From language to liberty

Once more it is time to remember the young who died in order for the Bangla language to live and thrive in its natural fashion. Once more, decades after the tragedy that took the lives of these brave Bengalis, it is for us to look back at the gains made since 1952, at the advantages that have been and at the same time the opportunities of renewal that may have been missed. In terms of the fragile nature of the momentary, the happenings of Ekushey February were but a rude demonstration of the increasing ferocity of a state all too ready to ignore the legitimate aspirations of a majority of its constituents. In the longer historical perspective, however, 21 February 1952 was but the beginning of our national journey to freedom as a nation.

It is from such an understanding of our history that we have based our Ekushey supplement this year around a simple yet poignant theme. We call it From language to liberty. And we do so because it is our conviction, borne out by the ramifications of the struggle for Bangla to be recognised as the language of the state and also by subsequent events of seminal political significance in East Bengal/East Pakistan, that our eventual liberation as the nation of Bangladesh had its roots in our battle for Bangla. Rare has been the instance of a people willing to die in defence of its language and, dying, pave the road to the creation of a highway of all-encompassing freedom.

The young men who died in 1952 were the earliest of Bengalis to shed blood for their land in a state that had turned its back on them with brazenness of the worst kind. In the years that followed, other Bengalis, by the scores, would die in the incessant battles against the dictatorship imposed by Pakistan between 1958 and 1969. Come 1971 and the figures of the dying made a quantum leap from the mere scores and hundreds to the mind-boggling millions. As freedom dawned on 16 December 1971, three million Bengalis lay dead, victims of an army that had dwindled into being a tribe of marauders come from the wild mountains of the west.

To Jabbar, Barkat, Rafiq, Salam and everyone else gunned down on the streets of Dhaka on 21 February 1952, we say in deep sadness tempered with profound pride: You switched on a dream in the warmth of your blood, enough to have it carried to fulfilment in the glory of liberty.

Mahfuz Anam
Editor & Publisher

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