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International Mother Tongue day: Beyond latitudes and longitudes



What is common between the following people? Rafiqul Islam, Abdus Salam, Albart Vinzon, Carman Cirstobal, Zason Morin, Susan Hozinos, Dr. Calvin Chow, Nasrin Islam, Rinata Martins and Karuna Zoshi - those who are thinking of us being engaged in an act as frivolous as namedropping, for them, it is an effort to hold up the few whose efforts have culminated in bringing an international recognition to Bangla, a language rich in heritage and often overlooked by the speakers. But controversies aside, it was a direct response to the call of UNESCO, as an effort to give it the recognition and to preserve the sanctity once it was known and valued for.

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However, a little history would be helpful to the readers before we proceed further. For the time being, knowing that 21st February is the International Mother Tongue Day would suffice.



Far from being an accident or a whim of a certain mass, the implication of the Language Movement is far too obvious that could have happened at any point of time if not in 1952.  However, the grounds would have been different and not the same as it was in 1952, which are explained below in brief: 


·         The administration of Bangladesh was inherited from the structure once the British had set; it was the North-Indian elite Muslim class that held the most influential positions. 


·         An absence of undiscriminating attitude can be marked if we look closer into the higher echelons of the government dominated by the North-Indian elite Muslim class and a balance was sought. The built-in discriminations in the system were the medium for the protest against the existing system; the first organized revolt that was initiated to defend the dying language from the abdicable coercion and to re-assert the Bengali rights and cultural values. And there was a price that was paid, though the tragedy of 21 February 1952 restored back people’s faith in democracy, their belief in tradition and their loyalty to the historical values that had once come under an assault. 


To respect the simple yet substantive message that brought to the world an account of the great will and awareness resulting in a struggle to defend the Bengali language. UNESCO moved forward to designate Ekushey (i.e. 21st Feb.) as the International Mother Tongue Day.


Today, 21st Feb. stands as the day when the world pays the respect to all the vernacular languages in the world; an event that initiated in the year 2000 to commemorate all those who achieved martyrdom by sacrificing their own lives on the very date in the city of Dhaka (Bangladesh) received the first spark from a proposal that went to the UNESCO General Conference in Paris on 17 November, 1999 from Bangladesh.

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 And what followed was a rigid support from other countries including Bahamas, Belarus, Chile, Dominion Republic, Egypt, Gambia and Honduras among the other twenty-five apart from our own country, India, to encourage a bond between the linguistic diversities as a whole, International Mother Tongue Day also grants a fuller awareness of linguistic and cultural traditions on a global basis to inspire international solidarity based on understanding, tolerance and dialogue.



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