Bangla Language Movement

21 February 1952

Tito Scohel


Icon: Amar Ekushe


Language Heroes

 Rafiq, Salam, Barkat, Jabbar

Rafiq (Rafiq Uddin Ahmed): The eldest son of Abdul Latif Miyan and Rafiza Khatun, Shahid Rafique hailed from Paril a village in the Manikganj district. The Miyan family runs printing business, a business Rafiq was running in 1952. Rafique had four younger brothers: Rashid, Khaleque (a freedom fighter) Salam and Khorshed Alam. Rafique was distinguished, since his childhood, as a supportive, upright, patriotic social worker with passion for music and theatre. He staged and acted in various plays in the neighboring villages.

A pretty cousin of his, gorgeous Rahela Khanom Panu from the next door neighbor, was Rafiquw’s sweet heart. Their passionate love affair was recognized by Rafique’s parents and they organized their wedding. Accompanied by his nephew, Rafique went to Dhaka for shopping for his forthcoming wedding.

On 21st February 1952, although scheduled to return home with his shopping-sari, blouse, churies, alta (lac dye), powder and some ornaments-Rafique, due to his love for Bangla language, instead of going home, joined the protest rally of Bangla Language Movement organized by the students of Dhaka university leaving his shopping with his nephew. His love for his mother tongue surpassed his life long passion for his sweet heart Panu to whom he never returned as a groom. Shot dead by the Paki cops in the language procession on 21st February, Rafique’s dead body was later dumped by the Paki commandos (who stole the dead bodies of language martyrs from Dhaka Medical college morgue) in the Azimpur grave yard where thousands of Bangalees paid their homage the next morning.

Barkat (Abul Barkat): An MA final year student of the department of political science of Dhaka University. Barkat was born on 16 June 1927 at Babla village of Murshidabad district in India. His father’s name was late Shamsuddin and his local address was Bishnu Priya Bhaban, Purana Paltan, Dhaka.

Salam (Abdus Salam): A staff member of the industrial directorate. Salam was shot on 21st February and died in Dhaka Medical College hospital on 17 April 1952. Father: Mohd Fajil Miah.

Jabbar  (Abdul Jabbar): Bangla Language martyr Abdul Jabbar was born on 26 Ashwin, 1326B (1927) in Pachua village, Gaforgaon, Mymensingh. His father’s name was Hasen Ali and mother’s name Safatun Nesa. Jabbar was the eldest son of his family. His schooling started in 1333B (1934) at the Dhopaghat Krishibazar Primary school. After finishing year five at the primary school, Jabbar quit school being upset with his father and left home.

Jabbar, however, returned home after a few months. But later he left for Rangun from Narayanganj. The captain of the ship Jabbar boarded on to go to Ranguan promised him a job in the ship. But he never got the job due to poor health. Returning home, Jabbar organized a village defense group with boys from the neighborhood and took the led the group as its commander. In 1949 he married one of his friends’ sister, Amina Khatun, and settled down. One and a half year after the marriage Jabbar and Amina had a baby boy. The boy was named Nurul Islam Badol.

In February 1952 Jabbar’s mother-in-law fell ill. Jabbar took her to Dhaka for treatment. With the help of one Sirajul Islam, a doctor from the neighboring village, Jabbar managed to admit his mother-in-law in Dhaka Medical College Hospital. In 1952 the Provincial Assembly of East Bangla was next to Dhaka Medical College Hospital.

Dhaka of February 1952 was a political volcano. Meetings, processions, rallies and picketing were everyday events in the Dhaka university campus. On 19 February, Jabbar took leave of all his relatives. After dinner while he was taking leave from her aunt Aysha Khatun, she affectionately tied the buttons of his shirt. Jabbar spent the night of 20 February at some Abdul Hai’s residence.

In the morning of 21 February Jabbar went to hospital to see his mother-in-law. After spending some time with Dr Sirajul Islam, Jabbar went outside the hospital gate to buy some fruits for the patient. The procession of language movement was culminating outside. Crowds with fiery eyes and thundering slogans-We demand Bangla as state language-turned the university campus into a battleground. The spirit of the protesting crowd sucked Jabbar in within a flash. Mother-in-law, hospital, fruits all faded away from his memory. Jabbar became the crowd, he carried the banner in front of the procession. When the police opened fire, Jabbar being in the front line, was one of the first to fall.

With Barkat and other martyrs of language movement, Jabbar was immediately taken into the emergency. Jabbar breathed his last on the way to the operation theatre: the first martyr to be one with eternity.

