“The Bengali language movement gave us independence from Pakistan”: Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh


Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is on a four-day visit to India. Prior to her visit, in interaction with the ANI news agency, the Bangladeshi Prime Minister reflected on the history of the 1952 language movement while expressing her love for her mother tongue, Bengali.

Talking about how Urdu was imposed on the people of Bangladesh during the formation of Pakistan, she said it was the large-scale language movement that gave Bangladesh its independence from Pakistan five decades ago.

“When Pakistan was created, the Urdu language was imposed on us. A language movement started across our country and we gained independence through this movement, she told ANI.

When asked how important Bangla is to people who speak it, she replied that the language is essential for any community.

Referring to the first part of the interaction with ANI where she spoke in English, Sheikh Hasina added, “Until now I was speaking in English and I couldn’t speak as well because it’s a foreign language for me. . I may have several things in mind that I could not express. Language is really very important for any community.

“The origin of Bangladesh started with the language and the country has only one language… The attraction to our own language is something special because the mother tongue helps us to say what we think. It helps you work for your country, so it’s very crucial,” the prime minister said.

In response to another question whether it is about pride and affection for the native Bengali language, rather than rejection of other languages, Hasina replied, “Yes exactly. It is the pride and love of the mother tongue. We are not opposed to any language but at the same time we encourage people to learn other languages ​​like English, Persian, Arabic, French or for that matter any other.

“The world is now interconnected as people move from place to place for various purposes including work. So learning new languages ​​helps in communicating with others,” added Sheikh Hasina.

When asked if it was an inconvenience when Bangladeshis visited foreign countries and felt they could not communicate properly in English because they had only learned their native language, Bengali, she said. stated that Bengalis generally learn languages ​​very quickly.

“They learn and speak English. But they don’t speak as fluently because it’s not their mother tongue… I don’t speak English very well but those who learn the language speak well. Many Bangladeshis living in other countries have learned languages ​​spoken in that country.

Finally, when asked if the language creates a special rapport and what language she speaks when she travels to West Bengal to meet Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and others, he replied, “Yes, we speak Bengali .”

In response to another question on whether the language is binding even though there are various political disputes, such as Teesta water, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh said, “Problems may remain, but the friendship must continue.

“Yes of course. Looming problems may be at hand, but that does not mean the friendship will weaken. Problems may remain but the friendship must continue,” the Prime Minister added.

Language movement of 1952

In August 1947, India was liberated from the British and Pakistan, a Muslim majority country, was born. The newly christened region, however, was divided into West Pakistan, which was dominated by Urdu and Punjabi speakers, and East Pakistan, which was dominated by Bengali speakers.

The West Pakistan-dominated government designated Urdu as the official language of the country at an education summit held in Karachi in 1947. This would imply that all official communications would use Urdu as the medium of communication and that it would be taught in schools.

Bangla, a common language in part of Pakistan, has been eliminated as an approved school subject. It was also removed from official currency and stamps.

East Pakistan denounced the decision, with several prominent leaders, politicians and student activists passionately opposing it over the next five years. The Bengali language movement or Bhasha Andolan as it was famously called, grew out of grassroots efforts to combat cultural and linguistic discrimination and persecution.

The unique movement started on February 21, 1952 and ended with the creation of Bangladesh after the 1971 liberation war.

After the Basic Principles Committee of the Constitutional Assembly of Pakistan issued its suggestion in January 1952 to make Urdu the sole official language, the all-party Central Language Action Committee was formed in East Pakistan to fight for Bengali. The committee declared a strike and pledged to hold demonstrations and processions throughout East Pakistan, Jabeen, Chandio and Qasim on February 21.

The government has enacted Article 144 in Dhaka, banning all meetings, processions and demonstrations. Thousands of students from various schools and institutions came out in protest, violating Article 144, and staged a rally on the campus of Dhaka University.

Police, in turn, used canes at the young protesters carrying a march and fired tear gas shells to disperse them. The students, moreover, retaliated by throwing bricks and stones, which led to arrests. When students set up a roadblock around the parliamentary meeting, police opened fire, killing three people and injuring many others.

The attack on students on February 21 sparked new protests across the country. According to recorded history, on February 22 and 23, workers, writers, teachers, and others observed an all-out strike and even defied the order of Section 144 by organizing processions.

The language movement was successful. The Pakistani government was forced to recognize Bengali as an official state language in 1956.

February 21, until today, is celebrated as Language Movement Day or Shohid Dibosh (Martyrs’ Day) in Bangladesh.

Although the issue of official languages ​​was resolved in 1956, Ayub Khan’s military dictatorship favored the interests of West Pakistan over those of East Pakistan. Despite making up the majority of the national population, East Pakistanis remained underrepresented in the civilian and military services and received only a minority of state money and other government aid.

Sectoral divisions arose as a result of regional economic, social and political inequalities, and the ethnic nationalist Bengali Awami League invoked the 6-point movement for greater provincial autonomy. One of the demands was that East Pakistan be renamed Bangladesh (Land/Land of Bengal), which later led to the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971, in which 10,000 to 35,000 Bengalis were killed by the Pakistan Army in Operation Searchlight as the death toll rose to over 3 lacs in the months to follow.


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