Monday, February 20, 2012

International Mother Language Day



21st February (Bangla:একুশে ফেব্রুয়ারী Ekushe February) was declared as the International Mother Language Day (Bangla:আন্তর্জাতিক মাতৃভাষা দিবস Antorjatik Matribhasha Dibos by the UNESCO on 17th November,1999 to uphold the significance of Mother Language in the life of an individual and to promote unity in diversity- respect all languages alike.

2012 International Mother Language Day theme: “Mother tongue instruction and inclusive education”. It emphasizes on imparting basic education to children in their mother languages for better understanding. It further shows the importance of mother tongue and multilingual education to reduce discrimination.
"The mother language, in which the first words are uttered and individual thought expressed, is the foundation for the history and culture of each individual. Moreover, it has been proven that children learn the best when they are instructed in their mother language during their first years at school" UNESCO says.

Significance of 21st February:
The date, 21st February was chosen as the International Mother Language Day to commemorate the martyrs who sacrificed their lives to uphold the dignity of their Mother Language Bangla on this very day in 1952. This was one of the rare instances in world history where people fearlessly gave up their lives for the sake of their mother language.

Background of 21st February, 1952 in brief:
The Partition of British India in August 1947 led to the formation of two independent states: The Union of India and the Dominion of Pakistan. The Dominion of Pakistan consisted of two far-flung territories i.e. East Pakistan (Now Bangladesh) & West Pakistan (Now Pakistan). East and West Pakistan were separated by 1600 Kilometers (approx: 1000 Miles) of Indian Territory but the key factor that made the separation even more prominent is Language and Culture.

21 February- Dhaka Protest rally
Protest Rally on 21/2/1952,Dhaka
The Mother language of the all the people of the then East Pakistan was Bengali (almost 99% Bengali speakers). The Bengalis were deeply attached to their language. On 27th January, 1952 the oppressive rulers of West Pakistan declared that “Urdu and Urdu alone would be the state language of Pakistan”. This hurt the sentiments of the Bengali people, the people demanded the recognition of Bangla also as the state language of Pakistan but all their pleas fell on deaf ears of arrogant West Pakistani rulers. There were widespread protest across the then East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), people from all walks of life united to defend Bangla. The West Pakistani Government tried to curb the protests by force. On   21st February, 1952   in Dhaka the police opened fire on unarmed peaceful protesters, killing several of them. 

This laid the foundation for Bengali Language Movement, Since then 21st February has been annually observed as Mother Language Day or Language Martyrs Day in the then East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) as well as in West Bengal state of India and in other nations with sizable Bengali speaking Population. 

Shaheed Minar at Dhaka
Shaheed Minar at Dhaka.
The Shaheed Minar (Martyr Monument) was built in Dhaka, to commemorate the Bengali language martyrs. Several permanent replicas of the Shaheed Minar of Bangladesh have been built in different nations across the world to commemorate the martyrs of Bengali language movement and it has become the symbol of International Mother Language Day.

Replicas of the Shaheed Minar in other Nations:
Why should we celebrate?
This is the day that emphasizes the importance of our mother language and reminds us that mother language is the only language that is dearest to our heart, the language of our thoughts and emotions and the language that represents an individual to the core. It reminds us that every individual should have the right to speak their mother tongue and we should pass it on to our next generation no-matter where we live.

Speaking ones mother language freely is the fundamental right of every individual. Apart from knowing the mother language it is always beneficial to learn other languages i.e. being bilingual or multilingual. Bilingualism and multilingualism has its own benefits as it empowers the person to easily connect with people of different linguistic and cultural background.

If you are among the ones who feel ashamed to speak your mother language fearing that you would be looked down upon or be discriminated or mocked upon; then, this is the day to celebrate your identity- be Proud of your Mother Language! If you speak your mother language with confidence, you are bound to gain respect.

Observance:
21st February is a public holiday in Bangladesh where as its observed globally but its not a public holiday elsewhere.

The observance of this day is significant among the Bengali community all across the world especially in the Bengal region (Bangladesh and West Bengal). Cultural Programs, Book Fairs and various other events are organized on this day.

Rally demanding recognition of
Pashto Language in Pakistan.
Ironically International Mother Language is also observed in present day Pakistan. The  demands of the Punjabi, Balochi, Pashto and Sindhi people to declare Punjabi, Balochi, Pashto and Sindhi languages as the national Languages of Pakistan are totally unheard and they are deprived from their fundamental right to use their respective mother languages for official, educational and business purposes. 


A language without official recognition is destined to die in the course of time. Thus, for a language to flourish and develop substantially it is necessary that the language is officially recognized and is used in day-to-day life.


Peace and coexistence is possible only by respecting the enormous linguistic and cultural diversity and encouraging multilingualism.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Why turn Indira Bhavan into Nazrul Bhavan?


Indira Bhavan- Nazrul Bhavan
Indira Bhavan, Kolkata
The decision of the West Bengal state Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee to turn Indira Bhavan into "Nazrul Bhawan" needs to be reconsidered. I loved her earlier decision to setup Kazi Nazrul Research Centre because previous governments had not done enough to commemorate Nazrul, whose literary works, partiotic spirits and lyrical compositions were praised throughout the country. 

The ongoing controversy on the renaming issue had raised everyone's eyebrows and made us thing that why was it necessary to rename Indira Bhavan and house the Nazrul Academy and museum in it and whether this is a right decision to do so. We know that West Bengal doesn't have a permanent Chief Ministers house which hampers the image of "Brand Bengal", so Indira Bhavan could have been turned into the chief ministers residence instead avoiding all the unnecessary controversy.

