Ekushey February our glorious past

by Tehreen Islam

FEBRUARY 21 is the day which reminds us of the supreme sacrifice of the martyrs of the language movement in 1952. It is an event that reflects our inspiration and dignity as a nation. It established us as the only nation in the globe which is named after its language and it has been more significant by the global recognition as International Mother Language Day. It can be said that the Language Movement initiated the declaration of Bengali national identity, and it was a step towards different Bengali nationalist movements, including the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971.
February 21 was declared as International Mother Language Day by Unesco in 2000 and the whole world to celebrate this occasion which is a tribute to the Language Movement. It is a proud moment as a nation as Bangla and the sacrifice of our language movement are being remembered and honoured by the whole world.
Different historical documents and evidences show that, Bangla, the mother tongue of the people of Bengal goes back to the 17th century. From the mid-19th century, Urdu language had been promoted as the language of Indian Muslims by political and religious leaders. Around the late 19th century, social activists such as the Muslim feminist Roquia Sakhawat Hussain tried to write in Bangla to reach out to the people. She wanted to develop it as a modern literary language. It is believed that in the Muslim community of Bengal, the mother language barrier had been the major obstacle when it came to social development. East Pakistan and West Pakistan, the two wings of the state of Pakistan after its formation in 1947 had cultural, geographical and linguistic differences. In 1948, the government of Pakistan declared Urdu as the sole national language and that sparked extensive protests among the Bangla-speaking majority of East Pakistan.
Assuming tensions and protests with the new law, the government restricted public meetings and rallies. The students of the University of Dhaka and other political activists did not accept the law and protested in groups on February 21, 1952. When police started to kill the student demonstrators, the movement reached its climax. The deaths provoked widespread chaos and unrest. After years of conflict and confrontation, the central government accepted and granted official status to the Bangla language in 1956.
Ekushey played a very important role in making Bengalis realise what their cultural and national heritage is and eventually this led to the creation of Bangladesh in 1971.
The Bangla Language Movement of February 21, 1952, popularly known as Ekushey was not only a movement for language but a socio-politico-cultural movement in Bangladesh or then East Pakistan, declaring the recognition and right to speak and use of the Bangla language as an official language. Such recognition could allow Bangla to be used in government affairs. Our brave countrymen did manage to establish that and even today, Ekushey has been an example and a guiding philosophy whenever there is oppression, injustice, disparity etc. making us proud and making our past glorious.

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