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Amor Ekushey: Its significance & glory

Rayhan Ahmed Topader:

Bangladesh got better prestige and glory when UNESCO declared 21st February as the International Mother Language Day. It is also making significant strides towards peace, progress and prosperity at home and discharging international obligations abroad. But still, most of the parts of the world are unknown about the occurrence and it’s significances. So I want to notify about then history to the people surround the world through my blog. I have lots of information from different sources to write the article. So please let me very briefly recount the fateful happenings of that day and the circumstances that led to and followed them.The Bangla Language Movement of February 21, 1952, popularly known as Ekushey,was a socio-politico-cultural movement in the then East Pakistan advocating the recognition of the Bangla language as an official language of Pakistan. Such recognition would allow Bangla to be used in government affairs. In fact, the Language Movement sixty one years ago catalysed the assertion of Bengali national identity in the then Pakistan, and became a forerunner to Bengali nationalist movements, including the emergence of self-rule consciousness in 1954 general election, student movement in 1962, 6-point movement, uprising in 1969 and, subsequently, the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971.

Languages, with their complex implications for identity, communication, social integration, education and development, are of strategic importance for people and planet. Yet, due to globalization processes, they are increasingly under threat, or disappearing altogether. When languages fade, so does the world’s rich tapestry of cultural diversity. Opportunities, traditions, memory, unique modes of thinking and expression valuable resources for ensuring a better future are also lost. The background and ramification of the day of our language movement need special mention from an analytical perspective because it is a symbol of our national entity. As the situation went haywire, the leafy shade of a mango tree Amtala of Dhaka University turned into a meeting point for the students. Leaders such as Abdul Matin, Oli Ahmed, Kazi Golam Muhammad and others from the student community inspired the agitators to flout section 144. There were bold, loud slogans. Leading the students was an incredibly bold student leader Habibur Rahman Shelly who urged the students to ignore the situation 144, Chasing and counter-chasing, picketing etc. were the initial occurrences involving the police and the students. As the situation worsened, at 3pm the police opened fire. Rafique, Barkat, Jabbar, Salam were all shot and this led to their martyrdom. Sixty students were injured while rickshaw-puller Awal and service-holder Safikur Rahman were also killed.

A fervent request to see the casualties was made to so-called Chief Minister Nurul Amin who was much like Khaja Nazimuddin but it fell on deaf ears. A pall of gloom pervaded the whole of Dhaka. Instead of handing over the dead bodies of the martyrs to their dear ones, the police like the mercenaries of the rulers entombed them in Azimpur Graveyard at the night of 21st February. Not only students but people from other walks of life attended their funeral prayer in thousands. Totally embarrassed, the autocrats yielded to the movement for the Bangla language and announced it as the state language. Hardly a year had passed since 1947 when West Pakistan rulers started hatching their heinous conspiracy against the naive East Pakistanis. The focus of their conspiracy was the language of these people. Despite the fact that Bengali was the language of 56.40 percent people, whereas Urdu was spoken by only 3.27 percent countrymen. Erstwhile Governor General Quaid E Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah in his speech of 21 March 1948 in Dhaka Race Course Maidan declared that Urdu alone should be the state language of Pakistan. His speech in the convocation ceremony of Dhaka University held in Curzon Hall on 24th March 1948 echoed the same stance. Then and there the students protested strongly. Following the death of Jinnah, Liakot Ali Khan visited Dhaka where in his address at a public meeting, he unequivocally voiced his resolution not to make Bangla the state language.

As the brief Liakot Ali Khan’s reign expired, he was shot dead in broad light at Rawalpindi while delivering a speech. The opportunist that succeeded him was no other than an East Pakistan born politician named Khaza Nazimuddin who immediately before Jinnah’s visit to Dhaka falsely assured the agitators of language of fulfilling their demand in a bid to end the language movement. But as the chief of the state, he rejected outright the East Pakistani’s proposal to make Bangla the state language. Thus, he proved himself to be a thoroughly unreliable politician. Hopes of the people were belied many times before 20 February 1952 on the language issue before the Rastrabhasa Sangram Parishad as constituted by the intrepid lovers of the Bangla language. In the meeting of the parishad, the decision to observe a countrywide hartal to press home their demand was unanimously accepted. It is noteworthy that this day Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, as well as Mohiuddin Ahmed, were transferred from Dhaka Jail to Faridpur jail where the duo started an indefinite hunger strike for the official recognition of their mother tongue. On the other hand, the West Pakistani predators imposed section 144 to ban all gatherings. Hence, there’s no room for denial that this 21st February is a unique day in our history, ennobled by the sacrifice of our youth. It has brought the nation an imperishable glory that has impressed the whole world.

The aforementioned warriors sacrificed their lives to save the prestige and dignity of the mother language. Their death has transported them to a blissful place of the eternal world. We shall never find them again in this life, but there will always be a special place in our hearts for them. If we consider the matter connotatively, we cannot but emphasise the immortality of the dead. Their disappearance is merely physical or external. Spiritually, they are ever alive, for the ever-memorable 21 February was made memorable for their self-sacrifice. This day saw an unforgettable history of unflinching courage, exemplary patriotism, all-conquering love for mother or mother language, and unswerving protestation against the injustice of the predators. This day will indoctrinate generation after future generation with the spirit of nobility. It will be an eternal source of inspiration for the protestors who are a victim of discriminatory treatment of their oppressors as the universally irrefutable message goes that the truth is always victorious in its war against untruth. Many think that the seed of the hard-earned liberation of the nation was sown on this 21 February to be fully expanded in 1971.

So to say, the 21 February is the mother of the Bengalees and no wonder it is celebrated with such fervour annually. But celebrations are nothing but ostentation that should resonate with our inner lives.

Therefore, our countrymen must revive the spirit of this 21st February in their thoughts as well as action. What matters the most is that this day has been declared as the international mother language day by the UNESCO, which is the best possible international recognition for Feb 21,1952. We strongly encourage all countries in the region to celebrate this year’s International Mother Language Day on 21 February. It is a Day for celebrating all mother tongues. In other words a day to celebrate language diversity. Supporting language diversity is also about supporting inclusion and acknowledging that language diversity helps to enrich us all; that this diversity of languages is a treasure, not a barrier.In the context of education, it is impossible to teach the majority of people to read and write in a language they don’t understand. It is easier for you to learn a second language if you have learnt your first language well. So, 21st February is a very important day with the history, significance and celebration of Amor Ekushey along with the Bengali nationalism. The 21st February is the part and partial to the Bengali language, Bengali tradition and all about Bengali (Bangla). Without the Bengali Language Movement of the 21st, the Bangladeshi national has nothing to say about. It’s the base of all Bangladeshi and Bangla speaking people around the world.


Writer, Journalist and Columnist