Remembering 21st February
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.
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.