Bengali Language Movement

Mother LanguageThe Bengali Language Movement was the political and cultural movement of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). The movement happened to protect the fundamental rights surrounded the movement of establishing Bengali language one of the state languages. The move came in the final stage on 21st February 1952, but the fact of the movement started long ago, on the other hand, its reaction and results were far-reaching.

On 1947 British government divided India depending on religion and then Pakistan emerged. But there were lots of differences like cultural, geographical and linguistic between two parts of Pakistan. On 1948, Pakistan government declared that Urdu will be the only state language of Pakistan. People of East Pakistan got angry in the context of the announcement. Practically the people of East Pakistan were not mentally prepared for the sudden and unwarranted decision, and they could not accept it. As a result, a movement started for the equal status of the Bengali language. To resist the movement police imposed section 144 and declared illegal assembly-procession in Dhaka city.

On 21st February 1952 (8 Falgun 1358) many students of Dhaka University and some progressive political leaders broke the order and began the procession. When the procession came in front of Dhaka Medical College Police opened fire on protesters for breaks section 144. Rafik, Salam, Barkat and many others killed in the fire. The highway becomes stained with the blood of martyrs. Outrage spread across the East Pakistan for the tragic incident.

Central Government succumbed to the pressure of growing political movement and made the Bengali language as one of the state languages in the constitution on 1956. In 2000, UNESCO made 21st February International Mother Language day showing respect to the Language movement and the language and culture of people, which is celebrated with deep respect and dignity all around the world.

Bengali Language Movement


Since 1953, every year martyrs of the language movement has been said rich tribute on 21st February. On this day in the early morning, people do rally and they walk barefooted and give the flower to the Shaheed Minar. People hold black badge as a symbol of mourning all the day. People also do many seminars, cultural events to remember the sacrifice of the martyrs in the language movement and they pray for the peace of their soul. After the independence in 1971 the day is celebrated as a mourning day or National Martyrs’ day. Since 2001, the day has been celebrated as International Mother Language Day. This day is a public holiday. The significance of the day was highlighted by many Media with Bangladesh Betar and Bangladesh Television. Special Supplements published in Daily Newspapers on the day. The Amor Ekushey Book Fair organized in the Bangla Academy premises held a whole February month. The government of Bangladesh gives Ekushey Award to the prominent figures for language movement.


Pakistan and Bangladesh of the present time were undivided part of the Indian subcontinent under the British rule. In the middle of the 19th Century, some Muslim political leaders like Khwaja Salimullah, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, Nawab Waqar-Ul-Mulk and Maulvi Abdul Haq promoted Urdu as the lingua franc of Indian Muslims. Urdu is an Indo-Aryan language, which is a member of the Indo-Iranian language group. This language is also included to Indo- European language family. Urdu is Apabhramsa of (medieval Indo-Aryan language last linguistic stage of Pali-Prakrit) and influenced by Persian, Arabic and Turkish and developments in the South Asia at the time of Delhi Sultanat and Mughal Empire. For its Perso-Arabic script the language is considered as a vital element of Islamic culture by the Indian Muslims; on the other hand Hindi and Devanagari were considered at their element of Indian Hindus.

Urdu was popular among the people of Muslims of Northern India, but the Muslims of Bangla (a province in the eastern part of British India) used Bengali language as their main language. Bengali is an eastern Indo-Aryan language derived from eastern Middle Indic languages, which developed during the Bengal Renaissance. Pioneer of Muslim women’s education Begum Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain has started practicing in Bengali literature in the last of 19th Century since then the language began to spread and develop. Supporters of Bengali language opposed Urdu before the partition of India, when Bengali members of Muslim league declined the offer of making Urdu as the lingua franc of Indian Muslims in the Lucknow session of the Muslim League in 1937. The Muslim League was a political party of British India, which played an important role in the formation of Pakistan during the partition of India.

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