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Students remember meaning of International Mother Language Day

Students remember meaning of International Mother Language Day

Members of the Bangladesh Student Association pose for a photo at UNT International's Flag parade in April 2015. Photo courtesy of Naziba Hossain.

Students remember meaning of International Mother Language Day
February 23
21:15 2016

Nikki Lyssy | Staff Writer

@Blindnikkii

Amid the slew of holidays and special celebrations in the short month of February, one day annually celebrates cultural and linguistic diversity.

On Feb. 21, the 7,000 international languages spoken around the world are celebrated and acknowledged. According to an article in the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the day commemorates students killed by police on Feb. 21, 1952 for a demonstration in support of their main language, Bangla.

“People are really connected to their country and their mother tongue, and this is a very emotional part of people’s life,” BSA president and master’s student Damal Islam said.

A Revolution

Bangladesh Student Association cultural secretary Naziba Hossain said that in the past Pakistan has tried to force people in her home country of Bangladesh, as well as those in India, to speak the Pakistani language.

“We had huge cultural differences,” Hossain said. “Because we were all Muslim, they decided these countries were the same.”

Cultural secretary of the Bangladesh Student Association Naziba Hossain poses for a photo in the GAB on Friday February 19, 2015. She says International Mother Language day is celebrated with songs, dances and traditional black and white clothing in her country. Paulina De Alva | Staff Photographer

Cultural secretary of the Bangladesh Student Association Naziba Hossain poses for a photo in the GAB on Friday February 19, 2015. She says International Mother Language day is celebrated with songs, dances and traditional black and white clothing in her country. Paulina De Alva | Staff Photographer

Sandwiched between Pakistan and India, the Bangladesh government had already proclaimed the official language would be Urdu. Bangladeshi people were unfamiliar with the language, having never been taught how to speak or understand it.

“People in my country, especially the university students, started protesting,” Hossain said. “At first it was peaceful, but things got bad, and Pakistani police officers said they would shoot people who spoke any other language.”

To this day, the will of the protesters who died for the right to speak their own language is recognized.

“After that, other countries started supporting us,” Hossain said. “For [other people] this might just be a day where you get to celebrate your own language, but for us, it has a history.”

The Present

In Bangladesh, Hossain said, the holiday is celebrated everywhere. Songs and dances are performed, and citizens usually wear black and white.

At UNT, the day will not be celebrated with burning candles as Hossain and her club hoped, but she is working to make the community aware.

“I think, one day, International Mother Language Day will get huge recognition, but I don’t want people to forget how it came,” Hossain said. “You cannot just force another language on people. This is something that I’m learning.”

President of the Bangladesh Student Association Damal Islam poses for a photo outside the Student Union on Saturday February 20, 2016. He says he hopes International Mother Language Day brings people joy. Paulina De Alva | Staff Photographer

President of the Bangladesh Student Association Damal Islam poses for a photo outside the Student Union on Saturday February 20, 2016. He says he hopes International Mother Language Day brings people joy. Paulina De Alva | Staff Photographer

Islam said he was saddened that the university would not allow candles to be lit in support of the martyrs who died for the cause nearly 65 years ago.

“We were planning to give UNT students a bit of an understanding about International Mother Language Day, because maybe there aren’t people who are aware of those facts,” he said. “We’re planning to do something better next year.”

Featured Image: Members of the Bangladesh Student Association pose for a photo at UNT International’s Flag parade in April 2015. Courtesy | Naziba Hossain.

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