The New Horizon

A new world explored with a rational view

Remembering 21st February

with 3 comments

21st February is a day to remember for each Bengali. Officially, it’s known as International Mother Language Day. But, to a Bengali, it signifies the passion for language, it’s a love for literature in mother tongue and a lot more. This is the day when Bengalis shed their bloods for their language.

Details history of The Language Movement is available in the Virtual Bangladesh site. I am quoting a few key turning points of the chronicle.

September 15, 1947
Tamuddun Majlis (Cultural Society, an organization by scholars, writers and journalists oriented towards Islamic ideology) in a booklet titled State Language of Pakistan : Bengali or Urdu? demands Bengali as one of the state language of Pakistan.
February 23, 1948
Direndra Nath Dutta, a Bengali opposition member, moves a resolution in the first session of Pakistan’s Constituent Assembly for recognizing Bengali as a state language along with Urdu and English.
March 21, 1948
Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan and its first Governor-General, while on a visit to East Bengal, declares in Dhaka University convocation that while the language of the province can be Bengali, the “State language of Pakistan is going to be Urdu and no other language. Any one who tries to mislead you is really an enemy of Pakistan.”

January 26, 1952
The Basic Principles Committee of the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan announces its recommendation that Urdu should be the only state language.
In a public meting at Paltan Maidan, Dhaka, Prime Minister Nazimuddin declares that Urdu alone will be the state language of Pakistan.
Both the developments spark off the second wave of language agitation in East Bengal.
February 21, 1952
A general strike is observed.
Noon – A meeting is held in the campus of Dhaka University. Students decide to defy the official ban imposed by Nurul Amin’s administration and processions are taken out to stage a demonstration in front of the Provincial Assembly. Police starts lobbing tear gas shells to the students. Students retaliate by batting bricks. The ensuing riot spreads to the nearby campuses of the Medical and Engineering colleges.
4 p.m. -The police opens fire in front of the Medical College hostel. Five persons – Mohammad Salauddin, Abdul Jabbar, Abul Barkat, Rafiquddin Ahmed and Abdus Salam – are killed, the first three are students of Dhaka University.
“The news of the killing spread like wildfire throughout the city and people rushed in thousands towards the Medical College premises.” (– Talukder Maniruzzaman)
Inside the assembly, six opposition members press for the adjournment of the House and demand an inquiry into the incidents. But Chief Minister Nurul Amin urges the House to proceed with the planned agenda for the day. At this point all the opposition members of the Assembly walk out in protest.
February 22, 1952
Thousands of men and women throng the university, Medical College and Engineering College areas to offer prayers for the victims of the police firing.
After prayers when they go for a procession, the police opens fire.
The police also fire on angry mob who burned the offices of a pro-government newspaper. Four persons are killed.
February 24, 1952
The government gives full authority to the police and military to bring the situation in Dhaka back to normal within 48 hours.
February 25, 1952
The Dhaka University is closed sine die.
May 7, 1954
The Pakistan government recognizes Bangla as a state language.
Feb 26, 1956
The Constituent Assembly passes the first Constitution of Pakistan recognizing Bangla as a State Language.
March 23, 1956
The first Constitution of Pakistan comes into effect.
March 26, 1971
Bangladesh become an independent nation.

Actually, the language movement the distance between Bengalis and West Pakistanis grew and eventually resulted in Bangladesh Liberation War and Freedom of Bangladesh as a nation in 1971. They paid 3 million more lives to gain independence and the absolute freedom of language.

My Analysis

I think the apathy of Pakistani policymakers to East Pakistan was solely responsible to create the whole problem. A country, with more than 50% Bengalis, should have a special recognition of that language. Instead of doing that, a common all language was not a good proposition to impose. India has accepted Hindi as a National language, very slowly. India initially recognized all major state languages as “language of the state”. Even then, Indians had shed blood for the sake of their language. So, the declaration of Urdu as a National Language by Pakistan in 1947 planted a Time Bomb in Bangladesh which blasted off in 1971.

A better way to unite the geographically separated West and East Pakistan were to grant language autonomy to either sides.

Detail discussion at Language Movement page of wikipedia.

Rezwan’s post.
Bangladesh, Bengali.


