January 15, 2013

"The Language Movement catalysed the assertion of Bengali national identity in Pakistan..."

"... and became a forerunner to Bengali nationalist movements, including the 6-point movement and subsequently the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971. In Bangladesh, 21 February is observed as Language Movement Day, a national holiday."

Bangladesh is today's "History of" country.

Here is the monument to the Language Movement martyrs:

 

What was so important about language?
When the state of Pakistan was formed in 1947, its two regions, East Pakistan (also called East Bengal) and West Pakistan, were split along cultural, geographical, and linguistic lines. In 1948, the Government of Pakistan ordained Urdu as the sole national language, sparking extensive protests among the Bengali-speaking majority of East Pakistan. 
Would East and West Pakistan be one country today if the government hadn't been so hardcore about Urdu?

Great differences began developing between the two wings of Pakistan. While the west had a minority share of Pakistan's total population, it had the largest share of revenue allocation, industrial development, agricultural reforms and civil development projects. Pakistan's military and civil services were dominated by the fair-skinned, Persian-cultured Punjabis and Afghans. Only one regiment in the Pakistani Army was Bengali. And many Bengali Pakistanis could not share the natural enthusiasm for the Kashmir issue, which they felt was leaving East Pakistan more vulnerable and threatened as a result.

18 comments:

Clyde said...

Would Canada be one nation if Quebec and English-speaking Canada were separated by several hundred miles? How about Belgium, if the Flemings and Walloons weren't geographically contiguous? The only thing that East and West Pakistan really had in common was the fact that they were both primarily Muslim rather than Hindu. Sometimes a shared religion is not enough of a commonality to offset other cultural differences (again, see Belgium, where the Catholic Flemings and Walloons don't get along very well).

David said...

LaPierre and Collins, "Freedom at Midnight."

Fabulous book about the end of British rule and the arrival of Pakistan and India as independent nations.

Bryan C said...

For most of our childhood, my sister and I spent every day after school with our Bengali babysitter and her family. They'd come to the US during those upheavals in the early 70's. They opened their home to us and were friends of the family for many years afterward.

We went to a private Christian school and they were Muslim, though that meant nothing to us at the time. Their son and daughter, a few years older, attended the same school for years, because it was infinitely better than the public schools. Then then suddenly left. We didn't know until years later that it was because our school administrators had made things difficult for them because of their religion. A foolish and shortsighted policy decision.

Big Mike said...

Would East and West Pakistan be one country today if the government hadn't been so hardcore about Urdu?

Considering how desperately poor Bangladesh is, and how much it regularly needs disaster relief due to its susceptibility to killer cyclones, I suspect the former West Pakistan is glad to be rid of Bangladesh.

Carnifex said...

no they would be fighting each other tooth and nail, becauase you cannot balkanize a country into unity. This country used to be a great "melting pot" of peoples, but now we have hyphenated Amerucans, and some who would just rather have their old country here. I'd just as soon have those people go back to wherever the hell they came from. That includes hyphenated Americans...(pick your own prejuidice here)

DaveO said...

It continues to bother me that your Jan 7 entry on Antigua and Barbuda did not get tagged with "the History of".

edutcher said...

Supposedly, Jinnah bluffed Mountbatten into creating Pakistan, so it all might have been Inja.

That said, the distance and racial disparity (the Bengalis are very dark, the Paks are Aryan) also contributed.

Kind of like Hawaii and the mainland.

ricpic said...

The 6 point movement was a ripoff of the 5 finger death punch in Tarantino's Kill Bill. You laugh. If you only knew that all Asian culture looks to Bollywood which looks to Hollywood.

wyo sis said...

Sounds tribal.

Paul Zrimsek said...

No, the 6-point movement is a typographic liberation front closely allied to the Single Spacers. Death to Picans!

ironrailsironweights said...

When the Bahamas was your country of the day, I noted that in 1977 it had its only snowfall in known history when a few wet flakes fell on Grand Bahama Island. While Bangladesh has never had any snow, only about a week ago many parts of the country recorded their lowest temperatures of all time. It was just a few degrees above freezing in some districts and as many as 30 people may have died from exposure.

Bahrain, your last profiled country, is another one with no snow ever recorded, although it has an indoor ski slope with artificial snow.

Peter

betamax3000 said...

Sad that the monument looks like a fast-food drive-thru with no fast-food restaurant attached.

JAL said...

It wasn't just the language.

East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) was on the short end of the stick all the time in all ways with the other half.

Refugees poured into India during the war.

Wonder if PM317 has some thoughts.

Kirk Parker said...

David,

Thanks for the recommendation of Freedom at Midnight.

In return, let me say good things about Midnight's Children.

Kirk Parker said...

edutcher,

Every time I starting thinking Partition was a big mistake, I stop and go: now how exactly would that be working out today? And I have no good answer...

Kirk Parker said...

Oh--and wow, either I'm up waaaaay to late, or that's one craptastically ugly monument!

Jason Greaves said...

Because this post about Bangladesh is naturally about language, I thought I would point out a minor mistake that many people make. "Bengali" refers to the language. "Bangladeshi" is the proper word to refer to the people of Bangladesh. It is a common mistake, which I even hear many Bangladeshis make when they are speaking in English.

Mitch H. said...

Even despite partition, there are still a hell of a lot of Muslims in India, and as far as I can tell, they make less trouble on average than the Sikhs or Naxalites (Maoism might as well be a religion at this point) outside of Kashmir.

Bangladesh is one of those places which always seems to get the shit end of the stick, regardless of who's in charge. How many Americans remember the great famine there during WWII, caused by idiotic and shameful British imperial economic policy? Over a million dead, and mostly in Bengal.

The weird thing about Urdu usage in the two Pakistans being driven by the Punjabis is that they didn't speak the damn language - Punjabis speak, well, Punjabi. I guess they chose to use Urdu as a national language to distinguish themselves from Anglophone India. If they wanted to emphasize their Islamic commonality, why didn't they settle on a dialect of Arabic?

I occasionally read a war-on-terror aggregation blog which often is just buried in nasty little items on Bangladesh's violent, chaotic, and Islamist-riddled political and criminal-scene. For some reason, the proprietors like to feature the Bangladeshi police blotter, which is in turns picaresque and squalid.