No nation has ever died for their mother tongue, except for one. The day was 21st February of 1952.A meeting was held in the campus of Dhaka University.
Anger and frustration were overwhelming the university students. The land where 55% of the population spoke Bengali, no other language could be the state language. Bengali was looked down as a language for literature and unworthy of official usage.
Students decided to defy the official ban imposed by administration and started processions demanding Bengali be made the state language beside Urdu. When the students reached the border of the campus, they found that the whole campus was cordoned with police. Trying to break the out of the police barricade, students clashed repeatedly with the police forces. When the vice-chancellor of the university asked the policemen to disperse so that the students could continue their peaceful protests, his pleas were ignored and the police started firing tear-gas canisters in the crowd. The students also refused to disperse and tried to gather again in different spots of the city.
When they approached the legislative building, the police opened fire on the students. Five persons – Mohammad Salauddin, Abdul Jabbar, Abul Barkat, Rafiquddin Ahmed and Abdus Salam – are killed, the first three were students of Dhaka University. Those were the students of the finest University in the state. So, When the news of this massacre spread, the entire Dhaka city went into a state of mourning and shut down. Everything was shut down immediately as a form of protest. The next day thousands of men and women from the university, Medical College and Engineering College areas to offer prayers for the victims of the police firing. After prayers, when they go for a procession, the police again attacked the procession and opened fire on the participants. Police also lit fire to a newspaper office that was supporting this movement.
A reporter who had fallen asleep in office was burned alive. As the situation deteriorates, the government calls in the military to bring things under control. Bowing to the pressure, the Chief Minister Nurul Amin moves a motion recommending to the Constituent Assembly that Bengali should be one of the state language of Pakistan.
This movement not only protected mother tongue from humiliation, It also brought people from every religion together. Everyone forgot about religious differences and stood their ground. “For the first time a number of Muslim members voted in favor of the amendments moved by the opposition, which so far had consisted of the Hindu Congress members only. The split in the Muslim League became formalized when some members demanded a separate bloc from the Speaker; the Awami (Muslim) League had attained the status of an opposition parliamentary party.” (– Hasan Zaheer). I never get tired of hearing stories of those brave souls who took a bullet to their head and gave freedom to my mother tongue.
It was also the first victory against cruel rulers, which led to freedom war in 19717.I can’t stop thinking that If those students weren’t brave enough to speak up, maybe I wouldn’t be born in an independent country. After 47 years,21st February was declared as International Mother Language Day. The year was 1999 which was also the year I was born.
That made this event even more special for me. Every time I read the stories of those students, I want to hold their hands and say,” We will never forget what you did”.