Written by Diganta

February 21, 2007 at 9:44 am

3 Responses

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  1. This is news to me 🙂 I wonder why people lay their lives for petty things like language. Perhaps we south Asians are too emotional and passionate about these things. Any history of such violence elsewhere?


    February 24, 2007 at 3:17 am

  2. I wonder why people lay their lives for petty things like language. – otherwise they had to learn an alien language. How about learning Swahili in all Indian Primary schools :)?


    February 26, 2007 at 10:38 am


    Prof. Bijon B. Sarma
    Dean, Faculty of Architecture and Planning
    Head, Department of Architecture
    Ahsanullah University of Science and Technology (AUST)
    14-, 142 Love Road, Tejgaon, Dhaka -1209

    ABSTRACT : Men speaking in various languages have got tremendous affinity and concern for their own language or mother tongue. In the past many endeavors to change or replace the same has been found to have faced violence. Same, however, is not the case with the script used for writing languages. Scripts are used for merely transferring the ‘vocal’ language. For thousands of years, experts imagined, dreamt and then endeavored numerous times to invent “Unified Script” through which, they expected to write all the languages of this world. All endeavors to this end have so far been proved futile because of genuine reasons. However, in November 2009, a new proposal for Unified Script has been published in a copyrighted book (Ref : “SUS for Writing Multiple Languages”, Trafford Publishing, ISBN: 9781426909399). It is not possible to openly discuss everything written there because of copyright restrictions. But from all indications it seems that this one i.e. SUS has got the quality and potentiality to become first Unified Language capable of writing all languages of this world. In this article I shall briefly narrate the various qualities of SUS that renders it to such a high level.

    After sign language, vocal language is the most important medium for expression of ideas. In this language, independently identifiable single or multi-syllabic sounds are known as words. A number of words used one after another in a definite order and capable of creating a sense is known as sentence. In human civilization the use of sentences led to the generation of Language. Even though language opens up the bridge of communication between various groups of people, dissimilar languages act as barriers. When various languages are written by different types of scripts, these further tighten the barrier. Something that can level this barrier is the Unified Script.

    Men usually retain great love and concern for their respective languages, whatever complex or peculiar those might be felt by others. However, there is absolutely no reason for them to have any ‘blind’ affection for the script. Scripts act as mere carrier of language and so long the verbal language remains unchanged, it matters nothing if there is any change in or replacement in the scripts. Naturally, if a new script can ‘carry’ a language more easily and efficiently, then there should be no reason why it should not be accepted by all. With this possibility in mind, for over thousand years the experts of various languages dreamt of “Unified Script” capable of writing most, if not all, of the languages of the world.

    The known endeavor for inventing Unified Script goes back to 13th C AD. In 1260 Kublai Khan commissioned a Tibetan Lama to create a new national script. He devised the PHAGS-PA script in 1269. Notable features of this script are :
    (i) Syllabic alphabet – each consonant having an inherent vowel sound. Other vowels are indicated by symbols that appear below the consonants.
    (ii) Writing direction: vertical from top to bottom and from left to right.
    (iii) There were three different styles of writing in the Phags-pa alphabet: (a) the Standard script, which was used in Chinese and Mongolian printed texts and documents, (b) the Seal script, which was used mainly for official seals and also for some inscriptions on monuments and (c) the Tibetan script style, which was used mainly for books titles and temple inscriptions.
    (Link :, Free Phags-pa fonts available at : and Further information about the Phags-pa Script may be collected from : ).

    However, the Pags-pa script did not become popular. Even though the ‘inventors’ of Pags-pa script claimed that the scripts were easy, in fact those were not so. There was no logic in the gradual change of the letters, which rendered those difficult to remember.

    Another notable Unified Script invented in 1999 is the INTERBET. Interbet is the abbreviation for International Phonetic Alphabet. Vitaly Vetash, an artist and a linguist from Russia worked from 1977 to 1999 for creating it. The names of letters in Interbet are mostly based on the ancient Phoenician and Greek alphabets, as well as the letters of the other alphabets.

    The number of letters in this alphabet is 45. The letters are based on the combination of Latin alphabet and some Cyrillic letters and some were invented by the author. The author proposed some linguistic signs also for modifying the sounds of the letters. In this system the same letters can be used to represent a number of phonemes.

