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Local Bangladeshi Community Celebrates International Mother Language Day (VIDEO & PHOTOS)

IMG_6035Hundreds of members of the Bangladeshi community, from the Washington D.C. metropolitan area, gathered at the Margaret Schweinhaut Senior Center in Silver Spring to celebrate International Mother Language Day on Feb. 20.

Mizanur Rahman is the President of the Dhaka University Alumni Forum, Inc., and one of eleven organizers of the event.

“In Montgomery County there are numerous bengali speaking people coming from Bangladesh and India,” Rahman said. “We want to make a diverse society here, we want to let everybody know that bengali is a language, it is one of the seventh largest language in the world, we want to spread the word that bengali people, fought for their own language and now all over the world this has been recognized by [the] United Nations.”

The event honored those lives lost on February 21, 1952 in, what was then, East Paskistan (present day Bangladesh). According to Rahman, the government of Pakistan declared Urdu the official language and limited the use of the bengali. In response,  students from Dhaka University protested on Feb. 21, 1952 for the right to speak bengali freely.  The protest ended with the police opening fire and killing students and civilians. This lead to the Language Movement in country.

Ashraf Ahmed is from Potomac and a member of Dhaka University Forum, Inc.

“It’s important for the bengali diaspora in the foreign land to come and remember those days, and remember our culture, our heritage, those are the things that bring [us] together, not only in the Washington D.C. area, wherever you see a group of bengali people in the world, they will celebrate this day as a very auspicious day,” Ahmed said.

The event held on Saturday paid homage to the lives lost on Feb. 21, 1952 and members of the Bangladeshi community held a cultural function, which included songs and plays performed in the bengali language. Members of the community also participated in a wreath ceremony to honor those lives lost 64 years ago. Wreaths were laid on a replica of the Shaheed Minar monument located in the capital of Bangladesh, Dhaka.

The event also served as way for the younger Bangladeshi-Americans to learn about their culture. Anis Ahmed is from Gaithersburg and is also a member of Dhaka University Forum, Inc.

“One of these plays I found that the children were learning the history of this liberation war and this language movement through an elderly person, so there was a kind of interaction between a senior citizen and very small children, and they performed really very well, in [bengali] they did very well, that’s very important,” Ahmed said. “This was an occasion where we really connected ourselves to the younger generation, the younger bengali diaspora…if we really motivate our younger generation they will try to find their roots and they would be really proud of their roots and as well as being an American citizen,” he said.

International Mother Language Day was officially established on Feb. 21 by the United Nations in 1999, not only in honor of the Language Movement that was started in Bangladesh, but also in honor of preserving languages from around the world.

The event was hosted by 11 Bangladeshi groups from across the D.C. metro area including: American Association of Bangladeshi Engineers and Architects (AABEA), Bangladeshi American Cultural Organization of D.C. (BACO-DC), Bangladesh Association of America, Inc. (BAAI), Bangladesh Association of Greater Washington, D.C. (BAGWDC), Bangladesh Center for Community Development, Inc. (BCCDI), Barnamala Shikkangon, Chittagong University Alumni Forum (CUAF), Dhaka University Alumni Forum, Inc. (DUAFI), Dhroopad, Priobangla Inc., and Shadesh Bangladesh, Inc.

To find out more about  International Mother Language Day, visit the United Nations website.

The U.S. Embassy-Dhaka released the following video on its Facebook page in honor of International Mother Language Day.

আন্তর্জাতিক মাতৃভাষা দিবসে সকল ভাষার প্রতি শ্রদ্ধাআন্তর্জাতিক মাতৃভাষা দিবসে সকল ভাষার প্রতি রাষ্ট্রদূত বার্নিকাট এবং যুক্তরাষ্ট্র দূতাবাস ঢাকার কর্মকর্তাদের শ্রদ্ধা জ্ঞাপন।On International Mother Language Day, Ambassador Bernicat and U.S. Embassy Dhaka staff show their respect towards all languages.
Posted by U.S. Embassy-Dhaka on Saturday, February 20, 2016

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Maureen Chowdhury

About Maureen Chowdhury

Maureen Chowdhury is a multimedia journalist with Montgomery Community Media. She can be reached at mchowdhury@mymcmedia.org and on Twitter at @MediaMaureen. Maureen authors the blog Sound Check on MyMCMedia.

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