Shafiur Rahman: 28 years old High Court staff and a law student Shafiur Rahman was killed by the Pakistani troops beside the Khoshmahal Restaurant near Rathkhola on Nababpur road. Shafiur Rahman was the father of a daughter and left behind his pregnant wife and a big family dependent on his income. His father’s name was Maulabi Mahbubur Rahman and he was born in Konnagar village of the Hugli district in India.

Ahi Ullah: Details of language martyr Ahi Ullah are still unknown as the police later captured his dead body and dumped. He was the son of a builder named Habibur Rahman.

Abdul Awal: Abdul Awal died under the police truck used to disperse the funeral procession of the martyrs of the Bangla language movement.

An unidentified boy: Like Abdul Awal, this unidentified lad was run over by the police truck used to disperse the funeral procession of the martyrs of the Bangla language movement. His death was never acknowledged by the Pakistani government.

Champion of Bangla Language

Dhirendra Nath Datta

In defence of Bangla: Bangla as the state language of Pakistan

Sir, in moving this– the motion that stands in my name– I can assure the House that I do so not in a spirit of narrow Provincialism, but, Sir, in the spirit that this motion receives the fullest consideration at the hands of the members. I know, Sir, that Bangla is a provincial language, but so far our state is concerned, it is the language of the majority of the People of the state. So although it is a provincial language, but as it is a language of the majority of the people of the state and it stands on a different footing therefore. Out of six crores and ninety lakhs of people inhabiting this State, 4 crores and 40 lakhs of people speak the Bangla language. So, Sir, what should be the State language of the State? The State language of the state should be the language which is used by the majority of the people of the State, and for that, Sir, I consider that Bangla language is a lingua franca of our State. It may be contended with a certain amount of force that even in our sister dominion the provincial language have not got the status of a lingua franca because in her sister dominion of India the proceedings of the constituent Assembly is conducted in Hindustani, Hindi or Urdu or English. It is not conducted in the Bangla language but so far as the Bangla is concerned out of 30 crores of people inhabiting that sister dominion two and a half crores speak the Bangla language. Hindustani, Hindi or Urdu has been given and honored place in the sister dominion because the majority of the people of the Indian Dominion speak that language. So we are to consider that in our state it is found that the majority of the People of the state do speak the Bangla language than Bangla should have an honoured place even in the Central Government.

I know, Sir, I voice the sentiments of the vast millions of our State. In the meantime I wand to let the House know the feelings of the vastest millions of our State. Even, Sir, in the Eastern Pakistan where the People numbering four crores and forty lakhs speak the Bangla language the common man even if he goes to a Post Office and wants to have a money order form finds that the money order is printed in Urdu language and is not printed in Bangla language or it is printed in English. A poor cultivator, who has got his son, Sir, as a student in the Dhaka University and who wants to send money to him, goes to a village Post Office and he asked for a money order form, finds that the money order form is printed in Urdu language. He can not send the money order but shall have to rush to a distant town and have this money order form translated for him and then the money order, Sir, that is necessary for his boy can be sent. The poor cultivator, Sir, sells a certain plot of land or a poor cultivator purchases a plot of land and goes to the Stamp vendor and pays him money but cannot say whether he has received the value of the money is Stamps. The value of the Stamp, Sir, is written not in Bangla but is written in Urdu and English. But he cannot say, Sir, whether he has got the real value of the Stamp. These are the difficulties experienced by the Common man of our State. The language of the state should be such which can be understood by the common man of the State. The common man of the State numbering four crores and forty millions find that the proceedings of this Assembly which is their mother of parliaments is being conduct in a language, Sir, which is unknown to them. Then, Sir, English has got an honoured place, Sir, in Rule 29. I know, Sir, English has got an honoured place because of the International Character.

But, Sir, if English can have an honoured place in Rule 29 that the proceedings of the Assembly should be conducted in Urdu or English why Bangla, which is spoken by four crores forty lakhs of people should not have an honoured place, Sir, in Rule 29 of the procedure Rules. So, Sir, I know I am voicing the sentiments of the vast millions of our State and therefore Bangla should not be treated as a Provincial Language. It should be treated as the language of the State. And therefore, Sir, I suggest that after the word 'English', the words 'Bangla' be inserted in Rule 29. I do not wish to detain the House but I wish that the Members present here should give a consideration to the sentiments of the vast millions of over State, Sir, and should accept the amendment that has been moved by me.