    The author claims that the number of letters in Interbret is sufficient to write all of the world’s most widely-spoken languages. The author also claimed that this alphabet is suitable for a practical, international and universal system for writing any language. In practice however, it showed so much of problems that it did could not get popularity.

    Details of SUS, the latest type of Unified Language has been published only in November 2009 in a copyrighted book titled “SUS for writing multiple languages”. It is not possible to explain all details of this script for obvious reasons. But this script has got exceptional and admirable qualities that may make anyone hopeful that probably this one is going to open up the possibility of a unified script in a global scale.

    SCRIPT : All the letters of SUS are supposed to be contained within a square box. Thus the letters are free from the hazards observed in the languages having letters with protruded limbs around. The letters are initiated first by a horizontal line at the middle of the square. The following stroke is a vertical line having length equal to half of the side of the square. The third line is a small vertical line. As for use, the large vertical line is used along the periphery of the square, where as the small vertical line is used parallel to it, but inside the square.

    As for placing the vertical lines, these are used in the following sequences : (01) On the left and below the horizontal line, then (02) On the left and above the horizontal line, then (03) On the right and above the horizontal line and finally, (04) On the right and below the horizontal line. In other words, being originated at the left lower cornet the lines move in the clock-wise direction.

    As for letters, SUS uses the letters used in the language proper. Thus in English language, it uses the Roman letters, in Bengali, Bengali letters and so on so forth. In assigning scripts for the letters, SUS maintains the mathematical serial number. For this purpose, at the very outset SUS divides the letters of any language into groups of 5. Thus Roman alphabet is divided into the following groups : Group 01 : a, b, c, d, e. Group 02 : f, g, h, i, j. Group 03 : k, l, m, n, o. Group 04 : p, q, r, s, t. Group 05 :u, v, w, x, y. Group 06. z. Similar system is followed in case of other languages also.

    The first letters of each of the above groups have been mentioned in SUS as Group heads. Thus the group heads in Roman alphabet are : a, f, k, p, u and z.

    Then, SUS goes for proposing scripts first for the group heads. The FIRST group head or ‘a’ is written by ‘the horizontal line and the vertical line placed at its left below’. Following the principle of clock-wise direction, the SECOND group head or ‘f’ will be written by ‘the horizontal line and the vertical line placed at the left above’, the THIRD group head or ‘k’, by ‘the horizontal line and the vertical line at the right below’ and so on. By following this principle it is possible to create as many as 8 heads. Later, by using a half size vertical line it is possible to create another 8 group heads. With 5 letters in each group, 16 group heads can create as many as 80 letters or signs. Most of the alphabets of prominent languages have letters less than this number.

    After the group heads have been created, SUS proposed the principle for creating the remaining 4 letters of each group. Say, we want to write b, c, d and e letters of the a-group. If the small vertical line is added in the left-below position of the script used for writing the letter ‘a’, it would give letter ‘b’, if the small vertical line is added left-above, it would create ‘c’ and so on so forth. It is seen that if this extremely simple principle can be explained to a child, then he himself would be able to recreate any letter of his alphabet.

    LANGUAGES USING LETTERS ONLY : The languages using only letters can run well after the scripts of their letters have been created in the above way. In case of language having capital and small letters, the above scripts will be treated as small letter. Then placing a small horizontal line on top of the square would make it a capital letter.

    LANGUAGES USING LETTERS AND LETTER-SIGNS : The middle portion of the SUS scripts have been kept free such that the languages using letter sign (or vowel-sign) can use their signs here. These signs will be vertical lines, where the signs would be indicated by various types and sizes of lines.

    LANGUAGES FROM LEFT OR RIGHT : The SUS scripts can be used for both types of languages, i.e. those starting from left or right with equal advantages.

