If you talk to [someone] in a language [he or she] understands, that goes to [the person’s] head. If you talk to [somebody] in [his or her] language, that goes to [the] heart.
– Nelson Mandela
It was 9 o’clock in the morning on 21st February, 1952 when student groups gathered to protest againts the imposition of section 144 at the University of Dhaka during the ongoing Bengali Language Movement in East Pakistan (Now Bangladesh). Police surrounded the area as university vice chancellor and other officials gathered and attempted to break the police line. With a section of students from Dhaka Medical College rallied towards the police, they started firing tear gas when the vice chancellor asked the students to leave. Despite that, students were arrested by the police for violating section 144 as they attempted to leave.
Protesting the arrest of students, enraged students of the University of Dhaka met around the East Bengal Legislative Assembly and blocked the legislators’ way, asking them to present their insistence at the assembly. Police opened fire and killed a dozen students, including Abdus Salam, Rafiq Uddin Ahmed, Abul Barkat and Abdul Jabbar, when a group of students sought to storm into the building.
A Shaheed Minar was constructed on February 22nd for the martyrs in 1952 which was demolished by Pakistani Police. It was again constructed during 1963 which stood till it was again demolished by Pakistani Army in 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War. In 1972, the minar was again reconstructed to give tribute to those who laid down their lives for their mother language.
In the year 1999, the UNESCO announced 21st February to be observed as International Mother Language Day to promote peace and multilingualism. It was formally recognised by the United Nations General Assembly and the year 2008 was established as the International Year of Languages.
The theme of this year “Quality Education, language(s) of instruction and learning outcomes” is in line with the Sustainable Development Goal 4 on education. The theme emphasizes on importance of mother languages during early years of schooling. The appropriate use of languages can facilitate access to quality education and learning by putting emphasis on understanding and creativity among children, rather than memorisation.
Fiinovation believes that languages are the most powerful instruments of preserving and developing culture and heritage of any country. With India being a country of several languages, dissemination of information in different mother languages will not only promote diversity and multilingual education, but also develop better understanding among people about linguistic and cultural traditions of the country. Being the world’s largest democracy this is the only way to inspire solidarity based on understanding, tolerance and dialogue.
As the German poet Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe says, “Those who know nothing of foreign languages, knows nothing of their own.”
Let’s learn more languages, lets interact more with people, let’s solve the problems of this great nation.
By – Rahul Choudhury
Media & Communications, Fiinovation