When India was divided in 1947, a new country Pakistan was born.
Pakistan needed a new official language. Scholars and leaders of West Pakistan believed that Urdu, only spoken by 47%, should be the state language. It had gained a reputation as the cultural symbol of sub-continental Muslims and considered suitable for as the state language. However, eastern Pakistanis addressed Urdu as the language of the elite, but not the language of the people in the east Pakistan. East Pakistan or now known as Bangladesh had 56% of Pakistan’s population – where Bangla was the first language. Pakistan’s “founding father” Muhammad Ali Jinnah and, later, Khwaja Nazimuddin declared Urdu as the official state language ignoring this issue .
Political leaders of East providence tried to come to peace and proposed to have Bengali as the state language besides Urdu. As a response all they did was promise to consider Bengali if it’s written in Urdu alphabets. Instead of calming them down as they thought it would, the proposal was viewed as an insult to Bengali language. Students of Universities and Political leaders started to protest and demand for proper respect throughout the capital city. Political activities and protest continued for couple of years until it reached climax on the 21st of February 1952. In the morning, the students at the University of Dhaka gathered together with the determination of pursuing the Pakistani Government. Little did they know they have to shade their blood to achieve that goal.
They organized a protest and march down to the campus. When they reached there, they saw police surrounding the whole campus. Police warned them not to continue their protest, but their young blood feared nothing.
With the dream of establishing justice ,they broke the law on the University of Dhaka grounds. First Police fired tear gas shells at the students. Most of the students started running into the Dhaka Medical College, but the other others continued towards the police line. The vice-chancellor of the university asked the policemen to disperse so that the students could continue their peaceful protests, but the Police didn’t listen. The police arrested some students who were trying to sneak away from the crowd. That made other students enraged and they gathered around the East Bengal Legislative Assembly.
Suddenly a group of students started trying to storm the building. The police opened fire instantly. Within some seconds 4 students were killed. They were later identified as Abdus Salam, Rafiq Uddin Ahmed, Abul Barkat, and Abbul Jabbar.
The death news of these young college students was spread across all the news channels, radios and newspapers. Everyone was shocked and speechless but especially angry at the Police and Pakistani Government. Young adults who were only standing up for their morals and beliefs were shot, and people did not take this news well. Those were the students of the finest University in the state. So, When the news of this massacre spread, the entire Dhaka city was shut down. Every store and office were shut down immediately as a form of protest. The Bangladeshi Party, Awami League, stood up next to them. ‘Remember the boys’ they protested with their slogans and rallies, and people joined them.
The next day after 21st February, thousands of men and women from the university, Medical College and Engineering College gathered to offer prayers for the victims of the police firing. They build a cemetery to honor the students. After prayers, when they go for a procession, the police again attacked the procession and opened fire on the participants. Another participant Shafiq was shot and he died before he could be sent to hospital.
The cemetery was crushed to the grounds and police lit fire to a newspaper office that was supporting this movement. A reporter who had fallen asleep in office was burned alive. By that time,it was enough reasons for the entire state to be blind with rage.
Finally, they had to involve military to control the situation. When a huge part of the population stubbornly stuck with their decision, no other choice was left. Bowing to the pressure, the Chief Minister Nurul recommended Assembly that Bengali should be one of the state language of Pakistan.The National Assembly of Pakistan finally declared Bengali as one of the official state languages of Pakistan. The Bengali Language Movement (known as Basha Andolon) was like a wake up for the East Pakistan and later it turned out to be the historical turning point for the nation’s struggle towards independence. The East Pakistan province finally decided to established their independence and earned its identity as Bangladesh after a nine month long bloody war in 1971.People of Bangladesh didn’t forget their children and their sacrifice.
So, every year, on the morning of 21st February, Bengali spoken Bangladeshi go the Shaheed Minar (Martyrs’ Monument) on bare feet with a black badge to show their compassion and gratitude to the language martyrs.