Mother language, a wonder for humankind
Human beings are superior over any other creatures on earth as they have languages to communicate with one another. Think of the primitive age people when there was no means of communication. They had to face while communicating with each other. They would imitate the sound of birds, animals or any other creatures around them to establish communication with their other fellows.
Through the ages people have become civilized and blessed with languages. People of every country have got their distinctive mother language that makes them different from others living in different parts in the world.
Mother language tops the other languages in love and respect as it rises in our heart emotion and spontaneity. Evidence shows that during the childhood of Rabindranath Tagore, an English environment was flourishing all around British India and many of his learning mates would engage themselves to get with the English learning trend.
But Tagore's family did not accord to that trend as they knew that the foundation of mother language is the first priority, then to learn other languages. But what we see at present that people are more interested to get their children acquainted with western language and culture thinking the superiority over their own tradition and culture. It is good to know about the world but better to know the origin of the country first.
Should not we remember that the long struggle the nation went through achieving the right to speak Bengali? Can we establish our soul identity except nourishing this language from the core of our heart? In a word, we cannot but bow to the brave sons who laid down their valuable lives to save the mother language.
It is true that every child by birth gets the right to speak in its mother language. In a country there may be some languages to speak but obviously one is mother language marking the national boundary and entity of a nation. One may achieve many languages for one's survival on earth but the taste of speaking in mother language is always unparalleled. It is the best gift ever from the Almighty.
Like the nations of the world, automatically we are not blessed with the right to speak in mother tongue though by birth we should have owned. The path to earn the right to speak our mother language was not smooth.
When Pakistan came out as a separate entity in 1947, it was thought that amid the collaboration of east and west regions, the country would be an example of peace and prosperity. But as the west part of Pakistan was the centre of all power, the rulers of the west went on conspiring of imposing Urdu, spoken only in West Pakistan, to the people of both sections ignoring the majority of people speaking Bengali in the east.
Though the Urdu speakers were the minority in number, they seemed superior to all others when it was declared Urdu the only official language of Pakistan. But the decision was vehemently opposed by the members of the 'Tamaddun Majlish' which was organized by professors and students of Dhaka University under the leadership of Professor Abul Kashem in September 1947.
Students and intellectuals of East Pakistan resisted against the Urdu single-language proposal and demanded that Bengali should also be made as one of the State languages and the medium of instruction in East Pakistan along with Urdu.
Despite a strong resistance , the central leaders, including Liaquat Ali Khan, Prime Minister of Pakistan and Khajah Nazimuddin, Chief Minister of East Bengal, Ghaznafar Ali Khan and others opposed the motion in strong words, stressing on one nation, one state and one language namely Urdu. It turned devastation when on March 24, 1948 Muhammad Ali Jinnah said, "Let me make it very clear to you that the state language of Pakistan is going to be Urdu and no other language. Anyone who tries to mislead you is really the enemy of Pakistan."
Over the next several years Dhaka University became directly linked as the place of the 'Bhasha Andolan'. In January 1952, the Constitution Assembly of Pakistan submitted its recommendation for making Urdu as the only state language.
In clear defiance of West Pakistani orders, students in Dhaka University along with people of all walks came out with a mass protest against the proposal on February 21, 1952. Police fired at them and instantly many heroic sons such as Salam, Barkat, Rafiq, Jabbar and many more lost their lives. Through their life sacrifice we have achieved the right to speak in our mother language. Not only that, language movement has given us a source of ceaseless inspiration.
Probably, the Bengali is the only nation in the world who laid down their lives to establish the right to speak in mother language. Considering with the rare sacrifice for a language the Bengali has been acclaimed around the globe. On top of that, the UNESCO has declared 21st February as the International Mother Language day. More than one hundred countries in the world observe 21st February as International Mother Language Day with great solemnity.
However, despite Bengali language receiving worldwide recognition, in some cases it faces discrimination amid the country. It is dictated by the state that in performing government, non-government or any other activities the use of Bengali language has to be given first priority but most often this dictation is ignored.
On top of that, in the name of quality education English medium education has been given the most priority. It is true that to cope with the competitive world English atmosphere should be given priority but in no way our mother tongue must not be ignored as it is our identity. Can we establish our supremacy without our identity? Obviously, it would not be.
We know that we have mother language research institute. Not only that, Bangla Academy, an autonomous entity, is working to conduct research on language and literature but many jobs are yet to be done to represent the richness of our language from national to global heights.
The priorities should be given to conduct more researches on Bengali language and literature. Everybody should understand that denying the importance of mother language brings nothing but devastation for a nation.
Alaul Alam teaches at Prime University