From the Editor-in-Chief: The message of Ekushey

Enayetullah Khan
Thursday, February 18th, 2016
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We observe Ekushey once again, in all solemnity, in all honour for those who embraced martyrdom in defence of the Bengali language on 21 February 1952. It is important that we take a step back and ask ourselves again the old question: why did the need arise for those who came before us to do what they did in defence of the Bangla language? The answer, once again, is the old one. It is that a nation must find space for itself, must be able to breathe in the air it needs to survive and indeed to expand in its many dimensions. That is what happened sixty-four years ago.

 

Most of the generation who joined the struggle to resist the imposition of a foreign language on us are no more with us. It is their legacy that we celebrate today, for the legacy is one which in time gave us the force, the strength, indeed the wherewithal to launch ourselves into newer struggles aimed at keeping alive our own worth of ourselves.  It has always been self-esteem which has mattered for us, all the years from 1952 to 1971. It was the heroes of February 1952 who taught us anew the ancient truth of life being lived on the edifice of courage.

 

It is rare in the annals of history that a people have struggled in defence of their language, that in upholding the dignity of their mother tongue they have achieved supreme glory through martyrdom. When all those young Bengali men fell before the might of the Pakistan state on February 21, 1952, they were not merely telling us that in their death lay embedded the dignity of those who would live on. They were telling us something more, which is that dying in defence of Bangla was effectively and truly a giant step toward a revival of the culture that had consistently fortified the Bengali’s dealings with the rest of the world.

 

All these decades after the supreme sacrifices of our earliest martyrs, it becomes our particular responsibility to recall the reasons for which they died, to remember that the life we collectively live today is a gift that has come down from them.

 

And it is a gift because those martyrs first pointed to us the path to struggle, the road we needed to take if we were to thrive in freedom and dignity as a society, indeed as a nation. Ekushey 1952 was a pointer to the difficult, winding road which lay before us. It was also, in the bigger sense of the meaning, a pointing out, through the light of the stars, to the gleaming history which beckoned us. In short, Ekushey would broaden out into a larger mapping out of experience through a concerted national struggle for autonomy. It would then take a radically new dimension through launching us all on the path to national freedom. The road from 1952 to 1971 was thus paved and smoothened by Ekushey.

 

It is to those brave young men who died in order for us to live, back in February 1952, that we pay our deep, abiding respects today.

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