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Historical Background of 1952 Language Movement

The Language Movement

The Language Movement is a unique event in the history of the political Movement of Bangladesh. Bengali was the mother tongue of about 56 percent of the people of Pakistan. On the other hand, Urdu was the mother tongue of only 6 percent people of the whole of Pakistan. Although 56 percent of the people of Pakistan were Bengalis, the West Pakistani didn’t want Bengali to become the state language.  On the other hand, Bengalis wanted to make their language the state language along with Urdu and had no objections against that language’.

Various Stages of Language Movement

First Stage of the Language Movement:

Formation of Tamuddin Majlish: On 15 September 1947 Tamuddun Majlis published the booklet on the Language Movement entitled ‘Pakistaner Rastrabhasha Bangla Na Urdu’. Professor Abul Kashem, Dr. Qazi Motahar Hossain and Abul Mansur

 

Ahmed were the authors of this booklet.  In October 1947, Tamuddun Majlis formed Rastrabhasha Sangram Parishad to give the Language Movement an organizational structure.

Education Conference in Karachi: In December 1947 an Educational Conference was held in Karachi sponsored by the Government of Pakistan. In this Conference the decision was taken to make Urdu the state language of Pakistan.

Formation of Sangram Parishad: In January 1948 the Rastrabhasha Sangram Parishad was reconstituted with a view to making Bengali a state language. The Sangram Parishad raised the following demands regarding the question of language:

  1. Bengali shall be the medium of instruction and the language of the offices and law Courts of East Bengal;                                
  2. There will be two state languages of Pakistan Bengali and Urdu.

Second stage of the Language Movement

Demand by Dhirendra Nath Dutta:  In February 1948 when the first Assembly of Pakistan started to record its proceedings in Urdu side by side with English, Dhirendra Nath Dutta of Comilla, a member of Assembly, protested against it and demanded that Bengali be accorded official recognition as one of the languages of the Constituent Assembly.

All-Party Rashtrabhasha Sangram Parishad and Protest on 11 March 1948: On 2 March 1948  formed the All-Party Rashtrabhasha Sangram Parishad. The Samgram Parishad called a general strike on 11 March 1948 to resist the conspiracy of the Government in the language issue. On that day, many students were injured and many leaders including Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Shamsul Huq and Oli Ahad were arrested. It was decided that 11 March would be declared ‘Bengali Language Demand Day’.

In such a situation, the Chief Minister Khwaja Nazimuddin met the Sangram Parishad on 15 March and signed an agreement with them. By this agreement, he agreed to release the arrested students, to investigate police excesses, to move a Bill in the Assembly for making Bengali a state language.

Mohammad Ali Zinnah on 21 March  1948                              Protest of the students

 

Announcement of Muhammad Ali Jinnah: On 21 March 1948, Muhammad Ali Jinnah visited Dhaka and addressed a public meeting at the then Race Course Maidan. In that meeting he declared, “Urdu and only Urdu shall be the state language of Pakistan”. When he repeated these words at the Dhaka University Convocation Ceremony held on 24 March at the Curzon Hall, the students protested vehemently by shouting ‘No, No’. On that day, Rastrabhasha Parishad submitted a memorandum to Muhammad Ali Jinnah.

Proposed of introduction of Arabic script: In 1948, It is proposed that introduction of Arabic script, or Urdu letters for writing Bengali. Dr. Shahidullah was proposed to be appointed for the purpose of introducing Arabic script. But he rejected the proposal. In April 1949 the students of the Bengali Department, DU submitted a memorandum to Pakistan Education Advisory Board protesting against this objectionable proposal.

Last stage of the Language Movement:

Formation of Purbo Bangla Bhasha Committee: On 9 March 1949 the Government of East Bengal formed the Purbo Bangla Bhasha Committee for reforming Bengali language. Maulana Akram Khan was the President of this Committee.

Announcement of Liaquat Ali Khan: In September 1950 The Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan declared in the Constituent Assembly that only Urdu would be the state language of Pakistan. But in the face of strong protest from the people of East Bengal, the Constituent Assembly postponed the discussion.

Announcement of Liaquat Ali Khan: On 26 January 1952 at a public meeting in Dhaka, Khwaja Nazimuddin declared that Urdu would be the only state language of Pakistan. This declaration created a strong resentment and as a mark of protest a call for hartal throughout the province was given.

Meeting of All Party Rashtrabhasha Sangram Committee: The Committee decided to call a strike on 4 February and observe 21 February as the State Language Day and to observe hartal in the country. February 21 had been chosen as the State Language Day since the East Pakistan Provincial assembly was scheduled to sit on that day.

 Events of 1952:

144 Section:  On 20 February the Government of Nurul Amin, being scared of the student Movement imposed section 144 at 3 p.m., and banned the processions and the meetings.

21 February: On 21 February, the students of Dhaka University in an organized way defied section 144 and leading a procession from the University campus proceeded towards the Provincial Assembly which was in session, chanting the slogan “Rashtrabhasha.Bangla Chai”. In a tense situation the students assembled in the campus. The police used tear gas to disperse the students. And clashes occurred between the police and the students. At one stage, the police opened fire. A number of people and students including Jabbar, Rafiq, Barkat and Salam were martyred and many students and people were injured. 

 

 

 

 

 

On 22 February: A big rally, came out on the street as a mark of protest. Police opened fire on this rally too. As a result, Safiur Rahman was killed. On the same day, in a meeting of the students held at the Dhaka Medical College hostel, it was decided to build a Shaheed Minar. Accordingly, the Students erected a 12-feet high Shaheed Minar in front of DMC.

