“Amar bhaiyer rokte raangano ekushey february, ami ki bhulite pari”
(Can I forget the twenty-first of February incarnadined by the love of my brother)?
It’s the eve of ‘Omor Ekushey’ (the eternal 21st) again which you can feel just by the arrival of the month February. It’s the feeling that you get when you pass across the ground of Dhaka University (also known as the ‘Oxford of the East’ in its early years of establishment, located in Dhaka, Bangladesh) and see how the Shaheed Minar (Martyr Monument) proudly stands in stationary position commemorating the lives of Rafiq, Salam, Jabbar, Barkat and other martyrs of the 1952 demonstration. It’s the emotion for which we the countrymen, the youth, the families of the martyrs, the Bangalis could not let the blood of ‘bhasha shaheed’ (martyrs who fought for our language) get desiccated even after 63 years of the protest for the preservation of our language; it’s the pride for which we could not forget the 21st February, reddened with the blood of our brothers.
It’s only the Bangalis who could compare the love for a language with the love of a mother. And this very love and attachment of us, for our language has moved people across the nations for many years. For which 21st February has been proclaimed as International Mother Language Day, originated as the international recognition of Language Movement Day, by the General Conference of the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) in November 1999 so that the whole world can celebrate in tribute to the ‘Bhasha Andolon’. The day is observed every year since February 2000 to promote awareness of linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism. The date represents the glorious history achieved in exchange of the fearless fighters who sacrificed their lives willingly so that the followed generations could speak in Bengali.
As the brief history follows, the Government of Pakistan imposed Urdu as the sole language to be spoken across the country, then divided in two regions, East Pakistan and West Pakistan. The East Pakistan, holding a vast number of people speaking Bengali, denied to follow the law. The students of Dhaka University and other political activists arranged a provincial protest on 21st February 1952. To discourage the strike, the Government invoked curfew. Several students and other people who participated in the protest were then killed and shot by the police mercilessly. To reminisce the day, Shaheed Minar, the martyr monument was built in the campus of Dhaka Medical College where we visit annually, in bare feet with flowers in our hands and tears in our eyes.
The valley of the Shaheed Minar then gets overflowed by the footsteps of thousands of people- kids, students, political activists and other general public, all reunited to acknowledge the martyrs. The hearts of the martyrs would have been filled with pride knowing thier contribution has not gone in vain if they could see the toddlers approaching them with roses in thier tiny hands. It’s that moment when you get goosebumps realizing that we are the only nation in the world who have fought for our language for which we all are gathering in the same place where our ancestors were shot. The atmosphere, where poems are recited and history is narrated starting from midnight till dawn, itself stands as the symbol of our magnificent victory of 1952.
Bangladesh is a country of intrepid fighters. We have reunited everytime we were challenged by our rivals. We are inspired and encouraged to build ourselves a dominant-free environment; live our lives with right and wave our red-green flag up on the sky with pride and dignity. So do not accuse yourself if your hearts want to be engrossed by the words that are echoed around in this month-
“Those who have sacrificed their lives
Under the Krishnachura trees of Ramna
Where lines of blood form a sketch
With the splinters of fiery flashes
I have not come here to shed my tears.
Today, I am not overwhelmed in mourning
Today, I am not mad with my anger
Today, I am immersed with the glory of blood”.
(An opening verse translated from the first poem of 21st February 1952 in memory of martyrs- ‘Not for Tears I have come, but I demand they be hanged’ by Mahbub-ul-Alam Chowdhury).
(All photos are collected from the web).