Amar Ekushey: Use Bangla at all public and state levels

“Amar bhai-er roktey rangano Ekushey February.” The youth of this country established the rights to their mother tongue on 21 February 1952, sacrificing their lives. But the goal and objective of their sacrifice are yet to be fulfilled. The mother language Bangla has not been established at all levels yet.

The 1952 Language Movement was not just a movement to establish the demand for language rather it was a great struggle to establish the self-identity of a nation. People of this country began the freedom movement following the path of the Language Movement and an independent and sovereign Bangladesh was born in 1971.

The National Martyrs Day has been observed on 21 February since the independence. UNESCO recognised 21 February as the International Mother Language Day in 1999. Currently, the day is observed across the world. This recognition increases the pride of Bangladesh and reminds us about our responsibility and duty to the Bangla language.

What is concerning is that the emotion and inspiration that existed among the Bengalis over the mother tongue during the Pakistani rule has largely diminished. The 21 February was observed in a spirit of protest during the Pakistani rule, and we are now emphasising formality. Intellectuals have emphasised the study of the mother tongue. Rabindranath Tagore said, first we need to consolidate the Bangla language, then do away with English. Yet, we still could not make the mother tongue as the medium of instruction at all levels of education. Many books on higher education including science, engineering and medicine are not available in Bangla.

The meaning of the dignity of the mother tongue is to introduce it at all levels of the state and public sphere and this is possible through universal education. After the independence, the education commission led Dr Muhammad Qudrat-A-Khuda proposed to introduce a unified education system at the primary level, but it was not implemented. There are currently four educational tracks at the primary level. Bangla is still an outcast in the top court despite the use of Bangla at the government offices and the lower court. English dominates in various fields including trade and commerce, higher education and research.

When the 21 February arrives, policymakers of the government become vocal and issue statements on introducing Bangla at all levels. Last year, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina emphasised literary translation while inaugurating the Amar Ekushey Book Fair. Literary translation indicates the translation of the best works of Bangla into foreign languages and vice versa, but we do not know whether any initiative has been undertaken over the past year on this matter.

There are people of other languages than Bangla in Bangladesh. If we want to establish the dignity of our mother tongue, the rights of people of other languages must be established. The International Mother Language Institute was established to introduce the people of Bangladesh to the people of various languages, as well as to research and practice those languages. It was a great initiative, but activities of the Institute are limited to formalities to many extents, and that is in no way wanted.

If we become truly respectful to language martyrs, then we must not limit the 21 February to rites and rituals, but must realise its meaning. The dignity of Bangla must be established at all levels, as well work must be carried out for the development of the languages of other people living in Bangladesh. Private firms should also step forward along with the government. We will learn any language, if necessary, but not by neglecting our mother tongue.

Everyone in the country must be inspired by the spirit of Amar Ekushey.