Virtual Bangladesh : History of Ekushe February
A Brief History of the Bangla Language Movement
Mohammad Bari. 1998, All rights reserved.
- September 15, 1947
- Tamuddun Majlis (Cultural Society, an organization by scholars, writers
and journalists oriented towards Islamic ideology) in a booklet titled State Language of Pakistan : Bengali or Urdu? demands Bengali
as one of the state language of Pakistan.
- The Secretary of the Majlis, at that time a Professor of Physics in
Dhaka University, [Abul Kashem] was the first person to convene a literary
meeting to discuss the State Language issue in the Fazlul Huq Muslim
Hall, a student residence of Dhaka University. Supporters and sympathizers
soon afterwards formed a political party, the Khilafate-Rabbani Party
with Abul Hasim as the Chairman. (-- Talukder Maniruzzaman)
- November 1947
- In Karachi, the representatives of East Bengal attending the Pakistan
Educational Conference, called by the Minister of Education Fazlur Rahman,
a Bengali, oppose Urdu as the only national language.
- February 23, 1948
- Direndra Nath Dutta, a Bengali opposition member, moves a resolution
in the first session of Pakistan's Constituent Assembly for recognizing
Bengali as a state language along with Urdu and English.
- The resolution "... was opposed by Liakat Ali, the Prime Minister
of Pakistan and other non-Bengali members in the Assembly. Regrettably,
this was opposed by Khawaja Nazimuddin - hailing from the eastern wing
- and a few other Bengali collaborators of the West Pakistanis in the
Assembly. Later, D. N. Dutta came up with a few amendments to the original
resolution, and everytime these were opposed by the west Pakistanis
and their Bengali stooges. The West Pakistanis were uncompromising to
such a genuine demand of the majority Bengalis." (-- Rafiqul Islam)
- "The demand for Bengali as one of the state language gathered
the spontaneous support of the Bengali Civil Servants, academics, students,
and various groups of middle class. Several members of the Provincial
Assembly, including some ministers, were reportedly active in supporting
the movement. By the end of February 1948, the controversy had spilled
over on the streets. The East Pakistan Student League, founded in the
first week of January by Mujibur Rahman, was in the forefront of the
agitation." (-- Hasan Zaheer)
- March 1948 (1st week)
- A Committee of Action of the students of Dhaka University, representing
all shades of opinion - leftists, rightists, and centrists - is set
up with the objective of achieving national status of Bengali.
- March 11, 1948
- Students demonstrating for Bangla as state language is baton-charged
and a large number of students are arrested in Dhaka.
- " The situation grew worse in the days that followed. The Quaid-i-Azam
was due to visit Dhaka from 19 March. The provincial government became
nervous and Nazimuddin under pressure of widespread agitation, the impending
visit of the Governor-General, sought the help of Muhammad Ali Bogra
to enter into negotiations with the Committee of Action. An agreement
was signed by Nazimuddin with the Committee which, inter alia, provided
that (1) the Provincial Assembly shall adopt a resolution for making
Bengali the official language of East Pakistan and the medium of instruction
at all stages of education; and (2) the Assembly by another resolution
would recommend to the central government that Bengali should be made
one of the state languages." (-- Hasan Zaheer)
- March 21, 1948
- Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan and its first Governor-General,
while on a visit to East Bengal, declares in Dhaka University convocation
that while the language of the province can be Bengali, the "State
language of Pakistan is going to be Urdu and no other language. Any
one who tries to mislead you is really an enemy of Pakistan."
- "The remark evoked an angry protest from the Bengali youth who
took it as an affront: their language Bangla (Bengali) was, after all,
spoken by fifty-four percent of the population of Pakistan. Sheikh Mujibur
Rahman, then a university student, was among those who raised the protest
slogan and was placed under detention. The Dacca University campus became
the focal point for student meetings in support of the Bangla language."
- Jinnah meets the student representatives of Committee of Action to
persuade them of the necessity of having one national language, but
the students are not convinced.
- "The discussion of Jinnah with the student representatives could
not bear any fruit but blurred the difference between the student group
led by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and his associates and the student group
led by Shah Azizur Rahman. The National leadership resorted to repressive
policies in order to crush the Bengali language and put its supporters
behind bars." (-- Md. Abdul Wadud Bhuiyan)
- January 26, 1952
- The Basic Principles Committee of the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan
announces its recommendation that Urdu should be the only state language.
- In a public meting at Paltan Maidan, Dhaka, Prime Minister Nazimuddin
declares that Urdu alone will be the state language of Pakistan.
- Both the developments spark off the second wave of language agitation
in East Bengal.
- January 28, 1952
- The students of Dhaka University in a protest meeting call the Prime
Minister and the Provincial Ministers as stooges of West Pakistan.
- January 30, 1952
- In a secret meeting called by the Awami League, which is attended
by a number of communist front as well as other organizations, it is
agreed that the language agitation can not be successfully carried by
the students alone. To mobilize full political and student support,
it is decided that the leadership of the movement should be assumed
by the Awami League under Bhashani.
- January 31, 1952
- Bhashani presides over an all-party convention in Dhaka. The convention
is attended by prominent leaders like Abul Hashim and Hamidul Haq Choudhury.
