Language Martyrs

Student protest, 21 Feb 1952After independence in 1947, in East Bengal there was growing tension between local Bengali-speakers and Urdu-speaking migrants, who were seen as being the collaborators of an increasingly unpopular West Pakistani regime. In February 1952, students protesting against the imposition of Urdu as the national language of Pakistan were gunned down. These students became known as the Language Martyrs and their struggle is commemorated in the Shahid Minar memorials that stand in Dhaka, Tower Hamlets and Oldham. The language movement that grew from these events is often seen as the start of the struggle for independence in East Pakistan, which led to the creation of Bangladesh in 1971.

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