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23 February, 2020 10:37:36 AM
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Is there a difference between national and state language?

We observe 21st February as a great victory for Bangla language and as a festival. Now time has come. Bangladesh should take strong measures to make Bangla a real national language
ABDUL GAFFAR CHOUDHURY
Is there a difference between national and state language?

We have just observed 21st February— our glorious Mother-Tongue day. It is also one of our national days. Bangla is not only our state language but our national language also. Although we do not treat it as neither state language nor national language in practical life. When Bangladesh was part of Pakistan, after a long struggle Bangla was accepted as one of the state languages. At that time there was a debate surrounding Bangla and Urdu languages. Urdu was also one of the state languages of Pakistan and a privileged one. Long before the establishment of Bangla Academy in Dhaka there was an Urdu Academy in Karachi. A renowned Urdu pundit, Abdul Haq known as Babaye Urdu was its chairman. Suddenly he told in his academy's meeting, 'We have accepted Bangla as a state language but not as a national language. Urdu is the only national language of Pakistan'. The people of the-then East Pakistan, particularly the intellectuals strongly protested Babaye Urdu's assertion. Dr. Shahidullah said, "We cannot place Urdu above Bangla. Bangla is a rich and ancient language in the subcontinent. Both its language and literature are richer than Urdu. Urdu was born in the Mughal courts only 500 years ago and Bangla is 1000 years old. There is no difference between state language and national language. But if we want to make a difference than Bangla should be made the national language of Pakistan". At that time Dr. Shahidullah was supposed to be appointed as the Vice Chancellor of the University of Dhaka. But Pakistan government deprived him from this honour which was long due to him as a punishment for his strong support to Bangla.
Pakistan government took a clever role in this regard keeping silent on the issue. Commenting on this issue, Professor Mohammad Abdul Hye, Professor Munir Chowdhury and other Bengali intellectuals said that virtually there is no difference between state language and national language. But if anyone wants to make a distinction than of course national language has higher status than state language. In this respect Bangla fulfils all conditions to become the national language of Pakistan rather than Urdu. Bangla can claim that it is one of the world languages after Tagore won the Nobel Prize in Bangla literature. Even poet Iqbal, who was acclaimed as a great Urdu poet, wrote all his poetry books in Farsi, except one book in Urdu. The intellectuals from East Pakistan also pointed out that in 1953 when the old and veteran Aga Khan came to Dhaka he declared in a meeting held in the Curzon Hall, 'Urdu cannot be the national language of Pakistan because it is a language of the defeated emperors, I mean the Moghul emperors'. Commenting upon this debate Sheikh Mujib also said, "When Pakistan government in 1955 accepted Bangla as one of the state languages along with Urdu, there was no hint that Bangla will only be a state language and Urdu would be treated as the national language. If there is any conspiracy again against Bangla we will resist it".

The debate subsided and nobody took notice of Babaye Urdu and it became a forgotten past. The-then Pakistan government understood very well that this controversy on language will not go in their favour. They were tactfully using Urdu in official work more than Bangla and later Ayub tried to replace Bangla by Roman alphabets. They said that though Bangla is a rich literary language it cannot be used for scientific purposes as it could not be used in the type writer. Professor Munir Chowdhury created a Bangla type face and showed that Bangla could be used in type writer also. He predicted that in future technological development Bangla could be used as other languages. His prediction has come true and Bangla is adopted in the internet and other communications also. After the independence of Bangladesh Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman wanted to improve Bangla as an international language. He gave his addresses in the United Nations and the international Non-Aligned conference in Algeria in Bangla. Dr. Muhammad Shahidullah and Professor Mohammad Abdul Hye were dead then. Bangabandhu talked to Dr. Enamul Huq and some other pundits about the development of Bangla, so that it could be used in business, commerce and for scientific purposes. Bangla calendar was also reformed and he ordered to conduct all official works in Bangla. In his meetings with High Court judges he said that judgements should be written in Bangla. There was a proposal that the two Bangla academies of Dhaka and Kolkata should meet and jointly provide a formula to develop Bangla as a modern scientific language.
At that time a question was raised about the future of the languages of the indigenous communities and tribes. Some of these have alphabets while some have none. Bangabandhu's proposal was that Bangla should remain the national language for tribal people also but their language should also be improved and those languages without any alphabets should use Bangla alphabets. Dr. Enamul Huq took notes of Bangabandhu's suggestion and proposed to create a Bangla language development board. These were all informal discussions and decisions and with the death of Bangabandhu, the martial law and the autocratic regimes never tried to look after Bangla language and culture. Their secret policy was not to patronise Bangla and not to recognise the rights of the indigenous and tribal people and their languages and cultures. Now we find a consciousness worldwide about the recognition of the rights of neglected communities' languages like our Garo, Shaotal and Chakma dialects. We observe 21st February as a great victory for Bangla language and as a festival. Now time has come. Bangladesh should take strong measures to make Bangla a real national language and to improve the mother-tongue of the indigenous and tribal communities so that they can integrate with the national culture and language along with keeping their separate existence and pride.

London, Thursday 20 February, 2020

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Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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