in february, speaking Bangla tastes like blood.
before Bangladesh won its independence with 3,000,000 lives, taking away our language was just one way the West Pakistani government tried to press Bengalis out of existence. imposing Urdu, the native tongue of only 3%, as the only national language (besides english) in a country of 56% Bengali speakers, 28% Punjabi speakers and so on, was not only meant to keep power within the hands of the educated, Urdu-speaking upper class of the new country, but to keep it out of reach for Bengalis. the Language Movement developed in response, to demand that Bangla be made one of the state languages as the mother tongue of the population’s majority. from 1948 to 1952, movement continued through proposals, talks, processions and demonstrations, culminating finally on the 21st of February, 1952, when police opened fire on protestors. now, Martyrs’ Day is recognized every year in Bangladesh so we can mourn the unnamed siblings we lost that died for our mother tongue.
we dress in white (the color of mourning) and black (the color of death), hints of red in between like splatters of blood. what an essay couldn’t tell you is that it is one thing to love a language, and another thing to die for it. when i was younger, we used to construct bengali alphabets the size of my body out of styrofoam and cut-out illustrations and my shaky handwriting. i could barely speak the language then, but i knew the songs. ‘amar bhaiyer rokte rangano ekushey february.’ 21st February is covered in my brother’s blood. ‘ami ki bhulite pari.’ how could i ever forget.
Editors: Lang D., Joyce P., Claudia S., Leila W.