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A few things you may not know about Ekushey

  • Published at 12:30 am February 21st, 2017
A few things you may not know about Ekushey
We all know of the sacrifice of the language martyrs who were brutally shot by the Pakistani police on this fateful day in 1952. Possibly the first and only time in the world that a race has laid down their lives for the right to speak their own language, Mother Language Day is proof of the importance of language as a powerful medium for expressing one’s national and cultural identity. However, other than the brutal massacre of February 21, how much do we actually know of the Language Movement of Bangladesh? Here are a few facts related to Ekushey February that many of the younger generation might not actually be aware of. [caption id="attachment_48064" align="alignleft" width="336"]Zakir-(6) PHOTO: SYED ZAKIR HOSSAIN[/caption] The Language Movement began long before 1952. On September 15, 1947, Principal Abul Kashem published the first booklet containing the demand for Bangla as a state language. In 1948, the Pakistani government declared Urdu as the sole national language of both West Pakistan and Bangladesh (then East Pakistan). This sparked mass protests amongst the Bengali population, leading to public meetings and rallies being outlawed. Dhirendranath Datta, a member of the East Pakistan Congress Party who played a crucial role in drafting the legislative framework of the newly-formed Pakistan, was the first person to demand the inclusion of Bangla as one of the languages of the Pakistan Constituent Assembly in Karachi in 1948. While the Pakistani government attempted to ban Bangla in the 1940s and failed, their disdain for Bangla and Bengali culture continued throughout their oppressive reign. In 1961, they even banned songs of Rabindranath Tagore. There is a Language Movement Museum on the first floor of the Burdwan House at Bangla Academy, which was opened in 2010. The museum holds extensive documentation on the movement, especially through photography, and is a great place to learn the history of the struggle from its very inception. For International Mother Language Day 2017, UNESCO is focusing on the potential of multilingual education, not only in systems of education and administration, but in the potential for cultural expressions in media, cyberspace and trade. [caption id="attachment_48065" align="alignnone" width="900"]Zakir-(66) PHOTO: SYED ZAKIR HOSSAIN[/caption]