Language Movement Day

Language Movement Day
ভাষা আন্দোলন দিবস

The Shaheed Minar monument commemorates those who lost their life during the protests on 21 February 1952
Official name Bengali: ভাষা আন্দোলন দিবস (Bhasha Andolôn Dibôs)
Also called Bengali: শহীদ দিবস (Shôhid Dibôs)
Observed by BangladeshBangladesh
Celebrations Flag hoisting, parades, singing patriotic songs, the Amar Bhaier Rokte Rangano, speeches by the President and Prime Minister, entertainment and cultural programs.
Date 21 February
Next time 21 February 2017 (2017-02-21)
Frequency Annual
Related to International Mother Language Day

Language Movement Day or Language Revolution Day or Bengali Language Movement Day (Bengali: ভাষা আন্দোলন দিবস Bhasha Andolôn Dibôs), which is also referred to as Language Martyrs' Day or Martyrs' Day (Bengali: শহীদ দিবস Shôhid Dibôs), is a national day of Bangladesh to commemorate protests and sacrifices to protect Bengali as a national language during Bengali Language Movement of 1952.


The Dominion of India and the Dominion of Pakistan (including East Bengal, from 1956 East Pakistan, 1971-today Bangladesh).

After the partition of India in 1947, Bengali-speaking people in East Bengal, the non-contiguous eastern part of the Dominion of Pakistan, made up 44 million of the newly formed Dominion of Pakistan's 69 million people.[1] The Dominion of Pakistan's government, civil services, and military, however, were dominated by personnel from the western wing of the Dominion of Pakistan.[2] 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.[3][4] 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 the Dominion of Pakistan and as a medium of education in East Bengal.[5] However, the Pakistan Public Service Commission removed Bengali from the list of approved subjects, as well as from currency notes and stamps. The central education minister Fazlur Rahman made extensive preparations to make Urdu the only state language of the Dominion of Pakistan.[6] Public outrage spread, and a large number of Bengali students met on the University of Dhaka campus on 8 December 1947 to formally demand that Bengali be made an official language. To promote their cause, Bengali students organised processions and rallies in Dhaka.


Procession march held on 21 February 1952 in Dhaka

In 1952, Bengali students in East Pakistan rose up and protested against the Pakistani government for declaring Urdu as the national language. The majority of the Pakistani citizens (as of 1952), about 54% of the citizens, were Bengali. In the protest several students died for defending the Bengali language for themselves and for the future generations.

At nine o'clock in the morning, students began gathering on the University of Dhaka premises in defiance of Section 144. The university vice-chancellor and other officials were present as armed police surrounded the campus. By a quarter past eleven, students gathered at the university gate and attempted to break the police line. Police fired tear gas shells towards the gate to warn the students.[1] A section of students ran into the Dhaka Medical College while others rallied towards the university premises cordoned by the police. The vice-chancellor asked police to stop firing and ordered the students to leave the area. However, the police arrested several students for violating section 144 as they attempted to leave. Enraged by the arrests, the students met around the East Bengal Legislative Assembly and blocked the legislators' way, asking them to present their insistence at the assembly. When a group of students sought to storm into the building, police opened fire and killed a number of students, including Abdus Salam, Rafiq Uddin Ahmed, Abul Barkat and Abdul Jabbar.[1][7] As the news of the killings spread, disorder erupted across the city. Shops, offices and public transport were shut down and a general strike began.[8] At the assembly, six legislators including Manoranjan Dhar, Boshontokumar Das, Shamsuddin Ahmed and Dhirendranath Datta requested that chief minister Nurul Amin visit wounded students in hospital and that the assembly be adjourned as a sign of mourning.[9] This motion was supported by some of the treasury bench members including Maulana Abdur Rashid Tarkabagish, Shorfuddin Ahmed, Shamsuddin Ahmed Khondokar and Mosihuddin Ahmed.[9] However Nurul Amin refused the requests.[1][9]

Details of the day : From 8 oclock onwards, small groups of school students from all over Dhaka city marched towards the Dhaka University campus and assembling at the Arts faculty foyer of Dhaka University. College students processions joined the school boys by 9 am. By 9:30 thousands of students from different university halls, Medical and Engineering College (now BUET) hostels streamed into the assembly via various routes. By 11:30 the total number of students assembled reached nearly 20-25 thousands. We demand Bangla be the state language slogan filled the air. The armed police began patrolling the streets in front of the Arts Building and behind them the tear gas squads took position and waited for instruction.