    SUS proposed that in learning any Language through this script, the learners would first need to memorize the alphabets of his language. This can easily be done in the conventional method of picture book. In such books picture of object or action are arranged one after another, where the name of the object or action starts with the sound of the letters of the alphabet. After the learner can memorize all the letters, he is required to associate the script with the sound. At this stage SUS proposes for dividing the letters in groups of 5 and to remember the group heads. After he could pronounce the group heads, he should be taught how the various group heads are created by using only a few horizontal and vertical lines. The learner should not need much time (two or three days should be enough) to learn these. After they have learnt these, they may be taught how the subordinate letters of each group are created from the group heads. No student with normal intelligence should need more than five days to learn those. While there ends the case of the language using only letters, those using both letters and letter-signs would have to use some additional signs at the middle. Learning these will be a bit hard, but should not take more than two weeks. It is said that now, a child needs 6 to 12 months to identify and clearly write the scripts of his language. In comparison, no normal child should need more than one month to acknowledge and write the SUS.

    Those accustomed to figurative letters may think of ‘letters by strokes’ as peculiar. However, at least three great nations viz. Japanese, Chinese and Koreans are using obviously complex and complicated stroke-scripts with grand success.

    ADVANTAGES : Some of the advantages of SUS are the following :
    (01) The scripts of any language in fact play the role of carry bags. SUS is extremely simple to identify, remember and write and it is capable of writing any or all languages of the world. The languages having problems with their complex and difficult scripts may be immensely benefitted by replacing those by SUS.
    (02) SUS written by strokes are easier than those written by long, curve, slanting and zigzag lines.
    (03) SUS is contained with a square and hence free from the criticism of having extended limbs around.
    (04) SUS is easy to identify and write because it uses minimum number of strokes. Most of the letters have only 2 or 3 strokes.
    (05) In SUS there is absolutely no endeavor to assign scripts depending upon the sounds of various letters. That retains the original pronunciations of the language as it was.
    (06) The principle for which it has been possible to write so many letters with so less number of strokes is, it has utilized not only the strokes, but also their relative locations to create letters.
    (07) The script is extremely easy to remember because those can be automatically created sequentially one after another by following one simple principle.
    (08) There is no tracing back, twisting of muscle, drawing curve or angular lines etc. in SUS. Naturally it is free from the fear of ‘good / bad handwriting’ and confusion in deciphering. Also it can be written at greater speed.

    Does SUS help in learning many languages ? The answer is : it partially helps. Learning any new language follows the following processes stages : (i) Memorizing the alphabets (as done from the picture books), (ii) Identifying the script assigned to particular sound or letter, (iii) Learning to writing the letters and signs, (iv) Studying grammar and other uses of words, phrases and sentences etc. In case a learner already knows any language through SUS, and now intends to learn another language, he would have to go through the stages (i) and (iv) only. And would have to spend negligible time for the stages (ii) and (iii). Needless to mention that it would be of immense help.

    Definitely SUS as a Unified Language is not still known to many because it has been published only in November 2009. In such a situation there cannot be any statistics or information for comparing this one with any traditional scripts. It is quite probable that the adults might feel a bit reluctant to change their scripts. However, a little observation may reveal that this script is extremely easy in comparison with any traditional script. And once someone learns SUS, the traditional scripts with their twists, tracing back, curve lines, angular lines etc. might appear like night mares. If a new learner is given option to choose between the SUS and the traditional script, there remains every possibility that he would prefer this one.

    If a normal child needs 6-8 months to complete the 2nd and 3rd stage of learning alphabets, (i.e. Identifying the letters and writing letters and signs), he may need hardly 1 month in learning SUS. In such a case, there may be huge saving in (i) learners’ teaching time, (ii) teachers’ time and labor, (iii) cost on stationary etc. The cumulative saving for the governments and that in the global scale can be enormous.

    In order to learn Braille language the blind people need to learn English language. If SUS is used in writing the native languages, then it will be possible for such people to read and write in their own languages. These simple scripts may be typed with key boards with only 15 to 20 keys. If SUS is accepted by a number of languages, it would be possible for the mobile phone companies to make use of all those languages through a single script. That may be a great saving for these companies. SUS has taken birth only in November, 2009. It would soon enter the field to face the competitors. It would come out victorious in this competitive world only if it retains that quality.

    References :

    ‘SUS’ FOR WRITING MULTIPLE LANGUAGES, By Mira Sarma-Parai. Trafford Publishers. November 2009. (Link :

    Prof. Bijon B. Sarma

    January 3, 2010 at 7:58 am

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