International Mother Language Day is observed throughout the world in remembrance of young martyrs, who sacrificed their lives in 1952 to protect peoples’ right to speak in their mother tongue — Bangla. Even in 2019, their sacrifices are remembered with utmost solemnity at the Saheed Minar, University of Dhaka. Returning from the event, writes Saqueb Sartaz Khan
AFTERNOON, 20th February. I called a friend to fulfill a rather unconnected agenda when suddenly and moreover surprisingly, he asked me if I’d go to Shaheed Minar the coming night. He told me he would stay there that night. Even though I instinctively said no after asking him the date, all the while knowing at the back of my mind we were edging in on 21st February, International Mother Language day, later on I ended up staying over at the University of Dhaka campus overnight and observing the celebration. Over the phone, my friend jokingly said, maybe if I was there, I could end up writing an article about it, since it sounded like something interesting to write. I ended up doing the latter.
I met a friend near Kakoli and we walked upto Bangla Motor, lost in conversations during our short lived philosophical walk. We reached at the premises of DU a little before midnight. The entrance near Hakim Chottor was highly secured by members of police, detective branch and a barricade. An announcement over the loudspeaker made to let us know that the prime minister and DU vice chancellor Mohammad Akhtaruzzaman were cordially waiting upon the arrival of state governor, Abdul Hamid.
At 12:01am, Sheikh Hasina and Abdul Hamid offered flowers and maintained moments of silence in solidarity with the language martyrs. After that mayors and head of parliamentary parties, navy vice admiral Aurangazeb Chowdhury and air force chief marshal Masihuzzaman Serniabat, inspector general of Bangladesh police Mohammad Javed Patwary and attorney general Mahbube Alam, director general of Bangladesh ansar and village defence party kazi sharif kaikobad, language protestants, high commissioner, foreign representatives and foreign minister, Dhaka university top officials, teachers’ committee head, DU alumni association, leaders and activists of different left leaning political parties — all laid down their flowers and respect at the monument in this order.
The announcements repeatedly asked people to clear the main area and make way for others by not crowding the monument space. It was an expected caution from the authorities, considering that on this night people from all legs of life irrespective of religion, gender and class from all over the city rushed here in solidarity with the martyrs and the foundation of the movement that revolutionised our right to express thoughts in our mother tongue, Bangla. This monument gave birth to deeply rooted culture, literature and art. The great feat that we achieved at the end of the night this time of the year in 1952 was a formative movement that carved its way into shaping the nation and the people living in it. It was the birth of the Bangladeshi conscience.
At approximately 4:42am we set foot at Shaheed Minar platform nearing the Doel Chattar entrance and went in to offer red and white Jarbera flowers, ones we picked up on our way in through Shahbagh earlier that night. Upon entering the main premises I spotted a place that promised sublime panoramic landscape shots of the monument. The crowd was minimal. ‘Banglar Hindu, Banglar Krishtan, Banglar Bouddho, Banglar Musolman, Amra Shobai Bangali’ radiated the air as the song of early morning birds engrossed our ears. On our way out, we came across the vehicle wreckage sculpture, the tear-breaking installation that made one experience the great loss of profound filmmaker Tareque Masud and media personality Mishuk Munier.
At 5:15 am we found the bustling TSC scene; a bunch of radiant youngsters sat across the steps of anti terrorism Raju memorial sculpture with their guitars, Mandiras, ukuleles and tabla; hacking past selfish ordinary life as they transcended reality. Those Jagannath music major students, in turn, also managed to transport us to a reality far from our own.
My friends and I were carrying our own guitar and decided unanimously to pave our own ways; fill our hearts one last time before the night extended into day and the experience drew to an end. I drew a pair of Daredevil-Red Lunettes sunglasses. With dimmed green and blue and an amplified red color signature immortalising the red scales of human optical spectrums as I stared unto pearly white overhead streetlamps (now blood red) towering from both sides of the road whereby scarce people walked on and a policeman drove his motorcycle straight through the fog or smog and slowly vanished in the ever-eluding horizon that stretched far beyond our eyesight but not past our wisdom.
Saqueb Sartaz Khan is a fresh graduate.
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