Mr Datta's Speech in the Parliament


The contributors in the Bangla language movement


Dr Mohd Shahidullah (10 July 1885-13 July 1969). Professor

Maulana Bhasani (1885-1976). Politics

Dhirendra Nath Datta (1897- 1971). Lawyer and politician

Dr Quazi Motahar Hossain (1897-1981). Professor

Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (Father of Bangladesh)

Maulana Abdur Rashid Tarkabagish (1900-85).Politics

Abul Hashim (1905-74). Politics

Ataur Rahman Khan (1905). Law and politics

Abdus Salam (1910-77). Jouralism

Abul Kalam Samsuddin (1897-1978) Journalism

Tofajjal Hossain Manik Miah (1911-69). Journalism

Osman Ali (1900-71) Daudkandi, Comilla) Business & Politics

Shaokat Osman (1917-) Huglee, India). Novelist

Sikandar Abu Jafor (1919-75, Tetulia, Khulna): Journalist & poet

Mohd Abdul Hai (1919-69, Murshidabad, India). Teaching

Samsul Huq (1920-64, Tangail): Politics

Mohd Abul Kashem (1920- Debendi, Chittagong)

Golam Maola (1921-67, Naria, Shariatpur). Medicine and Politics

Abdus Samad Azad (1922, Bhuakhali, Sunamganj). Politics

Kalim Sharafi (1924-): Singer

Mohd Toaha(1922-87)  Kushakhali, Laksmipur: Politics

Kamruddin Hossain Shahud (1925- Janglibari, Kishoreganj). Teaching

Munier Chaudhury (1925-71, Dhaka). Professor, Playwright.

Tajuddin Ahmed (1925-75), Kapasia, Dhaka): The leader of the liberation war.

Sardar Fazlul Karim (1925- Barisal). Professor

Shahidullah Kaiser (1926-71, Noakhali). Journalist and Novelist

Mofazzal Haider Chowdhury (1926-71). Professor

Mohd Sultan (1926-83, Boda, Panchagar): Politics & Business

SA Bari AT (1927-87, Munshipara, Dinajpur). Politics and law.

Mustafa Nurul Islam (1927, Nisindara, Bogra). Teaching

Kazi Golam Mahbub (1927, Barisal): Politics & law

Rafiq Uddin Bhuiyan (1928, Merenga, Mymensing).Politics

Badrul Alam (1927-80, Sherpur). Medicine

Mosharaf Hossain Chowdhury (1927, Tangail). Business

Meer Hossain Ahmed (1927, Dhaka). Professional

Mahbub Alam Chowdhury (1927, Chittagong): Industrialist

Ataur Rahman (1927, Bogra): Teaching

Abdul Momen (1928, Mohanganj, Netrokona). Politics & law

Abdul Matin (1928, Shailjana, Pabna). Politics

Fakir Shahabuddin (1927-89, Kapasia, Dhaka). Politics & law

Fazle Lohani (1928-85, Kolkata, India). Journalist & TV Presenter

Gaziul Huq (1928). Lawyer

MA Ajmal Hossain Bulbul (1928, Sirajganj). Medicine

KG Mustafa: (1928, Kuripara, Sirajganj). Journalism

Zillur Rahman (1929, Kishoreganj) Politics & law

Abdul Gafur(1929-). Journalism

Ahmed Rafiq (1929, Comilla). Medicine

Ali Ahad (1929, Comilla). Politics

Shamsur Rahman (1929, Mahuttuli, Dhaka). Poet

Usha Bepari (1929, Rajbari). Nursing

Abdullah al Muti (1930, Pabna). Scientist

Zulmat Ali Khan (1930,Mymensing). Politics & law

Mohd Ali Asgar (1930) Comilla. Medicine

Habibur Rahman Shelly (1930) Murshidabad, India). Judge

Abdul Latif (1930,Raipasha, Barisal). Singer and musician

Ishtiaq Ahmed (1930, Kolkata, India)

