M Mizanur Rahman :
Mother’s tongue is ever the sweetest one for each person. Hence one should inculcate the spirit of one’s own mother’s tongue honored in all respect.
As our poet says, “Moder gorob Moder asha a mori Bangla bhasha” i.e. our pride, our hopes and aspirations lay in our mother’s tongue. We reserve the honour for the Bengali Language Martyrs of 21st February, 1952.
The people of Bangladesh were under the subjugation of foreign rules for a very long period. So they could not establish the stately status of Bangla language towards that ends though they had their wills and aspirations inherent among themselves. Moreover before the advent of the Muslims in Bangladesh Bangla language was absolutely neglected and left aside as the language of the untouchables as was prescribed by the then powerful pundits. At that time Bangla was the language of the Bengali people who were treated as lower, mean, and abjected as well as outcastes in the conscience of those so-called Pundits and their related adherents. There was no access of the common people to their scriptural language Sanskrit.
The most eminent research scholar under the Calcutta University, Dr. Dinesh Chandra Sen said in one of his articles on 'Bengali Language' that those pundits (Brahmins) hated and neglected Bangla Language as much as they hated and neglected Haris and Domes (lower labour class people). Bangla language was also in expectation for that auspicious time when it will be unfettered from the yoke of its ominous underhand like those diamonds that look for the jeweler who would smoothen them after they were plucked out of the coalmine and like those pearls that look for the diver who would collect them and set them free from oyster shells.
Gour (now Maldaha of West Bengal, India) was then the capital of Bengal ruled by the Muslims. It carries no sense whether they came from Iran or Turan. After their conquest of Bengal they became Bengali. Bengal is as much the motherland of the Hindus today, it were the same for the Muslims of those days. They did not come to this country to rob its wealth or valuables in the guise of traders but they became really the people of this country. They became much more Bengali than what was expected by the people at that time. Bengali language was in usage since early period when the Buddha-dynasty reigned Bengal. Bengali lyrics of that period are available. But it is no exaggeration that development of Bengali literature and culture took place during the Muslim rule in Bengal.
Since the reign of Shamsuddin Iliyas Shah (1342-1355), the independent Sultan of Gour, with his Excellency's direct patronisation the development of Bengali language took place under royal supervision for the welfare of the people. Thereafter the name of Sultan Husain Shah (1493-1518) became a legend in the history of Bengali literature that under his patronization Bengali literature developed to a greater extent. Though Bengali language, literature and culture per excellence had been flourished during this period under the aegis of the great Muslim emperors of Gour, Bengali was not given the status of the state language. Both Mughal and Pathan rulers in India used their official state language Persian.
The history of literature and culture of Bengal seems to be though age-old, yet the making of Bangla as the state language is the outcome of a continuous social and political movement in Bangladesh. The Bengali people had been waking up with political consciousness from the backdrop of British rule in India. That is why once Gopal Krishno Gokhlay told, "What Bengal thinks today, India thinks tomorrow".
As a matter of fact Nabab Syed Nawab Ali Choudhury was the first Bengal Muslim personality, the Zamindar (Land lord) of Dhanbari estate of Momenshahi raised the issue of making Bangla as the state language of the then Bangladesh beside Urdu for rest of India. While in the face of Wahabi Movement in 1921, the British government was pressed by the Indian leaders that includes poet Rabidranath Tagore to make Hindi as the state language of India; only Nabab Syed Nawab Ali Choudhury (1863-1929) made a written proposal against it to the British government demanding that whatever be the state language of India, Bangla must be the state language of Bengal. However, since this famous proposal might have been pressed down under the heavy weight of those revolutionary days.
In 1947, after the establishment of the state of Pakistan there was a hectic preparation to make Urdu as the state language of Pakistan. The top leaders of Pakistan, M.A.Jinnah, M.Liaquat Ali Khan, and Nazimuddin were in the opinion to make Urdu as the sole state language of Pakistan that sowed the seeds of discontent in Bengali mind. The people of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) opposed vehemently against such unilateral decision, rather they also raised their demand that Bangla should be the foremost state language of Pakistan. On 14 September 1947, Tamaddun Majlish, a literary and cultural organization of the then East Pakistan led by Principal Abul Kashem of Dhaka University published a pamphlet, 'Pakistaner Rastrobhasha Bangla na Urdu?' (Whether the State Language of Pakistan is to be Bangla or Urdu)" in which preference was given to Bangla with facts and figures. Moulana Akram Khan, the owner of the daily 'AZAD' was its chief patron.
