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Words and silence!

The notion of listening to the word is so fundamental to concept of meaning that there must almost leap over our own shadow to realise the possibility of finding meaning not primarily in word but in Silence. The word would not be word without silence.  The word is not truly word unless it is born of silence, embodies silence, and returns into silence. And it must be received by silence, as seed is received by the silent furrows. Endless silence, always still greater, though it pours itself forever into word, comes to itself only in the word.  Silence would not be silence without the word as well.

This piece is a progression on ancient and medieval period of Bangladesh. Very most importantly the discussion on language movement of 1952, with a great respect and remembrance for those who sacrificed for our mother tongue.

The people of the ancient Bengal did not differ much from the present day people in their food habits, social rites and rituals. Their main food at the time were rice, fish, meat, vegetables, fruit, milk, curd, butter oil, and so on. Verities of good items were served on the occasion of festivals. Different kinds of homemade cakes and sweet rolls were also prepared. Water was made fragrant by mixing camphor in it and spiced betel leaves after meals. The common dress for men at that time was the ‘Dhuti’ and women generally wore the ‘Sari’ of Bengali speaking people. The people of East Bengal (British period) used to relish Hilsa and dried fish as well, then the land was named so-called East Pakistan.

In Karachi (Pakistan), the representatives of East Bengal attending the Pakistan educational conference, oppose Urdu as the only national language. The demand for Bengali as one of the state language gathered the spontaneous support of the Bengali civil servants, academics, students, and various groups of people. Several members of the provincial assembly, including some ministers, were reportedly active in supporting the movement. By the end of February 1948, the controversy had spilled over on the streets. The East Pakistan student league, founded in the first week of January leaded by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, was in the forefront of the anxiety.

That government shortly imposed Section 144 on February 20. Students gathered at the premises of the Medical College Hostel and began to protest Sec 144.  At one point of the clash, the police open fired on the students. The bullets took many young lives, making a sacrifice of Salam, Borkot, Rafiq, Sofiq, Jobbar and others. In protest of the shootings, hartal was observed all over the country on Feb 22. There was more shooting that day at a demonstration near the High Court, and more protesters killed and injured. Many more were arrested, military was deployed in different parts of the city.

The actions of 21st February1952 proved that a nation which is strong and powerful politically cannot destroy a brave civilized nation if they have a unifying language like Bangla. This movement ultimately ended in the adoption of Bangla as one of the state languages of Pakistan in 1956. In line with the spirit of Language Movement, Bangladesh achieved its long cherished freedom through a nine month long armed struggle under the charismatic leadership of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman who proclaimed the country’s independence on March 26, 1971. Hence, in the life of every Bengali 21st February is the symbol of grief, strength, glory, words and silence!


Taslim Ahammad

Assistant Professor, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Science and Technology University (BSMRSTU), Gopalganj, Bangladesh.