Bangladeshis fought for cultural survival
Tomorrow, February 21 is International Mother Language Day, Bangladeshi Ambassador Supradip Chakma has reminded the Viet Nam News:
February 21, 1952, was a hard-earned event in Bangladesh's history. It marked the struggle for the right of the people to speak and use their own language ‘Bangla' - and to preserve their own culture and identity. Languages are the most powerful instruments of preserving and developing the heritage of any societies, especially in multi-ethnical societies of nationhood.
International Mother Language Day has been observed all over the world since February 21, 2000, to promote linguistic and cultural diversity. On that day in 1952, students of the then East Bengal demonstrating for recognition of Bangla as one of the two national languages of the then Pakistan, were shot and killed by police in Dhaka.
The Bengali Language Movement evolved into a political movement to press for the continued use of Bangla in government affairs, education, the media, on currency and stamps - and to maintain the Bengali script.
When Pakistan was formed by the partition of India in 1947, it was composed of various ethnic and linguistic groups, with the geographically non-contiguous East Bengal province (renamed in 1956 as East Pakistan) having a mainly Bengali population.
In 1948, the Government of Pakistan ordained Urdu as the sole national language, which sparked extensive protests among the Bengali-speaking majority of East Pakistan. Facing rising sectarian tension and mass discontent with the new law, the government outlawed all public meetings and rallies.
Students of University of Dhaka and other political activists defied the law and organised mass protests on February 21,1952. The movement reached its climax when police killed student demonstrators. The deaths provoked widespread civil unrest led by the Awami Muslim LeaugeAfter years of conflict, the central government granted official status to the Bengali language in 1956.
In 1999, UNESCO declared February 21 as International Mother Language Day, in tribute to the Language Movement and the ethno-linguistic rights of people around the world. — VNS