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Language Movement and Bangla: The Youth’s Perspective


Maisha Islam Monamee


February is special in many ways. With some people embracing spring and others celebrating the beauty of love, what makes February momentous to literary enthusiasts is the Boi Mela and International Mother Language Day. I will not write much about 21 February, as I assume that you already know a lot about it. Be it from school textbooks or social media, one can find information about Ekushey February everywhere. What comes to be more fascinating is the voice of young people on the language movement, the mother tongue and a lot more. I talked to many people from different backgrounds to get a better idea of what the youth thinks about these issues.

The significance of Bangla

If my life were a book, I think a prominent part of it would be written in Bangla as it has undoubtedly been an instrumental part of the whole journey. It is the language of my soul, it is the language in which I feel and express everything. I think all of us have grown up hearing Thakur Maa’r Jhuli’s tales and reading Muhammad Zafar Iqbal’s books.

Here’s what the youth feels about the importance of Bangla.

“Bangla as a language has beautifully influenced the way I see the world around me. I grew up reading stories of Dalimkumar, Duoraani, Shuyorani, Rakhhosher Golpo, which has greatly enriched my world of imagination. Soon, I dived into Bangla literature, which has shaped my understanding of human relationships and nature,” shared Fahim. 

Now there are some people who think that young people, particularly English medium students, have totally disregarded the value of our mother tongue. This is, of course, not true. Even though all our texts and exams are conducted in English, we have always valued the importance of Bangla. Here’s what Nahid had to say about the significance of Bangla in his life.

“Despite studying in an English Medium school for all these years, I have yet not mastered the art of oratory in English. I strongly believe that there is no alternative to my mother tongue, whatsoever. I still struggle to express my emotions eloquently in English, especially when I’m talking to friends or blurting out random stories to my mother. Would Rabindranath Tagore be able to express his emotions to his fullest and win a Nobel prize for his works had he not been able to use his mother tongue while penning down Geetanjali?”

I actually sat down to wonder how incomplete our lives would be without Tagore’s tales and how lifeless everything would feel without an Arnob song. Truly said, Bangla is a significant part of how we grow up. It is more than just a language, it has a homely feeling imbibed in it. You might be in any corner of the world but when Bangalis want to be free in their thoughts, they express it in Bangla. Emphasising this, Sumaiya added her love for Bangali literature.

“Bangla is my mother tongue and no other language can express the range of emotions I feel as well as Bangla can. I think I also love how rich our literature is — scares me to imagine how much I’d have missed out on if Bangla weren’t a language I knew!”

The impact of the Language Movement

Bangladeshi history is glorious in many ways, but I think the best part has been the active involvement of the youth when it comes to making change. What comes as a major inspiration to me is the fact that the Language Movement witnessed students protesting and joining the struggles to demand their rights as independent citizens. Needless to say, it was the beginning of a bigger fight for independence and individuality.

“The Language Movement surely was the base beneath the independence of Bangladesh and, most importantly, for my mother tongue. This impacts me very much, as I feel how things would have been different if there wasn’t a Language Movement for our liberty of speech in our mother tongue,” shared Rafa.

The Language Movement is an exemplary representation of our love for our mother tongue.

Nahid said further, “Whenever I think of the language movement of 1952, one thing that absolutely astonishes me is that no other nation in the world has shed blood to preserve their mother tongue, other than Bangladesh. You really need gigantic hearts and immense respect for your language to step up and sacrifice your life for the sake of your mother tongue.” 

Today’s youth gains a sense of power from the struggles led in 1952. It is this connection with our mother tongue that makes us stand out as a nation. Irrespective of everything else, we all are proud to belong to a nation which has never tolerated injustice.

Fahim added, “The threat to one’s cultural and social identity always starts with an attack on their mother tongue. It is always rational to stop the oppressors during the first attempt. The Language Movement gives me confidence in this nation. Irrespective of how we stand as a nation from a moral ground, I believe when push comes to shove, we will always stand up against any injustice that threatens our existence.”

I began imagining a disastrous 2020 where we were yet to attain independence and were still forced to obey our oppressors. How would the youth react? Do we still possess the compassion to fight for our identities?

“I think we’re more sensitive than ever before. Grace to the internet and social media, organising rallies has become a lot easier, information reaches people faster, and people can voice their opinions more freely. Today’s youth would definitely create a greater obstruction to the imposition of another language,” shared Zaber.

This enthusiasm restores my faith in the present generation, as I conclude that the youth has immense power to drive the most powerful changes. Undoubtedly, the youth involvement in past movements have had a great impact in the way we have shaped our personalities. Let me remind you of the days when youth power roared in Bangladesh, through Fahim’s opinion:

“Today’s youth carries the ambition and vigour of a strong nation. It is only natural that it will continue to be true for eternity. The involvement of youth in the Language Movement was the only thing that could have actually happened. Looking at movements like the Shahbag Andolon, the Quota Movement, and the Road Safety Movement only strengthens my opinion.”

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