UIC celebrates International Mother Language Day
By Arephin Islam and Indrajit Nandi
Bangladeshi Student Association (BSA) at UIC observed International Mother Language Day (IMLD), declared by UNESCO, Feb. 22. The theme of this year’s observance was “Language Without Borders.”
An overwhelming crowd including students from both UIC and other universities from the Chicago area gathered at Student Center East to celebrate the day. The event started with a historical documentary presentation followed by a colorful cultural program performed by attendees.
The cultural event was composed of chorus songs, recitation, and traditional Bengali dance. A local band of Bengali genre named Ochin Pakhi cheered the audience with musical performance.
At the event closing, attendees showed respect by placing a floral wreath to the martyr’s monument called Shahid Minar in commemoration of the language movement in Bangladesh.
The idea to celebrate International Mother Language Day was an initiative taken by the Bangladesh government in 1999. Later in 2000, it was formally recognized by UNESCO. However, the history of Language movement dates back in 1952, where several university and college students were killed by police in a protest.
At the end of British colonial rule in 1947, two countries, India and Pakistan were formed based on religion. Pakistan was formed based on a “Two states one Country” theory with a population of 60 million in West Pakistan and 66 million in East Pakistan. Urdu was spoken entirely in the West. People in the East, 1370 miles away, used to speak in Bangla. In 1948, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, governor general of newly formed Pakistan, declared in an assembly that Urdu will be the only state language of Pakistan and left East Pakistan with political tensions. Students of Dhaka University instantaneously protested. Several committees were formed to demand Bangla as one of the national languages of Pakistan.
On February 21, 1952, police opened fire on rallies in the university area, leaving several dead and injured. Since then Bangladesh observed this as national language day. Later, awareness of this movement led to the independence of Bangladesh in 1971.
This open-for-all event was sponsored by the UIC SAFC fund.