The Makers of History: International Mother Language Day
This is to sketch the footprints of Shahid Minar from Dhaka to everywhere of the world, from 1952 to endless future of mankind.
The pioneer is Rafiqul Islam with remarkable politeness and a penetrating vision. A typical “Bangali Face”, slim-built, and poetic eyes full of dreams, this man is too big to measure. No wonder that he is a Freedom Fighter as well in the battlefield against the Napak Army and his younger brother was killed in one of the face-to-face battles. He lives in Vancouver. He is from Comilla, Bangladesh.
It all started when he came to know that some languages of the world are simply not there anymore. He felt that some beautiful plants of this colourful garden of different human languages did not suffer natural deaths; they were simply killed by criminals in different disguises. With the strength of peace, he started his lonely crusade against this monster, which would soon leave a permanent mark towards the progress of peace for mankind in this planet. And soon, he was not alone anymore. Abdus Salam was there. Now let us walk through the dates of the developments.
- 9 January, 1998. Rafiq wrote a letter to Mr. Kofi Anan, to take a step for saving all the languages of the world from the possibility of extinction and to declare an International Mother Language Day. Rafiq proposed the date as 21st February on the pretext of 1952 killing in Dhaka on the occasion of Language Movement.
- 20 January 1998. From the office of the Secretary General, the Chief Information Officer Mr Hasan Ferdous ( A Bangladeshi and knowledgeable writer as well) advised Rafiq to propose the same from any member country of the UNO.
- Rafiq established “A Group Of Mother Language Of The World” With Abdus Salam, 2 English, 1 Hindi, 1 German, 1 Cantonese, 1 Kachhi speaking people. They again wrote to Mr. Anan, with a copy forwarded to Mr. David Fowler, the Canadian Ambassador to the UNO. Rafiq-Salam continued communication with Canadian Government.
- Mid 1999. Mr Hasan Ferdous advised Rafiq-Salam to contact the Director of Language Division of UNESCO Mr.Joseph Pod (?). Mr Joseph advised to contact Anna Maria of UNESCO. Anna Maria (all through played a very strong positively active role. We are grateful to this lady) advised them to formally place the request by 5 member countries, Canada, India, Hungary, Finland and Bangladesh.
- Our Education Minister Mr. Sadek, Education Secretary Mr.Kazi Rakibuddin (also he was the Director General for National Commission for UNESCO), Professor Kofiluddin Ahmad, Director for the same, Moshiur Rahman, the Director of the PM’s Secretariat, The Bangladeshi Ambassador to France Mr. Syed Moazzem Ali, Counsellor for the same Mr. Iktiar Chowdhury, Senior Advisor to the Secretary-General of UNESCO Mr. Tozammel Huque ( Toni Huque) of USA, and many other people got involved and active. They worked tirelessly to convince 29 countries to support the proposal. Rest of the Bangladeshis worldwide never knew what a drama was going on for the fight for peace. With Rafiq-Salam, whole Bangladeshi-Vancouver kept their fingers crossed. What a group of pioneers with what a dream!
- 9 September, 1999- the last day of submitting the proposal to UNESCO. IT DID NOT ARRIVE YET! The restless Rafiq-Salam passed sleepless nights, did not move from the telephones, for the e-mails. In Dhaka, our Prime Minister needed to sign the document and she was in the Parliament on that day. By the time she would be done with the Parliament, the dateline for the proposal would pass. It won’t reach UNESCO. The whole dream and effort would go to the drain.
- PM instructed to fax the proposal to UNESCO Paris, pending her signature. The fax reached hours before the dateline.
- 16 November 1999. The proposal was not raised (lack of time?) in the UNESCO meeting.
- 17 November. The proposal was raised, supported by 188 countries including Pakistan, not opposed by a single country, AND PASSED AS A DECISION.
Dear readers, making of history is never free. Lots of pain, time, money, energy, sleep, health, family life, social life, hobby have to be sacrificed for it. The invisible contribution of the wife/sons of Rafiq (Buli Islam, Jyoti Islam and Joyonto Islam) and Salam (Deena, Sami, Sadi) cannot be overemphasized. I will come up with their feelings in their own words latter. Let me end here with a few more lines repeated.
From now onwards, any conspirator against any culture of the world will think a hundred times before any action. Every year the INTERNATIONAL MOTHER LANGUAGE DAY will walk through every corner of the world as an ever-awake watchdog against this heinous crime/criminals. What a progress towards peace! What an unique eternal gift to Mankind from a poor nation!
RAFIQ-SALAM OF VANCOUVER ARE NOT YET AWARDED THE “EKUSHE PODOK” (shame!), BUT LAST YEAR MR. AND MRS. RAFIQ AS HONOURABLE INVITED GUESTS ATTENDED THE GRAND CELEBRATION OF THE 1ST “MOTHER LANGUAGE DAY” ORGANISED BY UNESCO IN PARIS ON 21ST FEBRUARY.