This was the coincidence of Nabab Syed Nawab Ali Choudhury's single voiced proposal in 1921. He was also a great educationist of his time. In a Muslim Education Conference at Rangpur in 1911, being the chief guest, he categorically expressed with irrefutable arguments in his august speech, "Urdu and Persian languages are not necessary for the Bengali Muslims. If any nation is forced to have other's language as its mother language, then the nationality of that nation becomes absolutely obsolete."
However the question of the state language of Pakistan was yet to be determined nationally. Still the official language of Pakistan remained English in all respect. The contrast was that none of the leaders, politicians or officials of Pakistan then used to speak or write Urdu or Bengali but English officially. In the Pakistan National Assembly sessions on 24, 25 February and 2nd March, 1948, the only Congress leader Mr. Dhirendranath Dutt raised the question of Amendment of 1935 Act as saying, " …I consider that Bengali Language is a lingua franca of our state…if English can have an honoured place in rule 29- that the proceedings of the Assembly should be conducted in Urdu or English, why Bengali, which is spoken by four crores forty lakhs people should not have an honoured place…and therefore Bengali should not be treated as a provincial language, it should be treated as the language of the state and therefore…I suggested that after the word 'English' the word 'Bengali' be inserted in Rule 29." The majority members of the Assembly opposed Mr. Dutt and his proposal was rejected.
Thereafter in the same year on 21st March being head of the state M. A. Jinnah spoke regarding the State Language of Pakistan in a mammoth public meeting at the Race Course Field in Dhaka :
"…but let me make it very clear to you that the state language of Pakistan is going to be Urdu and no other language. Anyone who tries to mislead you is really the enemy of Pakistan." Mr. Jinnah uttered the same comment about the state language of Pakistan at a special Convocation in Dhaka University on 24 March 1948. The students opposed it vehemently by saying, "No…no…no…"
This resounded throughout the country and echoed in the East with dismay against M. A. Jinnah. The entire East Pakistan rose to the occasion against the decision and became united to realise its rights. It was not the beginning that our people started disobeying the wrongs; traditionally they never bowed down to the unjust even at extreme repression.
They overcame and trampled the odds from 1948 to 1952 heroically with their bloods and tears. Especially the people of Bangladesh will never forget the Language Movement of 1952. The awe-sparked remembrance of blood-splashed and bullet-riddled youths of Bangladesh who laid down their lives for the protection and preservation of Bangla as the State Language were Abdul Jabbar, Rafiquddin, Salam, Abul Barkat and Safiqur Rahman on 21 and 22 February 1952.
Bangladesh got the daring political leadership from Maulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhasani and Sheikh Mujibur Rahman who added their indomitable voice to the demands of the teeming millions of people of Bangladesh and led rightful movements of the people successfully. Due to tumultuous political upsurge the most powerful political party of Pakistan Muslim League suffered a crashing defeat. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman gained momentum since 1966. The mass uprising in 1969 for the implementation of Six-Point programme and against Ayub's misrule took new turn in the political history of Pakistan. General Ayub Khan then became the Field Martial of the Armed Forces on his own way but could not stay in power anymore. He put off his military uniform and made it over to another General Yahya Khan. Again Martial Law was imposed throughout Pakistan. He acknowledged the deprivation of East Pakistan in all respect and pledged to make good of it and after the general election he would hand over the power to the elected representatives of the people and move back to the Military barrack.
But in the general election of Pakistan when Sheikh Mujibur Rahman won it overwhelmingly, the West denied him power to govern Pakistan and as such he asked his people in the East to non co-operate with the government in power. Gen.Yahya Khan, who forgot his early pledge like a cruel impostor, ordered military crack down over the people of East Pakistan on 25 March 1971, which killed, mutilated, maimed male and female of every age and raped women. The Liberation War against Pakistan was fought in collaboration with the allied Indian forces having all out logistic support from Russia. The Pakistani armed forces were defeated and they surrendered to the allied liberation armed forces on 16 December 1971.
The people of Bangladesh struggled hard with great sacrifice that culminated the epoch making Independence. Now how happy we are to say that we, the people of Bangladesh, fought for the achievement of our mother tongue Bangla as the state language and after the bloodiest struggle we won it. Now everywhere in Bangladesh top most priority should be given to Bangla language for its enrichment along with alien words and phrases. Students of all educational institutions throughout Bangladesh should be taught both scientific and technological aspects of education through mother tongue medium like other developed nations of the world. Any foreign language should be given the status of secondary language in Bangladesh for the overall benefit of Bangladeshi citizens. In course of education for the people all discriminatory methods should be avoided. Otherwise national unity will remain at stake.
(The author of this article is a poet, essayist and columnist)