When the month of February or Falgun in Bengali calendar visits us every year we become emotional about the gradual retreat of our mother tongue from our formal life activities and see shedding of tears from a section of educated people throughout the month. Then we forget everything only to start the same ritual after a year again. This has been going on for years without any progress in the condition of the use of Bengali in our education and socio-economic activities. This particular sorry state of our mother tongue raises the question of whether the struggle for language should go on until its final establishment as the key medium of our knowledge practices and state activities. Some who are conscious of this situation think so.
So a roundtable discussion entitled Bhashar Lorai: Banglay Ganchorcha (Language Struggle: Knowledge Practices in Bengali) was organized on 26 February evening at the head office of CDIP (Centre for Development Innovation and Practices) in Dhaka. It was jointly organized by Biggan O Sangkskriti, a little mag on science and culture, and Shikkhalok, a CDIP education bulletin. The program was presided over by Writer Saleha Begum.
Dr. Ashraf Ahmed, Chief Editor of Biggan O Sangskriti, from the USA, Mr. Qudrate Khoda from Canada and Mr Syed Badrul Ahsan from England joined the program online. Online participants from Dhaka include Professor Shahidul Islam, Mr. Fazlul Bari, Ms. Saleha Begum and Mr. Mifta Naim Huda. Around 25 people attended the program physically. It was moderated by Alamgir Khan and Nazneen Shathi.
The program started with the initial presentation by Artist Shishir Mallick who explained the need for earning knowledge through the medium of the Bengali language and reviewed two articles, one by Ashraf Ahmed on Jagadish Chandra’s book Abyakta and another by Qudrate Khoda on ill-intentioned politics surrounding the Bangla language.
Mr Qudrate Khoda in his discussion from Montreal said it was sad that we were discussing the declining place of Bangla in our lives after so many years of our independence. He pointed to the good sign of the recent willingness of delivering the judgment in Bengali at the Supreme Court level. He emphasized that no country could develop without properly using its own language and named Japan and China as the country which understood this and so achieved success.
Senior Journalist Syed Badrul Ahsan lamented the way we mix English in even our daily uses of Bengali. This is one way of distorting our language and the other is some people’s fondness of local pronunciation rather than the standard form. Another recent polluting trend is the fashion of speaking Bangla in English accent.
Professor Shahidul Islam said we first needed to determine the goal of education in the light of philosophy. Dr. Ashraf Ahmed said Jagadish Chandra Bose gave emphasis on the use of Bangla in science writings. In his opinion, if teacher understands a subject well he can describe it in Bangla for his or her students. The problem is in the lacking of understanding the subject by the teacher. Mr. Fazlul Bari shared his experience of how the Japanese are obsessed with learning and describing anything in their own language and how we should follow their path.
Ms. Saleha Begum ended the program with her thanks to all who were present in the program and hoped that such small initiatives might one day see the establishment of Bangla in all spheres of our lives in Bangladesh.