The conflict sparked in 1948 when West Pakistan announced plans to establish Urdu as the only state language. In February 21, 1952, a student union movement, stoked by fury, fought for Bangla to be established as the national language of East Pakistan.
Many young people lost their lives, but the systematic oppression of the Bangali people could not be tolerated any longer.
This eventually culminated in Bangladesh declaring its independence on March 26, 1971.
As far as I know, we are the only country in the world that has shed blood for its mother tongue. But what does it all mean if we were unable to retain the fire with which our forebears fought for their right to establish our country as a sovereignty?
A shallow world
Today, we have, perhaps to some extent, forgotten our roots and the principles which governed those roots. Inspirational figures and idols have changed over time.
We tend to idolize celebrities and their lifestyles. We run blindly after money. Regardless of how the money is being earned, we continue to pursue a life of riches.
Even the youths who wish to engage in politics do so because of the fame and power that politics can offer them -- they do so to show off their wealth to society, to buy tax-free luxurious cars, and to one day have the MP tag in front of their name. Furthermore, people in student politics are also busy intimidating other students, raising hell in campuses, and most importantly, in conquering university campus halls.
We must all work together to build this nation regardless of our beliefs and political allegiances. We should stand up for our rights, and also stand up for those citizens who are being oppressed
Are these the reasons why Salam, Rafiq, Jabbar, and 3 million other people lost their lives for the independence of Bangladesh?
Subsequently, we are also one of the few countries in the world who judge ourselves based on their merit in speaking the mother language in day-to-day discussions, and criticize those who struggle to speak English fluently. Even though UNESCO has given much respect to our language and the day of February 21, deeming it International Mother Language Day.
Undoubtedly, it is extremely disheartening to bear witness to such injustice even after 47 years of our independence. It is even more of a heartache when we get to encounter people who don’t even know the sacrifice of millions from 1952 to 1971.
For instance, it is bewildering how a young adult, a citizen of this country, when asked what the difference between March 26 and December 16 is, stammers as a response. The declaration of independence was no easy task. It was an act of defiance to the continuous inhumane treatment and horrendous acts carried out by West Pakistanis since 1952 against us which led our people to February 21, 1952 and ultimately to fateful March 26, 1971.
It was our history before 1971 which made 7 crore people rebels, when we decided to take a stand against powerful tyrants and protect this soil’s dignity, not just for one generation, but for all the generations to come after.
It is high time that we realize the sacrifices of the millions, led by the Father of Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
We must all work together to build this nation regardless of our beliefs and political allegiances. We should stand up for our rights, and also stand up for those citizens who are being oppressed.
We should never forget why this country was liberated and the purpose behind our independence. It is the People’s Republic of Bangladesh and democratic notions must exist in the system.
The country has already given us a lot, now it’s our turn to give something back.
Sher A Naser Khan is a freelance contributor.