MR Akhtar Mukul (1930) Bogra. Journalism

Anwarul Huq Khan (1930,Basirhat, India). Publisc service

Bahauddin Chowdhury (1930, Armanitola, Dhaka):Journalism

Altaf Mahmud (1930,Muladi, Barisal) Singer and musician

Sufia Karim (1930, Pabna). Teacher

Momtaz Begum (1930,Narayanganj). Teacher

Hasan Hafizur Rahman (1931, Jamalpur). Journalist and poet

Safia Khatun (1931, Kolkata, India). Teaching

Nizamul Huq (1931, Chhagalnaiya, Feni). Dance teacher

Aminul Islam (1931,Totia, Dhaka) Teacher, Arts College

Sadek Khan (1931,Munsiganj). Journalism

Abdul Gaffar Chowdhury (1932, Ulania, Barisal). Journalism

Murtaza Bashir (1932, Ramna, Dhaka). Teacher, Arts College

MN Nurul Alam (1932, Rajshahi). Lawyer

Sufia Ahammad (1932, Dhaka). Teacher

Sayeed Atikullah (1933, Tangail).Journalism

Halima Khatun (1933, Bagerhat). Lecturer

Abu Zafar Obaidullah (1934,Barisal). professional and poet

Zahir Ryhan (1935, Noakhali): Film director

Syed Samsul Huq (1935,Rangpur). Novelist, poet

Golam Murtaza (1936, Dhaka). Business

Mohd Mokammel (1937, Bhola). Bureaucrat

Anisuz Zaman (1937, Kolkata, India). Professor






Dabirul Islam

Abdur rahman Chowdhury

Nurul Huda

Kader Bakhs

Yusuf Ali

Mohd Farhad





Syed Nawab Ali

Abdul Matin

Mojaharul Islam Abu

Jalal Uddin Akbar

Fazlur Rahman

Saleha (Rani)

Mujibur Rahman Akkelpuri






Kabial Ramesh Sheel

Ahsab Uddin Ahmed

Principal Rafiq

Pulin Dey

Sucharit Chowdhury






M Mansur Ali

Amzad Hossain

Mahbubur Rahman

Aminul Islam

Prorsad Ray

Kamal Lohani





Prof Mozaffar Ahmed Chowdhury

Prof Ajit Guha

Khairat Hossain

Ahmmad Ali

Ranesh Dasgupta

Satyen Sen

Wadud Patwari

Amulya Kanchan Ray

Abdul Aalim

Alauddin al Azad

Imadullah Lala

Momin Talukdar

ATM Shamsul Huq

Rowshan Ara Bacchu

Borhan Uddin Khan Jahangir

Abdul Gani Hajari

MA Muhit

Ibrahim Taha

Farman Ullah

Anis Chowdhury

Sirajul Islam

MA Mukit

Rafiqul Islam

Prof AT Latif


Bangla Language Day procession in Dhaka University

Bangla Language Movement: A Synopsis of Events 

Bangla Language Day, popularly known as Ekushe (21) February, is one of the most significant days, not in Bangladesh only, but in human history because on that day the valiant Bangalee boys gave their lives to defend their sweet mother tongue, Bangla language. Over the centuries people gave their lives for love, faith, freedom, nation and the state. But on 21 February 1952, ever in history, a bunch of young Bangalee students gave their lives in a protest rally at the Dhaka university campus against the Pakistani authority’s attempt to impose Urdu (as the state language of Pakistan) over the 70 million Bangalees of East Bangla (then East Pakistan).

Politically conscious and culturally advanced Bangalees of East Bangla were instrumental in the creation of the British pampered Islamic state Pakistan. Although the Lahore Proposal (proposed by a Bangalee, Sher-e-Bangla AK Fazlul Huq) originally proposed a confederation of Muslim majority states for Pakistan, the proposal was never unearthed since the partition (1947). Since the birth of Pakistan, the rulers of Pakistan motioned to colonize the Bangalees (and the Baluch, the Pathans, the Pustus) culturally, economically, ideologically (dominant ideology has always been Islam), linguistically and politically. In 1948, the year after the partition Jinnah, the self-proclaimed champion of Islam (which constitutes only the addition of an Islamic hat on his black suit, not the abandonment of his favorite drink, scotch and favorite breakfast, bacon) and the founder of so-called Islamic state Pakistan, declared that “Urdu and Urdu only, will be the state language of Pakistan”. The people (especially the university students) of Bangladesh protested against Jinnah’s presumptuous statement. Among the politicians only Dhirendra Nath Datta stood against Jinnah’s statement in the parliament and proposed Bangla (the language of the majority) as the state language of Pakistan. But like the Lahore proposal Datta’s state language bill was shoved under the carpet. Four years later, on 26 January 1952, Khaza Nazimuddin, the premier of Pakistan, assuming that the state language issue being considerably subsided, reiterated Jinna’s statement, in a public meeting at the Paltan ground, to secure his position in the parliament. The pro-Pakistani newspapers gave Nazimuddin’s speech massive media coverage. The ruling Muslim leaguers and their Islamic brethren started scratching their beards in anticipation of camels, deserts and dates in this life and 70 lusty houries hereafter. 