The question now arises is that: 
Why turn Indira Bhavan into Nazrul Bhavan?
  • This is undoubtedly an unwanted and unnecessary move to turn Indira Bhavan into Nazrul Bhavan. The building has its own history intact and it's totally unfair to play with it. How can the present government change the name of a Historical Building? Its's nothing more than political game-play.
  • On the other hand, its shameful that the government wants to dedicate an old and used building for Kavi Nazrul. Its disgraceful to house the Nazrul Research Centre in this old two storey building. Its a matter of shame for us, the Bengali community of West Bengal that- our leaders are now more interested in playing politics instead of doing something constructive. 
  • Why not construct a brand new modern building dedicated to our beloved rebel poet Kavi Nazrul Islam? It would be a matter of pride for the entire Bengali community. We can boast of having a modern structure equipped with all modern amenities and have an architectural design that will suit the purpose of the building. 
In the midst of this name change controversy, Nazrul kin- Misti Kazi expressed her grief saying,"Thre is no reason for such controversies. It pains us to see such debates over Kazi Nazrul Islam who is a world poet." 


Peace and Development of Bengal is all we need.

Poush Parbon & Pitha's Delight


Poush Parbon Pitha- পিঠা
Pitha | Image Courtesy: Wikipedia
The Bengali month of Poush, the winter month brings different opportunities for the Bengalis to hog on to their favourite sweet delicacies. The last day of Poush is celebrated as Poush Sankranti in West Bengal and Bangladesh. This day is considered auspicious among the Hindus and pilgrims from different parts of the country gather at Gangasagar, the point where Ganga river meets the Bay of Bengal. Pilgrims come here with the belief that- an early morning dip in the river will wash away their earthly sins, this fair is knows as "Gangasagar Mela". 


This last day of Poush is celebrated as "Poush Parbon" (Bengali: পৌষপার্বণ |Meaning: The Poush Festival) or "Pithe Parbon" (পিঠেপারবন) - this is the most awaited day for all the bengali sweet lovers as various sweet delicacies are prepared. Since olden times, mothers, grandmothers used to make  Patishapta Pithas, Puli pithas, Malpuas and various other types of pithas and these pithas are to be coupled with Nolen Gur (a exclusive jaggery that is produced by date trees or palm trees only in winter months and only in Bengal). This can be said as the festival that is purely based on the Pleasure of eating and tickling the taste buds with delightful Pithas. 


Poush Parbon - Pitha Puli
Pithas, supposed to be home made sweets though now they are commercially available during Pitha Parbon, generally it has its outer layer composed of rice or wheat flour and has inner stuffing with different saviouries like grated coconut mixed with nolen gur etc. There are various other types of Pithas which are made in the households. 


Mothers and grandmothers take charge of pithe parbon, and preparations for pitha making starts about a week before the Poush Parbon. Truely i need to mention that, technology has made preparation methods much easier and faster compared to early days.


In today's fast paced life it is not possible for every mother to prepare pithas specially if she's a working woman. Thus, keeping this into consideration "Poush Parbon" events are organized in various localities in Bengal where we get to taste not just pithas but also mouth watering Malpuas & Nolen Gurer payesh. If a person wants to enjoy the true essence of "Poush Parbon" its not the cities but the villages of Bengal that takes away all the credit. 


Enjoy Poush Parbon, stuff yourself with loads of sweets but don't forget to hit the gym the next morning !



Tuesday, January 3, 2012

District status for Siliguri


The demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland (to be carved out of West Bengal) has risen once again in the Darjeeling hills in-spite of the recent administrative setup of the Gorkha Territorial Administration (GTA). This calls for fresh trouble in the hills and reminds me of the politics played by some Gorkha leaders in creating differences between Gorkhas and Bengalis in the past. Though i firmly believe that the demand for separate Gorkhaland state cannot be totally ruled out; I also strongly believe Siliguri has nothing to do with Gorkhaland or the recent GTA setup and that Siliguri subdivision should be made a separate district.

City Centre Siliguri
Developing Siliguri: City Centre Mall
Siliguri (শিলিগুড়ি) is the 32nd metropolitian city of India according to the 2011 census data.  Its a thriving city and bustling business centre which should not be halted by strikes or protests and in no sense the development of the city should be hampered. Prevalence of peace and unity among the residents is of utmost importance. The only solution to maintain peace and harmony in Siliguri is by the formation of a separate Siliguri District (শিলিগুড়ি জেলা).

Siliguri DistrictThe new Siliguri District (শিলিগুড়ি জেলা) should comprise of the complete Siliguri Subdivision (শিলিগুড়ি মহকুমা) which consists of Siliguri Municipal Corporation and four community development blocks namely: Matigara, Naxalbari, Phasidewa and Kharibari. The formation of this new Siliguri District will accelerate the rate of development and bring about peace in the region. Thus, it will no more be a political playground for the political outfits such as the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) and the Bangla O Bangla Bhasha Bachao Committee (BOBBC). 

Like it or not- the fact today is pretty clear: Signs of Bengal has been erased from the Gorkha dominated Darjeeling district over the years. Thus, the separation of the Bengali dominated Siliguri Subdivision from the present Darjeeling district would provide more homogeneity to the remaining Darjeeling Disctrict- which would comprise of the three hill subdivisions of Darjeeling, Kurseoung and Kalimpong. Thus, Siliguri will be off limits for the Gorkha Agitations, which will bring the much awaited peace back in the region and the city corporation will therefore be able to focus on the developmental issue which is for the benefit of all.