A broad-based All-Party Committee of Action (APCA) is constituted with
Kazi Golam Mahboob as Convener and Maulana Bhashani as Chairman, and
with two representatives from the Awami League, Students League, Youth
League, Khilafate-Rabbani Party, and the Dhaka University State Language
Committee of Action.
- February 3, 1952
- Committee of Action holds a protest meeting in Dhaka against the move
'to dominate the majority province of East Bengal linguistically and
culturally'. The provincial chief of Awami League, Maulana Bhashani
addresses the meeting. On the suggestion of Abul Hashim it decides to
hold a general strike on 21 February, when the East Bengal Assembly
is due to meet for its budget session.
- February 20, 1952
- At 6 p.m. an order under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code
prohibiting processions and meetings in Dhaka City is promulgated.
- This order generated tension and resentment among the students.
- February 21, 1952
- A general strike is observed.
- Noon - A meeting is held in the campus of Dhaka University.
Students decide to defy the official ban imposed by Nurul Amin's administration
and processions are taken out to stage a demonstration in front of the
Provincial Assembly. Police starts lobbing tear gas shells to the students.
Students retaliate by batting bricks. The ensuing riot spreads to the
nearby campuses of the Medical and Engineering colleges.
- 4 p.m. -The police opens fire in front of the Medical
College hostel. Five persons - Mohammad Salauddin, Abdul Jabbar, Abul
Barkat, Rafiquddin Ahmed and Abdus Salam - are killed, the first three
are students of Dhaka University.
- "The news of the killing spread like wildfire throughout the
city and people rushed in thousands towards the Medical College premises."
(-- Talukder Maniruzzaman)
- Inside the assembly, six opposition members press for the adjournment
of the House and demand an inquiry into the incidents. But Chief Minister
Nurul Amin urges the House to proceed with the planned agenda for the
day. At this point all the opposition members of the Assembly walk out
- February 22, 1952
- Thousands of men and women throng the university, Medical College
and Engineering College areas to offer prayers for the victims of the
- After prayers when they go for a procession, the police opens fire.
- The police also fire on angry mob who burned the offices of a pro-government
newspaper. Four persons are killed.
- 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. The motion is passed unanimously.
- "For the first time a number of Muslim members voted in favour
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)
- February 23, 1952
- A complete general strike is spontaneously observed, despite the resolution
by the Provincial Assembly. The government again responds with repressive
- APCA decides to observe a general strike on February 25 to protest
the government's actions.
- The students of Medical College erect overnight a Shahid Minar (Martyr's
Memorial) at the place where Barkat was shot to commemorate the supreme
sacrifices of the students and general population. Shahid Minar later
became the rallying symbol for the Bengalis.
- February 24, 1952
- The government gives full authority to the police and military to
bring the situation in Dhaka back to normal within 48 hours.
- "During these 48 hours the police arrested almost all the student
and political leaders associated with the language movement." (--
- February 25, 1952
- The Dhaka University is closed sine die.
- "In the face of these repressive measures, the movement lost
its momentum in Dhaka. But it spread widely throughout the districts
... In addition to demands for recognition of Bengali as one of state
languages of Pakistan, students now began to call for the resignation
of the 'bloody' Nurul Amin cabinet ... Nurul Amin claimed that the government
"had saved the province from disaster and chaos" by its repressive
measures. The students, however, argued that they had already "written
the success story of the movement on the streets with their blood."
In retrospect, whatever the merits of government and student actions,
it is clear that the movement did sow the seeds of a secular-linguistic
Bengali nationalism in east Bengal. Its immediate impact was to prepare
the ground for the complete routing of the Muslim League in the 1954
elections by a United Front of opposition political parties, on a nationalistic
planck of cultural, political and economic autonomy for East Bengal."
(-- Talukder Maniruzzaman)
- "The Language Movement added a new dimension to politics in Pakistan.
It left deep impression on the minds of the younger generation of Bengalis
and imbued them with the spirit of Bengali nationalism. The passion
of Bengali nationalism which was aroused by the Language Movement shall
kindle in the hearts of the Bengalis forever ... Perhaps very few people
realised then that with the bloodshed in 1952 the new-born state of
Pakistan had in fact started to bleed to death." (-- Rafiqul Islam)
- May 7, 1954
- The Pakistan government recognizes Bangla as a state language.
- Feb 26, 1956
- The Constituent Assembly passes the first Constitution of Pakistan
recognizing Bangla as a State Language.
- March 23, 1956
- The first Constitution of Pakistan comes into effect.
- March 26, 1971
- Bangladesh become an independent nation.
- Hasan Zaheer, The Separation of East Pakistan - The Rise and Realization
of Bengali Muslim Nationalism, Oxford University Press, Karachi,
- Talukder Maniruzzaman, The Bangladesh Revolution and its Aftermath,
Bangladesh Books International Ltd., Dhaka, Bangladesh, 1980
- Siddiq Salik, Witness to Surrender, Oxford University Press,
Karachi, Pakistan, 1977
- Rafiqul Islam, A Tale of Millions, Ananna, Dhaka, Bangladesh,
3rd edition, 1986
- Md. Abdul Wadud Bhuiyan, Emergence of Bangladesh and Role of Awami
League, Vikas Publishing House, Delhi, India, 1982