On 23 February: the father of Shaheed Safiur Rahman formally inaugurated the Shaheed Minar. But in the evening of 24 February, police demolished this Shaheed Minar. In memory of that, another Shaheed Minar was built later on the same site and that is the present Central Shaheed Minar.

Bangla as State language:

At last, the Government of Nurul Amin adopted a resolution in the Provincial  Assembly to the effect that a proposal would be raised at the Constituent Assembly containing the demand to accord Bengali the status of one of the state languages of Pakistan. In the face of continuous student’s and people’s Movements the Pakistan Government was compelled to give Bengali the status of one of the state languages.

Finally, Bengali was given the status of one of the state languages in the Constitution of Pakistan of 1956.

Achievements of Language Movement:

The Language Movement of 1952 was the first organized expression of the consciousness of the exploited and deprived masses of Bangladesh. This consciousness born out of the Language Movement inspired all the subsequent Movements and helped achieving the political, the cultural and the economic freedom leading to independence.

Landslide victory in the provincial election in 1954 (out of 309 seats of the East Bengal Legislative Assembly the United Front got 236, the Muslim League 9)

Reorganization of the Bangla Language  (1956)

Reflection in educational conference (1962)

Six-points (1966)

Mass-uprising (1969)

Landslide victory in the general election (1970)

Great victory in 1971

Observed 21st February as an International

Mother Language day

Observed 2008 as ‘Year of Language’ by UN

International Status of Bangla Language (Sierra Leone)

Discrimination against East Pakistan:

Form the very beginning, Pakistan had been following a policy of partition against East Pakistan. Political, military, administrative and economic discrimination had been increasing gradually. Bengalis were beginning to perceive that they were being discriminated against in business, government service and all spheres of trade and commerce. Because Karachi was the capital of Pakistan, Bengalis were being deprived of all sorts of advantages. As a result, a wide gap was in the relation between East and West Pakistan.

Socio-Cultural Disparity:

Bengali was the mother tongue of about 56 percent of the people of Pakistan. On the other hand, Urdu was the mother tongue of only 6 percent people of the whole of Pakistan (Census 1951). Thus Bengali, in spite of being the language of the majority of the people of Pakistan, was ignored by the Pakistani ruling group as a state language which was a substantial discrimination against the people of East Pakistan. On the other hand, East Pakistan also deprived from getting reasonable facilities in various social sectors.

Sl. No Areas West Pakistan East Pakistan
1 Total Population 5.50 Crore 7.50 Crore
2 Number of Doctors 12400 7600
3 Rural Health Complex 325 88
4 Social Development Centre 81 52

[Source: M.A. Rahim et. al., Bangladesher Itihas, P. 480]

Political Disparity

East Bengal became subjected to political discrimination immediately after the birth of the state of Pakistan. From 1947 to 1958, among all the presidents of Pakistan, one was from East Pakistan who spoke in Urdu and among four Governors within 1955; one was from East Pakistan who spoke in Urdu. In reality, East Pakistan was politically neglected by Pakistan from the very beginning. For example, United Front got 236 seats out of 309 in the provincial election in 1954  but this government could not  continue more then two years. In the general elections held on 7 December 1970, the Awami League acquired an absolute majority. The Awami League secured 167 seats out of 169 National Assembly seats in East Pakistan and won 288 out of 300 seats in the Provincial Assembly. But Awami League  did not form the government.  

SL. No Head of the State Regime
1 M.A. Jinnah 1947-48
2 K. Nazimuddin 1948-51
3 M.G. Muhammad 1951-55
4 Iskander Mirza 1955-56

Employment/Military Disparity

While the security of East Pakistan was uncertain, the province was also subjected to serious discrimination in military matters. The headquarters of the three Defense Services were established in West Pakistan. No Bengali could be found in the high posts in the Defense Services as those posts were monopolized by the West Pakistanis. In the army, 95 percent posts were held by the West Pakistanis and East Pakistan had a share of only 5 percent.

In administrative arena, within 1966, 77% 1st class jobs belonged to the west Pakistani whereas only 23% filled up by the East Pakistani, On the other hand, 74% for 2nd Class, 73% for 3rd Class and 70% for 4th Class jobs went to west Pakistan while remaining  were  for East Pakistan.

SL No. Areas West Pakistan East Pakistan
1 Central Civil Jobs 84% 16%
2 Foreign Jobs 85% 15%
3 Army 95% 5%
4 Air Force (Pilot) 91% 9%

[Source: M.A. Rahim et. al., Bangladesher Itihas, P. 479]]

Economic/ Financial Disparity

During the Pakistani rule, East Pakistan was subjected to severe economic disparity. As a result, East Pakistan could never be self- sufficient economically. The provincial government did not have any control over its currency and economy. As everything was controlled by the Centre, all the income of East Pakistan flew away to West Pakistan. Head offices of the State Bank and other banks, insurance companies, trading concerns and foreign missions were established in West Pakistan. About two thirds of the foreign exchange of Pakistan was earned by selling the jute of East Pakistan. But the jute farmers could never get the fair price for their products. On various pretexts the foreign exchange was also spent in West Pakistan.

SL. No Areas West Pakistan East Pakistan
1 Foreign Currency for Development 80% 20%
2 Foreign Aid without USA 96% 04%
3 USA Aid 56% 34%
4 Pakistan Industrial Corporation 53% 42%
5 House Building 88% 12%
6 Industrial Bank 76% 24%

Disparity in Educational facility:

Huge discrimination was prevailing in the area of education facility also

West Pakistan

1968-69

East Pakistan

1968-69

Grade
09 04 University
17 09 Medical, Engineering College
39418 28307 Primary School

Source: Bangladesh documents, Ministry of External Affairs, India, 1971 (p:17)

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