Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Mother Tongue Is A Fundamental Right

By Protik Bardhan

Language provides the opportunity to express oneself, in other words; language represents a state of development of a particular nation. Since time immemorial, only those sects of people are still in existence that had been able to develop their own language. Rabindranath Thakur said, language is the space through which our thoughts tread on. So, this is very important to have language of our own to ensure development of intellectual /creative faculty. This is quintessential to the development of a complete human being.
Language is the abode of culture; that is the entire scenario of a nation can be sensed in its language. The essence of our Bengali culture can be perceived from the language we have developed over the years, which is applicable for all the nations of the world. Many tribes of the world have gone into oblivion only because of the fact that they have not been able to develop their language. Or, their language has been annihilated by the colonial rulers. Some tribes in our hill tracts area are on the verge of extinction because of this fact.
Weakening a language is a very potent means to subjugate a nation. Colonial rulers did so over the years. Especially, the French colonialists vanquished the languages of many African nations and their religion too. According to African writer and cultural theorist Ngugi wa Thiong’o “…the biggest weapon wielded and actually daily unleashed by imperialism against that collective defiance is the cultural bomb. The effect of a cultural bomb is to annihilate a people’s belief in their names, in their languages, in their environment, in their heritage of struggle, in their unity, in their capacities and ultimately in themselves”.
Pakistani rulers sought to undermine our rich language and heritage just after 1947. They declared Urdu as the only state language of Pakistan. All the works of state were conducted either in Urdu/English. Even, they tried to impose Urdu/ Arabic alphabets on our language in stead of our alphabets in a bid to add Islamic aura to our language. It was a deadly onslaught on our language. If the Pakistani rulers were successful in their bid, we would not have an independent nation. The entire memory of the nation would nave been lost had our language been vanished. That is the reason why; our forefathers revolted against the Pak rulers and overthrew them finally.
Notwithstanding, we also fought for Pakistan. Muslim League, which was instrumental to the birth of Pakistan, was formed in the erstwhile Bengal in 1906. Maulana Vashani, Abul Hashim, Fazlul Haque they all fought for the cause of Pakistan in their life. The entire populace of the East Bengal celebrated the birth of Pakistan on August 14, 1947. But, one-sided dominion of West Pakistan coupled with cultural aggression enforced the Bengalese to fight for their land.
William Shakespeare, the greatest playwright of the world ever depicted the process of colonial exploitation in his famous drama The Tempest. In the play, Prospero the exiled Duke of Milan came to an Island and cast spell on the sole inhabitant of the island named Caliban through his magic, which actually represents knowledge/ power. Prospero occupied Caliban’s land, made him work for him; speak his language, while beat him mercilessly at his will. At a point, Caliban forgets his language but retains the spirit to revolt, as he says: ........
We take pride in the fact we are the only nation in the world who sacrificed their blood exclusively for the right of our mother tongue. Also, 21 February is observed as the international mother language day throughout the world since 1999. It has added further aura to the day.
Now, this is our bounden duty to help the tribes living in the Chittagong hill tracts area to speak and preserve their own language. Only three tribes of the area have their written form of language. We now have an international mother language research institute; it should conduct adequate researches to help the tribes develop their alphabets and written form of their languages. Novelist & critique Akhtaruzzaman Ilias once emphasized the importance of Chakma novels. He said that a language, that is its prose attains fulfillment through the form of novel in its literature. Given the state of the language, this is high time for Chakma language to have its novel.
The spirit of our language movement also says so as the ‘Rashtravasha Sangram Parishad’ in its resolution included among other things, the right to speak mother tongue on the part of every nation. That is the reason why; our language movement got the support of the other ethnicities of Pakistan, even it encouraged them to be conscious of their own language too. Our language movement finally led to the war of independence by virtue of its intrinsic values. It was a war of our identity and right to self government, not mere autonomy. As a result, we became independent after a long time. In fact, after the Sen Dynasty we got our own ruler through this war of independence. Thus, a language can be a highly effective means of igniting political uprising against colonial rulers.
Language is culture, while culture is the sum total of the activities that we do in our day to day lives. Political, economic, social, personal and so on. [Countercurrents.org]
Protik Bardhan is an activist in Bangladesh. Recently, he translated Noam Chomsky's collection of interviews titled Imperial Ambitions, which is published by Samhati Prakashani. He can be reached atprotik_bardhan@yahoo.com and 01611962495.

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