The language movement is identified as the beginning of Bengali nationalism, the main motivation for the establishment of the state called Bangladesh. The debate over the state language of Pakistan began even before the founding of Pakistan in 1947.
Subsequently, the student protests and strikes over the question of state language in the Constituent Assembly and the speech of Jinnah in Dhaka were limited at the educational institutions. But in 1952, the question of the principles of governance and the economic development of the peasants and the middle class also arose with the language question.
The students, youth and middle class of East Bengal realised by then that if Bangla was not recognised as one of the state languages of Pakistan, they would fall behind in jobs and business and they would fall out of power. This caused frustration and dissatisfaction among them. As a result, the Muslim population of East Bengal, who had joined the Pakistan movement for their political-economic liberation, soon joined the language movement.
On the other hand, the language movement took shape as the national movement as all the progressive political parties and leaders of East Bengal joined this. The language movement of 1952 is therefore multidimensional in terms of significance.
The whole of East Bengal was distressed by the police firing on the protesting students in Dhaka on 21 February 1952. However, many songs and poems were written on the event which gave birth to patriotism and a sense of nationalism. Under the influence of the language movement, the politicians and the intellectual community forgot their Hindu-Muslim divisions and devoted themselves to the development of the basic features of Bengali identity. It created a national consciousness in which the state consciousness was also latent.
This consciousness later became the messenger for the establishment of Bangladesh. The language movement was secular, progressive and democratic. As a result, the cultural and spiritual development that took place in Bangladesh is in some way related to or derived from the language movement. Therefore, as a source of original national consciousness, various researches and interpretations on language movement will continue in future.
The history of the language movement in Chattogram has not been included in the pages of history as much as it should have. No one has been interested in collecting the information related to that event here. History of the language movement from outside Dhaka has not yet entered the discourse of our national history. But the regional histories are also a part of national history which will remain weak if they are not properly incorporated.
There is no complete history of the language movement in Chattogram. Because the main source of information for the language movement in Chattogram are the memories the language activists. However, different newspapers and magazines have only published articles concerning their involvement focused only on 21 February 1952. They do not contain the details of the language movement.
There are almost no local newspaper sources as references for these details and the newspapers in Dhaka did not publish the description of the movement in the regional areas. However, it is time to properly record the preliminary details of the information that has already been published.
The history of the language movement in Chattogram needs to be framed so that enthusiastic researchers can enrich the history by gathering more information in the future. Although the participation of political activists and the general public in the language movement in Chattogram was spontaneous, it was not accidental. The event was able to create a mass movement in continuation with a rich political and cultural background.
Although in Chattogram it was not as violent as in Dhaka-Narayanganj, it was politically more coherent and popular. Not only the newly formed Awami Muslim League and the students and cultural activists of the banned Communist Party but also part of the ruling Muslim League, members of the Constituent Assembly and leaders of the Tamaddun Majlis also actively participated in the language movement here.
In addition, the participation of workers made the movement radical which was led by political and cultural activists. The first poem of Ekushey was written in Chattogram. Naming of roads after the martyrs of Ekushey and the initiative to establish the first Shaheed Minar were also done for the first time here.
On 27 January 1952, at a meeting of the Muslim League in Dhaka, Khwaja Nazimuddin declared that Urdu will be the only state language of Pakistan. On 31 January, the All-Party State Language Struggle Council was formed with the representatives of different political parties. The council announced a strike on 21 February to demand that Bengali be made the state language. Dhaka University Rashtrabhasha Sangram Parishad also started a campaign among the students in support of this programme.
An all-party Rashtrabhasha Sangram Parishad was formed in Chattogram on 4 February in protest of Khwaja Nazimuddin's statement. The all-party Rashtrabhasha Sangram Parishad formed in Dhaka was student dependent and Dhaka University played a major role here. But in Chattogram, the Sangram Parishad was represented by political parties and different cultural, worker, youth and student organisations. From 4 February, the All-Party Rashtrabhasha Sangram Parishad of Chattagram undertook various programmes to make the strike called on 21 February successful.
The student strike in Chattogram was being observed peacefully, but it intensified after the news of the police shooting on students in Dhaka was spread. Spontaneous hartal was called on 22 February which was also observed in the rural areas of greater Chattogram. The hartal continued on 23 February and a huge public meeting was held on the next day at Laldighi Maidan.
Chowdhury Harunur Rashid recited a poem "Kandte Ashini Fanshir Dabi Niye Eshechi" written by Mahbub-ul-Alam Chowdhury in protest of the police brutality at the meeting. He was arrested on 5 March for this. On 25 February, a procession was held by the students and a student-public meeting was held at Laldighi Maidan on the next day.
Students from rural areas also participated in that meeting. On 27 February, two members of the Constituent Assembly in Chattogram supported the demand for making Bangla a state language and promised to resign if necessary if it is not accepted. The students' strike and meeting continued on 28 February and the female students also joined there.
On 1 March, workers arranged a rally condemning the firing on students and people in Dhaka and demanded the resignation of the government. On 5 March, the country's largest public meeting regarding the movement was held at Laldighi Maidan. The meeting was presided by District Awami Muslim League President Sheikh Mozaffar Ahmed. Prominent personalities in Chattogram including MA Aziz, Nabi Chowdhury, Zahur Ahmad Chowdhury, Azizur Rahman gave speeches at the meeting.
The unique feature of the language movement in Chattogram is that it was spread to the rural areas as well including in Boalkhali, Fatikchhari, Nazirhat, Hathazari, Patia, Satkania, Raozan, Sitakunda, Mirershwarai and Cox's Bazar.
The language movement in Chattogram received huge support from the people. Wherever there was a procession in town or village, people joined it. Political parties, cultural institutions, professional organisations and students in Chattogram showed a great deal of creativity in the language movement.
Sharif Shamshir is a researcher and writer of the book Language Movement in Chattogram.