Language Movement

LMThe Bangalees first rose in revolt against the West Pakistani rulers on the question of the state language. The West Pakistani rulers declared Urdu as state language instead of Bangla, the language of the majority people of Pakistan.

The people of East Bengal burst in protests against this blatant injustice and a strong mass-movement originated on the question of state  language. Both Awami League and its student wing Chhatra League evolved through this Language movement that stretched from 1948 till 1952. The leaders of these two parties played the dominant role in organizing this movement. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s name should be specially mentioned in this regard.

On March 11, 1948, he led a siege of the East Pakistan Secretariat and was arrested along with some fellow activists. On March 21, 1948, in a meeting in the Racecourse of Dhaka (now Suhrawardy Ground), Mohammad Ali  Jinnah, the first Governor General of Pakistan declared unequivocally: “Urdo and only Urdu shall be the state  language of Pakistan.” A number of young activists including Bangabandhu raised their voice of protest against this declaration. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman became the target of the wrath of the Muslim League government and was thrown into Jail again and again. He however continued to pass out directions to the leaders of the movement from jail when the final phase of the Language movement started in 1952. And on 21 February, 1952, police opened fire on the demonstrators killing several. And finally, the West Pakistanis yielded to Bangalee’s demand and recognized Bangla as the state language besides Urdu. To honour this sacrifice, UNESCO in 1999 declared the 21st of February as the International Mother Language Day.

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