The students of Dhaka University, unlike the goatee buffoons in the establishment, burst into a vehement protest against Nazimuddin’s speech the very next day and two of the leading student organizations, East Pakistan Jubo (Youth) League and East Pakistan Students’ League, organized a protest meeting and rally at the Amtala (the grassy foyer under the old Mango tree in front of the Arts faculty) of Dhaka University on 27 January 1952. In that meeting Habibur Rahman Shelly, a distinguished student of Dhaka university, publicly criticized Jinnah’s statement of 1948, gutless Liakat Ali’s unabashed sycophancy and Nazimuddin’s mimicry of Jinnah.

In order to turn the language issue into a systematic political movement the students of Dhaka University later formed an Action (Sangram) Council and elected Abdul Matin the convener of the council. Under the banner of this council three students organizations, East Pakistan Jubo League, East Pakistan Students’ League and the United Students’ Sangram (Action) Council held a students’ strike and protest rally in the Dhaka University campus on 30 January 1952. Khalek Newas Khan of Mymensingh chaired that meeting. This meeting was a warm up call for the Bangalees of East Bangla.

All Party State Language Action Council

On 31 January 1952 a conference of the leaders of all opposition parties were held in the Dhaka Bar Council Library. Maulana Bhasani, the leader of East Pakistan Awami League, called the conference. Leaders from Khilafat-e-Rabbani, Tamuddun Majlish, University Students’ Sangram Parishad, East Pakistan Muslim Students’ League and East Pakistan Youth League attended the conference. In that conference All Party State Language Action Council was formed and Maulana Bhasani was elected chairman of the council and Golam Mahbub convener. This committee later declared 21 February to be the “Language Day” and called on strike, meetings and procession all over the country. Around the country, thousands of student activists from the three mainstream students’ organizations took on the streets to make “Language Day” a political success.

4 February 1952: Student Protest Meeting in Dhaka University (recounted by Gaziul Huq)

“Being unable to wait for the chair, I jumped on the table and after a short speech announced the action plan. Ten thousand students were present in the university campus. A large procession of ten thousand students rallied around the Dhaka city and then gathered, following the procession, at the Beltala of Dhaka University. In that public gathering people around the province were called on to make 21 February Strike a success.”

“Around 3 pm on 20 February while we were making a list of volunteers at Madhu’s canteen, we heard the government making microphone announcement declaring curfew (Emergency Act 144) for the following day (21 February). The students present resented the official enforcement of the Act 144 on the “Bangla Language Day”.

“Later that evening in a meeting at the Salimullah Muslim Hall chaired by Fakir Shahabuddin it was decided that Act 144 would not be tolerated. It had to be broken. And this decision had to be passed on to the All Party State Language Action Committee. Chaired by Abdul Momen another meeting was held in Fazlul Huq hall and it was decided that Act 144 would have to be defied”.

Hartal or Election? The dilemma of the opposition political parties

By the evening of 20 February 1952 three political forces took different stances with regard to the action programs of the language day (21 February):

a. The establishment (Muslim League) was determined to crash the language movement by any means even by using severe force if necessary (they feared the secular aspect of the language movement which, they were afraid, could undermine the Islamic ideology on underlying the philosophical foundation of Muslim League)

b. Due to the sudden declaration of Emergency by the provincial government, the All Party State Language Action Committee decided to withdrew the hartal because they feared that the political turmoil that the hartal was likely to cause might give the Nurul Amin government an opportunity to defer the council election (which they were more concerned with) indefinitely.

c. For the student leaders the issue of the mother tongue was the only concern. So leaving the political parties indulge in absurd political discussions, the Banga boys of Dhaka University decided to break the curfew for the Bangla alphabet and teach the parasitical Muslim league establishment a real lesson for meddling with their mother tongue.

On this day while the students and political activists were busy all over Dhaka city campaigning for the hartal to force the govt to accept their demand to recognize Bangla as the state language of Pakistan (Bangalees were majority), few vans from the publicity department of the Muslim League government kept announcing around city declaring curfew, under Act 144, on 21 February 1952 and government ban on all political gathering, meeting and procession on that day.

