“If we can’t respect our own culture, language, art, and literature, we can never develop ourselves as a nation,” Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said at the inauguration of the book fair,
The month-long event is a key component of Bangladesh’s cultural calendar -- featuring writers both local and foreign, its purpose is to honour the history of Ekushey and upholding our rich literary tradition.
What the Boi Mela truly stands for has never been more relevant, and more important, than today -- the spirit of the fair, which embodies the struggle of our forefathers, is one that seeks to promote freedom in all its forms, be it of speech, of expression, of the press.
But it is sad to see that the spirit of Boi Mela has not been carried forward into a few other aspects of our life.
The recent draft version of the Digital Security Act 2018, for example, goes against the values of certain freedoms we consider to be foundational to the nation, putting a straitjacket on journalists who wish to expose governmental corruption and misdeeds.
There is also the matter of how we have treated our indigenous population and other minority communities, who have suffered much -- their land grabbed, their communities assaulted, their languages and culture in danger of being wiped out.
All Bangladeshis should be treated with proper dignity, with language and speech protected -- that is what the Boi Mela stands for.
The Boi Mela is undoubtedly one of the most important cultural events of the year for Bangladeshis, and it has done a tremendous amount to promote literacy and education in the country.
Let the true spirit of the Amar Ekushey Book Fair take us forward.