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photo: Amirul Rajiv
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Women had played an important role in 1952 Language movement. Unfortunately, their contributions were overlooked. Among the participants, Mamtaj Begum (Kalyany Roy Choudhury, b.1930) - the then Headmistress of Narayanganj Morgan Girls' School - demonstrated extraordinary courage. In Narayanganj, she organised one of the largest women's demonstration in protest of the killings of 21st and 22nd February (1952) in Dhaka. She was immediately jailed, condemned and dubbed as a 'communist'. Strength of her character was tested when jailed Mumtaj Begum refused to sign the 'mercy petition' (admitting her mistake) prepared by the Pakistan government. She spent over a year in jail. Due to the dirty tricks of the then government she ultimately lost her job and family. Away from family, friends and the loved ones, Mamtaj Begum died in Armanitola, Dhaka in 1967.

There is almost no mention of the role of women in Language movement in books, media and internet and I see no effort to pass their legacy on to the future generations. A few people in Bangladesh know about the contribution of Mamtaj Begum. Only after 57 years (July 2009), the first portrait of Mamtaj Begum was handed over to Narayanganj Morgan Girls' High School and recently (August, 2010) a road in Narayanganj was named after her by the city mayor Dr. Selina Hayat Ivy in presence of Mamtaj Begum's only daughter Shahana Islam. I was shocked to learn that last year the 'Ekushey Padak' proposal for Mamtaj Begum was turned down as the minister concerned 'never heard' of Mamtaj Begum.

I request the president and PM of Bangladesh to (1) immediately confer Ekushey Padak to Mamtaj Begum, (2) name a road in Dhaka after her, and (3) include women's roles in Language Movement in textbook.

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I never knew about this. I strongly feel that this should be given due publicity and also there should be extensive search to find out the other women who fought bravely for noble cause but have been left in oblivion.






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