21 February 1952

From 8 o’clock onwards, small groups of school students from all over Dhaka city marched towards the Dhaka University campus and assembling at the Arts faculty foyer of Dhaka University. College students’ processions joined the school boys by 9 am.  By 9:30 thousands of students from different university halls, Medical and Engineering College (now BUET) hostels streamed into the assembly via various routes. By 11:30 the total number of students assembled reached nearly 20-25 thousands. “We demand Bangla be the state language” slogan filled the air. The armed police began patrolling the streets in front of the Arts Building and behind them the ‘tear gas’ squads took position and waited for instruction.

Amtala, Arts Building, Dhaka University

In the midst of such a loaded situation Gaziul Huq stood on the table to assume his role as the president of the historic students’ assembly.  The first speaker was Samsul Huq (founder secretary of Awami league). As the representative of All Party State Language Action Council, he called on not to break the emergency Act 144. But before leaving the assembly he expressed his personal solidarity with the language movement. All on a sudden the news of police tear gas attack on one of the students’ procession near Lalbagh spread in the assembly. This news climaxed the already explosive situation. In that instance both the convener and president of Dhaka University State Language Action Council, Abdul Matin and Gaziul Huq, were giving their speeches in support of breaking the emergency Act 144. The explosive crowd shouted their consent to Huq and Matin’s decision. “We won’t stand Act 144, we won’t ” slogans thundered the Dhaka University campus. In the midst of such a huge upheaval Abdus Samad Azad somehow detailed the plan for breaking the curfew. It was famous “procession of ten”. He said if the massive crowd of 20-25 thousand goes out in procession it might lead to a horrible situation. So he suggested that instead of the big crowd a small procession of ten students would go out one after another. The proctor of Dhaka University agreed with him and ordered university staff to open the gate of the Arts faculty.

Thus started the famous “procession of ten”. All participants of the procession voluntarily turned them in to the police. Habibur Rahman Shelly led the first group. Abdus Samad Azad the second group and Anwarul Huq and Obaidullah Huq Khans led the third group. The university girls formed the fourth group. Girls’ group was followed by a number of boys’ groups. It was an unprecedented sight of self sacrifice in defense of Bangla language. So far the whole protest movement was done peacefully.

But the police interference soon turned the peaceful situation into a violent one. After few processions went through the gate, the police, without any provocation on the students’ part, started baton charge on the Arts faculty gate and the road in front it. The riot police, positioned a far, soon joined their mates by firing tear gas on the crowd. The whole Arts faculty was enveloped with the tear gas. The students ran towards the pond to wash their eyes. They washed their eyes and brought with them wet handkerchiefs to counter the police attack. Injured with tear gas shells the angry students stormed the cops with bricks and shoes. A tear shell hit Gaziul Huq and he was taken to the girls’ common room unconscious.

The fight with the police continued till 2 pm in the Arts faculty area. The whole university campus turned into a battle ground. On one side the police attacked the students with batons and tear gas. The students countered them with bricks and stones. Cornered by the brutally aggressive police forces, the students broke the wall between arts faculty and the medical college. Thus the fight then spread to the medical and engineering college areas. A large number of students were injured by police baton and tear gas charge.

Thursday, 21 February 1952,3 pm: The alphabet bleeds 

The fight between the students and the police forces went on and on. But the situation reached its darkest phase when, around 3 pm, a group of armed police, instructed by district magistrate Koreshi, sprang out from behind the shop opposite to Dhaka Medical College hostel and took position in the hostel ground and opened fire. Some bodies fell on the streets, streaming blood dyed the roads with crimson hue. Some precious young lives turned into Bangla alphabet. In the tear gas afflicted murky ground of Dhaka University the fight between the cops and students went on unaware of the great sacrifice of human lives, first in human history, for the defense of the mother tongue.

Despite brutal firing and tear gas attack, the police could not occupy the medical college hostel. The students kept them at bay by throwing bricks. Soon the news of police shooting the students spread like thunderbolt. Life in Dhaka turned into a standstill. Thousands of people streamed into the Dhaka medical hospital to pay their tribute to the martyrs. Shocked and grief-struck their face turned stone, amber in their hearts.

The First Shahid Minar

The bodies of the dead and the injured were taken to the Dhaka medical hospital. Doctors and nurses rushed into the emergency department to save their lives. One of the bodies was unidentifiable because the head was blown away. Later it was identified as martyr Barkat’s dead body. Mourning became the East Bangla.

