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International Mother Language Day: Ensuring the use of Bangla across all spheres a timely ask

  • Published at 12:19 am February 21st, 2020
Shaheed Minar
Central Shaheed Minar Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune

Sixty-seven years after that day, the government and responsible institutions in the country are still struggling to ensure the use of Bangla across all spheres of life

When the clock struck midnight last night the President and the Prime Minister led a nation pay homage to those brave sons of this soil who laid down their lives on this day in 1952 to establish Bangla as a state language.

Sixty-seven years after that day, the government and responsible institutions in the country are still struggling to ensure the use of Bangla across all spheres of life. 

The implementation of two Supreme Court directives, issued in 2012 and 2014 in this regard, largely remains in documentation only while the Bangla Bhasha Procholon Ain (Bengali Language Introduction Act), 1987 remains ignored by the people it was enacted for. 

Academicians and language heroes blame reluctance and unwillingness of the ruling elites for the failure to ensure the use of Bangla in higher education, research and scientific activities, banking channels, and legal systems. Moreover, they believe that gradual fading of patriotism in terms of the spirit of the Language Movement also had a role to play.

In an interview, Professor Emeritus Serajul Islam Choudhury told Dhaka Tribune that the ruling elites do not have any interest in the use of the Bangla language which paved the way for the relegation of the language from offices and other institutions over time.

On the other hand, Ahmad Rafiq, a veteran language hero, told Dhaka Tribune that it is largely due to the disinterest from people belonging to middle and lower middle income households, who became reluctant after achieving an independent country. 

“All movements prior to the independence revolved around different ideologies, to ensure the fundamental rights. After this many years of independence, it seems as if the people have lost their will to fight to establish such ideologies.

“The movement before independence was a struggle for all but after the Liberation War, a class emerged to reap the opportunities of the new country and this is the class who influenced the government to never find interest to implement the language,” he added. 

Furthermore, he blamed the colonial hangover to disinterest the younger generation in using the language. 

“Why will the younger generation find inspiration when they are being brought up in a culture which follows that of the British, a result of 190 years of being colonized?” he asked. 

Article 3(1) of Bengali Language Introduction Act, 1987 reads: “After the commencement of this Act, except in the case of foreign relations, in all other cases records and correspondences, laws, proceedings in court and other legal actions shall necessarily be written in Bengali, by Government offices, courts, half-official and autonomous institutions everywhere in Bangladesh.”

On February 16, 2012, the High Court Division, in a suo moto rule, asked private TV channels and radio stations to stop using distorted Bangla expressions in their programmes and asked the government to explain why it should not be directed to stop airing such programmes. 

After hearing a writ petition filed by a lawyer, another High Court bench on February 17, 2014 asked the government to ensure that only Bangla will be used in all hoardings, signs, nameplates as well as vehicle number plates. The court had also asked the government to explain why it failed to implement the Bangla Language Introduction Act.

However, none of the directives were implemented.

Director General of International Mother Language Institute, Professor Dr Jinnat Imtiaz Ali suggests that the use of Bangla in every sphere of life could not be ensured since the concerned authorities do not act properly, and that they should be held responsible for their failure.

“For instance, if the two city corporations imposed that all the nameplates at residences and shops were to be written in Bangla, and that, if anybody failed to do so, they would not receive any services from the city corporations,” he added. 

“If all the people were required to write in Bangla during money exchanging activities, they would have been forced to adopt it in them,” the DG explained. 

The culture minister KM Khalid and official of the ministry could not be reached due to his engagement with the “Ekushey Padak” distribution program yesterday. 

Chief justice planning to introduce a translation cell  

Saifur Rahman, special officer and spokesperson for the Supreme Court, lamented on the unwillingness of justices over choosing the mother language to deliver verdicts.

“In a recent development, Chief Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain has taken an initiative to form a translation cell for the court, so that the justice seeker could understand the proceedings easily,” he said. 

After 49 years of independence, such an initiative is being taken.    

Justice Md Nuruzzaman, Appellate Division bench judge, at a program on February 9, said: “In order to establish the use of Bangla in judgments, the process must be started with filing the case in Bangla.” 

At the same event, Justice Ashraful Kamal of the High Court division said that “we were not being able to show respect to our mother language because of an inferiority complex that is prevalent in our society.”

According to the Supreme Court administration, there are 97 justices working for the High Court division, but only two of them - Justice Sheikh Md Zakir Hossain and Justice Md Ashraful Kamal – are giving orders and verdicts in Bangla regularly. 

Justice M Enayetur Rahim, Justice Abu Zafor Siddique, Justice Jahangir Hossain, Justice Abu Taher Saifur Rahman, Krishna Debnath, Quazi Reza-ul Haque, Justice Mustafa Zaman Islam and Justice Md Zakir Hossain are among the few other justices who practice the use of Bangla in their courts.  

In a verdict of a case in 2011, Justice Sheikh Md Zakir Hossain said that he believed that much of the backlog of cases resulted because the plaintiff failed to understand the verdicts, confusing them regarding their next step.