Marking the International Mother Language Day, PEN Bangladesh organized a get-together of poets and fiction writers at the offices of Bengal Lights Books on February 21 in Dhaka.
PEN Bangladesh secretary general Mohammad Moheuddin, joint secretary general Lovely Bashar, member Shakib Lohani, treasurer Mohammad Anisur Rahman, executive members Shamim Reza, Rifat Munim and Zahid Sohag, among others, discussed various aspects of the Language Day which commemorates the historic day of February 21 in 1952, observed in Bangladesh as the Language Martyrs Day.
It is a watershed in the history of Bangladesh. This movement was the first organized resistance through which Bengali students and mass people of erstwhile East Pakistan articulated their sense of Bengali nationality against the neo-colonial rulers of West Pakistan, speakers said.
After India was partitioned in 1947 into India and Pakistan, what is now Bangladesh formed the eastern wing of the Muslim-majority Pakistan. When it came to the question of the state language, the West Pakistani ruling clique attempted to impose Urdu as the national language. It was then that the whole of the Bengali speaking East Pakistan revolted in protest, they added.
In a mass procession led by students from schools, colleges and universities in Dhaka on February 21 in 1952, Rafiq, Jabbar, Salam, Barkat and Safiur, among others, had laid down their lives when the police opened fire. This was the first instance of a movement in which activists sacrificed their lives to establish linguistic rights.
However, speakers noted that though the International Mother Language Day is observed to commemorate this historic event for over 18 years now, most people in the world are not aware of this. Even the website of UNESCO does not provide sufficient information about the martyrs of this movement which eventually led to the Liberation War of Bangladesh in 1971. The website of the United Nations, too, does not mention the history of the day in detail.
Poets and writers present at the discussion hoped that the government of Bangladesh would spread the true history of this day through the UN.
On the occasion of this historic day, PEN Bangladesh members also demanded unconditional release of incarcerated ethnic minority writer of China, Ilham Tohti. Furthermore, they demanded that the linguistic and cultural rights of the Kurdi people in Turkey be established.