In the midst of such a loaded situation Gaziul Huq stood on the table to assume his role as the president of the historic students assembly. The first speaker was Samsul Huq, as the representative of All Party State Language Action Council, he called on not to break the emergency Act 144. But before leaving the assembly he expressed his personal solidarity with the language movement. All on a sudden the news of police tear gas attack on one of the students procession near Lalbagh spread in the assembly. This news climaxed the already explosive situation. In that instance both the convener and president of Dhaka University State Language Action Council, Abdul Matin and Gaziul Huq, were giving their speeches in support of breaking the emergency Act 144. The explosive crowd shouted their consent to Huq and Matins decision." We wont stand Act 144, we wont" slogans thundered the Dhaka University campus. In the midst of such a huge upheaval Abdus Samad Azad somehow detailed the plan for breaking the curfew. It was the famous procession of ten. He said if the massive crowd of 20-25 thousand goes out in procession it might lead to a horrible situation. So he suggested that instead of the big crowd a small procession of ten students would go out one after another. The proctor of Dhaka University agreed with him and ordered university staff to open the gate of the Arts faculty.

Thus started the famous procession of ten. All participants of the procession voluntarily turned them in to the police. Habibur Rahman Shelly led the first group. Abdus Samad Azad the second group and Anwarul Huq and Obaidullah Huq Khans led the third group. The university girls formed the fourth group. Girls group was followed by a number of boys groups. It was an unprecedented sight of self-sacrifice in defense of Bangla language. So far the whole protest movement was done peacefully.

But the police interference soon turned the peaceful situation into a violent one. After few processions went through the gate, the police, without any provocation on the students part, started baton charge on the Arts faculty gate and the road in front it. The riot police, positioned a far, soon joined their mates by firing tear gas on the crowd. The whole Arts faculty was enveloped with the tear gas. The students ran towards the pond to wash their eyes. They washed their eyes and brought with them wet handkerchiefs to counter the police attack. Injured with tear gas shells the angry students stormed the cops with bricks and shoes. A tear shell hit Gaziul Huq and he was taken to the girls common room unconscious.

The fight with the police continued till 2 pm in the Arts faculty area. The whole university campus turned into a battle ground. On one side the police attacked the students with batons and tear gas. The students countered them with bricks and stones. Cornered by the brutally aggressive police forces, the students broke the wall between arts faculty and the medical college. Thus the fight then spread to the medical and engineering college areas. A large number of students were injured by police baton and tear gas charge.

The fight between the students and the police forces went on and on. But the situation reached its darkest phase when, around 3 pm, a group of armed police, instructed by district magistrate Koreshi, sprang out from behind the shop opposite to Dhaka Medical College hostel and took position in the hostel ground and opened fire. Some bodies fell on the streets, streaming blood dyed the roads with crimson hue. Some precious young lives turned into Bangla alphabet. In the tear gas afflicted murky ground of Dhaka University the fight between the cops and students went on unaware of the great sacrifice of human lives, first in human history, for the defense of the mother tongue.

Despite brutal firing and tear gas attack, the police could not occupy the medical college hostel. The students kept them at bay by throwing bricks. Soon the news of police shooting the students spread like thunderbolt. Life in Dhaka turned into a standstill. Thousands of people streamed into the Dhaka medical hospital to pay their tribute to the martyrs. Shocked and grief-struck their face turned stone, amber in their hearts.

The bodies of the dead and the injured were taken to the Dhaka medical hospital. Doctors and nurses rushed into the emergency department to save their lives. One of the bodies was unidentifiable because the head was blown away. Later it was identified as martyr Barkat's dead body.

Later that evening the dead bodies were taken to the morgue. As the police snatched few unidentified dead bodies from the teargas afflicted public earlier that afternoon, the students, fearing that the police might try to do it again, guarded the morgue gate. But in the dead of the night, a group of armed commando troops, escorted by the police, stormed the morgue gate and forcibly took the dead bodies at the gun point.

But a few die-hard students followed the military jeeps on foot and watched them dumping the dead bodies in the nearby Azimpur cemetery. As soon as the army left the cemetery, the students came out of their hidings and marked the spots where the martyrs were dumped. The following morning thousands of people went to the cemetery and paid their tributes to the martyrs of Bengali language movement.