Later that evening the dead bodies were taken to the morgue. As the police snatched few unidentified dead bodies from the teargas afflicted public earlier that afternoon, the students, fearing that the police might try to do it again, guarded the morgue gate. But in the dead of the night, a group of armed commando troops, escorted by the police, stormed the morgue gate and forcibly took the dead bodies at the gun point. But a few die-hard students followed the military jeeps on foot and watched them dumping the dead bodies in the nearby Ajimpur cemetery. As soon as the army left the cemetery, the students came out of their hidings and marked the spots where the martyrs were dumped. The following morning thousands of people went to the cemetery and paid their tributes to the martyrs of Bangla language movement.

The Bangla language movement was essentially conceived and led by the Bangalee students. Since this movement onwards, students’ role in the national politics has been central. Unlike the political parties, the students’ movement always won the indiscriminate sympathy and support of the masses. In the language movement the roles of the politicians were insignificant (many top political leaders including Sheikh Mujib were imprisoned before the movement). They could not direct the students’ emotions and passions for nationalist political achievements. The Bangalee intelligentsia (the secular and liberal intellectuals, most of them were black listed by the Pakistani authority and brutally murdered by the collaborators of Pakistan army, the Razakars, Al-Badard and other militant Islamic fundamentalists just a week before the independence. Please visit Liberation War, Martyr Intelligentsia, Razakars and War Criminals pages for details) had a great contribution in this movement. Conservative parties like Muslim League, Jamat and other Islamic parties always opposed, and even tried to crash, the nationalistic movements. After independence, all the major political parties, whether democratic or military, tried to politicize the Bangla language day. The traditional morning rallies to the language monument are often disrupted by the fight between the opposing political parties to place the photos of their party leaders on the top of the monument. Islamic parties always opposed the Bangla Language Day and tried to persuade the Muslims from rallying and offering flowers to the Shaheed Minar (Martyrs’ Monument) by interpreting it as idol worship. Even in some areas where the Jamatis dominate, they attempted to destroy the monuments. Despite all the mean politics about the language movement and its legacy, Ekushay February will forever inspire the Bangalees to defend and love their sweet mother tongue- Bangla.




Grammar (language) has always been the consort of the empire, and forever shall remain its mate. It is a tool a tool for the state control over the shape of people’s everyday subsistence. It is a toll for conquest abroad and as a weapon to suppress untutored speech at home. (For Queen Isabella his Grammar would be, he argued in his petition for support of publication) a tool to colonize the language spoken by her subjects.

Nebrija: Grammatica Castellana (1492)

I was greatly delighted with my new companion, and made it my business to teach him everything that was proper to make him useful, handy, and helpful; but especially to make him speak, and understand me when I spake, and he was the aptest scholar that ever was.

(Daniel Defoe: Robinson Crusoe)

It is impossible for us with our limited means to attempt to educate the Body of the people. We must at present do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern-a class of persons Indian in blood and colour, but English in tastes, in opinions, in morals and in intellect.

(Macaulay’s Minute of 2nd February 1835; Macaulay, 1835 pp.249)

I am very much interested in the question of Basic English. The widespread use of this would be a gain to us far more durable and fruitful than the annexation of great provinces. It would also fit in with my ideas of closer union with the United States by making it even more worth while to belong to the English speaking club.

(Winston Churchill, 1943)

Ideological World War III has started and there is no certainty that it is well won yet. In spite of the fact that this is a war for men’s minds, there exist no Joint Chiefs of Staff planning such a war, no war production authority concerning itself with material for such a war. These questions are by and large, in our society, left to the private initiative of the type that one sees in the Georgetown Institute of Language and Linguistics.

In this war for men’s minds, obviously the big guns of our armament is competence in languages and linguistics.

(Mortimer Graves, Executive Secretary of the American Council of Learned Society, 1950, quoted in Newmeyer, 1986, p-56)

There is a hidden sales element in every English teacher, book, magazine, film strip and television programme sent overseas.

(British Council Annual Report, 1968-69 pp. 10-11)

English is, moreover, an export which is very likely to attract other exports-British advisers and technicians, British technological or university education, British plant and equipment and British capital investment. There are clear commercial advantages to be gained from increasing number of potential customers who can read technical and trade publicity material written in English.

 (British Ministry of Education, 1956, para.10)

Second language programs can be viewed within this marketing framework. It is clear that we are suppliers of a product (or service) which consumers need and avail themselves of. Students are consumers who pay for our product directly (from their own pocket) or indirectly (through subsidies given to them or us). We are like ‘corporations’ which on the basis of certain management decisions produce a service which we hope will be purchased by many and which will please all buyers. We advertise the products (some of us more, others less), we hire personnel to deliver the project (teachers), and we build and administer the locations where the product changes hands (schools and classrooms).

