of the day. Meetings and seminars and held. Special prayers and also held for the salvation of the martyrs’ souls. It is an eternal source of inspiration to us all. The day is a public holiday.
The significance of the day: the significance of the international mother language day is too much to be described in words. We are the only nation in the world the sacrifice lives for the cause of mother tongue. The mother language day is a glorious recognition of our history and our achievement. It highlights the importance of linguistic identity and diversity. The day has brought about a great change in the life of the bangles. It was actually a victory for justice over injustice – the victory of humanity over barbarism. This day teaches us to stand up, protest and fight against all sorts of oppression and wrongdoings. It is the language movement through which to a noble sense of ‘Bengali nationalism’ has come into existence. These feelings worked like a magic spell among the people of all walks of life. Here are the main consequences of the movement: 1) defeat of the Muslim league in the general election of 1954. 2) Recognition of Bengali as a state language in the constitution of 1956. 3) Mass participation in the six-point movement for autonomy. 4) The defeat of the autocratic government in the face of a mass upsurge in 1969. 5) The landslide victory of the Awami-league in the national election of 1970. 6) Achievement of independence in the liberation war in 1970. 7) Achievement of independence in liberation war in 1971 was actually sown in the fallings by saying,
“The 21 February is neither a particular day, nor a moment or an incident but just a living history of a nation.”
Conclusion: we are really proud of our language martyrs. The will remain ever fresh in our innermost hearts and remind us of the undying memory of dedicating their lives to the cause of mother language.