The Bengali Language movement, known as the Bhasha Andolon in Bengali, took place in Bangladesh (then called East Pakistan). This important movement recognized Bengali as a language of East Pakistan. In 1948, the Government of Pakistan made Urdu the official language of Pakistan (both east and west). This was a command that the Bengali speaking majority of East Pakistan protested because it was wrong to take away their right to speak their own language. The people became angry, and the government became afraid of the people's righteous anger and outlawed public meetings and rallies. However, the students at the University of Dhaka and other activists broke the law and organized a protest on February 21, 1952, but little did these students know that blood would be spilt that day.
In the morning of February 21, 1952, the college students defied the law on the University of Dhaka grounds. After a while, armed police surrounded the campus. At noon, the college students attempted to break the police line. For a warning, police fired tear gas shells at the students. Half the students started running into the Dhaka Medical College, and the other half continued towards the police lines. The vice-chancellor of the University ordered the police to stop firing shells. The police arrested several students who were trying to sneak away from the crowd. The students became enraged over this information, and they gathered around the East Bengal Legislative Assembly. Suddenly a group of students started trying to storm the building. The police opened fire instantly, killing Abdus Salam, Rafiq Uddin Ahmed, Abul Barkat, and Abbul Jabbar.
The deaths of these young college students flashed across all the news channels. People were shocked, mournful, and specially angry at the killings of such youthful protestors, who were only standing up for their ideals. The Bangladeshi Party, Awami League, understood the mood of the people and took up the cause of the martyred boys. 'Remember the boys' they shouted in their slogans and rallies, and people listened.
In 1956, the Pakistani central government granted official status to the Bengali language. Though a greater war over independence would erupt in 1971, during which Bangladesh would gain its autonomy, for the time being, the sacrifices of the boys were remembered and honored by their people. In 1999, a group called UNESCO declared 21 February International Mother Language Day because of the Language Movement.
It is amazing to realize that these young students died to protect their right to speak their language. They didn't want to defy the law for publicity. These people risked their lives for their Mother Tongue. That is why I am amazed even 50 years after that people were that brave and cared that much for their language. I respect the people who died and will respect them for the rest of my life.