Constitution reform

On 7 May 1954, the constituent assembly resolved, with the Muslim League's support, to grant official status to Bengali. Bengali 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."

However, the military government formed by Ayub Khan made attempts to re-establish Urdu as the sole national language. On 6 January 1959, the military regime issued an official statement and reinstated the official stance of supporting the 1956 constitution's policy of two state languages.[10]

Independence of Bangladesh

Although the question of official languages was settled by 1956, the military regime of Ayub Khan promoted the interests of West Pakistan at the expense of East Pakistan. Despite forming the majority of the national population, the East Pakistani population continued to be under-represented in the civil and military services, and received a minority of state funding and other government help. This was mainly due to lack of representative government in the fledgling state. Mainly due to regional economic imbalances sectional divisions grew, and support for the Bengali ethnic nationalist Awami League, which invoked the 6-point movement for greater provincial autonomy. One demand was that East Pakistan be called Bangladesh (Land/Country of Bengal), which subsequently led to the Bangladesh Liberation War.[2]


To commemorate this movement, Shaheed Minar (শহীদ মিনার), a solemn and symbolic sculpture, was erected in the place of the massacre. The day is revered in Bangladesh and, to a somewhat lesser extent, in West Bengal as the Martyrs' Day.

This day is the public holiday in Bangladesh.

UNESCO decided to observe 21 February as International Mother Language Day.[11] The UNESCO General Conference took a decision to that took effect on 17 November 1999,[12] when it unanimously adopted a draft resolution submitted by Bangladesh and co-sponsored and supported by 28 other countries.

In Assam and North-east India

In Silchar, India, eleven people were killed by police firing on 19 May 1961 when protesting against legislation that mandated the use of the Assamese language.[13] Bengalis in Assam and north-east India observe 19 May as Language Movement Day to remember the 11 Bengalis who were killed on the day by police fire in Silchar Railway Station.[14]

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 Al Helal, Bashir (2012). "Language Movement". In Islam, Sirajul; Jamal, Ahmed A. Banglapedia: National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh (Second ed.). Asiatic Society of Bangladesh.
  2. 1 2 Oldenburg, Philip (August 1985). ""A Place Insufficiently Imagined": Language, Belief, and the Pakistan Crisis of 1971". The Journal of Asian Studies. The Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 44, No. 4. 44 (4): 711–733. doi:10.2307/2056443. ISSN 0021-9118. JSTOR 2056443.
  3. Morning News. 7 December 1947. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  4. The Azad (a daily newspaper) (in Bengali). Abul Kalam Shamsuddin, Dhaka. 11 December 1948. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  5. (Umar 1979, p. 35)
  6. Al Helal, Bashir (2003). Bhasa Andolaner Itihas [History of the Language Movement] (in Bangla). Dhaka: Agamee Prakashani. pp. 227–228. ISBN 984-401-523-5.
  7. "Dhaka Medical College Hostel Prangone Chatro Shomabesher Upor Policer Guliborshon. Bishwabidyalayer Tinjon Chatroshoho Char Bekti Nihoto O Shotero Bekti Ahoto". The Azad (in Bengali). 22 February 1952.
  8. James Heitzman and Robert Worden (eds), ed. (1989). "Pakistan Period (1947–71)". Bangladesh: A Country Study. Government Printing Office, Country Studies US. ISBN 0-16-017720-0. Retrieved 2007-06-16.
  9. 1 2 3 Al Helal, Bashir (2003). Bhasa Andolaner Itihas [History of the Language Movement] (in Bangla). Dhaka: Agamee Prakashani. pp. 377–393. ISBN 984-401-523-5.
  10. Lambert, Richard D. (April 1959). "Factors in Bengali Regionalism in Pakistan". Far Eastern Survey. 28 (4): 49–58. doi:10.1525/as.1959.28.4.01p1259x. ISSN 0362-8949.
  11. Desk, NewsGram News (2016-02-21). "Commemorating the International Mother Language Day- February 21". NewsGram. Retrieved 2016-05-06.
  12. "Language Movement - Banglapedia". Retrieved 2016-05-06.
  13. "No alliance with BJP, says AGP chief". The Telegraph. 27 December 2003. Retrieved 2006-11-19.
  14. Subir Bhaumik (2009-12-22). "Bengali 'should be UN language'". BBC News. Retrieved 2010-01-25.

External links

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