“Politicians and students join their forces for a broader movement under the leadership of Maulana Bhashani of Awami League. As demonstrations and unrests seem to get out of control, the Government cracks down by imposing a curfew in Dhaka; a number of demonstrators are killed in front of the Dhaka Medical College over a period of one week (February 21-27, 1952). Hundreds and thousands of people took the streets to protests unanimously and the seeds of Bangladeshi nationalism was sown during that mobement.”
The Basic Principles Committee of the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan announces its recommendations that Urdu should be the only state language. It sparks off a wide wave of resentment in East Bengal where the people spoke Bangla.
Politicians and students join their forces for a broader movement under the leadership of Maulana Bhashani of Awami League.
As demonstrations and unrests seem to get out of control, the Government cracks down by imposing a curfew in Dhaka; a number of demonstrators are killed in front of the Dhaka Medical College over a period of one week (February 21-27, 1952).
The Language Martyrs Day:
The First Martyrs to die for their native language: Rafiq, Salam, Jabbar, Barkat, and Salauddin. More die in police shootings in the following days. A makeshift memorial is dedicated to these martyrs at the spot of killings: the Shaheed Minar becomes an icon of the Bengalees’ pride in their culture and history, and of their resistance against imposition of all things foreign. The Shaheed Minar also becomes a place where many future movements for the basic rights of the Bangalees are born.
Bangla was recognised as the second official language of Pakistan on 29 February 1956, and article 214(1) of the constitution of Pakistan was reworded to “The state language of Pakistan shall be Urdu and Bengali.”
22 February rally after janaja at Dhaka Medical College on the University Dhaka road, Dhaka. Image via Wikipedia.
Bengalees, who speak Bangla, constitute 54% of the population of Pakistan at its inception. But Urdu is widely favored by the establishment in the Western wing, even if only a tiny minority really speak it. The major native languages in the West are: Punjabi, Baluchi, Sindhi, and Pashtu (Pakhtun).
In 1947, a key resolution at a national education summit in Karachi advocated Urdu as the sole state language, and its exclusive use in the media and in schools. Opposition and protests immediately arose. Students from Dhaka rallied under the leadership of Abul Kashem, the secretary of Tamaddun Majlish, a Bengali Islamic cultural organisation. The meeting stipulated Bengali as an official language of Pakistan and as a medium of education in East Pakistan. However, the Pakistan Public Service Commission removed Bengali from the list of approved subjects, as well as from currency notes and stamps.
Leading Bengali scholars argued why only Urdu should not be the state language. The linguist Muhammad Shahidullah pointed out that Urdu was not the native language of any part of Pakistan, and said, “If we have to choose a second state language, we should consider Urdu.
In 1948 at the first session of the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan (CAP), Dhirendranath Datta moves a resolution for recognizing Bengali as one of the state languages. The leading politicians — including representatives from East Bengal, almost all of whom are non-Bengalees — ignore Datta’s plea. This is viewed by the Bengalees as a sign of unfair dominance by the minority elites of the Western provinces, and a step towards eradication of Bengalee cultural identity, the latter being “tainted” by Hindu influences and therefore not in full compliance with the principles and ideals of Pakistan.
In the height of civic unrest, Governor-General of Pakistan Muhammad Ali Jinnah arrived in Dhaka on 19 March 1948. On 21 March, at a civic reception at Racecourse Ground, he claimed that the language issue was designed by a “fifth column” to divide Pakistani Muslims. Jinnah further declared that “Urdu, and only Urdu” embodied the spirit of Muslim nations and would remain as the state language. He called those “Enemies of Pakistan” who disagreed with his views. This sparks off immediate student protest.