In India, the idea might
sound utterly ridiculous but a revolution for the right to speak in a
language is encrypted in history. Post-partition, the British colony of
India became two independent nations: India and Pakistan. But those who
carved the boundaries left a serious flaw in their design. The dominion
of India was sandwiched between East and West Pakistan. It is a
different story that East Pakistan, now, is known as Bangladesh and is a
free nation in itself.
After creation, Pakistan decided to house
its government, law enforcing bodies and secretariat in West Pakistan.
Then, the Education Minister of Pakistan decided that Urdu would be the national language of the country. However, people living in East Bengal
vehemently opposed this decision. Students were at the forefront of this
movement and Dhaka University became the epicentre of the protests.
the agitation gained momentum, Quaid-e-Azam Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah himself
committed that the matter would be looked into seriously. A committee
was formed which suggested that Bengali be written in Urdu script! That
decision too met with strong opposition. “Ora Amader bhasha kere nite
chaye (They want to steal from us our language)” was the chant across
East Pakistan. After Jinnah’s death, his successor backtracked on the
suggestions of the committee and argued in favour of a “Urdu only” policy.
On February 21, 1952, an 'all-out protest' was announced in Dhaka. Students
clashed with police and the armed forces and Section 144 was imposed in
the city. A group of students marched towards the Bangladesh
Legislative Assembly and met with stiff resistance while trying to enter
the premises. Police opened fire and four students – Abdus Salam, Rafiq
Uddin Ahmed, Abul Barkat and Abdul Jabbar – laid down their lives. Ever
since, February 21 is commemorated as Bhasha Shahid Divas. The martyrdom
of the four young men at the prime of their age bore fruit finally in
1954 when Bengali was granted the status of a national language in Pakistan.
Bhasha Mancha in Kolkata
new cultures and assimilating new languages is a process by which
civilizations progress. It is but natural that with time the fervour of
linguistic nationalism has become quiet. However on days like this we
must stop, take time out and think – of our roots, our heritage and our
future. We must move forward but carry the legacy of the four Bhasha
Shahid with us. While loving one’s own language is important, we can
never demean someone else’s. And some extremist factions in India
definitely must take a lesson from the four brave souls.
In 2015, for the first time, Bangladesh and West Bengal are celebrating Antorjatik Bhasha Dibash or International Mother Language Day together for the first time. The chief minister, Mamata Banerjee would be travelling to Dhaka to be a part of the grand celebrations, along with the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina.
Mamata Banerjee and Sheikh Hasina (photodivision.gov.in)
Amar Bhaiyer Rokte Ranga 21se February, Aami ki bhulte pari?
Written by: Agnivo Niyogi for Team M3.tv