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a little piece of history (fondly called by many the Pink Palace, Ahsan Manzil was the official residential palace of the Nawab of Dhaka. This is one of the most significant architectural monuments of Bangladesh which was built between 1859 and 1872. In its glory days Ahsan Manzil hosted many dignitaries from across the world including Lords from the British Empire. Today it is a popular destination for locals as well as visitors to the city. It is a museum worth visiting if you are in town.)
this post is part of a special series of my original travel photos from Bangladesh. you can view other posts from this series by visiting my blog Wanderlustand use the search function, or just click here.
“আমার ভাইয়ের রক্তে রাঙানো একুশে ফেব্রুয়ারি আমি কি ভুলিতে পারি ছেলেহারা শত মায়ের অশ্রু গড়ায়ে ফেব্রুয়ারি আমি কি ভুলিতে পারি”
“My Brothers Blood Spattered 21 February Can I forget the twenty-first of February incarnadined by the love of my brother? The twenty-first of February, built by the tears of a hundred mothers robbed of their sons, Can I ever forget it?”
A Brief History of Ekushey February, February 21st:
If you don’t know already: The British colonized the Indian
subcontinent for centuries and… I am angry… but fast forward to 1947’s
partition, which led to 2 nations: India, and Pakistan, which consisted of East
Pakistan–Now proudly Bangladesh–and West Pakistan–which is the present
Pakistan. Historically, East Pakistan was underrepresented in government and
military, and underfunded during the Pakistani rule despite the fact that out
of 69 million Pakistanis at the time, 44 million were Bengali-speaking and
residing in East Pakistan (Bangladesh).
Even though 54% of the national population spoke Bengali
(Bangla) as their mother tongue, in 1948 the Pakistani government enforced an ‘Urdu
Only’ law, saying that the sole official language of East (Bangladesh) and West
Pakistan would be Urdu—which had been promoted as the common language of
Muslims during the British Rule. This felt like an attack against the Bengali identity, one that not only aimed to establish supremacy of one people over the other but was also unrepresentative of the national population. Although sectorial
violence and tensions existed before, East Pakistan began protesting for our
right to speak our mother tongue, to establish our Bengali identity, to institute equal respect for Bangla. Bengali scholars, student leaders and politicians led, supported and fought alongside in the movement that began.
ON 20TH FEBRUARY, 1952, the government enforced
section 144: banning all public protests and marches in Dhaka. They began
imprisoning University of Dhaka’s student leaders.
ON THE 21ST OF FEBRUARY, students marched
protesting ‘Rashtro bhasha Bangla chai’ or ‘We want Bangla as the official
language’ and the Pakistani police opened fire, killing 4 and injuring 17. Hearing
the news of the shooting, thousands of people gathered in front of Dhaka Medical
College, where the injured were admitted, a state of civil unrest began. Every year
from then on, Bangladeshis began to commemorate this day of mourning and
organized demonstrations and protests. The next few years consisted of political unrest, imprisonment of Bengali politicians, and public demonstrations.
THE FIRST SHAHEED MINAR was built on February 22nd,
1952 in memory of the martyrs and was destroyed by the Pakistani army on February
26th. In 1957, a second minar was built in tandems and completed in 1963,
but that too was violently demolished by the Pakistani army in 1971. The current
Shaheed Minar was built in 1972 and stands to this day.
IN 1956, the Pakistani government ruled Bengali as an
official language alongside Urdu. In 1999, the UN declared 21st
February International Mother Language day. As Bangladeshi people, to this day
we march for the lives lost since those days in 1952, to the 1971 genocide,
until our independence. Early in the morning of every February 21st,
we walk to the Shaheed Minar (pictured above) with fresh flowers in our hands
and black badges on our chests. Ekushey February marked a significant day not
only because of our fight for our mother tongue, but because it strengthened
and became a part of the Bangladeshi identity and catalyzed events that led to
the 1971 liberation war.
I am proud of my history, I am proud of my people for fighting
for our language and identity under an oppressive rule. I mourn the deaths of
martyrs Abdus Salam, Rafiq Uddin Ahmed, Abul Barkat, Abdul Jabbar, and many
more. 21st February 1952 was the beginning to a tale of blood,
atrocities, and liberation. I am proud to be Bangladeshi. It’s time to acknowledge Bangladesh’s liberation and the 1971 genocide.
[I hope at least some of you read this and learned a little
bit more about my country and of course feel free to add to this. Images are
off google and I used my old Bangla textbooks and Wikipedia for specific dates.]
A university student teaching the alphabet, under the dim light of a street lamp, to a group of children who can’t afford the “luxury” of primary education.
The photo was a candid shot taken by a pedestrian in Dhaka. The teacher here did not want any sort of publicity for teaching his “younger brothers”.
A commuter jumps between trains upon arrival at a station, to attend
Akheri Munajat, the final supplication during Biswa Ijtema in Tongi, on
the outskirts of Dhaka January 15, 2017. REUTERS/Mohammad Ponir Hossain