(Yorio, 1986 p. 670)

Post-colonial responses to


Let us be clear that English language has been a monumental force and institution of oppression and rabid exploitation throughout 400 years of imperialist history. It attacked the black person who spoke it with its racist images and imperialist message; it battered the worker who toiled as its words expressed the parameters of his misery and the subjection of entire peoples in all the continents of the world. It was made to scorn the languages it sought to replace, and told the colonized peoples that mimicry of its primacy among languages was a necessary badge of their social mobility as well as their continued humiliation and subjection. Thus, when we talk of ‘mastery’ of the Standard language, we must be conscious of the terrible irony of the word, that the English language itself was the language of the master, the carrier of his arrogance and brutality. Yet, as teachers, we seek to grasp that same language and give it a new content, to de-colonize its words, to de-myself its meaning, and as workers taking over our own factory and giving our machines new lives, making it a vehicle for liberation, consciousness and love, to rip out its class assumptions, its racism and appalling degradation of women, to make it truly common, to recreate it as a weapon for the freedom and understanding of our people.


English education was carefully rationed and conferred as a privilege to a selected few and it created a distinct social difference in all the former British colonies: India, Malaysia and Singapore. Promotion of certain forms of education and culture were inextricably bound up with colonial rule. In social and cultural realms English vs. vernacular education was an extension of the divide and rule and was sustained as an effective colonial policy to increase class and ethnic divisions in the country.

(In the Philippines) the American regime was committed to making a showcase democracy, and school, English, and a literate citizenry were central to this goal.

Foley (1984)

English as a Second language (ESL) is an imported new empire.


In ESL the puerile structure of content was not and is not about transmission of skills or critical understanding of concepts. It is geared to receiving situational instructions and learning how to assimilate as an ‘object’ into a structural order into a value order, into a cultural order, into a linguistic order, and above all, into a racist order.


The Indians, West Indians, Pacific Islanders, Singaporeans, Malaysians, Maltese, Africans and Sri Lankans (Ceylonese then) discovered that they had learnt the same nursery rhymes, studied virtually the same selection of poems, the same plays and novels; read the same grammars, the same language series (Ballard’s Junior and Senior Fundamental English); consulted the same collection of model essays; debated the same topics; had the same selection of History, Geography and Hygene texts; had gone through the same rituals on Empire Day-come sunshine or rain-and, in many instances, knew ‘God save the Queen’ better than their recently adopted National Anthem.

 (Thumboo, 1988)


  1. Jagriti, Jatiotabad o Ekushe: Shamszzaman Khan

  2. A Glimpse into Language Movement: Prof Abdul Gofur

  3. Ekush: The Sanctuary of Existenc: Ziaban Chaudhury

  4. Children of Ekushe: Syed shamsul Haque

  5. Neglected Politics in the History of Language Movement: mostafa Hossain

  6. Vacillating  Minds: Anisuz Zaman

  7. Present Reality and 52s Language Movement: Zubaida Gulshan Ara

  8. Unfinished Monument (An Interview with sculptor Hamidur Rahman): Shahriar Kabir

  9. Bangali for a month and Muslim for another Month: Meer Nurul Islam

  10. Syed Nawab Ali Chaudhury: Abu M Motahar

  11. Ekusher Katha: Shahidullah Kaiser

  12. Ekusher Dupurey: Fazle Lohani

  13. A Forgotten Day of Language Movement: Sheikh Mahabubul Alam

  14. The Wall of English: Mohammad Jahangeer

  15. The Ekushe I Saw: Kazi Motahar Ali

  16. February of 1952: What happened in Dhaka: Doctor (Capt) Abdul Baset

  17. Language Movement of 52 in Chittagong: Azizur Rahman

  18. Language Movement in Sylhet: Dewan Mohd Ajraf

  19. Language Movement in Bogra: Golam Mahniuddin

  20. Emotion Defied Obstruction that Day: Sufia Ahmed

  21. Few Blood Stained Moments of 21 February 1952: Mostaque Hossain

  22. Rajshahi in Language Movement: Justice M Ansar Ali

  23. Ekushe Book Fair: Wakil Ahmed

  24. Our Shahid Minar:Tanjin Hossain

  25. Ekusher Dalil: MR Aktar Mukul


Courtesy: Muktadhara