It was not an easy task for the people of Bangladesh to go against the Government of Pakistan, which had made Urdu the sole national language in East Pakistan. Those familiar with post-colonial politics in the Indian sub-continent know that the struggle to recognise Bengali as a national language culminated into the national movement that led to the birth of Bangladesh in 1971. BE spoke to Toufique Hasan, Deputy High Commissioner, Bangladesh Deputy High Commission, Kolkata, India.
The great Language Movement of 1952 is a historic and significant event in the national history of Bangladesh. Pakistan wanted Urdu to be the only state language for the whole of Pakistan, including East Pakistan (present day Bangladesh). This was vehemently protested by the Bangla speaking people of the then East Pakistan. On February 21, 1952, many valiant sons of the soil, including Rafiq, Shafiq, Salam, Jabbar, and Barkat sacrificed their lives for protecting the dignity of their mother tongue Bangla. With their sacrifice, embracing martyrdom for the cause of the mother tongue became an unprecedented event in world history.
The resonance of the pride of the Language Martyrs’ Day (February 21) has resounded in the hearts of 193 countries surpassing the boundary of Bangladesh when UNESCO recognised February 21 as the
International Mother Language Day on November 17, 1999, at the initiative of the then Awami League government led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina with the help of some expatriate Bangladeshis including Salam and Rafiq. The International Mother Language Day is now a source of inspiration to people around the world.
We have taken the initiative to make Bangla, which is spoken by more than 25 crore people of the world, as one of the official languages of the United Nations. I believe that observing the International Mother Language Day will play a positive role in attaining a sustainable future through the use multilingual education along with developing and protecting our own language and culture.