February 21, 2010
International Mother Language Day
Called Martyrs' Day (Shaheed Dibash) in Bangladesh, this day commemorates a very sad event. In 1948, when Bangladesh was called East Pakistan, the Governor General of Pakistan declared that the only official language of the entire country would be Urdu. This sparked a lot of anger among the Bengali-speaking majority of East Pakistan. A Language Movement began; in response the government chose to outlaw public meetings and rallies. However, this repressive law was ignored. On this date in 1952 a peaceful protest was organized at the University of Dhaka and other sites. Police fired on the protesters, and a number of students were killed.
To the left is a memorial built for the martyrs.
The result of this horrific event is that protest spread quickly all over East Pakistan. By 1956, the Pakistani government finally relented and made Bengali a fully equal official language. However, nationalistic seeds had already been sown, and a desire to have a nation independent of Pakistan began to grow. A rebellion in 1971 finally won independence for Bangladesh.
UNESCO (a part of the United Nations) declared February 21 as International Mother Language Day, not only to honor the student protesters who died, but also to promote the idea that multiple languages and cultures are treasures to be enjoyed and protected.
A Bit about Bangladesh
Bangladesh is almost entirely surrounded by its neighbor, India, and was first created when “British India” was partitioned along religious lines, with Muslim majorities in Bangladesh (known then as East Bengal or East Pakistan) and Pakistan, as opposed to the majority in India being Hindu or Sikh. Bangladesh is one of the most crowded countries in the world, and it also struggles with poverty. However, the country has been making strides in improving its economy.
Did you know...?
The Taj Majal (pictured here) is considered by many people to be the most beautiful building in the world. Located in Agra, India, it was built in the 1600s as a tomb for the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan's beloved queen Mumtaz Mahal. Every year it attracts millions of visitors.
Well, somebody's gone and built another one!
A Bangladeshi film director named Ahsanullah Moni wanted his countrymen to be able to see this world's wonder “on a budget,” so he spent about five years and a lot of money rebuilding what he says is a life-sized replica, using marble and granite from Italy and diamonds from Belgium. He is charging people the equivalent of 73 cents U.S. to see his new tourist attraction. To see photos of the replica and to read about how hard it is for tourists to find, check out this interesting international travel blog.
The Longest Beach...
The longest natural sandy beach in the world is in Bangladesh. Called Cox's Bazar, this beach features a health resort.
Play a Bangladeshi game.
Check out the Child Fun website to learn about Bung Guli, a kids' game that is a cross between golf and softball.